In search of signs

By Paulo Coelho

We may think at times that the only thing life offers us tomorrow, is to repeat everything we did today. But if we pay close attention, we will see that no two days are alike.
Each morning brings a hidden blessing; a blessing which is unique to that day, and which cannot be kept or re-used. If we do not use this miracle today, it will be lost.
This miracle is in the small things of daily life; we must live in the understanding that at every moment there is a way out of each problem, the way of finding that which is missing, the right clue to the decision which must be taken in order to change our entire future.
But how to find the courage for this? As I see it, God speaks to us through signs. It is an individual language which requires faith and discipline in order to be fully absorbed.
For example, Saint Augustine was converted in this way. For years he sought – in various philosophical schools – an answer to the meaning of life, until one afternoon, in the garden of his house in Milan, as he reflected on the failure of his search, he heard a child in the street: “Take up and read! Take up and read!”
Although he had always been governed by logic, he decided – in an impulse – to open the first book which came to hand. It was the Bible, and he read part of St. Paul which contained the answers he sought. From then on, Augustine’s logic made way for faith to take part in his life, and he went on to become one of the Church’s greatest theologians.
The monks of the desert used to say it was important to allow angels to act. Because of this, they occasionally did absurd things – such as talk to flowers or laugh without a reason. The alchemists followed the “signs of God”; clues which often made no sense, but which always lead somewhere.
“Modern man tried to eliminate life’s uncertainties and doubts. And in doing so he left his soul dying of hunger; the soul feeds off mysteries” – says the dean of Saint Francis Cathedral.
There is a meditation exercise which consists of adding – generally for ten minutes a day – the reasons for each of our actions. For example: “I now read the newspaper to keep myself informed. I now think of such-and-such a person, because the subject I read about lead me to do so. I walked to the door, because I am going out”. And so forth.
Buddha called this “conscious attention”. When we see ourselves repeating our ordinary routine, we realize how much wealth surrounds our life. We understand each step, each attitude. We discover important things, and useless thoughts.
At the end of a week – discipline is always fundamental – we are more conscious of our faults and distractions, but we also understand that, at times, there was no reason to act the way we did, that we followed our impulses, our intuition; and now we begin to understand this silent language which God uses in order to show us the true path. Call it intuition, signs, instinct, coincidence, any name will do – what matters is that through “conscious attention” we realize that we are often guided to the right decision.
And this makes us stronger and more confident.

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