“Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see,
and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.”
In the June 2019 essay, this Homebody shares some reflections about what happened after getting out of my Home Sweet Home comfort zone and becoming a visitor to the State of Mind called France, where Harry and I celebrated the gift of 30 years as spiritual partners. My Kriya Yoga lineage teaches the importance of continually broadening one’s Horizon of Awareness (HoA). Travel is an excellent way to reinforce the practice! It’s improper to paint any group with one brush, so please understand I do not intend to stereotype, generalize or hurt anyone. I’m simply describing a few keys learnings I had while enjoying the pleasure of being a Stranger in a Strange Land. I hope you find this essay useful as you practice broadening your HoA!
A TIME OF SLOWLY SAVORING SENSUALITY & SHARED HUMANITY
May 2019, Le Bon Marché, PARIS, FRANCE
Kate Kemp-Griffin, founder of Paris Lingerie Tours and guide par excellence, hands me a gossamer confection of silk, satin and lace and asks how it feels against my skin. She’s introducing me to the essential difference between how North American and French women regard their undergarments. One considers it a practical way to cover up the body’s flaws with the armor of “underwear.” The other calls it “lingerie” and considers it a daily self-care ritual and human right to feel deliciously sensual as a female, regardless of the presence or absence of the “male gaze.” French women have lingerie, not underwear, drawers. Ooh la la! Vive la différence!
Kate is a Canadian expatriate who’s lived in France 30 years and worked in the thriving world of French Lingerie. Her unique HoA translated into fascinating stories about the State of Being called France. For example, Kate helped me deconstruct the myth of French “rudeness” with a story about how to communicate properly with a French person. Once her son fell off his bike and was bleeding. In a panic, Kate ran up to a policeman pleading for help but forgetting her French manners. The policeman straightened his spine and sternly said, “Bonjour, Madame.” Kate realized her faux pas and quickly said the magic words, “Bonjour, Monsieur.” Immediately the policeman sprang into action.
“I'm curious about other people. That's the essence of my acting. I'm interested in what it would be like to be you”—Meryl Streep
The French begin their interactions with an acknowledgment of their shared humanity. They consider it rude to begin an encounter without the courtesy of a greeting. We North Americans may be more transactional and may impatiently begin without greetings. So what appears to be “rude” to outsiders is simple French courtesy. Voila, another myth dispelled! (Yesterday, Harry noticed that when he greeted our restaurant server in the ‘French way’, he was rewarded with a huge smile and energetic service.)
To be in France is to be immersed in Beauty. There is a way the French seem to slow down and employ all the senses to savor—the food, the wine, the menu, the company, the pedestrians passing by, the perfect peony on the table, the stained glass ceiling, the ancient architecture, the market’s produce arranged as art-forms. I saw no litter on the streets or subways to mar Paris’ beauty.
“I think Paris smells not just sweet but melancholy and curious, sometimes sad but always enticing and seductive. She's a city for the all senses, for artists and writers and musicians and dreamers, for fantasies, for long walks and wine and lovers and, yes, for mysteries. —M.J. Rose
The French motto: Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité (Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood)
It was remarkable to me (one who has not visited any American battlegrounds) when our Place de La Concorde guide pointed to the exact spots where the most famous (among thousands) of aristocrats were guillotined during the French Revolution! That historic struggle for justice for the 99% offered context when Kate explained about the yellow-vest strikes. These are regular protests against, among many injustices, a gasoline tax that means farmers can barely afford to drive their crops to market and rural workers going broke driving to their jobs. In spite of two strikes that weekend, Parisians seemed to have a mellow attitude and solidarity with the protesters. They simply worked around the disruptions. A few people asked me why Americans don’t take to the streets more often given our erratic leadership!
“Be curious, not judgmental.”—Walt Whitman
Practice for Broadening one’s Horizon of Awareness (HoA)
Travel naturally expands one’s Horizon of Awareness. If travel isn’t possible, seek to intentionally expose yourself to the New by cooking and eating “foreign” foods, attending “foreign” cultural festivals and “foreign” art exhibits, watching “foreign” films, learning to speak or read in a “foreign” language. Just be sure to witness in a curious and friendly way what happens to the mind when you take these consciousness changing actions!
Here’s the practice when encountering the New:
Start with activating the Witness/Observer part of your consciousness. Imagine a cobalt-blue light a few feet above your head. The light serves as a 360 degree video camera recording all it sees, without judging, analyzing or interpreting. The only response is, “Isn’t that interesting?!”
Adopt an attitude of friendly curiosity and non-judging.
Invite all your senses to savor the new thoughts, sights, sounds, tastes, and kinesthetic sensations.
Compare and contrast the New experience to the Old ways of being. Perhaps you’ll choose to release some old constrictive patterns of thinking and acting that no longer serve you.
Document your observations with images and some private journaling.
Take some time to reflect and incorporate the lessons learned from the New experience.
Thank the Powers That Be for these new Earth School lessons.
When the time is right, share your new insights with trusted ones who can help deepen your new understanding.
Traveling in France gave me a deep appreciation for this land of Beauty. I am grateful to have had more Joy and Ease because of the practices of…
Utilizing the Witness/Observer practice
Being curious in a friendly way
Slowing down and savoring the moment
Through these practices, I learned once again that being “foreign” is an illusion. What is Real is our shared humanity.
“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things,
because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”—Walt Disney
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.” —T.S. Eliot
With the coming of the Summer Solstice this week in the Northern Hemisphere and the Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere, may you find great Joy as you broaden your Horizon of Awareness. May you walk in Beauty today and all the days of your life.
Love, love, love,