It is no coincidence that the day I returned to practices for rediscovering and awakening my creative self, I began to learn the great lessons of The Alchemist, the tale of a boy who discovers the true desires of his heart and embarks on an ambitious quest to fulfill his destiny. In a powerful Super Soul Sunday, when Oprah spoke with Paulo Coehlo, the author of the international bestseller, each great truth he shared resonated deeply in my soul. The similarities of the book’s great truths with the lessons of Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way—my guide to rediscover my creative calling and spur me further in the direction of my dreams—are uncanny.
How The Universe And Your Thoughts Shape Destiny
At the heart of both is the idea of synchronicity, as Cameron calls the laws of universe that we set in motion by making a commitment to our passion or calling and taking the steps in the direction of our truest dreams. By doing so, we prepare ourselves to see and act upon the favor of fortune, or a “thousand unseen helping hands,” which Cameron believes we can count on presenting itself.
Coehlo summarizes this same principle as follows: “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.”
On Super Soul Sunday, he shared his belief that the universe is working for us, not against us. Coehlo said that whenever really wanted something, he always got it. Yet, because the universe does not judge or think on its own, it is the thoughts and beliefs—positive or negative—of its inhabitants (US) who have the power to shape our reality. In other words, we set the intention and direction for what manifests in our lives.
As Charles Reade put it:
Sow a thought, reap an act;
Sow an act, reap a habit;
Sow a habit, reap a character;
Sow a character, reap a destiny.
When we dwell on the negative and see the bad everywhere we turn, it should not surprise us when we continually draw negativity to our lives like magnets—both people and things. Like attracts like, and the mind is a very powerful tool for shaping our reality—for better or for worse.
When You Manifest Bad Things
“You have this subconscious mind that is sometimes attracting tragedy, attracting bad things because you want to be a victim,” Coehlo explained to Oprah. “To be a victim is to justify a lot of frustrations and failures in your life.”
Facing their dreams, many are paralyzed by fear—of both failure and success. “Anyone honest will tell you that possibility is far more frightening than impossibility, that freedom is far more terrifying than any prison,” Cameron writes.
People grow concerned with what they might have to give up along the path to their dreams or how that choice might negatively affect others around them. They worry that living a life that enthuses them makes them selfish, that risking the leap makes them crazy or irresponsible. They worry about how they will get food on the table and take care of their loved ones, whom Coelho assures, want to see them happy.
“Most people get hung up on the burden, and they lose the dream,” said Oprah.
People make excuses, like, ‘I don’t have time right now,’ or ‘When I retire, then I’ll pursue my dream to write novels,’ or ‘When I make x amount of money, then I can start my own business.’ Coehlo said it isn’t that people lose the dream, it’s that they try to hide it or bury it with excuses, like the father of the main character in The Alchemist who has buried this own dream to travel the world under the burden of daily life.
“That’s why you see so many self-destructive people today,” he said. “They know that they had a dream that they weren’t brave enough to fulfill. So one day, Death will come and say, ‘what about your dream?’”
Cameron writes, “Turn aside your dream and it will come back to you again.”
Finding the Courage to Follow Your Dream
Coehlo compares our heart to the flower, which “can be very brave, but it can be easily hurt.” The possibility of being hurt or rejected makes us very fearful and may lead us to abandon our faith in our own potential. In truth, “before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way,” he writes in The Alchemist.
Courage is the primary spiritual quality one needs to have to live his true destiny, and it is the most essential to understand the “Language of the World,” Coehlo believes. Without courage, we reduce the world to our own limited understanding, which is based on our past experiences and others’ shared perspectives—including their own failures and fears. We suffer from an inability to see the signs and open doors of possibility, which are everywhere all the time.
“We like to pretend it is hard to follow our heart’s dreams,” Cameron writes. “The truth is, it is difficult to avoid walking through the many doors that will open [in the pursuit of them].”
We must be brave enough to actively pursue our dreams and to keep following the path in that direction, no matter what happens. This doesn’t mean the scope or direction of the dream won’t alter in any way. It doesn’t mean we won’t make mistakes or take a wrong turn. It does mean we stay committed to the quest and the belief that we can live a life of deep purpose and contentment.
Honoring Your Calling
“You are here to honor something called the miracle of life,” Coehlo said. According to him, we honor that by pursuing our calling—the thing for which we have the most enthusiasm and is the reason why we are here on this earth in this particular form at this particular time.
Our calling, or “personal legend,” is different from someone else’s, and the quest for it may take us along many different paths. We will encounter many different people—some who are our champions and others who are enemies of our spirit, threatened by our courage and passion. Rather than grow so frustrated and discouraged by the perceived missteps or setbacks we may experience that we quit the pursuit, we can learn from every step in our journey and come to appreciate each experience and person that we encounter.
The true test of our lives comes at the time of our death, Coehlo believes, when we are asked, as Oprah describes it, “Did you open your heart to fully embrace every single moment?”
We must be daring enough to embrace the uncertainty of the unknown. By doing so, Coehlo said, we will be rewarded with kindness from it. “The universe will reward you for taking risks on its behalf,” says author Shakti Gawain.
It is hope in the alternate possibility—that we will find great joy, peace and fulfillment—that must propel us forward. When we are honest enough with ourselves to acknowledge and pursue our deepest, truest desires, we will be divinely guided on your path. Even if you take some wrong steps along the way, Coehlo said, the universe guides you back on track.
“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting,” Coehlo writes in The Alchemist. Pursuing it should be the greatest adventure of our life!
If we allow the seeds of our deepest desires to unfurl their wings to the mysterious winds, there is great promise that they will become embedded in the firmament, and they will blossom and bloom. And when the dream blooms, we blossom, bringing more beauty and truth not only to our lives—but also to the lives of everyone we touch.