Finding Gratitude in the North Cascades

Sometimes, it can feel like gratitude is a hard-fought battle. I have lots of days when I am full of complaints. Just this month, I hit a post-vacation wall. Three weeks ago, I returned from the most relaxing six days I’ve had in a long time. I had spent months looking forward to a beach vacation to Sayulita, Mexico with my favorite person. We turned social media and email off and filled our days exploring beaches, eating fish tacos, swimming in our little pool and reading books. It was as lovely as I hoped it would be. I didn’t want to come home.

Then I got home, and I could not transition back. I didn’t want to teach. I was annoyed by the onslaught of rainy Seattle fall weather. I couldn’t even clean my house. I felt like Mexico had sucked out all my happy helium, and I was incapable of being cheerful again. I went to yoga, I went to CrossFit, I cooked good food, and still a cranky attitude lingered.

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Most of the time I can stop myself from this descent. If I force myself to pause and think about it, I can summon an appreciation for my life. (Try it, it’s easier than it sounds.) For the past couple of weeks, I was doing a halfway decent job lifting myself back up, but it was still a bit up and down. Then, there are the magical periods when gratitude shows up without extra thinking and gently nudges me back to center. It happened this past weekend, when I took my slightly cranky self up to the North Cascades Institute to lead a three-day yoga and hiking retreat with friend and fellow teacher Carley Ewert for Be Luminous Yoga .

Over the years, I’ve found that mountains un-stick me, a buttering up of my soul. When I feel off, I can count on crisp, fresh air, moving my legs up rocky trails and eating lunch atop a craggy peak to make the world feel right again. This time, add in to the mix 31 tremendously dedicated and fun yogis open to whatever Carley and I tossed their way during four yoga practices, a sputtering campfire, incredible local food and a hike to a grand view from Maple Pass.

Gratitude pounced.

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Larches turn golden in the mountains in the fall.

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Our hiking crew posing for the camera.

I love yoga and meditation, taking new fitness classes and walks with great friends, among other strategies, to bring me back to myself. I also need spaces like the mountains. Weave in time allotted to my favorite work collaborating and leading others in yoga and personal growth, and I return to my best place. I often go into big programs with a few nerves jangling, then am surprised and profoundly grateful when the work steers me back to where I belonged in the first place. Watching the connection and community grow the first night on the retreat, talking on the hike about the interesting things my students are up to in their lives and how yoga supports them, and hearing everyone talk about how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful place, and it was so easy. There are many paths to get to gratitude, and this past weekend, the North Cascades was mine.

Looking for marmots.

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