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A Reading of The Witch of Portobello

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Harley | 57 comments I have started a new journey through the pages of The Witch of Portobello and I encourage you to join me with your comments and insights. If you have already read the book, then share your wisdom. If you have not read it, please join me anyway.




Harley | 57 comments The opening paragraph reads:

"No one lights a lamp in order to hide it behind a door: the purpose of light is to create more light, to open people's eyes, to reveal the marvels around."

Are you hiding your light from the world. We all have talents and gifts. Sometimes we do not share our gifts with others. We hide our light so others can't see it. Sharing our gift means making ourselves vulnerable to others.

Sometimes I have chosen not to speak up, not to share my opinion, afraid of what others might say, afraid that others might not understand and criticize.

Is your light hidden or are you revealing the marvels around you?


Harley | 57 comments On page 7, Heron Ryan says:

"Then following the advice of my grandmother, 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."

Have you ever awaken and your dream was not finished? What a wonderful image of the scissors snipping off the end of the dream. Have you ever wanted to continue living in your dream world, not wanting to wake up, clinging to that last moment of sleep.

I love dreaming and sometimes it is difficult for me to leave that world for the mundane world of being awake. What about you?


Harley | 57 comments On page 11, Deidre O'Neill says:

"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."

This statement is so true. There are no perfect teachers. No one teacher has all the answers. Every teacher makes mistakes. How often do we confuse the messenger with the message. There is a saying in corporate culture when someone has to bring bad news to the boss: "Don't shoot the messenger."

Natalie Goldberg in her memoir, The Great Failure, tells a story of being disappointed when she discovers the weaknesses of her Zen teacher. We become disillusioned when we find out that people are not what they claim to be. Maybe even in their moments of weakness the great teachers are teaching us something.

I have heard stories of writers who write great books about relationships of people, but they themselves have been married five times or were mean and cruel to their children.

Share a story of a teacher who has disappointed you. I would love to hear it.


message 5: by Harley (last edited Jun 20, 2009 04:49AM) (new)

Harley | 57 comments On page 18, Samira Khalil, the mother of Athena, says:

"Can a name affect a person's life? Time passed and the name stuck."

Samira is referring to the fact that her adopted daughter Sherine gave herself the name Athena and she postulates that the name shaped her daughter's destiny.

What about you? Did your name shape who you are? I am named after my father. When I meet people the first time, they often ask if I own a Harley Davidson, referring to the motorcycle. I have never been interested in motorcycles or had the desire to ride one. My name has become a conversation opener and a image maker.

How did your name shape who you are?


Karen (KarenAndersenMiller) | 48 comments Harley wrote: "The opening paragraph reads:

"No one lights a lamp in order to hide it behind a door: the purpose of light is to create more light, to open people's eyes, to reveal the marvels around."

Are you h..."

I'd say that for the most part I have not been one to hide my light (positive energy or spirit, abilities, talents or enthusiasm) in this life. I think birth order might have a bit to do with it. Being the first of two children, the eldest child is expected to pave the way, go forth and persever, and so I have, sometimes with greater ease occasionally with difficulty. However, if you are a natural extrovert I think it is key to be aware that others might wish to live through you. This can be done in a positive and proud way or a vampiristic way. My family was proud of my achievements, my ex-husband was the vampire. There is light, but there is always dark. A dear friend of mine explained it best when he said to me, "you have a very large energy, you are a ball of fire that many think they want. They think they can have you for their own. They try to stick you in their pocket and keep you for themselves, until you finally burn a large hole through it and are free again." My advice is that one should always know if one is dancing for the joy of it, an audience or a puppet master, what the music is and how fast it's playing. It's also good to remember that it is not always neccessary to be dancing at all. I feel truly blessed that I have found a dance partner that I can waltz or free style through life with.



Karen (KarenAndersenMiller) | 48 comments Harley wrote: "On page 7, Heron Ryan says:

"Then following the advice of my grandmother, 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 ..."

As for dreams, most of the time I enjoy them. I tend to reflect on them by how I feel when I awake from them. I have had a few prophetic dreams and I that has also been quite interesting. I get a kick out of them, but try not to over interpret them. Many of my dreams are in movie format which has always been really neat.



Karen (KarenAndersenMiller) | 48 comments Harley wrote: "On page 11, Deidre O'Neill says:

"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 acc..."


I would say that this is an excellent quote from this book and I should add it to my quotes section. People fequently guruize a teacher and that is probably why I did not become a new age workshop leader or spiritual teacher for a living. I also in my heart don't feel that you can package and sell spirut, all you can do is share it in a clear, kind, respectful and loving way. I can't say that I have really been disappointed by a teacher, a spiritual teacher or mentor, rather that the teacher and/or myself grew apart and moved on. That happens and it is always for the best. I do believe in the phrase "when the pupil is ready the pupil will find and seek out the teacher." But when the pupil is done then they should be wise enough to move on. Some things, beliefs, or philosphies at the moment feel like the end all a be all, but they are just bits of wisdom moving through us. Any item or concept over sold or used might really just be snake oil. There are no cure-alls we must all chop wood and carry water ourselves to learn life's many lessons.



Karen (KarenAndersenMiller) | 48 comments Harley wrote: "On page 18, Samira Khalil, the mother of Athena, says:

"Can a name affect a person's life? Time passed and the name stuck."

Samira is referring to the fact that her adopted daughter Sherine gave..."
yes, I think it might have something to do with shaping who you are. The name Karen means pure and chasted. However you can't know the light without the dark and that is always the tricky part. At one part of my life I realized that I was not able to accept my birth name and I unoffically chaged my name to Tana. Tana is the goddess of the universe in the ancient Italian religion, stregheria. I went by the name Tana for 5 years. I loved it and it severed me well. I returned to using my birth name because I finally felt comforable with it. It is also intersting that I was as they say my parents love child, not really planned but conceived in love. Interesting that they name me a name meaning pure and chasted.




Harley | 57 comments Karen wrote:

"My advice is that one should always know if one is dancing for the joy of it, an audience or a puppet master, what the music is and how fast it's playing. It's also good to remember that it is not always neccessary to be dancing at all."

Wow, Karen! That is powerful and can be applied to so many areas of our lives. How often do we perform for the applause? Or react to someone else pulling the strings? Or do something for the mere pleasure?


message 11: by Harley (last edited Jun 20, 2009 06:28PM) (new)

Harley | 57 comments Karen, you mentioned prophetic dreams. In December 1972, I was keeping a dream journal and recorded a dream about my getting married to a short woman who spoke a foreign language. In January 1973, I was introduced to her at my sister's wedding. Ten short months later we were married and this October will be married 36 years. She is short, of Mexican American ancestry and speaks fluent Spanish.

I believe in prophetic dreams and I know you do, Karen? I wonder if any of the people who are following this thread have had prophetic dreams and are willing to share.


Harley | 57 comments I believe our names are very important. Our name identifies whom we become. I have been told by a few women that they were named after a former girl friend of their father. Think about that.


message 13: by Harley (last edited Jun 25, 2009 05:44PM) (new)

Harley | 57 comments Athena tells the priest (p. 33):

"I'm only happy when I think that God exists and is listening to me; but that isn't enough to go on living, when nothing seems to make sense. I pretend happiness I don't feel; I hide my sadness so as not to worry those who love me and care about me. Recently, I've even considered suicide. At night, before I go to sleep, I have long conversations with myself, praying for this idea to go away; it would be such an act of ingratitude, an escape, a way of spreading tragedy and misery over the earth."

These words hit close to home. I have known people who have felt this way -- who pretend to be happy while contemplating suicide. Why do so many people feel so alone and unhappy? Why can't we accept who we are?



Harley | 57 comments Athena says (p. 50)

"Yes, when I dance, I'm a free woman, or, rather, a free spirit who can travel through the universe, contemplate the present, divine the future, and be transformed into pure energy."

The last thing I expected was this book to be about spiritual dance. Growing up Mennonite, I was not allowed to dance at all. I had to break my parents rules in order to dance. And I have never been good at it.

I took a class a few years ago on movement and creativity and it was fascinating. But that is as far as I have gone?

Do you dance with the wind? Have you let yourself go and felt the wind in the hair? Why do we have a need to dance?


Harley | 57 comments Nabil Alaihi says (p. 75):

"My way of approaching Allah—may his name be praised—has been through calligraphy, and the search for the perfect meaning of each word. A single letter requires us to distill in it all the energy it contains, as if we were carving out its meaning. When sacred texts are written, they contain the soul of the man who served as an instrument to spread them throughout the world. And that doesn't apply only to sacred texts, but to every mark we place on paper. Because the hand that draws each line reflects the soul of the person making the line.

Mark Vonnegut wrote about his father, Kurt: "Writing was a spiritual exercise for my father, the only thing he really believed in."

At my age I find both of these statements to be so true for me. I have been writing for over 35 years and only recently did I discover that it is a spiritual exercise for me. Writing is something I have to do. Whenever I stop writing for any length of time, my soul begins to die. Writing for me is like dance for Athena and calligraphy for Nabil. I find in creativity the power to heal my spirit and to set me free from traumas of the mundane world.

How do you approach God? How do you dance with ecstasy? How do you travel the universe?


Harley | 57 comments Nabil Alaihi says (p. 83):

"If all the words were joined together, they wouldn't make sense, or, at the very least, they'd be extremely hard to decipher. The spaces are crucial."

The spaces are crucial and so are the silences. I believe in the power of silence. We have so much noise in our society that we can't hear God. We can't hear ourselves think. We need those moments of silence to rejuvenate our spirit. We need the spaces between the words to understand the meaning of life.

Do you have spaces in your life? Do you have silences in your life?


message 17: by Harley (last edited Jul 05, 2009 07:22PM) (new)

Harley | 57 comments Sherine says (p. 84):

"I don't see why I should bother to look for someone who never took the trouble to love me."

Sherine (Athena) made this statement before departing to find her birth mother who gave her up for adoption. The statement has significant meaning for me since my wife and I have had custody of her great niece since the girl was two weeks old. We talk about the fact that one day our niece may go in search of her mother and ask her why she gave her up. Didn't she love her?

Is there someone in your life who you feel never took the time to give you the love and attention you needed? I was very fortunate that both my parents loved me. But I have met many people who have felt abandoned by their parents.


message 18: by Harley (last edited Jul 05, 2009 07:31PM) (new)

Harley | 57 comments Liliana says (p. 118):

"We don't believe that God made the universe. We believe that God is the universe and that we are contained in him, and he in us."

How profound! God did not make the universe in seven days. There was no beginning. God is the universe. God always has existed. The universe has always existed. And we exist within God and God is within us. We have always existed and will always exist.

What do you believe?


Harley | 57 comments Athena says to Heron Ryan (p. 154):

"How many books have you got? Over a thousand, I'd say. But most of them you'll probably never open again. You hang onto them because you don't believe.... Or is it that you don't feel you've learned anything from them and need to consult them again?"

When I read this it was like listening to my wife. She often is suggesting that I give my books away. That I don't need so many. In fact, because of her urging, I gave ten books away this weekend, but I still have hundreds, most of which I will not read again. And some I have not read yet and may never read.

Are our books clutter in our lives? Would we be better off if we read the books and then gave them to someone who would enjoy reading them. There is a website that encourages just that. Read books and then release them into the wild to be found by others.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/



Karen (KarenAndersenMiller) | 48 comments Harley wrote: "The opening paragraph reads:

"No one lights a lamp in order to hide it behind a door: the purpose of light is to create more light, to open people's eyes, to reveal the marvels around."

Are you h..."

No, I usually do not hide my light. Instead, one of my goals in my forties has been to always not burn so bright that I cannot see the other beautiful shining lights around me and also feel and appreciate their warm glow. Collective energy is a beautiful thing.




Karen (KarenAndersenMiller) | 48 comments Harley wrote: "On page 7, Heron Ryan says:

"Then following the advice of my grandmother, 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 ..."

The only thing that I wonder anbout dreaming is what causes us to dream. Sometimes I dream other times i don't, it's just the luck of the draw. But, no I usually seem to finish my dreams. I think a couple of times I've willed myself to sleep and go back to the same dream.




Karen (KarenAndersenMiller) | 48 comments Harley wrote: "Karen, you mentioned prophetic dreams. In December 1972, I was keeping a dream journal and recorded a dream about my getting married to a short woman who spoke a foreign language. In January 1973..."
That was truly a sweet dream about meeting your wife. I thought I'd share my prophetic dreams, but I'd rather keep them to myself in the form of media.




Karen (KarenAndersenMiller) | 48 comments Harley wrote: "Athena tells the priest (p. 33):

"I'm only happy when I think that God exists and is listening to me; but that isn't enough to go on living, when nothing seems to make sense. I pretend happiness ..."


People are affraid to admit to the masks they wear. If you know they exist and work with them instead of against them, then you are living a more awake life. It's not always easy to do one's personal work, but it is essential. Sure we all might wear masks from time to time but it is our duties to shed them, dig deep, and find the joy that is our birthrights.



Karen (KarenAndersenMiller) | 48 comments Harley wrote: "Athena says (p. 50)

"Yes, when I dance, I'm a free woman, or, rather, a free spirit who can travel through the universe, contemplate the present, divine the future, and be transformed into pure en..."


Dance is truly freeing. I love to dance. I may or may not be considered "good" at it, but I love it, all different forms of dance. I think that we to frequently judge how we appear or think we appear to others. In order to freely dance with abandon and joy we need to let go of the ego and old tapes and flow freely. When I'm dancing with out a care I feel like I'm floating. It is a wonderful release to just be, be in my body, and feel my body and spirit in the flow. Dance gets people out of their minds and allows us to get in touch with ancient primal muscle memory.



Karen (KarenAndersenMiller) | 48 comments Harley wrote: "Nabil Alaihi says (p. 75):

"My way of approaching Allah—may his name be praised—has been through calligraphy, and the search for the perfect meaning of each word. A single letter requires us to d..."


Yes, Harley. What you said about writing is so true, and that is why you do it well and with such joy and sharing, because you do it from a place of spirit. When you write you are in a state of flow and you have let go of you critic so that through your writing spirit and joy are shared.


Karen (KarenAndersenMiller) | 48 comments Harley wrote: "Nabil Alaihi says (p. 83):

"If all the words were joined together, they wouldn't make sense, or, at the very least, they'd be extremely hard to decipher. The spaces are crucial."

The spaces are ..."

I loved what you said about spaces. You really hit the nail on the head there my friend. I see that there are so many people who need to go, go, go. I wonder if the ever stop to be still. I love to just push the stop button, be still and just breathe. One of my favorite times is early morning here at the lake. If the lake is still and looks like a sheet of glass you can almost hear the world breathe and see the reflection of god's smile in the still water.




Karen (KarenAndersenMiller) | 48 comments Harley wrote: "Sherine says (p. 84):

"I don't see why I should bother to look for someone who never took the trouble to love me."

Sherine (Athena) made this statement before departing to find her birth mother w..."


Maybe the person who abandoned someone just didn't believe or love themselves enough to love someone else at a given time. Lives are filled with learning and longing. We should never give up on love and always answer the call for what we are longing for.
This of course takes courage from all in all directions, but I'm sure it is well worth it. I was blessed my parents were loving and caring, but I in turn was loving and caring back. We are not just entitled, life is give and take, a balance.



Karen (KarenAndersenMiller) | 48 comments Harley wrote: "Liliana says (p. 118):

"We don't believe that God made the universe. We believe that God is the universe and that we are contained in him, and he in us."

How profound! God did not make the univ..."

Right On! Well said! I so believe this!



Karen (KarenAndersenMiller) | 48 comments Harley wrote: "Athena says to Heron Ryan (p. 154):

"How many books have you got? Over a thousand, I'd say. But most of them you'll probably never open again. You hang onto them because you don't believe.... O..."


I think that books are to be read and then shared. This is why I belong to goodreads.com, bookmooch.com, and bookcrossing.com. I think I remember Señor Coelho saying that he limits his library to 400 volumes. I personally think this is a wise idea. I see no reason why I would ever personally need to house more than 400 volumes. Books are friends, and 400 is a very large happy party. I intend to keep circulating books and not hord them. I am against hording of any kind. Knowledge, joy, entertainment, food, stuff of any kind, etc.. things are to be shared. My hope is that I read and reread most of the books in my library and release them for others to enjoy. Sure some that I treasure do to the special experience I've had with them, or the info they hold that I can refer to I will keep, but surely not all of them. I want others to enjoy them. I also am so happy about the book-buddies I've met online. I've met some wonderful and interesting people. I am also so pleased that some of them are younger than me so I can share with them books that I think helped me to grow and heal. What a gift the internet can be when sharing is right at our finger tips. Reduce, reuse, and recycle! These are truly green, clean, happy and productive words.




Harley | 57 comments Diedre O'Neill says on page 213:

"The true teacher gives the disciple the courage to throw his or her world off balance, even though the disciple is afraid of things already encountered and more afraid still of what might be around the next corner."

Have you ever been a disciple of anyone? I have not. I have never met anyone who I would follow and sit at his/her feet and absorb the wisdom. Maybe I have not met the right teachers, but I also feel I am very independent of thought and it is very difficult for me to believe in the wisdom of one person.

Now, I have learned things from people, but I have found no one who I would be willing to follow without question? Are you willing to follow anyone without question?


Harley | 57 comments On page 217, Diedre O'Neill relates a discussion that her protector shared with her about the progression of humans through the ages.

"Human beings are still asking the same questions as their ancestors. In short, they haven't evolved."

The question is: Have human beings progressed or are they the same as they were 10,000 years ago? 2,000 years ago? 200 years ago?

I believe that we have made progress in the external world. We create new things and new ways of seeing. I am not sure that we have made progress in the internal world of emotions and the heart. And we are no more moral today than yesterday. What do you think? Has mankind progressed?


Karen (KarenAndersenMiller) | 48 comments Harley wrote: "Diedre O'Neill says on page 213:

"The true teacher gives the disciple the courage to throw his or her world off balance, even though the disciple is afraid of things already encountered and more a..."


No, I cannot see myself following anyone without question. I have also learned a great deal from others and continue to try and share the path of unfolding knowledge with many, but the path of wisdom is shared by all not ruled by one. However, mentorship is a wonderful way to share and to grow. I feel that this book site and other blogs are a wonderful opportunity for sharing wisdom and uplifting myself and others I communicate with.


Karen (KarenAndersenMiller) | 48 comments Harley wrote: "On page 217, Diedre O'Neill relates a discussion that her protector shared with her about the progression of humans through the ages.

"Human beings are still asking the same questions as their anc..."


"Human beings are still asking the same questions as their ancestors. In short, they haven't evolved."

Humanity has evolved, but then again I'm an optimist. However, there are some questions that are primal and eternal, and I'm sure they will remain that way. This is for good reason. While we travel through space and time writing the storybooks of our lives we are each evolving at our own rate. We are each asking the primal and eternal questions that we need the answers to in order to make meaning of our worlds. It is my greatest hope that humanity never ceases to ask the core primal and eternal question that make us thinking and feeling beings. This is part our our universal magical birth right. We are all on the wheel of life, learning, loving and hopefully reducing suffering, not creating it.




Harley | 57 comments I love this sentence of yours, Karen:

"While we travel through space and time writing the storybooks of our lives we are each evolving at our own rate."

Yes, we each are writing the storybooks of our own lives. How powerful!


message 35: by Harley (last edited Jul 24, 2009 03:16PM) (new)

Harley | 57 comments On page 243, Heron Ryan says: "Free will demands immense responsibility; it's hard work, it brings with it anguish and suffering."

This touches on the age old discussion between free will and predestination. Are you able to choose or are you predestined to make the choices and take the actions that you do? I don't think it is neither one or the other. I think we choose in the end to do what we we are meant to do. Our choices make us who we are — who we are supposed to be. It is a paradox — two sides of the same puzzle.

I live my life and make choices but my choices take me where I am supposed to be. I committed myself to being a minister when I was a sophomore in high school. By the time I was a senior, I no longer believed in God. That was the path I chose. I turned to writing instead. At the age of 40 I entered the world of public speaking and have spent the last 20 years as a professional speaker — in other words, a preacher. The gospel I preach touches the hearts of many and gives them hope even if my pulpit is not in a church. My choices took me to where i was supposed to be. The path I chose may have been different but the destination was the same.

Have you made the choices necessary to be where you are supposed to be?


Harley | 57 comments Thank you, Paulo, for sharing your wisdom and knowledge in the book, The Witch of Portobello.

For those who are following this thread, I will not discuss the ending because I do not want to spoil it for others who are reading the book.

I challenge those who read the book to respond to the questions I have raised and to raise your own questions.


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