Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Like the Flowing River by Paulo Coelho (Part 6)

A boy was watching his grandmother write a letter. At one point, he asked:
"Are you writing a story about what we've done? Is it a story about me?"

His grandmother stopped writing her letter and said to her grandson:
"I am writing about you, actually, but more important than the words is the pencil I'm using. I hope you will be like this pencil when you grow up."

Intrigued, the boy looked at the pencil. It didn't seem very special.
"But it's just like any other pencil I've ever seen."

"That depends on how you look at things. It has five qualities which, if you manage to hang on to them, will make you a person who is always at peace with the world.

"First Quality: you are capable of great things, but you must never forget that there is a hand guiding your steps. We call that hand God, and He always guides us according to His will.

"Second Quality: now and then, I have to stop writing and use a sharpener. That makes the pencil suffer a little, but afterwards, he's much sharper. So you, too, must learn to bear certain pains and sorrows, because they will make you a better person.

"Third Quality: the pencil always allows us to use an eraser to rub out any mistakes. This means that correcting something we did is not necessarily a bad thing; it helps to keep us on the road to justice.

"Fourth Quality: what really matters in a pencil is not its wooden exterior, but the graphite inside. So always pay attention to what is happening inside you.

"Finally, the pencil's Fifth Quality: it always leaves a mark. In just the same way, you should know that everything you do in life will leave a mark, so try to be conscious of that in your every action."

Paulo Coelho
Like The Flowing River (page 10-11)
HarperCollinsPublishers, London


This is a fantastic book by Paulo Coelho. I recommend those who loves philosophy and humanity to spent time reading this book.

Like The Flowing River is an intimate collection of Paulo Coelho's reflection and short stories. The stories relates to the philosophy of life, our destiny and choices, of love and his thoughts and reflections that explores the journey of life in search of its true meanings.

Other good books from Paulo Coelho are: The Alchemist, The Pilgrimage, Eleven Minutes and The Zahir. Some of the other books that did not interest me are: The Fifth Mountain, Veronika Decides to Die, The Devil and Miss Prym, Manual of the Warrior of Light, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept and Valkyries.

I have yet to read "The Witch of Portobello" which I bought on 14th September 2007. I will finish it by this week.


The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin S. Sharma

Peter was a very lively little boy. Everyone loved him: his family, his teachers and his friends. But he did have one weakness. Peter could never live in the moment. He had not learned to enjoy the process of life.

When he was in school, he dreamed of being outside playing. When he was outside playing he dreamed of his summer vacation.

Peter constantly daydreamed, never taking the time to savor the special moments that filled his days.

One morning, Peter was out walking in a forest near his home. Feeling tired, he decided to rest on a patch of grass and eventually dozed off. After only a few minutes of deep sleep, he heard someone calling his name. 'Peter! Peter!' came the shrill voices from above. As he slowly opened his eyes, he was startled to see a striking woman standing above him. She must have been over a hundred years old and her snow-white hair dangled well below her shoulders like a matted blanket of wool. In this woman's wrinkled hand was a magical little ball with a hole in the centre and out of the hole dangled a long, golden thread.

'Peter,' she said, 'this is the thread of your life. If you pull the thread just a bit, an hour will pass in seconds. If you pull a little harder, whole days will pass in minutes. And if you pull with all your might, months - even years - will pass by in days.'

Peter grew very excited at this discovery. 'I'd like to have it if I may?'

The elderly woman reached down and gave the ball with the magic thread to Peter.

The next day, Peter was sitting in the classroom feeling restless and bored. Suddenly, he remembered his new toy. As he pulled a little bit of the golden thread, he quickly found himself at home, playing in his garden. Realizing the power of the magic thread, Peter soon grew tired of being a schoolboy and longed to be a teenager, with all the excitement that phrase of life would bring. So, he pulled out the ball and pulled hard on the golden thread.

Suddenly he was a teenager with a very pretty young girlfriend name Elise. But Peter still wasn't content. He had never learned to enjoy the moment and to explore the simple wonders of every stage of life. Instead, he dreamed of being an adult. So again he pulled on the thread and many years whizzed by in an instant. Now he found that he had been transformed into a middle-aged adult.

Elise was now his wife and Peter was surrounded with a houseful of kids. But Peter also noticed something else. His once jet black hair had started to turn grey. And his once youthful mother whom he loved so dearly had grown old and frail.

Yet Peter still could not live in the moment. He had never learned to "live in the now." So, once again, he pulled on the magic thread and waited for the changes to appear.

Peter now found that he was a seventy-year-old man. His thick dark hair had turned white as snow and his beautiful young wife Elise had also grown old. His wonderful children had grown up and left home to lead lives of their own.

For the first time in his entire life, Peter realized that he had not taken the time to embrace the wonders of living. He had never gone fishing with his kids or taken a moonlight stroll with Elise. He had never planted a garden or read those wonderful books his mother had love to read. Instead he had hurried through life, never resting to see all that was good along the way.

Peter became very sad at this discovery. He decided to go out to the forest to look for the old woman who had given him the ball and the magic thread. But she was nowhere to be found.

"My whole life has passed before my eyes without giving me the chance to enjoy it. Sure, there would have been sad times as well as great times but I haven't had the chance to experience either. I had missed the gift of living."

Peter decides to "live in the now" from now onwards. He will now take whatever time is left tn this world to embrace the wonders of living.

Adapted from:
Robin S. Sharma's The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari


Like the Flowing River by Paulo Coelho (Part 5)

A missionary who, as soon as he arrived in Marrakesh (in Morocco), decided that he would go for a walk every morning in the desert that lay just outside the city.

The first time he did this, he noticed a Arab lying down, with his ear pressed to the ground and stroking the sand with one hand.

'He's obviously mad,' the missionary said to himself.

But the scene was repeated every day, and after a month, intrigued by this strange behavior, he decided to speak to the stranger. With great difficulty, since he was not yet fluent in Arabic, he knelt down by his side, "What are you doing?"

"I'm keeping the desert company and offering it consolation for its loneliness and its tears."

"I didn't know the desert was capable of tears."

"It weeps every day because it dreams of being useful to people, and of being transformed into a vast garden where they could grow cereal crops and flowers and graze sheep."

"Well, tell the desert that it is performing an important duty," said the missionary. "Whenever I walk in the desert, I understand man's true size, because we are compared with God. When I look at its sands, I imagine all the millions of people in the world who were born equal, even if the world has not always been fair to all of them. Its mountains helps me to meditate, and when I see the sun coming up over the horizon, my soul fills with joy and I feel closer to the Creator."

The missionary left the man and returned to his daily tasks. Imagine his surprise when, next morning, he found the man in the same place and in the same position.

"Did you tell the desert everything that I said?"

The man nodded.

"And it's still weeping?"

"I can hear every sob. Now it's weeping because it has spent thousands of years thinking that it was completely useless and wasted all the time blaspheming against God and its own fate."

"Well, tell the desert that even though we human beings have a much shorter lifespan, we also spend much of our time thinking we're useless. We rarely discover our true destiny, and feel that God has been unjust to us. When the moment finally comes, and something happens that reveals to us the reason we were born, we think it's too late to change our life and continue to suffer, and, like the desert, blame ourselves for the time we have wasted,"

"I don't know if the desert will hear that," said the man. "He's accustomed to pain, and can't see things any other way."

"Let's do what I always do when I sense that people have lost all hope. Let is pray."

The two men knelt and prayed. One turned towards Mecca because he was a Muslim, and the other put his hands together in prayer because he was a Catholic. They each prayed to their own God, who has always been the same God, even though people insist on calling him by different names.

The following day, when the missionary went for his usual morning walk, the man was no longer there. In the place where he used to embrace the earth, the sand seemed wet, for a small spring has started bubbling up there.

In the months that followed, the spring grew, and the inhabitants of the city built a well there.

The Bedouin call the place "The Well of the Desert's Tears".

They say that anyone who drinks from its water will find a way of transforming the reason for his suffering into the reason for his joy, and will end up finding his true destiny.


Extracted from the book, "Like The Flowing River" by Paulo Coelho.


Like the Flowing River by Paulo Coelho (Part 4)

The more we plan our steps, the more chance there is that we will go wrong, because we are failing to take into consideration four things:

1) Other people (2) Life's teaching (3) Passion, and (4) Calm.

The more we feel we are in control of things, the farther off we are from controlling anything. A threat does not issue any warning, and a swift reaction cannot be planned like a Sunday afternoon walk.

Do not allow your supposed experience of life to transform you into a machine.

Often what we call experience is merely the sum of our defeats. Thus we look ahead with the fear of someone who has already made a lot of mistakes in life and we lack the courage to take the next step.

Extracted from Paulo Coelho's book, "Like the Flowing River


Like the Flowing River by Paulo Coelho (Part 3)

A wise man moved to the city of Akbar. No one took much notice of him, and his teachings were not taken up by the populace. After a time, he became the object of their mockery and their ironic comments.

One day, while he was walking down the main street in Akbar, a group of men and women began insulting him. Instead of pretending that he had not noticed, the wise man turned to them and blessed them.

One of the men said:

"Are you deaf too? We call you the foulest of names and yet you respond with sweet words!"

"We can each of us only offer what we have," came the wise man's reply.


I have a lot to learn from this wise man. I will pray for courage and strength to apply this lesson in my life.


Story extracted from Paulo Coelho's book, Like the Flowing River


Like the Flowing River by Paulo Coelho (Part 2)

The Story of the prince of Thing-Zda

Around 250 BC, a certain handsome prince of the region of Thing-Zda was about to be crowned emperor; however, according to the law, he must first had to get married.

Since this meant choosing the future empress, the prince needed to find a young woman whom he could trust absolutely. On the advice of a wise man, he decided to summon all the young women of the region in order to find the most worthy candidate.

An old lady, who served as a servant in the palace for many years, heard about the preparations for this gathering and felt very sad, for her daughter nurtured a secret love for this prince.

When the old lady got home, she told her daughter and was horrified to learn that she intended going to the palace.

The old lady was desperate.

"But, daughter, what on earth will you do there? All the richest and most beautiful girls from the court will be present. It's a ridiculous idea! I know you must be suffering, but don't turn that suffering into madness.

And the daughter replied:

"My dear mother, I am not suffering and I certainly haven't gone mad. I know that I won't be chosen, but it's my only chance to spend at least a few moments close to the prince, and that makes me happy, even though I know that a quite different fate awaits me."

Second Chance: The story of Antonio

I was walking along the Gran Via when I saw a woman - petite, light-skinned, and well-dressed - begging money from passers-by. As I approached, she asked me for a few coins with which to buy a sandwich. I was used to beggars wearing very old, dirty clothes, and so I decided not to give her anything and walked on. The look she gave me, however, left me with a strange feeling.

I went to my hotel and suddenly felt an incomprehensible urge to go back and give her some money - I was on holiday, I had just had lunch, I had money in my pocket, and it must be terribly humiliating to have to beg in the street and to be stared at by everyone.

I went back to the place where I had seen her. She was no longer there; I searched the nearby streets, but could find no trace of her. the following day, I repeated this pilgrimage, again and again.

From that day on, I slept only fitfully. I returned to my country and told a friend about my experience. She said that I had failed tomake some very important connection and advised me to ask for God's help. I prayed, and seemed to hear a voice saying that I needed to find the beggar again. I kept waking up in the night sobbing. I realized that I could not go on like this, and so I scraped together enough money to buy a ticket back to Madrid in order to look for the beggar.

I began a seemingly endless search, to which I devoted myself entirely.

I had been back to Spain several times since, and I know that I will never meet the beggar again; but I did what my heart demanded.

Lessons Learned:

We may not get what we wanted but we are in control of what we can do, and the outcome is not for us to decide. If we had one chance, whatever the outcome it may be or what we may presumed, let's not lose that one chance, for we may not have another.

Adapted from Paulo Coelho's story in his book, Like the Flowing River


Like the Flowing River by Paulo Coelho (Part 1)

This was the conversation between a monk and Isabella.

Monk: "Did you know that bananas can teach you the meaning of life?"

The monk then took out a rotten banana from his bag and threw it away.

Monk: "That is the life that has been and gone, and which was not used to the full and for which it is now too late."

Then he drew another banana, which was still green.

Monk: "This is the life that has yet to happen, and for which we need to wait until the time is right."

Finally, he took out a ripe banana, peeled it, and shared it with Isabella.

Monk: "This is the present moment. learn how to gobble it up without fear or guilt."


Extracted from Paulo Coelho's book, Like the Flowing River


The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho

No one lights a lamp in order to hide it behind the door;

No one sacrifices the most important thing she possesses: Love;

No one places her dreams in the hands of those who might destroy them.

No one, that is, but Athena!


"If a man we don't know phones us up one day and talks a little, makes no suggestions, says nothing special, but nevertheless pays us the kind of attention we rarely receive, we're quite capable of going to bed with him that same night, feeling relatively in Love. That's what women are like, and there's nothing wrong with that - it's the nature of thje female to open herself to love easily."

--- Deidre O'Neill, doctor.


"... my heart struggled vainly not to allow itself to be seduced by a woman who don't belong to my world.

"I applauded when reason lost the battle, and all I could do was surrender and accept that I was in Love. That love led me to see things I'd never imagined could exist - rituals, materialization, trances. Believing that I was blinded by Love, I doubted everything, but doubt, far from paralyzing me, pushed me in the direction of oceans whose very existence I couldn't admit.

"I'm finally coming to accept that I was only a temporary inhabitant, there as a favor, like someone who finds himself in a beautiful mansion, eating exquisite food, aware that this is only a party, that the mansion belongs to someone else, that the food was bought by someone else, and that the time will come when the lights will go out, the owners will go to bed, the servants will return to their quarters, the door will close, and he'll be out in the street again, waiting for a taxi or a bus to restore him to the mediocrity of his everyday life.

"I'm going back, or rather, part of me is going back to the world where only what we can see, touch and explain makes sense.

"I also know that, at night, another part of me will remain wandering in space, in contact with things as real as ..."

---Heron Ryan, journalist


The above are just a few lines from the book "The Witch of Portobello", another great story book written by Paulo Coelho, and it is the kind of book that will transform the way readers think about Love, passion, joy and sacrifice.

The Witch of Portobello is a story of a girl by the name of Sherine Khalil who later changed her name to Athena, a mysterious young woman born in Romania, raised in Beirut and living in London. Her life is told by many who knew her well, or hardly at all.

For those reading enthusiasts who prefers to read a story that is structured from a beginning and expecting the last chapter to be the conclusive ending of a tale, then you would be disappointed, as the book is structured in which each chapter consists of a testimony or statements related by an individual who knew Athena, telling their personal experiences and knowledge of Athena.

My Rating: I prefer Coelho's Like the Flowing River, The Alchemist and The Pilgrimage. This book is somewhat similar in styles with Coelho's Eleven Minutes and Veronika Decides to Die.

Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho

Once upon a time, there was a bird. He was adorned with perfect wings and with glossy, colorful feathers. He was a creature made to fly about freely in the sky, bringing joy to everyone who saw him.

One day, a woman saw this bird and fell in love with him. She watched his flight, her mouth wide in amazement, her heart pounding, her eyes shining with excitement. She invited the bird to fly with her, and the two traveled across the sky in perfect harmony. She admired and venerated and celebrated that bird.

But then she thought: He might want to visit far-off mountains! And she was afraid that she would never feel the same way about the other bird. And she felt envy, envy for the bird's ability to fly.

And she felt alone.

And her thought: "I'm going top set a trap. The next time the bird appears, he will never leave again."

The bird, who was also in love, returned the following day, fell into the trap and was put in a cage.

She looked at the bird every day. There he was, the object of her passion, and she showed him to her friends, who said: "Now you have everything you could possibly want."

However, a strange transformation began to take place; now that she had the bird and no longer needed to woo him, she began to lose interest.

The bird, unable to fly and express the true meaning of his life, began to waste away and his feathers began to lose their gloss; he grew ugly; and the woman no longer paid any attention, except by feeding him and cleaning out his cage.

One day, the bird died. The woman felt terribly sad and spent all her time thinking about him. But she did not remember the cage, she thought only of the day when she had seen him for the first time, flying contently amongst the clouds.

If she had looked more deeply into herself, she would have realized that what had trilled her about the bird was his freedom, the energy of his wings in motion, not his physical body.

Without the bird, her life too lost all meaning, and Death came knocking at her door. "Why have you come?" she asked Death. "So that you can fly once more with him across the sky," Death replied.

"If you had allowed him to come and go, you would have loved and admired him even more; alas, you now need me in order to find him again."


The above are Extracted from the book:
Eleven Minutes

by Paulo Coelho.

Eleven Minutes tells a story of a young girl who falls in love at the age of eleven and discovered that sex actually only takes eleven minutes.

In her odyssey of self-discovery, the girl has to choose between pursuing a part of darkness, sexual pleasure for its own sake, or risking everything to find her own 'inner light' and the possibility of sacred sex, sex in the context of love.

In this gripping and daring novel, Coelho sensitively explores the sacred nature of sex and love.
Notable notes:

It is not time that changes man, nor knowledge; the only thing that can change someone's mind is love.

Perhaps love really could transform someone, but despair did the job more quickly.

In the search for happiness, however, we are all equal; none of us are happy.

"I have discovered the reason why a man pays for a woman; he wants to be happy."

Everyone needs to earn money, but not everyone chooses to live on the margins of society.

More Experience, Earn Less: Prostitution isn't like other businesses: Beginners earn more and more experienced earn less. Prices went down as the woman's age went up.

Customer Satisfaction / Quality Management: "When your client comes, you must always groan as if you were having an orgasm too. That guarantees customer loyalty." Buy Why? "They're paying for their own satisfaction." "A man doesn't prove he's a man until he is made to believed that he can pleasure a woman. And if he can pleasure a prostitute, he'll think he's the best lover on the block; and he will start to admire his dick."

Men are very strange: They can beat you up, shout at you, threaten you, and yet, they are scared to death of women really. Perhaps not the woman they married, but there's always one woman who frightens them and forces them to submit to her caprices.

Men are very strange: It was the woman who would have felt ashamed for being unable to arouse them, but, no, they always blame themselves. Perhaps not the woman they married, but always one woman who frightens them and forces them to submit to her caprices.

For a night? Now come on, you're exaggerating. It's really only 45 minutes, and if you allow time for taking off clothes, making some phoney gestures of affection, having a bit of banal conversation and getting dressed again, the amount of time spent actually having sex is about Eleven Minutes."

Eleven Minutes! The world revolved around something that only too Eleven Minutes. When the moment came to go to bed with someone, Eleven Minutes later it was all over.

Civilization: Something was very wrong with civilization, and it wasn't the destruction of the Amazon, rainforest or the ozone layer, the death of the panda, cigarettes or prison conditions, as the newspapers would have it. It is precisely that thing: sex.

Men and women may withstand a week without water, two weeks without food, many years of homelessness, but not loneliness.

Freedom only exists when love is present. The person who gives him or herself wholly, the person who feels freest, is the person who loves most wholeheartedly.

You can't mend a broken heart?: In love, no one can harm anyone else; we are each of us responsible for our own feelings and cannot blame someone else for what we feel.

How can you mend a broken heart? In love, no one can harm anyone else; but I'm not sure when that love is lost thereafter.

Ownership & Possession: I am convinced that no one can loses anyone, because no one owns anyone.; no one possesses anyone else. Anyone who has lost something they thought was theirs forever will finally come to realize that nothing really belongs to them.

Beauty is Money: So many pretty girls let themselves be seduced by the illusion of easy money, forgetting that, one day, they'll be old and will have missed out on meeting the love of their life. Beauty is like the wind; beauty, my dear, don't last.

Heart or Body or Both: Those who touched my heart failed to arouse my body, and those who aroused my body failed to touch my heart.

Don't Play-Play: When it comes to seduction, feelings and contracts, one should never play around.

Wisdom: "My dear, it's better to be unhappy with a rich man than happy with a poor man, and over there you'll have far more chances of becoming an unhappy rich woman."

Love is tangible and measurable: "I didn't love your father at first, but money buys everything, even true love."

Exit Strategy: No one knows what life is in store for us, and it's always good to know where the emergency exit is.

Women wants three things in life: adventure, money and a husband.

I can choose either to be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of pleasure and treasure. It's all a question of how I view my life.

Being young inevitably means making mistakes; that's what all drug addicts says too.

Profound desire, true desire is the desire to be close to someone. From that point onwards, things change ... and what happens before - the attraction that brought them together - is impossible to explain and sustain.

Don't think how to do; Just do it: Not everything in life is a matter of what position you adopt when making love, and that any variation usually occurs naturally, without thinking, like the steps in a dance.

Wisdom of a woman: "I allowed myself to fall in love for a simple reason: I'm not expecting anything to come from it."

Love or make? "Everyone knows how to love; but not everyone understands how to make love; the majority of us have to re-learn because there is a connecting thread. Our bodies must learn to speak the language of the soul, known as sex, and that is what a woman can give to the man who gave her back her soul, even though he has no idea how important he is to her life. That is what he asked for, and that is what she would give."

No one can know how to humiliate another person if they themselves have not experience humiliation.

Wise man says: Human beings weren't made solely to go in search of wisdom, but also to plough the land, wait for rain, plant the wheat, harvest the grain, make the bread, and have sex.

Witholding the object of desire: Real love has nothing to do with imagination. We will discover it when a chain of events provoked by the energy engendered by love - courtship, engagement, marriage, children, waiting, more waiting, getting old, retirement, illnesses, the feelings that it is far too late. Sexual energy comes into play before sex even takes place. The greatest pleasure isn't sex, but the excitement of the thoughts of it. And then you awaken desire by not immediately handing over the object of that desire.


N/B: Not everything quoted above are absolutely Coelhos'; there're quite some other Paulos around.

N/B: Not me!