Resilience and Prayer

Resilience and Prayer


"When we can be completely authentic, resilience is the flow of strength that comes to us from everything that is not us."

In May, Mark Nepo will be teaching at the Sophia Institute in Charleston, SC, and leading a weeklong retreat in Florence, Italy, for Global Journeys. See for details.

Somehow, when I face what is mine to face and empty myself of all that is agitating me, I go clear like a lake after a storm. It is then that I can see through to the bottom of what is me, only to see that I share that bottom with all other beings. When I face my heartache and reach its bottom, there is the bottom of all heartache which is both comforting and renewing.

When we can be completely authentic, resilience is the flow of strength that comes to us from everything that is not us. Because when being ourselves to the bottom of our personality, we trip into the well of all personality. When giving all our care to what is before us, we trip into the well of all love. When diving into the depth of our soul, we also swim in the depth of all being. Once opened, that deeply, summoning, and marshaling what is dormant in us to face the situation at hand empowers our fortitude.

The deeper reward for inhabiting our full humanity is that the Universal Life-Force floods us with enlivened capacity. Just as you must plug in a lamp to access electricity, our presence and full humanity are required as a way to “plug in” to the Universal Life-Force that flows through all things. When holding nothing back and being true, we are lifted by the healing forces of life and illuminated. In just this way, resilience fills us with strength from everything that is not us, when we can be thoroughly who we are.

Like it or not, we are challenged to cooperate with the forces of life as they shape us. One way we do this is to speak from our heart. Because speaking from our heart makes us strong enough to endure the erosion of suffering. Speaking from our heart keeps us strong by clearing the inlet we call soul of unprocessed experience. This thoroughness of being and congruence of relationship between us and other life opens us to a deeper, more enduring form of resilience, through which the core of our being opens to the core of all being, making us for the moment stronger than we are.

The other way we are challenged to cooperate with the forces of life is to listen with our heart. To be still and listen, beyond all urgency and intent, opens us to the true nature of prayer. When in trouble, we often pray, the way we might scheme—desperate for a way out. When overcome with fear, the prayer can sound more like a demand of someone or something or some force to rescue us.

But the deeper sense of prayer has always been to still ourselves enough to listen and receive, to ask for nothing. When we can empty ourselves of schemes and demands, when we can let the fear settle and open ourselves without intent, this quiet bravery lets us be renewed by the forces of Wholeness. As an inlet, when clear, channels the larger body of water into streams of water that can irrigate the fields, this is how true prayer welcomes life to sustain us.

Both speaking from our heart and listening with our heart enable the soul to breathe. It is this rhythm that saves us from going numb. It is this rhythm of heart that makes pain and grief bearable. It is this rhythm, which no one can enliven but you, that enables us to endure the pressure of life by which experience is compressed into the jewels we call wisdom and joy.

So, what is your history and experience of speaking from your heart and listening with your heart? How do these deep ways of being and feeling inform each other? How can you deepen your practice of each? This is work worthy of your commitment. It will help you both survive and thrive. For listening with your heart will deepen your roots and speaking from your heart will help you break ground.

Questions to Walk With

  • In your journal, describe a situation that is calling for you to speak from your heart. Practice doing so in this reflection. Notice and detail how speaking from your heart, even in practice, affects you.

  • In conversation with a friend or loved one, describe a time when you listened deeply with your heart. What caused you to stop and open this deeply? How did listening with your heart affect you? Describe a situation that is calling you to listen this deeply now. What is keeping you from listening in this way?

This excerpt is from Mark’s new book Falling Down and Getting Up, due out from St. Martins’ Essentials, Sept 5, 2023. Available now for preorder.

Not yet part of the Spirituality+Health community? Celebrate 25 years of S+H by subscribing here.

Resilience and Prayer

Enjoying this content?

Get this article and many more delivered straight to your inbox weekly.