By the River Piedra I Sat Down & Wept by Paulo Coelho

Posted: December 16, 2011 in Book Notes
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  • Rarely do we realize that we are in the midst of the extraordinary. Miracles occur all around us, signs from God show us the way, angels plead to be heard, but we pay little attention to them because we have been taught that we must follow certain formulas and rules if we want to find God. We do not recognize God is wherever we allow Him/Her to enter.
  • Traditional religious practices are important: they allow us to share with others the communal experience of adoration and prayer. But we must never forget that spiritual experience is above all a practical experience of love. And with love, there are no rules. Some may try to control their emotions and develop strategies for their behavior; others may turn to reading  books of advice from “experts” on relationships – but this is all folly. The heart decides, and what it decides is all that really matters.
  • True love is an act of total surrender.
    • Those who love conquer the world and have no fear of loss.
  • Sooner or later, we have to overcome our fears, because the spiritual path can only be traveled through the daily experience of love.
  • One doesn’t love in order to do what is good or to help or to protect someone. If we act that way, we are perceiving the other as a simple object, and we are seeing ourselves as wise and generous persons. This has nothing to do with love. To love is to be in communion with the other and to discover in that other the spark of God.
  • … love can only survive when the hope exists that you will be able to win over the person you desire.
  • But love is much like a dam: if you allow a tiny crack to form through which only a trickle of water can pass, that trickle will quickly bring down the whole structure, and soon no one will be able to control the force of the current. For when those walls come down, then love takes over, and it no longer matters what is possible or impossible; it doesn’t even matter whether we can keep the loved one at our side. To love is to lose control.
  • I’ve paid a considerable price for the little I have gained. I’ve been forced to deny myself many things I’ve wanted, to abandon so many roads that were open to me. I’ve sacrificed my dreams in the name of a larger dream — a peaceful soul. I didn’t want to give up that peace.
  • Life takes us by surprise and orders us to move toward the unknown — even when we don’t want to and when we think we don’t need to.
  • God is love. But the one who understands this best is the Virgin… The Virgin understands the mystery of total surrender.
    • She was normal. She had already had other children. The Bible tells us that Jesus had two brothers. Virginity, as it relates to Jesus, is based on a different thing: Mary initiated a new generation of grace. A new era began. She is the cosmic bride, Earth, which opens to the heavens and allows itself to be fertilized.
    • Because of the courage She showed in accepting her destiny, She allowed God to come down to earth and She was transformed into the Great Mother… She is the feminine face of God. She has her own divinity.
  • The gods throw the dice, and they don’t ask whether we want to be in the game or not. They don’t care if when you go, you leave behind a lover, a home, a career, or a dream. The gods don’t care whether you have it all, whether it seems that your every desire can be met through hard work and persistence. The gods don’t want to know about your plans and your hopes. Somewhere they’re throwing the dice — and you are chosen. From then on, winning or losing is only a question of luck.
    • The gods throw the dice, freeing love from its cage. And love can create or destroy — depending on the direction of the wind when it is set free.
  • The universe always helps us fight for our dreams, no matter how foolish they may be. Our dreams are our own, and only we can know the effort required to keep them alive.
  • Why is water the symbol of the feminine face of God?
    • She normally chooses that medium to manifest Herself. Maybe because She is the source of life; we are generated in water, and for nine months we live in it. Water is the symbol of the power of woman, the power that no man—no matter how enlightened or perfect he may be—can capture.
  • Love doesn’t need to be discussed; it has its own voice and speaks for itself.
  • But love is always new. Regardless of whether we love once, twice, or a dozen times in our life, we always face a brand-new situation. Love can consign us to hell or to paradise, but it always takes us somewhere. We simply have to accept it, because it is what nourishes our existence. If we reject it, we die of hunger, because we lack the courage to stretch out a hand and pluck the fruit from the branches of the tree of life. We have to take love where we find it, even if that means hours, days, weeks of disappointment and sadness.
    • The moment we begin to seek love, love begins to seek us… And to save us.
  • Truth resides where there is faith.
    • The Buddhists were right, the Hindus were right, the Muslims were right, and so were the Jews. Whenever someone follows the path to faith — sincerely follows it — he or she is able to unite with God and to perform miracles.
  • … I am always better than I think and stronger than I believe.

Thy will be done, my Lord. Because you know the weakness in the heart of your children, and you assign each of them only the burden they can bear. May you understand my love — because it is the only thing I have that is really mine, the only thing that I will be able to take with me into the next life. Please allow it to be courageous and pure; please make it capable of surviving the snares of the world.

  • Only a man who is happy can create happiness in others.
  • You have to be committed to the place you choose. A divided kingdom cannot defend itself from its adversaries. A divided person cannot face life in a dignified way.
  • Waiting is painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing which to do is the worst kind of suffering.
  • Love doesn’t ask many questions, because if we stop to think we become fearful. It’s an inexplicable fear; it’s difficult even to describe it. Maybe it’s the fear of being scorned, of not being accepted, or of breaking the spell. It’s ridiculous, but that’s the way it is. That’s why you don’t ask — you act. As you’ve said many times, you have to take risks.
  • A fall from the third floor hurts as much as a fall from the hundredth.
    • If I have to fall, may it be from a high place.
  • That well brought many people here, with their hopes and dreams and conflicts. Someone dared to look for water, water was found, and people gathered where it flowed. I think that when we look for love courageously, it reveals itself, and we wind up attracting even more love. If one person really wants us, everyone does. But if we’re alone, we become even more alone. Life is strange.
    • [I Ching] It says that a city can be moved but not a well. It’s around the well that lovers find each other, satisfy their thirst, build their homes, and raise their children. But if one of them decides to leave, the well cannot go with them. Love remains there, abandoned — even though it is filled with the same pure water as before.
  • Because God came to earth to demonstrate His power to us. We are a part of His dream, and He wants His dream to be a happy one. Thus, if we acknowledge that God created us for happiness, then we have to assume that everything that leads to sadness and defeat is our own doing. That’s the reason we always kill God, whether on the cross, by fire, through exile, or simply in our hearts.
  • The world itself has a soul, and at a certain moment, that soul acts on everyone and everything at the same time.
  • What can I do to try to prevent the suffering of someone who wants to return to paradise before it is time to do so?
  • The mountains are beautiful. Anyone who beholds them has to think about the grandness of creation. They are living proof of the love that God feels for us, but their fate is merely to give testimony. They are not like the rivers, which move and transform what is around them.

Give me the opportunity to learn through my love, because love has never kept anyone away from their dreams.

  • But the first climber knew what was great about it: the acceptance of the challenge of going forward. He knew that no single day is the same as any other and that each morning brings its own special miracle, its magic moment in which ancient universes are destroyed and new stars are created.
  • Every person on earth has a gift. In some, the gift manifests itself spontaneously; others have to work to discover what it is.
    • This gift is there for anyone who will accept it. One has only to believe, accept, and be willing to make mistakes.
    • Accept the gift. And then the gift manifests itself.
  • We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation.
    • It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.
  • Life existed before we were born and will continue to exist after we leave this world.
  • Love perseveres. It’s men who change.
  • Dreams mean work.
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