Book Review:
The Endless Practice

When I first saw the title “The Endless Practice,” I felt a little discouraged. "You mean, I have to practice endlessly?" But as I read the book, I think I realized what the author, Mark Nepo, meant by the title. During our entire lives, there will be circumstances that throw us off balance, and we will always need to rely on our spiritual practices in order to center ourselves.

Mark Nepo is a poet, and though this is a book of prose, much of the language in it has a poetic flavor. For instance, he talks about the “cloud of fear”—when we’re overcome with fear, “for the moment all of life seems fearful, the way a single cloud blocking the sun turns life on Earth gray.” He later discusses how to deal with such a cloud (and he includes pain and worry in his discussion). He writes, “the practice of being human hinges on our ability to let the cloud of pain, fear, and worry disperse, so we can see precisely where the cause and impact are coming from. Then we have choices.”

In some cases the poetic imagery lends a lively dimension to the book. In other cases such imagery did not particularly resonate with me, though some readers might find those images to be useful.

In addition to supporting our efforts to be centered, The Endless Practice encourages us in our efforts to open and expand our hearts. Nepo talks about exercising our heart; he notes that “being kind restores our authenticity and openness.” Authenticity is another important theme in the book—in fact, the subtitle is Becoming Who You Were Born To Be. He explores authenticity in chapters such as the one entitled, “The Courage Not to Waste Our Gifts.” At the beginning of that chapter, he declares, “Every single being has an amazing, unfathomable gift that only meeting life head-on and heart-on will reveal.”

Ultimately, rather than being discouraging, The Endless Practice proves to be a source of nurturing encouragement. It’s a poetic book of prose that you can return to repeatedly for a bit of inspiration.

See more features from the November 2014 issue