Akira and the robber

Akira was incapable of making accusations. Even though he was a great master of the Zen Buddhism, he never judged himself better than others.

One of his disciples asked him to talk to his brother, a highway robber, who frightened the city.

Akira went up to the outlaw’s house and spent the night with him. They didn’t exchange a word. In the morning, the robber helped Ryokan tie his sandals.

As he did that, his tears began to wash the master’s feet. “I never had the company of a wise man,” he said sobbing.

“Only of other robbers like me, or of policemen interested in condemning me. If Akira spent the night with me, it’s because I am still worth something.”

And from that day on, that man never committed a crime again.

Violence against women

I, myself, my family, we never directly experienced violence against women but this doesn’t mean I’m blind to it. I have friends affected by it, I meet people affected by it, and it’s not that they can’t complain, but that they’re ashamed of it.

You cannot just close your eyes because you don’t see it, when you know that it exists, even perhaps next door. Victim or not, you have to do something. So I accepted the offer from the UN to be part of this.

I do it by telling stories. Using the Internet in order to change the situation, fighting against violence against women is for me sharing what I have and others don’t – a life of peace and no violence – in order to help them to finally have it.

There is no gender difference for this kind of fight. We are human beings. And as human beings, you have to stand up against any kind of violence. Otherwise, what is the meaning of being alive?

Men should be more aware of the problems women face. Breast cancer is a women’s disease but we should be aware of it.
Unfortunately, in our world controlled by men, awareness is too low. Things have to change and what’s better for that than the UN, a global, non-profit organization that promotes peace and a better life for human beings. That’s why I’m part of this group and again, I’m proud to be part of it.

As much as I can use my popularity to raise awareness, awareness and action, I will.

El Greco and the light

On a pleasant spring afternoon, a friend went to visit the painter El Greco. To his surprise, he found him in his atelier with all curtains drawn.

Greco was working on a painting which had the Virgin Mary as the central theme, using only a candle to illuminate the environment.

Surprised, the friend said: “I have always heard that painters like the sun in order to choose well the colours they will use. Why don’t you open the curtains?”

“Not now,” answered El Greco. “It would disturb the brilliant fire of inspiration that is burning in my soul and filling with light everything around me.”

In the Tokyo underground

Terry Dobson was riding on the Tokyo underground when a drunk boarded the train and began to offend all the passengers.

Dobson, who had studied martial arts for some years, confronted## the man.

“What do you want?” asked the drunk.

Dobson prepared to attack him. Just at that moment an old man sitting on another bench shouted out: “Hey!”

“I’m going to beat up this foreigner, then I’ll get to you!” said the drunk.

“I like to have a drink too,” said the old man. “Every afternoon I sit down with my wife and we drink saké. Do you have a wife?”

A bit puzzled, the drunkard answered: “I don’t have a wife, I don’t have anyone. All I have is shame for myself.”

The old man asked the drunk to sit down beside him. When Dobson got off the train the man was in tears.

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Saint Joseph’s Day

St joseph

St joseph
As I do every year, today we are going to celebrate (this time in Santiago de Compostela, Spain) the day of my patron, Saint Joseph. Together with 120 friends, we will say the prayer below at 8:30 PM. Be welcome to join us!

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.

 
 

1 MIN READ: improving your method…

An old hunter of foxes, considered to be the best in the region, decided finally to retire. He gathered together his belongings and resolved to set off for the south of the country, where the climate was milder.
However, before he could finish packing up his things, he received a visit from a young man.

‘I would like to learn your techniques,’ said the newcomer. ‘In exchange, I will buy your shop, your hunting license, and I will also pay you for all your secrets.’

The old man agreed, they signed a contract and he taught the young man all the secrets of fox-hunting. With the money he received, he bought a beautiful house in the south, where the climate was so mild that not once during the whole winter did he have to worry about gathering wood for the fire.

In the spring, though, he felt nostalgic for his own village and decided to go back and see his friends.
When he arrived, he bumped into the young man who, some months before, had paid him a fortune for his secrets.

‘So,’ the old hunter said, ‘how was the hunting season?’

‘I didn’t catch a single fox.’

The old man was surprised and confused.
‘Didn’t you follow my advice?’

With eyes downcast, the young man replied:

‘Well, to be honest, no, I didn’t. I thought your methods were out of date and I ended up discovering for myself a better way of hunting foxes.’

In the place desired

C. Martins comes over to serve our table in a café in San Diego, California. I met Cláudia in Brazil four years ago, and I tell my friends about the life she leads in the United States, getting only three hours sleep a day, working at the café until late at night and then as a baby-sitter during the whole day.

“I don’t know how she can stand it,” someone says.

“There is a Buddhist tale about a turtle,” says an Argentinian at our table. “The turtle is moving through a swamp, covered in mud, when it passes in front of a temple. There it sees a turtle shell, all covered in gold and precious stones.

“I don’t envy you, old friend,” thought the turtle. “You’re covered in jewels, but I’m doing what I want to.”

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Intercultural dialogue

UN News Centre: Why are you so committed to intercultural dialogue… with your readers and through your work with the UN?

Paulo Coelho:
It is because of my personal history. I lived in a dictatorship in Brazil and I was arrested three times. I felt in my flesh what it is to live under such a regime and experience deprivation of freedom.
When I realized my books were being read around the world – currently over 180 millions copies have been sold, and each book is read by an average of three people – I felt if I can share stories that touch the hearts of so many different people, then I can in some way collaborate to make improvements in this world. Each of those readers has a different background, from Iran, Israel, Iraq, Kurdistan, South Africa…but there is still a cultural bridge.

I think all people have the same question. At the end of the day we are all asking this classic and common question: what am I doing here?
Probably we don’t have the same answer. But if we have the same question, we can understand each other.

Culture makes people understand each other better. And if they understand each other better in their soul, it is easier to overcome the economic and political barriers. But first they have to understand that their neighbours are, in the end, just like them, with the same problems, the same questions. People have to understand that their neighbours are not different even if they have a different religion, different sociological background.
At this moment, I don’t see too much hope in political dialogue. But I see a lot of hope in cultural dialogue.

On the Jewish Day of Pardon

On the day of Yom Kippur, Rabbi Elimelekh of Lisensk took his disciples to a bricklayer’s workshop.
“Notice how this man behaves,” he said. “Because he manages to communicate well with the Lord.”

Without noticing that he was being observed, the bricklayer ended his work and went to the window. He took two pieces of paper from his pocket and raised them to the sky, saying:

“Lord, on one paper I have written the list of my sins. I have erred and there is no reason for me to hide that I offended You several times.
“But on the other paper is the list of Your sins towards me. You have demanded of me more than what is necessary, brought me difficult moments, and made me suffer.

“If we compare the two lists, You are in debt towards me. But since today is the Day of Pardon, You pardon me, I pardon You, and we shall continue on our path together for another year.”

12 steps to fulfillment

When Joseph Campbell, today’s most famous scholar of mythology (and author of the excellent “The Power of Myth”) 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.

The universe conspires

There is sometimes a bit of confusion in regards to a passage of my book The Alchemist “When you really want something, the world conspires to make a dream come true”.

Mind you, some people don’t truly want something or sometimes want things that in the end won’t truly help them. The Universe is a merely and echo of our desires, may they be constructive or destructive ones.

One has also to keep in mind the difference between dream and obsession, which is the same difference that lies between personal legend and zahir. When you follow your the personal legend, you walk your path and learn from it. The objective doesn’t blind you to the road that takes you there. In the other hand obsession is what prevents you from admiring the teachings of life. It’s like trying to get to your objective without passing through the challenges.

I realized that despite the fear and the bruises of life, one has to keep on fighting for one’s dream. As Borges said in his writings “there no other virtue than being brave”. And one has to understand that braveness is not the absence of fear but rather the strength to keep on going forward despite the fear.

On the art of the sword – Finding the right master

Many centuries ago, in the days of the samurais, a text was written in Japan on the spiritual art of wielding the sword: “Impassive comprehension”, also known as “The Treatise of Tahlan”, the name of the author (a fencing master and Zen monk). Below are an extract that I have adapted:

Our path will always cross that of many others who for love or pride wish to teach us something. How can we tell the friend apart from the manipulator?

“The answer is simple: the true master is not the one who teaches an ideal path but rather he who shows his pupil the many ways that lead to the road that must be travelled to reach the destination.

“As of the moment that you find this road, the master can no longer help you, because your challenges are unique.

If we fail to understand this item, we will never get anywhere.

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Explaining God – Beginning at the beginning

It’s no use asking for explanations about God. You might hear lovely words, but deep down they are all empty phrases. Just as you can read a whole encyclopedia about love and not know what it is to love.

No-one is ever going to manage to prove that God exists, or that he doesn’t exist. Certain things in life were made to be experienced, but never explained.

One of these things is love. God – who is love – is another. Faith is a childish experience, in that magical sense that Jesus taught us: “The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the children.”
The Arabian story that follows speaks of how innocent the search is:

Beginning at the beginning

A man asked al-Husayn:

– What do I have to do to be closer to God?

– Tell Him a secret. And don’t let anyone in the world know what the secret is. In that way a bond of trust will be established with the Divine.

But the man went on:

– Only that will help me get closer?

– Establish a firm relation at the start of your spiritual journey. Pray. It’s also important to have will power. And if it’s possible to enjoy a little solitude, all the better.

– But how do I reach the ideal stage of communicating with Him?

– I have already explained all that you need – said al-Husayn. – But you want to reach the end before you even begin, and that is just not possible.

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Bhagavad Gita (Chapter II, 16-26)

:
“Man is not born, nor does he ever die. For ever he tries to exist, he will never stop doing this, because this is eternal and permanent.”

“Just as a man casts off his old clothes and starts to wear new ones, the soul casts off the old body and takes on a new one.”

“But the soul is indestructible; spades cannot cut it down, fire does not burn it, water does not wet it, and the wind never dries it. The soul is beyond the power of all such things.”

“As man is indestructible, he is always victorious (even in his defeats), and therefore should never have regrets.”

The right speed

 

A warrior of the light needs patience and speed at the same time. The two greatest faults of a strategy are: acting too soon, or allowing an opportunity to slip too far away.

In order to avoid this, the warrior deals with each situation as if it were unique, and does not apply formulas, paradigms or the opinions of others.

Caliph Moauiyat once asked Omr Ben Al-Aas what was the secret of his great political skills:

“I never became involved in anything, without first studying a retreat; conversely, I have never embarked on something and wanted to abandon it immediately,” was his reply.

 

(from “The Warrior of the Light: a manual” )

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The art of retreat

By Paulo Coelho

A warrior of the light who trusts too much in his intelligence ends up under-estimating the power of the adversary.

One must not forget: there are moments when strength is more effective than sagacity. And when we find ourselves faced with a certain kind of violence, no brilliance, argument, intelligence or charm can prevent tragedy.

That is why the warrior never under-estimates brute force. When it is irrationally aggressive, he retreats from the battle field until the enemy has spent his energy.

However, let it be made quite clear: a warrior of the light is never cowardly. Flight can be an excellent art of defense but it cannot be used when there is great fear.

In the face of any doubt, the warrior prefers to accept defeat and take care of his wounds, because he knows that if he flees he will be giving the attacker a greater power than he deserves.

He can cure physical suffering but he will be eternally persecuted for his spiritual weakness. In some difficult and painful moments, the warrior faces a situation of disadvantage with heroism, resignation and courage.

To achieve the necessary state of mind (since he is entering the fight at a disadvantage and may suffer a lot), the warrior has to understand exactly what can cause him harm. Okakura Kakuso comments in his book on the Japanese tea ritual:

“We look at the evil of others because we know evil through our own behavior. We never forgive those who injure us because we believe that we would never be forgiven. We tell painful truth to our neighbor because we want to hide it from ourselves. We show our strength so that no-one can see our fragility.”

“That is why, whenever you are judging your brother, know that it you who are on trial.”

Sometimes this knowledge can prevent a fight that will only bring disadvantages. However, at other times there is no way out, only an unequal fight.

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Question by Ruth

In your novels, you transmit a wonderful magical world, full of spirituality and goodness, and you insist that goodness is not limited to a place, religion or group. How did you reach this conclusion, especially with all that you went through earlier in your life?

The cost is always high but worth it. If I look back at my life – which in this moment I am “obliged” to look at since a biography about my lyricist days just came out in Brazil and soon another will come out by the end of the year – I see many occasions where society tried to make me conform to “normality”. This resulted in three hospitalizations in an asylum when I was a teenager (which I describe in my book Veronika decides to die), torture when I was a young adult by the hands of the paramilitaries, and many defeats. You could look at these experiences and say “Paulo’s life is tragic” but I don’t see it that way. What I do see is someone trying to remain true to oneself. Yes there is a price but I believe that life tends to be very generous to those that are brave enough to take these risks. In a word, I’ve always had faith in life.

Dieting already?

One of Brazil’s great philosophers, Tim Maia, once said: “I decided to go on a strict diet. I cut out alcohol, all fats and sugar. In two weeks I lost 14 days”.

The worst of it all is that at each and every moment there appears a new way to lose weight: eating calories, then not eating calories, compulsively consuming fats, then avoiding fats at any price. We step inside a pharmacy and are visually assaulted by all sorts of miraculous products that promise to do away with our desire to eat, with our fat tissue, with our belly, and so on.

We have survived all these millennia because we could eat. And nowadays this seems to have turned into a curse. Why is that? What makes us try at the age of 40 to keep the same body we had when we were young? Will it ever be at all possible to stop this dimension of time?

Of course not. And so why do we need to be slim?

We don’t. We buy books, go to the gym, devote a great deal of our concentration trying to stop time, when we ought to be celebrating the miracle of living in this world. Instead of wondering how to live better, we are obsessed with how much we weigh.

Let’s forget all that; you can read all the books you want, do all the exercise you want, suffer all the punishment you decide to inflict on yourself, and you will have only two choices – you either stop living, or else you will get fat.

It is obvious that you have to eat moderately, but above all you have to take pleasure in eating. Jesus Christ said that: “evil is not what goes into man’s mouth, but rather what comes out of it”.

Remember that for thousands of years we fought to avoid being hungry. Who invented this story that we have to spend our whole life being slim?

Let me give you the answer: the vampires of the soul, who think that it is possible to stop the wheel of time. It is not possible. Use the energy and the effort of a diet to feed yourself with the bread of the spirit, and go on enjoying (moderately, let me repeat) the pleasures of good eating.

While millions of people the world over are hungry, we see people provoking this other obsession because at some moment or other somebody decides that being slim is the only option for regaining youth and beauty.

Instead of artificially burning those calories, we should try to turn them into the energy we need to fight for our dreams; no-one has ever stayed slim for long just by following a diet.

Gestalt: Four People & Middle column

A gestalt has two or more parts (like figure and ground) that are so integrated together that we perceive them as one object. Think of teaching “the whole child,” and you have the idea behind gestalt.

The perception of oneness from many is the basis of gestalt. It derived from the 1890 German philosophy of Gestaltqualität, meaning “form or shape,” which explored the idea of perception. For example, a picture might have several separate parts that work together to form one perceived image. The area of gestalt psychology developed in 1912, focusing on the various aspects of a person and how they combine into a whole that affects that person’s relationship with his or her environment.

A warrior does not rely on strength alone

A warrior of light does not rely on strength alone, he makes use of his opponent’s energy too.

When he enters the fight, all he has is his enthusiasm and the moves and strikes that he learned during his training. As the fight progresses, he discovers that enthusiasm and training are not enough to win: what counts is experience.
Then he opens his heart to the Universe and asks God to give him the inspiration he needs to turn every blow from his enemy into a lesson in self-defence.
His companions say: ‘He’s so superstitious. He stopped fighting in order to pray; he even shows respect for his opponent’s tricks.’
The warrior does not respond to these provocations.

He knows that without inspiration and experience, no amount of training will help him.

(from my book “Warrior of the Light, a Manual” )