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Archive for January, 2011

“To realize a person’s destiny is a person’s only real obligation… And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

Melchizedek, the King of Salem, from the novel, The Alchemist

 

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”—Matthew 6:21

 

I recently finished rereading a book that has become a much loved favorite since introduced to it several years ago.

Paulo Coehlo’s The Alchemist is described as “a magical fable about following your dream.” A journey story—it involves adventure, danger, and romance. Traveling to exotic new lands, and finding treasure. And it’s also about knowing and living one’s destiny… Big stuff.

So with a new year upon us, I’m guessing some of you, like me, have thought about what you might like to do this year. Maybe it’s to break a bad habit. Or maybe it’s to take up a good one. But whether it’s simple changes or radical overhaul, you’ve likely given some thought to who you want to be.

I was introduced to the magic of this story in a season of my life when I was looking to find my own destiny. In November of ’02 a guy at REI in Colorado Springs learned I was about to take a year’s sabbatical backpacking around the world. He enthusiastically asked me if I’d ever read The Alchemist, then scrawled the title on a piece of paper for me to remember before we parted ways. “Huh,” I thought, as I tucked it away.

A few months later, I was enjoying a meal at my accommodation on Fraser Island, off the coast of Queensland, Australia. A Dutch woman and I were sharing something of our stories with each other: she, of how at great cost had broken out of the traditions and expectations of the world she was born into in order to find who she was, and me, with some degree of resonance, undertaking my present journey. Somewhere in the conversation, she asked me if I’d ever read The Alchemist.

“Huh. There goes that name again,” recalling the conversation in November.

Not long afterwards in June 2003, finding myself about to take off on a journey within a journey—a 12 hour long ride into Cambodia—I stepped into the Shaman Bookstore in Bangkok to pick up some decent reading for the trip, and found a copy of Coehlo’s classic tale.

It was a case of “Follow the omens”—a phrase used often in the book as its main character, Santiago, is presented with a series of circumstances that aren’t easy to write off as mere happenstance. And with each unfolding moment, as Santiago’s curiosity is piqued—sometimes with great satisfaction, and other times with fear or much annoyance—he is continually invited into a series of events and choices that offer to change his life forever.

Traditionally, alchemy was an art devoted to finding ways to transform common substances into things of great value, such as turning lead into gold. All of us can relate to wanting a treasure of some sort, whether something we work diligently for, or that which we hope to stumble upon one day. Some may seem modest, and others larger than life, even quite noble. But invariably, many if not most of these experiences seem to come down to our getting caught up in finding treasure in some object, fantasy, or experience external to ourselves.

There may not be anything necessarily wrong with some of these pursuits. But what we often don’t realize is the gold that lies within us, as the dross in our lives has a way of making the common seem nothing special. It’s worth noting that alchemists were not given to some fly-by-night scheme for quick riches; they were moreover committed to a process—for life.

Likewise, everyone has a destiny—one which doesn’t always come by way of the spectacular episode—but is more often lived into via a moment-by-moment process, as soulmaking is the work of a lifetime.

So what are your dreams for 2011? And what do they really say about who you are and who you’re called to be? Maybe some of these desires are not worthy of who you really are and need to be laid aside for now, whereas some which you or others may have written off as silly may speak most truthfully to who you are.

So as you give thought to what you may like to see in 2011, a good place to start may be to ask yourself what your true desires are, and then paying attention to the omens in your life.

Like my dad says, “No one ever said it was going to be easy.” But the next step in your path is always there when you are ready to heed your omens.

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