20 SEC READING: the city on the other side

Illustration by Ken Crane

A hermit from the monastery of Sceta approached Abbot Theodore:
 
‘I know exactly what the purpose of life is. I know what God asks of man and I know the best way to serve Him. And yet, even so, I am incapable of doing everything I should be doing in order to serve the Lord.’
 
The Abbot remained silent for a long time. Then he said:
 
‘You know that there is a city on the other side of the ocean, but you have not yet found the ship or placed your baggage on board and crossed the sea.
‘Why then bother talking about it or about how we should walk its streets?
 
‘It is not enough to know what life is for or to know the best way to serve God.
‘Put your ideas into practice and the road will reveal itself to you.’
 
 

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The magic of the yes

by Mia Zamora

BEING an only child with overprotective parents, I grew up using “No” as my default answer to everything. Let’s go outside and play in the rain? No. Let’s ride a boat to the deep part of the sea and jump in? No. Let’s play hooky at school and go to the mall instead? No. So, of course, as a result, I grew up being sheltered from everything. No wounds and scratches, no accidents, no disciplinary action, no big mistakes. That worked just fine for me (and my parents!)—I was the dream child, never got into trouble like some of my cousins, focused on my studies and got into the college of my choice. I grew up believing that for as long as you do everything right, avoid mistakes at all costs, and just be a good girl, the world will reward you with the best of everything.

But little by little as I got older, I started to realize that while this mode of living has its merits, it was not a guarantee for anything.Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, there are some things that are not meant to be yours. No matter how nice you are, people will still judge you. No matter how careful you are in avoiding mistakes, life throws you a curveball. No matter how blindly you trust and put your faith in people, they will disappoint you. And yes, when these things happen, it isn’t fair and you feel like the butt of all jokes.

Guess what though— nobody ever told us that life is perfectly fair, and that the world owes us something for our efforts. We hope for that, but we get angry when we don’t get what we think we deserve or when we get hurt despite our checklists, rules and precautions.And so, after a particularly difficult blow—the type that cracks your heart up in places you never even knew existed—I decided to defy the odds of being jaded and bitter, and to instead open myself to more affirmatives. Here’s what I learned so far.

Say yes to new adventures. This year I’ve been on more adventures than the last three combined. From camping in a deserted cove in Zambales, driving eight hours just to see the waves in La Union, discovering a secret piece of paradise and an ancient tree near Baler, living in a foreign city all by myself to take up a course—every single time I said Yes to something I never would have done before, I was not disappointed and the world seems like an even more magical place. Who knows where your Yes will take you?

Say yes to new friends
. I used to shy away from hanging out with new people and generally prefer the company of old friends and familiar circles. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but it can be limiting, too. There is so much you can learn, discover and experience with a new friend. Dare to step out of your safe little cocoon and get to know people, and they may just surprise you. Sometimes the most unexpected friendships turn out to be the best ones…

Say yes to new interests. Life is too short to not try new things or cultivate new (or old) interests. Learn to make soap! Mold pottery! Bake cookies! Enroll in a digital class! Join a marathon! Redecorate your home! There’s an unlimited buffet of choices and instead you sit on your couch watching TV night after night, wasting precious time. A hobby can release a creative side of you that you never knew before, and it can even be something you enjoy so much that you can make a business out of it. That way you’re both fulfilled and productive—what can be better than that?

Say yes to new challenges.
It is always easier to stay in your comfort zone, especially in terms of your career. You’re in a stable job in an industry you know, pretty good in terms of rank and pay … that’s great, but once you stop learning something new and feel you are no longer at peak performance, it’s time to broaden your horizons. What if an opportunity arises in a different field or function? Or you are offered a leadership role, or one that will allow you to build a new skill set? Take calculated risks, of course, especially if you are supporting a family, but don’t discount possibilities to grow. Because remember, following the theory of Charles Darwin, either we continue to evolve, or we die.

Say yes to the unknown. There are some things in life that cannot be calculated or predicted. You don’t know how things are going to turn out, how a story will end, and whether you are going to make it unscathed or not. For a control freak like me (who reads the endings of books first just so I don’t get disappointed), that is a difficult thing to accept. But does that mean we should all just keep ourselves locked up, staying safely under the radar? Low risk, low return, my friends. What if you miss out on possibly the best parts of your life—the greatest love, the most fulfilling job, the craziest trip, just because you were too scared to try?

Say yes to change.
It is normal for people to want to reinvent themselves at some point. Whether it is a physical reinvention (like a different hairstyle or some sort of makeover), an emotional or a spiritual one, don’t ever feel like it is not OK to change. Sometimes we outgrow people, we outgrow things, we outgrow our old identities. I want to share with you one of my favorite quotes, by Paulo Coelho: “That is why it is so important to let certain things go. To release them. To cut loose. People need to understand that no one is playing with marked cards; sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. Don’t expect to get anything back, don’t expect recognition for your efforts, don’t expect your genius to be discovered or your love to be understood. Complete the circle. Not out of pride, inability or arrogance, but simply because whatever it is no longer fits in your life. Close the door, change the record, clean the house, get rid of the dust. Stop being who you were and become who you are.”

Say yes to happiness.
If you’ve been stressed out, angry, bitter, disappointed, afraid, or depressed for a while — maybe it’s time to stop blaming other people and situations, and instead choose happiness and hope. Yes, it is easier said than done but it is entirely possible. All you have to do is wake up and decide to be happy no matter what happens that day. Try not to sweat the small stuff (like traffic, petty work conflicts, etc) and focus on gratitude for all that you have been blessed with. It just needs a change of perspective: you may not be able to control what happens around you, but you can control how you react to situations and how you let them affect you.

Say yes to love. Hmm. All I will say about this is another quote, this time by the poet Rumi: “Open your hands, if you want to be held.” Because every potential love story starts out the same way — with a Yes.

Read more: http://cebudailynews.inquirer.net/106746/the-magic-of-the-yes#ixzz4LZI2Brm5
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10 Success lessons from Paulo Coelho – “The Alchemist” for entrepreneurs

by Biplap Gosh

1. Rejection doesn’t matter

Paulo believed in himself. He believed that he was a good poet and that his poems were not suitable for small magazines. So he sent his poems to the ‘Escritores e Livros,’ a reputable literary column in a newspaper called Correio da Manha. But the newspaper humiliated him.

Like any normal person, he took it personally, but managed to regain his confidence and write his own version of Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem “If…”. In the case of Paulo, his self-belief won and this is because of a certain obsession of his.

2. 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.

3. Be obsessed with your dream

Paulo was obsessed with the idea of becoming a famous writer. Yet, it was funny that the obsession only bore fruit in his later years. This is because he was always changing his art: from poetry to acting, directing, writing about the occult, and lyric writing.

Although he gained success in some of his ventures, he kept reminding himself that he wanted to be a famous writer. That obsession made him what he is today.

4. Good things come to those who persevere

In The Alchemist, Coelho’s most popular novel, a young Spanish shepherd named Santiago has a prophetic dream that treasure awaits him in some distant land. After consulting with a gypsy who tells him the treasure lies under the Pyramids of Giza and Egypt, he embarks upon a long and arduous journey across Africa. The obstacles he encounters in the desert—he struggles to secure food and shelter, crosses paths with armies, and even falls in love—make him second-guess his dubious quest.

But for every hurdle discouraging him, there’s a signpost reminding him to keep his faith alive. Early in his journey an old king tells Santiago: “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

5. If you have a weakness, learn to compensate for it with your strength

Paulo was weak physically. According to his biography he was “very thin, frail and short.” He had a nickname – Pele – which means ‘skin. It was given only to those who were always being bullied by their classmates.

Considering his physical weakness, it was hard for Paulo to gain the respect of his peers. Yet he found out that despite his weakness, he managed to gain their respect.By knowing things no one else knew and reading stories none of his peers had read was one way of gaining respect.

6. Your past doesn’t make the future

Paulo failed in his studies, almost killed a boy because of his driving, was forced to stay in a psychiatry clinic because of his escalating problems, took drugs, was kidnapped by a secret organization and embraced Satanism.

The problem with most of us is we focus on things we can’t change. It is true that our past can influence our future, but we don’t want to let that influence spread too much and work of its own accord.

7. Listen to your heart

“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.” —The Alchemist

8. 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.

9. Don’t be afraid to be different

“You are someone who is different, but who wants to be the same as everyone else. And that, in my view, is a serious illness. God chose you to be different. Why are you disappointing God with this kind of attitude?” —Veronika Decides to Die

10. You don’t have to work in a corporate job

It’s not safe anyway, despite what they tell you. There’s much more fun and money to be had if you can handle a little uncertainty (warning — most people would choose misery over uncertainty, but you don’t have to be one of them). Doing work that you truly love is the best gift you will ever give yourself.

20 SEC READING: Measuring love


‘I’ve always wanted to know if I was capable of loving my wife as much as you love yours,’ said the journalist Keichiro to my publisher Satoshi Gungi over supper one night.
 
‘There is nothing else but love,’ came the reply. ‘It is love that keeps the world turning and the stars in their spheres.’
 
‘I know. But how can I know if my love is big enough?’
 
‘Ask yourself if you give yourself fully or if you flee from your emotions, but do not ask yourself if your love is big enough, because love is neither big nor small, it is simply love.
‘You cannot measure a feeling the way you measure a road.
‘If you do that, you will start comparing your love with what others tell you of theirs or with your own expectations of love.
‘That way, you will always be listening to some story, rather than pushing your emotions to their limits.’
 
 

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10 sec reading: don’t forget the evil men

The following prayer was found amongst the personal belongings of a Jew who died in a concentration camp:
 
Lord, when you come in Your glory, do not remember only the men of good, but remember too the men of evil.
 
And on the Day of Judgement, do not remember only the acts of cruelty, inhumanity and violence that they carried out,
but remember too the fruits that they produced in us because of what they did to us.
Remember the patience, courage, brotherly love, humility, generosity of spirit and faithfulness
that our executioners awoke in our souls.
 
And then, Lord, may those fruits be used to save the souls of those men of evil.

10 SEC READING Escaping from threats

We often think that the ideal attitude is to give our life for a dream, but there is nothing more mistaken than this.
In order to make a dream come true, we need to conserve our life, and so we have to know how to avoid whatever is threatening us.
The more we premeditate on our steps, the more we stand to be wrong, because we are not taking others into consideration, or life’s teachings, or passion and calm.
The more we feel we are in control, the farther we are from controlling anything at all. A threat gives no warning, and a quick reaction cannot be programmed like a walk on Sunday afternoon.

So if you want to be in harmony with your love or with your fight, learn to react fast.
Using polite observation, do not let your supposed experience of life turn you into a machine, but rather use this experience always to listen to “the voice of the heart.”
Even if you disagree with what this voice is saying, respect it and follow its advice, for it knows the best moment to act and the right moment to avoid action.

This also holds true for both love and war.

in “The Treatise of Tahlan”, an ancient treatise for samurais

 
 

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Conscious x emotional

Conscious faith is freedom.
Instinctive faith is slavery.
Mechanical faith is madness.
Conscious hope is strength.
Emotional hope is cowardice.
Mechanical hope is sickness.
Conscious love arouses love.
Emotional love arouses the unexpected.
Mechanical love arouses hate.”

Try walking meditation

(taken from Easy and Relaxing meditation)

Walking meditation is alternate form of meditation which involves observing the movement of the feet and becoming aware of your body’s connection to the earth.
The space doesn’t need to be very large, but you should be able to walk at least seven paces in a straight line before needing to turn around. Remove your shoes, if possible.

Holding your head up with your gaze directed straight ahead, and your hands clasped together in front of you. Take a slow, deliberate step with your right foot. Forget about any sensations or feelings in the foot and try to concentrate on the movement itself. After taking the first step, stop for a moment before taking the next. Only one foot should be moving at any given time.

When you reach the end of your walking path,pivot on the right foot and turn around. Continue walking in the opposite direction, using the same slow, deliberate movements as before.

While practicing walking meditation, try to focus on the movement of the feet and nothing else, in the same way that you focus on the rising and falling of your breath during breathing meditation. Try to clear your mind and become aware of the connection between your foot and the earth below

NOT DIFFICULT, RIGHT???

Three precise blows

“How can I know the best way to act in life?” the disciple asked the master.

The master asked him to build a table.

The disciple drove in the nails with three precise blows. One nail, however, struck a hard spot and the disciple needed to deliver one more blow – which drove in the nail too deep all the way into the wood.

“Your hand was used to three blows of the hammer,” said the master. “You had so much trust in what you did that you lost your attention and skill.”

“When action becomes a mere habit it loses its meaning and may end up causing harm, so never let routine be in command of your movements.”

A Thousandth Opinion (by Albert Lim Kok Hoo)

published in Khaleej Times on Nov 11, 2009

I know a man who has seen a thousand doctors. Let us call him Thomas. He is 80 years old but even so, a thousand is a huge number. In a year, he would have seen 12 new doctors on the average. A thousand different doctors means perhaps 20,000 consultations. Sometimes Thomas sees three different doctors in one afternoon.

Some of Thomas’s friends are doctors. Some of his doctors become his friends. His doctors range from the junior to the senior, from those in government hospitals to those in private practice, from generalists to specialists. Men, women, foreigners, graduates from local universities; he has seen them all. Sometimes he sees them just to measure his blood pressure.

Sometimes it is for a more serious matter like an unexplained chest pain. He has spent about $230,000 in his lifetime on doctor visits, blood tests, medications, X-rays, scans and Ҭminor surgeries.

He has no regrets. Others may splurge on flashy cars or the services of a sommelier, but for Thomas it is doctors, doctors and more doctors. Sadly, Thomas was diagnosed with lung cancer recently and was referred to me. I wonder how many more oncologists he has seen or will be seeing.

Thomas came across as a well adjusted gentleman. He did not exhibit any verbal or physical tic. He spoke well. He gave his medical history clearly and answered most of my questions willingly and appropriately. Having gained his trust, I decided to explore his need to see so many doctors. He was forthright about it. He is afraid to die.

So many of us, with or without cancer, are not willing to admit to our fear of death. We couch our fear like this: “Doctor, I am not afraid to die but I fear the process of dying.” Others of a more poetic bent will say, “Oh, death, where is thy sting?” It is a badge of honor we proudly wear on our sleeves.

Thomas was afraid of death, and he was not afraid to admit it. That’s courage. He was going to do his best to postpone it. Of course, seeing a thousand doctors does not help. It may even be harmful. Conflicting opinions lead to confusion and anxiety. Excessive and unnecessary X-rays and CT scans increase the chance of radiation-“¨induced cancer.

Apart from his fear of death, Thomas also disclosed a distrust of doctors. He was seeking as many opinions as possible before deciding on treatment. He had his doubts. Now you know why I gave Thomas his moniker.

Is Thomas suffering from hypochondriasis? The condition is characterised by fears that minor bodily symptoms may indicate a serious illness. The hypochondriac constantly examines himself; self-diagnosis becomes a preoccupation. He expresses doubt and disbelief in the doctor’s diagnosis. Thomas has some traits of a hypochondriac but that is too easy a label to stick on him. Thomas had a CT scan of his chest two years ago that disclosed a shadow in his lung. He was treated for pneumonia. The possibility of cancer was excluded when most of the shadow disappeared with a course of antibiotics. The doctors should have gone the extra mile to exclude cancer with a PET/CT scan and a biopsy.

Some may diagnose Thomas with thanatophobia “” an undue obsession with death (especially one’s own) to the extent that it becomes psychologically crippling. Again, this would be too convenient a label. Thomas is a successful entrepreneur and is socially adept.

I really don’t know. We tend to medicalise every little symptom and discomfort. From an infant’s excessive crying to teenage angst to a wage earner’s blues. There is a pill for everything: insomnia, erectile dysfunction and the sadness of bereavement. Perhaps Thomas has the time and money to see many doctors and he feels good doing this. It is therapeutic for him, if you can forgive my use of the word. It may be no different from some others I know who spend as much as Thomas does on audiovisual systems or eating unmentionable parts of endangered animals.

I shall help Thomas fight his cancer. I will dissuade him from unnecessary blood tests and scans. I will not judge him. Most of all, I will not medicalize his fear of death. It is about being human. There is no pill for it.


Albert Lim Kok Hooi is an oncologist based in Kuala Lumpur

The presence of a master

A disciple asked Firoz:

“The mere presence of a master causes all sorts of curious people to gather round, to discover something beneficial. Can’t this be a hindrance and negative? Can’t this divert the master from his path, or cause him to suffer because he could not teach that which he wished?”

Firoz, the Sufi master, replied:

“The sight of an avocado tree laden with fruit whets the appetite of all those who pass by. If someone wishes to satisfy his hunger beyond his needs, he will eat more avocados than necessary, and will be sick. However, this causes no indigestion to the man who owns the avocado tree.

It is the same with our Search. The path must be open to all; but it is for God to set the limits of each individual.”

I can’t wait for the day when life finally makes sense

(by Rania Naim)

I can’t wait for the day when life finally makes sense, when we find the silver lining in every tragedy, when we learn the lesson from each mistake and when we understand why our hearts needed to get broken a few times to let love in.

I can’t wait for the day that we understand why we met the right people at the wrong time or the wrong people at the right time and why our lives didn’t align to bring us together.

I wonder if it’s because they’re the wrong ones for us or because we still have a lot of growing up to do and we’re meant to be with someone who understand who we’re becoming not who we were.

I can’t wait for the day that we understand the lesson behind every struggle. Why we struggled to be successful, why we struggled to find love, why we struggled to reach our dreams and why we lost people who meant the world to us. I wonder if we needed these lessons to learn how to appreciate life and feel the pain of others or we just needed to learn that there is no living without suffering.

I can’t wait for the day that we understand why we had to hate ourselves to love ourselves, why we had to destroy ourselves to build ourselves up again and why we had to start over just before we got to the finish line. I wonder who saved us or who inspired us to save ourselves.

Why learn to meditate

(taking from How to medidate)

Eventually, we will be able to stay happy all the time, even in the most difficult circumstances.

The purpose of meditation is to make our mind calm and peaceful. If our mind is peaceful, we will be free from worries and mental discomfort, and so we will experience true happiness; but if our mind is not peaceful, we will find it very difficult to be happy, even if we are living in the very best conditions. If we train in meditation, our mind will gradually become more and more peaceful, and we will experience a purer and purer form of happiness. Eventually, we will be able to stay happy all the time, even in the most difficult circumstances.

Usually we find it difficult to control our mind. It seems as if our mind is like a balloon in the wind – blown here and there by external circumstances. If things go well, our mind is happy, but if they go badly, it immediately becomes unhappy. For example, if we get what we want, such as a new possession or a new partner, we become excited and cling to them tightly. However, since we cannot have everything we want, and since we will inevitably be separated from the friends and possessions we currently enjoy, this mental stickiness, or attachment, serves only to cause us pain. On the other hand, if we do not get what we want, or if we lose something that we like, we become despondent or irritated. For example, if we are forced to work with a colleague whom we dislike, we will probably become irritated and feel aggrieved, with the result that we will be unable to work with him or her efficiently and our time at work will become stressful and unrewarding.

By training in meditation, we create an inner space and clarity that enables us to control our mind

Such fluctuations of mood arise because we are too closely involved in the external situation. We are like a child making a sandcastle who is excited when it is first made, but who becomes upset when it is destroyed by the incoming tide. By training in meditation, we create an inner space and clarity that enables us to control our mind regardless of the external circumstances. Gradually we develop mental equilibrium, a balanced mind that is happy all the time, rather than an unbalanced mind that oscillates between the extremes of excitement and despondency.

If we train in meditation systematically, eventually we will be able to eradicate from our mind the delusions that are the causes of all our problems and suffering. In this way, we will come to experience a permanent inner peace, known as “liberation” or “nirvana”. Then, day and night in life after life, we will experience only peace and happiness.

The hero’s journey


Below you find an interesting summary the journey each and everyone of us must undertake if we want to live a live that justifies our existence. We are all heros and heroines, so let’s face our Personal Legend!
The steps of the hero were codified by Joseph Campbell

Departure

1. The Call to Adventure
The call to adventure is the point in a person’s life when they are first given notice that everything is going to change, whether they know it or not.
2. Refusal of the Call
Often when the call is given, the future hero refuses to heed it. This may be from a sense of duty or obligation, fear, insecurity, a sense of inadequacy, or any of a range of reasons that work to hold the person in his or her current circumstances.
3. Supernatural Aid
Once the hero has committed to the quest, consciously or unconsciously, his or her guide and magical helper appears, or becomes known.
4. The Crossing of the First Threshold
This is the point where the person actually crosses into the field of adventure, leaving the known limits of his or her world and venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm where the rules and limits are not known.
5. The Belly of the Whale
The belly of the whale represents the final separation from the hero’s known world and self. It is sometimes described as the person’s lowest point, but it is actually the point when the person is between or transitioning between worlds and selves. The separation has been made, or is being made, or being fully recognized between the old world and old self and the potential for a new world/self. The experiences that will shape the new world and self will begin shortly, or may be beginning with this experience which is often symbolized by something dark, unknown and frightening. By entering this stage, the person shows their willingness to undergo a metamorphosis, to die to him or herself.

# Inititation

1. The Road of Trials
The road of trials is a series of tests, tasks, or ordeals that the person must undergo to begin the transformation. Often the person fails one or more of these tests, which often occur in threes.
2. The Meeting with the Goddess
The meeting with the goddess represents the point in the adventure when the person experiences a love that has the power and significance of the all-powerful, all encompassing, unconditional love that a fortunate infant may experience with his or her mother. It is also known as the “hieros gamos”, or sacred marriage, the union of opposites, and may take place entirely within the person. In other words, the person begins to see him or herself in a non-dualistic way. This is a very important step in the process and is often represented by the person finding the other person that he or she loves most completely. Although Campbell symbolizes this step as a meeting with a goddess, unconditional love and /or self unification does not have to be represented by a woman.

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What is happiness?

“After all, what is happiness?

Love, they tell me. But love doesn’t bring and never has brought happiness.
On the contrary, it’s a constant state of anxiety, a battlefield; it’s sleepless nights, asking ourselves all the time if we’re doing the right thing. Real love is composed of ecstasy and agony.”

? Paulo Coelho, The Witch Of Portobello

Character of the week: Teilhard de Chardin

Growing old is like being increasingly penalized for a crime you haven’t committed. The most satisfying thing in life is to have been able to give a large part of one’s self to others.

He that will believe only what he can fully comprehend must have a long head or a very short creed.
Our duty, as men and women, is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. We are collaborators in creation.

In the final analysis, the questions of why bad things happen to good people transmutes itself into some very different questions, no longer asking why something happened, but asking how we will respond, what we intend to do now that it happened.

It is our duty as men and women to proceed as though the limits of our abilities do not exist.

Love alone can unite living beings so as to complete and fulfill them… for it alone joins them by what is deepest in themselves. All we need is to imagine our ability to love developing until it embraces the totality of men and the earth.

Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfill them, for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest in themselves.
Love is the affinity which links and draws together the elements of the world… Love, in fact, is the agent of universal synthesis.

Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.

The world is round so that friendship may encircle it.

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.

We are one, after all, you and I. Together we suffer, together exist, and forever will recreate each other.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ (May 1, 1881 – April 10, 1955) was a French philosopher and Jesuit priest, a paleontologist and geologist

Making love

“Anyone who is in love is making love the whole time, even when they’re not. When two bodies meet, it is just the cup overflowing. They can stay together for hours, even days. They begin the dance one day and finish it the next, or–such is the pleasure they experience–they may never finish it. No eleven minutes for them.”

“Anyone who is observant, who discovers the person they have always dreamed of, knows that sexual energy comes into play before sex even takes place. The greatest pleasure isn’t sex, but the passion with which it is practiced. When the passion is intense, then sex joins in to complete the dance, but it is never the principal aim.”

? Paulo Coelho, Eleven Minutes

Reader’s story: two choices in life

sent to me by Dr. Proja

There are always two choices in life, either put up with the conditions as they are, or take the responsibility to change them.

It happened one fine day when I was at my father’s clinic attending to his patients whilst he was out of town. A lady named Saraswati came with her one year old daughter. The baby was burning with fever, when I took her temperature I realized it was at 103. I scolded the lady for not bringing her baby in any earlier. The lady started crying, saying she did not have the money for the doctor’s fees and medication (I didn’t pay much attention to this since this is a very common occurrence at my father’s clinic).
Saraswati then told me her story. She had got married three years ago; her parents paid a dowry of 10,000 rupees. However, her husband ran away with the money and leaving her pregnant. Saraswati returned to her home and took on the job of a servant. Her husband’s family did not care about whether her daughter was sick or well since she was a girl.

After telling me her story, Saraswati left. I did not charge her, but I knew that this would not solve her problem. I thought about Saraswati all night and wondered what could be done to help these illiterate, cheated and downtrodden women.

Then the next day I received a call from my aunty who needed a housemaid for her daugher-in-law who had just had twins. I felt as if God had showed me a way to help Saraswati.
I recommended her to my aunty. My aunty gave Saraswati a good income and a good home to live in.

After a few days she came with her sister who was educated and was looking to become independent like her sister. I recommended her to one of my friends for a receptionist’s position. From this came the idea of NAARI, an organization for making women self-dependant.

Setting up NAARI was not an easy task, since there are so many legal formalities for female organizations. I was very young and all alone, so I dropped the idea. And then one sunny morning when I was having coffee a group of women came to my house (guided by the ever so dear Saraswati of course).

Everybody had a common story, cheated, exploited and dowry victims.
I recommended nine of these women to domestic maid jobs.
Now these ladies are independent and all eleven of them are working hard to live a respectable life. I may have not been successful in giving them an organization but when one day Saraswati came to my home with a box of sweets because she had got admission for her daughter at a nearby school, she fell to my feet and said : you have given my daughter and I a respectable living, may God give you much success.

I realized I had done nothing I just showed them a way – a way to self-respect and thereafter, all eleven of them continued this tough journey themselves.

UPDATE:
After this post was published, I found a photo of Dr. Proja . Here it is:

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Nobody believes

Legend has it that right after his Enlightenment, Buddha decided to go for a walk in the country. On the way he came upon a farmer, who was impressed at the light shining from the master.

“My friend, who are you?” asked the farmer. “Because I have the feeling that I am standing before an angel, or a God.”

“I am nothing of the sort,” answered Buddha.

“Maybe you’re a powerful sorcerer?”

“Not that either.”

“So, what makes you so different from the others that even a simple peasant like me notices it?”

“I am just someone who has awoken to life. That’s all. But I tell everyone that, and nobody believes me.”

Beauty

People always say: ‘It’s inner beauty that matters, not outer beauty.’
Well, that’s not true.

If it were, why would flowers put so much energy into attracting bees? And why would raindrops transform themselves into a rainbow when they encounter the sun? Because nature longs for beauty, and is only satisfied when beauty can be exalted. outer beauty is inner beauty made visible, and it manifests itself in the light that flows from our eyes. It doesn’t matter if a person is badly dressed or doesn’t conform to our idea of elegance, or isn’t even concerned about impressing other people.

Beauty is present in all creation, but the danger lies in the fact that, because we human beings are often cut off from the Divine Energy, we allow ourselves to be influenced by what other people think. We deny our own beauty because others can’t or won’t recognise it. Instead of accepting ourselves as we are, we try to imitate what we see around us. We try to be what other people think of as ‘pretty’ and, little by little, our soul fades, our will weakens, and all the potential we had to make the world a more beautiful place withers away.
We forget that the world is what we imagine it to be.
We stop being the moonlight and become, instead, the pool of water reflecting it. Tomorrow, the water will evaporate in the sun. And all because, one day, someone said: ‘You are ugly.’ Or: ‘She is pretty.’ With those three simple words, they stole away all our self-confidence.
And we become ugly and embittered.

At that moment, we can draw comfort from so-called ‘wisdom’, an accumulation of ideas put together by people wishing to define the world, instead of respecting the mystery of life. This ‘wisdom’ consists of all the unnecessary rules, regulations and measurements intended to establish a standard of behaviour.
According to that false wisdom, we should not be concerned about beauty because it is superficial and ephemeral.

That isn’t true. All the beings created under the sun, from birds to mountains, from flowers to rivers, reflect the miracle of creation.
If we resist the temptation to allow other people to define who we are, then we will gradually be able to let the sun inside our own soul shine forth.
Love passes by and says: ‘I never noticed you before.’

And our soul responds: ‘Well, pay more attention, because here I am. It took a breeze to blow the dust from your eyes, but now that you have recognised me, don’t leave me again, because all of us desire beauty.’
Beauty exists not in sameness but in difference. Who could imagine a giraffe without its long neck or a cactus without its spines? The irregularity of the mountain peaks that surround us is what makes them so imposing. If we tried to make them all the same, they would no longer command our respect.
It is the imperfect that astonishes and attracts us.

When we look at a cedar tree, we don’t think: ‘The branches should be all the same length.’ We think: ‘How strong it is.’
When we see a snake, we never say: ‘He is crawling along the ground, while I am walking with head erect.’ We think: ‘He might be small, but his skin is colourful, his movements elegant, and he is more powerful than me.’

When the camel crosses the desert and takes us to the place we want to reach, we never say: ‘He’s humpbacked and has ugly teeth.’ We think: ‘He deserves my love for his loyalty and help. Without him, I would never be able to explore the world.’
A sunset is always more beautiful when it is covered with irregularly shaped clouds, because only then can it reflect the many colours out of which dreams and poetry are made.

Pity those who think: ‘I am not beautiful. That’s why Love has not knocked at my door.’ In fact, Love did knock, but when they opened the door, they weren’t prepared to welcome Love in.’
They were too busy trying to make themselves beautiful first, when, in fact, they were fine as they were.
They were trying to imitate others, when Love was looking for something original.
They were trying to reflect what came from outside, forgetting that the brightest light comes from within.

taken from “Manuscript found in Accra”