Reconnecting to Nature

With all of the chaos in the city, I needed to have some time to get away. During fall break I escaped to Denver, Colorado, a city enclosed with beautiful mountain scenery. The goal of this trip was to relax where I am happiest: in nature. I did this through a guided meditation and yoga hike at Garden of the Gods state park in Colorado Springs. There, I learned that slowing down and living in the moment made me appreciate the little things in life. 

Like most students, I was counting down the days until Fall Break. At this point in the semester, classes can accumulate an immense amount of work. We all know that college is stressful. And the never ending buildings make me feel cramped, while simultaneously lonely. Although I love the independence of in Chicago, the scenery can be tiring. I have always felt connected to nature but the succulents and ivy plants in my room were not enough to fulfill my desire to get outdoors. So when it was time for fall break I was stoked to get back into nature where I feel most at peace. 

On the first day of my trip we headed out to Garden of the Gods to meet Nicole, our guide for the nature and wellness hike and yoga. I found her through the “experience section” on Airbnb and was hooked once I read this hike is meant to detox your mind and body from everyday life. Nicole is a lovely woman who told lots of stories that taught me about the origins of the land. Before we embarked on our journey we first thanked the land. The Ute tribe was the last Native American group to reside in these mountains and meadows. We thanked them for the creation of the land and set good intentions to respect it. 

The first rock formation that stood out to me was the rock named “The Guardian.” It has an outline of a man looking out into the horizon and watching over the vicinity. The Guardian acts as a gatekeeper for the park, ensuring that it stays a peaceful place. Thy dry mountain air held the fragrance of sage. Picking up sage and smelling it was the start of our meditation. We found a comfortable spot between the Kissing Camels formation and the meadow. Sitting on the dry earth, I took in the sights. Breathing to the music of mother earth, the birds were chirping and the wind was blowing the trees. I felt refreshed and reenergized. 

Throughout the hike we stopped to do a few yoga flows and balancing poses. Making our way up to the Tower Of Babel I found my favorite spot. The top overlooked the whole park. Looking at these rocks from a distance reminded me of the Towers of Mordor (for all of my Lord of the Rings nerds out there ;)). As the sun was setting over the horizon of Pikes Peak I took it all in. I have never been so present in my life. I was not thinking about midterms, meetings, and papers I had to write after fall break. Instead I felt an overflow of gratitude. Our journey was coming to an end, dusk was approaching and the air was brisk. Nicole guided our last yoga flow and I continued to do deep inhales and exhales. And while I was focusing on  breathing in the fresh mountain air, I noticed deer were crossing the meadow one by one. 

I found out later that the proper term for this experience is called “forest bathing,” which is a type of therapy that originated in Japan. The purpose of forest bathing is to heal one’s physical and mental health with someone guiding you in the outdoors. I have never felt more connected to earth than those moments. If you are ever in Colorado Springs I highly recommend booking an experience with Nicole through Airbnb. Slowing down and being present is my biggest takeaway from this experience. I am grateful that I was able to be in what I believe to be the greatest gift on earth: nature.