Weekend Reading
May 21, 2023

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

A yoga teacher of mine introduced me this week to Mark Nepo’s wonderful meditation on “the art of facing things.”

This is from Nepo’s The Book of Awakening, which I haven’t actually read. I plan to get a copy of the book soon, but in the meantime, I found the passage online. Please forgive any inaccuracies that I might have included in transcribing it.

I’m going to share the whole thing, because Nepo’s central metaphor is most powerful in its entirety:

Salmon have much to teach us about the art of facing things. In swimming up waterfalls, these remarkable creatures seem to defy gravity. It is an amazing thing to behold. A closer look reveals a wisdom for all beings who want to thrive.

What the salmon somehow know is how to turn their underside – from center to tail -into the powerful current coming at them, which hits them squarely and the impact then launches them out and further up the waterfall; to which their reaction is, again, to turn their underside back into the powerful current that, of course, again hits them squarely; and this successive impact launches them further out and up the waterfall. Their leaning into what they face bounces them further and further along their unlikely journey.

From a distance, it seems magical, as if these mighty fish are flying, conquering their element. In actuality, they are deeply at one with their element, vibrantly and thoroughly engaged in a compelling dance of turning toward- and- being hit squarely that moves them through water and air to the very source of their nature. In terms useful to the life of the spirit, the salmon are constantly faithful in exposing their underside to the current coming at them. Mysteriously, it is the physics of this courage that enables them to move through life as they know it so directly. We can learn from this very active paradox; for we, too, must be as faithful to living in the open if we are to stay real in the face of our daily experience. In order not to be swept away by what the days bring, we, too, must find a way to lean into the forces that hit us so squarely.

The salmon offer us a way to face truth without shutting down. They show us how leaning into our experience, though we don’t like the hit, moves us on. Time and again, though we’d rather turn away, it is the impact of being revealed, through our willingness to be vulnerable, that enables us to experience both the mystery and grace.

So beautiful, right?

Sometimes in September, I’ll observe parents who are walking their kids to school at the start of a brand new year.

I watch the kids holding onto their parents’ hands as they make their way toward a season of unknowns and new experiences.

This sight often makes me cry, or want to cry, because kids are so vulnerable. They’re also incredibly brave, which is something I learned a long time ago, when I was volunteering in pediatric oncology.

When my teacher brought up Nepo’s passage, I was reminded that we adults are super vulnerable, too. We may accumulate a little more armor as we get older, but the tenderness of our hearts beneath it doesn’t really change.

Nepo also writes,

In the face of this gritty, mysterious, and ever-changing dynamic we call being alive, it’s nothing short of heroic that we are asked to choose life and living, again and again. Not just to put a good face on things while we’re here, but because saying yes to life is how the worm inches its way through earth. It’s how salmon leap their way upstream. It’s how flowers grow out of stone. The word for such flowers, saxifrage, from the Latin, means stone breaker. Saying yes is the way the flower of the soul breaks through the stone of the world.

They say that courage isn’t about fearlessness; rather, it’s about facing our fears, or persisting in spite of them.

It was another difficult week for me, but I did my best to face things.

I didn’t feel courageous at all. But Nepo’s words helped me to understand that there was some decency and strength in simply showing up.

You’re strong, too, whether you felt that way this week or not.

Here’s to a new week of facing things, of choosing life, and to turning our bellies to the unknown.

Happy Sunday, friends. Here are some recipes and reads.


Emily’s strawberry spinach salad is a simple, colorful announcement of early summer.

Cacio e pepe meets seasonal ramps in Tracey’s vegan spaghetti recipe.

How tasty (not to mention meal-prep-friendly) do Lisa’s vegan kimbap look?

I’m all about shiitake mushrooms this spring. Aysegul’s simple recipe for roasted shiitake caps will definitely be joining my rotation.

I’m a fan of all things carrot cake, and Ashlae’s energy bites look so cheerful.


1. A new study from NIH shows that Americans are developing cases of chronic pain at higher rates than new onset cases of diabetes, hypertension, or depression.

2. Such an interesting, thought-provoking essay on the lives of free dogs in India.

3. Technically, this article is aimed at parents who are helping their teens to spend less time on social media—if the teens themselves report distress or cost associated with being glued to their smartphones.

To be honest, though, I found the tips useful myself. Social media keeps me connected in a good way, but I’ve been trying to take more breaks from screens lately. I read the article at a useful time.

4. I love this refreshing article about the fertility of the older mind.

5. Sort of on the same topic as today’s reflection, this little reminder.

Here’s to a new week of swimming upstream, everyone.

Till soon,


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  1. Thank you for sharing Nebo’s words. I hope this week is a better one for you, Gena!

  2. Thxx Gena. I always look forward to your posts. You have a way of expressing a lot directly and without a lot of excess wording. The recipes you choose are delicious. I made your zucchini hummus the other day. It freezes well so I can save always have some on-hand.

    Thxx for taking your precious time to post.

    These are challenging times.

    Wishing you a week filled with all that will support you in ways that are meaningful to you so you can continue to share your Light with the world.

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