Adventures on the wheel of Samsara: France

French Basque beach, by Martin Long (
Beach, Basque country, by Martin Long.

During my recent trip in Europe I took a break from Global Yogi to be able to have some time and space to reflect on its present and future directions, and at the same time to reflect on my own personal present and future directions.

But essentially, my primary motivation for this adventure was to see my ex, and hopefully find some resolution to all the very complicated emotions I had been experiencing for the past year and a half since we separated after a short but intense relationship.

I was on a path to unravel the Samskaras that had so firmly and so deeply imprinted themselves on my brain since the breakup, but, I suspected that the roots of these imprints went back far beyond this one most recent and dramatic encounter with love, sex and intimacy.

Yoga teaches us to slowly recognize the patterns in our bodies, and in our minds and emotions, that shape the experiences we have in the world as humans. And it is through recognition of these patterns that we can then slowly transcend them, to grow into expanded versions of ourselves, shedding old patterns like a snake sheds its skin.

Samsara translates as the cycle of birth, life, death, and reincarnation, which brings suffering if perceived through a limited view – the lense through which most of us experience the world. And that lense is our patterns, our Samskaras.

So, my trip in Europe was essentially an investigation into my relationship Samskaras, particularly in the field of intimate relationships.

This kind of investigation is easier to do when travelling, away from home, as you are temporarily free from the physical and emotional structures which define your identity in your home – like your house, your possessions, your friends and your family. You are in a sphere where all that you have you carry with you, whether that is your clothes, or your emotions, your pain, your drama and your Samskaras.

Though my ex had said to me when he broke up with me on email, that he would ‘of course, be very happy to see me’, everything that had transpired in our Internet communications since hinted that this was not the whole truth and nothing but the truth. When I contacted him from Sydney to arrange a meeting he was less than enthusiastic to say the least.

What to do?

I did something I never thought I would ever do, and booked a ticket from Paris to go and see him, planning to just turn up as a … surprise. But I was not sure that this was the wisest course of action.

My two friends in Paris had arranged a welcome dinner for me in a small restaurant in the lively Pigalle neighbourhood, so I took the opportunity to put the question to them, and to the husband of one. My Australian friend thought that I should go. ‘After all’, she said – ‘you haven’t been to Poland, so why not, you will see a new place, and Krackow is beautiful!’ My other friend who is Parisian, was not quite so enthusiastic. She looked at me with a wise and enigmatic gaze and said, ‘you know, Michelle, these things are, … complicated.’ So French. Yes, to say the least. The husband of my Australian friend said, ‘you know, as a man’ (and a Frenchman, like my ex), ‘I would advise you at least to tell him first’, he said with a concerned look (I wondered if he was wondering if all Australian women are this crazy). ‘It is better that he is prepared.’

So I considered it for a few days. And then I sent him an email to say I was coming. And the days passed. And I got no reply.

I had hit the wall that I had hit already so many times with this man. The great wall of silence. The great wall of non-communication. The great wall of ‘I will not tell you how I feel about this. And in fact, I will not tell you anything at all.’

And so it came to the day before I was due to leave, and I logged onto the airline website, and paid some extra money to change my flight to go to Spain instead. I thought that might be the end of it. I even hoped it would be. But it was not. Two weeks later he replied to my email and wondered why I had not come? ‘La, tu as compliqué la vie’ he said. You complicate life. Hmmm.

The weeks passed in Paris and I got to know another Frenchman, who told me on the first night out with him that he suffered from bipolar disorder, and was currently in a manic phase. He was talking a million miles an hour, telling me about all manner of fantastical things.

And the next day he came to do yoga with me.

He told me he’d taken sick leave from his job as he hadn’t slept for days, and he needed help. This is a situation where someone else, who is not me, might recognize all of these warning signs and help him with yoga and leave it at that. But I am (at least – I was), not that woman. He started to send me dozens of texts every day, and instead of being concerned for him, I was intrigued.

So when he left Paris a week later and invited me to visit him in his native Basque country, where he was now doing yoga…with his mother, someone else, who is not me, might have declined.

I was intrigued … and I booked my TGV ticket to go the next day.

After picking me up at the railway station, in an agitated state, he dropped me at the apartment I had rented on Airbnb. And this was one of the last times I saw him alone. The next morning, he arrived at my apartment to give me a short tour of his town – with his mother. And from then on, with the exception of one beautiful mother-free afternoon, she was the driver and chaperone of our sortees. And most of those sortees were to the beach, to surf. The first time, his mother dropped us off there, but the second time, she was in for the long haul. She came with her hat, suncream, a stack of books and spread out her beach towel next to us.

And I ran into the sea, as fast as I could, without putting on my flippers.

When I was about 100 metres out to sea, I realized why my friend had insisted I wear the flippers on the other days.

I looked over at the huge waves crashing on either side of me, and I felt a strong current whirling all around me, pulling me out to sea. I tried to swim back towards the shore but got nowhere. I realized I was in trouble and started to panic. I felt a strong sickening feeling of horror in my stomach. I called out to my friend, who was on the beach, miles away, with his mother, totally oblivious to my situation. I panicked more, and had a very strong feeling that I did not wish to end my days on this particular day, at this particular beach, in the French Basque country. And so I screamed as loud as I possibly could and waved my arms around, and after a minute or so, some of the surfers about 30 metres away heard me, and came to my rescue. To me they looked like angels, and were, in that moment.

So it had come to this.

A near death situation in the ocean, in a place where I knew nobody except for the oblivious dominant submissive Basque mother son team on the beach. And I am a Piscean, very fond of water, and oceans, and a strong swimmer who grew up body surfing in huge waves in Australia who has never before felt so frightened in the sea.

But I got the message.

Thank you universe. I know I am stubborn and that you had to play this card for me to finally see this pattern, so, though it freaked me out, I understand it was the only way.

Some patterns are so deep that this is what it takes for us to see them.

This was just a more extreme version of what I had lived through in various long and short relationships many times over. I am especially attracted to unavailable men. I give my love to them and I get nothing back. And all I feel is pain.

But when we finally do start to recognize them, then slowly the Samskara for that particular pattern can start to dissolve, leaving you free to choose a new path in life. Free to expand into a new version of yourself, which is my case, is as a woman who chooses intimate relationships with men who are whole and emotionally available, and wanting to give love as well as receive. I hand in my role as Florence Nightingale, healer of the broken-hearted, carer for wounded and conflicted souls, and sponge for soaking up all the pains of the damaged men of the world.

Have you recognized any deeply ingrained Samskaras recently? I would love to hear about them in the comments.


7 Responses to Adventures on the wheel of Samsara: France

  1. Hi Michelle !

    Thank you, I loved your article, it is a very personal and interesting one. I hope you will be able, in the future, to let go of this Samskara of being attracted by unavailable men.

    As for me I have identified a Samskara too : I am way too sensitive.
    When someone tells me something, I have this tendency to take it the wrong way and it is very hard for me to accept criticisms.

    I’ve started to investigate about this situation and I think all of this dates back to my past and the fact that my parents got divorced when I was a teen. I used to travel back and forth every 3 days to go to my mum’s place and then to my dad’s place and I think this gave me the unconscious feeling of being kind of abandoned and I hated this times of saying “goodbye” and preparing my suitcases. I think because of this I would like everyone to love me now, which I now is impossible of course 🙂

    So I know what I have to be working on, but it is not easy ! When someone criticizes me, I get angry or sad and I would like to change this pattern and keep my calm. I’m very blessed to be a Yoga Teacher and when I practice and teach, I feel that I’m improving myself on my way !

    Well Michelle, I love your blog and what you are doing and I want to thank you again for inspiring Yogis all over the world.

    Kind regards from my home city, Paris,

  2. Hi Michelle! I enjoyed reading your post and thank you for sharing that, it helped me reflect on my own samskaras. A major one with men is that I do not fully commit because I am afraid of being left. This is something I’ve been aware of but now in my current relationship, I am really feeling the pressure to “shed the skin” and deal with it. I have been experiencing a lot of pain over this particular one recently and I am hoping I will be ready to let it go soon!

    With Loving Kindness from Virginia,


  3. I really appreciate your article Michelle! Thank you for having the courage to be personal. Im drawn into your story and I feel I’m right there with u. You also made me smile when I recognize myself and the things we do for love. Look forward to read your coming posts!

  4. Thanks so much for your comments Kim, Claudia, Sara and Emily – I really appreciate them. And thank you also for sharing your own patterns. To be totally honest, it is quite scary sharing my story on this level, so I am so happy to see you connect with it. And happy that you’d like to hear more! Sending you all loving kindness from Melbourne. x

  5. Well done Michelle! The hardest part is past – understanding & having the courage to acknowledge it. Now you can really move towards creating that loving, sharing relationship that you wish for. Keep listening to the universe & your own heart.
    Love & Light

  6. Thanks Claire – yes, the noticing and understanding is the hard part. I am happy to have seen this pattern and very excited to be moving towards healthier relating now.

    And yes, the heart always knows best, and is our best guide as long as we are listening!
    Love & Light to you.

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