Pairi Daiza- not an ordinary zoo

Giant panda

The place where tree goddesses keep Buddha company; where a Zen Buddhist temple invites you to spend time in peace and quiet; and where you can actually hug a pelican. Pairi Daiza in Belgium is not an ordinary zoo. It is a special place where the contact with animals is made much more exciting by the unique atmosphere of the place.

My main trigger to go there were the pandas. And the snow leopards. And of course, the koalas. But the place offers much more than that.

Make sure you go there early – it is not a small zoo, so it`s best to have more time to enjoy it without rushing. And there are plenty of restaurants with great food, so you can effortlessly spend a day there. If you go late, you also risk not seeing all the animals, as the chances of them napping in the afternoon are high 😉

More information about the place and how to get there can be found here 

Enjoy the slideshow below by clicking on any picture and then using the keyboard arrows to see the next/previous one.

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August 10- A different type of celebration that celebrates difference

Amsterdam Gay Pride

 

Amsterdam`s Gay Pride is an event to remember. Amongst all the colors, sights and provocative playfulness you feel like you are thrown into a parallel universe- one of freedom and never-ending celebration.

The essence of the Gay Pride goes much beyond the wild celebration, sexual provocation and display of homosexual affection. It is a festivity that celebrates life and the different journeys that we pursue in our lifetimes. An invitation to be non-judgmental, open-minded and to accept others and also ourselves the way we are. Because we are all different on the outside, yet very similar in our core – that is the beauty of life 

Enjoy the gallery and have a look here for more pictures from previous years and practical tips on how make the best out of the day.

 

 

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July 29th – Seize the moment


Life always surprises us the moments when we least expect it. Today wasn’t my best day and the weather definitely did not work in my favor, but still, I decided to go for a walk. Then I came across this beautiful newlywed couple that was doing a photoshoot the creativity of which supercharged my day! They were radiating so much happiness and joy that a piece of it came to me as well 😀 I even got asked to take a picture of them and their photographers! And just like that I became a small happy part of their wedding day 🙂 

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July 9- About Safety

 

A few days ago, I was attacked by a stranger on the street – one of those experiences that are somehow too bizarre to be true. Luckily the whole story had a fortunate outcome – a helpful witness, polite policemen, very caring medical staff and most importantly- a perpetrator who admitted what he did (!). And, last but not least- I am not seriously injured :).

In the aftermath- the man who hit me is currently under arrest and the outcome of the case will soon be known. My assumption is that he had a mental illness.

As weird as this story is, it is not what matters most to me. What does, is the learning behind it which is linked to safety.

This incident made me think about all those parts of the world where random violence and aggression are a way of life and the word “safety” resembles very vaguely its meaning as we know it. And I felt so grateful to be able live in a safe community where such incidents are considered as unusual and rare- something that we usually take almost for granted. And at the same time, I could feel so much for all those who don`t have that privilege and who spend their lives in horror and fear.

It also made me think about people with mental illness, people who are not even feeling safe in their own bodies because of their fragile mental state, who are in so much pain and delusion that they even hurt others. I don`t think these people deserve any anger, but only compassion.

I don`t feel any anger towards the person who attacked me- I hope he is getting the help that he needs and I am very grateful for the important lesson that I learned on that day- to appreciate our safety and to reach out and try to be of help to others who are not safe.

As a start, I am sharing my story. You stay safe and spread the word!

P.S: The picture above is a part of the amazing work “The caged bird`s song” by Chris Ofili which is currently on display in the London National Gallery.

 

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July 3 – Row Row Row Your Boat

Most of us must have heard this joyful little tune:

“Row, row, row your boat,

Gently down the stream

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

Life is but a dream”

 The inspirational speaker PrinceEa gives a refreshing and very profound  interpretation of it in the video below which I think is a perfect way to greet the new week.

Our boat is our body and the stream is our life. It is only us who can navigate our  boat and nobody can do it for us. Rowing down the stream (not against it) is how we should live our lives- and we should aim to do it with joy, carelessly  and merrily as in the end – life is an illusion 🙂 So row your boats with joy and go with the flow!

 

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June 29 – Our four wives

Today’s inspiration is a beautiful old Tibetan story that “found” me recently:

Long, long ago when the world was young and the tiger walked with the deer, there was a rich king who had four wives. The king loved his fourth wife the most and adorned her with riches. He also loved his third wife and was always showing her off to neighbouring kingdoms. However, he always feared that she would leave him. His second wife was kind and considerate and his trusted confidante and advisor in difficult times. Wife number one was devoted and loyal and although she loved him deeply, he was not as interested and tended to ignore her.

One day, the king fell ill and the truth dawned that his life was soon to end. He thought of the luxurious life he had led and feared being alone when he died.

He asked his fourth wife, “I have loved you the most, endowed you with the finest clothing, showered gifts upon you and taken great care over you. Now that I’m dying, will you follow me and keep me company?” “No way!” she replied and walked away without another word.

The sad king then asked the third wife, “I have loved you all my life. Now that I’m dying, will you follow me and keep me company? ” “No!” she replied. “Life is too good! When you die, I’m going to remarry!”

He then asked the second wife, “I have always turned to you for help and you’ve always been there for me. When I die, will you follow me and keep me company?” “I’m sorry, I can’t help you out this time!” she replied. “At the very most, I can help with your funeral.”

Then a voice called out to the king in his sadness: “I’ll leave with you and follow you no matter where you go.” The king looked up and there was his first wife. She was so skinny and undernourished. Greatly grieved, the king said, “I should have taken much better care of you when I had the chance!”

Perhaps it is easier to graps the moral of the story if the main character is a king. But in its essence it relates to all of us. Because we all have these four wives.

Our fourth wife is our body. No matter how much time and effort we lavish in making it look good, it’ll leave us when we die. 

Our third wife is our possessions, status and wealth. When we die we won’t take anything with us. 

Our second wife is our family and friends. No matter how much they have supported and loved us, the furthest they can stay by us is up to the moment of our death.

Our first wife is our soul, often neglected in pursuit of wealth, power and pleasures of the ego. However, our soul is the only thing that will follow us wherever we go.

Nourish your body and keep it healthy so you can live life to its fullest. But don’t forget that it is no more than a vessel that we will leave one day.  Enjoy your possessions, the pleasure and the comfort they provide, but don’t get attached to them as they won’t be with you forever. Cherish your friends and family, but also learn to let go as this is the cycle of life. What will always stay and needs most care and nourishment is your soul- the source of your vital energy and your most faithful “wife”. 🙂

Special thanks to The Unbounded Spirit in whose page I found the English text of the story and also many other great inspirations.

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June 25- Feel good. Be good. Do good.

 

It has surely happened to all of us to have been mistreated – do you remember the rude person who pushed you while passing by, the cranky cashier who snarled at you while you were looking for your change or the colleague who rolled their eyes when you were telling a story. Everyone has a few (or maybe many) examples of these situations when we felt wronged and inevitably developed one or another negative emotion towards the person who did it. In those occasions we tend to label these people as “assholes”, “morons” and whatever other names come to our minds as means to separate them- “the bad ones” from us- “the good ones”.

But if we turn the mirror around and look at ourselves we`ll be able to also pinpoint the times when we were “the assholes”. The times when we judged a friend, screamed at our partner or were simply rude with a perfect stranger who pushed us by accident. Are we then “the bad ones”?

Today my during my class in  Svaha Yoga the teacher shared a brilliant insight that is linked to this:

“Feel good. Be good. Do good”

A common underlying factor of all situations when we didn`t behave at our best is the that we didn`t feel good- we were often tired, overwhelmed or stressed out (or sometimes just hungry 🙂 ). Can you think of an example when you acted poorly, but were feeling great? No, right? In the same way, can we assume that others who mistreated us could also have been overtaken by negative emotions and were suffering in one way or another?

This leads us to two pieces of food for thought closely linked to compassion. The first one is to try to overcome the tendency to feel victimized when being wronged and rather than reciprocating the aggression and negativity to see the “bad ones” as the ones who are suffering. To have compassion for others.

The second one is to take care of ourselves. Give ourselves the time to rest when we need it, engage in those activities that make us feel good, work on staying positive and very importantly – have compassion towards ourselves. Some very thoughtful insights on the difficult art of self-compassion can be found in this great Brainpickings article where the author also shares a very helpful exercise of daily self-compassion by The School of Life:

How about starting this new practice next week?. And making steps towards feeling, being and doing good? Because when we want to make a positive change the best place to start is within 🙂

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June 17 – The Simplest Things

Very often the simplest things mean the most. This is what made my day today- the green all around me, the smell of fresh grass and the sun rays gently caressing my skin.

 

Those moments when summer envelopes you and everything “serious” automatically goes out of the priority list. 

In those moments a very special type of joy takes us over. The joy of being 🙂 

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June 12- Today is the day

While reading the “Miracle Morning” this morning (:)) I came across the following quote:

“The Now matters the most in your life because what you are doing now determines that person that you will become and that will always determine the quality and direction in your life.”

I am sure this sounds very logical and you would agree with it. But how often are we actually putting it in practice? 

Sometimes we all need a push and an inspiration to get on track. And my aim for today is to inspire you with this picture of a boy learning how to skateboard for the first time. I met him and his dad a few days ago when I was taking part in the Urban Photo Race in Amsterdam and was amazed by his enthusiasm, dedication and energy. Like a little ginger tornado he was was going on and on, showing me his newly learnt tricks and trying to do them better and better!

Today is the day! Get out there and make active steps to reach your goals. Sign up for a language course for that language you dream to speak; look around for new jobs if you are not happy with the current one; push yourself to make it to the gym..It’s all in your hands only 🙂 Go for it!

 

 

 

 

 

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