MA-losophy in France: Thinking Ahead and Creating Infrastructure for a Richer Life

I will have a dozen or so blogs about my trip to France in the Summer of 2013.  Expect the MA-losophy style while also getting tips that you may be able to use when traveling with family in Europe (in my case with 11 people total) and my ability to maintain my sanity (most of the time).  While I receive compliments on my ability to speak French, I am far from perfect and it is a continuously humbling experience.  The following are some of my adventures as the only family member that spoke the language and was most exposed to the culture.  Wow, did I learn many lessons.  Read on…

History Creating Mindfulness
I mentioned in another blog that I don’t remember learning anything but American history in grades K-12.  It wasn’t until graduate school and traveling abroad that I was exposed to European or other history.  With many on this trip, I suggested that various family members research areas that we visited to expand our awareness.  Towns and regions became more meaningful, interesting, and sacred as a result (at least, for me), my son’s Latin studies came in handy when reading more ancient text in ruins and on 1,000 year old churches, even his interest in ancient empires gave us bigger picture glimpses (when France wasn’t France, what was it?).

Palaise de Pape in Avignon, France with my family in the shadows

The Palaise de Pape exterior is grand and well-preserved, but the interior requires a bit more imagination.  Knowing the history, however, created an added perspective.  In the 1300′s a number of Pope’s — who also happened to be French — lived in France rather than Rome.  Avignon to be specific.  Over time the Pope relocated to Rome to centralize administration (among other things), but power struggles developed and another line of Pope’s attempted to emerge in Avignon (rising up against Rome).  This clearly didn’t work out for the French, but I feel just a bit fuller by having been exposed to these stories.  Ultimately, don’t we watch these types of stories play out in our everyday lives?  Humans being?  And with those models, can we not predict certain if/then, cause/effects a bit more comprehensively?

When my husband and I have talked about politics, history, and cultural habits with my French mentor (also a political science PhD), I can tell you that I have heard more than once, “Didn’t you study this in European history class?”  Other examples… I didn’t know what Hadrian’s Wall was until I visited England.  Understanding the history, relationships developed, and bloodlines as a result of Roman men forming attachments with love interests in England (for instance) expanded my awareness.   Or what about when we — my children, hubby and I — noticed penises gone missing from statues in what Rome considers their central park?  By order of certain clergy, a chisel censored artistic expression (hmm, think I’ve witnessed that one before).  Thank goodness they didn’t to that to Michelangelo’s, 17 foot tall, David in Florence!

Sure, you can read these things in history books.  But, if you are going to travel, gain some background knowledge prior to your visit.  Not just abroad, but anywhere.  When I visited the 2,000 year old Roman Colosseum in ancient Rome, I read information about the structure after I returned to the States.  It didn’t have the same impact as touching, walking, and breathing in the area while also understanding the background information.

Food and Tea Strategies
Yes, it always circles back to food for me.  When I sit down to a meal — especially midday — I want the good stuff.  So, number one, don’t tour a major historic structure hungry.  You waste your taste buds on food that is usually not as good as if taking a walk a few blocks away from a historical landmark.  Yes, there are exceptions.  But if you don’t know the language and you are there for the first time, keep mealtimes as top of mind as landmarks.

By the time we made it to Avignon (more than one week into our trip), I was wearing the french language like an old shoe.  Sure, I would break into my Franglais (English in some of my sentences because I didn’t know the French word), but I was feeling much more confident.  We had a big family lunch in town, everyone went shopping, and I got antsy at about 3 or 4pm (15:00 or 16:00 hours… something you should get accustomed to in Europe as they run on military time).  I wanted to sit, relax, people watch, and have my tea at a cafe.  I found just the right place, three other members of our party decided they might like a little afternoon treat, and I was the super smooth Mainstream Metaphysical French Mom when I ordered for myself and everyone else at the table.  What do you think my family did?  They totally blew my Franco cool and applauded.  Oh well, back to having a sense of humor.

My Theory on Why the French are Slim:  Oh Wait, They Aren’t All Skinny!
Clearly, I am a foodie in France, but does post-suffering need to be attached to this (i.e. dieting once returning home)?  If one is gluttonous in any country expect to gain weight, so be clear that not all the French are slim.

One of our many dinner spreads (this one in Paris)

Certain European friends will say it’s because American fast food made its way into Europe, but it is nothing like the epidemic we have in America.

Many in the wholistic and integrative community would point to processed foods and GMO’s in the United States that are fed to people and livestock. I know that my youngest has had ongoing stomach issues since she was an infant, but when we took her to France (and to Italy years prior) she ate dairy and bread (for instances) and had no discomfort.  This encouraged her to willingly choose new foods after her return to the U.S., because as soon as she made it home stomach aches returned.

So part of the answer could be that France has banned GMO’s, but they have the infrastructure and cultural habits in place that allow them to eat the lion share of their food by 4pm (16:00 hours) then have a light dinner.  A number of my family members said, “I’m eating so much food.  I’m going to gain so much weight.” To the contrary, for another example, my husband actually lost a of couple pounds.  I could go on about childhood obesity, my issues with American school cafeterias, the poor substandard of food, and the herding of children in and out of the lunchrooms with sometimes (literally) ten minutes or less to actually eat (I fought this battle in my book “Soul”-utions), but I will move on.  The bigger point is I am re-creating my own infrastructure.

A pattern we are playing with this summer?  Eat a decent breakfast (which we generally do in our household); have a good sized lunch (I was skipping lunch on a regular basis) which includes packing a good quality lunch during the school year for our youngest; enjoy a sweet if you like before 4ish; and have a light dinner.  My french mentor said there is a new diet amongst her sisters, extended family and friends in 2013 (all living in France).  Another myth debunked.  Yes, the French do diet, being lean doesn’t always come naturally.  The idea is to eat cheeses (dairy) in the morning, have a good quality protein with up to two cups of a complex carbohydrate for lunch (for energy during the day), then a good quality protein and up to four times the amount of vegetables compared to the protein for dinner.  I haven’t read up on the whole concept so that isn’t the full program, but I am more interested in reporting that the French are NOT ALL skinny and DO diet.  All have to show some restraint to live a healthy life.

Another reason for dwelling on this is that I recognize how much I celebrate good food in my life and how I love to share it with others.  It increases my quality of life when I’m “mmmmming” due to the joy that I feel when I’m having a good meal.  Good means quality proteins, vegetables, fruits, carbohydrates, sweets, tea, coffee… Not gorging, bursting at the seams, and overdoing.  When you stop tasting your food then you should stop eating (this is one of my mind over matter focuses when working with clients on relationship with food).

The MA-losophic message is why not find limitless joy in what you do?
Rich history.  Rich food.  Rich people.   Rich culture.  Rich lessons.  Feel good during and after experiences.  Why not “mmmmmmm” when you eat.  Soak in the why’s that certain structures and regions existed.  Abroad and in your own hometown.  How can it apply to your life in the now?  Count the ways.

To learn more about my mind over matter practice, my self-help books, workshops, and techniques to create comfort for yourself and others, go to  Speak to you soon.

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  1. I laugh at myself when I talk to strangers about visiting somewhere I love…the first words out my mouth are generally food memories, second history, third people experiences. Food and Learning…what more could there be in life! Great wisdom once again!

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