Colm Holland’s 40 Days of Alchemy Meditations at home.
DAY 34 - The Great Test
“What you still need to know is this: before a dream can be realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way.” The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
I have a confession. I was never good at tests at school. I only have myself to blame because I never learned a system to remember facts when I needed them. Fortunately, The Soul of the World does not set a written exam. In fact there is not even a right answer - only the answer we give. The test the alchemist is referring to is a test of courage. This is the question we should ask ourselves:
Have I learned to not give in to fear, but to let the courage in my heart lead the way.
I have another confession. By nature I was riddled with self doubt. In my youth I had dreams and ambitions but for some reason would constantly step back from them.
I feared my power to be successful, because I did not trust my heart not to be full of guilt.
Just like Santiago in the story of The Alchemist, I feared that if I was successful then I would be full of guilt. Everyone around me, including my parents, had been denied the chance to fulfill their dreams. So it was better to not use the power to make my life a success and unconsciously I would sabotage my chance of success.
Let me give you a clear example from my childhood. Whenever I expressed an ‘outlandish’ ambition in my youth my late departed mother, God bless her, was fond of saying, ‘You can have your dreams!’ Of course you probably assume this was a good thing for her to say. Unfortunately you can’t hear the irony in her voice. What she meant was, it’s okay to have to have fanciful dreams about happiness, fame, wealth and success - but don’t expect them to come true, because the chances are they won’t!
Then at the age of thirteen I experienced a classic moment of self sabotage when I was offered a place for three months in a professional theater company which at the time was certainly a dream come true. My greatest ambition was to be an actor.
The theater was the leading English provincial company and had been the starting ground for some famous film stars such as Laurence Olivier. The director saw me in a local production in my city and decided I had a gift for stage acting.
Of course this was every young budding actor’s dream, and as you can imagine I was beside myself with excitement. It had the added bonus of being taken out of school for at least three months and if I was successful, an ongoing youth career in the theatre with a part time tutor for school work.
My parents were terrified by having to make this decision - it ultimately was theirs to make. They consulted the head teacher at my school - to see what he thought. My school advised my parents that long term it would be detrimental to my studies and my parents agreed.
Then they all did the worst thing imaginable. They told me the final decision was mine to make. I would be the one to choose. On the one hand I could risk trying to be a successful actor and if I failed I would also wreck my academic career. Looking back I can see this was no choice at all. If I chose the acting I would be riddled with guilt forever because I threw away a great education that my school had offered me.
I had to decide. I was thirteen years old. I believed I could do it, that I would be a success as an actor. I wanted it more than anything in the world. But what if it did not work out? All I could hear was the voice in my heart that had been taught that people from my lowly background could not see their dreams become a success. So I denied my inner power and turned down the opportunity - only to regret it for the rest of my youth. My self confidence was wrecked in the process.
Most critically I stopped dreaming and gave up hope of ever having a career that would fill me with the same level of excitement.
When the Great Test comes we must act with our heart and banish all other voices. Colm Holland - The Secret of The Alchemist
With hindsight I can see I was at the point of the Great Test that we all must face when we have the chance to follow our dreams. Fortunately for me I had the chance to dream again, with a new dream at the age of forty and this time, thanks to Paulo Coelho, I made the right decision to act on my dream - with a successful outcome beyond anything I had expected. This time I knew I was worthy of fulfilling my dreams.
Our mantra for today:
I am worthy to fulfill my dreams and I will let the courage in my heart lead the way.
Colm Holland is a writer, mentor, speaker, alchemy trainer and adventurer.