Drinking from the River of Light by Mark Nepo
Updated: Feb 12
This book review was made possible through an advanced copy provided by NetGalley. The image below takes you to my Amazon affiliate site.
Cancer survivor, poet, and philosopher Mark Nepo is familiar to many people who practice yoga. Whether your personal yoga journey is specifically meditation or if you practice a broad spectrum, Mark Nepo’s writing may have crossed your path. Drinking from the River of Light is my first book of Nepo however one of my yoga teachers reads from his Book of Awakening almost every class.
What I liked about Drinking from the River of Light was that it had the same concepts of mindfulness but all of it is presented in a softer, lyrical form of essays as chapters rather than books that come across more like a stern teacher. Each chapter ends with suggestions of topic conversation starters which readers are invited to bring to someone close to them. The idea is not to read through the book from start to end. You read through the essay and then have the conversation if you choose, and journal about what you observed.
“After my struggles with cancer, I began to learn that what is not ex-pressed is de-pressed.”
As a writer, Drinking from the River of Light was the perfect type of yoga book for inspiration. Nepo asks readers the very question, "Why write?" and delves into our need as humans to express ourselves. Nepo refers back to historical figures and quotes from them to draw upon themes. What he could have used more of was references to marginalized artists. This is something I’ve come to look for specifically as my own awareness needs to grow. We’ve already heard from cisgender, white, men of history. We can learn from and be inspired by so many other people. The first female artist mentioned is Willa Cather in the chapter called "Lifting Veils".
The veils for Nepo were related to his old feelings of needing to be needed by others, his sense of worthiness. His epiphany came in the hospital. Readers need not be concerned if they don’t have a traumatic eye-opening experience to have veils lifted to see what is important to growth and how they exist in the world. In fact, if you can see those traits without trauma, consider yourself especially blessed on the journey to inner peace.
Nepo reminds us that “our yearning to create is less about inventing something new as it is about inhabiting a timeless form, which might be new to us,” and this yearning is something we share as a species, as human beings.