Post 1, is there life after France? Not sure, but will try.
I should be telling you what it was to trek through the Pyrenees. Due to no thank-you, climate change, I can’t. Did anyone in the US hear about the torrential rain, flooding and destruction recently in France, notably in the Pays-Basque? If not, here to tell you it was BAD! Reference point, take a look at the clips of probably the most historic weather year on record for the Tour de France, or was that mud wrestling? I posted from France on Facebook that I couldn’t imagine that there were still climate deniers in this world, but if you know one, I’m hoping you’ll douse them with facts and images that are indisputable.
The fact is we need to collectively decide to undo the concept of “pc” and say what we need to say, thank you John Mayer. And that goes direct to the message of importance for this post. To sum up the best lesson learned from my recent travels: we must step off the wheel we’re on. How much has been chronicled about living life in the present where expectations and rules are tossed aside? Consider the work of Peter Mayle in A Year in Provence or Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love – the opportunity to experience life fully despite what society says. I haven’t been able to do such a thing ever before in my life, and I highly encourage anyone to give this a go if not once in life, then often. Throwing caution to the wind is healthy and taps creativity and vitality you have within you. Now back, all I can do is share what I learned to help others, and to try and keep this in practice for myself, a work in progress back in the US against what society demands.
Yesterday, someone reminded me that so many on Earth are sleepwalking. It is nothing to be upset about if you’re in that state. It is a life’s work to wake up; Buddhists say so. So it is, right? Not quite. Practical experience is the best teacher. For me, the process started early with my tennis coach and a philosophy teacher that encouraged me to extend beyond anything I understood – intellectually and physically. I think it is true that ignorance can be bliss, but it isn’t real. Whatever false sense of security denial allows, it never lasts and ends up hurting – you, others and the Earth. Love and beauty are the true blessings of this world and our collective experience.
The biggest gift of this world isn’t one that many of us see, and if we do, one that we’ll accept. I’ve got to say it, please forgive me as I have been influenced by ideology in the past, but religion and politics have rendered societies out of touch with what is. What is? You can’t think yourself through this one. You must experience it, live it, feel it. Imagine, however hard it might be, this basic exercise for living in the present:
1) Cease with what you “should” do – it doesn’t matter if your parents, significant other, or society said, give yourself permission to stop
2) Forget about the past and the future, find yourself in present time
3) Turn off the phones and the computer, disconnect. Put yourself on an extreme technology diet. If you don’t believe me, ask Arianna Huffington, she hits this topic hard in Thrive, and echoes the same life principles of balance and simplicity that are good for the soul, health and the world.
4) Tune into the present moment: what do you hear, see, taste, smell, feel? Your 5 senses? Use them. Check in.
5) Open yourself. This is so hard to describe, but best I can explain, drop everything you’ve been doing and actively participate in life in the moment. Don’t critique, live. Smile, carry a sparkle in your eyes, move your body, taste things, feel things like you’ve never experienced before. Imagine that you are seeing everything for the first time, even if you’ve been there before. Take it in. I cannot emphasize enough what it is to be open – to life, to beauty, to what is possible in this world.
6) You do not need to journal this, you don’t need to let someone know, you don’t “need to do anything,” for once, give yourself permission to live free
7) In case you or I missed the point, as Robin Williams said from Mork & Mindy, “fly, be free,” aka LIVE. Robin Williams is a wise man. With humor, we find brilliance.
I could go into everything that happened, and didn’t, in France, but that’s my story, not yours. What I can say is how much it helped me understand who I was, what had meaning, and just how far I’d fallen from grace, or rather, living life. You’ve heard these stories many times before, but rest assured, this kind of thing works like a strange sort of magic. On my return flight, I selected Dead Poet’s Society amongst the many movie titles offered, and was reminded when you’re in sync with the world, “carpe diem”– seize the day – matters. Seize the moment. Nothing else. It isn’t complicated.
I’ve written a book about simple living with style done sustainably. If you want to get me going, ask me to talk about consumption and complexity. These two things are killing every living thing and the environment. For a species that prides itself on being so smart, I ask, how can we be so stupid? In the process of supposedly chasing dreams, we’ve crushed them. Instead of changing the world, we’ve destroyed it. Instead of helping people, we’re killing each other. Please, if nothing else, get off this wheel. It is a prayer that transcends every religious, political and social belief. We are one. We have no need to fight one another. We have no need to consume the way we do. Let the footsteps be light. Go gently. Don’t force anything. Breathe and trust that the way life works is absolutely perfect if we allow it to be that way.
I can say that my time in France was the best in my life. In touch with the present, open to everything around me, the beauty and sheer awe of how life works and what is. Sometimes you’ve got to go home to see it. Do. You may not know why and you don’t need to preplan an agenda. Living this way had me step into everything I love. You can really smile inside. When you do, you radiate that energy to the rest of the world and the world responds. I can only imagine what Earth would be like if we could all do that, all the time. The potential is huge. I saw the most beautiful things, tasted the most delicious food, and enjoyed time with some of the most amazing people I’ve been fortunate to meet.
In France, I thought often about my favorite book, The Alchemist. This was a pilgrimage of sorts. What was I searching for? I had no idea. For years Santiago, the protagonist in Coelho’s book of legend, had been my hero. I dreamed I could know as he did. Was this a journey to find the Soul of the World? Perhaps, that is if I could wake up enough to see what eluded me for years. Qu’est-ce qu’il y a? Loosely translated, what’s going on? The world, sorry I was too busy doing what I thought I was supposed to. I can’t hear you. What? The sound of voices from the past, my personal legend, qu’est-ce qu’il y a? It is here. It was here all along. I was too busy to find what I was looking for. Step off the wheel and you’ll find your life right there. I promise. Santiago did. I did. Many before have. Your life is more than the present that you see too, it is your history that you’ll discover, and it isn’t magic.
For everyone on the road less traveled by,