Lao Tsu, China – 6th century B.C.

Paulo Coelho

Based on my message earlier this week – about the different languages of God – I would like to share with you this week some of the prayers that point in the same direction:

“For there to be peace in the world, the nations must live in peace.
For there to be peace among nations, cities must not rise up against one another.
For there to be peace in the cities, neighbors must get on well with one another.
For there to be peace among neighbors, harmony must reign in the home.
For there to be harmony at home, it must be found in your own heart.”

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Life is full of surprises

Wagner

Yesterday I was starting to climb Le Saleve (Haute-Savoie) and in a small village I saw this house. It happens that it is true! The text reads
“The Valkyrie were composed here.”
“Here lived Two Immortals : Richard Wagner (1856) – John Ruskin (1863 – 1864).”

How to observe the flight of the arrow

The arrow is intention projected into space.
Once it is fired, there is nothing left for the archer to do except accompany its path towards the target. From that moment on, the tension necessary for the shot has no more reason to exist.
The archer therefore keeps his eyes fixed on the flight of the arrow, but his heart is at rest and he smiles.
At that moment, if he has trained enough, if he has managed to develop his instinct, if he has maintained his elegance and concentration throughout the whole process of the shot, then he will feel the presence of the universe and hw will see that his action was fair and deserved.
Technique makes both hands always ready, breathing always precise, eyes able to fix on the target. Instinct makes the moment of the shot perfect.
Whoever passes by and sees the archer with his arms open and his eyes following the arrow will fancy that he is stopped. But the allies know that the mind of the one who fired the arrow has changed dimension and is now in contact with the entire universe: the mind goes on working, learning everything of a positive nature that the shot has brought, correcting any mistakes, accepting his qualities, and waiting to see how the target reacts when it is struck.
When the archer stretches the string, he can see the whole world inside his bow. When he accompanies the flight of the arrow, this world comes close to him, caresses him and makes him relish the perfect sensation of having fulfilled his duty.
A Warrior of Light, after fulfilling his duty and transforming his intention into gesture, need fear no more: he has done what he had to do. He has not allowed himself to be petrified by fear, for even if the arrow fails to reach its target, he will have another opportunity, because he has not been a coward.

(taken from my ebook “The Way of the Bow”)

Iran and Rumi

by Rumi, Persian poet (1207- 1273)

Lord, said David, since you do not need us,
why did you create these two worlds?

Reality replied: O prisoner of time,
I was a secret treasure of kindness and generosity,
and I wished this treasure to be known,
so I created a mirror: its shining face, the heart;
its darkened back, the world;
The back would please you if you’ve never seen the face.

Has anyone ever produced a mirror out of mud and straw?
Yet clean away the mud and straw,
and a mirror might be revealed.

Until the juice ferments a while in the cask,
it isn’t wine. If you wish your heart to be bright,
you must do a little work.

Question by the reader : Maria Edwards

My question is, can you tell us more about this quote of the day, “Anyone who gives help also receives help and needs to teach what he has learned?” How can we share the light we’ve found with people in our lives who may not have found their own path yet?

Firstly by trying to understand why they are acting the way they are. Before judging if a person is or not in their path, first we need to understand why they thread in the current path they are threading.
Of course, if a person is unhappy and they let you know about this – then you can actually say what you think. But remember, while giving your opinion you need to leave very clear that you are doing this out of love and nothing else.
The best way to reach someone is by letting them know that they have reached your heart first.

Please send your question for selection to [email protected]

The Warrior Of Light and Faith

The warrior of light, once he has learned how to use a sword, discovers that his equipment is still incomplete – he needs armour.
He sets off in search of this armour and he listens to the advice of various salesmen.
‘Use the breastplate of solitude,’ says one.
‘Use the shield of cynicism’, says another.
‘The best armour is not to get involved in anything,’ says a third.
The warrior, however, ignores them. He calmly goes to his sacred place and puts on the indestructible cloak of faith.
Faith parries all blows. Faith transforms poison into crystalline water.

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Mata Hari’s last week

Mata-Hari_Cover-USA

THE SPY brings to life the true story of Mata Hari, the famous courtesan and accused spy who was executed for treason one hundred years ago. Mata Hari was a dancer who shocked and delighted audiences during the First World War, and she became a confidant to some of the era’s richest and most powerful men. She dared to liberate herself from the moralism and provincial customs of the early twentieth century, but she ultimately paid for it with her life. As she waited for her execution in a Paris prison, one of her last requests was for a pen and some paper to write letters.
Over the past twenty years, MI5 in the UK and Germany and Holland have released their files on Mata Hari, and it provided Coelho with a trove of information as he was researching his novel.

“I ended up with a mountain of documents,” Coelho said, “but also with a question: What did Mata Hari write in those letters? And how was she caught in so many traps, set by both friends and enemies?”
Using first-person narrative, Coelho reimagines Mata Hari’s life through her final letter, which was written the week before her execution. There, from prison, Mata Hari reveals the choices she made in pursuing her own truth – from her childhood in a small Dutch town, to her unhappy years as the wife of an alcoholic diplomat in Java, to her calculated and self-fashioned rise to celebrity in France.

“Mata Hari was one of our first feminists,” Coelho said, “defying male expectations of that time and choosing instead an independent, unconventional life. There are lessons we can draw from her life today, where accusations by the powerful still cost the innocent their lives.”
At her death by firing squad – as she stared down her executioners and refused to be blindfolded – Mata Hari famously said, “I am ready.” Coelho says of that moment, “her only crime was to be an independent woman.”
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My Favorite Painters – Magritte

Respect for mystery

Paulo Coelho

I had to live for many years before I realized that love is an act of faith in another person, and its face should continue to be wrapped in mystery. It should be lived and relished at each and every minute, but whenever we try to understand it, the magic vanishes.

When I accepted this I also began to let my life be guided by a strange language that I call “signs”. I know that the world is talking to me, I need to listen to it, and if I do so I shall always be guided towards what is most intense, passionate and beautiful. Of course, it is not easy and at times I feel like Psyche at the cliff, cold and terrified, but if I can pass through that night and deliver myself to the mystery and faith in life, I will always end up waking in a palace. All I need is to trust in Love, even though I run the risk of making a mistake.

To conclude the Greek myth: desperate to have her love back, Psyche submits to a series of tasks imposed by Aphrodite (or Venus), the mother of Cupid (or Eros), who is envious of her beauty. One of the tasks is to deliver some of her beauty to Aphrodite. Psyche grows curious about the box that was supposed to contain the Goddess’ beauty and once again is unable to cope with the Mystery, so she decides to open it. Inside she finds not beauty but rather an infernal sleep that leaves her inert and immobile.

Eros/Cupid is also in love, regretful for not having been more tolerant towards his wife. He manages to enter the castle and wake her from her deep sleep with the point of his arrow and once again tells her: “You almost died on account of your curiosity.” That is the great contradiction, Psyche sought for security in knowledge and found only insecurity.

The two of them go to Jupiter, the supreme god, and implore that their union will never be undone. Jupiter passionately pleads the cause of the lovers and succeeds in gaining the support of Venus. From that day onwards, Psyche (the essence of the human being) and Eros (love) are always together. Whoever does not accept this and tries to find an explanation for magical and mysterious human relations will miss the best part of life.

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Emotional independence

“At the beginning of our life and again when we get old, we need the help and affection of others. Unfortunately, between these two periods of our life, when we are strong and able to look after ourselves, we don’t appreciate the value of affection and compassion. As our own life begins and ends with the need for affection, wouldn’t it be better if we gave compassion and love to others while we are strong and capable?”

The above words were said by the present Dalai Lama. Really, it is very curious to see that we are proud of our emotional independence. Evidently, it is not quite like that: we continue needing others our entire life, but it is a “shame” to show that, so we prefer to cry in hiding. And when someone asks us for help, that person is considered weak and incapable of controlling his feelings.

There is an unwritten rule saying that “the world is for the strong”, that “only the fittest survive.” If it were like that, human beings would never have existed, because they are part of a species that needs to be protected for a long period of time (specialists say that we are only capable of surviving on our own after nine years of age, whereas a giraffe takes only six to eight months, and a bee is already independent in less than five minutes).

We are in this world, I, for my part, continue – and will always continue – depending on others. I depend on my wife, my friends and my publishers. I depend even on my enemies, who help me to be always trained in the use of the sword.

Clearly, there are moments when this fire blows in another direction, but I always ask myself: where are the others? Have I isolated myself too much? Like any healthy person, I also need solitude and moments of reflection.

But I cannot get addicted to that.

Emotional independence leads to absolutely nowhere – except to a would-be fortress, whose only and useless objective is to impress others.

Emotional dependence, in its turn, is like a bonfire that we light.

In the beginning, relationships are difficult. In the same way that fire is necessary to put up with the disagreeable smoke – which makes breathing hard, and causes tears to pour down one’s face. However, once the fire is alight, the smoke disappears and the flames light up everything around us – spreading warmth, calm, and possibly making an ember pop out to burn us, but that is what makes a relationship interesting, isn’t that true?

I began this column quoting a Nobel Peace Prize winner about the importance of human relationships. I am ending with Professor Albert Schweitzer, physician and missionary, who received the same Nobel prize in 1952.

“All of us know a disease in Central Africa called sleeping sickness. What we need to know is that there is a similar disease that attacks the soul – and which is very dangerous, because it catches us without being noticed. When you notice the slightest sign of indifference and lack of enthusiasm for your similar, be on the alert!”

“The only way to take precautions against this disease is to understand that the soul suffers, and suffers a lot, when we make it live superficially. The soul likes things that are beautiful and profound”.

Character of the week: Muhammad Ali


to Paulo, from Muhammad Ali

” I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.
At home I am a nice guy: but I don’t want the world to know. Humble people, I’ve found, don’t get very far.

The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.

Friendship… is not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.

A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.

Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.

I never thought of losing, but now that it’ s happened, the only thing is to do it right. That’s my obligation to all the people who believe in me. We all have to take defeats in life.

I’m so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark.

If they can make penicillin out of mouldy bread, they can sure make something out of you.

It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.

It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.

It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.

I hated every minute of training, but I said, “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”

Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.; January 17, 1942 – June 4, 2016) a former American boxer and three-time World Heavyweight Champion,

China’s last eunuch spills sex secrets

By Emma Graham-Harrison

BEIJING (Reuters) – Only two memories brought tears to Sun Yaoting’s eyes in old age — the day his father cut off his genitals, and the day his family threw away the pickled remains that should have made him a whole man again at death.

China’s last eunuch was tormented and impoverished in youth, punished in revolutionary China for his role as the “Emperor’s slave” but finally feted and valued, largely for outlasting his peers to become a unique relic, a piece of “living history.”

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The whole in everything

Paulo Coelho
When Ketu turned twelve years old he was sent to a master, with whom he studied until he was twenty-four. Upon finishing his training, he came back home filled with pride.
His father asked him:
“How can we know what we can’t see? How can we know that God the Almighty is everywhere?”
The young man began to recite the sacred scriptures, but his father interrupted him:
“That’s all too complicated. Isn’t there an easier way for us to learn about the existence of God?”
“Not that I know of, my father. Today I am a learned man and I need this knowledge to explain the mysteries of divine wisdom.”
“I have wasted my time and money sending my son to the monastery,” complained the father.
And taking Ketu by the hand, he led him to the kitchen. There he filled a basin with water and poured in a little salt. Then they went for a stroll in the city.
When they came back home, the father told Ketu:
“Bring the salt that I put in the basin.”
Ketu looked for the salt but did not find it because it had already dissolved in the water.
“So you can’t see the salt any more?” asked the father.
“No, the salt’s invisible.”
“Then taste a little of the water that’s on the surface of the basin. How does it taste?”
“Salty.”
“Try a little of the water in the middle: how does it taste?”
“As salty as on the surface.”
“Now taste the water at the bottom of the basin and tell me what it tastes like.”
Ketu tried it and it had the same taste as he had felt before.
“You have studied for many years and can’t explain simply how Invisible God is in all parts,” said the father. “Using a basin of water, and calling God “salt”, I could make any peasant understand that. Please, dear son, forget the wisdom that moves us away from men and look again for the Inspiration that draws us closer.”

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Using both pockets

A disciple remarked to Rabbi Bounam from Pssiskhe:

“The material world seems to suffocate the spiritual world.”

“Your pants have two pockets,” said Bounam. “Jot down this sentence and put it in the right pocket: ‘The world was created only for me.’ Now write in the left pocket: ‘I am nothing but dust and ashes’.”

“Divide your money between the pockets. When you come upon misery and injustice, remember that the world exists only so that you can show your kindness, and use the money in the right pocket. When you are tempted to buy things that you haven’t the least need for, remember what is written in your left pocket and think twice before spending it. In that way the material world will never suffocate the spiritual world.”

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Manuel goes to Paradise

Paulo Coelho

One day our dear, honest, dedicated Manuel ends up dying – as will happen to all the Manuels, Paulos, Marias and Monicas in this life. And here I resort to the words of Henry Drummond, whose brilliant book “The Supreme Gift” describes what happens from this point on:

“All of us at some moment have asked the same question as every other generation: “What is the most important thing in our existence?”

We want to use our days in the best possible way, for nobody else can live our lives for us. So we need to know where we should direct our efforts, what is the supreme objective to be met.

We are used to hearing that the most important treasure in spiritual life is faith. Many centuries of religion rest on this simple word. Do we hold faith to be the most important thing in the world? Well, we are quite wrong.

In his epistle to the Corinthians, chapter XIII, Saint Paul takes us to the early days of Christianity. He ends by saying: “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.”

This is not some superficial opinion of the author of these words, Saint Paul. After all, talking about Faith a moment before, in the same letter, he said: “And though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” Paul did not avoid the question; on the contrary, he compared faith and charity and concluded: “(…) the greatest of these is charity.”

Matthew offers us a classic description of the Day of Final Reckoning: the Son of God sits on a throne and like a shepherd separates the goats from the sheep.

At that moment the great question for human beings will not be: “How did I live?” but rather: “How did I love?”

The final test of all quests for salvation will be Love. No account will be taken of what we did, what we believed in, what we achieved. None of this will be asked of us. What we will be asked is how we loved our neighbor. The mistakes we have made will not even be remembered. We will be judged for the good we have failed to do. Because keeping Love locked up within ourselves is to go against the spirit of God, it proves that we never knew Him, that He loved us in vain, and that His Son died to no avail.”

In this case, our Manuel is saved at the moment of his death, because although he never gave any meaning to his life, he was capable of loving, providing for his family, and doing what he did with dignity. However, although it is a happy ending, the rest of his days on earth were very complicated.

Repeating a phrase I heard from Shimon Peres at the World Forum in Davos: “optimist and pessimist both end up dying. But they each use their lives in a completely different manner.”

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Witches and pardon – Part 2

Paulo Coelho

[…]

But I also met many people who were truly capable of dealing with forces that were far beyond my understanding. I saw time being altered, for example. I saw operations without anesthesia, and on one of these occasions (precisely a day that I had woken up with many doubts about man’s unknown power) I placed my finger inside the incision made with a rusty pocket knife. Believe it as you wish – or ridicule it if that is the only way of reading what I am writing – I have seen metal being changed, cutlery twisted, lights shining in the air around me, because somebody said that would happen (and it did). I was almost always with witnesses, generally skeptical. In most cases these witnesses went on being skeptical, always thinking that it was all just a very clever “trick”. Others said it was “the work of the devil”. Finally, a few believed that they were witnessing phenomena that went beyond human comprehension.

I have seen this in Brazil, France, England, Switzerland, Morocco, and Japan. And what happens to most people who manage to, let us say, interfere with the “immutable” laws of nature? Society always considers them as marginal phenomena: if they cannot explain, then they do not exist. The vast majority of these people also fail to understand why they are capable of doing astonishing things. And for fear of being labeled charlatans, they end up suffocated by their own gifts.

None of them are happy. They all await the day when they can be taken seriously. They all await a scientific answer to their own powers (and in my opinion I do not think that is the solution). Many hide their potential and end up suffering – because they could help the world, and they do not manage to. Deep down I feel that that they are also waiting for the “official pardon” for being so different.

Separating the wheat from the chaff, and not growing disheartened by the giant amount of charlatanism, I feel that we should ask ourselves once more: what are we capable of?

And then go out and seriously develop our immense potential.

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Witches and pardon – Part 1

Paulo Coelho

On 31 October 2004, resorting to a feudal law that was abolished the following month, the town of Prestonpans in Scotland granted official pardon to 81 persons – and their cats – executed for practicing witchery in the 16th and 17th centuries.

According to the official spokesman for the Barons of Prestoungrange and Dolphinstoun, “most of them had been condemned without any concrete proof – based only on the witnesses of the accusation, who declared that they felt the presence of evil spirits.”

There is no point in recalling once more all the excess of the Inquisition, with its torture chambers and bonfires of hate and vengeance. But there is one thing that is very intriguing to me in this news item.

The town and the 14th Baron of Prestoungrange & Dolphinstoun are “granting pardon” to the people who were brutally executed. Here we are in the heart of the 21st century and the descendants of the real criminals, those who put innocent people to death, still have the right to “grant pardon”.

In the meantime, a new witch hunt is beginning to gain ground. This time the arm is no longer red-hot iron, but rather irony or repression. All those who, in developing a gift (generally discovered by chance), dare to speak of their capacity, are mostly either looked on with suspicion or else prohibited by their parents, husbands and wives to say anything about it. Having interested myself from an early age in what they call the “occult sciences”, I came into contact with many such people.

I believed in charlatans, of course. I dedicated time and enthusiasm to “masters” that later on dropped their masks, revealing the total void in which they found themselves. Irresponsibly, I took part in certain sects and practiced rituals for which I had to pay a high price. All this in on behalf of a quest that is absolutely natural to man: the answer to the mystery of life.

[…]

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The rest of this story will be posted here on Wednesday

Fifth deadly sin : Gluttony

According to the dictionary: feminine noun, from the Latin gula. Excessive eating and drinking, voracity, greediness.

According to the Catholic Church: Inordinate desire for pleasure related to food or drink. One should not appreciate foods that are bad for health. One should not pay more attention to food than to those that accompany us. Unjustified intoxication is a complete lack of sense and a mortal sin.

According to Peter de Vries: Gluttony is a disorder; it means that something is devouring us inside.

From the “Verba Seniorum” (The Wisdom of the Ancients): The Father Abbott was strolling with a monk from Sceta, when they were invited in to eat. The owner of the house, honored by the presence of the priests, gave orders to serve what was best.

However, the monk was fasting. When the food arrived, he picked out a pea and chewed it slowly. He ate nothing further.

Upon leaving, the Father Abbott said to him:

– Brother, when you visit someone, don’t make your holiness an insult. Next time you are fasting, don’t accept invitations to dinner.

Recipe for goose liver with truffles: Clean the goose livers impeccably, chop the liver and truffles into small cubes. Line entirely a small, high pie dish with several small strips of bacon (the strips should be very finely cut). Season with a little salt and pepper and scatter on top some small pieces of truffle. Place the remaining pieces of liver and truffle in successive layers. Seal the pie dish hermetically using a strip of pastry made of flour and water and bake the foie gras in a bain-marie in the oven for 50 to 60 minutes. Afterwards, place a weight on top to compress the mixture.

Hunger in the world: The number of hungry people in the developing countries should drop from the present 777 million to around 440 million in 2030. This means that the goal of the World Food Summit agreed upon in 1996, of cutting by half the number of hungry people compared with the levels found in 1990-92 (815 million), will not be achieved even in 2030. Sub-Saharan Africa is a reason for great concern because the number of chronically undernourished people will only fall probably from the present 194 million to 183 million in 2030 ( Source: FAO report – World agriculture: Toward 2015/2030)

In a Sufi fable: A baker wanted to meet Uways, so Uways went to the bakery disguised as a beggar. He began to eat a bread roll; the baker beat him and threw him out into the street.

– Madman! – said a disciple arriving – don’t you see that you threw out the master you wanted to know?

Contrite, the baker asked what he could do for him to forgive him. Uways asked him to invite him and his disciples to eat.

The baker took them to an excellent restaurant and ordered the most expensive dishes.

– That is how we distinguish the good man from the bad man – said Uways to the disciples, in the middle of lunch. This man is capable of spending ten gold coins on a banquet because I am famous, but he is incapable of giving a bread roll to feed a hungry beggar.

Comment from the Tao Te King: Thirty spokes are fitted together in the cube forming a wheel. But it is its middle empty space that allows the car to be used. Model some clay to make a vase. Cut out in the empty space of the walls doors and windows so that a room may be used.

In that way someone produces what is useful but it is the empty space that makes it effective.

10 SEC READ: I must accept the blessings of today

I need to live out all the blessings that God has given me today. Blessings cannot be saved for a rainy day.
There is no bank with a safe deposit box for them. If I do not enjoy these blessings today, I lose them forever.

God knows that we are artists of life. One day He gives us a chisel, another we may receive brushes and a canvas, and still another day He gives us a pen to write.
But we will never use a chisel on canvas, or pens on sculptures. Each day has its own miracle.

I must accept the blessings of today, and create what I can with them; if I can do this easily and without guilt, I will receive more blessings tomorrow.

Creating a painting