Drinking from the River of Light

by Mark Nepo

published by Sounds True

AMBER LOVE 04-SEP-2019 This review is a courtesy provided by NetGalley. To support this site and my other work, please consider being a monthly donor at Patreon.com/amberunmasked; you can also buy my books through Amazon (or ask your local retailer to order you copies). I’m also an Amazon Influencer so you can shop through my lists of recommended products.

Publisher’s Summary:

“Meaningful art, enduring art — and the transformative process it awakens — keeps us alive,” writes Mark Nepo. With Drinking from the River of Light, this bestselling poet and philosopher will lead you on a journey to discover just how art and authentic expression can bring our deepest truths to bear in the world.

In this collection of interconnected essays and poetry — covering subjects ranging from the importance of staying in conversation with other forms of life to a consideration of how innovators such as Matisse, Rodin, and Beethoven saw the world — Nepo presents a lyrical ode to the creative urge that stirs in each of us. Whether it’s the search for a metaphor to reveal life’s beauty or the brushstroke that will thoroughly capture the moment, Drinking from the River of Light examines what it means to go “… beyond the boundaries of art, where the viewer and participant are one.”

Here you will discover:

  • The importance of openly embracing the full scope of your emotions
  • The need for raw honesty and self-exploration in education
  • Why a new perspective always waits only a “quarter turn” away
  • The importance of staying in constant conversation with other creative voices
  • The crucial difference between giving and getting attention
  • Concrete guidelines for respectful peer review
  • What it means to channel the sound of your innermost being — and the universe

In Nepo’s words, “This book is meant to be experienced and journeyed with.” Including dozens of journaling prompts and personal exercises meant to enliven the reader’s creative instincts, Drinking from the River of Light traces the search for our most essential selves and the importance of the life of expression to bear witness to the sorrow, depth, and joy of life.


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 The 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.

4 and a half star rating

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