So many people feel energized by a trip to Paris. It’s more than just the city’s beauty, it truly has a special energy. While some might be overwhelmed and come down with the Paris Syndrome, for many others spending time in Paris can be extremely restorative and even life changing, as was the case with New York Times best-selling author Sonia Choquette. Read on to discover some of the valuable wisdom she gained while living in Paris, which is elaborated in her insightful book Waking Up in Paris, Overcoming Darkness in the City of Lights.
Three years ago, after suffering a sudden and debilitating divorce following a 32-year marriage, I was inspired to start my life over again by moving to Paris, the city of lights. As told in my book Waking Up in Paris, it was a crazy, spontaneous, decision, but proved to be the one of the best of my life. While making an adjustment to the Parisian way of life has not been easy, the soulful lessons I’ve learned since moving here have been invaluable and well worth the effort.The first of these lessons was that of being present. Meditation and mindfulness experts the world over agree on the profound benefits of focusing on the moment, which is what being present means. Being present frees the mind of worry, anxiety, and stress, and heals the body. But after losing my home, my financial stability, and my married identity, being present was far from where I was. Immersed in constant anxiety, despair, and worry about my future when I first arrived, I didn’t know where I was at all.
However, from the moment I stepped out of my tiny Parisian Airbnb apartment where I first set up a temporary home, on the first day I arrived and began to stroll through colorful, quaint 18th district of Paris where I had landed, being present was all I could be.
Like a five-year-old wandering into a three-ring circus tent, I was instantly transported into a magical, romantic, quirky, and fascinating world, the likes of which my despair could simply not compete. In a flash my woes disappeared and wonder took its place.
My daily meditative walks originated in the small village at the top of Paris at the Sacré Coeur Church near my apartment (which looks like a wedding cake at the top of Paris,) and often ended on the other side of Paris in another small village on the rue Mouffetard, and lasted for gorgeous hours and hours along the way.
Becoming a flaneuse (the French word for someone who strolls) was my new therapy. My strolls took me along endless winding, ancient cobbled streets, had me peering into odd shop windows, listening to the occasional quintessential accordion player singing on a random street corner, or watching street performers along the Pont Marie behind the Notre Dame, all the time fascinated by the endless parade of earthly delights. The past soon forgotten and the present a gift unto itself.
The second soul lesson Paris taught me was to have unapologetic, high self-esteem. It seemed to me that not a single Parisian, let alone Parisian woman did not hold himself or herself in the highest regard possible.
Parisians exude self-interest and self-love the likes of which I had never seen before. Unlike me, who was a recovering co-dependent Catholic raised to please everyone in the world ahead of myself, Parisians took quite the opposite approach to others, exuding a “you are here to please me” attitude that came as quite a shock at first. While not exactly wanting to fully adopt this more self-centered attitude, it did help balance my overly concerned for others outlook which landed me here in the first place.
Beginning with dressing up before ever leaving the house, (which is essential if you want anyone in Paris to treat you well), and stepping out in style, yet being unconcerned with other people’s inner world, soon my own inner world began to find some space in which to more fully take care of myself. Parisians were great teachers in this regard as they love to take care of themselves.
I soon learned to slow down, and concentrate on one thing at a time, instead of multi-task at the speed of light. I learned to eat more slowly and enjoy my meal and the company of those with whom I was sharing it, rather than bolt down my food. (Parisians spend an average of seven more hours a week eating meals than the USA.) I learned to sit and watch the world go by at my favorite café, Café Cler on rue Cler, without feeling any sense of urgency or guilt for sitting so long.
I learned to listen closely to others instead of being in my head, at first to simply understand the language and what was being said to me, but soon to understand the deeper intention and meaning of the words I was hearing. My intuition grew and my spirit calmed down as a result.
I got back to simpler things. I shopped for food at fresh markets, my favorite being the Aligre Market in the 12th district, with its endless stalls of delicious seasonal fruits and vegetables.
I picked up fresh flowers for me, twice a week and brought them home. I washed my clothes in the smallest washer ever, and then hung them up to dry, and even ironed them, all of which was grounding and kept me living in the now.
But most of all, I learned to live and let live. The French are very different from me and often it was infuriating. The bureaucracy made everything far more difficult than necessary. The single-minded way of doing things, drove me crazy at first, the unspoken rules and more rules were exhausting to figure out and useless to fight.
In the end, I just learned to let go and enjoy the ride. I stopped fighting the way things are and just accepted and worked around them. I stopped trying to change people and changed my own attitude and expectations instead. I stopped trying to please others and learned to please myself. These are the things that make life go better no matter where you live in the world.
I found myself waking up day after day to a far more peaceful, calm, engaged, relaxed way of being. It has been a pure joy to finally wake up to living a beautiful life. And in my view, there is no better place to finally be waking up than in Paris.
Sonia Choquette is celebrated worldwide as an author, spiritual teacher, six-sensory consultant, and transformational visionary guide. An enchanting storyteller, Sonia is known for her delightful humor and adept skill in quickly shifting people out of psychological and spiritual difficulties, and into a healthier energy flow. Because of her unique gifts, Sonia’s expertise is sought throughout the world, helping both individuals and organizations dramatically improve their experience and abilities to perform at optimal levels through their experience and abilities to perform at optimal levels through empowerment and transformation. Sonia attended the University of Denver and the Sorbonne in Paris, and also holds a doctorate from the American Institute of Holistic Theology. Learn more about Sonia on her website here or order a copy of her book Waking Up in Paris here.