THE BLOG
06/23/2014 01:51 pm ET | Updated Aug 23, 2014

The Water Takes Many Forms

This fall, Sounds True is publishing a box set of teaching conversations based on the poems in my book Reduced to Joy. The poems are the teachers and unfold the journey from our head to our heart. For the next two months, I'm happy to be previewing poems and reflections from the box set.

This poem speaks to the proper role of guides and what they open us to. You'll notice that the voice of this poem is imperative, that is, it offers instruction to the reader. I must confess that when poems appear in this voice, it is not me giving instructions to you, but more, I am receiving instructions from the voice of life and simply recording them. I am the you in the poem, too. What the poem offers is for me to learn as well.


The Water Takes Many Forms

When people are at a loss, the guide ferries them over.
When one is (awake), one ferries oneself.
--Hui-Neng

Listen for guides, but use their wisdom as you
would a lamp to read your own heart. If some-
one dissuades you from your heart, they are not
a guide. A guide, like a ferryman, brings you
close to the water, will even help you cross,
but it's your own thirst that makes you cry
stop, wait--so you can drink.

When drinking of that water, it's clear:
the taste of birth we long to keep alive grows
inside everything. In the sheerness of the
water once it stops moving. In the surrender
of exhaustion that loosens every grip. In the
peace within our loneliness once we stop
gnawing at what might have been.

When drinking of that peace, it's clear:
doubt leads to humility, the way thirst makes
us drink. And pain drops into Oneness, the
way hunger makes us eat.

When finding a guide, listen, if you must, to
what they have to say, but look for the water
in their eyes and the wind that rims their
voice. Let your self be scoured back to the
beginning which is not behind us,
but about to crack open within us.


A Question to Walk With: Tell the story of a mentor or guide and how they have led you to your own inner guide.

For more poetry for the soul, click here.

For more by Mark Nepo, click here.