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Surviving Storms

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Member Reviews

Surviving Storms by Mark Nepo

277 Pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press / St. Martin’s Essentials
Release Date: September 6, 2022

Nonfiction, Religion, Spirituality, Self-Help

The book is divided into two parts.

Part 1: Where We Are
Part 2: Finding the Strength

We are living in tumultuous times as we have just seen with the effects of Hurricanes Ian and Nicole. But not only weather related, there are storms affecting our lives. The author does an amazing job breaking it down to small bits so we can face any type of storm. He discusses societal and personal issues people face daily. This is a wonderfully written book that will help readers with any storm they may face in life.
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Are you looking for a book on how to survive the storms that are raging around us?  I don't mean literal storms, I mean those storms that we face every day.  This book will give you tips on discovering your true self so that you have the strength to make it through the every day storms that we face, and to make it out the other side a stronger person.
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Mark Nepo’s writing is often beautiful, meditative, and metaphorical. It requires a patient, thoughtful approach. This book of spiritual lessons to cope with turbulent times is written in dozens of short chapters, and it would be nice to read no more than one chapter per day so you have time to contemplate the content. Each chapter concludes with prompts for journaling and conversation to help you engage with the ideas. 

I suspect I just wasn’t in the right mood while reading this, because I felt impatient with many of these essays, and a couple of them annoyed me. A few really impressed me though, especially “A Broken Hallelujah,” inspired by Leonard Cohen’s song. As someone living with chronic pain and illness, I also appreciated “The Paradox of Limitation,” inspired by his journey with cancer.

I recommend this book for those who are interested in spiritual growth and enjoy poetry and contemplation.

I received an ARC through NetGalley, and I volunteered to provide an honest review.
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Surviving Storms: Finding the Strength to Meet Adversity is Mark Nepo’s latest book of essays. His approach is both as a spiritual teacher and as a student of life. Nepo is also a poet and philosopher. So, when you blend all these elements, you sense his writing style.

Like a good teacher, Nepo organizes Surviving Storms into small bite-size chunks gathered into larger sections. He lays out the situation, discussing various typical kinds of adversity. These vary from individual to global and reflect our US politics and the Covid-19 pandemic, among other issues.

But this isn’t a book on history or politics. Instead, it’s about our inner spiritual and emotional journey. The external storms which cause adversity are the waves that cause us to dive deeper. And Nepo aims to offer guidance in turbulent waters.

Nepo uses many tools to illustrate his point. He might tell part of his life story or share one of his poems. In another chapter, he uses word derivations to illuminate meaning. Or he adds quotes from famous figures. Then he ties these writing devices together with thoughts, reflections, and recommendations.

My conclusions
Like any book of essays, I found some more approachable and relevant to me than others. I loved the one about Leonard Cohen’s song, Hallelujah, since it’s a favorite of mine. And others either went way over my head or didn’t resonate. This generally reflects my experience with spiritually inclined books like this. Upon reading it a second time, I anticipate the most meaningful essays would differ.

Once or twice I thought Nepo “jumped the shark” with his perspectives. And other times, I read a section repeatedly, never understood it, and ultimately decided to move along. This is the nature of spiritual reading, in my experience. Just as every blind date isn’t your eventual perfect spouse, spiritual ideas are often hit or miss. Feeling this way isn’t an indicator of a book’s quality.

Imagine you’re looking for a timely and relevant exploration of storms and survival, both literal and figurative. In that case, Mark Nepo’s new book is an excellent way to delve deeper into the topic.

Thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and the author for a digital advanced reader’s copy in exchange for this honest review. The expected publication date for this book is Tuesday, September 6, 2022.
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Mark Nepo's books are sensitive, poetic, deeply thought-provoking, gentle, and spiritually-accessible. Surviving Storms was written for us who are weary and wary in the chaotic twenty-first century world we find ourselves in.

Meant to give us hope, direction, and a place to put our grief and sense of unease, this book provides us with tools for "heartwork" as Nepo calls it. "We need to deepen our roots and solidify our connection to Spirit and all life" he says, so that we can be strong and resilient enough to survive whatever comes our way.

He ends each chapter with a journaling exercise or question and a suggestion for a conversation to have with a friend or family member.

I highly recommend this book to those who are spiritual seekers, those in need of comfort and solace, and those who enjoy reflective, self-help books.

*Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Essentials for the free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.
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SURVIVING STORMS by Mark Nepo is brilliant. In Nepo's unique and powerful hands, the times we are living with all the tumult and strife are put into perspective. His clear, lucid view of individuals as well as our larger community is compassionate, smart, and ultimately practical: we are all in this together regardless of what we think or feel and it's up to us to shape, create, and live the future we want to inhabit. I was so entranced with this book I didn't want to stop reading, even when it was way past my bedtime. What is particularly wonderful is that while this is a book I will return to time and again for my own joy and deep consideration, it is also one that helped me listen and participate with enthusiasm for our differences and what brings us together. I received a copy of this book and these thoughts are my own, unbiased opinions.
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Thank you to the pub;ilsher and to Net Galley for the opportunity for review. I am a  long time reader of Mark Nepo and always enjoy his insight to coping with life. This is the perfect book for these turbulant times to remind us of what to place importance upon and how to cope. I enjoy the format of his books that include much advice for dailly life that you will want to highlight and return to and can util.ize in your life.   This is a good book for anyone coping through difficult times and has excellent advice and survival skill advice for todays turblant society.
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Mark Nepo's book, Surviving Storms is for readers familiar with his work and newcomers. This book is set up in a similar way to his past books.
Chapter content
Notably sentence or two
Questions to ask yourself
Discussion topic with others

One thing about his books is that they are best enjoyed leisurely, maybe a chapter a day, but don't rush through them. Surviving Storms is best digested at a slower pace. Nepo even describes a day when he was running late, rushing to an appointment, and stricken by the beauty of a pigeon. He saw it as a sign and perfect opportunity to slow down. Hopefully if anyone is in that situation, they too can slow down and not cause disruption in a chain of events (missing a train, not making it to a doctor's appointment, unable to get medicine prescription, etc.).

*Keep in mind my review is based on an advanced copy so quotes may not reflect the released publication.

The Pros:
As with other books by this author, I found myself highlighting a lot of passages. Most because I like the insightful thinking and philosophizing brought to the surface; other highlights are things I wanted to remember to call out for their white male privilege thoughts. Nonetheless, there are plenty of good passages in Surviving Storms that are worth sharing. If you get the chance to read it, you may even find yourself using his end of chapter discussion topics to introduce conversations. It might be awkward to do that sort of thing randomly, but if you need to lead a discussion in a classroom, yoga studio, study group, therapy group, or retreat circle, there are a lot of nuggets you can pluck from this book.

To be honest and fair, I'd say half of the book was useful. And as a fellow writer, that's not a terrible rating. I've watched TV shows with seven or more years of content and if I can still say, "The first four seasons were so good!" I think that's decent. I'll rewatch those parts I enjoyed hundreds of times.

Some moments where Surviving Storms blossoms into material that is beyond poetic words and quotes of dead, white, male philosophers (although Confucius is brought up once):

Nepo opens the book by addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. "There is no way back to life before the coronavirus. We have no choice but to accept the truth of what is and love our way forward, discovering the new life unlived ahead of us."

As someone living in an area the government immediately declared a hot zone (New Jersey with Newark Airport and ocean ports), there are still people out here who protest every Saturday claiming that making children wear masks is child abuse. They don't even care that the mask mandates were lifted months ago. They want to scream about something. Each sign they hold is about a different social issue or too generic to even be debated.

The fact that Mark Nepo uses his power and influence as a best selling author to address the plague we faced and lost millions of lives to is important. He could be the kind of granola-crunching hippie to believe CBD oil and organic rosemary planted around the edge of his house would be enough to keep the virus at bay. Thankfully, he is one-hundred-percent willing to stand up for humanity rather than claiming we went overboard or that the virus was a hoax or that vaccines won't help. Nepo is a man who owes his life to science and the medical community on his treatment teams. By writing books on a regular basis, he proves that a person in today's suffering world can be heartfelt, compassionate, poetic, and a philosopher while still going to annual checkups.

The first part of Surviving Storms addresses our relationships to technology and entertainment as means of escaping the real world (even when watching things about the real world). He sees people as unable to separate the fact from fiction or semi-fiction when used for the sake of entertainment. People are lost in fantasy and dreams. He has no love for social media.

In part two, Nepo talks about stamina and resilience. He opens up about days when his body and mind were depleted. The kind of days when exhaustion seems to be winning, but he has one hit point left on his life bar and finds manna to fuel him enough to do his job teaching others. (The gaming terminology might have lost some of you, but I think you catch my drift). Nepo asks us how we keep our individual candles burning inside and still do what needs to be done to care for others.

"The more insecure we are, the more we need to impose our views on everything and everyone. The more secure we are, the more room we make for other views of life."

My favorite chapter is titled Uncharted Waters. It's the kind of chapter that has an illuminating message and gives readers something to ponder. All the chapters do, but this one touched my sense of personal exploration. It invites readers to do the work on themselves in a less erudite approach. This chapter is the reason I know I'll be using Surviving Storms as a reference in my classes. For other readers, they may not feel connected to this chapter at all. It's that kind of book.

Near the end is the chapter The Blessing of the Ordinary. This chapter felt the most like a guru or a monk speaking directly to the reader. It's about being fully present through the practices of meditation, love, awareness, and connection. He calls it the Oneness connecting all things. (*side note: there was a Bob's Burgers episode about this too, so sometimes, entertaining fiction/fantasy can be just as valuable of a teaching tool).

The Cons:
There is a lot of privilege in being a best selling author and since this book is both autobiographical and instructional, it would have been important to include notes on that privilege. Like in the example above where he was running late -- for other people that could have caused them to lose their job or something else unfortunate. As a reader, it seems like Nepo is grounded to Mother Nature but not always to the real world. He repeatedly brings up the worst part of his life which was being diagnosed with cancer and going through treatments. It's great that he survived and then thrived. I don't think most people get the same opportunities he did though.

How many people get cancer and won't seek treatment because of the expense? How many people bankrupt their families with medical bills? How many people turn to crowdfunding just to see a doctor? Look at where there is a specific category for medical bills because of the American healthcare system. Mark Nepo would call that upheaval something like a challenge or a storm. Others would be less hesitant to call something serious catastrophic. Do we move through storms or do storms move through us? Nepo has a tendency to easily let go of the controls and come out fine. Not only fine, but encouraging others to do so as well.

Letting go is an important practice. Whether you're atheist or have a specific religion there are colloquialisms like "give it up to God" or "let Jesus take the wheel." In Yoga, letting go is aparigraha. That's one area where Nepo does have the ability to be accessible -- faith. He words his sentences in ways that may refer to Christianity or Islam or Judaism, but he'll add an "or" such-and-such for anyone not identified. It's done politely.
His whiteness and colonialism also show through when he consistently refers to indigenous practices as ancient when people of those cultures have survived. Talk about a storm. Many of indigenous people faced genocide. Loss of numbers; loss of home; loss of their own faiths or forced into occult practice; loss of their languages. The list goes on about how white colonizers tried their hardest to make those so-called ancient ways merely history. Thankfully, those who are still around speak out. If you're not noticing, you haven't been paying attention. Nepo's references to shamanism sound like primitive history. They are not.

This thing that Nepo does is called spiritual bypassing. It's when a white person (usually) coming from a place of privilege wants to feel less guilty about their history and ancestry. Saying things along the lines of, "we're all immigrants" or "we all come from Africa anyway," are ignorant ways that don't open arms of compassion but rather shut the door in the faces of people today. Just because your great-great-grandparents came over from Ireland and had a rough time does not mean that you can equate your present day life with an undocumented migrant worker fearing for their life every single day. Nor can millions of years of evolution allow you to put yourself in the shoes of someone black who still has to live with racist systems: getting pulled over and mistreated by law enforcement; getting turned down for mortgages; not seeing themselves in anyone else during a school day or working day. Spiritual bypassing, whether or not you believe in reincarnation, is harmful. Your past life as a Blackfoot protector against invading white people does not give you -- in your current life -- a pass to being anything other than part of an oppressive system.

I judged this book harshly because by this point in his career, Mark Nepo should be awakened enough to know better about certain social issues like racism and colonialism. I cut a star for that. If it was his debut, I'd probably look past that while awaiting growth in the next book.
Rating: 4 stars
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This book was so good. The book description says this and it could not be more spot on, especially in the world we live in currently. 

“We live in a turbulent time. Storms are everywhere, of every size and shape. And like every generation before us, we must learn the art of surviving them, so we can help each other endure.”

Wow. Great read!  Some days it’s hard but we overcome, we endure and we heal. Highly recommend!
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A wonderful read for any and all experiencing any type of storm or adversity in their everyday life.  Nepo takes readers along a journey to examine their everyday values and truths they believe are holding them back in the storms of life all while deeply rooting everything in God's promises.  Highly recommend reading this hopeful book of encouragement.
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Nepo's books have been around a long time, and if you liked his earlier work, you'll like this one. There's some good wisdom and thoughts here that are sure to help some readers.

I really appreciate the free ARC for review!!
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Mark Nepo does it again! With insight and care Mark empowers us on our path. Surviving Storms is a must-read book for any adult interested in self-reflection, mindfulness, and resilience. - Maureen Healy, author of The Emotionally Healthy Child
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The first two chapters of this inspiring book concern the turbulence of the 21st century (particularly the last 10 years) in America.  The third chapter deals with the nature and life of storms..  the fourth chapter unpacks the purpose of goodness and the rest of the book describes the practices, for example awareness, that we can use to restore our basic nature and transcend our perceived differences. The book is a series of eloquent essays on how we can live our lives with grace and courage.
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Mark Nepo’s ”Surviving Storms” is a must read for any person desiring to learn from an astute student of life’s changes, challenges, and pathways to inner transformations. You will live more bravely, wisely, and compassionately after reading this book!
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Mark Nepo's Surviving Storms: Finding the Strength to Meet Adversity was just what I needed at this moment in my life. Five stars.
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These powerful essays by one of my favorite spiritual authors spoke deeply to me about the “storms” that I have weathered in my own life. His poetry and thought-provoking questions at the end of each chapter are helping me put pieces of my journey into clearer perspective. 

Thanks to NetGalley, the author and publisher for an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for my honest review
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I made it through 8% of this book before I had to give up. It just isn't for me, so it's a DNF. I try to avoid reading about politics because it invades so many other areas of my life. Reading is my safe space. Politics aren't allowed unless fictional. I'm sure this book will not be entirely about politics, but there was enough within the 8% I read that I know I don't want to continue. I'm unfortunately being forced to leave a star rating on NetGalley, so I'm giving it 3 stars instead of the 1 star I feel like leaving. The writing was fine, the prose were good, but the topics totally missed the mark for me.
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There is so much wisdom in Mark Nero’s book. I love his approach, his illustrations and especially his prompts for reflection and journaling. This meshes so nicely with so much of my spiritual path of Mussar.
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