The third passion

By Paulo Coelho

During the last fifteen years I remember experiencing only three overwhelming passions – the kind you read all about, talk compulsively about, seek out people with the same affinity, go to sleep and wake up thinking about. The first was when I bought a computer, abandoning my typewriter for ever and discovering the freedom that this allowed me (I am writing this in a small French town, using something that weighs less than 1.5 kilos, stores ten years of my professional life and can find whatever I need in under five seconds). The second was when I got into the Internet for the first time – by then already a library bigger than the biggest of all the libraries.

The third passion, however, has nothing to do with technological breakthroughs. I am talking about … the bow and arrow. In my youth I read a fascinating book with the title “Zen in the art of archery,” by E. Herrigel (Ed. Pensamento), which tells us about the author’s spiritual journeys by means of this sport. The idea stuck in my subconscious until one day in the Pyrenees when I met an archer. We talked for a while and then he lent me his gear, and ever since then I have not been able to live without practicing archery almost every day.

In Brazil I built a shooting stand in my apartment – the kind you can disassemble in five minutes when the guests arrive. In the French mountains I go out every day to practice, and that has already made me bedridden twice with hypothermia, caused by staying over two hours exposed to a temperature of 6o C below zero. This year I took part in the World Economic Forum in Davos, thanks to very strong painkillers, because two days before the Forum I had a painful muscular inflammation due to positioning my arm wrongly.

So where is the fascination in all this? There is nothing of a practical nature in aiming at a target with a bow and arrow, arms that go back 30,000 years before Christ. But Herrigel, who aroused this passion in me, knew what he was talking about. Here are some extracts from “Zen and the art of archery” that can be applied to many activities in daily life:

“At the moment of holding the tension, concentrate only on what you need to use. Save all the rest of your energy, learn from the bow that in order to reach something it is not necessary to make gigantic movements, just focus on your target.”

“My master gave me a very stiff bow. I asked him why he was beginning to teach me as if I were a professional. His answer was: “If you start with easy things, you won’t be prepared for the big challenges. Better to know right away what kind of difficulty you’re going to encounter further ahead.”

“For a long time I shot without managing to open the bow properly, until one day the master taught me a breathing lesson and everything became so easy. I asked him why he had taken so long to correct me. He answered: “If from the very start I had taught you the breathing exercises, you would have found them unnecessary. Now you will believe what I tell you and practice as if it were really important. Those who know how to teach act in this way.”

“The moment for releasing the arrow happens instinctively, but first you have to know well the bow, the arrow and the target. The perfect stroke in life’s challenges also uses intuition, but we must not forget the technique after we master it completely.”

“At the end of four years, when I was already capable of mastering the bow, the master offered me his congratulations. I was happy and told him that I had reached the half-way point. “No,” answered the master. “So that you don’t fall into any treacherous traps, it’s better for you to consider half-way the point you reach after you have traveled 90% of the road.”

ATTENTION! Using the bow and arrow is dangerous, in some countries like France it is considered to be an arm, and it can only be practiced after receiving your license and only in places that are specially authorized.


  1. My passion
    1st – as a 10 years old girl i start to play basketball, I was very happy, i could play extra liga in Czech country – but someday somebody very clever came and start to shout that we are not enough, we are looser.
    He “kill” me, but also open my eyes in one moment – that life is not about to be a first, but about to be a happy.

    After 20 years I'm coming back to my hobby, teaching kids to play basket as a volantariat, that in the sport is most important joy, friendship, to learn to share – things, emotions,…

    2nd passion – to see the joy of smiling kids

    3rd passion – to find new friends and learn about they characters and how to talk and share with them.

    the internet is a God's gift to make world smaller – we must not misuse it

  2. THELMA says:

    Yes, dear Pandora, you are dreaming and we are …in your dream!! Life is a dream or a nightmare and the real life is …freedom from physical boundaries.
    p.s. I knew of the Europeana, thanks to my daughter! Our angels on Earth.

  3. Pandora says:

    That’s really interesting information Thelma, I wsn’t aware of this site.

    When I was about five years old (or roughly 39 years ago), I had a recurring dream – where I was floating above peoples heads!!! I had a small machine, which I wore around my waist or held in my hand, which had the alphabet on. I could type in anything that I wanted to find out, and it would tell me the answer.

    It seems that now my dream may have come true! Or maybe I am still dreaming … and am only 5 still….(deep!).


  4. THELMA says:

    Technology and Internet is my passion nowadays.. Since last March that I bought my lap-top I sleep with my ..last thought on it and I wake up and before doing anything else I switch it on!!! It is the fascination of being in communication with the …whole world.
    Europeana the new Encyclopedia is a reality now [ although it has collapsed due to so many visitors]. Any information asked, can become a knowledge in a minute.
    Then the ‘You tube’. We have the opportunity to listen to the whole repertoire and from any artist we may desire! Yesterday I was listening to Rachmaninof playing ..Rachmaninof! Or the film “Shine” and then .. Helfgott himself in the You Tube!
    Passion is what makes our lives worth living.. It is the desire to reach the ideal, the perfect.. It is also the desire to feel ‘full’, satisfied and ‘complete’. It is also, the feeling that we are here for a purpose, the idea that gives us a ‘good reason’ for still being .. alive. It is to be ‘in love’ with life!

  5. amazin69race says:

    I have passion in working with colors, images & shapes. I am a graphic designer.

    Colors bring lots of imaginations through my days.

    Images of what ever I am working on; enlarge my horizon on seeing and understanding things all at once.

    Shapes work like magic; there are zillions of shapes that I can and never think of every time I do my works; they truly pumping-up my brain to work as it should be.

    And last but not least, designing needs lots of patience and focusing for all details, including the smallest things that are not distinctly seen by my eyes.

  6. Adina says:

    My passion is dance, dance and…dance. I transfigure while dancing. Give me any kind of music ’cause I will dance, even in the Hypermarket or on the street. Addiction…. :) Love it…My blood really boils in my veins. Cannot stop it.

    Then singing.

    Then archery.I have absolutely no experience but I love the focus, controlled concentration, no eye movements,totally equilibrium and aligning body and mind, and the wonderful releasing moment.

  7. Antonio F Kaik says:

    Paulo, it is my impression that we enjoy being challenged, moreover, we enjoy even more being instructed, but there is nothing like finding something that we are really good at it.
    We know this when we try, fail and learn, try again, do better, fail and learn some more, to try again and do better
    When we reach a peak on this momentum ,where we stop perceiving improvement we lose the passion, because our motivator is Gonne.
    My first passion was running at the age of 16, I felt that I could run long distances and I did, proving myself every time that I could go further and further, faster and faster
    My Second Passion was conquering the United States, after immigrating to the USA, my goal was to work hard and provide my family and loves with gifts every Christmas I had a chance to travel back to my country (Peru) to visit my parents, and friends
    My Third Passion is my unconditional love for my daughter Sabrina and all the activities I do around her to be around her and share with her. I am a soccer coach now (with no pay) and not only have the privilege to coach wonderful kids, but off course my daughter as well.
    Notice that on each of these three passions there is one factor in common
    Learning and growing
    I will have to say now, that I realize it
    My ultimate passion is living life to the fullest while I growth from within.

    Antonio F Kaik
    Tampa, FL

  8. Tina says:

    Today is my brothers 25th birthday on Santas day the Saint Nikolaus day..Happy birthday to you Oliver, you are a true Sagittarius with luck from planet Jupiter, you are my big LUCK in life/yours sister

  9. Kealan says:

    You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that
    is stable.

  10. Savita Vega says:

    An incredibly beautiful verse, T.K. I have to copy and paste that to my “quotes” file.

    I recently asked Santa for a bow for Christmas. I don’t think it will be under the tree because I know how much is in Santa’s wallet – I am Santa. At any rate, it is a sport that I do intend to take up, when the universe grants the resources. (A childhood fantasy yet to be fulfilled.) I don’t know if it will be my new obsession – I have all-burning passions that come and go like the pages on a calendar. Obsessions that shift with the winds like wildfires in an open prairie. I think it is something in my stars, some mercurial element in my chart. Too much fire, too little earth, or something like that. For me, it is not finding a passion that is difficult – it is staying wholeheartedly focused on it long enough to achieve some measurable goal or gain. And yet, as much as it would serve me well to curb these burning desires and keep the wildfire in check, I am like the racehorse that sets out from the gates full-force, that must have his head at all cost. I must follow what leads me, even if that passion turns out to be but another shooting star. I must obey my heart and seek its fulfillment, otherwise my soul inside me dries up and begins to rattle like a withered seed inside a husk.

    When I was a child I used to have small bow and arrow. That’s how I found out who Santa was in our house. I caught my dad slipping it under the tree. It was just a toy, of course – one of those sets in which the arrows are tipped with suction cups. We lived surrounded by several hundred acres of forest, with our nearest neighbor a mile away. I knew the creek bottom behind our house like my own face in the mirror. I knew every trail and every tree, every thicket and branch of water. Quietly, quietly, every so silently I would slip through the forest alone, barefooted, sometimes scarcely clothed, pretending to be an “Indian” (meaning, of course, a Native American) warrior on the trail of some enemy or game. I would track animals by the footprints they left in the dirt. Sometimes I would climb a tree and sit and wait…and wait – waiting for the invisible enemy to pass by underneath, so that I could pounce on him unaware. I would target practice mostly at trees. And when I was not one foot, I was on my horse. I always rode bareback and sometimes without a bridle (though this drove my mother crazy), because it was “the way the Indians rode.” So I would set out, only a small cord tied around my horse’s nose – usually a hay string – and my bow and quiver slung across my back. Nothing but a threadbare towel for a saddle, just to keep the horsehair and sweat from rubbing my thighs raw. On those adventures, I was in my own kind of heaven.

    Still, to this day, when I see Lajos Kassai in action it makes my heart skip a beat. There is something about the magic of the horse and the rider and the bow, in action, in perfect unison. My sign is Sagittarius. I think my heart still want to be a Centaur. It wants to know the magic of the bow.


  11. Hassan says:

    “Learn the throwing of arrows and do not be averse to it, for the area between the two targets holds a garden of the gardens of paradise” The Seal of the Prophets, Muhammad

  12. My passion
    1st – as a 10 years old girl i start to play basketball, I was very happy, i could play extra liga in Czech country – but someday somebody very clever came and start to shout that we are not enough, we are looser.
    He “kill” me, but also open my eyes in one moment – that life is not about to be a first, but about to be a happy.

    After 20 years I’m coming back to my hobby, teaching kids to play basket as a volantariat, that in the sport is most important joy, friendship, to learn to share – things, emotions,…

    2nd passion – to see the joy of smiling kids

    3rd passion – to find new friends and learn about they characters and how to talk and share with them.

    the internet is a God’s gift to make world smaller – we must not misuse it

  13. Josephine in Brussels says:

    Sailing. I don’t care much where to go as long as I can feel
    the power of the wind, hear the water and master the speed
    of the boat. It’s an element to be in.

  14. T.K. says:

    “As unto the bow the cord is, so unto the man is woman;
    though she bends him, she obeys him,
    though she draws him, yet she follows;
    useless each without the other!”

    ~ Poet Henry Wadworth Longfellow’s description of Hiawatha and Minnehaha

  15. El Dormido says:

    Someone named Ashleigh Brilliant said something like, shoot the arrow and move the target to where the arrow lands.

    Rock climbing taught me something about stress, relaxation and the activity at hand. Standing with each foot on a small nub outcropping of rock high above the ground exposed and in the open, it is very, very important to be relaxed. When the muscles in the legs tense up, a phenomenon knowing as ‘sowing machine legs’ occur: the leg starts jittering up and down like the old non-electric sowing machines that were driven by a foot treadle, that rocking motion. Well, if that jittery leg continues, there is no way the foot is going to remain on that little nub of rock outcropping…

    But it is all really counter-intuitive. Why did I ever think it was an excercise requiring a calm mind and body when I roped up and started the climb? Well, it is not all about reaching the top. It truly is the journey, not the destination, and it is about how I go about the trip. I need to breathe, move each step one at a time, and have less care about my surroundings then what the next step is. Yes, it is breath-takingly beautiful to look out from the wall at the blue sky\white clouds above, at the valley floor below with the river running through the tall trees, but then I become dizzy abnd disoriented by the view. Better to wait to get to the top and then look.

    So, I think like it is with archery, it is the discipline of the activity and the centering force required, the awareness and concentration necessary, the breathing, the increment and not the goal. It is not muscle power but finesse. And it is not necessarily the goal. I mean, you hit the same bullseye, so what is the difference. We climb the same routes over and over and reach the same place. Silly people we are, it must be in the doing and not the reaching, otherwise Ashleigh Brilliant would be right… Otherwise, why the hell are you standing out there in the cold, Paulo, no???

  16. Alexandra says:

    Being Sage,what can I say?I eny you,definitely….Sorry

  17. Angelica says:

    Archery, like so many other things in life, seems to be all about the unintended consequences: the ultimate goal doesn’t rely on the still target, but on the satisfaction that comes from self-control, the breathing, the state of calmness and concentration that it requires from the archer. The message from the Master? it could also relate to “don’t ever settle“ as learning is a life-long process -a moving target towards which we need to aim, day to day, from new angles.