Archives for January 2017

30 SEC READ: He needs your hand (ENG, ESPA)

Illustration by Ken Crane

EN ESPANOL AQUI >>> El necesita tus manos

A Master and his disciple were walking through the deserts of Arabia. The Master used each moment of the journey to teach his disciple about faith.
“Entrust your things to God,” he said. “Because He never abandons His children.”

When they camped down at night, the Master asked the disciple to tie the horses to a nearby rock.
The disciple went over to the rock, but then remembered what he had learnt that afternoon. “The Master must be testing me. The truth is that I should entrust the horses to God.”
And he left the horses loose.

In the morning he discovered that the animals had run off. Indignant, he sought out the Master.
“You know nothing about God! Yesterday I learnt that I should trust blindly in Providence, so I gave the horses to Him to guard, and the animals have disappeared!”

“God wanted to look after the horses,” answered the Master. “But at that moment he needed your hands to tie them up and you did not lend them to Him.”

Poles and rules

14882190_10154532088431211_5230830756353128955_oIn the fall of 2003 I was walking late one night through the center of Stockholm when I saw a woman walking along using ski poles. My first reaction was to think of some injury she must have suffered, but then I noticed she was moving quite fast and with rhythmic movements as if she were on a patch of snow – except that all that was around us was the asphalt of paved streets. The obvious conclusion was: “that woman is crazy, how could she pretend to be skiing in the middle of the city?”

Back in the hotel, I mentioned the incident to my editor. He said that I was the crazy one: what I had seen was a sort of exercise called “Nordic walking”. He explained that besides the movement of the legs, the arms, shoulders and back muscles are also used to make it a much more complete exercise.
When I go for a walk ( which is my favorite pastime, together with archery), it is to be able to reflect, think, look at all the marvels around me, and chat with my wife while we are walking along. I found my editor’s comment interesting, but thought no further of it.
One day I was in a sports store buying material for my arrows when I noticed new poles used by mountaineers – made of aluminum, they are light and can be opened or closed using the same telescopic system as a tripod for a camera. I remembered the Nordic walking and thought to myself: why not try it? I bought two pairs, for myself and my wife. We adjusted the poles to a comfortable height and the next day decided to try them out.

What a fantastic discovery! We climbed a mountain, then came back down, really feeling that the whole body was in movement, the balance was better, we were less tired. We walked double the distance we usually cover in an hour. I remembered that I had once tried to explore a dried-up stream but it was so difficult with all the stones that I gave up. I thought that with the poles it would be easier, and I was right.

My wife got into the Internet and discovered that you burn 46% more calories than on a normal walk. She grew very enthusiastic and “Nordic walking” has become part of our daily routine.
One afternoon, just for distraction, I also decided to get into the Internet to see what I could find on the subject. I was surprised to see page after page, with federations, groups, discussions, models and … rules!
I don’t know what made me open the page about rules. As I read I became horrified – I was doing it all wrong! My poles should be adjusted higher, a certain rhythm had to be followed, a certain angle of support had to be kept, the shoulder movement was complicated, the way of using the elbow was all different, everything followed rigid, technical, precise rules.

I printed all the pages. The following day – and the others that followed – I tried to do exactly as the specialists ordered. The walk began to lose interest, I no longer saw all the wonders around me, I spoke very little to my wife, I could think of nothing except the rules. At the end of a week I asked myself: why am I learning all this?

My objective is not to do gymnastics. I don’t think that the first people who did their “Nordic walking” had anything in mind apart from the pleasure of walking, improving their balance and moving the whole body. We knew intuitively what was the ideal height for the poles, just as we could intuitively deduce that the closer they were to the body, the better and easier the movement. But now, because of the rules, I had stopped concentrating on the things I liked and was more concerned about losing calories, moving my muscles and using a certain section of the spine.
I decided to forget all that I had learned. Now we go out walking with our two poles, enjoying the world around us and feeling happy at seeing the body being made to work, being moved and balanced. And if I want to do gymnastics instead of “meditation in movement”, I’ll look for a gymnasium. At the moment I am quite content with my relaxed and instinctive “Nordic walking”, even though I may not be losing 46% more calories.

I’ve no idea why human beings have this mania of setting rules to everything.

(taken from >”Like a flowing river”trong>)

Review on THE SPY

(Review by LOTUS )

Memories are full of caprice, where images of things we’ve experienced are still capable of suffocating us through one small detail or insignificant sound.”

The worldwide bestselling author, Paulo Coelho, returns with a new novel titled The Spy. In this novel, Coelho takes its readers on a journey through early 20th century Europe, with a new character in the spotlight.

When Mata Hari arrived in Paris she was penniless. Soon she was feted as the most elegant woman in the city. A dancer who shocked and delighted audiences; a confidant and courtesan who bewitched the era’s richest and most powerful men. But as paranoia consumed a country at war, Mata Hari’s lifestyle brought her under suspicion. Until, in 1917 she was arrested in her hotel room on the Champs Elysees and accused of espionage. Written as a series of letters, The Spy tells the unforgettable story of a woman who dared to break the conventions of her time, and paid the price.


One of the things I like about The Spy is that it’s written from the perspective of a woman, similar to Coelho’s previous novel Adultery. Coelho manages to take you on a journey, through the eyes of Mata Hari highlighting how men are viewed by women in light of the male mannerisms. Some of the male mannerisms that unknowingly irritate the hell out of women include men and their need to explain everything; and their need to always express their opinions on the state of the economy (I’m guilty of both :P). By writing from the perspective of a woman, Coelho also highlights how patriarchal societies were (and still are) when it came to what professions women were entitled to take up and how they were viewed in society.

Coelho also manages to bring the same sense of wonder with his writing in The Spy. He’s ability to write about a specific story but make it relatable even in the very minute details surely makes him one of the best authors I’ve come across. Like most of his other novels, The Spy is FILLED with quotable quotes (a big win).

Another highlight of The Spy is that it is based on real events. While Coelho’s life remains the primary source of inspiration of his writing, he’s able to portray Mata Hari’s story with such detail that you would swear it was fictional. It’s THAT amazing.

Paulo Coelho has come a long way after having written The Alchemist. With The Spy¸ the reader can expect the same sense of relatability to the main character as Coelho does with so many of his other novels. You’ll walk away from this novel having learned more about European society in the WWI-era, particularly the atmosphere around civil society before the war.

The Spy will definitely add value to any home library offering a light read but a story that will remain with the reader long after finishing the last page.

My Secret Life: Paulo Coelho, author

Excerpts from the interview published on Independent UK. To read the full Q&A, CLICK HERE

The household I grew up in… doesn’t exist anymore, but my childhood will never disappear.

You wouldn’t know it but I am very good at… archery. The gigantic tension before the shooting of an arrow, and the total relaxation seconds later is my way of connecting to the universe.

You may not know it but I’m no good at… singing. However, every time there is a guitar around I will sing, and my real friends will tolerate it.

I wish I had never worn… an old hippie jacket, covered in patches and metal stars.

My favourite item of clothing… Japanese yukatas [kimonos].

It’s not fashionable but I like
… to sleep naked.

My favourite work of art... The Arnolfini Portrait by Van Eyck, the most important painting in the world. With all due respect, the Mona Lisa is overrated.

My favourite building... Chartres Cathedral, in France. Original stained-glass windows and a labyrinth that reminds me of the journey we take from life to death.

A book that changed me… Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller. It was while reading this that I discovered you need to use blood to write every single page.

Movie heaven
… Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone), followed by Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean)

My greatest regret… I don’t have one. I’ve done everything I wanted to do, even if I have had to pay a very high price – which has been the case most of the time.

My secret crush... Audrey Hepburn.

My real-life villain... Fundamentalists – and you can find them in every single religion on this planet.

The last time I cried… I cry very easily. It can be a movie, a phone conversation, a sunset – tears are words waiting to be written.

My five-year plan… To continue to breathe.

The dawn of time

Looking back toward the dawn of civilization: we could not survive alone. So we were obliged to come together. We lived in a symbolic world in the classic (holistic) sense. Not because it was politically correct or because it was imposed by society or because it was good for our health – rather, it was because we had no wall separating the magic from what we call ‘reality’.

So in the very beginning, when you heard thunder – it was God speaking. You looked to the mountain – it was God who lived there. You looked to the fire – a God was also there.
So compared to the beginning, we were what we still are now – but which we no longer recognize — we were ONE. Full of imagination and creativity.
Human beings were like cells from the same body, and these cells interacted with one another, for better or for worse.
But then we lost this “oneness” as society became more schizophrenic.

We were individuals, but at the same time we were the tribe – society. There are some studies showing that at the very beginning we were monotheists as we could not put god everywhere.
But then polytheism gradually emerged. We started naming places and giving gods and goddesses specific tasks.

Embedded in our genes is this sense of oneness which does not imply sacrificing our individuality. We had this connection with nature because we could not remain in the same place for long. We had to stretch and go beyond our limits because the basics – food, water, shelter – were elsewhere, so we had to move. This meant that we did not get attached to any one place, which also affected our values because we were constantly going beyond our comfort zone – we were forced to go to the second, third, fourth, etc. mountain – but then eventually, everything changed.
Moving from hunters to dwellers – we settled down, we stopped moving.

Time to be ready to new adventures!

1 MIN READ: the law and the fruits

Illustration by Ken Crane
In the desert, fruit was scarce. God called one of his prophets and said:

– Each person may only eat one fruit a day.

The custom was obeyed for many generations, and the ecology of the place was preserved. Since the remaining fruit supplied seeds, other trees appeared. Soon, the entire region was turned into fertile soil, which was the envy of other towns.

But the people continued to eat one fruit a day – they remained faithful to what the ancient prophet of their forefathers had told them. However they never allowed the inhabitants of other villages to take advantage of the abundant harvest with which they were rewarded each year.

The result was that fruit rotted on the ground.

God called a new prophet and said:

– Let them eat as much fruit as they like. And ask them to share the abundance with their neighbors.

The prophet came to the town with the new message. But he was stoned – for by now the custom was ingrained in the hearts and minds of each of the inhabitants.

With time, the younger villagers began to question the barbaric old custom. But, since the tradition of the elders was unbending, they decided to abandon the religion. Thus, they could eat as much fruit as they wished, and give the rest to those in need of food.

The only people who remained faithful to the local church, were those who considered themselves saints. But in truth they were unable to see how the world changes, and recognize how one must change with it.

Online Bookstore HERE
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10 SEC READ: Another wrong step

As if nothing had changed overnight, the warrior takes another wrong step and dives once again into the abyss. Ghosts provoke, loneliness torments him.
Now that he is more aware of his acts, he did not think this would happen.

But it did. Shrouded by darkness, he talks to his master.

“Master, I fell again into the abyss “, he says.” The waters are deep and dark”.

“Remember something “, responds the master. “It is not the diving that causes the drowning, but the staying underwater”

The warrior uses his remaining strength to get out of the situation he is in.


10 sec reading: My wife and the burnt light

My wife and I were reflecting on the past year, whilst dining at a restaurant.

I started to complain about something that hadn’t happened the way I wanted it to.

My wife focused her attention on a Christmas tree that someone put there. I thought that she wasn’t interested in the conversation, so I changed the subject:
“This tree has a beautiful illumination”?, I said.

“Yes, but if you look carefully you can see one burnt light among dozens.
“ It seems to me that instead of thinking of this year as dozens of enlightened blessings, you chose to look at the one light that did not glow”



I am going to think of this day as the first day of my life.

If it’s cloudy, I want to watch to see in which direction the clouds are going. I always think that I don’t have time or don’t pay enough attention.

Above my head exists a sky about which all humanity, over thousands of years, has woven a series of reasonable explanations.
Well, I will forget everything I learned about the stars and they will be transformed once more into angels or children or whatever I feel like believing at that moment.

Time and life have given me plenty of logical explanations for everything, but my soul feeds on mysteries. I need mystery, I need to see the voice of an angry god in a rumble of thunder, even though many of you here might consider that heresy.
I want to fill my life with fantasy again, because an angry god is far stranger, far more frightening and far more interesting than a phenomenon explained by the sages.

For the first time, I will smile without feeling guilty, because joy is not a sin.
For the first time, I will avoid anything that makes me suffer, because suffering is not a virtue.

I will not complain about life, saying: everything’s always the same and I can do nothing to change it. Because I am living this day as if it were my first and, while it lasts, I will discover things that I did not even know were there.

Even though I have walked past the same places countless times before and said ‘Good morning’ to the same people, today’s ‘Good morning’ will be different. It will not be a mere polite formula, but a form of blessing, in the hope that everyone I speak to will understand the importance of being alive, even when tragedy is threatening to engulf us.

I will pay attention to the words of the song the minstrel is singing in the street, even though others are not listening because their souls are heavy with fear. The music says: ‘Love rules, but no one knows where it has its throne; in order to know that secret place, you must first submit to Love.’

And I will have the courage to open the door to the sanctuary that leads to my soul.
May I look at myself as if this were the first time I had ever been in contact with my own body and my own soul.
May I be capable of accepting myself as I am: a person who walks and feels and talks like anyone else, but who, despite his faults, is also brave.

May I be amazed by my simplest gestures, as if I were talking to a stranger; by my most ordinary emotions, as if I were feeling the sand touching my face when the wind blows in from Baghdad; by the most tender of moments, as when I watch my wife sleeping by my side and try to imagine what she is dreaming.

And if I’m alone in bed, I will go over to window, look up at the sky and feel certain that loneliness is a lie, because the Universe is there to keep me company.

And then I will have lived each hour of my day as if it were a constant surprise to me, to this ‘I’, who was not created by my father or my mother or by school, but by everything I have experienced up until now, and which I suddenly forgot in order to discover it all anew.

And even if this is to be my last day on Earth, I will enjoy it to the full, because I will live it with the innocence of a child, as if I were doing everything for the first time.