To participate in the experiment of inhabiting Heaven on Earth, we’re invited to practice admitting who we are. Admit means to confess or acknowledge what is true about who we are, as in admitting to a crime or fault. Inwardly, though, admit is more comprehensive. It means to accept the flawed and gifted wholeness of who we are. Only through such acceptance can we access all our capacities. Only when a painter accepts that he is filled with all the colors can he access them to paint with. Likewise, only when a person accepts that they are filled with all the human moods can they access the colors of their humanity with which to paint their life.

The other definition of admit is to let in, to cross a threshold, to allow someone or some thing to enter. So once accepting who we are, we need to let in who we are. And one can lead to the other. When feeling shattered by the harshness of life, when feeling lost or cut off, just inhale deeply and slowly. This is a physical way to begin accepting who you are and letting in who you are. In practice, admitting who you are is the first step to saying yes to life.

Another practice we’re led to is the effort to compose our selves. When agitated, through pain or fear or worry, when broken into pieces, we need to find a way to put ourselves back together. In a culture afraid of feelings, the instruction to calm down is often used to muffle what we’re going through. But to quiet what we’re feeling is not the same thing as to settle what we’re feeling. It’s the difference between putting a pillow over someone’s head when they’re crying and letting a churned-up lake settle, so you can see what’s on the bottom.

Compose means “to form a whole by ordering or arranging the parts,” as in composing music, where the arrangement of the parts creates a whole that releases its harmony. But in order to form a whole of our various parts that will release our music, we need to calm and settle our thoughts and feelings, and thereby calm and settle our features — those distinct attributes by which we know who we are.

To compose your self means to commit to the effort to calm your agitation, enough to see and feel the wholeness of your being that is always under your agitation, the way the bottom of a lake is always under the agitation of its waves. The mystery is that while we’re broken at times on the surface, we’re always whole somewhere in the depth of our being.

Consider how a lake is always both still and moving at the same time, often still in the deep and moving on the surface. We are no different. So the goal is not to eliminate the surface movement or agitation that is part of the weather of life, but to learn the art of composing our selves: calming the surface, so we can see through and reconnect to the depth of our being.

To compose your self, then, is the practice of calming the surface, the part of you that meets the days, so you can arrange your parts back into their wholeness.

To refind our wholeness requires that we admit who we are, that we accept the totality of our humanness, so we have all the colors to paint with. To inhabit our wholeness requires that we let in who we are, so that nothing keeps the flow of life from mixing with the flow of our being.

When we can accept our humanness, we can taste our true nature. When we can calm and arrange all our scattered parts, we’re blessed to be both rare and common. When all our effort evaporates into grace, we are the clear, lighted bottom that reflects the living Universe. When everything is as lighted from within as the sun lights the world from without, Heaven shows its face on Earth — through us.


To quiet what we’re feeling is not the same thing as to settle what we’re feeling.


Seeds to Water

· In your journal, tell the story of a time when you experienced Heaven on Earth. Describe the qualities of that experience and what led you to it. Were you alone or with others?

· In conversation with a friend or loved one, admit who you are by describing something you’re proud of and something you wish you were better at. Then discuss the larger person you are that carries both your gifts and your flaws.

Excerpted from The One Life We’re Given: Finding the Wisdom that Waits in your Heart­ by Mark Nepo. Copyright © 2016. Published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

I am presenting a two-day personal reflection workshop at ABC Home in New York City on Friday evening March 3 & all day Saturday, March 4 based on The One Life We’re Given: A Guided Workshop on Finding the Wisdom that Waits in Your Heart. For registration, please go to: ABC Home Reflection Workshop with Mark Nepo

  • photo credit: Angele J

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