Kissing Cops and Gilets Jaunes

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So, one afternoon as I was walking back to our apartment, I ran into a protest led by the Gilet Jaunes. I’m not sure if you’re up on French politics but the Gilet Jaunes are a group of protesters, a movement that’s been happening in France since November, 2018. These are yellow-vest-wearing protestors who oppose mostly the financial direction of the French government, namely the raising of taxes on certain things like gas.

Now you gotta remember that since the French Revolution, protesting for the French people has been a national pastime—they truly identify the ability to call bullshit on the government.

Well, unlike most protests in France, this one’s gotten violent at times and thousands of people have been arrested and several people have even died. Before coming to France, I was boning up on my language skills, listening to the French news, and hearing about these protests and I really hoped that I didn’t encounter any of them while I was in France.

Like I said, one day, I’m walking back to my apartment and I’m pushing my son in the stroller through one of the main squares in Nice, Place Garibaldi, when I see a Gilet Jaunes protest happening. But this is Nice, where everything is more tranquil and more laissez-faire and so instead of protesters lobbing bricks and molotov cocktail bombs, these protestors (most of whom couldn’t even be bothered to wear the damn yellow vest) looked like they were gossiping, dancing, or otherwise enjoying an afternoon together in the square. People were sharing cheese.

Now whenever a protest happens in France, the French riot police automatically show up. So on the other side of the square, a safe distance from the half-hearted Nice faction of the Gilet Jaunes, was a full arsenal of riot cops: big dudes who look like they were recently pulled from a rugby field somewhere but instead of rugby jerseys, they were wearing Kevlar armor.

I don’t care how tough you are, in France you greet your friends, both men and women, with a kiss on both cheeks. So I witnessed these riot cops filing out of their battle vans and arriving on the “riot scene,” each big and burly cop, dressed to the teeth for battle, greeting EVERY other cop with a gentle kiss on both cheeks. This created something akin to a wedding line of kissing cops.

Sure, there may be civil unrest but it’s no reason to be uncivilized. I wished I could have pulled out my phone to capture that priceless moment of lackadaisical protestors and kissing cops but I feared that doing so would violate some unspoken code of propriety so I merely pushed my stroller along my way.

A few days later, while I was holed up, writing in the apartment, Sen and Elio were down at the beach enjoying themselves until a really, really, obnoxiously drunk guy came up and started to harass everyone in the vicinity. Another guy, not far from Sen and Elio who was trying to enjoy the beach was really getting bothered by Drunk Guy

France has really increased its military presence in public places in the last few years due to terrorist attacks and so it’s not uncommon to see the camo-and-beret-clad, machine-gun-and-flack-jacket sporting army dudes patrolling in little platoons around town.

Well, the guy on the beach (heretofore known as Angry Guy) had finally reached his boiling point with Drunk Guy (who really was being an ass) and Angry Guy made a big to-do toward the nearest beret with a machine gun to do something about Drunk Guy.

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Army Dude then very calmly walked down the stairs from the Pramenade to the beach, loaded machine gun strapped to his chest, and spoke gently to Drunk Guy and Angry Guy. He then gently helped Drunk Guy by the arm up the stairs, away from the beach toward the Pramenade. Drunk Guy proceeded to sit on the 20’ wall overlooking the beach, fall off said wall (only 20’) get back up without anything broken, including his bottle of wine.

At this point, Army Guy gently walked down the stairs again and helped Drunk Guy up the stairs and sent him walking along his way with an encouragement to stop bothering people.

As Sen told the story, it was clear that Army Guy had 100% of the power. Drunk Guy was of African decent, by the way. But despite Army Guy’s power, he was still the most civilized, gentle, and rational one of the bunch and the entire event passed such that the perfect afternoon in Nice wasn’t disturbed by any unnecessary violence or drama. The worst thing that happened was probably the headache for Drunk Guy the next day who vaguely remembered falling off a wall . . . and something about camouflage.

A few days later, I was sitting in a cafe with Elio—I was writing in my journal and sipping an espresso while he was munching on a croissant—when a small platoon of these Army Guys came in, grabbed a few tables and proceeded to munch on their own croissants and espressos before heading off to make their patrols. Apparently this happens every day at this cafe.

What all of these snapshots show me is that even in times of unrest there can be civility, culture, and even gentleness

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Meditations on Snow

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This is a picture of the Buddha.

 

He's in there somewhere, hibernating, meditating.

The Buddha is sitting where he likes it best, summer or winter: on the deck above the carport.

Meditations on Snow

He doesn’t need to be on display, doesn’t need to brag to his massive Instagram following (and you should see it) that he’s been meditating under this blanket of snow for the last 42 hours.

He’s doing it now. Simply being. Watch him go. Or not go.

It’s quiet, standing in the snow just watching him.

Don’t we all have a Buddha in there somewhere? Maybe he’s hibernating, maybe he’s sleeping, but he’s there. It's the ability to simply be with what is, even if that's buried under several inches of snow.

This is a beautiful time of year sit by the fire, close your eyes, and go inside.
Winter snows brings life water all year long.

 

Here’s my favorite winter poem by Billy Collins which is perfect for this time of year.

Shoveling Snow With Buddha



In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok

you would never see him doing such a thing,

tossing the dry snow over a mountain

of his bare, round shoulder,

his hair tied in a knot,

a model of concentration.

Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word

for what he does, or does not do.

Even the season is wrong for him.

In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?

Is this not implied by his serene expression,

that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

But here we are, working our way down the driveway,

one shovelful at a time.

We toss the light powder into the clear air.

We feel the cold mist on our faces.

And with every heave we disappear

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and become lost to each other

in these sudden clouds of our own making,

these fountain-bursts of snow.

This is so much better than a sermon in church,

I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.

This is the true religion, the religion of snow,

and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,

I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

He has thrown himself into shoveling snow

as if it were the purpose of existence,

as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway

you could back the car down easily

and drive off into the vanities of the world

with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

All morning long we work side by side,

me with my commentary

and he inside his generous pocket of silence,

until the hour is nearly noon

and the snow is piled high all around us;

then, I hear him speak.

After this, he asks,

can we go inside and play cards?

Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk

and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table

while you shuffle the deck.

and our boots stand dripping by the door.

Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes

and leaning for a moment on his shovel

before he drives the thin blade again

deep into the glittering white snow.

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Tantraic Meditation: A Simple but Powerful Practice

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Tantra Meditation


Tantra is a school of yogic thought. It’s a Sanskrit word which comes from the root words Tan meaning to expand and Tra meaning liberation. So, Tantra is the practice of expanding into liberation. The essence of practicing Tantra is to get the energy to flow into all areas of your life: your job, family life, sexuality, and spirituality or devotion.

Tantra Meditation

Prana, or life-force energy, is the driver that makes everything flow with ease in your life. Learning to activate and manipulate your prana is essential to practicing Tantra. Prana is a part of your being that is more subtle than your breath and more gross than your thought. Therefore, thinking about your breath or visualizing your breath is an excellent way to get your prana to flow.

This Tantra meditation is great for getting prana to flow through your entire system of body, mind and spirit. It's an excellent regular practice to help you create a generative, embracing, and passionate flow for the energy of all areas in your life. This meditation will also help if you have stuck energy in particular chakras or if there are areas in your body that need some attention or seem to be calling all the attention. This meditation will help to generate and cultivate sacred sexual energy, not only for the act of making love, but for all the generative, passionate, and loving areas in your life. Don't be surprised if by doing this meditation regularly you begin to find yourself diving passionately into your work, family life, love life, healing endeavors, devotion to the Divine, etc.

I might suggest doing this meditation for at least 5 minutes a day, for a few weeks.

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How To Do This Meditation:

  • Set a time for 5 minutes or more.

  • Sit down, close your eyes, and begin long, slow breaths using ujjaiyi breath (breathing deeply in and out of the nostrils using a gentle whisper in the back of the throat to help elongate the breath).

  • Touch the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth while keeping your lips closed. This is a special type of mudra or gesture that closes an energy circuit in your body and also helps to not tense your jaw while doing this technique.

  • As you inhale, contract mula bandha, the deep muscles in the pelvic floor, and visualize a bright white light traveling from the floor of your pelvis up the back of your spine to the crown of your head.

  • As you exhale, relax mula bandha and allow the white light to travel down the front of your spine to rest again in the floor of your pelvis.

  • Continue to contract mula bandha every time you breathe in and visualize the light traveling upward along the back of your spine, and relaxing mula bandha every time you breathe out and visualize the bright light descending back down the front of your spine into the floor of your pelvis.

  • When the timer rings, relax and feel your seat on your cushion for a few seconds as you ground before you finish your meditation.

I’d suggest doing this meditation for 5 minutes or more a day for at least 5 days in a row or more. Give it a shot and send me an email or leave a comment about how it worked for you.

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