JOYFUL GRATITUDE #180
In the nearly 14 years I’ve been living in Amsterdam, I’ve never seen such a long stretch of warm and sunny weather. Yesterday, as it was a public holiday, the city was bursting with people which meant maintaining a safe distance was a challenge, so it was the perfect opportunity for a mini-adventure around the polder in Nieuw-West. It was a relief to escape to escape the crowds and take refuge in a much quieter area.
I love the feeling of freedom when pedaling without haste, being self-propelled with the light breeze and the warm sun on my skin. It felt so good to get away from the constructed part of the city and closer to nature. We heard frogs croaking loudly among the reeds, passed large flocks of grey geese lounging in the grass by the canals and even saw a tiny baby Shetland pony.
We had a destination in mind, the beautiful Amsterdam Bee Park, but finding it out of bounds (for COVID-19 reasons) didn’t deter us from exploring the area. Instead, we strolled along the wooden pathways of the poetically named Fluisterbos (Whisper Woods), which turned out not to be as calm as its name might indicate. Then we found a quiet stretch of grass that we had practically to ourselves, where we could chill in shade and play Frisbee undisturbed:) A restorative bubble of calm before returning to the bustling city.
Since we have more opportunities to explore close by due to the COVID situation, I really recommend to visit this area if you are looking for a day trip by bike from Amsterdam, there’s loads to do! See more info here, and for more of my own adventures: Fruit picking in Fruittuin van West, Local fresh fruit and Amsterdam Bee Park.
Here’s to the new habits that shape my days in this COVID-19 reality. It fascinates me how quickly we adapt and I welcome these fresh habits which definitely help to keep a semblance of balance in these tricky times.
- Sitting in the sun for lunch with my tupperware of warmed-up left-overs, and then treating myself to delicious cappucino with oatmilk to help support local cafés like Slowth Brunch or Coffee District
- The weekly Sunday evening zoom call with my family, where we choose a recipe and all prepare it separately, then catch up on how the past week went as we eat ‘together’. Recommendations for series abound, as well as jokes and play on words!
- My 30 minute bike-ride home from work has been replaced with simply shutting down my computer and heading out the door to soak up the late afternoon sunshine. Walking along the canal, I have the pleasure of observing fluffy ducklings paddling with their parents, beaks searching efficiently for food on the water’s surface. I weave my way, careful to maintain 1,5 meters distance from people enjoying an after-work drink on the grass and to not disturb the geese who hiss at me necks raised when I get too close. The bluebells hidden among the birch trees are blooming spectacularly regardless of the pandemic.
- A friend of mine lent me a puzzle and I’ve been enjoying the analog pleasure of searching for matching colours and the satisfaction of fitting the right pieces together. It’s an activity that brings me back to calm summer afternoons spent in the cool basement of my grand-parents’ country house many years ago…
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #172
This week I met up on a video call with some friends with who I have the joy of practicing mindfulness from time to time. It was heart-warming to share our experiences and observations of this period of crisis. I must say lately, although in a way I have more time, I feel scattered, my mind still rushing and busy. Just doing some short meditations together and returning to my body through breathing felt like a gift.
Among the many things we discussed, one person shared a great suggestion, which was to wash our dishes as if we were bathing a baby buddha. I love this vivid image and how it instinctively reframes my approach to such a mundane task. I’ve been trying to keep this in mind as I wash my dishes several times a day. Paying attention to get the water to just the right temperature, noticing how the foam feels on my fingers, handling my bowls and dishes more gently… I’m glad for those few moments of focus, when I am fully in the here and now.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #167
Last year I decided to try and take a day off work every so often, just to recharge my batteries and make more space for myself. The first and last time I took such a random day off it felt wonderful and I’m surprised to see that it was almost a year ago already!
In late January, I planned to take another such day off, in the middle of February. It seemed like ages away at the time, but I’m so glad I blocked time for it in my agenda as it felt perfectly timed. So grateful to past-me for scheduling it;) I also enjoyed the special feeling of being free while most people are at work.
I planned absolutely nothing and spent the day taking it very easy. I thought about what I felt like doing in that moment and did it. I ended up watching a movie at home in the middle of the day (something I don’t do often enough!), cooked good food for myself, went for a long walk to clear my head and watched the rough wind ruffle through the grass, I took time to edit a fiction piece I am writing… It was just what I needed:)
A couple of weeks ago, my sister Helena came over from Cologne, as usual we caught up up over many cups of tea. She also brought her embroidery equipment, so she could introduce me to the the process. You may remember her from the interview we did together in September where she spoke of her activist embroideries. I’ve been very curious to try it since then.
Our first step was to bake a delicious vegan banana bread, so we were sure not to get hungry in the middle of our creative flow;) Then as the delicious cake smells wafted through the air, we thought up some fun designs, and played around with drawing the main outline on scrap paper.
I decided to draw a long-eared jerboa (an animal I recommend googling if you want to be overcome with cuteness!). I don’t draw much so finding the right perspective was no easy feat. In the end, I went for a jerboa wrapped in a blanket holding a warm beverage and having a cosy introvert moment.
In my sister’s stash of threads, I found a beautiful disco thread with mixed metalic colours that I wanted to use. I took an old t-shirt and drew the contours of my disco-jerboa with a thin pen. Then got a needle and started to make small stitches along the lines and get acquainted with how much or how little to pull the thread. I struggled most with trying to make end of the tail look bushy.
As we worked away with our needles, I was in flow and I enjoyed seeing the piece come together step by step. It was really fun and I’ll definitely try to come up with some more ideas as a nice way to practice and customise some clothes with some unique details:)
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #166
Today I’d like to express gratitude for that beautiful feeling of relief when I have some free time after several consecutive days of busyness where I had lots to do both during the work days and in the evenings. Even if they are things I enjoy, like my writing class, doing an escape room with my colleagues or catching up with friends, I find real comfort in having several uninterrupted hours to myself. I really need this time in order to process all the inputs from the past days, journal, reflect, stare out the window and switch off for a while to reconnect with myself.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #165
I’m grateful for the blue sky and winter sun, perfect weather for sitting peacefully by the water, without haste. A flock of white geese paddle by, as the sun warms my face. The willow branches sway in the wind. Two moorhens putter about by the shore, before diving into the water repeatedly and snacking with gusto on their catch. When a large boat passes by, the water brushes up on the rocks in small waves. It’s so grounding to be focused on these simple scenes that often escape my attention.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #159
Despite the festivities and family get-togethers, this has felt like a calm week, dedicated to slowing down. I particularly enjoyed the fact that we were not online or watching television too much. Instead, we have been playing board games, a simple way to spend time together, laugh a lot and connect. We also made our yearly dream-board collages and inspired each other with colourful images, activitst ideas, creative projects… I’m happy to collect these good memories and inspiration for the next months when we will all go back to our day-to-day lives in different places.
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #157
With the air being cold and crisp, as well as night falling around 4.30 pm, my body feels ready to go into full hibernation mode. All I seem to want to do is curl up and rest deeply for a while, with no obligations and nowhere to rush to.
However life has other plans. Instead of winding down, the weeks leading up to xmas feel very full, despite a more simple approach to gift giving and my efforts to prioritise by consciously saying NO. Probably because of the holiday now being so close, I feel like I have no more energy to give.
So I am grateful for the privilege of having some proper time off over the xmas period. While I’m in France, I’m really looking forward to the quiet days at home with my family. I foresee lots of sleeping in, cooking and eating good food all together, watching movies under soft blankets and catching up over steaming mugs of tea.
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.