Blog 4. The French Adventure (summer 2013)

The French Adventure.    War and Peace and Spiritual Renewal in France.

0 1 war1 0 2 arch de triumph3 0 3 5mt michael3 0 4 00f0 5Franny and I are back from our French adventure.    We had a wonderful and deep meditation retreat near Limoges (with friends we know from around the world),  long drives though the rolling French countryside and rippling streams, stone bridges and towns and villages churches, the abbey/fortress island of Mt. St. Michael, the Bayeux tapestry on William the conqueror,  windsurfers at Omaha beach, the intensity of Paris and Mona Lisa’s smile, and home over Greenland.  Everywhere were symbols of our human search for happiness through the futility strife and war — and though the validity of peace and spirit.

THE HUMAN ADVENTURE.   One insightful and delightful philosophical view is that we are   essentially non-physical  spiritual beings who decided to have a physical human adventure on planet earth.  The adventure gets intense at age 4 to 10 as the power of language mesmerizes us into thinking we are physically and mentally separate from each other and spirit.  In our delusion of separation, we think we need to protect our little fearful egoic selves — to find safety and happiness in this physical world instead of remembering who we really are.  It’s a fruitless path of endless seeking, suffering, conflict and war.  True peace, happiness, joy, and clarity can only come from re-uniting with our true infinite spiritual self.  Then we really can enjoy our human adventure.

THE SHAMBHALA ADVENTURE.  Franny and I have been following the Shambhala Buddhist path of spiritual growth for over a dozen years. It is the Shambhala Warrior’s path of fearlessly (but playfully) facing and transcending the addictive hold of our separate fearful egoic self. It involves daily and weekly meditation practice at home and at one of our 200 local centers punctuated with roughly annual retreats at one of  Shambhala’s six worldwide land centers.

In 2013, our next step/retreat, called Scorpian Seal Assembly One, was only available in France – – expensive for us and physically challenging for Franny (who was close to needing a hip replacement).  But time for us is short, so we pinched our pennies, applied for scholarships, booked a flight, packed up Franny’s wheelchair, and …..

…..  In late August our French adventure started by clambering though a hole in an enormous aluminum cylinder that we trusted would fling us seven miles in the air and around the globe, over Greenland, and on to Paris.  And happily, for us and the 500 others in the double decked Airbus, it worked!                 1c greenland air1b lax-paris2

1d Eiffel_Tower











MATILDA, PARIS TRAFFIC, AND LIMOGES.     The next day, slightly groggy after 12 hours in the air, and after a couple of hours negotiating a mile of corridors, baggage control, customs, immigration, and the Europa car rental rituals,  we were finally in our VW Taiguan (big enough for wheelchair and luggage) trying to escape the immense Charles De Gaul airport with invaluable help of Matilda, our GPS navigator.

We were on our way to the Shambhala Buddhist retreat center of Dechen Choling, in a three century old country estate outside of Limoges — three hours south of Paris — if Matilda and I could successfully guide us thru dense Paris traffic and the 25 road changes to reach our hotel in Limoges.

Paris traffi

Paris Traffic

2 Limoges
















DCL sunset

DECHEN CHOLING.   392468_10150735654989670_393633175_nxLimoges is a pretty little city, famed for its cathedral, train station, and ceramics, but we were anxious to move on to Dechen Choling, arrange our room, and see our friends from around the world (like Ukraine, Slovakia, Germany, Holland, England, France, America, Mexico, Canada, Japan, Australia, and others). The center is a lovely old French country estate – stone buildings, green fields, and wandering streams.


3 dc2l

DCL entrance

3 0

DCL main chateau













SPIRITUAL RENEWAL. The Scorpian Seal retreat itself started with a high energy lasang fire ritual led by the the Sakyong Mipahm Rinpoche (the spiritual leader of  Shambhala), and then a dozen days of meditating, teaching, chanting, hugging, eating, silence, and sleeping — and finally a celebratory banquet and dance.

4 P1000944 4 smr








4 P1020484 4 ss1 dance















FRENCH COUNTRYSIDE. Having successfully faced and transcended our egoic fears (at least for a while) — we hugged our fellow adventurers goodby and took a few days to explore France —  the countryside, people, fortresses, wars, and cathedrals in Normandy and Paris.

For me, the trips  greatest pleasure was the journey Matilda took us on as we drove for six  hours across the French countryside from Limoges to the Normandy coast.  Sparkling streams under stone bridges,  roads curving around medieval houses and churches,  cows and pigs and peaceful old towns.  A rich feast of color and sounds and  smells.


5 P1020532 5 P1020458 5 P1020498 5 P1020511





















PEACE & WAR – MONT SAN MICHEL -THE ABBEY-FORTRESS. Then to the coast and  Mont San Michel – a fortress-abbey-church built on an island that was accessible only at low tide.  Towering stone walls, iron drop gates  and arrow slits that rained death on any attackers.  The tide goes out for miles — and incoming tidal rush has caught and drowned many unwary. There is a surreal beauty to the place that attracts filmmakers and ordinary people alike — wanting to connect to its  peace and power and mystery.

6 P1020550 6 mont_saint_michel 6 mt michael3 6 P1020549

























PEACEFUL NIGHT.   We were originally going to stay in a hotel in Mt. St. Michel, but I wisely changed it upon considering my challenge of  pushing Franny’s wheelchair up a steep narrow cobblestone alley, Franny’s extreme challenge in climbing up stone stairs to our room, and the outrageous  cost for  a 2nd class room.  We stayed that night at the lovely Aberage du Terrior in the tiny town of  Servon. The Aberage is a delightful old stone chateau overlooked by the village church.  It had been completely redone inside with modern German windows and bathroom.  The owner is a gourmet chef — and his wife served us mouth watering duckal’orangeon Waterford (not Limoges!) porcelain with white table cloths and crystal glasses.

7 P1020578 7 P1020517 7 P1020521






















WAR – THE INVASION BY NORMANS – THE BAYEUX TAPESTRY.   The next day, an hour’s drive north took us to the lovely city of Bayeux on the Normandy Coast.   Normans or “North-man” are descendants of the Vikings that invaded France in ancient times.  My own ancestors are descents of Vikings and the Scottish barbarians that terrified the Romans by stripping naked, painting themselves blue and running screaming at the enemy waving their swords and cudgels.  Such a rush!

Our human adventure seems to include the intense sense of aliveness we get courting danger.  I vividly remember body surfing a hurricane wave body screaming with joy and fear as I was bounced down it like a ping pong ball.   Or skiing “suicide hill” or walking on fire barefoot, — or jumping from an ……..

The 600 foot Bayeux tapestry depicts the invasion of England by the Norman duke William the Conqueror in 1066ad.  When Harold reneged on his oath to William and grabbed he English crown for himself,  William negotiated the pope’s approval, called  up an army for 5-10,000,  chopped down a forest to build a few hundred ships,  and won the war and crown of England with his skillful use of mounted knights and prayer.  Changed the course of English history.  It was all a great adventure – until you close in on the torn and broken limbs, the suffering faces, and the cries of bereft families.

8 Odo_bayeux_tapestry

Bayeux tapestry

8 battle of hastings

William conquering (Battle of Hastings)

8 P1020616

Bayeux cathedral


























WAR AND PEACE ON OMAHA BEACH.  Nine hundred years later,  on the beaches a few miles from where William set sail, our human war-games climaxed with the greatest invasion in history. Over a million men in a thousand ships stormed the Normandy coast as screaming bullets shredded bodies and turned the blue waters and the white beaches red with blood.

Franny took a nap while I drove the few miles from our pleasant inn to Omaha Beach.  Images of movies recreating men jumping out of amphibian craft into a buzzing maelstrom of bullets was in major contrast to this lovely warm beach with its gentle waves, strolling beach combers, and laughing windsurfers.   I could find no evidence of  the invasion until I drove behind the modern beach houses (well, no old stone  houses  is evidence in itself),  and up a hill to a small concrete pill box — about 15 feet across.  I imagined being a German soldier in that emplacement waiting for an invading American to toss a grenade into my concrete tomb. [Unlike our last trip, where I surfed in off Nova Scotia in the North Atlantic,  I only got to wade in the Atlantic here.]

That night we had great dinner in a quaint little beach town,  where a sunset illuminated the ghostly remains of one of the “instant” invasion harbors where endless tons of equipment was brought ashore to support the invasion.

9 P1020631

Omaha Beach Smile

9 nornamdy ryan

Omaha Beach Invasion



9 omaha wind2

Omaha Beach Wind-Surfing

9 P1020656

Happy as a clam!

Happy as a clam!

















Versailles-garden Finally, we drove back to Paris to complete our circle of northern France — past the opulent  Versailles Palace where King Louis and Marie Antoinette were dragged from to be guillotined – – and past the Arch de Triumph where Napoleon armies and American tanks paraded in victory.



In Paris, as I dodged pedestrians and scooters — and wondered about climbing to a sixth floor walkup (no elevators in the 1800’s) — Matilda took us to the wrong Rue De Recollects – student housing,  not our hotel.  After much confusion, driving up and down, questioning in French and English and arm waving — a friendly student found the right address on her iPhone — and reprogrammed Matilda (who says the French aren’t friendly!).



Parisian peace.  The next day, Franny rested while I walked past rushing crowds to near the famed Notre Dam cathedral.  But is was the man in the church across the street that captured my imagination.  I hope that his God answered his prayers.





  That evening we had a tasty meal at a local students cafe in the famed Montmartre  surrounded by the steamy energy of modern students and the ghosts of Renoir, Degas, and Picasso.






  Our final day we braved the Louvre with all its incredible treasures — from the 4000 year old first legal Code of Hammurabi to the enigmatic smile of Mona Lisa.Mona Lisa



And finally home,  to lead twenty meditators in our living room the next day, and to schedule Franny’s hip replacement operation for  the next week.    

And so, our human adventure continues.  Went surfing  last week here in the Pacific ocean at sunset (to complete  my urge to  surf the Atlantic on Omaha Beach).   Franny is recovery grandly — and I am learning (its a stretch) to be a caretaker with a smile.   Our  son Stephen sent me a picture of  our granddaughter Kennedy as she joyfully enters her human adventure.

With Love,  Carter and Franny












Comments are closed.


Living life as an adventure, not as a trial — one breath at a time.

WELCOME.   This website and blog is dedicated to exploring ways and views that can help us better remember or awaken to our essential spiritual nature — and to really appreciate and enjoy our human surfchildpinkadventure on planet earth — to thrive rather than survive each precious day. The site has several parts:

My bio or story describes some of my personal adventures and explorations on planet earth — how to live life with a sense of fun and curiosity.  The best view I have found so far starts with a deep sense that I am actually an infinite spiritual being that is having a creative human experience — an extension of Source energy. In growing up I become so embedded/ fascinated/ frightened with this physical world I totally forgot my connection with my True Self;  I became convinced I was this vulnerable separate mind and body called Carter.  This website is dedicated to discovering views and practices that help us reestablish or remember our True Selves and the true joy it can bring to every moment of our lives.

Accelerating Evolution describes one of those explorations. The integral theories of Ken Wilber freed me from the idea that to connect with spirituality I had to drop my rationality – to regress to medieval or tribal times.  Instead, I discovered that our desire for a better world and life has led not only to higher technology and economics but to higher stages of morality and spirituality. The Accelerating Evolution model I developed predicts that by the last half of this century these powerful creative forces will open us to the mature rational or integral stage and even spiritual levels of consciousness — and soon racism, sexism and even violence will become as morally repugnant as the infanticide, cannibalism and slavery of our earlier stages. [But the process getting there, like most changes,  may be bumpy!]

Russia Blogs. In the fall and winter of 2010, my wife Franny and I went to Germany and Russia to help build out a new theater in St. Petersburg. I wrote a series of blogs on that adventure.

Current Blogs will deal with my ongoing explorations and adventures. The first one will be based on an email I sent to a friend who was struggling with the spiraling doom of depressive thinking — it recommends, among other things, some of the tools of positive psychology

Carter Vincent Smith