As Far As the Heart Can See / Mark Nepo
Deerfield Beach: Health Communications, c2011.
I must be one of the last people around to have heard of this author -- he's been featured on Oprah and is apparently quite well known in his field -- how did I completely miss him? In any case, I recently read this book due to my particular interest in how story informs our lives. This book is a collection of 45 short pieces, some only a paragraph or two, some a few pages long, and each of them is a teaching story. Each holds some meaning that is then investigated further through the three things following each story: journal questions (for personal reflection); table questions (to be shared with friends and stimulate discussion); and directed meditations.
Nepo says "Stories help us. They are teachers. They are medicine. They keep us connected to what matters. They keep us awake. This has always been true. And so, As Far As the Heart Can See is a book of stories and parables about staying awake and staying close."
I loved this book because of its simplicity. The brief tales acted as a seed to grow reflection by the reader -- as I read it fairly quickly and by myself, I mainly focused on the journal questions (and of course, as this is my specific interest I was immediately intrigued). I didn't work with every single story, but with a few that I found meaningful personally. But there is lots of opportunity to explore further. If you want to see examples of what's inside this book, at Mark Nepo's website he has two stories (both of which I loved) in full, complete with the journal, discussion and meditation suggestions. Give them a read and get an idea of how this book is set up -- see if it appeals to you.
I really think that this would be a perfect book at this time of year, especially as the New Year approaches. During the last week of the year, a special time for me, it feels as if there is a pause to reflect and investigate one's life. At New Year's Eve, I prefer a contemplative evening rather than parties. With all of the gatherings going on, this book would provide a wonderful after-dinner moment for a congenial group; after good dinner discussion, sip some liqueurs and ponder a story together. Or read one with each course! I'd love to use this with a group and see what it sparks for others.
This is a great example of the power of story and how it helps us to consider our lives in a new light. I'd recommend it to anyone looking to delve deeper through narrative, or who wants a way to open discussion with others in a non-confrontational manner. Use it for your own explorations in your journal, or with others -- the questions for both can be used interchangeably and offer lots of inspiration for thought.
**review originally published at Four Rooms Creative Self Care