About elegance

This is a plea. I can find no other words.

A plea for elegance as I see it eroding around me.

Elegance is not brashness, or dressing up in fashion, or gold or any of it. Elegance is a way of behaving.

Elegance is gentleness in words. It is looking at people in the eyes. It is arriving on time at an appointment. It is having clean and proper clothes. Elegance is simplicity in things and how these things are used.

Elegance comes from the inside. It is not luxury. I think I saw some of the most elegant women and men in some of the wretched parts of the world. It is not Madison Avenue or Avenue Montaigne. It is not brands or trying hard to be different. You need not be thin or tall or have bleu eyes to be elegant. It is not in the appearance of things. No matter how many Chanel clothes you wear, if you slouch when you sit, you will not be elegant.

Elegance some say is innate and cannot be acquired. I tend to disagree. Just change polyester for cotton and you will be elegant. Change brashness and clingy jewelry for simple items, and you will be elegant. Change your thorn jeans and your flip flops for proper clothes and you will be elegant. Change your language from vulgarities to respectful words and you will be elegant. It does not take money. It is a state of mind. Be yourself truly, and you shall be elegant.

Elegance is how you move gently and without brashness. It is how you speak choosing your words so as not to offend and without vulgarities. It is how you sit and walk while keeping your back straight, because when your back is straight you can think properly and you are being respectful towards yourself and others.

Elegance in many ways is simply being polite towards you, towards others and yes, towards the environment. No matter how sophisticated you want to try and look, if you use a straw that will end up in the sea, you will not be elegant.

Elegance is as simple as eating without leaving crumbs and saying thank you after a meal. Elegance is answering emails and making that extra gesture of kindness when one is kind towards you.

Elegance, you see, is just another aspect of being aware whether someone watches you or not. It is something that starts within you. You have to feel elegant when you wake up in the morning and when you take your shower, no matter how disheveled you are. You have to feel elegant when you send a note with all the proper “dears” and “thank you” and greetings. You have to feel elegant when you open a door, when you set-up the table, when you arrange flowers, when you lit a candle, when you breathe. Elegance is being one with the gestures you make gently, softly and with your full being.

Elegance is not loud. Elegance does not entail conversations of intellectual brilliance. Elegance is not obvious; rather, it is subdued and it is perceived. Just look at nature. A flower, a bird, a tree, they are all innately elegant and they do so by just being.

So this is my plea. It may not change the way you are and you may simply lift your shoulders and raise your eyebrows dismissively, and that is fine (but not elegant…). Yet, elegance is not an illusive notion as in our many ways, we all wish we could be.

Thank you for reading.

Kenza.

Simplicity

Simplicity -perhaps a term not easily defined except by silence.

Silence as in truthfulness and harmony, all rare commodities these days.

Our social relations are filled with noise via social media, busy schedules and multitasking. Filled indeed yet very often empty of substance or care, as many rarely take the time to just sit, talk, enjoy a simple cup of coffee. A like on a photo is not caring.

The world is increasingly filled with noise through constant sounds —cars, music in stores, adverts— and visual pollution with screaming advertisements, loud and clashing colors and dare I say, spelling mistakes!

Our everyday environment seems to be artificially crammed with as many sensations as possible. Coffees now have ingredients that a priori have nothing to do with coffee, computer screens are filled with jumping images and sounds, clothes at times resemble publicity panels, and more.

So what is simplicity and how can we bring some into our lives?

The most important thing I believe, is that it has to be done effortlessly. And that may be the key to simplicity. The very moment something entails hardship, it no longer is simple. Effortlessly does not mean a lack of diligence, rather the opposite. It means that it is done naturally, and hence with care and full attention.

If we are to clean a table, then let us clean it thoroughly. And while we do so, it is all we do: clean the table.

The same goes for cooking. Ingredients are chosen fresh, they are chopped by hand to take in all the aroma and colors, they are cooked with care slowly letting flavors rise.

If we are to dress, it is reducing the number of accessories to a minimum as well as choosing a non brash pallet of colors, sticking to one or two at the most away from primary colors.

I will write more about all this as the blog evolves. But in the meantime, understand that when we do things in a simple and honest way, our state of mind gets infused with that simplicity and honesty.

As we eat wholesome food, as we reduce the noise, as we do one task at a time, our thought process calms down. As we are attentive to our gestures and words, gentleness invariably comes along.

So after all, simplicity is rather simple don’t you think?

Thank you for reading and please tell me what you think as this blog is meant to be an inspiration to all of you.

Kenza.

I look around me

I look around me. I hear the babble of the world.

I try to discern something, a word, anything, that will indicate to me that the world is awake. But most are asleep it seems or keep the awoken part very well hidden.

The news is heartbreaking no matter where it comes from. Violence fueled by narrow ideas of belonging such as nationalism and religion, is on the rise in speech and action. While so-called political correctness actually impedes free speech, the one where humor and laughter are allowed; many are falling pray to an obtuse sense of self, clinging to identity stickers.

Movies are for the most part boring or silly rehash (did you know that they are preparing “Gladiator Two” with Maximus coming back to life through a Christian martyr —is it just me or is stupidity triumphing?).

The latest books seem to follow the same lines with the new Booker Prize recounting a story the very summary of it made me cringe, and not in the intellectual Kafka sense, far from it.

Trying to be original has become so common that it is… you guessed it, no longer original.

School and social conveniences continue to ask all to fit a mold, no matter how original some try to be. At the end, many end up looking like copies of others, and most often uncouth emulations.

I do look around. I do observe and I do try to avoid judgement. But at times, I wish there were less brashness and a dash more of elegance, intellectual elegance I mean, the one that opens up your mind and makes you want to pursue a conversation. The one of knowledge and simple straightforwardness, not the one of vulgar (as in vulgaris) information and complicated pretension.

The world is in dire need of consciousness, of ideas and concepts beyond the confines of the known, of dreams and of those things that are only accessible to the mind. If only mankind would realize that what he can do is far far greater than what he has made and what he thinks he can do.

There are more than 125 trillion synapses in our cerebral cortex, that is more than there are stars in 1’500 milky ways.* And yet, look at the world.

Kenza.

Bodhicharyāvatāra – Shanti Deva

I wanted to write something about language. Good language. These days, it seems vulgarities are thrown in all directions, and no one even flinches. These days, public shaming seems a favorite pastime, and many have forgotten to simply stay quiet and wait to take a person aside and speak with a kind tone. These days, the notion of humility is no longer spoken about, nor taught, most equating it with weakness; while notions like strength, pride and winning are taking the forefront -even when it comes to children.

Yet, I found myself lacking words or to be more precise, I found myself not wanting to preach or admonish anyone. So I turned to a text that has been with me for some 20 years and that I read regularly when I feel I am straying away from kindness. This text dating from the 8th c. AD is known as “The way of the Bodhisattva – Bodhicharyāvatāra” by Shanti Deva. It is a text that has been read and studied for centuries and, according to the Dalai Lama, the only text one should read to understand compassion.

So I have copied here a few paragraphes that I hope you shall read with joy and an open heart.

Thank you.

Kenza.

When you feel the wish to walk about,
Or even to express yourself in speech,
First examine what is in your mind.
For they will act correctly who have stable minds.

When the urge rises in the mind
To feelings of desire or wrathful hate,
Do not act! Be silent, do not speak!
And like a log of wood be sure to stay.

When the mind is wild with mockery
And filled with pride and haughty arrogance,
And when you want to show the hidden faults of others,
To bring up old dissensions or to act deceitfully,

And when you want to fish for praise,
Or criticize and spoil another’s name,
Or use harsh language, sparring for a fight,
It’s then that like a log you should remain.

And when you want to do another down
And cultivate advantage for yourself,
And when the wish to gossip comes to you,
It’s then that like a log you should remain.

Impatience, indolence, faint heartedness,
And likewise haughty speech and insolence,
Attachment to your side—when these arise,
It’s then that like a log you should remain.

Examine thus yourself from every side.
Note harmful thoughts and every futile striving.
Thus it is that heroes in the Bodhisattva path
Apply remedies to keep a steady mind.”

Text: “The way of the Bodhisattva – Bodhicharyāvatāra” by Shanti Deva (ca. 700 AD), Chapter 5 “Vigilance,” Paragraphs 47-54 – translated from the Tibetan by the Padmakara Translation Group. Text originally in Sanskrit. First Tibetan translation dates from the 8th c. (Shambala Classics Publishers, 1997)

Namkhai Norbu

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“Realization is not knowledge about the universe, but the living experience of the nature of the universe.”

Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, Dzogchen Master (1938-2018).

It was a blessing, in the deepest sense of the term, to have received his teachings.

Here a short video. He was an amazing human being filled with light and wisdom, and an immense presence.

Some thoughts on thoughts

The ability of the mind is infinite and yet, few seem aware of it.

Take a word, any word.

Let me take “lemon.”

If I use my voice, I would need at least 15 minutes to describe everything that comes to my mind: yellow, sometimes green, small, sometimes medium, sour, a drop in the eyes hurts, le gâteau au citron dans le restaurant à Cannes, lime, los tacos del señor sobre Avenida Insurgentes, excellent for digestion, the flowering lemon tree in Ismael Kadare’s book “Le concert” I read many years ago, etc. And I am not even finished.

Now if you use just your mind without trying to assign words or even images, a seemingly insignificant thing such as a lemon, can produce an incredible number of thoughts.

Some say we average 3’000 to 4’000 thoughts every waken hour. This makes about 50’000 a day.

Just imagine what they maybe.

Take the next two minutes, observe your thoughts and see for yourselves.

What happened?

One thing happened: you did not have precise thoughts and had to force yourself to invent them since you were thinking about what to think! Isn’t it amazing? —amazing enough that it is often described as “advaita” in Sanskrit, no-thought, no-duality, one step away from illumination. Amazing indeed!

Now, looking at the last 30 minutes, try and list in your head all that you thought about.

It is exhausting isn’t it? And most of it was not … very profound, was it not?

Where does this lead us?

For a start, we need not have profound and life changing thoughts all the time. Rather just noticing the color of the sky and the smile on someone’s face are enough. Equally so, some thoughts are practical such as applying a recipe while making lunch, or putting together a schedule.

Another thing is reducing the number of thoughts. It is in fact a good idea and does not render us less intelligent, rather the opposite. It makes us think better and be more focused. So if we could manage to have a thought and “think it through” without wavering all over the place, as so many Buddhist and Tao masters urge us to do, we may untangle our minds and perhaps even our selves.

Finally, so as to keep the thought process related to this essay as parsimonious as possible, can you imagine how the world would be if only a fraction of the thousands of thoughts we have every hour were positive? I mean, no negativity, no criticism, no comparison, no judgement. Just imagine that!

Now I have given you something to think about.

Thank you for reading and I hope you smile.
Kenza.