The Exquisite Risk

Mark Nepo
458 words, 8K views, 6 comments


We are grateful to Rupali Bhuva for offering this hand-made painting for this reading.

At any moment, if quiet enough and open enough, we can drop into the fabric of existence in which everything, even pain, has its vivid signature of energy that we call, at different times, truth or beauty or peace.

It’s from this ground of being that we know and feel the unseeable web of connection between all life. It is from here that we see more clearly, below the tensions of our wants and disappointments. 

The exquisite risk that St. John speaks of is twofold: the risk to still our own house so that Spirit can come through, so that we might drop into the vital nature of things, and the risk to then let that beautiful knowing inform our days.

The risk is exquisite because it holds open the veil before which is hell-on-earth and behind which is heaven-on-earth. For without knowing and feeling our connection to all life, the patterns of experience seem to make no sense. From within that knowing connection though, we can feel the tug and pull of everything alive. This does not eliminate pain, but distributes its acuteness, the way a net softens the impact of a fall. Without this feeling of connection, we bump through life blindly, startled by the suddenness of things. With it, we can place ourselves in a landscape teeming with meaning, just waiting to be lived into. The exquisite risk is a doorway, that lets us experience the extraordinary in the ordinary. It’s always near. Truth opens it. Love opens it. Humility opens it. And if stubborn, pain will intensify to open it. Sadness can open it, if felt to its center. Silence and time can open it, if we enter them and don’t just watch them.

In the same way that watching the surface of water can be mesmerizing and yet it does not reveal what waits below, the busyness and drama of the world can keep us from going below the surface of the very moments that are ours to enter. In my life, I have known truth and beauty and peace to be ever-present companions that I often sit beside, bemoaning their absence.

So often, the risk that leads to revelation and then courage is, at first, a very quiet threshold that we must dare to cross, through which life waits like a secret hidden in the open. The quiet risk somehow reminds us that there is nothing between us, nothing between the oceans and our hearts, between the sands and our eyes, between the infinite sufferings and splendors that make up the breathing world of life on earth.  


Mark Nepo is a poet, teacher, storyteller and author. Excerpt from his book, The Exquisite Risk.