We humans have two great problems: the first is knowing when to begin,

the second is knowing when to stop.

Paulo Coelho, The Zahir

Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist is one of favourite books. Every few years I pick it up again to reread. It’s a classic fable—poetic and meaningful. A beautiful story about the value and magic inherent in following our dreams.

The Zahir is completely different. It seems semi-autobiographical like many of Coelho’s other books. In fact, the author states in The Zahir that any writer can only write about themselves. I extrapolate this to mean we can only deeply share that which we’ve personally experienced.

I love the book. I personally enjoy Coelho’s openness about life as a best-selling author. And I’ve received much insight from his comments about expressing and releasing the past. Here are a couple of excerpts from The Zahir on that subject:

“How does one go about abandoning the story one was told?”

“By repeating it out loud in meticulous detail. And as we tell our story, we say goodbye to what we were and, as you’ll see if you try, we create space for a new, unseen world…”


“When I had nothing more to lose, I was given everything. When I ceased to be who I am, I found myself. When I experienced humiliation and yet kept on walking, I understood that I was free to choose my destiny…”

Like Coelho, I believe in the value of sharing our stories. I also fully resonate with his words and feelings about the guidance we receive constantly if we allow it. The following words from the book beautifully summarize Coelho’s perspective regarding what I call synchronicity, what he calls signs:

I believe in signs. After I had walked the road to Santiago, everything had changed completely: what we need to learn is always there before us, we just have to look around us with respect and attention in order to discover where God is leading us and which step we should take next. I also learned a respect for mystery: as Einstein said, God does not play dice with the Universe, everything is interconnected and has a meaning. That meaning may remain hidden nearly all the time, but we always know we are close to our true mission on earth when what we are doing is touched with the energy of enthusiasm.

The Zahir is set in Paris and in the steppes of central Asia. I recommend the book for anyone interested in the modern human condition and for anyone interested in the art of relating to the one(s) you love. Next to  The Alchemist, this is my favourite Paulo Coelho offering. Read it. Once begun, you won’t want to put it down.

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Radio host, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives, a startlingly poignant and inspiring real-life endorsement of the power of thought, belief and synchronicity in one’s life.