Outdoor time in the Utrechtse Heuvelrug

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #163

Last Saturday I went with two dear friends for a walk in the Utrechtse Heuvelrug national park as a belated experience-gift for my birthday.  As we walked away from the station with its noisy traffic, and entered deeper into the woods, time seemed to slow down. It felt so good to breathe in the smells of the humid forest.  I felt my legs getting more energised with each step on the path.

The landscape kept surprising us, changing from oak forest to pine trees, to sandy open spaces, to paths winding through mossy forest floors…  Also we were graced with a wide range of different weather in just a few hours: sunshine, clouds, rain, rain and sunshine at the same time, and even hail, as we continued to put one foot in front of the other, without haste.

As always it felt really good to be away from the bustling city, not to mention the snacks and thermos full of boozy tea that we had along the way, which took the experience to another level;)  But mostly it was our chats and laughs that made my day.  I’m so grateful for sharing this calm afternoon, talking about what’s on our minds and catching up in such a relaxing setting.

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Good times with friends

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #162

I am grateful for the good times with my friends based here in the Netherlands.  As I don’t live in the same country as my close family,  I appreciate how vital it is to be surrounded by people who I can really connect with and be myself around:)  I hope these first weeks of 2020 set the tone for the rest of the decade.

We’ve had the chance to spend quality time exploring the Veluwe, inspiring each other, chatting about our hopes and intentions for the new year and making collage dream boards, having good laughs, watching a great documentary and sharing our thoughts about it afterwards until we got kicked out of the room, motivating one another to go for lunch walks together to refresh our minds amidst busy work meetings… I feel blessed to have such wonderful people by my side to make the days a little sweeter!

How to organise a dream board session

I have always loved making collages, and in the last few years, I’ve started sharing this practice with family and friends by organising dream board collage sessions.  I find those few hours spent together are always very engergising and inspiring.  Below I’m sharing how I organise these sessions as an inspiration to anyone who would like to do the same:)

Why create a dream board?

Browsing through the magazines, it’s a time to reflect, to switch off from our phone and computer and do something by hand.  By identifying and visualising your dreams, they are much more likely to happen.

You can create a mood board by yourself, I do so regularly.  However, it’s also really nice to do it with others. When you share your dreams with those around you, they will also be rooting for you and you’d be surprised how they will connect the dots to help you make them come true.

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What do you need?

  • Scissors and glue
  • Paper (though you can also use a page from a magazine as a backdrop)
  • Magazines (any magazine will work.  I particularly love Flow magazine, Simple things and travel magazines, but think of your own hobbies and interests)
  • Tea and coffee, and some biscuits or a good slice of cake (optional, but definitely nice!)

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How to make the dream board?

We usually start by choosing a word/words to guide you during the next year or next 3 months. Think of what you want to bring into your year and would like to focus on.

Take a magazine and look through the pages, cutting out whatever attracts your eye: photos, words, illustrations, colours, shapes… Don’t censor yourself, you can always decide not to paste it in.

When you have a pile of images and words, you can start moving them around on the page, and when you are satisfied stick them on.  The beauty is that there is no right or wrong.  You don’t need to be ‘creative’ to do this, the key is to let yourself be guided by the colours and your instincts.

Everyone’s collage will be unique (it may contain mainly words, or only photos, it may fit on one A4 page or spill out over several pages sticky-taped together into a large poster, or you can paste them into a notebook specially for your dreams, year after year).

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What next?

When you’re done, you can present your collages to each other, mentioning what word you chose and how these images inspire you.  You don’t have to, as you may prefer to keep this to yourself if it feels vulnerable. I enjoy sharing because it is very interesting to see what others are busy with and get ideas from other people’s dreams. Also you get to know each other better and it’s a lovely way to connect. Then you can put your collage in a place where it is visible in your day to day life, as a reminder of your dreams.

Human connection

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #154

I want to savour this week, which was rich in interactions of all sorts, in person, on paper and online, big and small, that made me feel I belong and warmed my heart.  I’m privileged to be surrounded by such wonderful human beings.  With their humour, questions, intelligence, struggles, ideas and imperfections, they help me to be as true a version of myself as I can be.

A chat with a colleague by the coffee machine about hair-styling and therapy; talking with my Mum on the phone about a very interesting course she attended and ideas it gave her; a semi-spontaneous catch-up after work with a dear friend over cake and tea;  discussing work decisions at 3 a.m. under our duvet; celebrating the birth of a new baby and exchanging about sustainability with my boxing-class mates after our workout; connecting with my cousin with whats’app messages; taking a walk to do the plastic recycling from the office letting the cold air revitalise us for the afternoon; reading a long awaited letter all the way from Western Australia; chatting over naan bread and delicious vegetable korma before watching a great play…

Half-day holiday in Utrecht

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #151

It turns out it doesn’t take much more than a few hours exploring another city on a quiet weekday morning to get a holiday vibe:-) I am grateful for a wonderful half-day spent in Utrecht with my friend Eva. Our initial plan was to go and visit the Oude Hortus (the old botanic garden) and we made it, though not before making a few spontaneous stops on our way through the city center.

We spent a perfect slow morning sipping delicious coffee in a cosy spot, then finding treasures in a great second hand shop, before enjoying a tasty lunch and chatting as the rain poured down outside. When the sun came out again, perfectly timed with the end of our lunch, we headed over to the Oude Hortus and strolled through the lovely garden showing off its autumn colours.  We also explored the laid-back green houses, home to succulents, cacti, waterplants and giant ferns. I felt my senses come alive with the smells of soft fuzzy japanese citrus fruit, the incredible textures of the plants, the splashes of sunlight falling on the foliage.

Wall of art

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #148

Last Thursday, at work, we had our annual talent show.  The acts were fantastic, often poking fun at the absurdities of our organisation and we laughed a lot. I love seeing colleagues showing up in a new light and being vulnerable. It’s heartwarming and a lovely way to get to know colleagues just a little bit more.

I contributed some photos to the wall of art and I really enjoyed this mini-exhibition alongside the pieces of my talented photographer, painter, illustrator and sculptor colleagues. For me, it was particularly interesting to see my pictures printed, as opposed to only on screen, to note how the details and colours work in the physical photograph.

I’m grateful that we have this opportunity to celebrate people’s artistic qualities and discover what they like to do in their free time. If it was up to me we would do many more creative activities in the workplace;)

Quiet processing time

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #139

Last weekend I got to spend quality time with one of my sisters and with different friends, people who I had seen recently and not so recently, catching up and talking about all sorts of things, enjoying good food and good talks about our lives, how the world is and how we’d like it to be…

As an introvert I find myself both drained and recharged from such interactions. Aferwards I feel tired and have a deep need to have time to myself, where I usually just potter around the flat, read, journal or do nothing, and basically in that quiet space I’m processing all we discussed and the emotions of being together.  I feel deeply grateful to have such fun and inspiring people around me, who take me as I am, who I can laugh and be real with and who encourage me to step even deeper into what lights me up.

Creative writing course

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‘Improving my writing skills’ started popping up regularly on my dream lists last year, so in January I decided to treat myself and use these quiet winter months to follow an 8-week creative writing course.

It is a very fun and interactive class, and it works like this:

  1. We read in detail a 2 page extract from a published writer, analysing the type of narrator, tone, mood and techniques. Then our homework for the next class consists in writing a 2-page double-spaced piece inspired by the extract. The goal is to try out the techniques that made the extract successful. I love reading, but I hadn’t looked at a text in such detail since I was in high-school. It’s fascinating to see the craft used to have an effect on the reader and how words can take us into another world in no time.
  2. We critique the piece written by each student. Though this sounds daunting and it is definitely outside my confort zone, it is actually really interesting both when you are critiquing and being critiqued. It’s fascinating to see in real-time how people react to something I’ve written and get feedback from fellow students and the teacher. It helps to see what people liked or didn’t resonate with. I also really love reading what other students have come up with based on the same instructions, the outcomes are so wildly different and amazingly creative.

So each week lately I’ve been spending several hours on my assignment, and I’m enjoying the challenge so much, regularly finding myself in flow.  Based on the guidelines, I start getting ideas, jot them down, improve the wording and then it is like a puzzle  to manage to rearrange the parts, putting them together so the story flows somewhat logically.

Though it is challenging to stick to just two pages, it’s fun to see how in so little space it’s possible to create a small world, stretching myself to find solutions and iron out the creases as the idea becomes more concrete in my head. The great thing is that having only one week between classes, I just need to squeeze writing time into my schedule and get on with it. Of course my inner critic makes regular appearances but I reassure it that these are ‘just exercises’, so no need to worry;)

The set-up is constructive because it’s a great way just to get something on paper regularly, it doesn’t need to be perfect because with feedback from the others you leave the class with concrete points to improve your piece.  This course is definitely one of the most fun things I’ve done lately!

Dreaming up the new year

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #113

Last weekend, with a few dear friends we spent the afternoon reflecting on last year and making dream boards for the new year.  A calm afternoon, hot tea and coffee in our mugs, accompanied by delicious vegan (and not-so-vegan) cakes as we sat around the kitchen table. It was great fun to look back at the dream boards we made together a year ago, discussing the words we had chosen for the year and how reality had panned out.  We celebrated the successes and achievements of the past year, and acknowledged the tough stuff that happened too.

Afterwards we got quiet cutting out pictures and words from tattered magazines that have been cut out from many times over and pasting the colourful images and inspirational snippets to create new dream boards…

I am so grateful for these lovely friends who embrace the dream board concept with joy, and who inspire me so much with their stories, dreams, perseverance and achievements.  Just spending a few hours together really energised me, we could simply be ourselves and dream up all sorts of wild ideas for 2019, manifesting our desires visually and calling in synchronicity and support from the universe:) I can’t wait to see what this year brings us all!

100 weeks of JOYFUL GRATITUDE!

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #100

Today marks 100 consecutive weeks of JOYFUL GRATITUDE! I want to celebrate this milestone and I am particularly grateful today to the people who read this blog and share their thoughts and experiences with me. Thanks so much!

Time flies! I created this series nearly 2 years ago to practise bringing my attention more to what brings me joy and what I am grateful for.  It’s been so much fun each week to look back and choose one thing, among the many things I am have to be grateful for, to write about.  It’s now a collection of snapshots of wonderful moments.  Curious? You can find all the posts here.

Last year I wrote about my findings after 12 months of JOYFUL GRATITUDE.  In 1 month’s time I will analyse the results of this past year in the same way to see if any new trends have appeared:-)  In the meantime, Paolo and I will be celebrating 100 weeks of joyful gratitude with some tasty Scottish whisky tonight! Cheers!

Let me know, what are you feeling grateful for today? 🙂

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