Walking meditation

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #132

Last Monday with some friends we did a walking meditation, 20 minutes of very slow walking in a small park in the city, focussing carefully on each step, lifting my foot, moving it forward, the shifting my balance, placing it down, trying to feel every part of the movement.
It had just rained, the air was fresh. After a while it became like a trance, sometimes managing to block out the noise of traffic around.  I became more aware of everything around me. The wet grass at my feet, the drops of water on a seesaw, beautiful roses of different colours and the way tiny caterpillars were roaming on their petals. The goal of the exercise was not to focus on the caterpillars but they were very cool, bobbing their little heads up and down.

I felt so calm when we were finished.  It reminded me of how often I am caught up in a rush to get from A to B, and how much there is to feel and see when we are in first gear instead of at full speed. I am grateful for these lovely mindfulness sessions and deep connection with a bunch of kind and open friends. It was amazing to share this experience together and get back in touch with my meditation practise.

Getting my energy back

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #117

This is the season where the hours of daylight get ever so slightly longer after the long Dutch winter.  I’m slightly confused and happily surprised to find it’s not dark at 5pm.  As the days start to get longer, I’m also noticing my energy levels are gradually getting better after many months of struggling with burnout and a sense of constant exhaustion.

So what has changed? I’ve rested, a lot, taking it very easy over the last months.  But also I’m much more aware of what I need, I’m not pushing forward like a robot as much as I used to. In the mornings, I stop to think whether I feel like cycling to work through the hectic city center or whether I feel like choosing the confort of the tram where I can read, look out the window or write my morning pages.  I’m trying to spend less energy worrying about how things will go. I’m saying NO to things that I think will take more energy than I feel I have available, and YES to creative things that make my heart sing or open new horizons.

It’s not perfect, I still get the occasional headache if I don’t give myself a break on time or feel totally drained after a long day… But on the whole I’m putting more regular deposits into my energy bank, doing more things that are good for me and less SHOULDS and I can feel the difference. I’m grateful that the steps I am taking towards healing are bearing their fruits.

An oasis of peace in Amsterdam

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As the city of Amsterdam gets more and more full of tourists, one place I love to escape to for fresh air and a quiet afternoon is the Botanic garden in Zuidas.  Surrounded by modern buildings, it’s a lovely oasis of calm hidden within the bustling heart of the business district.

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I really appreciate that the entrance is free of charge, making it accessible for anyone to come and discover their incredible collection of plants.  While I was there last I also saw several patients in wheelchairs coming from the nearby hospital for a change of scenery.

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There is an incredible diversity of plants making each visit a new experience as the seasons change. Last time thanks to the Indian summer, there were still a multitude of flowers blooming in October.

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It’s always a pleasure to slowly walk around, spot new plants and take in the details of the various species.  The splashes of colour bring me so much joy.

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It’s a real celebration for the senses with all the different colours, intriguing textures and unusual shapes.   The perfect way to be in the moment and feel grounded.

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Look up

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #98

It’s easy to forget to look up, as concentrated as we are on the things to see at eye level. I am so grateful for the gorgeous colours on these trees, contrasting against this morning’s blue sky.  This is a reminder to myself to be in the moment and focus on the beauty of nature in these precious next weeks of transition, as the autumn leaves change colours and float down to cover the ground.

Self-care checklist

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A simple checklist to remind me of the basics today, and every day:

  • Breathe.
  • Take a few minutes to check in with yourself.
  • Loosen your jaw. Puff up your cheeks like a blowfish.
  • Listen to your body (Are you thirsty? Do you need to pee? Do you need to stretch? Do those things now)
  • Remember everyone struggles with the same questions and fears. You are not alone.
  • Take your eyes away from the screen, look out the window for a few minutes (really LOOK out the window. What do you see?)
  • Be gentle to yourself (What would you say to your little sister if she were in this situation? Say it to yourself.).
  • Put things into perspective (Will this be of any importance whatsoever in a month or a year’s time?).
  • Be ok with not feeling ok. Emotions come and go like waves.
  • Go for a breather or a quick walk outside.
  • Remember: you are enough.
  • Breathe.

What do you have on your list?

Meditating in the morning

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #91

At the beginning of this year, I followed a mindfulness course for eight weeks and thanks to the accountability of my fellow class mates I managed to make time to meditate daily for a few months. I tried my best to keep up these good habits afterwards, but little by little the habit slipped and I was not as regular in my practice.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve reminded myself of the benefits regular meditation had and I’ve been consciously making more of an effort to take those ten or fifteen minutes in the morning to calm my mind and come back to myself.  I’m grateful that I can dedicate time to my self-care before heading off into the busy world, so I can be more present to what is going on in and around me.

Quiet evenings in

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #55

With the cold weather upon us, I feel so glad when I have quiet evenings at home where I don’t need to brave the icy wind on my bike to go someplace.  Having time to potter around the flat, write some thoughts in my journal or read a good book curled up under a cosy blanket, with a cup of ginger-orange yogi tea by my side, is simply wonderful.

I’m grateful that hibernation season is here, and I plan to make a conscious effort not to make too many plans to go out, so I can protect these sacred evenings of calm as a gift to myself:)