From the top of the mountain- Contacting the essential

I climbed up-there to discover Vercors because I spent several weeks at the bottom of this mountain range this year. I also wanted to go back to the sensation of the camino and at the same time contact the essential, my essential, just before starting a new adventure in my professional life.

 

To do so, nothing better than a full immersion in nature, without a phone or internet connection; just my bag-pack.CIMG4035
Lire la suite

From the top of the mountains – Walking alone

During my trek, I realised that my decision of walking alone which seemed evident to me questions and sparks various reactions among people I encounter on the way.

 

There are the men of a certain age who mumble behind my back: « A women alone on the plateau…”

Lire la suite

From the top of the mountains

I am writing from the top of the mountains. I wanted to end my sabbatical year the way I started it: walking.

So I left my on-going packing boxes activity and I took again my backpack. I put on my shoes and I went for 3 days through the Vercors highlands. This time, no villages around, I had to prepare my trek thoroughly. I am carrying my food for 3 days in my bag. I also have 2 detailed maps and above all I know exactly where the springs are. I know which one are still flowing and which one have already gone dry.

Lire la suite

Silence

 « I feel an urgent need for silence.

No one to listen to. No one to talk to.

Just the space of silence.

 

A free space, surely,

But not empty.

It is full of my inner story. 

So many good moments. So many achievements.

So many friends on my side. So many changes inside.

 

 

I need to listen. I need to be still.

Stop! Shush!

Just silence.

 

And when finally come an hour, calm and silent,

Then, peace joins me like a confidante .

I know I am alive. And I thrive.

I barely know where my life is going

And still, step by step I’m growing.

 

Sensation of floating in my intuitions.

It is inside this lively silence,

That I recharge my conscience.

 

 I never enjoyed so much before

The absence of turbulence .

A great experience

Which makes so much sense. »

 

Silence

 

 

The choice of positivity

 “Hi, it’s me, how are you? Yes, I am fine. I wanted to tell you: last week, as part of my job of school nurse, I have taken part to a psychology training and I realised how important it is to talk about positive things. Really, we are such complainers! We don’t realise how much we mentally auto-pollute each other by talking so much about negative things. For example, at the moment it rains a lot and so what? Yes it is raining, but it doesn’t justify a half hour conversation about it when so many positive things happen in our everyday life. I have decided to pay more attention to my communication. This training is a real awakening! »

 

Talking positive, why?

This phone conversation stuck to my mind and I promised myself to write an article about this topic because it is scientifically proven that talking about positive things contributes to our well-being. Some neuroscience studies* show that positive conversations generate in our brains the production of a well-being hormone called ocytosine. This hormone enhance our communication, collaboration and confidence in others capacities. It is quickly synthesised in our organism, in shorter time than cortisol which is the stress hormone. However the effects of ocytosine are less pronounced and shorter lasting than the ones of cortisol. Therefore, it is important to have positive conversations regularly to contribute to our well-being on long term basis.  

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.”

Mahatma Gandhi

 

The choice of positive in my life by talking positively

At the beginning, talking positively requires a conscious effort: opening our mind to the positive things surrounding us. Ass Gandhi expresses very well in the quote above, talking positive mainly requires a positive thinking. And this can reveal to be a challenge when we are constantly bombarded with negative news. Therefore it is very important to choose well our reads, our moments in front of the TV and our radio listening.

Recently, I changed my approach toward news. I banned the TV news from my daily life. I find it too subjective and sensationalist. I replaced it by reading the big titles of the newspaper Le Monde and the channel BBC on my phone, or by listening the flash news on the French radio France Inter. If I have a question or I find a topic interesting I look for some feature article on internet or in the newspapers, I listen or watch a documentary about it. And lately I discovered a group of journalists who created a new online newspaper taking in account the need for more sobriety in our flash news. It is called brief.me and it offers to its subscribers 2 minutes of news through a daily email in a zen approach of the news: facts and explanations without pictures or videos.  By doing I became an agent of my own, information process, rather than being at the mercy of what I’m fed by the media.

Facebook is another way to get news. Thanks to the posts of my contacts I often discover some really good articles on blogs or alternative media. It is a virtuous circle: I post some interesting articles and I discover some from others.

Targeting positive information on internet is possible

Internet and more specifically facebook can even be tools to directly target positives information. Indeed, you can register yourself to the newsletters of positives blogs, websites. You can also follow inspiring facebook pages. By doing that, you can receive each day some positive news.

To inject a positive touch in my day, I like to read Upliftconnect which helps me to approach things in my life another way. I also follow the writer Elizabeth Gilbert for my “awareness moment of the day”. And on the news side it exists many websites such as Huffingtonpost Good News, Positive.News or Upworthy. These are just examples, you can find your own positive websites!

Finally the world of journalism is in mutation: more and more professionals are taking initiatives to communicate differently. A great example is the initiative Place to B, born at the occasion of the COP21 and which didn’t stop to develop since. Place to B will be present in Montreal, in the participatory newsroom of the World Social Forum this summer. It is also in Quebec that the internet TV channel GoodnessTV has been developed. You can register to their newsletter, so you will receive each Monday in your email box the “Positive Minute”, a short video reportage about a positive initiative.

Happiness lies in simple things

Most importantly, injecting positivity in our own life is not solely dependent on media. Our point of view on our daily life and surrounding is even more important. Often we don’t acknowledge the little things which are contributing positively to our daily life. This is why, every once in a while it is good to ask ourselves: “What made me happy today?”

Not so long ago, I started to write down every evening the 3 best moment of my day. Sometimes I forget and I noticed an influence on my sleep: the next day I wake up less energetic and relaxed than if I had taken the time to write. And the best part of this notebook is to be able to read it after few months . It feels like experiencing a second time all the good moments spent.

 *Source:The Neurochemistry of Positive Conversation 

 

 

Meditation in the graden

I haven’t vanished, I am still alive !

It is true, since I came back from Argentina I haven’t published much on my blog. This is because a sabbatical year sometimes turns out more intense than we tend to imagine. Theses last months I mobilized all my energy in many activities and I haven’t took the  time to share my thought, experiences and discoveries.

So here I am, in the garden, meditating over all my experiences of this year.

Bear with me, I will publish soon few freshly written articles!DSC_0693

In Andean Argentina

I am walking ahead of the group. We are hiking in the Andes. We are 4 french: 3 guys I met at the hostel and myself. This moring a lady told us about this trail which goes up the crest.

crete sat.jpg

The earth is green and red, depending on the stratum and above all it is extremely crumbly. From far away the crest appears as fine and fragile as  lace. From time to time I stop and wait for the rest of the group who films, takes pictures and jokes. At the beginning of the crest Vincent opens the way, there is a bit of wind, I don’t feel reassured, but I follow. Everyone speaks a lot, I don’t feel confortable at all. We do a small break, someone asks « Everyone’s ok? », my legs are shaking. I answer that I am not. Indeed I feel suddenly so tall…too tall, as if I was miles above the ground that I am treading upon. I have the impression that if a gust of wind makes me loose my equilibrium, my hands would need so much time to reach the ground and stabilise that I would have most probably tumble down the mountain already. I say « I know it is in my head but… » Someone cuts me « It doesn’t matter, use your hands too! On all fours, let’s go ! ».

CIMG3610.JPG

So I do: I use my hands to help myself and try to not think  about the risks I am exposing myself to. On the middle of the way there is a big stone. I sit there and for a moment listen to my companions. And finally I  gather my thoughts: I am determine to finish this crest on my 2 legs. I study the ground as if I was  taming the slope on the right, and the slope on the left. Then I focalise my gaze on the little track, just wide enough for one foot. I straighten up and I progress completely focused. One step after the other. I walk slowly, up to the end of the crest. It feels like I am doing my first steps again. I feel determined, focused, bit prouder at each one of my steps and then it feels like a liberation. I surpassed myself! I fight my fear and I won. To the point that I am tempted to go back by the same way, just to savoure the fact that I -can -do- it!

I haven’t felt such a sensation of surpassing myself since a long time and I like it. It gives me the taste of risks and success. And what actually remains deeply anchored in me from the experience is this learning: to success it is imperative to focus on my way…only on my way.

CIMG3645.JPG

The farm des Roussets

« Be the change you want to see in the world ».

                                                                                                                 Gandhi

I am just back from a week at the Farm des Roussets, closed to St Jean en Royan. It is not a coincidence if I choose this place. It has been few years already that I am following more or less attentively the adventure of Batotopie Collectif in which my brother is involved.  Theses 6 Compagnons of REPAS network -Network for exchange and supportive and alternative practices- have met during their tour de France. They got on well, shared the same dream and the same values so they decided to do it: to form a collectif, to share their incomes, to buy a land and a farm and to produce vegetables, cereals, bread, honey and cultural events.

The Roussets farm the collectif and the functioning

The Farm des Roussets  is composed of 30 acres, 5 acres are dedicated to market gardening and the remaining is for cereals. It is also a mill, a bakery, a future honey house, 2 garages and a big hangar. And there is also the old manure which will be soon transformed into a shop and a venue. Of course there is an house: a single-storey with only a small part of the upper floor  converted into an office area.  The ground floor is constituted of a cold storage, a future vegetable processing area (currently the kitchen), a dinning room with a log stove, a future in kitchen (currently under construction) and a minimum comfort bathroom-laundrette . By consequence, the collectif members don’t have a house at the farm, they dispatched themselves between a yurt or caravan on the land or a flat in the village. The collectif is composed by 2 market gardeners: Annabel and Max, a farmer-baker: Nicolas, a beekeeper Nicolas and 2 cultural animators: Anne and Pascale. Moreover this year, Matthieu is joining the crew to work on the pedagogic side of the farm. Their way of working is in autogestion: no hierarchy, a lot of listening and goodwill, non-violent communication and all the decisions are taken unanimously.  They share their incomes and allow themselves a monthly salary of 600 euros. If there is some money left, it is re-injected in the farm buildings. They are hoping to reach 1000 euros monthly salary in few years time. The name Farm des Roussets  is grouping the agricultural activity ( GAEC des Roussets), the beekeeping and the cultural association Batotopie.

The annual general meeting

Two weeks before I came to the farm to take part to the general meeting and I have been impressed by the courage and the confidence in the future which animate the little group. It isn’t easy  to present the annual results of each activity after only one year of exercise! Here the numbers rarely overcome the thousands euros, nothing to do with the monthly results of the company I used to work for! They need to explain why for now not all the activities are  profitable: the first green house which flew away a day of extremely strong wind, a part of the bees which died poisoned by a fungicide the first summer; and all of that standing in front of the assembly. An assembly very active, avid to know about the way of life of the collectif and which doesn’t hesitate to share experience, advices and encouragements . The exchange between the collectif and the assembly is rich in this misty Sunday morning: « At the beginning our desire was to create a collective place and to make it alive. This place doesn’t belong to us, it has been bought of course with our participation but not only: there are many other contributors who bought some parts. The aim is that each of us feel home here, do you feel home? » asks the farmer Nicolas.

From dream to reality

From  dream to reality there are many compromises and challenges. » The group  is indeed a force which allows us to realise and bring to life some projects  «  explains Max. And the two Nicolas agree on the fact that  » We constantly need to make compromises between our vision and what is possible. For example when we started the project we had the idea to collaborate and help between the different activities to work together. In reality we don’t have the time to stop the work in the garden to go and help at the bakery , the be-keeping or the animation and the other way around … » Actually since the collectif is installed in the region of Royan they had to seek for gouvernemental and European financial support. Also they had to find some complementary job in order to not base the income on the uncertain results of the first years of the farm. Thus the cultural duo works in addition to its implication in Batotopie. Anne found a position of animator at the local radio: Radio Royan.  Pascale has on one hand created her own association of popular education: Ébullition , on another hand she is animator in the summer camp which takes place on their land.  » Before we were meeting altogether  for informal moments, games and a chill out week-end per year.  We don’t take the time any more » observes Annabel. Actually they all agree to say that since they started the project they feel a strong pressure of result and lack of time. They allow themselves only very few holidays, but they live accordingly to their values and it is a great pride.

A successful local integration 

If the reality is sometimes heavy for the collectif, it however benefits from a great local support. In one year the group has archived its integration.They are neither lonely, nor isolated but well surrounded by all the people who believe in their initiatives.  Indeed, there is not a day passing without regular or spontaneous visitors coming to give a hand or simply say hi. Les volontaires.jpgThe past week a friend of Pascale came to help building the new kitchen, Lucas was there to build a dry stone wall, Aurélien shared his precious carpenter expertise and Laurent was supporting him. There were also Michel who came few hours at the garden, the visit of Nadia who had the desire to do the garden while chatting with her friend Annabel or Zoé who joined Thursday afternoon to renforce the construction team. And of course on Friday afternoon- day of sales at the farm- the subscribers came to collect their vegetable basket and buy the bred for the week-end. Getting locally integrated also means to build local partnerships. For example Annabel and Max are part of a market gardener mutual aid where they share half day of work per week, rotating between the different gardens. Another example is the one of Nicolas who buys the wood for the bakery stove at a local fabric of garden tools handles. He also produces hay for a colleague who work with animal traction. This great team is creating some ecosystems at local scale. Moreover they already archived the bet of leaving together and mutual aid, a great work they can be proud of.

My experience at the Farm des Roussets

I spent a week with Annabel and Nicolas who are leaving in the yurt in front of the farm. I invested the visitors caravan and shadowed the couple in their daily activities. Finally I put DSC_0159my hands in the earth! I spent the first 3 days gardening with Annabel and Max. It is the occasion to clear from stones a field next to the greenhouse , to transplant the kales outside, to refresh the strawberry bushes, to collect  the leeks and the mesclun for the weekly baskets . An experience which makes me realise how physical is the work of market gardener who always work at ground level. It works on the back muscles, the knees, the thighs and the arms.

SerreWith my fragile back, I already knew this profession wasn’t for me, now I’ve got the confirmation. However I find this work very interesting: understanding the earth and its functioning, enhancing the yields and all of this to produce healthy food, what a noble profession! Theses few days are the occasion to get to know better Annabel, to notice how much her passion for the earth is big, leads her and generate in her a beautiful energy. Indeed, she is able to work all day long in the garden and go directly to a 2 hours session of African dance! No need to mention the violin classes since Septembre on the top of that . She is learning so fast that she is already able to play in public…it is true passion gives wings!

At the farm it is non-stop, there is always something to do and the only moments to relax are the one spent around a good meal. Here we drink spring water coming directly from the mountains, we eat the vegetables and the bred produced. The lunchs are full of conviviality, suspended time where everyone gather to exchange and refill in energy. Each member of the collectif is responsible of the kitchen one day per week. At the farm we always plan the meals compting an extra person, just in case someone turns up. During my stay we have never been less than 7 around the table! For me, these precious moments of conviviality are the best moments in the day.

a table.jpg

Thursday is a special day: it is the day of the weekly meeting: all the members of the collectif are here at 8.00 am and the morning is dedicated to share the advancement of the different projects, the questions, the difficulties and the decision making. I don’t attend this team time, instead I focus on a flyers proposal in order to continue to mobilise the good wills around the project.  At the end of the meeting we meet on the work-site, in the dust and the straw we spend our energy after this very static morning.

On Friday, it is bred day and sales  day. I wake up at 5 am in order to help Nicolas at the bakery. It is an intense day of 12 hours work with 3 breaks of 20 to 40 minutes only. Still I enjoy it very much.  We weight, we knead the dough, we fold, we weight and prepare the bred. There are so much manipulations that when Nicolas works on his own he carries not less than a weight of 3 tonnes of flour, dough and bred during the day!

DSC_0179

Before lunch time we prepare 2 batches of bred (150 kg in total), and after an express lunch  the loading team  joins the bakery. « Only few farmer-baker have the privilege to realise this operation with such a team. «  explains proudly Nicolas. EnfournementIt is a well orchestrated operation which then takes place in front of my eyes: Matthieu prepares the trays of bred and covers it with  flour, Pascale prepares 2 bred on each wooden  baker’s peels and Nicolas loads the oven. The aim of the operation is to execute it as fast as possible in order to maintain the oven temperature constant. Then comes my third break, this time I can not resist to a little snooze on the sofa…only 10 minutes before the next batch! It is a tiring day, still very pleasant. It remains me my student times and the long hours  in the lab… in a better version as I can eat a some warm bred at the end  ! DSC_0196.JPG


Last but not least, Saturday is a very sunny day. While Annabel is at selling bred vegetables and honey at the market and Nicolas is working in the fields I feel a bit unproductive. So I start to clean up the kitchen and the dinning room and then I cook the lunch…in between the read of two short stories sat outside under the sun…happiness! After the lunch my legs are itching me, so I challenge myself to climb at the cross in less than 2 hours. I passed by this place few weeks before but it is so much better under the sun !

In order to end this great week beautifully, nothing better than a folk party led by the group Faucon Folk. I was dreaming of such evening since a long time, I can now tick that box on my list ! 

A desire to support the Farm des Roussets?

Click on the picture below and deal with the French web site OR contact the collectif in English at the email address info@batotopie.org . Above all, don’t hesitate to comment and ask questions on this article. Thank you .

DSC_0147

Two weeks at domain of Bayssac

   Having new experiences and getting inspired by new encounters, these are  2 things very important for me this year. In the domain of Bayssac I am not disappointed!

 

   In this house I live at the whim of the a activities of tidying, gardening and cooking, in exchange for free accomodation and  food. The rest of my time I focus on writing: my blog, my online writing workshop exercise and my on-going article.

 

   Step by step I discover  who are my hosts. I am in the house of artists & entrepreneurs. Sylvie had a previous life as dancer and choreograph. When she stopped dancing she went back to Uni to study philosophy. Now she is studying literature to get a qualification from Montpellier University in order to lead writing workshops. She is actually already leading 3 workshops per week and it is having a great success. Moreover, Sylvie is a lyric singer. Philippe as well is a musician: a professional pianist and piano teacher at the college of music. Together they bought the domain of Bayssac, 10 years ago with the objectif of being able to host every summer some music master-class. Now the project has evolved and each summer they also host tourists and from next summer some writing week workshops. No need to mention that days in this house are cadenced by music scales, vocalises and repetitions, for the delight of my hears.

   The domain is huge. Step by step, they renovated the house, cleared the garden, revived the chestnut grove, set up a discovery trail which lead to the river and created a vegetable garden and an orchard. I admire their project and they have been able to realise.

   In this peaceful place, I already count many nice moments. There were the encounter with Chloé and Chechek  (Tchetcheque for the french prononciation), a nice franco-polish couple who is travel through Europe by van. With them, one afternoon, I tried the writing workshop of Sylvie.

DSCN3831.JPG

I also enjoy the walks with my new friends Toby & Petit-Monsieur, 2 beautiful and bright border collies. They are great players, always asking me to send them the ball.

   dogs.jpg

       And there are  week-ends with the visit of the parents, the children and the small children. The big tables, the aperitivo-concerts where all the family go successively behind the piano and play for the others. I really love those kind of family atmosphere and totally felt in my element.

    This week I welcomed a new arrival of volunteers. A Swiss couple Anne-Catherine and Raphaël, and a German girl: Nicola. Anne-Catherine and Raphaël are bqck in Europe after 6 months travelling around South America. They came back with a project of vegetable  and insect farming to provide for their food needs. They are now looking for a place to settle. Here is an original and interesting project!

From dreams to reality

    First crisis. There were a storm in my head: lot of ideas, high energy but where from should I start? As it happened, two weeks ago, one of my friend sent me a link to a blog which explains how to create a « vision board« . The theory being that we can archive better our dreams, projects and intentions if we are able to visualise it well.

Collage.jpg

    I decided to do the exercise. The first phase appeared to me very simple: I had to brainstorm about my projects for 2016…easy, I  simply listed all the stuff I had in mind! In 5 minutes I had a list of big and small projects, as well as intentions for 2016. However at the second phase everything got more complicated: I needed to classify my entire list in 9 different categories (inspired by Feng Shui). Theses are abundance & prosperity, fame  & reputation, relationships & love, family, health, creativity & children, skills & knowledges, carrer & life path, helpful people & travel. I distributed my list in each sections and -oh surprise!- there were no travel in the « travel » area!!?! How is that possible? Me , the supposedly great globetrotter! Me, who is claiming since few years that I will go to Argentina! Now that I have the time and the possibility, I am forgetting about that project?

    And so started the doubts and existential questions invading me. I had to dive into myself to try to listen to what was going on. In the course of my reflections and interrogations I moved from the « travel » area to the « path of life » one, to later find myself in the « love » one and so one. For 3 days I just tried to listen actively to my heart and it wasn’t working!

    Fortunately I have great friends, even thousand of kilometres away  they are always ready to Skype. And my friends have a very special skill: they ask THE good questions. The questions which make me think even more and give me the impression I am even more lost. But once I find an answer, then I know I won: everything is unlocked I know again where I am and where I am going.

    In the middle of this storm, I also decided to add meditation to my morning yoga. Just like that…to try. And above all, I started to do some sport on daily basis again: long walks, bike rides and even cross-country ski. Because sport is so good when in my head ideas are turning round. Some fresh air and endorphines, always help me to relax and see things clearer.

Ski vercors

    This is why on my way back from the mountains, after a great afternoon of ski in the forest, I realised I knew exactly what I wanted. That evening I finished my collage on my « vision board 2016 ». And now, I am on the road again!

« Surround yourself with those who bring the best in you. »