Home / An Excerpt from “The Witch of Portobello” by Paulo Coelho

An Excerpt from “The Witch of Portobello” by Paulo Coelho


The conversation is between a girl named Athena and her doctor Edda.

I said to Athena: ‘You don’t have to keep coming here all the time just to ask silly questions. If a group has decided to take you on as a teacher, why not use that oppoprtunity to turn yourself into a teacher?

‘Do what I always did.
‘Try to feel good about yourself even when you feel like the least worthy of creatures. Reject all those negative thoughts and let Mother take possession of your body and soul; surrender yourself to dance or to silence or to ordinary, everyday activities- like taking your son to school, preparing supper, making sure the house is tidy. Everything is worship if your mind is focused on the present moment.

‘Don’t try to convince anyone of anything. When you don’t know something, ask or go away or find out. But when you do act, be like the silent, flowing river and open yourself to a greater energy. Believe- that’s what I said at our first meeting- simply believe that you can.

‘At first you’ll be confused and insecure. Then you will start to believe that everyone thinks they’re being conned. It’s not true. You have the knowledge; it’s simply a matter of being aware. All the minds on the planet are so easily cast down- they fear illness, invasion, attack, death. Try to restore their lost joy to them.

‘Be clear.
‘Re-programme 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 at this women tormented by doubts and anxieties, convinced that her problems are the most important thing in the world … Most of our problems stem from just that- from following rules.

‘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 somrthing ‘useful’. Sit for a few minutes each day, doing nothing, getting as much as you can out of that time.

‘When you are washing up, pray. Be thankful that there are plates to be washed; that means there was food, that you fed someone, that you’ve lavished care on one or more people, that you cooked and laid the table. Imagine the millions of people at this moment who have absolutely nothing to wash up and no one for whome to lay the table.

‘There are women who say: “I’m not going to do the washing up, let the men do it.” Fine, let the men do it, if they want to, but that has nothing to do woth equality. There’s nothing wrong with doing simple things … The fact is, I love it when a man opens the door for me. According to etiquette this means: “She needs me to do this because she is fragile,” but in my soul is written: “I’m being treated like a Goddess. I’m a queen.” …

‘If you find it helpful, try to visualize images- flowers, birds, trees in a forest. Don’t imagine single objects, like the candle you focused on when you came here for the first time. Try to think of something collective. And do you know what you’ll find? That you didn’t choose your thought.

‘I’ll give you an example: imagine a flock of birds flying. How many birds did you see? Eleven, nineteen, five? You have a vague idea, but you don’t know the exact number. So where did that thought come from? Someone put it there. Someone who knows the exact number of birds, trees, stones, flowers. Someone who, in that fraction of a second, took charge of you and showed you His power.

‘You are what you believe yourself to be …


‘As I said to you in Bucharest, the very first time we met, groups are very important because they force us to progress. If you’re alone, all you can do is laugh at yourself, but if you’re with others, you’ll laugh and then immediately act. Groups challenge us. Groups allow us to choose our affinities. Groups create a collective energy and ecstasy comes more easily because everyone infects everyone else.


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