The duck and the cat

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“How did you start your spiritual life?” asked one of the Sufi master Shams Tabrizi’s disciples.

“My mother used to say that I was neither crazy enough to check in into a mad house nor saintly enough to enter a monastery,” Tabrizi answered.

“So I decided to devote myself to Sufism, where we learn through free meditation.”

“And how did you explain it to your mother?”

“With the following fable: someone entrusted a little cat to take care of a duck. The duck followed his adoptive mother everywhere until the day both of them reached a lake. Immediately, the duck plunged into the water while the cat yelled at the border: ‘get out of there! You’ll drown!’”

“And the little duck answered: ‘no, mommy, I discovered what is good for me and I can tell I am in my environment. I will stay here even if you don’t know what a lake means.’”

Inner and outer values

Abu Muhammad al-Jurayry used to say: “Religion has treasures that enrich us. There are five inner and five outer treasures we should strive for. All of those who follow the spiritual path must be aware of them.”

“These are the inner treasures: own the ability to be truthful, exercise detachment from our possessions, display humbleness in appearance and strive for both, balance to avoid disagreements and strength to react to them.”

“And these are the outer treasures: discover a supreme Love, be intelligent to see our own flaws, be conscious of everything that happens in life and be grateful for the received blessings.”

A conversation with the author of The Spy

In the form of a letter, Paulo Coelho’s 2016 novel, The Spy, tells the unforgettable story of a woman who dared to break the conventions of her time, and paid the price. Here he answers some questions about the inspiration behind telling this story, and discovering the voice of the famed French dancer, Mata Hari.

Who was Mata Hari, and why did you choose her as the subject for your new novel?
Mata Hari was one of the icons of the hippie generation – the bad girl, the different, the stranger, wearing all those fancy dresses – and we were all fascinated by her. Forty years later, I was having din­ner here in Geneva, Switzerland with my lawyer, and he mentioned the many cases of innocent people who were condemned to death during World War I, which we are only learning about now because they are declassifying many wartime documents. Mata Hari was only one of his examples, but because she had always interested me, I did some quick research online when I got home.

This research led me to a lot of these documents, and to more and more information about her. The next day I bought some books and spent my weekend compulsively reading anything about Mata Hari. I did not know then that I was (sort of) doing research for a book; I only realized it when I decided, as an exercise of imagination, to put myself in her shoes.

How did you research her life and that era? What did you find most surprising about her life?
The most surprising thing is how a woman who had been abused till she was twenty could overcome this situation and become who she became. As for the Belle Époque Paris, it was an era of ‘everything is possible.’ I was very intrigued by it, and I worked to keep the book centered in its main character. The tendency of a writer is to describe too much. I give an idea about her era, and I try to situate the reader without overloading them with information.

At the end of the book, you say that you stuck to many of the facts. Where did you stray from the historical record, and why?

The facts in the book are correct, the historical track is correct, but I did put myself in the shoes of someone else. It is hard to say ‘where did I stray?’ in my imagining of Mata Hari’s final letter. But I be­lieve I was very, very close to what she was thinking. About two months ago, a museum in the Nether­lands made public some new letters of Mata Hari, which she wrote in Holland, before she went to Java. One reviewer said that it was as if I had ‘channeled’ her.

Why did you choose to make this an epistolary novel?

When you write a letter, it gives you the opportunity to describe your own life to someone who is seeing it from the outside.

How did it feel to write from Mata Hari’s perspective?

She became my companion, night and day, while I was reading about her era. And I began to under­stand how, being who she was, she would justify her attitude.

Mata Hari was something of a celebrity, gaining fame as a femme fatale. She created her celebrity using both talent and lies. What are the lessons we can learn from this complicated woman?

That 1) every dream has a price; 2) when you dare to be different, be ready to be attacked; 3) even when you face a hostile (masculine) world, you can find a way to circumvent this.

What led to her execution by firing squad? Can you imagine a different outcome for her life?

I never speculate about ‘if’ or about what could or could not be. She fulfilled her destiny, and that is what counts.

Destiny’s Road to Heal

by Nuggets from books

Portuguese novel or international writing? Defying cultural paradigms, through his allegorical novel – The AlchemistPaulo Coelho brings in the front line the most disturbing and challenging topic that concern humanity: destiny.

  1. The concept: The wisdom of simplicity.

The simplest things in life are the most extraordinary and that only wise man are able to understand them”.

  1. The concept: The inevitability of fate, the world’s greatest lie

That at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate”.

  1. The concept: The soul of the universe

          “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.

  1. The concept: The crossroad of thinking

He realized that he had to choose between thinking of himself as the poor victim of a thief and as an adventurer in quest of his treasure. “

5. The concept: The power of a dream

When someone makes a decision, he is really driving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision” 

6. The concept: The desert’s lesson

The desert is so huge, and the horizon so distant, that they make a person feel small, and as if he should remain silent.” 

  1. The concept: The language of the heart

He learned the most important part of the language that all the world spoke – the language that everyone on earth was capable of understanding in their heart. It was love.” 

  1. The concept: The Arab alchemist

There is only one way to learn,” the alchemist answered. “It’s through action. Everything you need to know you have learned through your journey”

  1. The concept: Like the wind

“Because it’s not love to be static like the desert, nor is it love to roam the world like the wind.” 

  1. The concept: The treasure

He had to choose between something he had become accustomed to and something he wanted to have”

In 1987 Paulo Coelho wrote The Alchemist in only two weeks. The story was already written in his soul – he said.

This will be the feeling that you will probably may have during reading this book. You’ll have the strange but pleasant sensation that you are not reading it with your eyes. That you are reading it more with your heart.

The hope and the boldness will guide your mind through a whole new perspective over the life, over dreaming to achieve what you really want for yourself.

 

Viva N. Sra de Fátima!

apparitions_fatima_13

On May 13, 1917, the children purportedly saw a lady “brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal goblet filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun”. The woman wore a white mantle edged with gold and held a rosary in her hand. She asked them to devote themselves to the Holy Trinity and to pray “the Rosary every day, to bring peace to the world and an end to the war”.[3] While they had never spoken to anyone about the angel, Jacinta divulged her sightings to her family despite Lucia’s admonition to keep this experience private. Her disbelieving mother told neighbors as a joke, and within a day the whole village knew.

The children said that they had been bidden to return to the Cova da Iria on the thirteenth of the following month. Lucia’s mother sought counsel from the parish priest, Father Ferriera, who suggested she allow them to go and bring Lucia to him afterward that he might question her. The second appearance occurred on June 13, the feast of St. Anthony, patron of the local parish church. On this occasion the lady revealed that Francisco and Jacinta would be taken to Heaven soon but Lucia would live longer in order to spread her message and devotion to the Immaculate Heart.[3] As the account of this meeting was written after the deaths of Francisco and Jacinta, it may be an instance of retrospective prophecy.

At this same visit, the lady told them to say the Rosary daily in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary to obtain peace and the end of the war. (Three months earlier, on April 21, the first contingent of Portuguese soldiers had embarked for the front lines.) The lady also allegedly revealed to the children a vision of hell, and entrusted to them a secret, “that was good for some and bad for others”. Ferreira later stated that Lucia told him that the lady told her, “I want you to come back on the thirteenth and to learn to read in order to understand what I want of you. …I don’t want more.”

Thousands of people flocked to Fátima and Aljustrel in the following months, drawn by reports of visions and miracles. On August 13, 1917, the provincial administrator Artur Santos[7] (no relation to Lúcia Santos), believing that the events were politically disruptive, intercepted and jailed the children before they could reach the Cova da Iria. The administrator interrogated and threatened the children to get them to divulge the contents of the secrets. Maria’s mother hoped the officials could persuade the children to end the affair and admit that they had lied.[5] Lúcia told him everything short of the secrets, and offered to ask the Lady for permission to tell the Administrator the secrets. That month, instead of the usual apparition in the Cova da Iria on the 13th, the children reported that they saw the Virgin Mary on 15 August, the Feast of the Assumption, at nearby Valinhos.

The three children claimed to have experienced in total six apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary between May 13 and October 13, 1917.

John Paul II credited Our Lady of Fátima with saving his life following an assassination attempt on the Feast of Our Lady of Fátima, 1981. He donated the bullet that wounded him to the Roman Catholic sanctuary at Fátima, Portugal and it was placed in the crown of the Virgin’s statue.

Mindfulness Meditation

(by Curejoy)

We often hear people complaining about their unsuccessful attempts at meditation. That’s most often because there is a misconception that meditation involves thoughtlessness; they are trying to quell the thoughts while meditating. Mindfulness is not thinking, interpreting or evaluating. It is mind’s nonjudgmental way of observing the things that happen around it.

Here’s how you do mindfulness meditation:

  1. The first and foremost thing to do is to choose an ideal location for meditation. Choose a spot where you are least likely to be disturbed.
  2. Equally important is the time you choose to meditate. Find a quiet time. Start with 5 to 10 minutes of practice, gradually increasing the duration as you get comfortable with the practice.
  3. Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight. You can even take the support of a wall or a pillow to prop your back up if you are not used to sitting upright for long.
  4. Close your eyes and focus on your breath; pay attention to your inhalations and exhalations. Alternatively, you can chant a mantra and focus on it instead of your breath.
  5. It is natural for thoughts to come and affect your concentration. Let the thoughts flow; observe them in a nonjudgmental way without dwelling on them. Label them “thoughts” and let them go. When your focus shifts, bring your mind back to your breath.
  6. Observe the smells, sounds, and sensations around. Label them “smell”, “sound”, etc and passively observe them without indulging in them or the thoughts around them.
  7. Slowly move your attention to subtle body sensations like tingling, itching and let them pass. Similarly, observe your body sensations from head to toe.
  8. It is natural for emotions to interfere. Simply observe these emotions without judging them. Name the emotions as “happy”, “crazy”, etc in a relaxed manner. At any time your focus shifts, bring your mind back to your breath.
  9. Stay with the practice as long as you can. Slowly increase the duration as you get comfortable with it.

Conversations with my master – The mystery

By Paulo Coelho Capture

(from my notebook, August 1982)

– What are we doing on Earth?

– Truly? I don’t know. I have looked in many corners, in light and dark places; today, I am convinced that no one knows – Only God.

– That is not a good answer, for a master.

– It is an honest answer. I know many people who will explain to you in great detail, the meaning of our existence. Don’t believe them, these people are tied to an ancient language, and only believe in things which have an explanation.

– Does that mean there is no reason to live?

– You do not understand what I am saying. I said I don’t know the reason. But of course there is a reason we are here, and God knows it.

– Why doesn’t he reveal it to us?

– He reveals it to each of us, but in a language we often do not accept, because it has no logic – and we are too accustomed to directions and formulas.

“Our heart knows why we are here. Whoever listens to his heart, follows the signs, and lives his Personal Legend, will understand that he is taking part in something, even if he doesn’t comprehend it rationally. There is a tradition which says that, the second before our death, we realize the true reason for our existence. And at that moment, Hell and Heaven are born.

– I don’t understand.

– During this split second, Hell is to look back and know that we wasted an opportunity to honor God and dignify the miracle of life. Heaven, at that moment, is to be able to say: “I made some mistakes, but I was not a coward: I lived my life, and did what I had to do.” Both Hell and Heaven will accompany us for a long time, but not forever.

– How can I know that I am living my life?

– Because, instead of bitterness, you feel enthusiasm. That is the only difference. Apart from that, one must respect the Mystery, and humbly accept that God has a plan for us. A generous plan, which leads us towards His presence, and which justifies these millions of stars, planets, black holes, etc. which we see tonight, here in Oslo (we were in Norway) .

– It is very difficult to live without an explanation.

– Can you explain why man needs to give and receive love? No. And you live with that, don’t you? Not only do you live with it, but it is the most important thing in your life: love. And there is no explanation.

“In the same way, there is no explanation of life. But there is a reason we are here, and you must be humble enough to accept that. Trust what I say; the life of each human being has a meaning, although he commits the error of spending the greater part of his time on earth seeking an answer, and meanwhile forgets to live.

“I can give you an example from a time when I came close to understanding all this. I had arrived at a party to commemorate 50 years since my graduation from high school. There, at the school where I studied as a teenager, I found many friends. We drank, told the same jokes as half a century ago.

“At a certain moment, I looked out onto the schoolyard. There, I saw myself as a child, playing, looking at life with amazement and intensity. Suddenly, the child that I saw began to take form and came over to me.

“He looked at me and smiled. Then I understood that I hadn’t betrayed my youthful dreams. That the child I had once been was still proud of me. That the reason to live that I had as a child, was still alive in my heart.

“Try to live with the same intensity as a child. He doesn’t ask for explanations; he dives into each day as if it were a new adventure and, at night, sleeps tired and happy.”

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On roses

by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance (1841)

These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God to-day.
There is no time to them.
There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence.
Before a leaf-bud has burst, its whole life acts; in the full-blown flower there is no more; in the leafless root there is no less.

Its nature is satisfied, and it satisfies nature, in all moments alike.

But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future.
He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time.

Joining the spiritual path

Many emotions move the human heart when it decides to dedicate itself to the spiritual path.
This may be a “noble” reason – like faith, love of our neighbor, or charity.
Or it may be just a whim, the fear of loneliness, curiosity, or the fear of death.

None of that matters. The true spiritual path is stronger than the reasons that led us to it and little by little it imposes itself with love, discipline and dignity.
A moment arrives when we look backwards, remember the beginning of our journey, and laugh at ourselves. We have managed to grow, although we traveled the path for reasons that were very futile.

God uses loneliness to teach us about living together.
Sometimes he uses anger so that we can understand the infinite value of peace.
At other times he uses tedium, when he wants to show us the importance of adventure and leaving things behind.
God uses silence to teach us about the responsibility of what we say.
At times he uses fatigue so that we can understand the value of waking up.
At other times he uses sickness to show us the importance of health.
God uses fire to teach us about water.
Sometimes he uses earth so that we can understand the value of air. And at times he uses death when he wants to show us the importance of life

Remember this when for some reason you feel unable to continue on your path

Being merciless

I am wearing a strange green outfit, full of zips and made from a very tough fabric.

I have gloves on too in order to avoid cuts and scratches. I’m carrying a kind of spear, almost as tall as I am: the metal end has three prongs on one side and a sharp point on the other.

And before me lies the object of my attack: the garden. With the object in my hand, I start to remove the weeds growing among the grass. I do this for quite a while knowing that each plant I dig up will die within two days.
The soul is like a landscaped garden. Save it from the weeds

The soul is like a landscaped garden. Save it from the weeds

Suddenly, I ask myself: ‘Am I doing the right thing?’ What we call a ‘weed’ is, in fact, an attempt at survival by a particular species which took Nature millions of years to create and develop.

The flower was fertilised at the expense of innumerable insects, it was transformed into seed, the wind scattered it over the fields round about, and so, because it was not planted in just one place but in many, its chances of surviving until next spring are that much greater.

If it was concentrated in just one place, it would be vulnerable to being eaten, to flood, fire and drought. But all that effort to survive is brought up short by the point of a spear, which mercilessly plucks the plant from the soil.

Why am I doing this? Someone created this garden. I don’t know who, because when I bought the house, the garden was already here, in harmony with the surrounding mountains and trees.

But its creator must have thought long and hard about what he or she was doing, must have carefully planted and planned (for example, there is an avenue of trees that conceals the hut where we keep the firewood) and tended it through countless winters and springs.

When I moved into the old mill where I spend a few months of each year, the lawn was immaculate. Now it is up to me to continue that work, although the philosophical question remains: Should I respect the work of the creator, of the gardener, or should I accept the survival instinct with which nature endowed this plant that I now call a ‘weed’?

I continue digging up unwanted plants and placing them on a pile that will soon be burned. Perhaps I am giving too much thought to things that have less to do with thought and more to do with action.

But then, every gesture made by a human being is sacred and full of consequences, and that makes me think even more about what I am doing.

On one hand, these plants have the right to broadcast themselves everywhere. On the other, if I don’t destroy them now, they will end up choking the grass. In the New Testament, Jesus talks about separating the wheat from the tares.

But, with or without the support of the Bible, I am faced by a concrete problem always faced by humanity: How far should we interfere with Nature? Is such interference always negative, or can it occasionally be positive?

I set aside my weapon also known as a hoe. Each blow means the end of a life, the death of a flower that would have bloomed in the spring – such is the arrogance of the human being constantly trying to shape the landscape around him.

I need to give the matter more thought because I am, at this moment, wielding the power of life and death. The grass seems to be saying: ‘If you don’t protect me, that weed will destroy me.’

The weed also speaks to me: ‘I travelled so far to reach your garden; why do you want to kill me?’ In the end, the Bhagavad Gita comes to my aid. I remember the answer that Krishna gives to the warrior Arjuna, when the latter loses heart before a decisive battle, throws down his arms, and says it is not right to take part in a battle that will culminate in the death of his brothers.

Krishna says, more or less: ‘Do you really think you can kill anyone? Your hand is My hand, and it was already written that everything you are doing would be done. No one kills and no one dies.’

Encouraged by this recollection, I pick up my spear again, attack the weeds I did not invite to grow in my garden, and am left with this morning’s one lesson: When something undesirable grows in my soul, I ask God to give me the same courage mercilessly to tear it out

39 SEC READ: The natural order

Narusidin2A very wealthy man asked a Zen master for a text which would always remind him how happy he was with his family.

The Zen master took some parchment and, in beautiful calligraphy, wrote:

“The father dies. The son dies. The grandson dies.”

“What?” said the furious rich man. “I asked you for something to inspire me, some teaching which might be respectfully contemplated by future generations, and you give me something as depressing and gloomy as these words?”

“You asked me for something which would remind you of the happiness of living together with your family.

“If your son dies first, everyone will be devastated by the pain. If your grandson dies, it would be an unbearable experience.

“However, if your family disappears in the order which I placed on the paper, this is the natural course of life.

“Thus, although we all endure moments of pain, the generations will continue, and your legacy will last.” –

 

(illustration: Ken Crane)

5 tips to defeat cynicism

(excerpts from a post in The Daily Mind)

The Oxford English Dictionary defines cynicism in a very enlightening way: “…a disposition to disbelieve in the sincerity or goodness of human motives and actions…”

The main thing to notice about the definition is the presence of negativity. A cynical person will almost always choose to doubt, disbelieve or discredit, even when there is no logical reason to do so.

So why do people think and behave like this? There are many schools of thought on the matter – some regard cynicism as a personal defense mechanism whereby people prevent themselves from opening up to love and friendship for fear of being hurt. Others say it comes about due to a traumatic event that occurred in childhood and caused a person to “close up”.

Here are some super simple things you can do to get yourself on the path of positive thinking and away from those habits of cynicism:

1. Recognize the problem
As with all problems the first step is in the recognizing. Some people go their whole lives not realizing that they are horrible people with miserly outlooks and cynical views of the world. Thank yourself lucky that you have had the good fortune to recognize the problem and do something about it. This is the first step.

2. Recognize each cynical thought
Once you have realized that you can be a cynic the task is to start realizing it more often. Think of this as a bit of a mindfulness meditation. The idea is to become attuned to your own mind and thoughts and start to become aware of every cynical thought that you have.

3. Use logic to debate the cynicism

Logic is a wonderful thing. Logic allows you to overcome destructive emotions and other negative things in your life. Why? Because 99% of the time the reason for your depression, anxiety, hatred or other negative feeling is illogical. If you debate the negative feeling using logic you will often find that the negative feeling gets weaker.

4. Make a definitive choice to be positive
Everything good in life comes from a choice. When you make a choice to do something you do everything that you can to make that thing come about.

5. Focus on people’s qualities
The last method I want to give you is the one that has worked the best for me. It is the simple art of choosing to look at people’s qualities instead of their negative attributes.

if you are a cynical person and you find that you have no friends, a bad job, poor social life and are generally unhappy then you could conclude that the results of your cynicism were bad. This is the type to avoid. If, however, you find that your cynicism helps you to avoid trouble then you can conclude that it is a good type.
Make sure you learn the difference.

In search of my island – Part 2

Paulo Coelho

[continuation of the previous post]

Shaken by these alarming thoughts, I find a strength and a courage I didn’t know I had: they help me to venture into an unknown part of my soul. I let myself be swept along by the current and finally anchor my boat at the island I was being carried towards. I spend days and nights describing what I see, wondering why I’m doing this, telling myself that it’s really not worth the pain and the effort, that I don’t need to prove anything to anyone, that I’ve got what I wanted and far more than I ever dreamed of having.

I notice that I go through the same process as I did when writing my first book: I wake up at nine o’clock in the morning, ready to sit down at my computer immediately after breakfast; then I read the newspapers, go for a walk, visit the nearest bar for a chat, come home, look at the computer, discover that I need to make several phone calls, look at the computer again, by which time lunch is ready, and I sit eating and thinking that I really ought to have started writing at eleven o’clock, but that now I need a nap; I wake at five in the afternoon, finally turn on the computer, go to check my e-mails, then remember that I’ve destroyed my Internet connection; I could go to a place ten minutes away where I can get on-line, but couldn’t I, just to free my conscience from these feelings of guilt, couldn’t I at least write for half an hour?

I begin out of a feeling of duty, but suddenly “the thing” takes hold of me and I can’t stop. The maid calls me for supper and I ask her not to interrupt me; an hour later, she calls me again; I’m hungry, but I must write just one more line, one more sentence, one more page. By the time I sit down at the table, the food is cold, I gobble it down and go back to the computer – I am no longer in control of where I place my feet, the island is being revealed to me, I am being propelled along its paths, finding things I have never even thought or dreamed of. I drink a cup of coffee, and another, and at two o’clock in the morning I finally stop writing, because my eyes are tired.

I go to bed, spend another hour making notes of things to use in the next paragraph and which always prove completely useless – they serve only to empty my mind so that sleep can come. I promise myself that the next morning, I’ll start at eleven o’clock prompt. And the following day, the same thing happens – the walk, the conversations, lunch, a nap, the feelings of guilt, then irritation at myself for destroying the Internet connection, until, at last, I make myself sit down and write the first page…

[…]

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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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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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