The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t: Cut the Crap and Live Your Life

The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t

Summary of The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t: Cut the Crap and Live Your Life by Fabrice Midal: Fabrice Midal offers a fresh take on meditation that isn’t bound by rules, a practice that doesn’t require anything, only that we not give a sh*t.”

By Fabrice Midal, 2018, 160 pages.

Review and Summary of The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t: Cut the Crap and Live Your Life by Fabrice Midal

Chapter 1 – Stop Meditating

1.1 – The art of not giving a sh*t

In the first chapter, Fabrice Midal gives us his definition of meditation. For him, meditation has no objective, such as becoming wiser or better. Nor does it require an instruction manual.

In fact, in over 25 years of meditation practice and 15 years of teaching, the author claims never to have made any promises to his students. His approach, however, is quite unique.

Fabrice Midal has observed that performance has become the main focus of meditation practice, even to the point of disgust for some students. He recounts how, after hours of meditation, some trainees felt they had failed miserably: they couldn’t transform themselves as promised, or even feel relaxed. They were frustrated.

This is not Fabrice Midal’s approach to meditation, he stresses. From his point of view, meditation is not a technique or an exercise you must pass and write down. No, in his view, it’s an art of living, and more precisely, “the art of not giving a sh*it,” says the author:

[I don’t prescribe anything, I don’t provide tips, I don’t guarantee anything and I don’t give out bonus points. I do not suggest that you just watch your thoughts pass by without dwelling on them, like clouds that eventually dissipate.]

1.2 – Don’t try to do everything right

The idea behind meditation according to the book is not to torture yourself by trying to meditate. Above all, meditation should be a pleasure. It’s only once the fear of making a mistake has disappeared that meditation becomes easier and more enjoyable. Wanting to “get it right” tends to make us panic, creating tension and frustration

Moreover, the author reminds us that this injunction, driven by today’s society, didn’t exist before.  Fabrice Midal illustrates this point by recounting how his grandparents [spent long moments, in silence, watching the fire crackle in the fireplace.] For them, this moment was essential to their equilibrium, he points out. Although trivial and mundane, it was [a form of spiritual hygiene.] As was [walking, moving, getting tired, practicing what we today call sport, which we do according to learned protocols, with machines, instructions, and devices measuring our performance.]

1.3 – The author’s encounter with rule-free meditation

The author explains that he was introduced to meditation at the age of 21. At that point in his life, he was feeling like a failure, unable to keep up with the pace of school. He couldn’t do things the way he wanted to, and this was a source of frustration. His meeting with Francisco Varela enabled him to discover a practice in which there was no talk of performance or success. All you had to do was sit on a cushion and just be present, attentive to your surroundings.

This approach to meditation, where there are no strict rules, enabled the author to find his way.  He, who had always wanted to do well, found himself in a situation where he had nothing left to achieve.

1.4 – Mindfulness meditation

According to Fabrice Midal, meditation is [simply the act of being.] It’s about taking the time to pause, to [anchor yourself in your body.] Meditation requires no expertise. Japanese Zen master Shunryu Suzuki used to say that the best meditation is done by beginners; experts tend to over-complicate things.

Today, this practice is called “mindfulness.”  Although, the author prefers the term “full presence.”

Practicing mindfulness couldn’t be easier. Just sit on a cushion or chair.  There’s no posture to prescribe or forbid, just, if possible, stand up straight; for an upright posture [opens the mind to the wholeness of the present.] You may find this natural position uncomfortable at first, but that’s okay – don’t feel obliged, and don’t force yourself at all costs. The important thing is to find a state of well-being without frustrating yourself with rules. Everything is acceptable with this kind of meditation. There is no failure. If your head is full of thoughts, trying to clear them will have the opposite effect. The idea is to accept your thoughts as part of the meditation.

1.5 – Meditation is [allowing yourself to become human again]

For Fabrice Midal, meditation is not an exercise, self-examination, introspection, or a challenge. Nor is it about cutting ourselves off from the world; on the contrary, it’s about [entering into a relationship with what is, as it is,] including ourselves, with kindness.

The author states:

[Meditation is not about detachment or disembodiment; on the contrary, it’s about opening up to the world through the senses, and therefore through the body. It’s feeling the contact of your feet on the ground, your hands on your thighs, your clothes on your skin. It’s hearing a car braking, a passer-by speaking, without trying to understand, without judging, without even putting words to it. Just taking note, that’s all: I hear, I see, I’m hungry, I’m connected, and soon the sound becomes fuller, it becomes infinite, it becomes poetry…]

Fabrice Midal compares meditation to breathing. Breathing is a natural, effortless gesture that keeps us alive. It is [the act of life par excellence,] declares the author.  Similarly, practicing meditation is a way of feeling alive:

[Meditation … is a natural act by which I let life return to me, thanks to which I become alive again. Above all, it is an everyday act that consists of a form of attention and benevolence, free from all judgment.  In short, meditation is breathing without instruction or punishment: it’s not giving a sh*t.]

Chapter 2 – Stop Obeying

The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t by Fabrice Midal

2.1 – Obedience is often ”an act of servitude”

Fabrice Midal begins the second chapter witha personal anecdote.

As a child on a family vacation, his parents entered him and his little sister in a sandcastle competition. The rules were simple: you had to build a castle in less than an hour. In the contest, the author chose to follow the instructions: he set about building a beautiful castle, but in the end, didn’t have time to finish half of it. His sister, on the other hand, decided to make a beetle and decorate it with strawberry jam. She won the competition for her creativity and skill. However, his sister’s victory didn’t seem legitimate to the author. For him, she hadn’t respected the rules, whereas he had done what was asked of him.

Fabrice Midal shares this recollection to illustrate a point: obeying is often the easy way out.

Blindly following the rules reassures us that we’re “doing the right thing.” This desire to “do the right thing” pushes us to repeat the same gestures; to stay within our comfort zone, and ultimately leads us – without even realizing it – to act in servitude.

Many consider that serving the master – or the mainstream – is ultimately the only way to avoid losing power and getting into trouble. And [they have come to forget how to say no to the absurdity of certain orders…,] concludes the author.

2.2 – Becoming aware of our molding

While most of us submit to rules, we also realize that obeying them, without seeking to understand or despite our disagreement, hinders us and stifles our intelligence: [we feel like saying no, but something holds us back.] For Fabrice Midal, what holds us back is our upbringing, in other words, our “molding.”

According to the author, human beings are encouraged, from an early age, to fit into a mold rather than assume their freedom. Instead of teaching them to question, to think for themselves, to gain more freedom, to make their own way in life, they are taught to reproduce the identical knowledge they have learned by heart.

In short, for Fabrice Midal, [we confuse molding with learning.]

2.3 – Thinking outside the box to express your intelligence

Moreover, the author believes that our school system does not take into account the realities of society. It doesn’t take into account the fact that we’ll probably have to change jobs, change where we live, and adapt to our changing environment.


[We’re like the little boy I was on the beach: we think we’re doing well, but we’re building the conditions for our failure. We no longer know how to rise above and see beyond the framework in which we are enclosed, in which we confine ourselves. And yet, this framework is not closed! The rules are much less rigid than we think.]

And even if thinking outside the box or not conforming to the rules entails risks, many situations show just how [great we can ‘be because we’ve let that daring intelligence express itself.] Many people experience this, including scientists and artists. Didn’t Einstein revolutionize physics ‘the day he decided to break the rules of the science of his time?’

2.4 – Overcoming the fear of “perceived failure” to take risks

The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t by Fabrice Midal

This fear of failure, of wanting to succeed in one way and not in another, handicaps us.

In his youth, the author recounts how his grandmother used to bake the best cake ever. However, every time he asked her for the recipe, she remained vague. The reason wasn’t that it was a secret. It was because his grandmother never used the same proportions to make the cake; she never followed the recipe. So, every cake was a unique experience, with a unique taste. And even if sometimes it didn’t taste as good as the day before, it was always delicious.

For the author, it’s this fear of perceived fear or being “lesser” that prevents us from taking risks. Repeating the same gestures reassures us, but in the long term, can lead us to become robots.

Wanting to “do too well” by preparing “too much” for a job interview or a conference, for example, ends up restricting us. Letting go and trusting yourself makes the experience much more intense and generally much less boring. So be audacious and stop giving a sh*t!

2.5 – Questioning the rules

It’s not by challenging all the rules that we become more creative and more alive. Just look at the revolutionary movements that ended up establishing rules that were even stricter than the systems they were so much opposed to. And not all rules are absurd. Many are useful and well-structured for society as a whole.

So, [the real question is which ones we should follow,] says the author. To do this, it’s essential to ask ourselves about each rule: did we choose it, or not? Do we follow it out of fear of being noticed and taking a risk, or do we follow it in full consciousness?

The idea is as follows:

[I respond to these rules, I conform to them, but trying not to fall into voluntary servitude. I leave myself alone, in other words, I allow myself a completely new, completely vibrant relationship to rules and discipline.]

So it’s not a question of bending to a rule because it’s a rule: it’s a question of integrating it when it makes us freer. Otherwise, it’s about questioning it.  

2.6 – Responding intelligently, without being pressured by rules

Meditation, as Fabrice Midal describes it, helps us to discover [the gifts of the present] for responding intelligently to situations:

[In this sense, the meditation I advocate is an ethic: it asks us to know how to deal with each situation and to invent the right relationship to it. To let go of the pressure of rulesto refuse the voluntary servitude that fosters tyranny in all its forms.]

For Fabrice Midal, obeying the rules of a “wisdom master” (even one who is profoundly free) to find the “right conduct” is a voluntary submission: [a voluntary submission, endured in the name of fiery spiritual discourses,] he points out.

Because when you become a disciple, you lose control of your life:

[We cannot learn to be, to love, to decide anything essential by handing ourselves over to the power of another.]

2.7 – Meditation without failure or success

For Fabrice Midal, the practice of meditation as proposed in The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t rests on two pillars that require neither reflection nor obedience:

  • Be present to your breathing.
  • Be open to whatever is there in the situation.

This meditation has the advantage of being neither successful nor unsuccessful. It’s just an unconstrained moment where we allow ourselves to do nothing:

[There’s just this quarter-hour, half-hour, or sometimes even longer, during which, in the midst of all the obligations of daily life, I go off on an adventure. I stop wanting to meditate, I stop obeying, I do nothing … As long as I agree not to know in advance what’s going to happen, to open myself up to the unexpected and to the intelligence that will spring up within me.  As long as I allow myself to not give a sh*t… ]

Chapter 3 – Stop Being Wise

The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t by Fabrice Midal

3.1 – Wisdom is a path, not a goal

According to the author, our idea of wisdom is both “phantasmagorical” and “infantile.” We see it as a magic solution capable of making all our problems disappear.

As a result, wisdom has become a kind of product we should all have, like all those disposable consumer goods we buy on the Internet.

Great sages are perceived as smooth, calm, and unhindered beings. But the reality is quite different. Personalities like the Dalai Lama or Nelson Mandela are icons we’d like to emulate as quickly as possible, without understanding that wisdom is a journey and that it takes time to get started.

The wisdom of the great sages we know today cannot be learned from books.  It’s built on the experiences they’ve had, the trials they’ve faced, and the efforts they’ve made along the way. As Fabrice Midal puts it:

[Wisdom is a path, not a goal.]

Nowadays, when everything is accessible and easy, we no longer wish to wait or overcome obstacles.

3.2 – The passive, sleek vision of wisdom is idealized and misguided

Since time immemorial, we have been told that the wisdom we should achieve is that which leads to serenity, to the tranquility of the soul, to “nirvana.” To achieve this, we’re told to fight our fears, desires, and anger. According to this distorted vision, wisdom is a state in which life’s worries can no longer affect us. We therefore aim for this ideal, believing it to be impervious to all problems.

The author states that this ethereal vision of wisdom not only leads us to idealize insensitivity but is completely mistaken. The sages we know, such as Buddha, Christ, or Nelson Mandala, are perfect counter-examples: they fought injustice, they struggled, and they got angry. For the author, they were the antithesis of the passive vision of wisdom.

3.3 – “True” wisdom is being authentic and alive

“True wisdom” is not a dream of impassivity, far removed from the warmth and bubbling of reality. It starts from what we are, from what we feel. It does not reside in prayer or meditation, but incorporates a form of provocation; for it mobilizes wise men, philosophers who denounce and debate subjects that man refuses to see.

For Fabrice Midal:

[True heroes don’t equate wisdom with tranquility. They don’t try to transcend the world, they embrace it.]

So, instead of wanting to be more Zen, why not want to be more alive, asks the author, who sees more truth in our emotions than [in all the masters with their blank expressions.]

3.4 – Wisdom is not outside of us

Fabrice Midal ends the third chapter of The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t with an invitation: [Cut the crap, and you will discover that wisdom is within you.]

According to the author, meditation is not outside us. It’s in the here and now, in each and every one of us. It opens us up to who we are, far from perfection.  Meditation doesn’t make us calmer or more productive. It doesn‘t require us to suppress our emotions or display them. It’s just a matter of listening to them and recognizing them, so we can distinguish between what’s true and what’s false:

[Am I angry? I forget the order to let go, which is in itself the opposite of letting go. I’m not letting go, I’m allowing myself to not give a sh*t!]

More precisely, the idea is:

[I don’t do anything, I just let go of what’s happening without repressing it. I don’t judge my anger, I don’t comment on it, I don’t authorize it, nor do I forbid it: I take the risk of putting it to the test.]

For Fabrice Midal, this desire to become wise robs us of all sensitivity and prevents us from connecting with the present, and with the suffering of the world.

Chapter 4 – Stop Being Calm

4.1 – Meditation does not calm, it pacifies

In today’s society, being calm has become a life goal. We mustn’t over-express our emotions, whether positive or negative. Ultimately, today, we have to conform to others. We must become “uniform sheep.” For the author, this injunction is absurd and the opposite of life.

To help us understand, Fabrice Midal goes back over the meaning of the word “calm.” He explains that this term:

  • It used to refer to the lack of wind among sailors. Calm prevented them from moving forward. It was synonymous with “static immobility.”
  • Distinct from the word “peace,” which corresponds to a feeling of fullness and appeasement: in Greek, peace means “to repair,” “to adjust,” and “to work.” It is not smooth; it integrates all life’s emotions and implies effort. It is therefore the exact opposite of calm.

[In this sense, meditation pacifies, but it does not calm,] assuresthe author.

For the author, it’s important to stop feeling guilty for [failing to put up a smooth, socially-appropriate front.] This ideal of calm leads us today to no longer dare say “no” or oppose ourselves for fear of rocking the boat. And yet:

[By dint of censoring and stifling ourselves, we become pressure cookers that implode in a silent burn-out. We run away from the crisis, even though it’s a time for healthy self-examination.]

4.2 – Meditation is not intended to calm us down

The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t by Fabrice Midal

This state of calm is often associated with happiness and expected in meditation. However, Fabrice Midal explains that calm is not at all what he’s looking for in meditation.

For him, meditation is about existing in the moment, paying attention, without judging your thoughts. The aim is to “get in touch with reality as it is, whether calmly or not. In this way, meditation allows ripples. During this time, all emotions are accepted. 

4.3 – There is no meditation method

For the author, there is no single method of meditation. It’s up to us to find the one that suits us, that speaks to us, that we understand, [that makes us want to do it all over again, to continue, to go further along the path.]

Many methods require certain protocols or present themselves with objectives: observing your thoughts flowing through your mind, clearing your mind to better control it, concentrating on a specific point, merging with the divine, and so on.

The author’s approach doesn’t adhere to any of these. For him, meditation is not a search for anything. Above all, it is not a quest for calm. Nor does it erase emotions, but rather leads us to a completely different relationship with the worries of everyday life.

This type of meditation offers us a different perception. It is [the gateway to passion, action, and exaltation,] concludes the author.

Chapter 5 – Stop Holding Yourself Back

5.1 – Meditation is not the enemy of desire

In this chapter, Fabrice Midal confronts us with the absurd idea that wisdom would make us beings without desires, and therefore without torment. He denounces this [false dichotomy between calm and action, passivity and willpower,] and explains that the desire to suppress desire is contrary to many doctrines, including Buddhism. The West, armed with its heritage, has transformed ideas to conform to its vision of wisdom.

As such, desire is not something negative to be suppressed. By the term “desire,” Fabrice Midal does not mean consumerist desire (which would consist, for example, in buying oneself the most fashionable car), but rather the “momentum of life” that carries forward, surprises, and liberates. He confides:

[It (desire) is a feeling that grips me deep inside, that I can’t control, and yet that I recognize as profoundly mine when I encounter it. This desire pulls me out of myself and makes me discover the meaning of my own being. It implies that something of my deepest existence shines through.]

5.2 – Desire is simply listening to your calling

For Fabrice Midal, [to desire is to be called by something that awakens us.]

The author invites us to listen to this desire for fulfillment.

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi uses the term “optimal experiences” to evoke those moments when, buoyed by joy, creativity, and total commitment, we no longer worry about ourselves, but only about what needs to be done. We’re so passionate about what we’re doing that we forget ourselves.

In fact, Fabrice Midal explains that, driven by our desire for fulfillment, this moment distances us from social injunctions and customs and leads us to not give a sh*t:

[If we ask people who have these experiences what they think about and what they feel, most will answer: “Nothing.” Freed from the false obligations that distance us from our own being, they merge with the object of their attention … In other words, they don’t give a sh*t!]

5.3 – Listening to your desire in a very simple way

Lastly, Fabrice Midal explains that listening to what we are, to what calls to us, is not about introspection. It’s much simpler than that: it’s about observing what we’re experiencing in a neutral, benevolent, and guilt-free way, and just asking ourselves what makes us want to do it.

Finally, the author emphasizes the importance of remaining free, of not confining ourselves to moralistic codes that condemn desire.

Chapter 6 – Stop Being Passive

6.1 – Act at all costs

In this chapter of the book, Fabrice Midal talks about our society’s view of action.

For most of us, action immediately produces a measurable result. Taking action seems to mean getting busy. In today’s world, an “overbooked” person (the author cites the example of the businessman in The Little Prince) is an active person. Anyone who doesn’t get busy is quickly branded as lazy, or as someone who does nothing with his or her life.

6.2 – Carrying out many perfunctory tasks gives us the illusion that we’re doing something

To counteract this, we spend our time repeating sometimes pointless actions. In this respect, the author compares us to a patient, in a very telling story:

We’re like the patient who’s very busy clapping his hands non-stop, and to whom the psychiatrist asks: “Why do you keep clapping your hands?” The patient replies, “To chase elephants.” “But there are no elephants here!” the psychiatrist tells him. The patient replies, without ceasing to clap his hands: “You see, it works!”

So, for the author, we’re all that clapping patient: [we do one absurd, mechanical activity after another, which makes no sense except to give us the impression that we’re acting when in reality we’re in a hopeless state of passivity.] The author puts it another way: [spinning in a wheel like a hamster is not acting.]

6.3 – Rethinking our concept of time

The way out of this is to stop trying to measure all our actions in time. Because time is not normative; everyone has their own time. We also need to stop obsessing over statistical averages that don’t correspond to reality. This prevents us from relating to the right time (in other words, our own time) and makes us live in permanent impatience. All these time injunctions (to be able to write an article in less than an hour, to learn a new language in 3 months, to recover from a separation in 5 weeks, etc.) ultimately only generate the terrifying idea of not being in the norm.

6.4 – Meditation is not about being passive

People often think of meditation as a break from the hustle and bustle, where we can be passive and do nothing. However, for Fabrice Midal, the opposite is true.

It’s true that when he meditates, he sits and doesn’t move. However, that doesn’t mean he’s passive, he points out. A doctor who listens to his patient before carrying out a medical examination doesn’t move either. Yet we won’t say that he doesn’t act. On the contrary, he will be thanked for the thorough diagnosis he has made. In the same way, Fabrice Midal, when he meditates, says he’s taking real, profound action: he’s opening himself up to reality, he’s in a state of expectation in which he’s “doing” something to change. In the same way as we are active when we look at a work of art or take a walk in the mountains.

6.5 – To wait with confidence is to act

The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t by Fabrice Midal

Fabrice Midal urges us not to remain passive, but to get involved. He develops three ideas to clarify what this means:

  • True action is that which allows something to blossom, without any time constraints.
  • Waiting is not being passive, it’s being profoundly active. The wait works within oneself and demands that we trust it.
  • Being active doesn’t mean becoming restless or running around to give yourself the impression of “doing.” Above all, it’s about building in depth, understanding, and finding a solution to a situation that seems like a dead end. In this regard, the author confides:

[I’m often passive when I’m agitated. I’m really active when I dare to stop, wait, and trust.] 

So, it’s by allowing ourselves to do nothing, by waiting, by trusting, that we’ll find a solution to a situation in which we feel we’re stuck.

Chapter 7 – Stop Being Conscious

7.1 – Meditating is “not thinking but feeling”

In this seventh chapter, Fabrice Midal returns to the principle of dualism developed by René Descartes. Through this principle, Descartes asserts that the mind is the essence of the person and that our consciousness is an entity in its own right, independent of the external world and matter. For him, consciousness does not require our surroundings in order to exist.

The author considers that this vision of consciousness detached from reality has atrophied us and cut us off from our senses, from others, and from the world. And yet, we find it again in meditation.

Today, meditation is perceived as an act of “mindfulness,” automatically associated with reflection and intellectual exercise, whereas, for the author, meditation is not just limited to the mind, but to our entire being, with its body, emotions, and breathing. Contrary to common belief, consciousness is not something abstract. Meditation is rooted in the world:

[To meditate is not to think, but to feel.]

7.2 – Meditating to live in “full presence,” not “full consciousness” (mindfulness)

Meditation does not require “consciousness”, but “openness,” and to trust yourself. The author illustrates his point by comparing this situation to that of a cyclist: when balancing, the cyclist doesn’t ask himself what the ideal angle is. No, he just trusts himself.

So, if the author has set himself up against the diktat of consciousness, it’s because his practice is first and foremost a meditation in full presence rather than in full consciousness. To paraphrase his words:

[To meditate is to free ourselves from the hell of mindfulness, to live at last in full presence with the whole of our being, our sensations, our heart, our skin, our breath, and by placing ourselves back in the very flesh of the world, the water, the air, the trees, the sounds…]

7.3 – Opening up to the discovery of the senses

The author explains that, over the years, meditation has taken on a technical aspect:

[By introducing the notion of consciousnesswe have reduced meditation to a pure technique, a cerebral exercise that activates this area of the cortex and places another at rest … By theorizing meditation, we once again become brains filing charts and crunching numbers.]

For Fabrice Midal, this [consciousness trap is a constant threat.] We intellectualize everything: we count our steps as we walk, analyze what’s on our plates, greet a person perfunctorily … In meditation practice, it’s the same thing: we try to control our breathing and our thoughts. Whatever we do, we let our consciousness guide us. As a result:

[By dint of being conscious, we forget to be present. By dint of thinking, we forget to enjoy.]

Meditation, as proposed by Fabrice Midal, frees us from the crushing, artificial ideology of consciousness, from the fortress in which we have enclosed ourselves. It offers a different relationship to our surroundings, to time, and to the world. It invites us to discover through the senses, to be attentive and present rather than “conscious.”

Chapter 8 – Stop Wanting to Be Perfect

8.1 – Achieving perfection at all costs

When Fabrice Midal first started meditating, his goal was to become a perfect person: less fragile, less complicated, less shy, less impatient, more confident, more relaxed, etc. Through meditation, he wanted to change what he didn’t like about himself.

Fabrice Midal explains, if we strive for perfection, it’s because our upbringing has taught us to reject failure. Yet failure is not only inevitable, it’s essential to our growth. Unlike French culture, the Anglo-Saxons have understood this. They have no problem highlighting their mistakes, particularly on their CVs, because they see in their mistakes the proof of having tried to go further, even if they didn’t succeed.

8.2 – Wanting to be perfect deprives us of an authentic encounter with others

If we strive for perfection, it’s also because we don’t want to project an image of ourselves that’s marred by emotions and that would make us feel ashamed. Anger, envy, and disappointment have a negative connotation, even though these emotions are testament to our humanity. This constant obsession drives us to engage in moral harassment against ourselves. And this is true from a very early age, especially at school, where we are always expected to do better.

And yet, while we admire perfection in others, we don’t actually like it. Why? Because it doesn’t affect us, points out Fabrice Midal. In a society that prides itself on perfection, we refuse to show our imperfections and emotions for fear of being broken. However, we know that this is what connects us most with others:

[It’s when we’re most nakedmost authentic, when we’re no longer cheating, that we find the possibility of meeting others in earnest. It’s as if there were a risk that had to be taken for heart-to-heart communication to take place. To strive for perfection is to stifle this most precious of sources.]

For the author, there’s no longer any question of trying to be perfect. He doesn’t care about that anymore. His emotions, sensitivity, and fragility remain. The only thing that’s changed is his relationship with them.

For him, meditation now means taking all these elements that make us up and “burying the hatchet“:

[Meditation is an act of kindness towards oneself, a profound yes.]

8.3 – Just do your best and let yourself live

The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t by Fabrice Midal

Today, the quest for perfection goes far beyond what we might think: excellence replaces perfection. The author gives the example of the Olympic Games: in the past, the objective was for the best player to win; today, what interests players and commentators is the number of medals won.

According to Fabrice Midal, what counts is doing your best. Don’t be perfect, he says, “be ambitious”:

[Accept the flaws, the shortcomings, the imperfections … but do your best, based on who you are, based on the reality you have in front of you. Don’t cut yourself off from yourself, don’t cut yourself off from life.]

This doesn’t mean that, in order to free ourselves from the straitjacket of perfection, we have to neglect ourselves. No, it’s just a matterof accepting the complexity and nuance of the worldceasing to evaluate and verify yourself, [making peace with your disappointments and misfortunes.]

Chapter 9 – Stop Trying to Understand Everything

9.1 – Bumblebee theory

Fabrice Midal begins chapter 9 with a warning about our desire to understand everything, which robs us of our fearlessness and locks us into a framework of thought.

To illustrate his point, the author refers to Igor Sikorsky, inventor of the helicopter, who was amused by an intriguing phenomenon of nature: theoretically, a bumblebee can’t fly; its proportions shouldn’t allow it to soar. Yet it flies. But why? Because the bumblebee is unaware of this. From this observation, Sikorsky developed a theory called “the power of ignorance.”

Fabrice Midal evokes this theory to show how we don’t give ignorance the credit it deserves. On the contrary, [we despise it and oppose it with what we consider to be our human superiority: the ability to understand everything,] he declares.

9.2 – Stop over-rationalizing and listen to your intuition

The author states that our desire to understand everything ultimately leads us to tread water. We engage in endless therapy to try to understand our past, hoping for inner liberation the day we finally know. However, the more we dwell on it, the more time passes, and in the end, all we do is wall ourselves in. We don’t move forward, and we regret what could have been. Regrets that follow us throughout our lives.

For Fabrice Midal, we should learn to live with our uncertainties and questions, without always looking for solutions or answers; it’s when we stop striving to understand everything that a new force emergesintuition.

9.3 – Listening to your intuition and letting it guide you

There’s nothing esoteric about intuition, says the author. It’s not a sixth sense. It comes to us when we need to make an immediate decision, but contrary to what we might think, following it doesn’t mean leaping into the unknown. In fact, we accumulate and store a lot of knowledge without being aware of it. Our intuition draws on this knowledge to guide us. In this sense, intuition is not irrational – on the contrary.

So, instead of always wanting to check and control everything, it would be a good idea to listen a little more to our intuition, suggests the author. Intuition doesn’t guarantee success every time, but neither do our rational calculations.

9.4 – Bringing out your creativity

The author goes on to note that, by allowing ourselves the freedom to listen to our intuition and stop trying to understand everything, a third force emerges within us: creativity.

The author points out that we all have a creative side to us, but we often prevent it from emerging because of our fear of change and because we’ve been conditioned to join the workforce since school.

Yet todaycreativity is more necessary than ever: in an age of technological innovation and a world in perpetual motion, it’s much easier for us to adapt if we know how to bounce back and get out of the rut. That’s why the author encourages us to ‘break out of established patterns.’ He invites us to open up to the field of possibilities and to accept that we can’t control everything.

Chapter 10 – Stop Rationalizing

10.1 – Rationality by numbers

The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t by Fabrice Midal

For Fabrice Midal, rationalization in itself is not a “bad” thing. On the contrary, in this way, we clarify and open our eyes to our false beliefs. It also enables us to coexist within a defined framework.

Over time, however, this project has become distorted. Rationality is no longer reasonable. The desire to understand everything, to control everything, is now a handicap for our civilization, no longer the advantage it was thought to be.

Indeed, all our decisions and actions have to be validated upstream by the experts who govern us: narrow-minded technocrats, disconnected from the heart of reality and life, who make many mistakes.

According to Midal, this mania for reducing everything to figures, to totally abstract and inhuman accounting data, and theoretical reasoning, a far cry from actual reality, explains the failure of many decisions. 

10.2 – “Calculating is not thinking”

The belief that we hold all knowledge through rationality does not necessarily encourage us to ask questions. It often distances us from human reality and its complexity.

Moreover, the ills affecting our society, such as depression and suicide rates, are not just passing phenomena. It’s time to understand that they are linked above all to the brutality of a managerial rationalization that takes no account of the health of its employees.

For Fabrice Midal, [calculating everything is not succeeding in thinking.] Rationality conceives that what is true can be understood according to the order of calculation, but there are many other relationships to truth, he adds.

10.3 – Not giving a sh*t for deeper intelligence

For Fabrice Midal:

[To not give a sh*t isto learn to detoxify from calculation, to realize the violence and radical dehumanization it implies. It’s about allowing a much deeper intelligence within us to exist.]

This intelligence draws its resources not only from the brain but also from the senses, the body, the eyes, the heart, the reality of the world, others, their well-being, and their fulfillment.

10.4 – Rationality responds to the dictatorship of efficiency

The aim, as the author points out, is not to wage war against rationality, for it is sometimes useful and necessary. However, it must not become an obsession that turns into a dictatorship of reality.

In fact, the author contends that management should be limited to certain areas:

[There are things where it’s great to be efficient. And situations where this requirement is foolish – for example, how I look after my children, how I talk to this friend, walk in a garden at dusk. It’s crazy to talk about “school pick-up”, “work time management,” “human resources.” Let’s manage our bank accounts, but not our emotions or our children. Let’s manage a budget, but not the employees of a company.]

Today, even meditation is part of totalitarian rationalization (meditating to be more efficient or more profitable). That’s why, says Fabrice Midal, it’s all the more crucial to [let life spring forth in all its forms.]

Chapter 11 – Stop Comparing

11.1 – Being like everyone else but different

In this eleventh chapter of The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t, Fabrice Midal begins by pointing out how, from the earliest age, children get into the habit of comparing themselves with others. This is true in every area: whether it’s their height, strength, school performance, or video game scores.

While peer comparison is completely human and not in itself a serious matter, this attitude has been reinforced by the consumer society. This evolution has ended up contributing to a form of moral harassment for the individual who has to “be like everyone else” while “paradoxically being different.”

11.2 – To follow the trend is to participate in the dictatorship of standardization

For the author, this double injunction (not to stand out from the crowd but, at the same time, to be different) is not only abusive but above all leads us to no longer know what we truly want, independently of others and the norm.

Fabrice Midal explains, for example, how, by buying such and such an object, wearing such and such an accessory, or going out to such and such a restaurant, we believe ourselves to be different when, in reality, [we are merely following a vast sheep-like movement and participating even more in the dictatorship of general uniformization.]

The author also underlines the pressure we can sometimes feel within the small groups to which we belong: these have a culture all their own, so we have to fit into the mold if we don’t want to be “out of the loop.” And while this isn’t particularly problematic on a small scale, it can become so on a larger one, when it becomes impossible to leave one group to join another. The fear of being excluded or rejected makes us prisoners.

11.3 – Wanting to be free and unique

The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t

Fabrice Midal is clear: he doesn’t reject society, but he does reject the way it summons us to be identical and standardized.

That’s why he now allows himself to assert his uniqueness. And that’s why he says he’s free to make his own life choices:

[I want to be free to compare myself and to be myselfto follow the trend or to stay clear of it, to conform or to stand out. Free to question myself to find out what I want.]

11.4 – We’re alone, far from the beaten track, but we’re fine…

In Midal’s view, the main reason we hesitate to free ourselves from the protocols that imprison us is because we’re afraid of finding ourselves alone, or of being rejected by the group. As a result, we end up accepting the situation. For the author, however, even if this solitude does exist, it doesn’t at all resemble isolation:

[I recognize that when you leave the herd, you experience a certain kind of solitude. But healthy solitude is not isolation: on the contrary, it is fulfillment … An incredibly positive solitude because it becomes a kind of conviviality with my own existence.]

This is, for example, the same kind of rejuvenating, pleasant solitude we experience on a nature walk, or during an afternoon’s vacation on a deck chair.

11.5 – Unlearning mechanisms ingrained since childhood is a long journey

Deconstructing” is a steep learning curve. It’s a life’s work, says Fabrice Midal. It is an adventure!

We should start this journey towards ourselves in childhood, he says. Right from school, we should be taught to develop our individuality and discern what makes us happy. Only then can we succeed: a success that’s not limited to good grades or material possessions, but rather the joy of doing what we do.

Lastly, Fabrice Midal concludes the chapter by pointing out that being oneself is not an egocentric affirmation of our individualism. [To be oneself is to discover bonds, obligations, and commitments.] And meditation is a way of getting to know ourselves. It’s not about navel-gazing, but about forgetting ourselves in order to open up to the world and let ourselves be.

Chapter 12 – Stop Being Ashamed

12.1 – Assuming vulnerability

In this chapter of the book, Fabrice Midal looks back at his own life.

He tells us about his childhood experience of liking boys. Fear of offending those around him led him to hide his difference. Despite this, he managed to tell one of his classmates that he was in love with him. Against all odds, the latter didn’t reject him; he remained his friend. It wasn’t until twenty years later, when he bumped into this friend by chance, that the author learned that he had, in fact, been touched by his courage and confidence in confessing his feelings. Since that day, the author says he has never tried to harden himself. He has chosen to embrace his fragility, vulnerability, and sensitivity.

12.2 – Becoming tough rather than hardened

For Fabrice Midal, it’s better to become tougher than hardened. The distinction between these two terms is an important one: to toughen yourself, according to the author, is to find sufficient strength in order to continue to take risks, to love, and to marvel. To harden yourself, on the other hand, is [putting layers of concrete over your heart.] It’s building a shell and refusing to be human or to accept your fragility.

12.3 – “Never reject your vulnerability, nor be crushed by it”

The author also sheds light on what it means for him to be sensitive, and on his definition of vulnerability. He explains that allowing oneself to be sensitive [does not mean allowing oneself to be overwhelmed by all the suffering in the world.] No, it simply means [giving ourselves permission to be shaken, moved, appalled, angry at injustice, misfortune and evil.] And being vulnerable, he continues, is the ability to be touched.

Fabrice Midal then suggests that we should no longer be ashamed to express and experience our emotions. He encourages us to follow what he calls [the third way: neither rejecting our vulnerability nor being crushed by it.]

12.3 – Preserving our humanity

According to the author, today’s society encourages us to hide our emotions, as evidenced by our contemporary heroes. Unlike the heroes of yesteryear – “incredibly human beings” such as Lancelot, Achilles, or Percival the Welshman – today’s Iron Man or Robocop are flawless characters, robots, and machines that have nothing to do with humanity.

The message we receive is that we need to rid ourselves of our now shameful vulnerability.

And yet, we know that the firefighter in tears after saving a child from the flames doesn’t move us [as much for his bravery as for his moment of weakness, in that he uncovers a part of our buried humanity.] So, why do we insist on denying ourselves what we admire in others?

Chapter 13 – Stop Tormenting Yourself

The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t

13.1 – That little voice that undermines us…

We’ve all heard, the author assumes, someone exclaiming out loud in the subway or on the street: “What an idiot I am!” or “I’m no good at …”

This little voice that spends its time commenting on our every action and thought is our worst judge. It’s so severe that it resembles harassment in every way: we spend our time observing and judging ourselves until we fail. And when we try to oppose this little voice, it takes on a new form of harassment: “I’m stupid to think I’m stupid.”

13.2 – Being kind to others and to yourself

Fabrice Midal believes that few people dare to pat themselves on the back, and that this can be explained by the age-old educational methods that have left their mark on us. From school onwards, teachers and parents are not very demonstrative when it comes to positive feedback. Later on, at work in particular, we are rarely congratulated.

In fact, we’re convinced that learning and progress can only be achieved with some form of tension, at the risk of seeing the person being complimented slacken their efforts. Non-violent teaching methods show that this idea is completely outdated.

13.3 – Treating yourself as you would your best friend

The problem is that by not congratulating ourselves or recognizing our successes, we denigrate ourselves. We self-flagellate, and this violence becomes commonplace.

Fabrice Midal urges us to become aware of the harassment we are inflicting on ourselvesin order to extricate ourselves from it. He then suggests that we deal with ourselves [exactly as we would with a true friend,] showing ourselves a great deal of kindness. Mind you, we’re not talking about endlessly repeating how much you love yourself, congratulating yourself when there’s no justification for it, letting yourself go, or narcissistically comforting yourself all day long. No, it’s simply a matter of being kind to yourself and letting yourself be, as you would with your best friend:

[When a friend makes a blunder, we tell him about it without hitting him or knocking him out or telling him incessantly how the blunder was monumental and disastrous. We discuss with him how to fix it, and what he could do to improve and avoid repeating it. We don’t make him feel guilty for the rest of his life for this mistake, we don’t tell him “you should have …” We congratulate him when he deserves it, reassure him when he’s too harsh with himself, and help him to heal what’s wounded inside. We don’t constantly reproach him for his faults. We appreciate him despite his faults, or even because of them!]

This is the attitude to have towards yourself when you become your own best friend.

13.4 – Practicing “loving-kindness” to give yourself permission to be yourself

Fabrice Midal concludes this chapter by emphasizing one point: in today’s society, being kind to oneself is seen as a form of egoism, when in fact it is a form of heroism to accept oneself fully.

In this connection, the author refers to the practice of what he calls “loving-kindness.” This is a meditation of full presence that contains [a dimension of tenderness, friendship, appeasement, and love that makes it necessarily benevolent.]

[In this form of meditation, we deliberately invoke kindness towards ourselves by reliving a moment when we felt truly loved. When we look hard enough, we realize that it’s not necessarily a moment of passionate love, but much more often an episode that, from the outside, would seem harmless.]

This meditation, which takes us back to a moment when we felt loved and surrounded by kindnessallows us to rekindle those emotions and feel the associated relief.

For the author, this is essential, for it is only when we recognize the right to be as we are that we can fully recognize the right of others and humanity to be as they are.

Chapter 14 – Stop Wanting to Love

14.1 –  A conditional “I love you” Vs sincere benevolence

In the penultimate chapter of The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t, Fabrice Midal recalls how he experienced his grandmother’s expressions of affection when he was a child.

His grandmother was always telling him how much she loved him, every time he saw her. These expressions of love were often accompanied by requests, such as hearing from her more often or getting a haircut. Although it was a wonderful love, Fabrice Midal felt pressure on his shoulders and an enormous sense of guilt: that he was failing in all his duties.

It was a deep love, and his grandmother certainly didn’t mean any harm by it. Yet the author feels that his grandmother never saw him as he really was: although she wished him the best, it was the best from her perspective.

Alongside this story, the author recounts the special relationship he had with one of his teachers. One day, Fabrice Midal realized that this teacher sincerely loved him for who he really was. For the author, this was love. But if he had discussed their relationship with his teacher in such terms, and loaded it with so many affects, the professor would probably not have understood, because in the end, they were both just happy to be together. And yet, in reality, his gaze was full of benevolence.

14.2 – Expressing genuine benevolence

The point the author is trying to make with these two anecdotes is that we too often use the word “love” without real benevolence. Conversely, sometimes [love manifests itself without being said: it is benevolence.]

For the author, those who don’t spontaneously evoke the word “love” to talk about their relationship are often the most loving (her teacher, for example). They are [the ones who sincerely rejoice that you are the way you are, and who wish you to be increasingly who you are meant to be].

Fabrice Midal therefore invites us to stop forcing ourselves to say “I love you” at every turn if it’s conventional, artificial, or conditional. Instead, he encourages us to be benevolent.

Chapter 15 – Stop Disciplining Your Kids

15.1 – Meditation for children: revitalizing and blossoming, not calming down

The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t

Fabrice Midal concludes The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*it with a personal anecdote.

One day, while the author was at a friend’s house, the friend’s pre-adolescent daughter came home from school full of energy. She was jumping up and down with joy. For the author, her enthusiasm was a delight to behold. But seeing her like this, her mother immediately asks the girl to go and meditate to calm down.

This vision of meditation is the complete opposite of the author’s. For him, meditation is in no way intended to calm a child. When a parent occasionally asks him to make a child as quiet as a mouse by giving him or her a few meditation sessions, the author immediately points out the aggressiveness of their approach.

Not only is asking a child to meditate in order to change his or her personality and calm him or her down not the purpose of meditation at all, but what’s more, a meditation session is a moment of presence that you share with your childyou don’t “make” a child meditate, you meditate with him or her.

Fabrice Midal is clear on this point:

[I’ll say it once and for all: meditation is not intended to make adults calmer, especially, not children. It’s not there to prevent them from being children, but, on the contrary, to allow them to be children, to recharge their batteries, to live, to blossom at a time when we’re putting incredible pressure on them and no longer know what it means to be a child. A meditation session is not the equivalent of a Ritalin pill.]

15.2 – Children not calmed but soothed by meditation

Meditation “does not calm,” but “soothes,” says the author. In other words, it helps reduce the space needed for tensions to exist. And while meditation doesn’t aim to fit children into a mold, it does invent a way of relating to them, whatever their state.

Fabrice Midal argues that the ordinary violence suffered by children is a real source of stress for them. The effects of the pressure and stress they endure can modify the development of their neurons and the organization of their interneuronal connections. This is why the author believes we need to create a new form of caring education, and meditation can be part of it.

15.3 – Being respectful and caring

To close out the book’s last chapter, Fabrice Midal suggests that we consider the child as a friend or guest, rather than seeing him or her as “our” child, corresponding to “our” projects.

In this way, we should better grasp his/her reality and what affects him/her. We should better understand him/her and allow him/her to be all that he/she is.

The author specifies that you can be respectful and benevolent with your child without being lax. All you need to do is relax the situation and enter into a relationship “with” them, rather than “against” them.

For Fabrice Midal, introducing children to meditation means teaching them to be attentive and alive, to detach themselves from video games and the Internet, to tame silence and to discover a new way of life. However, it’s important to remember that for children, meditation is still a natural state:  they’re not yet trapped in the shackles of society, nor cut off from their bodies and sensations.

Conclusion to The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t: Cut the Crap and Live Your Life by Fabrice Midal

A book that gives a new perspective on the practice of meditation

The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t

In The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t, Fabrice Midal demonstrates how meditation can be applied concretely to many aspects of our daily lives.

For the author, it’s certainly not a question of teaching us additional exercises. Rather, it’s about showing us that meditation is cross-disciplinary, and that it’s part of a broad spectrum that runs through everything we experience on a daily basis.

The author develops his reflections in fifteen chapters, each of which addresses a different dimension of our relationship with ourselves, with others as well as with the world.

Simple yet profound reflections to rethink the deeper meaning of meditation

The ‘full-presence’ meditation proposed by Fabrice Midal in the book is a meditation in which we seek nothing: neither to be calm, nor to clear our heads, nor to reach any spiritual state. Nothing, except to completely ‘not give a sh*t’ and allow ourselves to be human.

This so-called “not giving a sh*t,” which is explicit in the title and throughout the chapters, sums up the author’s extremely simple yet profound approach. A vision far removed from the injunctions of calm, focus and productivity that we associate with meditation today. A kind of nonchalance occasionally emerges from this laissez-faire outlook. This may upset some readers while charming others.

A book that reminds us of the power of benevolence, emotions, vulnerability, and full presence

In this book, Fabrice Midal goes beyond meditation to develop the liberating dimension of “not giving a sh*t.” At the heart of his message: to allow ourselves to be ourselves, in all our wholeness, with our emotions, our vulnerability, and to live in a state of full presence, creativity, and kindness towards ourselves and others.

The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t

It’s a healing reading experience because, for once, it takes the pressure off our shoulders. The author uses consoling language without incentivizing laxity or honeyed benevolence. He also offers us his non-conformist vision, inviting us to be more critically intelligent and to seek freedom by breaking out of society’s tight stranglehold.

Strong points:

  • A humane and different approach to meditation.
  • The author’s soothing tone.
  • Empowering language.
  • Ease of reading.

Weak points:

  • The impression that a single core idea (do nothing, feel the present situation, and accept it) is repeated over and over throughout the book.
  • There’s a kind of nonchalance about the book that won’t suit everyone.

My rating : Permanent Record by Edward Snowden Permanent Record by Edward Snowden Permanent Record by Edward SnowdenPermanent Record by Edward SnowdenPermanent Record by Edward SnowdenPermanent Record by Edward SnowdenPermanent Record by Edward SnowdenPermanent Record by Edward SnowdenPermanent Record by Edward Snowden

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A Handy Guide to The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t: Cut the Crap and Live Your Life

The two pillars on which Fabrice Midal’s meditation practice is based:    

  1. Be present to your breathing
  2. Be open to whatever is present in the situation

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) concerning The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t

1. How has the book been received by the public?

The result of a three-minute radio program broadcast on France Culture in the summer of 2019, the book The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t, published on September 7, 2022 by Editions FLAMMARION, has been a great success with the general public and has been translated into several languages, becoming a bestseller with millions of copies sold worldwide.

2. What has been the book’s impact?

Thanks to its simple yet powerful approach, this book has changed the lives of millions of people all over the world, providing them with concrete advice on how to combat pressure, insomnia, guilt, hypersensitivity, etc., and discover the strengths and assets available within them.

3. Who is the target audience of The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t?

This book is for everyone, without exception, whatever your field of activity. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, an employee, a student, or unemployed, this book has the potential to help.

4. What does wisdom mean according to the author?  

For Fabrice Midal, wisdom is a path and not a goal. 

5. What is the fundamental role of meditation according to Fabrice Midal?

To answer this question, the author believes that meditation pacifies, but it does not calm.

Full-presence meditation versus full-consciousness meditation

Full-presence meditationFull-consciousness meditation
Sitting on a cushion or chairBeing mindful
An upright postureAny posture
Find a state of well-beingSearch for a state of well-being
Everything is acceptable, no failureNot everything is acceptable, you can fail
Accept all thoughtsSeek to clear your head

Who is Fabrice Midal?

Fabrice Midal

Fabrice Midal, a French citizen, was born in Paris on September 27, 1967. A philosopher, painter, art historian and poet by profession, he holds a doctorate from the Université Paris-Panthéon-Sorbonne. His meeting with Chilean cognitivist Francisco Varela in 1988 turned his life on its head, leading him to take up meditation, with whom he maintained a close relationship until his death. He turned to Buddhism, learning from many of the great masters of the Tibetan tradition.

He pioneered full-presence meditation, founding the Western School of Meditation with the aim of spreading secularized Western Buddhism throughout the world. A best-selling author, he has written a number of books, including the best-selling The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t, in which he proposes a concrete approach to combating pressure, insomnia, guilt and hypersensitivity, and to rediscovering the internal strengths and assets each of us possess for the sake of a better life.

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