Inspiration is everywhere

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #115

January has come and gone, with its short days and a bit of snow sprinkled here and there.  It turned out to be a month for getting more grounded, with indoor activities like making mood boards, journaling, reading and writing.  It feels like ‘maintenance’ on myself to recharge and set a good basis for the months to come.

A recurring theme has been creativity.  I am grateful for Paolo and my friends’ encouragement as I take steps outside my comfort zone.  I’m glad to be stretching myself and trying new things which I believe will help me to grow in unexpected ways.

Lately I’ve noticed how when I give creativity some more attention, it starts to infuse everything. Taking the tram to the office becomes a chance to observe people and become aware of how the city is changing, rather than just a boring commute. Sitting in meetings at work is like watching improv theater, unscripted human interaction in an ecosystem complete with its unwritten rules and often incongruous behaviours. Cleaning the bathroom becomes a quiet time to search for memories hidden deep in my brain as inspiration for my next writing assignment. I can’t wait to see where these creative paths will lead me…

Leaning in

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #105

Growing up as a child in Australia, I was fascinated by empty cicada shells, perfectly formed and dry, gripping onto trees, long after the cicada had pulled itself out of its cramped skin to take its new form.

That image came back to me while meditating yesterday.  I feel like I am gripping the tree, white-knuckled, pushing against my edges, trying with all my might to crack the shell around me, to extricate myself from its tight grasp and be able to breathe and spread my wings.

On the surface it may seem like a quiet time in my life, a rare moment where I have very reduced working hours and can spend extra time to care for myself, rest and recover.  However, inside me it is far from peaceful, I feel like I am being stretched further than I have been for a long time.  Waves of emotion crash over me for seemingly no reason, I feel in turn sad, then anxious, then afraid, then restless and back again. I crave relief so deeply. I ache for clarity, for lightness, to feel better, more energetic, enthusiastic, happy…

I’m filling page after page in my journal, trying to get the swirling thoughts on paper, to see if I can make some sense out of them, as I know this has helped in the past.  And in the midst of the rants and anxious complaints in my journal, the wise voice from somewhere deep inside comes out to tell me, again and again, to trust the process.

This is the transformation in preparation for the shedding of the skin, it cannot be rushed.  I am exactly where I need to be.  My job right now is to stop resisting, to let go of wanting things to be different, to practice accepting that I feel the way I feel and that it is OK.

What is there to be grateful about in all of this, you may ask.  Well, I know deep down that every day that I lean in to the turmoil, rather than resisting it, brings me closer to coming out the other side, to breaking out of the tight shell.

Finding flow

 

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Some days even the most basic things seem overly complicated in my mind and  something as simple as attempting to ‘breathe mindfully’ during morning meditation feels unnatural and forced.  However I’ve realised there is one thing that I can count on to calm me and bring me back to myself: taking photos of details.

The biggest effort is to head out the door with my camera. Once that is done I let myself be guided by my eyes around the streets near my house or in one of the nearby parks.  Looking closely at my surroundings (mainly plants, I admit;) ) I feel this curiousity and a desire to see as if for the first time, and my breathing steadies and deepens naturally as I snap the shots.

Often such an outing results in a few dozen blurry, uninteresting pictures which I can delete again as soon as I get home.  Other times in a batch of pictures there are a few that make my heart sing, perfectly imperfect shots of unexpected details I’d never previously noticed or bright flowers and leaves that brighten a grey afternoon.

But I’ve realised that the photos themselves are not the point.  I’m learning to trust in the process. It is not about the pictures I take but about getting out of the house to focus on something I deeply love to do, remembering how it feels like to be in flow regardless of the outcome. It is my body’s way of sending me hopeful messages that it still knows how to feel at ease when I am doing what is in line with my heart’s wishes.  Now, how to apply this wisdom to other realms of my life??

Joyful gratitude 101

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #101

Today I am grateful for the fact that as humans we have the capacity to imagine and create a better world.  Since JOYFUL GRATITUDE 101 sounds like the name of an introduction course, I started to imagine over the last few days what the world might look like if practicing gratitude was taught as a class in schools and universities, rather than a topic we gleaned from self-help books later on in life.

Imagine if practicing gratitude was presented to young people as an important activity for mental health, just like doing regular sport is for physical health? What if a fraction of the time spent on advanced math, was dedicated instead to learning how it is beneficial to take time to appreciate everything we have?

Imagine if instead of fixating on what we were lacking, we learnt early on to shift our focus onto what we are blessed with.  Imagine if we learnt from a young age the subversive act of mindfully resisting the feeling of scarcity and FOMO, and trained ourselves to zoom in more systematically to all that we do have going for us.

Maybe it could help turn tough periods into slightly easier times (particularly adolescence and being a young adult, but also later in life) and allow us to more readily reframe the messages we constantly receive from (social) media and advertising about how we are not enough. Maybe it would allow people to bring their precious creative gifts more freely into the world. Maybe it would create space to be aware of and help those who are not as privileged. Probably there are many other side effects I cannot even dream up.

At this stage I don’t have the keys to change the education system, so all I can do is ‘be the change I want to see’ at my own level.  I’m loving writing weekly about the big and small things I am grateful for, and hope maybe it can inspire some readers out there:)  Even so, to be honest I still easily get sucked into feelings of scarcity and comparison if I don’t watch my mind, so I’m trying my best to be mindful over and over again about looking out for the good things.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, how has practising gratitude impacted you?

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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Reaching out

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Last week went to recharge my batteries with my family in France.  It was the perfect occasion to have lots of long chats during sunny walks in the forest and the park. Over cups of tea and home-made cake or under the duvet with my sisters we talked and talked, trying to make sense of the many things tangled in our minds, armed with angel cards to guide us, laughing at our interpretations of the what the words we randomly picked might be trying to tell us.

I love the plant in the photo above, with its hundreds of feather-like arms reaching out confidently in all directions. It is my visual reminder to keep connecting with people even if it takes some effort, particularly at the moment, because by reaching out I’m reminded that we all have our struggles, big and small,  that there actually is no such thing as ‘having life figured out’, and that I am OK.

Though I didn’t come back to Amsterdam with anything like a solution or a plan on how to move forward, it was simply helpful to see that we love each other regardless of what’s going on because there is no right or wrong way to do things, these situations too shall pass once we’ve grappled with them and learned the precious life lessons they carry on their back.

Tiny apples

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #97

When life gives you tiny little apples from the garden, make apple sauce.

The act of peeling multitudes of these small apples is perfect for being in the moment.  You can’t rush otherwise you peel away half the apple, you need to focus because there are spoiled bits that need to be carefully chopped off, you need to accept that it will take the time it takes…  The result is totally worth it: a delicious and sweet compote de pommes and a quiet mind.

*****

Thanks to my fellow apple-picker and hand model Helena.

More theater

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #96

Lately with Paolo we’ve started going to the theater quite regularly. It turns out that at the moment this is a good way to spend the evening, without using up too much energy since seeing a play is less draining to me than having a drink in a loud bar or going to a concert.  Also, the story lines tend to unravel more slowly than in most movies, meaning there is more time for me to process the plot and emotions.

There is real inspiration in seeing people doing what they love and being vulnerable and creative on-stage.  I also enjoy the discussions Paolo and I have afterwards, about our favorite characters and new thoughts triggered by the play.  I look forward to what new shows we will discover together.

Quiet time

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #94

Sometimes it’s necessary to break away from daily routine and take a step back to rest, reflect and let the busy-ness subside. I am deeply grateful to have that time and be able to escape for a few days and connect again with myself in the beautiful nature of the Veluwe.

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.