A few years ago a friend introduced me to The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer. At the time it failed to resonate with me, and I never finished reading it. But then, about a year ago, someone else mentioned the book and encouraged me to read it. After locating it under a stack of books, I started reading it again and was enthralled with it. Over the following weeks, my morning ritual included reading a few pages before a short mediation. Interestingly, the book that I couldn’t finish became the book I couldn’t put down. What I have taken from Singer’s writings is this: nothing is worth holding onto in our hearts and minds; we should not permit anything in life to get stuck in our hearts. Instead, acknowledge it and then send it on its way through. “Don’t close” your heart is his advice.
Not only has this perspective helped me in my daily life in Dallas, but it was an invaluable lesson as I travelled in France. My journey began with a 3-1/2 hour delay in Dallas and deplaning before finally making our way to our destination. Given this is a trip that I have been planning and looking forward to for months, I could have allowed this to ruin the beginning of my travels, but it gave me an opportunity to utilize Singer’s suggestion. Instead of developing a bad attitude because American Airlines was stealing hours of Paris from me, I decided to enjoy the extra time for movie watching and mapping out my shopping notecards. (Yes, I have organized the shopping areas by arrondissement in order to most efficiently use our time.) To get upset and irate would have done nothing to help the situation. Instead, I focused on the fact that I was relieved that I had scheduled my train for the day after my arrival rather than having the stress of missing it due to arriving late. And, I was happy to have the opportunity to watch a couple of extra movies that I have been wanting to see.
Landing in Paris around 12:30 p.m. put me at my hotel around 2:00 p.m. Rather than frantically throwing everything down so I could rush out and “take in” Paris as I would have done in the past, I took my time to remove the grime of sitting in a germ box for 11-1/2 hours. Feeling clean and refreshed, I headed out. The weather was nothing short of perfect, which means no rain, lots of sun, and a slight coolness to the air. It was heavenly.
First stop, coffee. Next stop, Vintage Valois to see le magasin lined with vintage clothes and accessories from most of the luxury designers, including a few Hermes Kelly bags dated from the 50s. Upon entering the shop, I was greeted by Madame Valois. After explaining that I wanted to see her bags, her assistant took me outside to a space next door, which was locked from the street. Stepping inside the closet-sized space, I was enveloped in the scent of old leather. While anyone is welcome to view the collection, having a one-on-one experience with the clerk felt like I had been given a private invitation. After taking it all in, I headed out around the corner to tackle the newest designs Paris had to offer. Oh, I was not disappointed!
Paris is undeniably one of the best places in the world to window shop. Les magasins take great care to curate their look with the hopes of enticing you inside. The first store that reeled me in was Sonia Rykiel with her edgy, fun new bag shaped like an elongated cube called Le Pavé Parisien. It has a top handle and two separate straps you can attach to make it a crossbody. Since I’m currently obsessed with crossbody bags, I had to check this one out. Le Pavé is available in a rainbow of colors, with multiple interior pockets and a small mirror. Lovely. And, of course, since we are in Paris, they have a young lady on hand to engrave your monogram into the leather of the straps if you like. Yes, please.
Now, in all honesty, shopping at the big girl stores in Paris can be a little intimidating, especially when I am in France to practice my French-speaking skills. Could I carry on a conversation and ask for what I wanted without having the clerks refuse to speak to me in French? Would I feel like an imposter trying on their beautiful language with the people that live in this magical place? Please, no cringing.
Again, Singer’s message, for me, meant that you step out and be brave. Even if my worst nightmare came true, it would be just another opportunity to stay open and let it flow through. So, when I enter a store and return the clerk’s greeting in French, I follow their next question by stating that I am learning French. This translates into: I don’t speak perfectly, so please forgive my mistakes, and know that I am not interested in practicing your English. It worked like a charm.
After shopping until the stores would no longer accept patrons, I wandered towards the Seine. At this point, I had a destination with a very fluid pathway. Stepping away from the shopping area, I found myself in Place de la Concorde where the Ferris wheel sits. Crossing what felt like a mile of road, I decided to continue heading in the direction of the Jardin de Tuileries rather than taking the closest bridge to the Left Bank. Sometimes the best route is the indirect one. Paris is not meant to be traversed blindly with purpose; it is meant to be explored and taken in. If you don’t stop every once in awhile and look up, you will miss some of her gems.