Christmas Tale : The music coming from the house

 

On Christmas Eve, the king invited the prime minister to join him for their usual walk together. He enjoyed seeing the decorations in the streets, but since he didn’t want his subjects to spend too much money on these just to please him, the two men always disguised themselves as traders from some far distant land.

They walked through the centre of the city, admiring the lights, the Christmas trees, the candles burning on the steps of the houses, the stalls selling gifts, and the men, women and children hurrying off to celebrate a family Christmas around a table laden with food.

On the way back, they passed through a poorer area, where the atmosphere was quite different. There were no lights, no candles, no delicious smells of food about to be served. There was hardly a soul in the street, and, as he did every year, the king remarked to the prime minister that he really must pay more attention to the poor in his kingdom. The prime minister nodded, knowing that the matter would soon be forgotten again, buried beneath the day-to-day bureaucracy of budgets to be approved and discussions with foreign dignitaries.

Suddenly, they heard music coming from one of the poorest houses. The hut was so ramshackle and the rotten wooden timbers so full of cracks, that they were able to peer through and see what was happening inside. And what they saw was utterly absurd: an old man in a wheelchair apparently crying, a shaven-headed young woman dancing, and a young man with sad eyes shaking a tambourine and singing a folk song.

‘I’m going to find out what they’re up to,’ said the king.

He knocked. The music stopped, and the young man came to the door.

‘We are merchants in search of a place to sleep. We heard the music, saw that you were still awake, and wondered if we could spend the night here.’

‘You can find shelter in a hotel in the city. We, alas, cannot help you. Despite the music, this house is full of sadness and suffering.’

‘And may we know why?’

‘It’s all because of me.’ It was the old man in the wheelchair who spoke. ‘I’ve spent my life teaching my son calligraphy, so that he could one day get a job as a palace scribe. But the years have passed and no post has ever come up. And then, last night, I had a stupid dream: an angel appeared to me and asked me to buy a silver goblet because, the angel said, the king would be coming to visit me. He would drink from the goblet and give my son a job.

‘The angel was so persuasive that I decided to do as he said. Since we have no money, my daughter-in-law went to the market this morning to sell her hair so that we could buy that goblet over there. The two of them are doing their best to get me in the Christmas spirit by singing and dancing, but it’s no use.’

The king saw the silver goblet, asked to be given a little water to quench his thirst and, before leaving, said to the family:

‘Do you know, we were talking to the prime minister only today, and he told us that an opening for a palace scribe would be announced next week.’

The old man nodded, not really believing what he was hearing, and bade farewell to the strangers. The following morning, however, a royal proclamation was read out in all the city streets; a new scribe was needed at court. On the appointed day, the audience room at the palace was packed with people eager to compete for that much-sought-after post. The prime minister entered and asked everyone there to prepare their paper and pens:

‘Here is the subject of the composition: Why is an old man weeping, a shaven-headed woman dancing, and a sad young man singing?’

A murmur of disbelief went round the room. No one knew how to tell such a story, apart, that is, from the shabbily dressed young man sitting in one corner, who smiled broadly and began to write.

(Based on an Indian story)

10 sec read – Changing attitudes

A university professor practices Tai Chi with enthusiasm, but little by little he becomes more tired and decides to stop.

– I am sorry, but I cannot go on – he tells his master. – After all, I have dedicated so many years to studying philosophy that I ended up forgetting my body.

– It is a pity that you are giving up. Because I too have dedicated much time to studying philosophy, and that was exactly what reminded me of my body.

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10 Powerful Life Lessons from The Alchemist

by Thai Nguyen Huffington Post

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is one of the best-selling books in history. The story of Santiago, the shepherd boy on a journey to realize his “Personal Legend” has inspired people all over the world to live their dreams.
Here are ten of the most popular passages and lessons to apply to your life:

1. Fear is a bigger obstacle than the obstacle itself
“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”
Any new pursuit requires entering uncharted territory — that’s scary. But with any great risk comes great reward. The experiences you gain in pursuing your dream will make it all worthwhile.

2. What is “true” will always endure
“If what one finds is made of pure matter, it will never spoil. And one can always come back. If what you had found was only a moment of light, like the explosion of a star, you would find nothing on your return.”
Truth cannot be veiled by smoke and mirrors — it will always stand firm. When you’re searching for the “right” decision, it will be the one that withstands the tests of time and the weight of scrutiny.

3. Break the monotony
“When each day is the same as the next, it’s because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises.”
Gratitude is the practice of finding the good in each day. Life can easily become stagnant, mundane, and monotonous, but that changes depending on what we choose to see. There’s always a silver lining, if you look for it.

4. Embrace the present
“Because I don’t live in either my past or my future. I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man.”
There’s no point dwelling in the past and letting it define you, nor getting lost and anxious about the future. But in the present moment, you’re in the field of possibility — how you engage with the present moment will direct your life.

5. Your success has a ripple-effect
“That’s what alchemists do. They show that, when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.”
Growth, change, and evolution are weaved into the fabric of reality. Becoming a better version of yourself creates a ripple effect that benefits everything around you: your lifestyle, your family, your friends, your community.

6. Make the decision
“When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he has never dreamed of when he first made the decision.”
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the unknowns and finer details of your dreams. Actions will flow out of having confidence in your decision; sitting on the fence will get you nowhere.

7. Be unrealistic
“I see the world in terms of what I would like to see happen, not what actually does.”
Some of the greatest inventions would not have happened if people chose to accept the world as it is. Great achievements and innovations begin with a mindset that ignores the impossible.

8. Keep getting back up
“The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”
Because the eighth time could be your breakthrough. Some of the greatest novels in history were published after receiving hundreds of rejections. Thankfully, those authors never gave up.

9. Focus on your own journey
“If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.”
It’s easy to be influenced by others, but you’ll be miserable if you end up living someone else’s life. There’s nothing wrong with taking advice and learning from others, but make sure it aligns with your desires and passions.

10. Always take action
“There is only one way to learn. It’s through action.”
You can study, read, and listen until you turn blue in the face, but the full experience is when you take action, and let the rubber meet the road. Once you’re done aiming, pull the trigger.

Character of the week: Chaplin

“A day without laughter is a day wasted. Despair is a narcotic: it lulls the mind into indifference.

I do not have much patience with a thing of beauty that must be explained to be understood. If it does need additional interpretation by someone other than the creator, then I question whether it has fulfilled its purpose.

Life could be wonderful if people would leave you alone. Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.

I thought I would dress in baggy pants, big shoes, a cane and a derby hat. everything a contradiction: the pants baggy, the coat tight, the hat small and the shoes large. I had no idea of the character. But the moment I was dressed, the clothes and the make-up made me feel the person he was. I began to know him, and by the time I walked onto the stage he was fully born.

I suppose that’s one of the ironies of life doing the wrong thing at the right moment. What do you want a meaning for? Life is a desire, not a meaning

I am at peace with God. My conflict is with Man. That´s the trouble with the world: we all despise ourselves

In the end, everything is a gag.”

Charles Spencer “Charlie” Chaplin, KBE (16 April 1889 – 25 December 1977) was an English comic actor and film director of the silent film era.

20 sec reading: “I’d rather be in hell”

 

Illustration by Ken Crane
As soon as he died, Juan found himself in a gorgeous place, surrounded by all the comfort and beauty he had dreamed of.

A fellow dressed in white approached him and said, “You have the right to have whatever you want; any food, pleasure or amusement.”

Charmed, Juan did everything he dreamed of doing during his life. After many years of pleasures, he sought the fellow in white and asked, “I have already experienced everything I wanted. Now I need to work in order to feel useful.”

“I am sorry,” said the fellow in white, “but that is the only thing I am unable to give you. There is no work here.”

“How terrible,” Juan said annoyed, “I will spend eternity dying of boredom! I’d much rather be in hell!”
The man in white approached him and said in a low voice:

“And where do you think you are?”

I don’t know God

Sometimes we criticize lack of faith in others.
We aren’t capable of understanding the circumstances in which this faith has been lost, nor do we try to alleviate our brother’s misery – and this causes revolt and incredulity in the divine power.

Humanist Robert Owen traveled all over England talking of God.
In the 19th century it was common to use child labor in heavy work, and one afternoon Owen stopped at a coal mine where an undernourished twelve-year-old boy was lugging a heavy sack of bricks.
‘I am here to help you talk to God’, said Owen.
‘Thanks very much, but I don’t know him. He must work in another mine’, answered the boy.

How can you expect a boy in those conditions to be able to believe in God?

Understand that you are not alone when you want Divine Justice to make itself manifest on this Earth. In the Middle Ages the Gothic cathedrals were built by several generations. This prolonged effort helped the participants to organize their thoughts, to give thanks and to dream.
The desire to build a better world remains in our heart. We are building the cathedrals of tomorrow. Let’s meet the right people and do it together

10 sec reading: My wife and the burnt light

On Christmas Eve, my wife and I were reflecting on the year that was nearly ending, 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 embellished the place.
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”

 

Becoming yourself

Isn’t there some sure way of establishing this dialogue with the Divine, like meditation, for instance? Or endeavoring to make myself better every day?

This question reveals a person committed to an idea, and if that question can always be kept present, everything will fit together.
The ideal conditions that we are looking for don’t exist. We shall never be able to get rid of certain defects.

The trick lies in knowing that despite all our flaws you have a reason for being here, and we have to honor that reason.

Try to go beyond the limits that you are used to. For ten minutes a day, be that person you have always wanted to be.
If the problem is shyness, stimulate conversation.
If the problem is guilt, feel approved. If you think that the world ignores you, try consciously to attract everyone’s looks. Y
ou will experience the occasional difficult situation, but it’s worth it.

If for ten minutes a day you can manage to be what you dreamed, you are already making great progress.

Character of the week: Rilke

RILKE_1.jpg Producción ABC.

” For one human being to love another; that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation. I hold this to be the highest task for a bond between two people: that each protects the solitude of the other.
This is the miracle that happens every time to those who really love: the more they give, the more they possess.

There are no classes in life for beginners; right away you are always asked to deal with what is most difficult.

Believe that with your feelings and your work you are taking part in the greatest; the more strongly you cultivate this belief, the more will reality and the world go forth from it.
If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for the Creator, there is no poverty.

Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.
The deepest experience of the creator is feminine, for it is experience of receiving and bearing.

The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.

Let life happen to you. Believe me: life is in the right, always.”

Rainer Maria Rilke (4 December 1875 – 29 December 1926) was a Bohemian-Austrian poet and art critic

How much do you know about pilgrimages?

Pilgrimage has been celebrated in literature from The Canterbury Tales to Paulo Coelho’s The Pilgrimage. Pilgrims in funny hats and buckled shoes play an outsized role in the American national mythos, but pilgrimage traditions encompass much more than the Puritans. From medieval Japan, where the first pilgrimage package tours were offered, to modern-day Mecca, which welcomes 30 million pilgrims for the annual hajj, to Africa, Latin America, and beyond, pilgrimage is a global phenomenon.

Test your knowledge of pilgrimages throughout history, across religions, and around the world HERE.

Crowns on the Torah

When Moses ascended to Heaven to write a certain part of the Bible, the Almighty asked him to place small crowns on some letters of the Torah. Moses said: “Master of the Universe, why draw these crowns?” God answered: “Because one hundred generations from now a man called Akiva will interpret them.”

“Show me this man’s interpretation,” asked Moses.

The Lord took him to the future and put him in one of Rabbi Akiva’s classes. One pupil asked: “Rabbi, why are these crowns drawn on top of some letters?”

“I don’t know.” Replied Akiva. “And I am sure that not even Moses knew. He did this only to teach us that even without understanding everything the Lord does, we can trust in his wisdom.”

 

1 min read: Pain. Suffering. Pleasure

Capture 

While he was speaking, Terence was transformed into two very different men. The one who was calmly explaining the rules to her and the one who made her feel like the most miserable wretch in the world.
‘Do you know why I am doing this? Because there is no greater pleasure than that of initiating someone into an unknown world. Taking someone’s virginity – the virginity not of their body, but of their soul, you understand.’

She understood.
‘Today you can ask questions, but the next time, when the theatre curtain goes up, the play will begin and cannot be stopped. If it does stop, it is because our souls are incompatible. Remember: it is a play. You must be the person you have never had the courage to be. Gradually, you will discover that you are that person, but until you can see this clearly, you must pretend and invent.’

‘What if I can’t stand the pain?’
‘There is no pain, only something that transforms itself into delight and mystery. It forms part of the play to say: “Don’t treat me like that, you’re really hurting me.”

Maria, kneeling, lowered her head and stared at the floor.
‘…in order to avoid this relationship causing any serious physical harm, we have two code words. If one of us says “yellow”, that means that the violence should be decreased slightly. If one of us says “red”, it must be stopped at once.’
‘You said “one of us”…’
‘We take turns. One cannot exist without the other; no one can know how to humiliate another person if they themselves have not experienced humiliation.’

These were terrible words, from a world she did not know, full of shadow, slime and putrefaction. Nevertheless, she wanted to go on – her body was trembling with fear and excitement.

‘Was tonight worth one thousand francs?’

Terence seemed pleased with this response.
‘I’ve asked myself the same thing. The Marquis de Sade said that the most important experiences a man can have are those that take him to the very limit; that is the only way we learn, because it requires all our courage. When a boss humiliates an employee, or a man humiliates his wife, he is merely being cowardly or taking his revenge on life, they are people who have never dared to look into the depths of their soul, never attempted to know the origin of that desire to unleash the wild beast, or to understand that sex, pain and love are all extreme experiences.
‘Only those who know those frontiers know life; everything else is just passing the time, repeating the same tasks, growing old and dying without ever having discovered what we are doing here.’

in “Eleven Minutes”

Dreams: the 12 steps

When Joseph Campbell created the expression “follow your blessing,” he was reflecting an idea that seems to be very appropriate right now. In “The Alchemist,” this same idea is called “Personal Legend.”
Alan Cohen, a therapist who lives in Hawaii, is also working on this theme. He says that in his lectures he asks those who are dissatisfied with their work and seventy-five percent of the audience raise their hands. Cohen has created a system of twelve steps to help people to rediscover their “blessing” (he is a follower of Campbell):


1. Tell yourself the truth

Draw two columns on a sheet of paper and in the left column write down what you would love to do. Then write down on the other side everything you’re doing without any enthusiasm. Write as if nobody were ever going to read what is there, don’t censure or judge your answers.
2. Start slowly, but start
Call your travel agent, look for something that fits your budget; go and see the movie that you’ve been putting off; buy the book that you’ve been wanting to buy. Be generous to yourself and you’ll see that even these small steps will make you feel more alive.
3. Stop slowly, but stop
Some things use up all your energy. Do you really need to go that committee meeting? Do you need to help those who do not want to be helped? Does your boss have the right to demand that in addition to your work you have to go to all the same parties that he goes to? When you stop doing what you’re not interested in doing, you’ll realize that you were making more demands of yourself than others were really asking.
4. Discover your small talents
What do your friends tell you that you do well? What do you do with relish, even if it’s not perfectly well done? These small talents are hidden messages of your large occult talents.
5.Begin to choose
If something gives you pleasure, don’t hesitate. If you’re in doubt, close your eyes, imagine that you’ve made decision A and see all that it will bring you. Now do the same with decision B. The decision that makes you feel more connected to life is the right one – even if it’s not the easiest to make.
6.Don’t base your decisions on financial gain
The gain will come if you really do it with enthusiasm. The same vase, made by a potter who loves what he does and by a man who hates his job, has a soul. It will be quickly sold (in the first case) or will stay on the shelves (in the second case).
7. Follow your intuition
The most interesting work is the one where you allow yourself to be creative. Einstein said: “I did not reach my understanding of the Universe using just mathematics.” Descartes, the father of logic, developed his method based on a dream he had.
8. Don’t be afraid to change your mind
If you put a decision aside and this bothers you, think again about what you chose. Don’t struggle against what gives you pleasure.
9. Learn how to rest
One day a week without thinking about work lets the subconscious help you, and many problems (but not all) are solved without any help from reason.
10. Let things show you a happier path
If you are struggling too much for something, without any results appearing, be more flexible and follow the paths that life offers. This does not mean giving up the struggle, growing lazy or leaving things in the hands of others – it means understanding that work with love brings us strength, never despair.
11. Read the signs
This is an individual language joined to intuition that appears at the right moments. Even if the signs point in the opposite direction from what you planned, follow them. Sometimes you can go wrong, but this is the best way to learn this new language.
12. Finally, take risks!
The men who have changed the world set out on their paths through an act of faith. Believe in the force of your dreams. God is fair, He wouldn’t put in your heart a desire that couldn’t come true.

20 SEC reading: the boy and the rain

After four years of drought in the small north-east village, the priest gathered everyone for a pilgrimage up to the mountain; there they would do a collective prayer, asking for the rain to fall again.

In the group, the priest noticed a boy wearing a raincoat.

‘Are you crazy?’ he asked the boy.

‘It hasn’t rained in this region for five years and the heat from hiking up the mountain will kill you.’

The boy replied: ‘I have a cold, priest. If we are going to ask God for rain, can you imagine our return from the mountain? It will be a spate and I need to be prepared.’

At this moment, they heard a great roar coming from the sky and the first drops began to fall. It sufficed the faith of a boy in a miracle that even the most prepared ones didn’t believe in.

The fire of friendship

ICI EN FRANçAIS: Le feu de l’amitié
AQUI EN ESPANOL: El fuego de la amistad

AQUI EM PORTUGUES: O fogo da amizade
______________________
When I arrive at the Moscow hotel with my publisher and my editor, a young woman is waiting outside for me. She comes over and grasps my hands in hers.
‘I need to talk to you. I’ve come all the way from Ekaterinburg to do just that.’

I’m tired. I woke up earlier than usual and had to change planes in Paris because there was no direct flight. I tried to sleep on the journey, but every time I managed to drop off, I would fall into the same unpleasant, recurring dream.
I hold out my hand to say goodbye and notice that hers is very cold.
‘Why didn’t you wait for me inside?’
‘I read your blog the other day and realised that you were talking directly to me.’

She takes out a piece of paper containing the article. I know it by heart, although I can’t remember who told me the story.
A man called Ali is in need of money and asks his boss to help him out. His boss sets him a challenge: if he can spend all night on the top of a mountain, he will receive a great reward; if he fails, he will have to work for free. The story continues:

When he left the shop, Ali noticed that an icy wind was blowing. He felt afraid and decided to ask his best friend, Aydi, if he thought he was mad to accept the wager.
After considering the matter for a moment, Aydi answered:
‘Don’t worry, I’ll help you. Tomorrow night, when you’re sitting on top of the mountain, look straight ahead.
‘I’ll be on the top of the mountain opposite, where I’ll keep a fire burning all night for you.

‘Look at the fire and think of our friendship; and that will keep you warm.
‘You’ll make it through the night, and afterwards, I’ll ask you for something in return.’

Ali won the wager, got the money, and went to his friend’s house.
‘You said you wanted some sort of payment in return.’

Aydi said, ‘Yes, but it isn’t money. Promise that if ever a cold wind blows through my life, you will light the fire of friendship for me.’

TAKEN FROM MY BOOK “ALEPH”
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10 Lessons I’ve Learned From Reading Paulo Coelho

The king and the hermit

 
An old hermit was once invited to visit the court of the most powerful king of those times.

“I envy such a saintly man, who is content with so little,” said the ruler.

“I envy Your Majesty, who is content with even less that I,” responded the hermit.

“How can you say such a thing, if this entire country belongs to me?” – said the offended king.

“For precisely that reason. I have the music of the celestial spheres, I have the rivers and mountains of the whole world, I have the moon and the sun, because I have God in my soul. Your Majesty, on the other hand, has only this kingdom.”

What will they say

As a boy, Abin-Alsar overheard a conversation between his father and a dervish.

“Careful with your work”, said the dervish. “Think of what future generations will say about you.”

“So what?”, replied his father, “When I die, everything shall end, and it will not matter what they say.”

Abin-Alsar never forgot that conversation. His whole life, he made an effort to do good, to help people and go about his work with enthusiasm. He became well-known for his concern for others; when he died, he left behind a great number of things which improved the quality of life in his town.

On his tombstone, he had the following epitaph engraved:

“A life which ends with death, is a life not well spent.”

Reflections In a Lake

Cain and Abel came to the banks of an enormous lake. They had never seen anything like it.

“There’s something inside it,” said Abel, looking into the water, not knowing that it was his reflection. Cain noticed the same thing, and raised his staff.

The image did the same thing. Cain stood waiting for the blow; his image did the same. Abel studied the surface of the water. He smiled, and the image smiled. He laughed out loud, and saw the other imitating him. As they walked away, Cain thought:

“How aggressive those creatures are who live in there.”

And Abel told himself:

“I’d like to return, for I met someone both handsome and in good humor.” –