Medicinal herb garden

Pulmonaria officinalis - lungwort

JOYFUL GRATITUDE #127

Recently during a walk with two dear friends, we discovered there is a lovely garden with medicinal plants in the Beatrixpark in Amsterdam Zuid. I am so glad that after nearly 13 years of living in this city, I still keep stumbling upon hidden gems by chance. Surrounded by hedges, it is a peaceful space in the park and there are some benches to just sit and relax, a perfect spot to soak up the quiet atmosphere and listen to the birds.

There’s a wide array of plants and short explanations of what they can be used to heal.  Featured above is lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis), a plant traditionally used to treat lung problems and chest infections. It was said that the spots on the leaves looked like diseased lungs… to me it just looks like a beautiful pattern:)

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.

Everything is intertwined

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The end of the year has arrived, bringing with it some quiet days. I’ve been reviewing this whole year and taking a step back to journal and reflect on the 12 last months, as well as look at what is coming next. For me 2018 was both incredibly tough and very healing. It’s always the same, we have to go through the dark woods to feel better on the other side. Despite the difficult times, I’m grateful for the learning that 2018 brought me.

Like the teeny tiny spiderweb threads, intertwined in the ‘fingers’ of this plant, everything is linked: maintaining boundaries, slowing down, experimenting, generosity, being true to our authentic self, mindfulness and acceptance, letting go of perfectionism and busy-ness, cultivating creative practices, self-compassion… I’m still not out of the dark woods, but I know that giving attention to one aspect opens space and possibility for another as they build on each other step by step.

I’m looking forward to what 2019 will bring. I hope that I can apply the lessons learnt in 2018 for more smooth sailing and I trust that there are exciting times up ahead:)  I wish you all a wonderful new year!!!

Beautiful forest details

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Just a five minute drive from the house where I grew up, there is a forest where I love to take walks.  There are several options: you can take the tarmac path straight into the heart of the forest, you can explore muddy side paths or you can walk right at the foot of the trees, your shoes sinking with each step into the deep layers of fallen leaves.

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Today I mostly ignored the paths and spent the morning deep in the humid undergrowth, guided by every splash of colour or unusual shape, looking at the tiniest details to see what I could find. I was welcomed by trees, mushrooms, mosses and lichens of all types, as well as slugs patiently gliding along and snacking on mushrooms.

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On my treasure hunt for beauty, there was just the sound of birds calling to each other. I felt perfectly in the moment, taking in all the beautiful colours and textures.  I experimented with photographing what I came across, until my jeans were dirty and humid from kneeling down to get close to the forest floor.

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Forest bathing is so healing. Looking at myself in the mirror when I got home I was glowing like I’d just had a long nap or a restorative massage, my body kindly reminding me, yet again, that I should surround myself with nature more often:)

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Healing walks in the Amsterdamse Bos

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #99

The Indian summer we are enjoying in Amsterdam at the moment is amazing.  I’ve been taking long healing walks through the Amsterdamse Bos, just listening to the breeze rustling through the leaves of the majestic trees which are turning all shades of orange and yellow, quietly observing the ducks, moorhens, herons and other birds go about their business undisturbed on the water, journalling as the sun warms my skin.  I am so grateful to have what feels like an unexpected extra shot of summer to charge up on fresh air and invigorating sunshine.

Conversation around a sponge mushroom

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Recently on my trip in the Veluwe, I was walking in the forest, enjoying having time to observe the details of the mosses, plants and funghi of all sorts. A man of about 65 or so overtook me on the path and said hello in the polite way people do in the forest, I greeted him back before going on with taking a close-up picture of whatever moss I was busy with.

A while later, as I made my way up a small hill, surrounded by ferns, I saw the same man come back along the path towards me with a smile on his face making a gesture of success. He told me he was glad to have found me as he had spotted a big mushroom that I could photograph. I was a bit wary, but I followed him, and sure enough he pointed to a strange mushroom on the side of the path that looked like coral.  I asked what type it was and he told me it was a ‘sponszwam’ (a sponge mushroom) and explained they can grow much bigger than this one.

While I took some pictures we had a little chat, each question unravelling something new. He reminisced about his childhood spent in Australia, in a small miner’s town in the 60s. He told me about taking his elderly mother back to Australia years later to visit their town and friends.  He spoke about his family and about the grief at losing family members and we talked about the healing power of nature and how he loves the Veluwe and drives all the way from Amsterdam just to be able to hike there. He showed me pictures of other mushrooms on his phone and explained that because he had Parkinsons he had trouble taking photos and needed to consciously breathe and try to steady his hands.  After chatting for a while, he simply said goodbye and went off on his way.

I was left standing in the quiet forest, next to the sponge mushroom, feeling positively surprised and grateful that this stranger had come specially to get me to show me this peculiar mushroom and that it had led to him sharing parts of his story with me.  I was struck by the similarities with my own childhood in Australia and the incredible nature there, and the conversation reminded how fortunate I am to be in good health and to keep turning to nature for healing.

A healing massage

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #46

A few mornings ago, while waiting for the coffee to be ready, I pulled an angel card out of my tiny deck for a little guidance on how to approach the day. It read the word ‘HEALING’.

Shortly after I started deeply craving a massage. I heard my body saying it would love a session to get all the knots out of my tense upper back, neck and shoulders, and release the muscles of my legs and arms. I realised I hadn’t enjoyed a massage since April when I was in Thailand and indulged in hour long massages every second day.

So I promptly made an appointment and let the masseuse do her magic on my body. It was bliss!  Afterwards I treated myself to a pastel de nata and a cup of tea in a lovely local portuguese café. The pastry was so perfectly crisp and the filling amazingly delicious. It was perfect, just the healing I needed:)