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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This text continues here tomorrow

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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Meditation : Perception of Reality

Is this new perception really important?

Lawrence LeShan agrees that the problem is truly complex. On the one hand, we can “operate” very efficiently in this world such as we know it. On the other, we know that a considerable number of people worthy of our trust, such as Gandhi, Teresa D’Avila, or Buddha, sought to perceive this reality in a distinct manner, and that this led them to take giant steps and change the destiny of humanity.

Just like at the gym, where a good teacher always has a series of different exercises for each type of student, there is no single technique for meditating, and anyone interested in the subject should try to discover his own way. However, there are a few elementary steps which are present in almost all religions and cultures which use meditation as a way of encountering inner peace, which I shall now describe (based on Lawrence LeShan’s highly interesting book, How to Meditate: a Guide to Self-Discovery)

The first thing is to be aware of one’s own breathing.

Counting the number of times we breathe every two minutes, helps us concentrate our attention on something we do automatically, and thus removes us from that which is normal. At first, this may seem very simple, but we mustn’t be fooled by this simplicity: whoever decides to try out this exercise in practice, notices that this requires considerable effort and large doses of patience. However, as we do so (and we can practice conscious breathing anywhere, before going to sleep, or on public transport on the way to work), we come into contact with an unknown part of ourselves, and feel the better for it.

Choosing the place:

The next step is to try and dedicate ten or fifteen minutes a day to sit in a quiet place, and repeat this conscious breathing, trying to remain still (like the Zen monks we have already talked about here). Thoughts will appear, against our will, and at this moment it is useful to recall the words of St. Teresa D’Avila about our mind: “it is a wild horse which goes anywhere, except where we want to take it.”

Silencing without violence:

Finally, as time passes (one should know that this requires two or three months of exercises), the mind has emptied itself naturally, bringing with it great serenity to our everyday lives. However great our problems appear, however stressful our lives, these fifteen minutes every day will make all the difference, and help us to overcome – generally in a subconscious manner – the difficulties we face.

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The cultural puzzle

2017: Manual for conserving paths

1] The path begins with a crossroads. There you can stop and think what direction to follow. But don’t spend too much time thinking or you’ll never leave the spot. Once you have taken the first step, forget the crossroads forever or you will always torture yourself with the useless question: “did I take the right path?”

2] The path doesn’t last for ever. It is a blessing to travel the path for some time, but one day it will come to an end, so always be prepared to leave it at any moment. Don’t get too used to anything. Neither to the hours of euphoria, nor to the endless days when everything seems so difficult and progress is so slow. Don’t forget that sooner or later an angel will appear and your journey will reach an end.

3] Honor your path. It was your choice, your decision, and just as you respect the ground you step on, that ground will respect your feet. Always do what is best to conserve and keep your path and it will do the same for you.

4] Be well equipped. Carry a small rake, a spade, a penknife. Understand that penknives are no use for dry leaves, and rakes are useless for herbs that are deep-rooted. Know also what tool to use at each moment.

5] The path goes forward and backward. At times you have to go back because something was lost, or else a message to be delivered was forgotten in your pocket. A well tended path enables you to go back without any great problems.

6] Take care of the path before you take care of what is around you. Don’t be distracted by the dry leaves at the edges or by the way that others are looking after their paths. Use your energy to tend and conserve the ground that accepts your steps.

7] Be patient. Sometimes the same tasks have to be repeated, like tearing up weeds or closing holes that appear after unexpected rain. Don’t let that annoy you – that is part of the journey.

8] Paths cross. People can tell what the weather is like. Listen to advice, and make your own decisions. You alone are responsible for the path that was entrusted to you.

9] Nature follows its own rules. In this way, you have to be prepared for sudden changes in the fall, slippery ice in winter, the temptations of flowers in spring, thirst and showers in the summer. Make the most of each of these seasons, and don’t complain about their characteristics.

10] Make your path a mirror of yourself. By no means let yourself be influenced by the way that others care for their paths. You have your soul to listen to, and the birds to tell what your soul is saying. Let your stories be beautiful and pleasant to everything around you. Above all, let the stories that your soul tells during the journey be echoed at each and every second of the path.

11] Love your path. This is the most important rule of all!

taken from “The book of manuals”

Forgiving in the same spirit

 

The Rabbi Nahum of Chernobyl was always being insulted by a shopkeeper. One day, the latter’s business began to go badly.

“It must be the Rabbi, who is asking for God’s revenge,” he thought. He went to ask Nahum’s forgiveness.

– I forgive you in the same spirit you ask for forgiveness – replied the Rabbi.

But the man’s losses just kept increasing, until he was reduced to misery. Nahum’s horrified disciples went to ask him what had happened.

– I forgave him, but he continued to hate me deep down in his heart – said the Rabbi – Therefore, his hatred contaminated everything he did, and God’s punishment became more and more severe.

Saint Joseph’s Day

St joseph I will be with my wife in a small village, and I will pray at 8:30 PM the prayer below. Plase fell free to join me in this prayer, or – what is better –  to find one in your mother tongue and to pray on your  time zone. Let’s cover this planet with positive energy!

You can go to the search here in my blog, and find the previous celebrations (and prayers)
May St. Joseph bless your family and your work

Glorious St. Joseph
model of all who are devoted to labor,
obtain for me the grace
to work conscientiously by placing love of duty above my inclinations;
to gratefully and joyously deem it an honor to employ and to develop by labor
the gifts I have received from God,
to work methodically, peacefully,
in moderation and patience,
without ever shrinking from it through difficulty to work;
above all, with purity of intention and unselfishness,
having unceasingly before my eyes
the account I have to render of time lost,
talents unused, good not done,
and vain complacency in success.
St. Joseph, inspire and guide me for the time to come.
 

Paulo Coelho’s 5 Smartest Advices for Students

Capture

By Chris Brandt, UniversityHerald Reporter

When Paolo Coelho wrote and released “The Alchemist,” his first publisher dropped the book because the sales were bad. Fortunately, he found another publisher who had more faith in it and the rest became history. “The Alchemist” encourages a person to reconsider how he views life and helped establish Coleho as an inspirational writer. Here are some of the smartest advice from the book that will prove helpful how you view life not only as a student but in general.

Action is the first step to success

Success will not come if you don’t take a step first. Taking action is also the only way to learn. You can study more, read more, listen more but if you don’t take any action, all those knowledge remains a knowledge. On the other hand, success comes when you turn that knowledge into action.

Compensate your weakness with your strength

All of us have their own weaknesses and strengths. However, weaknesses should not stop you from being successful and earning the respect of others. Instead, focus on your strength instead of your weakness.

Persevere

In “The Alchemist,” there’s a quote there that says if you really want something, the universe conspires in helping you get that dream. There might be something you’ll encounter that will make you doubt your dream but yo have to keep your focus and be obsessed with your dream.

Rejection is normal

Paulo loved writing and believes in himself. He recounted a story where he passed some of his poetry in a reputable magazine but got humiliated in return. He took it personally at first but eventually got over the rejection. The experience encouraged him to make himself better.

Getting a corporate job does not necessarily mean success

Getting a job in the corporate world might pay you a lot of money but that does not necessarily mean success. Doing what you love doing is a gift that only a few enjoys but not impossible to achieve.

15 SEC READ: the search to be different

good-to-be-different-sheep-sticker-decal

 

Do you know exactly where you are now?

You are in a city, along with a lot of other people, and it is highly likely that, at this very moment, various people are sheltering in their hearts the same hopes and anxieties that you are sheltering in yours.

Let us go further: you are a microscopic speck on the surface of a ball. This ball spins around another ball, which, in turn, is located in one tiny corner of a galaxy along with millions of other similar balls.

This galaxy forms part of something called the Universe, full of vast star clusters. No one knows exactly where this Universe begins and ends.

This does not mean that you are not of vital importance; you struggle, you strive, you try to improve, you have dreams, you are made happy or sad by love. You are UNIQUE

If you were not alive, something would be missing.

10 SEC READ: the importance of the forest

‘All the teachers say that spiritual treasure is something one finds alone. So why are we all here together?’ asked a disciple of the Sufi master Nasrudin.

‘You are all here together because a forest is always stronger than a lone tree,’ replied Nasrudin.
‘The forest maintains the humidity in the air, it resists the hurricane, and it helps to make the soil fertile.
‘But what makes a tree strong is its root, and the root of one plant cannot help another plant to grow.

‘Working together towards the same end and allowing each one to grow in his own way, that is the path for those who wish to commune with God.’

 

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Today’s Question by Aart Hilal

Hasn’t it been difficult for you to stay in Brasil after all the harm the Brasilian dictatorship has done to you in former times? What made you stay there although you have been imprisonned under very cruel circumstances from your own people?

It was impossible to live in Brazil, because after being in jail, you develop a kind of paranoia, you think that everybody is following you, listening to your conversations, etc. So, after being released, I went to London, but after three or four months, I realized that this was to scape to reality, to be a “strange in a strange land”for the rest of my life. So I decided to face my fears, and I returned to Brasil. It was better to die here than the be a living dead in a foreign place – I made this choice.

As for the second part of your question: I was not imprisioned by my own people, I was imprisioned by the military junta, that kept my people silent under the threat of weapons. My people was waiting, because there is no arguments against force. On the other hand, nobody can keep the pressure forever, so at the long run Freedom won, and here we are, with our problems, but also with the freedom to talk about them.

God and real life

selected by Paulo Coelho (feel free to share, by the way…)

Christian tradition
A protestant priest, having started a family, no longer had any peace for his prayers. One night, when he knelt down, he was disturbed by the children in the living room.
“Have the children keep quiet!” he shouted.
His startled wife obeyed. Thereafter, whenever the priest came home, they all maintained silence during prayers. But he realized that God was no longer listening.
One night, during his prayers, he asked the Lord: “what is going on? I have the necessary peace, and I cannot pray!”
An angel replied: “He hears words, but no longer hears the laughter. He notices the devotion, but can no longer see the joy.”
The priest stood and shouted once again to his wife: “Let the children play! They are part of praying!”
And his words were heard by God once again.

Muslim tradition
A blind man was begging on the road to Mecca, when a pious Moslem came over and asked whether the people were giving generously – as the Koran commands. The man showed him his little tin, which was almost empty. The traveler said:
– Let me write something on the card around your neck.
Hours later, the traveler returned. The beggar was surprised, for he had received a large amount of money.
– What did you write on the card? – he asked.
– All I wrote was: Today is a beautiful spring day, the sun is shining, and I am blind.

Jewish tradition
Dov Beer de Mezeritch was asked:
“Which example should one follow? That of pious men, who devote their lives to God? That of scholars, who seek to understand the will of the Almighty?
“The best example is that of the child,” he answered.
“A child knows nothing. It hasn’t yet learned what reality is,” people commented.
“You are all quite wrong, for a child possesses three qualities we should never forget,” said Dov Beer. “They are always joyful without reason. They are always busy. And when they want something, they know how to demand it firmly and with determination.”

2 MIN READ: Manual for Climbing Mountains

Espanol> Manual para subir montañas
Portugues> Manual para subir montanhas

By Paulo Coelho

A] Choose the mountain you want to climb: don’t pay attention to what other people say, such as “that one’s more beautiful” or “this one’s easier”. You’ll be spending lots of energy and enthusiasm to reach your objective, so you’re the only one responsible and you should be sure of what you’re doing.

B] Know how to get close to it: mountains are often seen from far off – beautiful, interesting, full of challenges. But what happens when we try to draw closer? Roads run all around them, flowers grow between you and your objective, what seemed so clear on the map is tough in real life. So try all the paths and all the tracks until eventually one day you’re standing in front of the top that you yearn to reach.

C] Learn from someone who has already been up there: no matter how unique you feel, there is always someone who has had the same dream before you and ended up leaving marks that can make your journey easier; places to hang the rope, trails, broken branches to make the walking easier. The climb is yours, so is the responsibility, but don’t forget that the experience of others can help a lot.

D] When seen up close, dangers are controllable: when you begin to climb the mountain of your dreams, pay attention to the surroundings. There are cliffs, of course. There are almost imperceptible cracks in the mountain rock. There are stones so polished by storms that they have become as slippery as ice. But if you know where you are placing each footstep, you will notice the traps and how to get around them.

E] The landscape changes, so enjoy it: of course, you have to have an objective in mind – to reach the top. But as you are going up, more things can be seen, and it’s no bother to stop now and again and enjoy the panorama around you. At every meter conquered, you can see a little further, so use this to discover things that you still had not noticed.

F] Respect your body: you can only climb a mountain if you give your body the attention it deserves. You have all the time that life grants you, as long as you walk without demanding what can’t be granted. If you go too fast you will grow tired and give up half way there. If you go too slow, night will fall and you will be lost. Enjoy the scenery, take delight in the cool spring water and the fruit that nature generously offers you, but keep on walking.

G] Respect your soul: don’t keep repeating “I’m going to make it”. Your soul already knows that, what it needs is to use the long journey to be able to grow, stretch along the horizon, touch the sky. An obsession does not help you at all to reach your objective, and even ends up taking the pleasure out of the climb. But pay attention: also, don’t keep saying “it’s harder than I thought”, because that will make you lose your inner strength.

H] Be prepared to climb one kilometer more: the way up to the top of the mountain is always longer than you think. Don’t fool yourself, the moment will arrive when what seemed so near is still very far. But since you were prepared to go beyond, this is not really a problem.

I] Be happy when you reach the top: cry, clap your hands, shout to the four winds that you did it, let the wind – the wind is always blowing up there – purify your mind, refresh your tired and sweaty feet, open your eyes, clean the dust from your heart. It feels so good, what was just a dream before, a distant vision, is now part of your life, you did it!

J] Make a promise: now that you have discovered a force that you were not even aware of, tell yourself that from now on you will use this force for the rest of your days. Preferably, also promise to discover another mountain, and set off on another adventure.

K ] Tell your story: yes, tell your story! Give your example. Tell everyone that it’s possible, and other people will then have the courage to face their own mountains.

IN “LIKE A FLOWING RIVER”, now also in USA & CANADA (EBOOK)

The divine melody



Zaki heard Xa asking his friends what was the most beautiful sound on Earth.

‘The sound of the flute,’ said one.

‘Birdsong,’ said another.

‘A woman’s voice,’ said a third.

They continued the discussion late into the night, without reaching any conclusion.

Days later, Zaki invited Xa and his friends to supper. In the room next door, the best orchestra in the world was playing lovely music, but there was no food on the table. Around midnight, by which time his guests were all starving hungry, Zaki finally served up an exquisite banquet.

‘After hours without eating, isn’t the clatter of cutlery on plates a divine sound?’ remarked Xa.

‘I am simply answering your question about what is the most beautiful sound on Earth,’ replied Zaki. ‘It could be the voice of the woman we love, the singing of birds, the clatter of plates, the breathing beside us in bed of someone dear to us, but it will always be the sound that our heart needs to hear at that precise moment.’

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Which is the best example to follow?

By Paulo Coelho

Dov Beer of Mezeritch was asked:

‘Which is the best example to follow? That of the pious man who dedicates his life to God without ever asking why, or that of the erudite man, who tries to understand the will of the Almighty?’

‘The best example to follow is that of the child,’ replied Dov Beer.

‘But a child knows nothing. It doesn’t even understand what reality is!’ was the general response.

‘There you are much mistaken, because the child has four qualities that we should never forget. A child is always happy for no reason. A child is always busy. When a child wants something, he or she shows great persistence and determination in demanding that thing. Lastly, a child is always very quick to stop crying.’

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Between faith and prayer

‘Is there anything more important than prayer?’ a disciple asked his teacher.

The teacher told the disciple to go to a nearby tree and cut off a branch. The disciple obeyed.

‘Is the tree still alive?’ asked the teacher.

‘As alive as it was before.’

‘Then go over there and slice through its roots.’

‘If I do that, the tree will die.’

‘Prayers are the branches of a tree whose roots are called Faith,’ said the teacher. ‘Faith can exist without prayer, but prayer cannot exist without faith.’

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Question by the reader : Anne

I would like to know how you delt/deal with the restlessness that some people -including me- struggles with?

I am also struggling with myself all the time, but I am very optimistic in this sense. People are realizing more and more that happiness is freedom, and freedom is to be able to “travel light”, not possessing a lot of things, because at the end of the day, the things start to possess you. I remember that I considered to buy a castle in France. I went to see some. One day I realized that if I buy a castle, I cannot think about anything but taking care of it. Therefore, I bought a small watermill, so to keep it is very easy, and I have time to go to the mountains, to walk, do spend my life in the way that I would like. In short: the less you have to keep, the more you have in freedom. And one of the lessons nature teaches you is exactly that: keep your contradictions, as summer is the opposite of winter.