Beyond Fear…Lies Freedom

BeyondFearWhen I first heard this phrase, it struck me as simplistic and naive. Fear protects us from hurt – why would I want to potentially endanger myself to see what lay on the other side?

That type of thinking was much earlier in my journey (so happy to admit). I now see this phrase from a completely different perspective.

Fear is not protection…it is limitation. Setting aside obvious safety concerns (wearing a seat belt, not using a blow dryer in the bathtub, etc.) fearful thinking is entirely generated by your mind.

The thoughts you think repeatedly will become your beliefs. Your beliefs guide your actions and that is how your life is created. Thinking fearful thoughts leads you down the path of lack, scarcity and protectionism.

Move beyond your fear and find your freedom. 

Allow me to give you a small example from my recent trip to Paris.  I have a small bit of claustrophobia. Nothing debilitating, but I know when it comes into my awareness, because my heart starts beating faster, my breath comes in shallow gasps, and all I can think about is that I have to escape the environment that triggered that reaction.

To capture this photograph of the gargoyle looking out at the Paris skyline (the Eiffel Tower in the background is the cherry on top), I had to climb the North Tower of Notre Dame. 300 stone steps that formed a circular staircase inside a stone chamber that was probably 5 feet wide. People in front of me; people behind me. No flat spot to catch my breath, only small, narrow windows cut out of the 2 foot thick walls (did I mention they are made of out stone?) The combination of the small space, physical exertion (when was the last time you climbed 300 steps without stopping) and the knowledge that I was surrounded by an immoveable material, triggered my claustrophobia.

I knew what this climb would entail, and I suspected that it might have that effect on me. To prepare, I gave myself three simple things to focus on while I was climbing:

1. Sing the words to Pharell Williams’ Happy song, which always makes me smile;

2. Focus on the other people making this climb with me; and

3. Keep my end goal in mind – I wanted to capture those gargoyles and the Paris skyline on my camera.

I discovered by keeping myself busy (at one point, one of the other tourists asked me what I was singing, which combined #1 & 2), I was not thinking fearful thoughts. My  mind was focused on others instead of myself, I was in a great mood (courtesy of Pharell’s catchy song). These techniques worked until about 2/3 of the way up.

Our progress came to a stop. While I was grateful for the rest, it took me out of my rhythm (step and hum; step and wonder where the family was from in front of me). Now that we had stopped, the fearful thoughts came crashing back in. The thought of escape flicked across my mind, but I knew there was no way to go but up. So I pulled out my most powerful technique – my vision of my goal.

I was so close to the top, I had to get those photographs of the gargoyles! That was enough to quench the fear and make my feet move again. It turns out that we were only 10 steps from the top. If I had quit at that point, I would have deeply regretted it.  And fear would have won.

Beyond Fear…Lies Freedom. 

What fear is holding you back from discovering your freedom? What can you look at differently in your life that will propel you forward to a more expanded and evolved you? Do one thing today that triggers a fearful thought, but do it anyway. And discover what you have been missing!

The future depends on what we do in the present. – Mahatma Gandhi

The future depends on what we do in the present. – Mahatma Gandhi

Paris Dreaming

We woke up to sunshine…lots of sunshine. The cooler temperatures that we enjoyed all week had given way to summer – 80 degrees +. Suddenly, everyone was wearing skirts, shorts and maxi skirts with sandals. No more tights or coats!

I took the opportunity to see one of my “to-do” list items while she stayed in bed. To climb to the top of Notre Dame, you have to get there an hour early and wait. I stopped at a boulangerie and brought several croissants and an espresso that I enjoyed while waiting in line.

The great thing about traveling is the random strangers you meet. The young man behind me was very friendly and we exchanged Paris stories. I was able to tell him about the Musee DÓrsay 5th floor secret (see my previous blog post) and the backstreet tour by electric bicycles. He kept me entertained with his travel stories and the time passed quickly.

After we bought our tickets and enjoyed the gift store, it was time to begin the climb. 300 steps inside a small, curved staircase made of stone. Small windows kept pace as we trudged up…and up…I started singing the “Happy” song just to pass the time!LastDay 017

When we emerged on the upper landing and walked out the narrow door, there was sweet Paris, laid out at our feet. The Eiffel Tower kept watch to the left, while the Seine flowed through as the liquid heart of Paris. Sacre Coeur stood proudly to the right, set on a hilltop and majestic even from this distance.

Suddenly, a hundred small voices made us look down. A tourist boat had just passed under the bridge next to Notre Dame. The children all had their hands in the air and were yelling loudly, to hear the echo of their voices off the ancient stone bridge. Everyone who stood on that parapet looked down and laughed. We waived gaily but we were too small for them to see us.

The Notre Dame gargoyles are famous for their fanciful expressions and medieval ferocity. I captured many photos of different gargoyles, looking down on their city. But I discovered a little known fact about several of the statutes that I never read about in a guide-book. There is a statute of two most unlikely subjects tucked away in a corner of the roof that few people notice. (To find out what it is, keep reading).LastDay 018

We enjoyed the view of Paris and could see many details. Taking other people’s pictures became my job, as one group after another passed me their camera or phone. We finally started walking toward the other side, and discovered an open door with another staircase. Taking it up brought us to the top of the tower, and another spectacular view.

I missed a small step coming out of the doorway, and the young Frenchman who minded that part of the Tower helped me. We started talking and he explained that he was born and raised in Paris. He was now a student at the Sorbonne but did this job in the summer to make some extra money. He agreed with me that he has the best view of the entire city! I wish I had asked for his name, because I will always remember his kindness and friendly demeanor (who said the French were always nasty?). This young man proved that general statement to be utterly false.

I could have stayed at the top of Notre Dame forever, but the next small group of tourists were waiting on us to leave. They have to time the groups, because the area where you walk and stand is so small. I thanked my new French friend for his kindness and he thanked me to letting him practice his English! My walk back to the apartment was leisurely, because I knew we had to leave this wonderful city in less than 24 hours.

Le Bon Marche

The rest of the day we went shopping. Bon Marche is a wonderful Parisian Department Store that can be slightly intimidating. Each section is set up by Designer, not by the type of clothes. We kept walking and stumbled upon a boutique named “Maje.” A wonderful sales person named Nicole offered to help find a Homecoming Dress. She had so much fun trying on dresses, modeling them for other customers and finally discovering “the One.” Our trip was successful and we found our way back to the apartment.

For our final night in Paris, we walked down Rue de Saint Beaux Arts then turned down a side street that was much quieter. We found a wonderful Italian restaurant that carried its own stories. As we sat at our sidewalk table, a young mother stopped by with her two children, a girl about 3 years old and a toddler. As we watched, she went over to one of the waiters and they began an animated conversation. The girl quickly grew tired of being ignored and said loudly, “Papa!” He turned to her and picked her up, he smile lighting up the room. Now it was clear – this was his family!

They ended up sitting across from us. The girl was distracted by counting money and her sing-song cadence of “un, deux, trois, quatre…” was a moment I will always remember. She stopped after “quatre” and asked her mom the obvious question, and she answered patiently “cinq.”

Later, as more people came in, it became apparent that this restaurant was popular for pizza take-out. Our waiter was the  delivery man, and whenever someone came to pick up their pizza, he would saunter out with the box on his head. It was very effective to capture the attention of other people, and several stopped to eat here because of his antics. So French!

What a marvelous way to end our adventures in Paris – to enjoy a waiter with his family while enjoying a marvelous meal. Tres bon!

What I love about Paris is her many faces. She is proud, aloof on the surface, but warm and friendly underneath. Beautiful architecture and graffiti exist side by side. A sense of place and the urgency found in every city compliment each other. Paris asks to be accepted for who she is…the contradictions and the beauty all join together to form her heart.

And the discovery of the various aspects of her soul can take a lifetime of study.

I promised to reLastDay 014veal the mysterious gargoyles that I discovered in a corner on top of Notre Dame. Look closely at each of these photos and see if you can’t spot the two statutes that seem ordinary and out-of-place next to their gargoyle cousins. Instead of fanciful, they are lifelike and from the natural world.



Paris will continue to haunt my dreams. Her allure is wrapped in history + romance + mystery. Her ambiance is enticing and hypnotic and her attitude will always be, “Joie de vivre.”