20 Lessons from The Witch of Portobello

The Witch of Portobello
Author: Paulo Coelho
  1. I’m going back, or, rather, part of me is going back to that world where only what we can see, touch, and explain makes sense. This is the universe I’ll have to live with for the rest of my days. I also know that, at night, another part of me will remain wandering in space, I’ll place an open pair of scissors on my bedside table to snip off the end of the dream. The next day, I’ll look at the scissors with a touch of regret, but I must adapt to living in the world again or risk going mad.
  2. “No one can manipulate anyone else. In any relationship, both parties know what they’re doing, even if one of them complains later on that they were used.”
  3. Everyone’s looking for the perfect teacher, but although their teachings might be divine, teachers are all too human, and that’s something people find hard to accept. Don’t confuse the teacher with the lesson, the ritual with the ecstasy, the transmitter of the symbol with the symbol itself. But we are weak: we ask the Mother to send us guides, and all she sends are signs to the road we need to follow.
  4. Athena brought to the surface the immensely rich world we all carry in our souls, without realizing that people aren’t yet ready to accept their own powers. We women, when we’re searching for a meaning to our lives or for the path of knowledge, always identify with one of four classic archetypes. The Virgin is the one whose search springs from her complete independence, and everything she learns is the fruit of her ability to face challenges alone. The Martyr finds her way to self-knowledge through pain, surrender and suffering. The Saints finds her true reason for living in unconditional love and in her ability to give without asking anything in return. Finally, the Witch justifies her existence by going in search of complete and limitless pleasure. Normally, a woman has to choose from one of these.
  5. Life, however, had other plans — when fate is very generous with us, there is always a well into which all our dreams can tumble.
  6. A life I had chosen in the belief that love conquers all. And it isn’t true. Sometimes love carries us into the abyss, taking with us — to make matters worse — the people we love.
  7. When the pain abated — time is the only cure for that — I saw that life had allowed me to meet the one woman I would ever be capable of loving. Each second spent by her side had been worthwhile, and given the chance, despite all that had happened, I would do the same thing over again.
  8. “Because all my life I’ve learned to suffer in silence,” she replies. And only then did she put her arms around me and cry out all the tears she would like to have shed on that day.
  9. “The brush with which you are making these lines is just an instrument. It has no consciousness, it follows the desires of the person holding it. And in that it is very like what we call ‘life’. Many people in this world are merely playing a role, unaware that there is an Invisible Hand guiding them. At this moment, in your hands, in the brush tracing each letter, lie all the intentions of your soul. Try to understand the importance of this.”
  10. You see, you’re curious to know what’s going on in the country where you were born. You’re settled in England, you have friends, Dad earns plenty of money, you’ve got security, and yet you still buy Lebanese newspapers. What I mean is that if you’re not in touch with your roots, you feel as if you’ve lost touch with the world. Is it so very hard then for you to understand what I’m feeling?”
  11. Like all storms, it brings destruction, but at the same time, it soaks the fields, and the wisdom of the heavens falls with the rain. Like all storms, it will pass. The more violent it is, the more quickly it will pass.
  12. What would tomorrow bring me, along with the departure of the being I’ve always both loved and feared from a distance? I was everyone, and everyone was me and my solitude.
  13. Learn, but always learn with other people by your side. Don’t be alone in the search, because if you take a wrong step, you’ll have no one there to help put you right.”
  14. “Faith is not Desire. Faith is Will. Desires are things that need to be satisfied, whereas Will is a force. Will changes the space around us, as you did with your work at the bank.”
  15. They’ll get lost, and that’s the best way to discover interesting places. Forget everything you’ve ever learned about the stars and they’ll once more be transformed into angels, or into children, or into whatever you want to believe at that moment.
  16. Try to feel good about yourself even when you feel like the least worthy of creatures. Reject all those negative thoughts and let the Mother take possession of your body and soul. Everything is worship if your mind is focused on the present moment.
  17. Don’t try to convince anyone of anything. When you don’t know something, ask or go away and find out.
  18. Simply believe that you can. At first, you’ll be confused and insecure. You have the knowledge, it’s simply a matter of being aware. Be clear. Reprogram yourself every minute of each day with thoughts that make you grow. When you’re feeling irritated or confused, try to laugh at yourself. Laugh out loud. Concentrate. If you can find nothing on which to focus your mind, concentrate on your breathing. Listen to your heart beating, follow the thoughts you can’t control, control your desire to get up at once and to do something “useful”. Sit for a few minutes each day doing nothing, getting as much as you can out of that time.
  19. When you’re washing up, pray. Be thankful that there are plates to be washed; that means there was food, that you fed someone.
  20. You are what  you believe yourself to be. Don’t be like those people who believe in “positive thinking” and tell themselves that they’re loved and strong and capable. You don’t need to do that, because you know it already. And when you doubt it — which happens, do as I suggested. Instead of trying to prove that you’re better than you think, just laugh. Laugh at your worries and insecurities. View your anxieties with humor. It will be difficult at first, but you’ll gradually get used to it.
NB! Every word from this post came from Paulo Coelho’s book.


Life has an interesting way of telling me that I am a special chocolate chip cookie baked personally by the hands of God (well, just as everyone of us!). I am loving the challenges. A widow at a young age yet keeping a positive view of the future. Still a believer of magic, fate and true love, taking each day one small step at a time. I have a grand dream! ;-)

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