Archives for April 2017

Joining the spiritual path

Many emotions move the human heart when it decides to dedicate itself to the spiritual path.
This may be a “noble” reason – like faith, love of our neighbor, or charity.
Or it may be just a whim, the fear of loneliness, curiosity, or the fear of death.

None of that matters. The true spiritual path is stronger than the reasons that led us to it and little by little it imposes itself with love, discipline and dignity.
A moment arrives when we look backwards, remember the beginning of our journey, and laugh at ourselves. We have managed to grow, although we traveled the path for reasons that were very futile.

God uses loneliness to teach us about living together.
Sometimes he uses anger so that we can understand the infinite value of peace.
At other times he uses tedium, when he wants to show us the importance of adventure and leaving things behind.
God uses silence to teach us about the responsibility of what we say.
At times he uses fatigue so that we can understand the value of waking up.
At other times he uses sickness to show us the importance of health.
God uses fire to teach us about water.
Sometimes he uses earth so that we can understand the value of air. And at times he uses death when he wants to show us the importance of life

Remember this when for some reason you feel unable to continue on your path

Being merciless

I am wearing a strange green outfit, full of zips and made from a very tough fabric.

I have gloves on too in order to avoid cuts and scratches. I’m carrying a kind of spear, almost as tall as I am: the metal end has three prongs on one side and a sharp point on the other.

And before me lies the object of my attack: the garden. With the object in my hand, I start to remove the weeds growing among the grass. I do this for quite a while knowing that each plant I dig up will die within two days.
The soul is like a landscaped garden. Save it from the weeds

The soul is like a landscaped garden. Save it from the weeds

Suddenly, I ask myself: ‘Am I doing the right thing?’ What we call a ‘weed’ is, in fact, an attempt at survival by a particular species which took Nature millions of years to create and develop.

The flower was fertilised at the expense of innumerable insects, it was transformed into seed, the wind scattered it over the fields round about, and so, because it was not planted in just one place but in many, its chances of surviving until next spring are that much greater.

If it was concentrated in just one place, it would be vulnerable to being eaten, to flood, fire and drought. But all that effort to survive is brought up short by the point of a spear, which mercilessly plucks the plant from the soil.

Why am I doing this? Someone created this garden. I don’t know who, because when I bought the house, the garden was already here, in harmony with the surrounding mountains and trees.

But its creator must have thought long and hard about what he or she was doing, must have carefully planted and planned (for example, there is an avenue of trees that conceals the hut where we keep the firewood) and tended it through countless winters and springs.

When I moved into the old mill where I spend a few months of each year, the lawn was immaculate. Now it is up to me to continue that work, although the philosophical question remains: Should I respect the work of the creator, of the gardener, or should I accept the survival instinct with which nature endowed this plant that I now call a ‘weed’?

I continue digging up unwanted plants and placing them on a pile that will soon be burned. Perhaps I am giving too much thought to things that have less to do with thought and more to do with action.

But then, every gesture made by a human being is sacred and full of consequences, and that makes me think even more about what I am doing.

On one hand, these plants have the right to broadcast themselves everywhere. On the other, if I don’t destroy them now, they will end up choking the grass. In the New Testament, Jesus talks about separating the wheat from the tares.

But, with or without the support of the Bible, I am faced by a concrete problem always faced by humanity: How far should we interfere with Nature? Is such interference always negative, or can it occasionally be positive?

I set aside my weapon also known as a hoe. Each blow means the end of a life, the death of a flower that would have bloomed in the spring – such is the arrogance of the human being constantly trying to shape the landscape around him.

I need to give the matter more thought because I am, at this moment, wielding the power of life and death. The grass seems to be saying: ‘If you don’t protect me, that weed will destroy me.’

The weed also speaks to me: ‘I travelled so far to reach your garden; why do you want to kill me?’ In the end, the Bhagavad Gita comes to my aid. I remember the answer that Krishna gives to the warrior Arjuna, when the latter loses heart before a decisive battle, throws down his arms, and says it is not right to take part in a battle that will culminate in the death of his brothers.

Krishna says, more or less: ‘Do you really think you can kill anyone? Your hand is My hand, and it was already written that everything you are doing would be done. No one kills and no one dies.’

Encouraged by this recollection, I pick up my spear again, attack the weeds I did not invite to grow in my garden, and am left with this morning’s one lesson: When something undesirable grows in my soul, I ask God to give me the same courage mercilessly to tear it out

39 SEC READ: The natural order

Narusidin2A very wealthy man asked a Zen master for a text which would always remind him how happy he was with his family.

The Zen master took some parchment and, in beautiful calligraphy, wrote:

“The father dies. The son dies. The grandson dies.”

“What?” said the furious rich man. “I asked you for something to inspire me, some teaching which might be respectfully contemplated by future generations, and you give me something as depressing and gloomy as these words?”

“You asked me for something which would remind you of the happiness of living together with your family.

“If your son dies first, everyone will be devastated by the pain. If your grandson dies, it would be an unbearable experience.

“However, if your family disappears in the order which I placed on the paper, this is the natural course of life.

“Thus, although we all endure moments of pain, the generations will continue, and your legacy will last.” –

 

(illustration: Ken Crane)

5 tips to defeat cynicism

(excerpts from a post in The Daily Mind)

The Oxford English Dictionary defines cynicism in a very enlightening way: “…a disposition to disbelieve in the sincerity or goodness of human motives and actions…”

The main thing to notice about the definition is the presence of negativity. A cynical person will almost always choose to doubt, disbelieve or discredit, even when there is no logical reason to do so.

So why do people think and behave like this? There are many schools of thought on the matter – some regard cynicism as a personal defense mechanism whereby people prevent themselves from opening up to love and friendship for fear of being hurt. Others say it comes about due to a traumatic event that occurred in childhood and caused a person to “close up”.

Here are some super simple things you can do to get yourself on the path of positive thinking and away from those habits of cynicism:

1. Recognize the problem
As with all problems the first step is in the recognizing. Some people go their whole lives not realizing that they are horrible people with miserly outlooks and cynical views of the world. Thank yourself lucky that you have had the good fortune to recognize the problem and do something about it. This is the first step.

2. Recognize each cynical thought
Once you have realized that you can be a cynic the task is to start realizing it more often. Think of this as a bit of a mindfulness meditation. The idea is to become attuned to your own mind and thoughts and start to become aware of every cynical thought that you have.

3. Use logic to debate the cynicism

Logic is a wonderful thing. Logic allows you to overcome destructive emotions and other negative things in your life. Why? Because 99% of the time the reason for your depression, anxiety, hatred or other negative feeling is illogical. If you debate the negative feeling using logic you will often find that the negative feeling gets weaker.

4. Make a definitive choice to be positive
Everything good in life comes from a choice. When you make a choice to do something you do everything that you can to make that thing come about.

5. Focus on people’s qualities
The last method I want to give you is the one that has worked the best for me. It is the simple art of choosing to look at people’s qualities instead of their negative attributes.

if you are a cynical person and you find that you have no friends, a bad job, poor social life and are generally unhappy then you could conclude that the results of your cynicism were bad. This is the type to avoid. If, however, you find that your cynicism helps you to avoid trouble then you can conclude that it is a good type.
Make sure you learn the difference.

In search of my island – Part 2

Paulo Coelho

[continuation of the previous post]

Shaken by these alarming thoughts, I find a strength and a courage I didn’t know I had: they help me to venture into an unknown part of my soul. I let myself be swept along by the current and finally anchor my boat at the island I was being carried towards. I spend days and nights describing what I see, wondering why I’m doing this, telling myself that it’s really not worth the pain and the effort, that I don’t need to prove anything to anyone, that I’ve got what I wanted and far more than I ever dreamed of having.

I notice that I go through the same process as I did when writing my first book: I wake up at nine o’clock in the morning, ready to sit down at my computer immediately after breakfast; then I read the newspapers, go for a walk, visit the nearest bar for a chat, come home, look at the computer, discover that I need to make several phone calls, look at the computer again, by which time lunch is ready, and I sit eating and thinking that I really ought to have started writing at eleven o’clock, but that now I need a nap; I wake at five in the afternoon, finally turn on the computer, go to check my e-mails, then remember that I’ve destroyed my Internet connection; I could go to a place ten minutes away where I can get on-line, but couldn’t I, just to free my conscience from these feelings of guilt, couldn’t I at least write for half an hour?

I begin out of a feeling of duty, but suddenly “the thing” takes hold of me and I can’t stop. The maid calls me for supper and I ask her not to interrupt me; an hour later, she calls me again; I’m hungry, but I must write just one more line, one more sentence, one more page. By the time I sit down at the table, the food is cold, I gobble it down and go back to the computer – I am no longer in control of where I place my feet, the island is being revealed to me, I am being propelled along its paths, finding things I have never even thought or dreamed of. I drink a cup of coffee, and another, and at two o’clock in the morning I finally stop writing, because my eyes are tired.

I go to bed, spend another hour making notes of things to use in the next paragraph and which always prove completely useless – they serve only to empty my mind so that sleep can come. I promise myself that the next morning, I’ll start at eleven o’clock prompt. And the following day, the same thing happens – the walk, the conversations, lunch, a nap, the feelings of guilt, then irritation at myself for destroying the Internet connection, until, at last, I make myself sit down and write the first page…

[…]

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In search of my Island – Part 1

Paulo Coelho

Looking around at the crowd gathered for my book-signing at a megastore in the Champs-Elysées, I thought: how many of these people will have had the same experiences that I have described in my books?

Very few. Perhaps one or two. Even so, most of them would identify with what was in them.

Writing is one of the most solitary activities in the world. Once every two years, I sit down in front of the computer, gaze out on the unknown sea of my soul, and see a few islands – ideas that have developed and which are ripe to be explored. Then I climb into my boat – called The Word – and set out for the nearest island. On the way, I meet strong currents, winds and storms, but I keep rowing, exhausted, knowing that I have drifted away from my chosen course and that the island I was trying to reach is no longer on my horizon.

I can’t turn back, though, I have to continue somehow or else I’ll be lost in the middle of the ocean; at that point, a series of terrifying scenarios flash through my mind, such as spending the rest of my life talking about past successes, or bitterly criticising new writers, simply because I no longer have the courage to publish new books. Wasn’t my dream to be a writer? Then I must continue creating sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and go on writing until I die, and not allow myself to get caught in such traps as success or failure. Otherwise, what meaning does my life have? Being able to buy an old mill in the south of France and tending my garden? Giving lectures instead, because it’s easier to talk than to write? Withdrawing from the world in a calculated, mysterious way, in order to create a legend that will deprive me of many pleasures?

[to be continued next Monday…]

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Lord, I have no idea where I am going

EM PORTUGUES AQUI: Senhor, eu não sei onde estou indo
EN ESPANOL AQUI: No tengo idea de adónde voy

 

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going,
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.

I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.

I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

in Thoughts in Solitude by Thomas Merton

30 sec reading: The black man

EN ESPANOL AQUI > El negro

Por Rosa Montero

We are at the restaurant of a German University. A red haired student, and undeniably German takes her tray and sits down at her table.
She then realizes she has forgotten her cutlery and gets up again to pick it up.

Coming back, she sees with astonishment that a black man, possibly sub-Saharian by his appearance, is sitting there and is eating from her tray.
Straight away, the young woman feels lost and stressed . But immediately changes her thought and presumes that the African is not familiar with European customs concerning private property and privacy.
She also takes into consideration that perhaps he does not have enough money to pay for his meal.

In any case, she decides to sit in front of the guy and to smile at him in a friendly manner.
The African responds with another dazzling smile.
The German girl starts to help herself, -sharing the food with the black man with genuine pleasure and courtesy.
And thus, he took the salad, she ate the soup, both took their share of the stew, one took care of the yoghurt and the other of the piece of fruit,
All this peppered with numerous refined smiles – timid from the man and smoothly, encouraging and kind by the girl -.
They eat up their lunch.
The German girl gets up to get a coffee.
And it is then that she discovers, on the table behind the black man, her coat placed on the back of a chair and her food tray untouched.

________________________

I dedicated this charming story – furthermore an authentic one – to all who are wary of immigrants and consider them as inferior individuals.
To all these people, who with the best of intentions, observe them condescendingly and with paternalism.
It would be better that we free ourselves of prejudices or we run the risk to make a fool of ourselves like the poor German who thought to be at the height of civilisation whilst the African greatly educated, let her eat and share her meal and at the same time was thinking :; how mad these Europeans are.’
 
 

How one of the most important books in the world came to be written

Lao-Tzu-knowing-others-is

In the twenty-third year of the reign of Zhao, Lao Tzu realized that the war would ultimately destroy the place where he lived. Since he had spent years meditating on the essence of life, he knew that there are times when one has to be practical. He made the simplest possible decision: to move.

He took his few belongings and set off for Han Keou. As he was leaving the city, he met a gatekeeper.

‘Where is an eminent sage like you going?’ asked the gatekeeper.

‘Somewhere far from the war.’

‘You can’t just leave like that. I would like to know what you have learned after all these years of meditation. I will only let you leave, if you share what you know with me.’

Simply in order to get rid of the man, Lao Tzu wrote a slender volume right there and then, and gave that one copy to the gatekeeper. Then he went on his way, and was never heard of again.

Further copies of Lao Tzu’s book were made, it crossed centuries, it crossed millennia, and reached our time. It is called Tao Te Ching and is, quite simply, essential reading. Here are a few examples from its pages:

He who keeps to his path has will.

Be humble and you will remain whole.

Bow down and you will remain erect.

Empty yourself and you will remain full.

Wear yourself out and you will remain new.

The wise man does not show himself, and that is why he shines.

He does not attract attention to himself, and that is why he is noticed.

He does not praise himself, and that is why he has merit.

And because he is not competing, no one in the world can compete with him.

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10 SEC READ: The friend in Sydney

Paulo Coelho

“Sometimes we get used to what we see in the movies and end up forgetting the true story,” says a friend while together we admire the port of Sydney.

“Do you remember the most remarkable scene in “The Ten Commandments”?

“Of course I do! At a certain moment, Moses – played by Charlton Heston – raises his staff, the waters divide, and the Hebrew people cross the sea on foot.”ten_commandments-moses

“In the Bible it is different,” says my friend. “God orders Moses to “tell the children of Israel to walk.” And it’s only after they start walking that Moses raises his staff and the Red Sea opens up.”

“Only confidence in the path will make it reveal itself.”

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