Committed to slowing down

IMG_4688

Things I’ve noticed since the start of my mindfulness course:

  • It’s much easier to watch Narcos for 45 minutes than to carve out those same 45 minutes for a daily body scan meditation (and at the end of the body scan I never think to myself ‘just one more’!)
  • Pausing instead of reacting like I normally do has positive effects on me and my communication with others.
  • I spend a huge amount of my days on autopilot, just going through the motions without stopping to think about what I am doing.  When I do stop and breathe, it seems increasingly absurd.
  • Being more mindful has made me more aware of how I race from one thing to the next and how fast others around me are rushing. I deeply believe we could all benefit from slowing down and I’m committed to starting with myself. I’ve reduced my working hours to 80% and am consciously trying to BE more and DO less. Let’s see how it goes!
Advertisements

An intriguing sight

IMG_4665

JOYFUL GRATITUDE #66

Last weekend, though it was freezing cold, I couldn’t resist the beautiful sunshine so I took a long walk to get some fresh air and vitamin D.  I headed to my favorite place by the water, an area in my neighbourhood which I appreciate no matter the season (I’ve written about it here and here :).

This time I was enchanted by this intriguing sight. I absolutely love how this flock of seagulls seem to have each chosen their own post and then faced the sun at the exactly the same angle, standing very still and basking in the light in such an orderly manner.  Birds will never cease to amaze me!

Impressions of Orvieto

IMG_4396

In the first days of the new year, I was visiting my boyfriend’s family in Rome and we decided to look for an excursion a little further afield that was easily accessible by public transport.  We chose Orvieto, a fortified town on the top of a massive rock.

20180103_103947

Stepping off the train it was grey and misty, but as we rode up the hill in the cable car we pierced the clouds and at the top, from the walls of the fortress, we found ourselves overlooking the most beautiful sea of clouds over the valley.

IMG_4407

There is an amazing cathedral with incredible patterns and dizzy-making columns on the facade.  Once inside, we pretended to be part of an organised group and tagged along to listen to the explanations of their very knowledgeable guide who was pointing out the stories and details of the frescoes that made them come alive. Some of the paintings seem like they came straight out of a science-fiction scene including lasers and 3D effects.

IMG_4426

Orvieto is a small town and I was glad to be visiting it off-season (despite the biting cold) as I can imagine it can get swamped with hordes of tourists in the summer.  I particularly enjoyed exploring the winding streets a little outside the touristy center, looking at the details of the old stone houses overlooking the valley and imagining what must have been like to live there in the past.

IMG_4415

*****

How to get there by public transport: take the train from Rome to Orvieto station (approx. 1 hour), then simply cross the street where you can buy a ticket to get on the cable car that will take you right up the hill (it leaves every 10 minutes).

Being present

IMG_3311
JOYFUL GRATITUDE #65

I’ve recently started an 8 week mindfulness course and in the last week I have meditated daily.  Hooray! Having the accountability of my course mates really helps to stay on track. While I meditate my thoughts are constantly running off all over the place to what happened during the day, what someone said to me, what I should have done or what I have to do the next day… That being said, I am glad to at least be carving out that quiet time for myself out of my daily schedule to slow down and strengthen the muscle of bringing my attention back to the present moment.  I am showing up with my beginner’s mindset and am very curious to learn and see what all this brings:)

Discovering new voices

IMG_4123

Last year in the context of work, I discovered the power of data-driven decisions and started to apply it in other spheres of my life.  In 2017, I aimed to read more books and watch less series, so I started to count and make a list of the books I had read.  Half-way through the year, though I was happy to be progressing on my goal to read more, I realised a large proportion of those books were written by men.

While there is nothing wrong with books written by men, I strive for equality so I decided to balance out the trend. I paid closer attention and consciously chose books written by women, as well as looking out for some voices that were new to me, and in the end, 43,6% of the 39 books I read were by women authors.

Now for 2018 I plan that at least 56,4% of the books I read are written by women.  I’ll report back on how it is going throughout the year:)

*****

Here are some of my favorite books written by women from my 2017 readings, perfect for curling up on the couch in these days of icy cold weather:

A little life – Hanya Yanagihara

This is one of the best books I read last year.  I keep coming back to the story and its characters who I couldn’t help but care for deeply and their relationships.  Utterly heartbreaking and not for the faint-hearted (there are images of abuse and violence that I still find difficult to shake off today).

The buddha in the attic – Julie Otsuka

The story of Japanese picture brides who moved to the United States in the 1900s. I really enjoyed how their stories are told anonymously and at the same time so personally. It was gripping and fascinating as I had never heard of this part of history.

New people – Danzy Senna

A modern love story about racial identity and figuring out what one really wants in life. I enjoyed the sneak peek into a Brooklyn lifestyle in the 90s and got caught up in the shenanigans of Maria, the main character whose behaviour is both mindboggling and completely relatable.

Salvage the bones – Jesmyn Ward

Day to day life of a family in the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina. So beautifully written and poetic. The characters are great and you really feel like you are there with them.

Twirling dancers

IMG_4652

JOYFUL GRATITUDE #64

Today I would like to celebrate the insanely beautiful Romanesco broccoli. It turns out it is incredibly hard to take a picture that does justice to the amazing shape and geometry of this veggie. The upside is that, from this angle, the little peaks of the broccoli look to me like a dance-floor full of twirling dresses. So gorgeous!

Hiking up Monte Autore

Today in Amsterdam, the weather is a drab grey with a bitter wind that turns cycling into a real battle if you are unfortunate enough to need to pedal against it. So I’ve decided to reminisce about that day during our stay in Rome when decided to get out of the city and go on a day-trip to Subiaco to climb the Monte Autore.

20180105_123918
It was a beautiful sunny day as we drove up the mountain, thoughwe weren’t at all prepared for snow as we’d only come with regular hiking shoes! Luckily many people had preceded us on the path and the snow was compact enough to walk on most of the way, if we just followed in people’s footsteps.

IMG_4514

Most of the way the path isn’t steep and we could just saunter along. As we got higher the views over the surrounding mountains became increasingly breathtaking. From the top, at 1854m, the landscape was amazing, with the clouds, mountains, trees and snow interweaving as far as the eye could see.

IMG_4502

On the way down, I suddenly found myself entirely alone as the others were further ahead. I took a short break, knee-deep in snow, surrounded by utter silence, just to soak up the utter joy of the moment.  I etched this moment into my mind, with all its sensations, to tap into when I need a boost (on a grey Sunday afternoon for instance). Then I proceeded to stumble/run giddily down the snow-covered slope to catch up with the others.

 

Catching up

IMG_3323

JOYFUL GRATITUDE #63

I’m very happy that Paolo is back from his month away in Italy!  For a while he didn’t have a return ticket and I wasn’t sure he’d even come back;)  Though I must say I wouldn’t have blamed him for staying, considering how warm and sunny the weather was over there! It’s a pleasure to catch up with each other whilst eating amazing Italian delicacies and to hear all about his time soaking up the culture in Rome and Sicily with friends and family.

In particular, Paolo’s latest stories about hiking on Mount Etna with his dad, have me aching to pull on my hiking boots and go straight there to feel those sensations again! This is a picture from our trip in August 2013.  It’s so impressive to see where the lava rolled down the side of the hill, destroying everything in its path and leaving only a few tree-skeletons standing.  Up high on the mountain the air felt surprisingly crisp and cool, and I loved the unique crunch of dried lava beneath my feet, as we walked through the majestic and desolate landscape… I have the feeling we will go there again soon:)

Wintery details

IMG_4608

Sunday was a gorgeous sunny morning, so I followed my good intentions and went straight out into the cold for a walk. Sometimes when I go to an area where I regularly wander, I lack inspiration for taking pictures.  I often long for new horizons, exciting unknown places as it seems so much easier to be delighted by unfamiliar locations.  So to counter that feeling, I challenged myself on this walk to see things with fresh eyes and to take in what was unique to that particular morning.

Apart from a few people walking their dogs, I was nearly alone in the rose garden in the Vondelpark. The sunrays were barely starting to touch that part of the park and the pathway was slightly slippery with ice. I took my time, as if exploring for the very first time, captivated by the beauty of the ice on the grass and leaves, that started melting away in the sunlight. I was also mesmerised by this tiny yellow rose left over from another season, with its near transparent petals like a delicate pastry.

IMG_4606

Mindful walk

IMG_4584

JOYFUL GRATITUDE #62

I have lots of good intentions about going for a walk first thing in the morning when I’m not rushing to work, but for some reason I resist them fiercely.  Though I know it would be good for me to begin the day by moving my body, getting some fresh air and being in touch with the elements, somehow I usually come up with all sorts of things that need doing before I head out.

However today the sun was beckoning after yesterday’s windy storm, so before starting anything else I just put on my shoes and left the house.

I had a beautiful walk. It felt so great to be outside and take my time, with no specific destination in mind, my only goal being to try and walk on the sunny side of the street as much as possible. The cold woke me up and I enjoyed looking at the sun playing hide and seek in passing clouds. To be present and not get too lost in my thoughts, I focussed on small things that caught my eye, like the unusual beauty in a colourful lichen or branches of a willow tree gently knotted together…

IMG_4580