Friday, November 20, 2015

Nature is the Guru

by Kirsten Cooper, CSOY alumni Class of 2014, Yoga Teacher at Dogma Athletica & Ski Coach in Vail, CO 

I’ve let myself be less of a tough girl after I spent the better part of my life competing in ski racing. These past few years, when the temperature drops, I’ve fallen into the pattern of getting a little wimpy and choose hot cocoa over running in the frosty woods. I have always known that moving in the outdoors is what keeps me happy and inspired, but even though I know this, when the winter chill sets in I find it hard to get outside. I have noticed that when December rolls around I am struggling to be a good friend, a good daughter, a good coworker, a good student, teacher, listener, speaker, advocate and ally. When I slip inside too often, it seems like everything else slips too.
As most of my close friends would tell you, I am stubborn; I don’t care to do what I’m told very often even if I know it’s good for me. At this time last year I would have declared that I would soon enter hibernation mode and hold my ground, cocoa in hand, thank you very much. Luckily, my friends remind me that I am caring, altruistic and one of their greatest advocates. This makes me want to take the best care of myself to remain steadfast in those qualities. It makes me want to do something good for myself so I can be good to others. So this winter, instead of digging my heels in, I’m committing to be caring, altruistic, and advocate for MY well being so I can continue to be that for others. It’s time to break out the layers and go outside.
During the summer it is not challenging for me to be outside. I can hike, bike, backpack and sip cocktails on the patio. My body feels enlivened and strong from this lifestyle. My pattern has been that during the fall and winter I dedicate less time to do those things that help me be me. The way I see it now, I spent all those warm summer months getting strong and healthy, and I don’t care to quit at harvest time this year. 

In order for me to harvest my best self, to be truly alive and impassioned, I need nature.
I’ve never been one to shy away from the cold and dark but I have always been grateful that Thanksgiving falls when it does. Just when the last shreds of light seem to fade away, we have this opportunity to surround ourselves with everything we are thankful for. This year, I am feeling and celebrating my gratitude for great outdoors, which has helped me feel strong, healthy and confident. To fuel my gratitude, and my attitude, I am getting outside. I will climb mountains I never thought I could, I will take a slow walk by the meandering river and sit quietly on a park bench. Being out in nature makes me stronger mentally and physically and gives me the strength to say yes and mean it, to say no and mean it, to quit, and then begin again.
I am thankful for the healthy strong body I have worked hard on, I am thankful for the vast landscape that surrounds me, and I’m thankful that they go hand in hand, especially in the winter months when the world is also gathering its strength to be beautiful when the light has abandoned it. I am thankful for the snowflakes that mesh like puzzle pieces as they cover the ground and the silence that falls with them, unshakably serene.
I’m sure I will almost break-up with exercise this winter; it will drag me out of bed into the cold dark morning, it will let the air nip at my fingers and toes, it will burn my lungs and my legs. Then the sun will rise, the air will fill my lungs, and the sunrise will fill my pupils. Despite the grumbling, I’ll remember that I’m thankful for so many wonderful people and opportunities in my life, including the chance to be outside even in the bitter cold… Man, tough love is complicated.  

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