Birthday present to myself

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #146

Last Saturday I attended a talk given by Elizabeth Gilbert with the School of Life. The ticket was a birthday present to myself, bought back in the summer and I was so excited when the big day finally came along.  It’s the second time I attend one of her talks and WOW, that woman can speak! She shares her wisdom in a very accessible way (with an amazing sense of humour and without shying away from swear words) and most importantly gets her points across with incredible story-telling, the kind where you find yourself sitting on the edge of your seat, entirely focussed, waiting to hear what comes next, the type of story that sticks with you and makes you examine your life with a new lens.

She shared openly and humbly what she’s learnt in this incredible life path of writing, love, loss and dreams, and what it takes to try and be a relaxed woman in this world. The fact that she is so down-to-earth about it somehow makes my own struggle feel more acceptable.  Since the talk, I’ve been paying particular attention to my priorities and boundaries, and how it really takes lots of intentional decisions (big and small) to be as aligned as possible with what I truly want and spend my energy on that, saying ‘I don’t care’ about the rest. It takes constant readjustment and I am going to do my best in the next weeks and months to practise this mindfully.

Mushroom wisdom

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #103

As I write this, the rain is pouring down outside. I am indoors, warm and watching rain drops slide down the windows, with a delicious cup of coffee by my side.  Like every week, I’m wondering what I want to write about.  I have a lot I am grateful for, so it is never a problem to come up with some ideas, but sometimes inspiration brings strange ideas with it.

Today I am grateful for this mushroom, spotted in a local vegetable garden on one of my afternoon walks, to get out of my head and into the fresh air while looking for some interesting details to photograph.  I felt so drawn to this beautiful mushroom and I believe it has wisdom to share with me. What is so special to me about this mushroom, you may wonder…

It stands tall and dignified, not wondering if it is sticking out or whether it looks funny.  It does it’s mushroomy thing, confident and unencumbered by the way other mushrooms look and behave. It is not questioning whether it is doing things right or well enough, and does not care what the leaves around it might say.  It is centered and grounded, fully in the present moment, unafraid of the rabbit that may come and nibble on it in the future.  I want to be more like this mushroom. These are the precious lessons that I am tucking away in the folds of my mind this week, to bring up again when the inner critic raises its head.

What Google maps doesn’t teach you

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Over the years I’ve learnt from Paolo that the most interesting way to get directions when we are lost is to ask someone passing by if they know the way.  Most of the time it works and we are back on track in no time.  Even when it does not lead to the right indications, it beats looking on Google maps because it is the chance for a spontaneous exchange with people and those encounters often leave us with a smile on our face or a shared experience to remember.

Recently, as I was returning home from the Veluwe, I was cycling with my large backpack near the center of Arnhem, trying to figure out the way to the train station.  I saw a man who was walking towards me on the sidewalk, so I smiled to catch his attention and asked in Dutch how to get to the station.  He replied in English that he doesn’t speak Dutch, adding that he is from Syria, so I asked my question again in English and he kindly pointed me in the direction of the station.  I thanked him but before I could pedal off again, he indicated that I should wait and started rummaging around for something deep in his backpack.

After about thirty seconds, he pulled out a mini-snickers bar and held it out to me with a smile. My first reaction was to refuse, a sort of reflex from deep down, not wanting to take something he probably needed more than me, and then quickly I thought after all if he is handing it to me he probably wants me to have it.  So I took it, thanking him and feeling very touched. We smiled at each other, feeling the warmth of connection for a few seconds, the simplicity of giving and receiving this small gift, and then I cycled away to catch my train waving goodbye.

Now looking back, it seems that by asking for directions I received more than just a geographical location.  I’ll never see that man again but our shared moment has stayed with me.  Alongside the directions to the station, I also subtly received directions for life: a reminder of how generosity can be found in small gestures of human connection and how it lights us up.

Nature’s wisdom

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #82

I’m not much of a cut-flower girl, as I usually prefer potted plants which have a longer life. However lately we’ve had peonies around the house on several occasions and I have to admit those colourful flowers can brighten up a room! I’m loving that pink and the messiness of those gorgeous petals…

It seems like each peony has its own character.  When Paolo brought them home, they were all still in their tight buds, but some of them burst open in the space of a few hours, like they couldn’t wait one minute longer in the constricted space of the bud and wanted to show off their beauty.

Others, which we have nick-named ‘the oppositive ones’, refuse to rush and stay in the bud much longer, taking their sweet time to emerge petal by petal when the time is right for them.  I’m seeing this as a kind reminder from nature that it doesn’t matter what your rhythm or speed is, you are worthy and beautiful anyway:)

Something to keep in mind

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This weekend I walked down a road that happened to be blocked and I had to go back the way I came and make a detour to get to my destination. As I retraced my steps, I spotted these lovely small pink flowers growing tightly at the foot of a tree. They made my day!

They were a wise reminder that sometimes in life it seems like you are not going anywhere or you may reach a dead-end and need to back-track, however there is surely something wonderful to be found on the way:) I’ll be looking out for it!