I’ve been drawn to Manitou lately. Drawn to it’s earthy, solemn, calming vibrations. Manitou Springs is a beautiful little town right outside of Colorado Springs. It’s a ten minute drive from home, but we usually avoid it due to the overwhelming crowds. However, I’ve been recently feeling more and more connected with this magical place. With the tourist season dying down, I can finally feel the energy I’ve heard so much about. Soaking in the healing powers of the spring water, taking part in ceremonial crystal cleansing, discovering the expressive dance and yoga community, and exploring the mountains and trails long ago discovered by the Ute tribe. Luke, the imaginative archeologist that he is, helped me connect with this part of history on the Ute Pass, looking down from the top of the ridge to greet the new year. The spiritual connection I’ve felt since the crowds have dissipated make me wonder if the historical and sacred significance has been somewhat desecrated by tourism, the endless streams of traffic and commercialism, overpowering the subtle flow of the spring, the whispering voices of the past. There’s a spiritual piece to this quirky little town that seems to be disappearing, lost in the shuffle. There appears to be a specific attraction to the healing properties of the spring water, but how can we ask the earth to heal us and offer nothing in return? Respect for the natural earth is fading all around us. It’s time to reconnect with our planet, to appreciate and protect her, and to reverse this cycle that we’ve created.
I want to dedicate this post to my partner, Luke. Thank you for your endless inspiration.
When do you feel most at home? For me, it’s right around this time of year, no matter where I am. Moving around so much the past five years or so, I associate so many places, and people, with “home”. When autumn hits, I want to surround myself with people I love, and this year my heart is so full. After my cousin came to stay with us in September, Luke and I visited North Carolina for a wedding. We got to reconnect with friends and family and revisit Asheville, the place where we met, on the same week, two years ago. Autumn makes me feel at home, even when my heart is torn between so many places. Little fall traditions remind me of childhood, of warmth, of magic, of home. This past week was perfect for that, and it was the perfect for my self-care. Revisiting some of my favorite places and people, hanging in our hammocks beneath giant oak trees, hiking and collecting fall wildflowers in the rain, and seeing my rolling Blue Ridge Mountains in their glowing autumnal beauty.
It has been amazing to catch some of the peak colors of Carolina and Colorado, both so unique and beautiful in their own way.
No place like home…
My mind has a habit of drifting, wandering, and I find myself carried away. Either into a warm, nostalgic memory, or some vision of the idealized distant future. I love teaching and practicing mindfulness with my clients, but I have to ask myself, how often am I utilizing this technique for my own self-care? During a short visit to the Carolinas this past week, I had an insightful conversation with my grandmother. She asked me a simple question: “are you satisfied with your life?”. A question that I’ve been hesitant to ask myself lately. Living so far away from my birthplace, I was infatuated with this brief homecoming, basking in past memories, taking in the golden, feathery sunsets and lush greenery, gazing up at the massive old trees, comparing it all to the scenery of my new home. As if I were trying to decide which landscape I prefer, which one feels more authentic, which one reflects where I need to “end up”, or “settle down”. Which is why this question seemed so daunting. Am I satisfied? Expending energy hazy with nostalgia or hyper-focused on future plans, will I ever be? Life never turns out quite the way we plan or imagine (although sometimes, it’s even better), and obsessing over that can be self-destructive. In my graduate program, we often discussed a phenomenon called Destination Addiction. It’s the unattainable idea that whenever a certain goal is reached, happiness will automatically follow. We also discussed the theory that we remember events in a better light than when we actually experienced the event. These cognitions are what can keep us disillusioned and distant from the present moment, from current, ongoing happiness. Practicing mindfulness (being present and nonjudgmental in the moment), appreciating the little things that make us feel at home, and focusing on the amazing aspects of everyday life, these are a few basic essentials for self-care and feeling satisfied. Sunsets are beautiful anywhere, but we have to be present in order to appreciate them.
How do you stay present?
Self-care is really about finding your happy place. A state of mind that helps you unwind, destress, and connect with your inner peace. There are countless self-care methods and daily practices out there, some to practice alone, and some to practice and share with others. Traveling and unplugging are huge for my personal self-care. I’ve traveled alone, which is a beautiful experience, but there’s something about sharing an adventure with someone I love that is infinitely valuable. My happy place. I found myself right in the middle of my happy place when we decided to pack up for the weekend and camp out near the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. The weekend started out with a pink, glowing sky, bringing us intentions of love and energy. The sand dunes were breathtaking, but since Molly is getting older and can be somewhat of a timid pup, Luke and I weren’t sure how she would react to the mountainous, rolling dunes. I now believe it’s her new favorite place on Earth. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen her quite so happy, rolling around in the sand and splashing in the stream that runs through the dunes. We were brimming with laughter to see Molly so excited. It was unforgettable. Ever since we moved to Colorado, I’ve been eager to get out and explore, to see more of the state and to venture further west. My list of destinations keeps growing. I was reminded this weekend that the real adventure is right here beside me, and that exploration is so much better with these unplanned shared experiences. We didn’t have an exact plan when we left the house that afternoon, and I never would have guessed that we would get to see Molly acting like a puppy, spot three baby moose, or stumble upon six bighorn sheep during our unpredictable trip, our unforgettable adventure, our happy place.
What is your happy place?
As I sit here writing, I notice the scent of tea tree lingering from my hair, slightly damp from my shower. I breathe in the warmth from the green tea in my favorite mug. I am safe. I am clean. I am comfortable. Unexposed to the elements on this unusually chilly night. I feel cozy tonight, but my mind wanders to a recent camping adventure in which I was almost completely exposed to the elements, at the mercy of Mother Earth. With the promising forecast of clear skies and decent temperatures, five of us headed out with our camping gear, unfazed by the unpredicted grey clouds looming in the distance. A few hours into our trip, tents built and campfire blazing, those clouds opened up and the rain began to pour. We ran into our tent and huddled up together, waiting for it to pass. These unexpected but temporary downpours continued on and off throughout our trip, producing the most beautiful sunset and sunrise. We were exposed to the elements with few options for shelter, nervously hoping that the tent enveloping us would hold up through the periodic storms. It is eye opening to get a glimpse of what so many people are forced to experience on a daily basis, exposed to wind, rain, cold temperatures. However, we were doing this for fun. We chose to wait out the rain and thunder for the joy of camping. There seems to be a common nomadic daydream among many in our generation. The dream of living on the road or off the grid, a form of chosen homelessness. There is something that feels so natural and primal about living in such a way. It feels magical to wake up in a forest, making your breakfast over the fire you’ve built, cooling off in a nearby stream, completely surrounded by nature. I feel that while living our chosen lifestyles, whatever they may be, it is important to remember that we are lucky enough to get to choose that lifestyle. As someone dedicated to a helping profession, I wonder how many ways we can find to reroute our daily activities in order to give back, to waste less, to show compassion? Volunteering, recycling, composting, donating, leaving no trace, etc… I would love to hear your thoughts on this! What aspects of your lifestyle are dedicated to bettering the planet, or what would you like to start doing and learning more about?
The sun wakes me up a couple of hours later than it used to. I’m still astonished every morning to open my eyes and see Pike’s Peak looking down on me from outside the bedroom window. Everything is new.
Newness can feel daunting. It presents challenges, demands acclimation, and evokes uncertainty. It also offers fresh perspective, expanding knowledge, and beautiful, towering surprises. I turn a corner to find mountains before me. Looking up has never been more enthralling, or more often. Although, even in the grasp of change and newness, we still have our rituals, our traditions. Something to help us feel that we are staying the course, still on track. Clouds followed as our dog, Molly, led me through pathways and trails unfamiliar to us. Red rocks, waterfalls, flowers, and even more clouds surrounded as we breathed in our new atmosphere.
I crave exploration. I yearn for adventure. I needed this for my own self-care. Of course I have so many people who are close to my heart, yet now so far in distance. My love for them does not falter based on the location of my freshest footprints. I want to see more. I want to learn. I was drawn to this transition. Maybe it was to show those who are feeling stagnant how realistic such a seemingly drastic change can be. Maybe it’s okay to follow your heart, even if you’re not sure where it’s leading you.
Grow. Blossom. Bloom.
“You gave me a forever within the numbered days…”
I recently experienced the loss of a loved one. As many resources as I have for clients experiencing grief and loss, I personally found myself unprepared for the impact. I have so many memories that I cherish with this person, and I needed time to reflect on them and to process this experience. I decided to take some time apart from everyone and everything on a personal retreat. I found a beautiful retreat center in the middle of the Pisgah National Forest called Mountain Light Sanctuary. The sanctuary offers multiple overnight accommodations including some that are open to the elements, and even a four post bed placed directly under the stars. Since the comfort of my home and the support of my partner have been so healing through this process, I simply chose to participate in a personal day retreat. I spent a lot of time reflecting, journaling, and meditating by the river. As I was longing to feel grounded and connected to the natural world, I walked around the property barefoot, rooting myself to the earth beneath me. It was a beautiful experience to reflect on loss while surrounded by the awakened life of blooming flowers and singing birds, as well as the company of a friendly little resident cat…
Unplugging, connecting with nature, and temporarily retreating in such a way can be so revitalizing, and I would love to hear about any retreats you have visited or would recommend!
It’s inevitable. No matter how much we enjoy the snow, towards the end of the season, the winter blues are bound to set in. We start to long for warm sunshine and lush greenery, and the constant windchill and bare branches start to seem monotonous. This week, on a particularly cold and cloudy day, I decided to offset my winter blues with the blue hues of the Blue Ridge Mountains, as if to seek out my own pathetic fallacy. I grabbed our pup, Molly, and headed out toward Tennessee to a magical place called Roan Mountain. As luck would have it, the clouds slowly dissipated as we made our way up the winding mountain roads. One thing I’ve learned while living in the mountains is that gazing out at the endless ridges and visualizing how small we are compared to the earth around us can really help shift our perspective, and, in some cases, even brighten our mood. Exploring the snowy forests and hiking the various balds of Roan Mountain was an amazing counterbalance for the winter blues. Molly seemed to be in good spirits as well, rolling around in the residual patches of snow and gazing out at the breathtaking views.
Of course, we are often stuck inside during these cold winter days, but even indoor comforts may offer an escape from the frigidity, like creating a cozy atmosphere inside to compliment the cold weather, or experimenting with different herbal tea concoctions to warm up during those particularly chilly mornings. Here is one recipe I’ve been loving lately:
- Black tea leaves
- Dried rose petals
- Cloves (optional)
- Cinnamon bark (optional)
Simply blend ingredients, add one tsp to a loose leaf tea strainer, and steep in hot water for 5 minutes.