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Letters From Zeynep: I Went Out To Buy Bread

Dear friends, Here in Paris, we are still in the confines of our tiny apartments, or outside, for bri

Letters from Zeynep

April 28 · Issue #20 · View online
Weekly letters that nurture you to find everyday wellness.

Dear friends,
Here in Paris, we are still in the confines of our tiny apartments, or outside, for brief periods of time, to shop, or to exercise after certain hours for up to 1 hour and within 1 km perimeter of our homes. I have been discovering a large land with many surprises within this seemingly small perimeter and within the seemingly familiar confines of my internal world. Small moments have been getting bigger, big moments have been getting smaller, boundaries have been losing edge. As Viktor Frankl says in his wonderful book, Man’s Search For Meaning, this might be the only time in our lives where days are longer than weeks.
Below is a tiny memory of all that happened recently when I went outside, for not more than 30 minutes, to buy bread.
Hope you are staying sane. Hope you are looking for and finding joy and meaning in this curious human existence.
With love,

I Went Out To Buy Bread
First, I felt the wind, running through my fingers. Then, I lifted my arms and greeted it. Hello! I said, making more space between each finger so that the cool air would gush out of me.
It was raining tiny drops of rain, and I enjoyed how my clothes were getting damp even though I couldn’t see the droplets.
My intention in leaving the apartment was buying bread, and yet, as it had been with my walks in the last few weeks, there was no telling where my gut was going to take me.
I was rediscovering my relationship with my gut; I was learning to follow it instead of the navigator in my phone. I was getting lost often, seeing new angles, discovering new streets, and making new connections in my very own neighborhood of four years. Four years seemed like enough time to know a place but the pandemic was convincing me otherwise. My body was spatially mapping out this place for the first time in its life.
I was “walking with no aim”, even when there was an aim. My aims had become excuses to be outside, by-products of wandering around in the streets for a tiny pocket of time.
The wind pushed me through the corridors of my neighborhood. I arrived at the bakery and allowed myself to continue walking till the end of the street, where I saw the arched passageway I had seen before many times. As always, it looked inviting. Pass through me, it whispered. This time, I decided to accept the invitation.
Pass through me, it whispered.
Pass through me, it whispered.
I crossed the street and walked through the silent and deserted arch to find myself at a big courtyard, an impasse. I wondered what courtyard (that leads nowhere) would have such a mighty entrance.
My eyes traveled around the space and settled on the building in the far corner. As I walked up to it, the building twinkled at me with a sign on its wall, with letters printed on a metal plaque:
Because they were born Jewish, in the courtyard of this building, a few hundred people were arrested in the 16th of July 1942 by the French Vichy Police, from the neighborhoods of Belleville, Couronne and Ménilmontant, during the Vel’ d'Hiv’ Roundup, to be sent to Auschwitz and be victims to the Nazi barbarianism.
I stood in front of the sign for a while.
I practiced opening my heart to grief.
Remembering the Vel' d'Hiv' Roundup victims
Remembering the Vel' d'Hiv' Roundup victims
I walked back to the bakery with a deeper internal silence. I picked up our bread from the very friendly lady selling it, along with a colorful little fruit tart to treat ourselves on this quite Sunday. I started walking home, mindfully, my arms and hands full of bread and sweets, attentive to every step, and every movement of my body. 
As my ears tuned in to the grief of Philipp Glass, my memory took me on a trip to a rainy evening on Stromboli, when I had left my lover behind at the hostel, and gone on a walk under the rain, adoring the many crazy beautiful flowers of this lost Mediterranean island. I allowed myself to miss how fresh the earth smells as the rain subsides. Here I was smelling the Parisian sidewalks instead.
As I approached my apartment, I came across a tree with pink petals strewn across the pavement around it. I laughed - what a mess it had made! What a beautiful mess! The pavement, almost entirely in pink, looked momentarily relieved from enduring the dust and wind of its usual human and car traffic. It was being adorned with flowers instead.
The pavement, almost entirely in pink
The pavement, almost entirely in pink
Standing in the middle of the pink petals
Standing in the middle of the pink petals
I made my way up the hill and I said Bonjour Madame! to the lady who always sits in front of Monoprix, and who always says Bonjour Mademoiselle! to me in a whining voice, which is still much kinder than directly asking for money. I watched her as she looked through the sewage grates, not hearing me, for an important thing she must have dropped. I thanked the weather systems for being warmer - at least she wasn’t cold today.
As I turned the corner, my feet were back on my street, and I had run out of excuses to be outside.
Confinement or not, opportunities to enjoy life were many, including the excuse of going out to buy bread.
The wind, the rain, the secret passageways to history… My walking legs, the city streets, Philipp Glass… The bread, the sweets, the lady at the bakery… My memories of the past, the pink petals on the pavement and the lady at Monoprix… were all there - unmistakably - to find me and touch me.
As I arrived home, with the bread and the tart
As I arrived home, with the bread and the tart
Reflection Questions
  1. What small moments of your days have been getting bigger, more meaningful and more memorable to you lately?
  2. What has been finding you and touching you?
  3. What excuses do you make to enjoy life?
To Support Your Mindfulness Practice
New videos are coming soon to my YouTube series on Responding to Coronavirus With Calm & Connection! In the mean time, you can scroll through the existing 21 videos to explore new mindfulness practices or revisit old ones. Each video contains a short talk (5-10 min) and a short guided meditation on the topic (10-15 min).
Some of my favorite practices are:
Don’t forget to subscribe to my channel to receive notifications of new videos!
Small Gifts 🎁
  • If there’s one book to read during the pandemic, I am convinced that it is this one. It has been a great friend and a wise teacher to me in the last couple of weeks, and it has made its place in my list of all time favorite books.
  • A Soft Murmur has been bringing the noises of the outside world right in to my ears. I turn on the wind to hug the air, I turn on the fire for the crackling of the wood, I turn on the coffee shop to listen to the buzz of cute humans. This has been a melancholy with sadness and joy at once. (And it helps me focus!)
  • This 5 minute Equanimity practice by Jack Kornfield helps me begin the days more peacefully.
  • The Zoom fatigue concept made it VERY real for me and made me feel MUCH less alone.
Thank You ❤️
Thank you for reading! As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with your comments or questions, share how you are doing during this difficult time, or share what has been lifting your spirits.
With love and care,
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