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The Pilgrimage

The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho

Some favourite excerpts…

He returned my gaze coldly, called to my wife, and gave her the sword, speaking a few words that I could not hear. Turning to me, he said, “Take away your hand; it had deceived you. The road of the Tradition is not for the chosen few. It is everyone’s road. And the power that you think you have is worthless, because it is a power that is shared by all. You should have refused the sword. If you had done so, it would have been given to you, because you would have shown that your heart was pure. But just as I feared, at the supreme moment you stumbled and fell. Because of your avidity, you will now have to seek again for your sword. And because of your pride, you will have to seek it among simple people. Because of your fascination with miracles, you will have to struggle to recapture what was about to be given to you so generously.” The world seemed to fall away from me. I knelt there unable to think about anything. Once I had returned my old sword to the earth, I could not retrieve it. And since the new one had not been given to me, I now had to begin my quest for it all over again, powerless and defenseless. On the day of my Celestial Ordination, my Master’s violence had brought me back to earth.

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“That’s right, but that doesn’t change anything. The fact is that you rejected the vision. Felicia of Aquitaine must have seen something similar, and she bet her entire life on what she saw. And the result of her having done that transformed her work into a work of love. The same thing probably happened to her brother. And the same thing happens to everyone every day: we always know which is the best road to follow, but we follow only the road that we have become accustomed to.”

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 “Once, a poet said that no man is an island. In order to fight the good fight, we need help. We need friends, and when the friends aren’t nearby, we have to turn solitude into our main weapon. We need the help of everything around us in order to take the necessary steps toward our goal. Everything has to be a personal manifestation of our will to win the good fight. If we don’t understand that, then we don’t recognize that we need everything and everybody, and we become arrogant warriors. And our arrogance will defeat us in the end, because we will be so sure of ourselves that we won’t see the pitfalls there on the field of battle.”

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 “So the only way to deal with our messenger is to accept him as a friend—by listening to his advice and asking for his help when necessary, but never allowing him to dictate the rules of the game. Like you did with the boy. To keep the messenger from dictating the rules of the game, it is necessary first that you know what you want and then that you know his face and his name.”

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 “Over and above the physical forces that surround us and help us, there are basically two spiritual forces on our side: an angel and a devil. The angel always protects us and is a divine gift—you do not have to invoke him. Your angel’s face is always visible when you look at the world with eyes that are receptive. He is this river, the workers in the field, and that blue sky.

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“If I had to use a metaphor, I would say that your angel is your armor, and your messenger is your sword. Armor protects you under any set of circumstances, but a sword can fall to the ground in the midst of a battle, or it can kill a friend, or be turned against its owner.

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 “TALKING WITH YOUR MESSENGER DOESN’T MEAN ASKING questions about the world of the spirits,” Petrus said the next day. “The messenger performs only one function for you: he helps you with regard to the material world. And he will give you this help only if you know exactly what it is that you want.”

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 “The only thing missing is your learning how to combine the RAM practices with your own intuition. The language of your heart is what is going to determine the best way to find and use your sword. If you can’t bring the two together, the exercises and the RAM practices will become simply a part of the useless wisdom of the Tradition.”  (Amanda’s note – reminds me about ‘the art not just the technician’)

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The Arousal of Intuition (The Water Exercise) Make a puddle of water on a smooth, nonabsorbent surface. Look into the puddle for a while. Then, begin to play with it, without any particular commitment or objective. make designs that mean absolutely nothing. Do this exercise for a week, allowing at least ten minutes each time. Don’t look for practical results from this exercise; it is simply calling up your intuition, little by little. When this intuition begins to manifest itself at other times of the day, always trust in it.

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 “Well, you should. Because what happened with him is an example of mistaken behavior. We are always trying to convert people to a belief in our own explanation of the universe. We think that the more people there are who believe as we do, the more certain it will be that what we believe is the truth. But it doesn’t work that way at all.

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A great sense of calm came over me, and I felt a kind of presence alongside me. I looked over and saw the face of my death. This was not the death that I had experienced a few minutes before, the death I had created with my fears and my imagination; it was my true death, my friend and counselor, who was never again going to allow me to act like such a coward. Starting then, he was going to be of more help to me than Petrus’s guiding hand and advice. He was not going to allow me to put off until tomorrow what I should be enjoying today. He was not going to let me flee from life’s battles, and he was going to help me fight the good fight. Never again, ever, was I going to feel ridiculous about doing anything. Because he was there, saying that when he took me in hand to travel with me to other worlds, I should leave behind the greatest sin of all: regret.

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“One more thing,” he said, before going in under the falls. “This waterfall will teach you how to be a Master. I am going to make the climb, but there will be a veil of water between you and me. I will climb without your being able to see where I place my hands and feet. “In the same way, a disciple such as you can never imitate his guide’s steps. You have your own way of living your life, of dealing with problems, and of winning. Teaching is only demonstrating that it is possible. Learning is making it possible for yourself.”

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The Ram Breathing Exercise Expel all of the air from your lungs, emptying them as much as you can. Then, inhale slowly as you raise your arms as high as possible. As you inhale, concentrate on allowing love, peace, and harmony with the universe to enter into your body. Hold the air you have taken in and keep your arms raised for as long as you can, enjoying the harmony between your inner sensations and the outer world. When you reach your limit, exhale all of the air rapidly, as you say the word, “RAM.” Repeat this process for five minutes each time you do the exercise.

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Petrus told me that I knew how to invoke agape by means of the Blue Sphere Exercise. But in order for agape to flourish, I must not be afraid to change my life. If I liked what I was doing, very well. But if I did not, there was always the time for a change. If I allowed change to occur, I would be transforming myself into a fertile field and allowing the Creative Imagination to sow its seeds in me. “Everything I have taught you, including agape, makes sense only if you are satisfied with yourself. If you are not, then the exercises you have learned are inevitably going to make you seek change. And if you do not want all of those exercises to work against you, you have to allow change to happen. “This is the most difficult moment in a person’s life—when the person witnesses the good fight and is unable to change and join the battle. When this happens, knowledge turns against the person who holds it.”

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The Shadows Exercise Relax completely. For five minutes, study the shadows of all of the objects and people around you. Try to identify exactly which part of the object or person is casting a shadow. For the next five minutes, continue to do this, but at the same time, focus on the problem you are trying to solve. Look for all of the possible wrong solutions to the problem. Finally, spend five more minutes studying the shadows and thinking about what correct solutions remain. Eliminate them, one by one, until only the single correct solution is left.

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 “You are too preoccupied with your power,” he said. “The waterfall, the RAM practices, the dialogues with your messenger—they all made you forget that there was your enemy to vanquish. And forget that you had an impending encounter with him. Before your hand can wield the sword, you have to discover where your enemy is and how to deal with him. The sword only strikes a blow, but the hand is already victorious or defeated before the blow is delivered. “You defeated Legion without your sword. There is a secret in this search, and it is a secret you have not yet learned. If you do not do so, you will never find what you are looking for.”

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 “We are not smart enough to be able to listen to the silence! We are just human beings, and we don’t even know how to listen to our own ramblings. You have never asked me how I knew that Legion was about to arrive. Now I will tell you how: by listening. The sound began many days before, when we were still in Astorga. Starting then, I began to move along more quickly, because all the indications were that we were going to meet up with him in Foncebadon. You heard the same sound as I, but you were not listening. “Everything is contained in sounds—the past, the present, and the future. The person who does not know how to listen will never hear the advice that life offers us all the time. And only the person who listens to the sounds of the moment is able to make the right decisions.”

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 “If you succeed in finding your sword, you will have to teach the Road to someone else. And only when that happens—when you accept your role as a Master—will you learn all the answers you have in your heart. Each of us knows the answers, even before someone tells us what they are. Life teaches us lessons every minute, and the secret is to accept that only in our daily lives can we show ourselves to be as wise as Solomon and as powerful as Alexander the Great. But we become aware of this only when we are forced to teach others and to participate in adventures as extravagant as this one has been.”

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Petrus had always insisted that the expectation of reward was absolutely necessary to the achievement of victory. Yet every time that I forgot about the rest of the world and began to think only about my sword, he forced me, through his painful lessons, to return to reality. This was a sequence that had occurred repeatedly during our time together on the Road.

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I had never thought in these terms. Throughout our time on the Strange Road to Santiago, the only thing I had wanted to know was where it was hidden. I had never asked myself why I wanted to find it or what I needed it for. All of my efforts had been bent on reward; I had not understood that when we want something, we have to have a clear purpose in mind for the thing that we want. The only reason for seeking a reward is to know what to do with that reward. And this was the secret of my sword.

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