“Ici, vivre est un arte.” Translated: Here, living is an art.
I saw this sentence written on a brochure for a winery in the Loire Valley. Although we didn’t end up visiting that winery on our recent trip to France (or any, really, as it didn’t seem like the thing to do with four kids in tow), the words stuck with me.
Here, living is an art.
Although we only spent time in the Loire Valley and in Paris during this 3-week trip, it wasn’t difficult to see how France=Flair. The way they dress is artistic. Food is a religion. Statues and fountains and art decorate public spaces. Even the rich cadence of the French language is flowery and romantic.
And I fell in love with all of it.
I’m not French, not even of French descent. Although I’d like to go back again, another visit most likely would not happen anytime soon. But something about the way many French people seem to live—tidy and simple and thoughtfully deliberate—spoke to me. During our visit, I very soon realized that I want to imitate this way of living in my own life.
Here are a few things I learned in France that I think I can take with me into my everyday life in the U.S.:
- Eating and Cooking Mindfully
Sometimes, in our busy lives, we see food as something to gulp down quickly on the way to the next activity. Filling the void is the key, not tasting or enjoying the beautiful sustenance we’re taking into our bodies. Eating more slowly and with greater deliberateness is one thing I’d like to start doing. I once read in a book about mindful living that you should chew each bite 100 times. I tried it. The food seems to melt away before that many chews, so maybe I need to work on it. At the very least, savoring each bite and being grateful for each calorie is something that would enrich my life, and probably my digestion!
Now that we’ve experienced the four-course French meal, served with both pride and quiet gusto, we know that the meal can be an experience in and of itself. A well-designed appetizer, say homemade terrine with pistachios, prunes, onion & apple chutney, served first, whets the palate and gets you excited for plates to come. Then the main course (how about filleted chicken breast with a lemon zest and espelette pepper sauce?), brought out after the wine has kicked in, satiates you. Then cheese, of course! I’m really looking forward to feeding my friends and family at our home. I envision healthy and delicious food, comfortable chairs, low lighting, candles, wine, and captivating conversation. And cloth napkins. (Because you can’t eat mindfully with paper ones.)
In a culture of abundance, we often reach for the food impostors: packaged stuff loaded with sugar and long lists of chemicals or fast food swamped in grease. We’ve got to stop eating like college kids, eating only to not be hungry. Meals can and should be peaceful, healthy celebrations of life. Bon appetit!
- Attention to Detail
I could clearly see while moving around the beautiful country of France that French people care. They are tidy. They have an attention to detail about their homes and gardens and neighborhoods. This level of organization was as comforting as it was beautiful.
Did you know that, in France, grocery stores don’t pack your groceries in plastic bags? If you don’t bring your own reusable bags, you’ll have to carry your purchases in your arms. As recently as this past July, France banned the use of all lightweight plastic bags, joining several other countries and several U.S. states. Being ultra vigilant about the environment, France has also banned the use of GMO crops in an effort to keep their food system natural. Added to that, they use clean energy, have made strides in using clean technology for their vehicles, and are working diligently to reduce pollution of air and water. This is a country whose leadership and citizens have stepped up to help solve the climate change challenge, while many in the world ignore or disbelieve the idea that we are at “the edge of a climatic abyss,” as stated by Laurent Fabius, the Foreign Minister of France. In a time of unprecedented apathy, the French care.
I learned from this to pay attention. Pay attention to my food, to my sense of values, to my health and other blessings, to every moment, and to the needs of the world around me. Life is better when you pay attention, when you appreciate this bewitching moment. Life is better when you care enough to create more beautiful and interesting lives for yourself and your loved ones.
- Meditating on the Beauty of Life
In light of the calm, natural, thoughtful living I experienced in France, I’d love to keep the spirit going. I believe meditation is an efficient way I can do this. I already have a meditation practice but I want to commit doing this life-changing activity more regularly. I’d like to begin fitting it in daily, even if I only have time for 5 or 10 minutes.
Meditation slows me down and helps me understand what is really important in life. I find I can be more articulate in sharing my thoughts and listen to others more thoroughly when they share theirs. I love meditation. I love that it exists. I love that I’ve discovered it. It makes me smile for hours afterward. It’s the best medicine I’ve ever tried.
Lingering on my breathing… clearing my cluttered thoughts… focusing on the divine spear of love available to me… I say yes to all of it. Thanks to my peaceful sojourn in France, I’ve been reminded how lovely it can be.
In the rush of modern life, sometimes it’s difficult to remember the simple pleasures. Living can be an art if I do it mindfully, peacefully, and lovingly. As Brendon Burchard said in his book, The Motivation Manifesto, “With enlightenment comes the realization that the natural foe to life is not a distant death, but a detachment from living.” Living artfully is living well. I look forward to adopting this lifestyle in the coming moments of my life.
Ici, vivre est un arte!