Tuesday, November 5, 2013

In Pursuit of My 'Personal Legend' - The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Once again, I am probably one of the last people on earth to have read an important piece of literature.  This time it's The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo.  I am so thankful to have had the time and opportunity this year to reconnect with one of my true loves from childhood - reading.  I used to devour books as a child, but somewhere along the line, this passion took a back seat to pursuing academic endeavors and was pushed out of the way for things I thought I 'should' be doing instead.  But, back to the book at hand...
Well, I read this entire book in one sitting, so that should tell you something!  I also had bookmarked about 30 different pages throughout because there were so many bits of wisdom in there.
The story is narrated almost like a children's fable or fairy tale.  It's the tale of a young shepherd named Santiago who sets out on a journey for treasure, but discovers a lot more about life on the way.  (If you haven't read this book, don't worry I won't reveal any spoilers.)  The messages in this book resonated with me, especially because I have been on such a personal journey of my own this year.  One of the most important messages of the book, I think, is something the King of Salem tells Santiago in the early pages, "To realize one's destiny is a person's only real obligation".  This is what Coehlo refers to throughout the book as your 'Personal Legend'.  This is something I've come to believe more and more this year - that we are here to realize our true selves, our reason for being and to manifest the highest expression of who we are. 
Once young Santiago sets out to find his treasure, he is of course met with many obstacles and setbacks along the way, and there are many times when he gets angry, discouraged and wants to give up and turn back.  Coehlo states that indeed, many people in life sadly do not realize their Personal Legends, and he believes this is because they are met with four main obstacles:
1.  We are told from an early age that our dreams are impossible, so we give up on them early, thinking they are impractical, and bury them over the years.
2.  If we decide that our dreams are possible, we may never pursue them for fear of abandoning everything and everyone we know and love to pursue them.
3.  If we make it past 1 and 2, we may give up along the way when we meet with defeat.
4.  And if we make it all the way to the point where our dream is within our grasp, many will feel guilt, disbelief or fear that all the years of sacrifice and hard work led them this far, that they just may turn back precisely before realizing their dream. 
Santiago meets with people along the way who have given up the pursuit of their Personal Legends because they were afraid of change, afraid of leaving the security they knew.  But he also meets others who are in pursuit of their Personal Legends, and an Alchemist who has realized his.  All the lessons he learns along the way propel him to fulfilling his destiny. 
Santiago also learns to watch for 'omens' along the way.  What I really think Coehlo is referring to when he says 'omen's' are your own intuition and messages from a higher power.  If we are still and quiet and tuned into our own hearts, we can often decipher what direction to take in life.  The problem is this little voice inside us is so easily drowned out by forces in the external world.  We end up listening to those outside voices instead of our own - and that is how we get off track.  I know that's how I did. 
I won't reveal any more of the story for you, but I will leave you with a few of the more poignant quotes from the book that I hope will spark some inner dialogue in you as they did in me:
"...whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it's because that desire originated in the soul of the universe.  It's your mission on earth."
"...people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises."
"When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision."
"...wherever your heart is, that is where you'll find your treasure."
"...no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of it's dreams, because every second of the search is a second's encounter with God and with eternity."
"...before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way.  It does this...so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we've learned as we've moved toward that dream.  That's the point at which most people give up."
I'm not giving up!  How about you?
Your turn.

Have you read The Alchemist? What did you think of it?
Read any good books lately?

What do you think will be your 'Personal Legend'?

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