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This article is a transcript of a French Podcast Vlan! by Grégory Pouy (@gregfromparis). It’s one of the best podcasts I’ve heard in recent times. I recommend to you the lessons and wisdom of Frédéric Lopez, who is interviewed in this episode.
You will read about his encounters with other people in faraway places and what we can learn from them. He also shares with us his meditation techniques that can help you live more consciously and with less fear. He talks about positivity, emotional equality, and the role of the media.
Frédéric Lopez is a journalist and makes travel programs for French television. He takes famous French people on a surprise trip to get to know tribes worldwide. His most famous program is Rendez vous en terre inconnue (Appointment in the unknown territory).
Frédéric visits indigenous peoples. These are minorities (3% worldwide) with a size of up to 200 people. It’s always hard to get their trust.
The most striking experience Frédéric has had of meeting different peoples is one that gives hope.
In Ethiopia (4000m) he and a guest visit a farmer. His 12-year-old daughter is married in an arranged marriage. This is common in the north of the country, although it is officially banned. When the farmer is 43 years old he learns to read and write. The only book he owns is a book about the rights of the man, women, and children.
He realizes that he buried his child alive. No one around us even recognizes and acknowledges his own mistakes, but the farmer did. He decides to correct his mistake when his daughter is 16 years old. He wants her to go to school. But that’s when the problems really start for him. His family and friends turn against him because it is against tradition. He is rejected. The worst thing for a person is that he/she is rejected. In fact, the farmer gets enemies because he has promised gifts to the other family. Despite that, he tells everyone that it’s not right to let your children get married so young, but nobody listens to him.
A few years later, Frédéric visited the farmer again and asked him if he recognizes himself and what it has brought him. The farmer replied that at first, he did not know that he was brave. But he managed to escape his captivity (from traditions). Frédéric discovered that he has been able to empower people to change lives simply by meeting them and giving them attention. The farmer is the tree in the swirling river. It is not the best tradition to have your children married at a young age. This man had a radiant smile and gave much hope in the dark world.
People need each other
We think it’s nice to live in remote areas and go back to basics (nature), but it’s more complex over there than here because of traditions and social customs.
Frédéric has always wanted to travel and has a passion for meeting other people. His goal is to meet proud people. He does not want to evoke emotions such as pity in his programs. He met people who never complain.
They usually meet small communities (less than 200 people). Again and again, Frédéric hears that people need each other.
A minister for loneliness (https://letstalkloneliness.co.uk/) has been appointed for the first time in the United Kingdom.
It turns out that the negative impact of loneliness is the same as 15 cigarettes a day.
In the desert (of Chad) where there is no one, a man tells him that he is never alone. He has a “friend brother”. It is similar to an arranged marriage: if two children are born around the same time, the grandfathers decide that these two children can count on each other until each other’s death.
So if one of them gets married and they don’t ask the other for a camel, it hurts the other. It’s like getting hurt when one of your friends doesn’t need you.
At one point, Frédéric is with one of his guests in the Himalayas to help search for gold. In a few months, the river will be completely frozen over. So you have to work hard before that happens, but the people dance and sing. He asks one of the women who live there what happens if there is not enough before the end of winter. There is a silence and the woman shrugs her shoulders and says: “Well, I’ll ask the neighbors then”. It is not a concept of solidarity. It simply is this way.
It’s the same in the Andes. There is an Inca word for reciprocity, AYNI. I help you today, you help me tomorrow. What is happening in the Andes now is that people are moving to the city. When they come back to the villages and the villagers ask for help, those people ask for money.
Why do people laugh more than we do?
They don’t talk, they do
All the people we meet in daily life and who talk to us are either gurus or preachers. They tell us what to do or think. The people Frédéric meets are not preachers. It’s not people talking. They are people who act with peace of mind that we don’t know in the west. People laugh more than we do.
They belong to a group
They have a strong sense of belonging to a group. The people Frédéric meets say: “I am Masai” or “I am Raika”. When they ask us who we are, we often don’t know how to answer. When you belong to something, it is soothing. There is no fear because you can count on someone. There is a disadvantage if you live in a small community because it is difficult to change traditions.
In the south of Ethiopia, Frédéric meets people where the woman works much harder than the man. He speaks to a man who says that he would like to help his wife but that she does not want to. Frédéric checks with the woman and she says that the last man to help his wife was expelled from the community and then hanged himself from a tree. The worst thing for a person is to be rejected.
The traditions are not always great. They can be cruel and people keep an eye on each other. But there is always a connection with nature, there is humility. That is different from our arrogance. There is also humility towards the animals. That’s their treasure. Most livestock farmers rarely eat meat.
All people affirm that they depend on each other. Frédéric was looking for kindness on the other side of the world. There was more than kindness and hospitality, the people opened their hearts.
Here in the west people who criticize, who comment on everything to get attention. There are those who do and others who talk (and comment). The people Frédéric meets do and have embraced him.
In the book Tribe, Sebastian Junger writes about the Indians in America and that the direction in your life is determined by the connection with others. If an Indian was captured by a white man, an Indian would do anything to escape and go back to his tribe. When a white person was captured by the Indians, the white person often did not want to leave the tribe. We live in an individual and lonely society.
When we live in the city, we break with many things. We lose connection with nature. Nature heals. It appears that patients heal faster in a green environment and that there is less crime in a city with a lot of greenery. Green does us good but we break that connection.
The virus of emotions
In the book La Contagion Emotionelle, Christophe Haag says that we are all carriers of the virus of emotions. The strongest emotion we have is fear.
So how do you protect yourself from fear? The answer is nature or meditation. Meditation is how you feel inside and that is completely different from the stimuli you get from outside (everything that targets you on the internet, the commercials, the news, the role models). They have an effect on your emotions.
When you’re on the other side of the world, the contagious emotions only come from the people around you. You are under a tree and you drink tea. You’re doing one thing at a time while here, we’re trying to do 10,000 things at once. In our busy society, we do things that actually make no sense. All the things we do bring pleasure for a short time (the joy of a new television only lasts 15 days).
When you are in nature and you feel connected, it gives satisfaction. Actually, you don’t buy happiness with stuff, but rather a reassurance, something to compare yourself with others. Comparing yourself to others can be deadly.
Personal development is doing well, but it is more than reading a book or watching a documentary about joy. You are alone (just like you are listening to a podcast or reading this article). In personal development, you show how you grow. For that, you have to be vulnerable and connect with others (my own interpretation).
How can you become friendlier and connect more with nature? Frédéric does not give advice, but what has helped him is conscious meditation. He used to be hyperactive and conscious meditation has helped him calm down and do only one thing at a time. It’s about asking yourself a few questions and listening to yourself.
Ask yourself how you feel when, for example, you are in the store, in a traffic jam, when you have a drink with friends or watch television. Listen to your intuition.
If there is a doubt, there is no doubt.
When you doubt something, you know it doesn’t feel right and you know you have to do it. So don’t argue, listen. Go somewhere that feels right. Frédéric talks about the “Two feet law”. If he doesn’t feel well, he turns around and leaves. (And if something feels right, then you go towards it).
The inner weather forecast
People have a hard time with this because we are bound by rules and expectations. It’s about getting into the here and now. Frédéric talks about a method from the Belgian researcher Ilios Kotsou who researches the psychology of emotions. He advises you to do a little weather forecast about what is going on inside yourself on 3 levels: Your thoughts, your emotions, and your body.
Imagine you have to speak in front of a large group tomorrow. So the thought is your pitch, your emotion is fear, and your body responds with a migraine or stomach ache. 100% of our thoughts are connected to our emotions and our bodies.
Ilios Kotsou gives the following example: A man works in an open office space. It’s not going well. The people denigrate each other and the boss humiliates the man in front of everyone. He feels terrible, is angry and he is afraid of being fired. A lot of emotions go through him. Then he comes home and his kids are playing at the door. He nearly stumbles and yells to his children that he had told them so many times not to play by the door. The children are shocked because they had not expected that the father would react like this. Then the woman is also sad because she had prepared his favorite dinner.
Now if we go back a little bit. The man is in the car in front of the house. He feels anger and sadness about what happened in the office. He closes his eyes and observes his thoughts (the humiliation in the office), the emotions (the fear and sadness), the body (the tension). The simple fact of being able to observe your emotions without judgment leads to diffusion. By saying “I feel angry”, you deactivate anger. Everyone should learn it in school and should learn to listen to themselves.
By listening to yourself and asking yourself how you feel here and now, life no longer happens automatically, but you get more energy to do business and take action. Frédéric is an activist and realized that he needed to get in touch with other activists. It did him good to be with others and to be in nature.
Frédéric Lopez meets many people and looks into their eyes. Even though they live in the jungle and are naked. He spoke to everyone and often there were two translators (French-English, English-Indonesian for example). That took a lot of time. So while it was being translated, he didn’t look at the translator but looked into the eyes of the person he’s having a conversation with. If you look into the eyes of another person (of a refugee) more often, everything would change. You recognize the other better. If Frédéric were a dictator, he would demand every day to look into the eyes of someone else for at least 5 minutes.
You always look a dog or an animal in the eye. Never to your shoulder or your hair.
When Frédéric talks to someone and they laugh, he knows that a joke is being made without it being translated. He sees that in the facial expression. We should talk less, listen more, and look more into each other’s eyes. The expressions of the face are universal. Frédéric once brought along a guy who is an actor and he asked him to show different facial expressions to the people. When he acted angrily, the others wanted to fight. And when he acted sadly, the others looked sad. We are extremely connected. You see the emotions in the face.
The people Frédéric has met are fragile. In a group, people can be terrifying but individually they are tender. Our life happens between our dreams and our fears. 9 of our 10 fears are cardboard decor. It’s all that’s holding us back. We live in a country where we fear what others think because we live in a country with commentators. That has been made worse by social media and people are afraid of failing. That’s stupid because you’re actually learning or succeeding. By the fear of failure or judgment, people do nothing.
The world is split in two: There are people who comment and people who do something. Those who do something don’t make fun of you when you fail. They say, “Look, it’s proof that you tried.” So the question is: Are you toxic to other people or do you give them confidence?
It now seems that we are focused on the obstacle rather than on the exit. The media always talks about the tree that falls but not about the forest that grows. According to Frédéric, his entire journalism education can be summarized in the sentence “We are not here to talk about the train coming on time”. Yet there is a distortion of reality because the people who work at the train company know that more than 90% of the trains arrive on time and only talk when there is a malfunction etc. There is always a distortion of reality due to the stories of others and the fear that this can cause.
Positive emotion is like Teflon and negative emotion is like Velcro.
According to French police officers, a traffic jam caused by an accident on the other side of the road is a delay due to curiosity (ralantissement de curiosité) and says something about ourselves.
There are so many television channels because we like to be connected and don’t want to miss anything. We are very sensitive to impulses from the media and the trick is to be aware and to ask what others (news stations, people) want from me.
Positive news channels don’t work neurobiologically. On the other hand, Frédéric is convinced that news with solutions to problems does work. Then there is emotional equality. An example is a news item about the bad economy and immediately afterward an item about people who can live well and happily in an economic crisis. People have had enough to talk about problems. Now let’s talk about solutions.
Frédéric is convinced that journalists are sincere because there are people who think that we are being manipulated and that there is a conspiracy of journalists. In fact, they are like a school of fish. They do everything the same. They are sincere and honest in their view of the world. However, that image does not have to be the same as the image you have.
Be nice and smile more
Once Mother Therese was asked if she wanted to demonstrate against the war. She didn’t want to, but she did want to demonstrate peace. It greatly disturbs Frédéric that the people who work in healthcare demonstrate. Let’s take care of the people who take care of us. Let’s be a little nicer to each other.
An optimist is a happy imbecile, but a pessimist is a sad imbecile. A pessimist is someone who has a little more fear than us. We also have fear because we are extremely connected to the emotions of others but we have decided to protect ourselves because we are all aware of our impact on reality.
So be aware and let’s take good care of the people who take care of us. All your actions and emotions affect others. Research has shown that if you smile at someone, it has a major effect on the world. People who smile live on average 7 years longer. So thanks for smiling.
What else can we learn from other people? Let me know in the comment field below. The other readers of this article. and I are looking forward to reading from you!
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Source: You can listen to the podcast in French here.