The Universe Holds Its Breath

For many people, dreams are what go on behind closed eyes while we’re sleeping, forgotten when we’ve awakened and gotten back to the real business of daily life. That’s one interpretation, and a valid one, backed up by the ever-evolving science of brain imaging.

But there’s another meaning to dreams. They are the stuff that we spend our lives pursuing, wide awake, devoting moments stolen here and there, or days, or even decades to achieving, depending on our choices. Call it destiny, or God’s Plan, or your “chosen path” if you like, but every person has it buried within him or herself, waiting to be unlocked.

Yesterday, I read Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist”. I’d bought the book in Braille months ago, and I set it aside, waiting for the “perfect time” to read it.

Earlier in the year, my 16-year-old sister said she was reading it.

“Oh, I’ve got that book,” I said, excited. “How is it?”

“Pretty good,” she said, which is high praise coming from a teenager. I made a mental note to check it out, and sooner rather than later.

I kept my word, dipping into the first paragraph and skimming some of the blurbs on the jacket.

As blurbs go, this book is loaded. I’m not easily swayed by blurbs, but when you start seeing them from all over the world, and the words “life-changing,” “profound,” and “timeless” are being thrown around, I’m not sure whether to plunge in with even higher hopes or congratulate someone on really savvy marketing.

I grew up on a farm, raising goats. I had eleven brothers and sisters, and, by my own choices, I was always taking care of some two- or four-legged kid or other. I had a passion for goats, and a lot of what I learned about life I got in the barn. So, when a book starts with: “The boy’s name was Santiago. Dusk was falling as the boy arrived with his herd at an abandoned church.” … well, I’m in!

But, I didn’t do any more than dip into that first paragraph after my sister and I talked about the book. Sensing a good thing, I said to myself, “Oooh, I’ll save this for later,” kind of like a really good piece of chocolate you want to savor when the moment is just right, to treat yourself to something special.

Over the past year and a half, I’ve been hit with some profound lessons of the heart, all revolving around love, compassion, and how we express those things not only to ourselves but also to those who choose to walk beside us on life’s journey. I’ve lost people so dear to me that sometimes, going through a day without hearing them speak is my greatest challenge, and my heart aches because I don’t have the convenience and ease of their physical presence to reassure me and must hold on, by faith, to the knowledge that, now that they have slipped the bonds of this physical existence, they are without limitations and can be with everyone who held them dear, all the time, no matter how many of us there are or how far we’re scattered across the earth.

But I’ve gained friends whose love is more profound than anything I’ve ever experienced before. Any sooner, and I would not have been ready to receive it or understand what to do with it. Any later, perhaps, and my heart would have taken longer to open to it and blossom under its nurturing.

Anyway, yesterday, I picked up the book. When my grandmother was alive and I was a small girl, she read to me out loud often. It became something we treasured, and when she could no longer read for herself, we switched places and I’d bring my Braille book and read to her.

It was in these times that I began to learn just how powerful the spoken word can be, especially as an agent of comfort and sustenance. Even if you can’t be with someone physically, the sound of your voice can often provide the tangible thing that they take hold of and use to begin pulling themselves toward light and renewal.

It’s also just plain fun sharing good books with other people. So, I began reading “The Alchemist” on cassette so I could give it to one of my friends as a Christmas gift.

One other benefit of reading aloud: It forces you to pay attention. You don’t want to be stumbling over words or reading in a monotone that puts your listener to sleep. At the same time, at least for me, as a person who is always thirsty for new knowledge, I wasn’t about to read the book first to myself, then read it again onto tape. Once was enough.

At least that’s what I was thinking when I started reading yesterday morning. But by late evening, with the turn of the final page, I knew I was not only going to be revisiting this book more than once, but I was going to be passing it on to the people I knew might also be able to understand its message.

That message is deceptively simple, and as a consequence, either misunderstood or not even known by a majority of people. The message is this: Everyone has their own purpose or dream in life, which comes from the heart, that is a direct link to the soul of the universe (or God, if you like). We are put here to achieve this dream, and every day of our lives, we are presented with choices which can lead us further along the path to fulfilling it. When we are on this path, the whole universe conspires to help us reach our dream because that dream is in accord with the soul of the universe. Even though we will be tested along the way, the tests are simply lessons that strengthen us and prepare us for the moment when the dream is within our grasp. If we pay attention to our heart and to the signs laid out before us in our lives that point us on the way, then we can not fail.

It’s a good thing we don’t spend every day constantly receiving such profound wisdom, and we don’t put such huge significance on every single choice we make. If we did, our minds would explode and we would never get anywhere because we’d feel the impending weight of the consequence of choosing Cheerios instead of cornflakes for breakfast. But we do receive insights, flashes of intuition, and these provide the impetus for us to progress on our road to discovery.

I didn’t sleep much last night because I was relearning many of these truths for myself, and also because I was keenly aware of how, throughout my life, I have gradually been taught how to read the signs, not only for my own dream, but for the dreams of others.

For instance, how is it that a girl who grew up among the goats has gone on to make music that has reached across the world and, one by one, touched the hearts and souls of people whose language I don’t even speak?

How is it that a young woman in Indonesia, who dreamed of becoming a piano teacher, happened to find me on the Internet and, over the course of five years, learned enough and persevered enough so that she is now a full-time music student?

How is it that a man who had spent his days trying to solve the computer problems of countless angry people left his job, went back to school, and achieved the desire he’d had since he was ten, namely, to become a healer?

And how do you explain to a woman, young or old, that, when they get on a bus in Minnesota, they will meet another person who will teach her some of the most profound lessons about life, love, honor and the pursuit of an art?

I used to think that love was something that bound people together. It does, but not in the way I’d imagined. True love sees the dream within each person and doesn’t hold them back.

True love sees more value in a person’s freedom to pursue and achieve their own dream, no matter where the pursuit leads, or what shape achievement and fulfillment take.

True love recognizes that, while physical proximity and the certainty of days going on, one after another, in their usual, unchanging way can be comforting, change is inevitable when we are striving to grow beyond who we are in each moment.

Many people will tell you that dreaming is a waste of time, the province of lazy people, fools and children. They’ll tell you it’s not productive, that being happy doing exactly what you are designed to be doing is so rare that you may as well give up and just get a real job, be responsible, and most of all, quit talking about fanciful ideas that go nowhere.

People will tell you that, if you dedicate your life to your dream, you’re obsessive, anti-social, selfish, wasting your talent.

We’ve been so conditioned by generations of this kind of thinking that, now, it’s rare to find people who can even hear what their hearts are telling them, and rarer still to find those who act on what they’ve heard.

When I was reading yesterday, I was forcefully reminded that, at least in my opinion, all the really great stories seem to start among the sheep and the goats. When God was looking for a king for Israel, He found him in Jesse’s youngest son, a small boy named David who spent his days playing his harp for sheep. David went on to compose some of the world’s most enduring poetry in the Psalms.

When angels wanted to announce the birth of Christ, they went first to shepherds keeping watch over their flocks in the middle of the night.

When a girl named Clara learned to walk despite what everyone else believed was impossible, she did it high in the mountains, surrounded by true friends and a few goats.

Santiago’s story, though the details are different, carries that same message, and I, too, hold it within my own heart.

The word “conspire” comes from roots that make its literal meaning “breathing together”. It’s a word that’s accumulated a lot of negative overtones, what with crazy conspiracy theories and such.

But last night, while I can’t remember any specific details of my own dreams, I do remember a few clear sensations. So many people, when presented with true love and the freedom it allows, are still paralyzed by fear, and they choose not to take another step. They think, “I’m too old,” or “I’m too busy,” or “I’m too tired,” or “No one will understand”.

True enough. Many people won’t understand, and this lack of understanding, especially when it comes from family, friends, or anyone else we love and value, is painful.

But the other thing that was clear last night was that, at this moment, for me and for anyone else who has heard their heart and chosen to follow their dream, the universe is holding its breath, waiting to see what we will do next and, based on our action, will respond with all the love that is at its core.

My dream is to be a great pianist and a great composer. Music is one of those truly universal languages, and whether I’m working on a piece for someone I know personally or someone across the ocean who doesn’t understand a single word of English, I know that, because I have learned to hear what the universe has to say to us, the music will be right, no matter how it sounds.

Whether I am standing up playing an electronic keyboard for a church service, or painstakingly learning notes for a technical exercise on my piano at home, or playing the music of a man who lived hundreds of years ago in front of a recital hall filled with people, I am also doing exactly what I was made to be doing.

So why am I sitting here now, using a totally different kind of keyboard, when I “should” be practicing?

Because the universe conspires. Just because you have a dream doesn’t mean that you won’t take side trips along the way. In Coelho’s book, Santiago the shepherd boy turns out to be quite an adept salesman of crystal. He didn’t throw away the chance to sell glassware because it wasn’t exactly his dream. In fact, it became part of the path, a stepping-stone that allowed him to gain invaluable knowledge and experience that he used later on his quest.

For whatever reason, I’ve been given a gift for words. I enjoy reading them, writing them, and many times, people enjoy reading the ones I’ve written. So, while it may appear, on the surface, that this blog has nothing to do with my dream, it does. The universe conspires … it holds its breath … what will I do next?

Explore posts in the same categories: Blindness, Braille, Dreams, Family and Friends, goats, metaphysics, music, piano, Reading, spirituality

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2 Comments on “The Universe Holds Its Breath”

  1. aart Says:


    I’m a big fan of Paulo Coelho! You will love this! He’s the first best-selling
    author to be distributing for free his works on his blog:

    Have a nice day!


  2. halfnotes Says:


    Thanks so much for taking the time to read here, and also thanks for the site. I’ll definitely being enjoying it.

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