The Art of Mastering the Self

Paulo Coelho’s The Archer takes the reader on a quest to find beauty, grace, goodness, perfection by way of understanding the elements of archery. In simple and subtle ways, it talks about finding elegance and brilliance in our actions, our pursuits, and the manner we accomplish our dreams.

The book does not teach you the skills of archery; it offers a guiding philosophy of life. The Archer is keen on showing you what a purposeful and meaningful existence is about. That to achieve a goal, you must regard and respect it, and understand your own self in the process. That you may perfect your technique and reach your aim, but true mastery comes only when there is a deeper understanding of your mind and soul.
And as you progress with the story, you realize how beautifully the author has connected this ancient art form to life itself.

For archery is not a mere skill or a game. When an archer is ready to release his arrow, he must do so, not to simply hit the target, but to attain concentration and clarity of mind, purity of soul, poise in posture and inner growth, altogether.

As Tetsuya, the beloved protagonist, enlightens the young man with his wise words—To perfect an art, you must first master the mind and find peace within the soul.

True. It is when the intention is clear, focus is sharp and efforts are led with single-mindedness, one can reach the purest level of art. By bringing together the skill, integrity, and dignity into the work, one can accomplish what they aspire with finesse and grace.   

Inspired by his own practice of Kyudo, a Japanese martial art form, the author wanted to translate his life experience and learnings into a beautiful, contemplative story.  And that is how The Archer was born.

The book delivers a profound message through a simple anecdote. The writing is not complicated for it has emerged from an experience of a lifetime, from the author’s own understanding and refinement of his art. The Archer is one book that I enjoyed reading until the wee hours of the night. I just could not give up unfinished. Every word and every line of the narrative has a message that cannot go unnoticed.

In a world of chaos and confusion, and chasing behind never-ending desires, we must pause, center our energy to understand ourselves. As Tetsuya mentions: the target exists only when the archer exists. Certainly, it is us who give meaning to our ambitions and goals. Else, they are simply insignificant.

I am inclined to drive home the message that there is a certain devotion, attention, poise, joy, and purity that one must bring in learning a skill. Practice the art in a manner, through persistence, training, and repetition, that it becomes effortless, intuitive, and precise in action one day.

It is in knowing your art, honing your practice, refining your skills, and understanding your mind that you become the true archer of your life.

And that for me is the art of mastering the self.


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