More relaxed ?

Diane at Oui In France has some interesting observations from time to time, and is more regular about posting to her blog than I am. Most recently, she wrote about some things that the French might seem to be “more relaxed” about than us Americans: 

Which got me thinking.

It’s quite normal here to have a nice conversation with the vendor at a weekly farmers market (marché paysan). In fact, it’s one of the things I look forward to. No one seems to be in a rush, except me. I have always been conscious of the people in line behind me, and try to be as efficient as possible, especially at the grocery store. Well, we’re not at the local Safeway here. I have to learn to take my time. People want to get to know me, I should take the time to let them.

For example: Twice now (that I know of !) I have made a mistake in my favor at a vendor’s stall. I walked away with more change than was correct in one case, and more product than I had payed for in another. Both times I went back and corrected the error — I couldn’t talk to them next week if I didn’t. Most recently, I tried to explain what had happened and fumbled badly with my still inadequate French, and the vendor told me to slow down, take a deep breath, and said “Ce n’est pas grave” — “It’s not important.” Imagine, someone telling me, Mr. Zen, to slow down !

In another case, my French tutor, Christelle, lets me wander off into wide-ranging detours, because it’s good practice at conversation, and besides, I’m paying for it. Monday she loaned me a book (Méditer, jour après jour) by French psychologist Christophe André, who’s written some books with Matthieu Ricard, a French Buddhist, about what we know as mindfulness. It took me awhile to translate “pleine conscience” in my head, but it’s quite literally “mindfulness.” It turns out Christelle, too, is trying to get me to slow down and be present.

So, one of the things I’m learning here (re-learning, really) is that most of the pressure I feel is pressure I put on myself.