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Have you ever wondered what it is like to live in the south of France?
By the end of January, a fair number of people are starting to feel overworked and underpaid and thoroughly fed up with winter.
Living in the south of France has not been as easy or as enjoyable as it usually is either. When you think of the south of France, you probably think of endless sun-blessed days, sun loungers round the pool and long ice-cold drinks. For nine months of the year, that would be just about it.
The other three months are bitter. We live way in the south of France, in the foothills of the Pyrenées mountains, 90 minutes from the Spanish border. Since the beginning of January it has been snowing on said mountains and although we have not had any snow here yet, temperatures have been abysmally low. Maximum temperatures. Some days the maximum temperature barely reached 0°C (32°F). The sun shone brightly but it was freezing cold.
If we didn’t have the horses, I would probably have climbed in bed and hibernated until spring. No such luck, sadly. We have been out and about in this miserable weather and ever-deepening mud every single day, wearing at least six layers each, mucking out, lugging around bales of hay and straw, breaking the ice on top of the water in the drinking troughs, repairing fences, feeding grain and so on and so forth…and I have to tell you, we are thoroughly fed up with it!
If you are also feeling overworked and overwhelmed, read on, because I have got an idea that may get us all in one piece to the end of February, maybe even midway into March. Read on especially if, like me, you are starting to feel a bit depressed.
During the long nights, I do a lot of research online. (How did I get through winter before the internet existed?) I was desperate to find something that would counteract the doom and gloom that descend on me every winter.
I found something and I am going to share my solution with you in a minute.
If you have been reading Mpower Me for a while, you will know that I am obsessed with finding ways to help my clients cope better with stress. As a doctor, I am all too well aware of the extensive damage that unrelieved stress can do to people’s mental and physical health. One method I have found that has never, so far, let me down: mindfulness meditation. It works for everybody. That is why, on our mindfulness meditation workshops, we introduce our clients to various meditation methods, including equine-guided meditation.
So it was towards mindfulness and meditation that I looked to find a solution to my winter blues. I am already familiar with working meditation, walking meditation and writing meditation – none of that was particularly helpful in this instance.
One morning, at about 3h15, I came across an obscure article on an even more obscure website, about creative meditation. The author suggested that creating: (painting, sculpting, scrapbooking, drawing etc.) is pure meditation. I could see his point. Our attention is focussed on the process of creation while our thoughts come and go without us engaging with them or reacting to them.
But how would creative meditation help me get rid of my winter blues?
I wasn’t sure that it would, so I played around with the idea for a while. I am not really one for New Year’s resolutions (I have a very bad track record with those), but just stumbling into another year with no plan is not exactly my style either, so I decided to compromise and make a Vision Board. I have heard a lot about Vision Boards from one of my favourite authors, Jack Canfield (Jack’s Youtube video about Vision Boards –watch this!) In a rather vague and unstructured way, I thought I really ought to make one of these, for inspiration and motivation and because I must have heard at least one million times that a vision board is a brilliant visualisation tool that has a rather impressive reputation of turning itself into reality.
Does it work?
I wondered if combining these two powerful methods – art meditation and visualisation meditation – would be of any use to me. Since the nights are long, I decided to give it a go. I created a vision board for 2017. I did it the old-fashioned way. I cut pictures out of magazines and created and decorated a vision board that reflects my hopes and dreams for this year. I stuck it to the fridge. I could also have gone to google images and selected a number of pictures and then used a vision board app to create a digital vision board.
It does or me. Honestly, I highly recommend it. Make a vision board during an art meditation. Immerse yourself in the creative process. Choose pictures that represent your objectives for this year, your desired outcomes.
The process of making a vision board made me feel happy. I also feel less overwhelmed (I still feel overworked but I can now cope with it better). I feel more in control. Every time I open the fridge (about 200 times a day) I take a good look at my vision board – I do a short visualisation meditation – and I imagine what it would be like to get to the end of 2017 and have all these dreams come true.
Regular Monthly Features
This month’s Empowering Quote: The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision. Helen Keller
Mpowering Free Download of the Month:
Whenever I write a new book – I ask members of my VIP Readers group to read the book before publication. I provide them with a free copy and they let me know what they think of the book. If you would like to join this group, please send me a short e-mail on firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Month’s French Vignette
Random Act of Kindness Series (this is an extract of my new book, Ever wanted to live in the south of France? due for publication in the spring. Or maybe in the summer.)
Solange stood in the loo, with the door open at a crack. She had switched the light off, giving her a clearer view of the inside of the small bistro. “If anyone finds me, here, they are going to think I am some sort of pervert!”, she thinks to herself, a wry smile curling her lips.
Suddenly she saw the waitress, her waitress, go up to the counter. The barista took her order and then handed over the envelope. Solange held her breath. The waitress took the envelope and peered inside. Her look of confusion changed to one of amazement. Tears filled her eyes. Solange slipped out the back door, her heart beating fast and a huge smile on her face.
Ten minutes ago, Solange, 77 years old and not counting, was sitting at “her” table in her favourite bistro, having just ordered her hot chocolate. She was worrying about “her” favourite waitress. Solange has had a lot of trouble to make sure that the bistro makes her hot chocolate exactly the way she wants it until this waitress started working here. Solange explained about the chantilly, the chocolate flakes and the cocoa paste needed to make the perfect chocolat chaud. The waitress listened carefully and now, every day at the same time, serves Madame Solange a perfect cup of hot chocolate with a small speculoos biscuit on the saucer.
Today, Solange can see that her waitress had been crying. She strained to hear the conversation behind the counter. The waitress was explaining to the barista that her and her husband’s battered old 2CV had broken down again. They needed the car but did not have the funds to have it repaired. Sixty euros! A small fortune on a waitress’ salary.
Solange found an old envelope in her handbag and carefully counted out sixty euros. She put them in the envelope and gave them to the barista when she paid and said, “Give this to my waitress and if she asks where you got it, say you can’t remember.”
Like most French people, Solange never tips, but that day she felt twelve years of perfect chocolat chauds deserves a small token of appreciation.
Mpowering Meme of the Month:
This month’s best posts from my Mpower Blog:
- Best Walking Meditation Aids
- French Macaron Recipe
- 6 Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
- Sunday Photo from the South of France
Pictures from our part of the world this month:
Book Recommendation of the month:
Mending Stone by Sharon Duerst
Something was amiss in the “good life” of Mia Casinelli Edwards. Unable to shake her devastation after the loss of a baby, Mia is haunted by dreams of a mysterious woman. Mia makes a shocking discovery, leaves husband, and their Portland business in shambles, and finds herself miles away, bruised and shaking in the bed of a stranger. Even strong but gentle Gerald can’t quell Mia’s growing disquiet. Disturbing questions, odd clues, and a nagging voice inside lead Mia to Mexico in search of someone…somewhere…with answers.
That’s it for this month. I hope you get round to making a vision board! As empowering methods go, this is one of the most powerful I have come across in a long time. Just do it!
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