Archives for June 2015

The porcelain vase and the rose

Alessandra Marin tells the following story: the Grand Master and the Guardian shared the administration of a Zen monastery. One day, the Guardian died and a replacement had to be found.
The Grand Master gathered together all the disciples in order to decide who would have the honour of working at his side.

‘I am going to set you a problem,’ said the Grand Master. ‘And the first one to solve that problem will be the new Guardian of the temple.’
Once this briefest of speeches was over, he placed a small stool in the middle of the room. On it stood a priceless porcelain vase containing a red rose.
‘There is the problem,’ said the Grand Master.

The disciples looked in some perplexity at what was there before them: the rare, sophisticated designs on the porcelain vase and the elegance of the flower. What did it represent? What should they do? What did this enigma mean?
After a few moments, one of the disciples got to his feet and looked at the master and at his fellow students. Then he walked resolutely over to the vase and threw it to the ground, shattering it.

‘You are the new Guardian,’ the Grand Master said to the student.
And as soon as the student had returned to his place, he explained.

‘I made myself perfectly clear. I said that there was a problem to be solved. Now it does not matter how beautiful or fascinating a problem might be, it has to be eliminated.
A problem is a problem. It could be a very rare porcelain vase, a delightful love affair that no longer makes any sense, or a course of action that we should abandon, but which we insist on continuing because it brings us comfort.
There is only one way to deal with a problem: attack it head on. At such moments, one cannot feel pity, nor be diverted by the fascination inherent in any conflict.’

Learning to take care of oneself

– For years I have sought enlightenment – said the disciple. – I feel I am near it and want to know how to take the next step.

– A man who knows how to seek God knows also how to take care of himself. How do you support yourself? – asked the master.

– That is just a detail. I have rich parents who help me along my spiritual path. Because of that, I can dedicate myself entirely to sacred things.

– Very well – said the master. – I will explain to you the next step: look at the sun for half a minute.

The disciple obeyed.

When he had finished, the master asked him describe the landscape around him.

– I can’t. The sun’s brightness dazzled my eyes.

– A man who looks fixedly at the sun ends up blind. A man who only looks for Light, and shifts his responsibilities onto the shoulders of others, never finds what he is seeking – was the master’s comment.

My top 9 travel tips

I realised very early on that, for me, travelling was the best way of learning. I still have a pilgrim soul, and I thought that I would use this blog to pass on some of the lessons I have learned, in the hope that they might prove useful to other pilgrims like me.

1. Avoid museums. This might seem to be absurd advice, but let’s just think about it a little: if you are in a foreign city, isn’t it far more interesting to go in search of the present than of the past? It’s just that people feel obliged to go to museums because they learned as children that travelling was about seeking out that kind of culture. Obviously museums are important, but they require time and objectivity – you need to know what you want to see there, otherwise you will leave with a sense of having seen a few really fundamental things, except that you can’t remember what they were.

2. Hang out in bars. Bars are the places where life in the city reveals itself, not in museums. By bars I don’t mean nightclubs, but the places where ordinary people go, have a drink, ponder the weather, and are always ready for a chat. Buy a newspaper and enjoy the ebb and flow of people. If someone strikes up a conversation, however silly, join in: you cannot judge the beauty of a particular path just by looking at the gate.

3. Be open. The best tour guide is someone who lives in the place, knows everything about it, is proud of his or her city, but does not work for any agency. Go out into the street, choose the person you want to talk to, and ask them something (Where is the cathedral? Where is the post office?). If nothing comes of it, try someone else – I guarantee that at the end of the day you will have found yourself an excellent companion.

4. Try to travel alone or – if you are married – with your spouse. It will be harder work, no one will be there taking care of you, but only in this way can you truly leave your own country behind. Traveling with a group is a way of being in a foreign country while speaking your mother tongue, doing whatever the leader of the flock tells you to do, and taking more interest in group gossip than in the place you are visiting.

5. Don’t compare. Don’t compare anything – prices, standards of hygiene, quality of life, means of transport, nothing! You are not traveling in order to prove that you have a better life than other people – your aim is to find out how other people live, what they can teach you, how they deal with reality and with the extraordinary.

6. Understand that everyone understands you. Even if you don’t speak the language, don’t be afraid: I’ve been in lots of places where I could not communicate with words at all, and I always found support, guidance, useful advice, and even girlfriends. Some people think that if they travel alone, they will set off down the street and be lost for ever. Just make sure you have the hotel card in your pocket and – if the worst comes to the worst – flag down a taxi and show the card to the driver.

7. Don’t buy too much. Spend your money on things you won’t need to carry: tickets to a good play, restaurants, trips. Nowadays, with the global economy and the Internet, you can buy anything you want without having to pay excess baggage.

8. Don’t try to see the world in a month. It is far better to stay in a city for four or five days than to visit five cities in a week. A city is like a capricious woman: she takes time to be seduced and to reveal herself completely.

9. A journey is an adventure. Henry Miller used to say that it is far more important to discover a church that no one else has ever heard of than to go to Rome and feel obliged to visit the Sistine Chapel with two hundred thousand other tourists bellowing in your ear. By all means go to the Sistine Chapel, but wander the streets too, explore alleyways, experience the freedom of looking for something – quite what you don’t know – but which, if you find it, will – you can be sure – change your life.

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Andy Warhol

Don’t pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches. During the 1960s, I think, people forgot what emotions were supposed to be. And I don’t think they’ve ever remembered.

Isn’t life a series of images that change as they repeat themselves? I’m afraid that if you look at a thing long enough, it loses all of its meaning.

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. Since people are going to be living longer and getting older, they’ll just have to learn how to be babies longer.

I suppose I have a really loose interpretation of “work,” because I think that just being alive is so much work at something you don’t always want to do. The machinery is always going. Even when you sleep.

Fantasy love is much better than reality love. Never doing it is very exciting. The most exciting attractions are between two opposites that never meet. I have Social Disease. I have to go out every night. If I stay home one night I start spreading rumors to my dogs. Sex is more exciting on the screen and between the pages than between the sheets.

In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.


Andrew Warhola (August 6, 1928 – February 22, 1987), known as Andy Warhol, was an American painter, printmaker, and filmmaker who was a leading figure in the visual art movement known as pop art. The author of this blog considers him to be the MOST important visual artist of his generation

2 min reading: meeting Henry Miller’s widow


The Japanese journalist asks the usual question: “And what are your favorite writers?” I give my usual answer: “Jorge Amado, Jorge Luis Borges, William Blake and Henry Miller.”

The translator looks at me astonished: “Henry Miller?” But she soon realizes her role isn’t to digress and gets back to her work. At the end of the interview, I want to know why she was so surprised about my answer.

“I am not criticizing Henry Miller; I’m his fan too,” she answers. “Did you know he was married to a Japanese woman?”
Yes: I’m not ashamed to be fanatic about someone I admire and try to know everything about their life.

I went to a book fair just to get to know Jorge Amado, I travelled 48 hours in a bus to meet with Borges ( this ended up not happening due to my own fault: when I saw him I froze and said nothing), I rang the bell of John Lennon’s door in New York (the porter asked me to leave a letter explaining the reason of my visit and said Lennon would probably call, this never happened). I had plans of going to see Henry Miller in Big Sur, but he died before I was able to gather the money for the trip.

“The Japanese woman’s name is Hoki,” I answer proudly. “I know too that in Tokyo there is a museum devoted to Miller’s watercolors.”
“Would you like to meet her tonight?”
But what a question! Of course, I would like to be near someone that lived with one of my idols.
I imagine she must receive visitors from all over the world and several interview requests; after all, they stayed together for almost 10 years.

We stop at a street where the sun probably never shines, as a viaduct passes over it. The translator points to a second-rate bar on the second floor of an old building.

We go up the stairs, we enter the completely empty bar and there is Hoki Miller. In order to conceal my surprise, I try to exaggerate my enthusiasm about her ex-husband.
She takes me to a room in the back where she set up a small museum – a few pictures, two or three signed watercolors, a signed book and nothing else.

She tells me that she met him when she took a masters degree in Los Angeles and played piano in a restaurant to support herself, singing French songs (in Japanese). Miller went there for dinner, loved the songs (he had spent a great part of his life in Paris), they went out a couple of times and he asked her to marry him.

She tells me delightful things about their life in common, about the problems originated by the age difference between them (Miller was over 50, Hoki wasn’t 20), of the time they spent together. She explains that the heirs from the other marriages got everything, inclusively the copyrights of the books – but that didn’t matter to her, what she lived with him lies beyond financial compensation.

I ask her to play that music that caught Miller’s attention many years back. She does it with tears in her eyes and sings ‘Autumn Leaves’ (Feuilles Mortes).

The bar, the piano, the voice of the Japanese woman echoing in the empty walls, not caring about the ex-wives’ victories, about the rivers of money Miller’s books shall make, about the world fame she could enjoy today.

“It wasn’t worth it to fight for inheritance: his love was enough to me,” she says at the end, understanding what we felt.
Yes, for the complete absence of bitterness or rancor in her voice, I understand that love was enough.

Becoming aware

Adapted from the book of Thich Nhat Hanh (Living Buddha, Living Christ):

“In every religious tradition there is a practice of devotion and a practice of transformation.

“Devotion means trusting more in ourselves and in the path we follow. Transformation means to practice the things this path imposes on us.”

“When you say: ‘I am determined to study medicine,’ this sentence exercises an impact on your life even before you register at a school.

“You see this step as something positive and want to advance in its direction. The same happens with any religious tradition.”

“The key is to be fully aware of your actions. When you swallow a cup of water deeply, with all your ardor, illumination is present in its initial form. Being illuminated always means having clear vision concerning something.”

Respect my wishes

On his deathbed, Jacob summoned his wife, Sarah, to his side.

‘Dear Sarah, I want to make my will. To my first-born, Abraham, I am going to leave half of my estate. He is, after all, a man of faith.’

‘Oh, don’t do that, Jacob! Abraham doesn’t need all that money, he’s got his own business; besides, he has faith in our religion. Leave it to Isaac, who is in such turmoil about whether or not God exists, and who has still not found his way in the world.’

‘All right, I’ll leave it to Isaac. And Abraham can have my shares.’

‘Like I said, dear Jacob, Abraham doesn’t need anything. I’ll have the shares and I can always help out the children as and when.’

‘You’re quite right, Sarah. Now about the land we own in Israel. I think I’ll leave it to Deborah.’

‘To Deborah! Are you mad, Jacob? She’s already got land in Israel. Do you want to make her into a businesswoman and ruin her marriage? I think our daughter Michele is much more in need of help.’

Mustering his last ounce of strength, Jacob sat up indignantly.

‘My dear Sarah, you have been an excellent wife, an excellent mother, and I know you want the best for each of your children, butwho’s dying here, you or me?’

Everyone is afraid of each other

The warrior of the light knows: everyone is afraid of each other.

This fear can generally be seen in two forms: through aggression, or through submission. They are two sides of the same problem.

That is why, upon being confronted by a someone who inspires terror, the warrior recalls: the other man is insecure, stressed, or scared. He has overcome similar obstacles, and has lived the same problems.

But he knows how to deal with the situation better.
Why? Because he uses fear as a motor, not as a brake.

Thus the warrior learns from his opponent, and keep cool, waiting for the storm to pass

( taken from: “Warrior of the light: a manual”)

The desert priests

During the early part of the Christian era, the monastery at Scete became a center where many people gathered. After renouncing everything they had, they went to live in the desert surrounding the monastery. Many of the teachings of these men have been collected and published in numerous books.The stories of the desert priests

Judging my neighbor

One of the monks of Scete committed a grave error, and the wisest hermit was called upon to judge him.

The hermit refused, but they insisted so much that in the end he agreed to go. He arrived carrying on his back a bucket with holes in it, out of which poured sand.

– I have come to judge my neighbor – said the hermit to the head of the convent. – My sins are pouring out behind me, like the sand running from this bucket. But since I don’t look back, and pay no attention to my own sins, I was called upon to judge my neighbor!

The monks called a halt to the punishment immediately.

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A question by Anne-Sophie

In your books you are proving, that you have great feeling for contemporary human and his distresses. What do you think in what direction is going the future man? Will he be capable to survive and save his integrity, creativeness and intellect, and above all mental health?

It’s always very tricky to talk about “mental health”: I’ve been committed as a teenager to a clinic institution.
I felt in my own skin the burden of being cataloged as “mentally disturbed” just because i didn’t fit into the social norms.

In my wanderings I came to believe that a person has a personal legend to fulfill. What is a personal legend? It is the reason why we are alive.
In my case this legend was to share my ideas with others through writing.

We have dreams, that are not necessarily the dreams that our parents or society had for us.
So, we must get rid of the idea of fulfilling what people expect us to do, and start to do what we expect from our lives. The message in my book “Veronika decides to die” is that: dare to be different. You are unique, and you have to accept you as you are, instead of trying to repeat other people’s destinies or patterns.

Insanity is to behave like someone that you are not. Normality is the capacity to express your feelings. From the moment that you don’t fear to share your heart, you are a free person.

Sobre a arte de escrever

Por Paulo Coelho


“Há dois tipos de escritores: aqueles que fazem você pensar e aqueles que fazem você sonhar”, diz Brian Aldiss, que me fez sonhar por um longo tempo com seus livros de ficção científica. Por princípio, eu acredito que cada ser humano neste planeta tem pelo menos uma boa história para contar aos próximos. O que se segue são as minhas reflexões sobre alguns itens importantes no processo de criação de um texto:
Acima de tudo, o escritor tem que ser um bom leitor. Aquele que se aferra aos livros acadêmicos e não lê o que outros escrevem (e aqui eu não estou falando apenas de livros, mas também blogs, colunas de jornal e assim por diante) jamais irá conhecer suas próprias qualidades e defeitos.

Então, antes de começar qualquer coisa, procure pessoas que estão interessadas em partilhar a sua experiência através de palavras. Eu não estou dizendo: “busque outros escritores”. O que estou dizendo é: encontre pessoas com diferentes habilidades, porque escrever não é diferente de qualquer outra atividade que é feita com entusiasmo.

Seus aliados não serão necessariamente aquelas pessoas que todos olham, se deslumbram, e afirmam: “não há ninguém melhor”. É muito pelo contrário: são as pessoas que não têm medo de cometer erros, e ainda assim eles cometem erros. É por isso que o seu trabalho nem sempre é reconhecido. Mas esse é o tipo de pessoa que muda o mundo, e depois de muitos erros elas conseguem acertar algo que fará toda a diferença em sua comunidade.

Estas são pessoas que não conseguem ficar esperando que as coisas aconteçam antes de decidir qual a melhor maneira de narrá-las: elas decidem enquanto agem, mesmo sabendo que isso pode ser muito arriscado.

Conviver com estas pessoas é importante para escritores, porque eles precisam entender que, antes de colocar qualquer coisa no papel, eles devem ter liberdade suficiente para mudar de direção conforme sua imaginação vagueia. Quando uma sentença chega ao fim, o escritor deve dizer a si mesmo: “enquanto eu estava escrevendo eu percorri um longo caminho. Agora termino este parágrafo com a consciência de que arrisquei o bastante e dei o melhor de mim mesmo.”

Os melhores aliados são aqueles que não pensam como os outros. É por isso que, enquanto você estiver procurando seus companheiros, confie em sua intuição e não dê qualquer atenção para os comentários alheios. As pessoas sempre julgam os outros tendo como modelo suas próprias limitações – e às vezes a opinião da comunidade é cheia de preconceitos e medos.

Junte-se aos que jamais disseram: “acabou, eu tenho que parar por aqui”. Porque assim como o inverno é seguido pela primavera, nada chega ao fim: depois de atingir seu objetivo, você tem que começar de novo, sempre usando tudo que aprendeu no caminho.
Junte-se aos que cantam, contam histórias, aproveitam a vida e têm a felicidade em seus olhos. Porque a alegria é contagiosa, e sempre consegue impedir que as pessoas se deixem paralisar pela depressão, solidão e problemas.

E conte a sua história, mesmo que seja apenas para a sua família ler.


Sobre Segurança Você não pode vender o seu próximo livro menosprezando o seu livro que acabou de ser publicado. Seja orgulhoso do que você tem.
Sobre Confiança Confie no seu leitor, não tente descrever coisas. Dê uma dica e eles vão preencher com sua própria imaginação.
Sobre Experiência Você não pode tirar algo do nada. Ao escrever um livro, use sua experiência.
Sobre Críticos Alguns escritores querem agradar seus pares, eles querem ser “reconhecidos”. Isso mostra insegurança e nada mais, por favor esqueça isso. Você deve se importar em partilhar a sua alma e não agradar a outros escritores.
Sobre Anotações Se você deseja capturar idéias, você está perdido. Você estará desconectado das emoções e se esquecerá de viver a sua vida. Você vai ser um observador e não um ser humano vivendo a sua vida. Esqueça de fazer anotações. O que é importante fica, o que não é importante vai embora.
Sobre Pesquisa Se você sobrecarregar o seu livro com um monte de pesquisa, vai ser muito chato para você e para o seu leitor. Livros não estão aí para mostrar como você é inteligente. Livros estão aí para mostrar a sua alma.
Sobre Escrita Eu escrevo o livro que quer ser escrito. Atrás da primeira frase tem uma corda que leva você até a última.
Sobre Estilo Não tente inovar as narrativas, conte uma boa história e será mágico. Eu vejo pessoas tentando trabalhar tanto no estilo, encontrar diferentes maneiras de dizer a mesma coisa. É como a moda. O estilo é o vestido, mas o vestido não dita o que está dentro do vestido.


(traduçao de Danilo Leonardi – o texto original foi publicado em ingles na  TIME )

Something out of the ordinary

By Paulo Coelho

A warrior of the light always does something out of the ordinary. He may dance in the street as he walks to work. Or look into the eyes of a stranger and speak of love at first sight. From time to time, a warrior puts forward an idea which may sound ridiculous, but which he believes in.

The warriors of the light allow themselves such days.

He is not afraid to weep over old grievances, or to marvel at new discoveries. When he feels the time is right, he leaves everything behind and goes after the dream he has longed for. When he understands that he is at the limits of his resistance, he withdraws from the combat, without blaming himself for having committed one or two unexpected reckless acts.

A warrior does not spend his days trying to act out the part that others have chosen for him.

(taken from “Warrior of the Light: A Manual” )

Forgiving in the same spirit

Rabbi Nahum of Chernobyl was the object of constant insults from a shopkeeper. One day, the man’s business began to go downhill.
‘It must be the rabbi, asking for vengeance from God,’ he thought. And he went to apologise to the rabbi.
‘I forgive you in the same spirit in which you forgive me,’ replied the rabbi.
Yet the man continued to lose money hand over fist until, finally, he was reduced to abject poverty. Nahum’s disciples were horrified and went to ask the rabbi what had happened.
‘I forgave him, but deep down in his heart, he still hated me,’ said the rabbi. ‘His hatred contaminated everything he did, and so God’s punishment proved even more severe.’

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