Frustration is being human.

It is obvious my writing has been pretty non-existent on this blog for the past few months but that is about to change! I have been needing to slow down and take some time to go with in as I make friends with my own darkness and do some much needed healing. As a therapist, I have been humbled to be a guide and witness to other’s healing journeys. It is what makes me feel so alive, to walk along side other human beings plunging into the vulnerable dark. It is my favorite place to dance. We are all on a path and we all have healing to do in this lifetime. For some, this is a journey they will never take and that is okay. For others, they may consciously choose to dance in the dark, they may seek healing: maybe to heal unresolved trauma from childhood that they never processed, negative beliefs we may have, poor attachments with parents, chronic pain, addiction or any feeling that hurts so much. Perhaps it is true that we all seek healing subconsciously. I believe that we are all moving toward healing even if we are not trying to heal. Naturally, just like the body knows how to heal a physical wound… we also have an innate ability to heal ourselves psychologically. Heal our hearts. It is brave to choose to bring your needed healing to consciousness and that is one benefit of therapy. We do not have to go there alone. It is heroic not to run from it, to let in the darkness, sit with it in all it’s discomfort and pain.

The human brain is fascinating. When something happens to us as a child or adult that is scary or traumatic in some way: if there wasn’t an outlet, emotional availability from caretakers or a safe place to process these traumas — to protect ourselves, we repress the feelings, experience, and memories of the event. We do this by sending chemical signals that tell the brain not to use those neural pathways anymore. We instruct our brain not to process it and it never fully gets integrated into memory. We can go a lifetime and never realize we have old feelings, traumas, painful experiences that we never processed. We may have been too young to know what to do with the information and it is only natural to react whatever way we did at the time. Unresolved trauma can really affect the brain, body, and mind. It is so interesting, because one trauma neuron in the brain is linked to hundreds of others and as we begin by processing one trauma others come up that want to be processed. Unresolved trauma and suppressed feelings need a place to go, they want to be felt so they can move through the body. We will always have the memory of the trauma but when trauma is processed we will not have all the intense emotion and fears around these memories anymore. The body likes to send us messengers of all sorts. When we have physical pain or emotional pain it’s our amazing bodies’ way of telling us to “STOP!” something is not okay, “Hey you, pay attention!” The more we run from these painful emotions, the more they haunt us, the more they make a cozy home inside causing crisis and suffering.

Wisdom Cards by: Louise L. Hay

Wisdom Cards by: Louise L. Hay

Old unresolved trauma and feelings can be re triggered by stressful events in your life such as a death of a loved one, a divorce, a break up, verbal abuse, an injury, or an event your body/psyche perceives as traumatic or threatening like being physically attacked, being in an accident or even an extreme activity/sport like bungee jumping, rock climbing, or skydiving (I know this from personal experience) can be the final breaking point to force years of unprocessed traumas and unfelt feelings to the surface again, telling you “That’s enough, listen!”  These kind of experiences are frightening — a true spiritual/healing crisis occurs where your very being’s healing process is accelerated and you are face to face with your demons. I have realized in my 27 years of life, I had much more healing to do than I thought. And, that’s okay. I am a therapist in the U.S. and I have worked specially with trauma which I believe is no accident and during my recent experiences with my personal healing journey and my experience as a therapist, I have become very interested in what it is like to heal in other parts of the world. Hence, the new name of my blog “Rainbow Nomads” where I will take you with me to learn about healing around the world. Since I am getting back to writing again, I will be sharing personally and professionally my discoveries right here on my blog. So, stay tuned to who I may be talking to on here, where I will be going, and what I will be learning. I would like to share it with you and I’m really excited about that!

I think it’s important to say this: healing is extremely hard. You know your healing when it feels like the hardest thing you’ve ever done. It is the worst and best thing about being human. Instead of holding it in, we must feel the difficult feelings.  I mean come on, even the Dalai Lama gets frustrated sometimes. 

“One mosquito comes and if my mood is something quite happy then I usually give some blood to the mosquito. Then, when the mosquito comes a second time, I am more impatient so sometimes I blow it off. Then, third time, the mosquito comes sometimes I flick it off!” 

This happened to me over the weekend when I was trying to paint in the forest and it reminded me of the above quote. This huge horse fly wouldn’t leave me alone!

It wasn't even scared off by me taking a picture!

It wasn’t even scared off by me taking a picture!

"Trying to peacefully paint over here, fly!"

“Trying to peacefully paint over here, fly!”

"The Heart Warrior" watercolor.

“The Heart Warrior” watercolor doodle.

Glowing heart in the sky!

Glowing heart in the sky!

Later that night as the sun was setting, we found a heart in the sky! It reminded me of something I used to love to do!

Heartfully,

Rachel

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Sardinia & Florence, Italy!

I miss writing! I put together some random video clips from our Europe trip last September. After Norway, we went to Alghero, Sardinia. It was absolutely beautiful! We stayed with an amazing woman named Elide. The sea was right out our window! We also ventured to Florence!!! My boyfriend and I studied art there six years ago and lived there for four months (abroad). It was the time of our lives and living in Florence for four months really opened our eyes to how little we knew and our curiosity went wild… w-a-n-d-e-r-l-u-s-t. It was so nice visiting Florence again: we got to meet up with our painting teacher, see the apartment we lived in, the school we went to where we had art studios. It brought back so many memories being at the train station again and many different special landmarks/art. In the video, you will see a hail storm that happened while we were there. It was so fun, the entire little city was going crazy!

Happy 2015,

Rachel

Norway Video Blog!

WOW! It has been a while since I’ve posted. So much has happened! My boyfriend and I went on our trip to Europe in September, we were gone for about two weeks. I will post a few pictures from each country we explored. For now, here is a vlog I put together of just a few clips from our time in Norway! Am I becoming a you tuber?! I love doing these videos because it’s like my own visual diary. I love watching and hearing us giggle at the top of the mountain like two little kids! You’ll see!

Keep following your bliss, star children. Get above all the chatter, always listen to your inner voice!

Love,

Rachel

7 years of love!

Hello!  Today is our 7 year anniversary! I made this short video of just a few places I happened to record in our many adventures this past year. I hope you enjoy it and it inspires you to play outside and go explore the world, even if that is in your own back yard. =)

I remember when I was much younger, most girls were dreaming about how amazing their weddings would be when they were older, or their wedding dresses, their house, their lives… in my greatest dreams, these things did not come into my mind as things I really cared about. I dreamed of meeting someone I could go out and eat the world with. I dreamed of someone who wanted to see the world with me and experience it so deeply. I dreamed of someone who could be challenged and could challenge me. Someone who would never grow up too much for playing and exploring with me. I know it seems like we have seen and done so much and we have… but our lives are simple and I love that. We live simply. We are minimal. We have what we need and we know what is important to us. To love and to live deeply. 

From my favorite Robin Williams movie “The Dead Poet’s Society” a quote from Henry David Thoreau.
“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately.
I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.” 

Heading to Europe in just 12 days! Stay tuned!

All my love,

Rachel

Exploring Northern California! from Rachel Nova on Vimeo.

 

 

Deep breaths, left foot, right foot…

We hiked the Skyline to Sea Trail starting in Castle Rock and ending in Waddell Beach. The trail wasn’t our favorite of the trails we’ve been on but it was challenging on many levels. A big portion of the trail follows the highway which kind of negates any feeling of backcountry as you hear cars zooming by. We camped at the Waterman Gap Campground which is also right next to the highway. I think our favorite part of the trail was a part we had already hiked: Berry Creek Falls in Big Basin. It was challenging carrying our big packs the whole time: adding 30 pounds or so. We are sore in new places! The bugs were relentless along with the beating dry sun hitting up to 100 degrees. My hair stiff from my constant sweat and my mind going back to my skydiving experience and this feeling in my body of numbness/pins and needles for the past week. 

In a book I recently finished called, “Permanent Vacation” Nathan Rice says, “Deep breaths. Left foot. Right foot. Rest. When climbing starts to feel like suffering, I remind myself that I won’t remember this part— that the pain will fade quickly and the beauty will endure.” He was climbing Mount Rainier. He compares hiking to meditation, “The slow, methodical pace becomes a mediation. Release the mind. Breath deep. Ingest the moment. Keep walking.” It’s all temporary. It might sound weird but connecting to my physical pain while hiking connects me to my humanity. How temporary each moment, each feeling, each thought, each step. Each pain or feeling passes with each breath. Each moment is constantly changing and is never the same. 

One of those feelings or thoughts I had during the hike was: I just wanted a rainy day, please! The sound of that sounded amazing to me. I could light candles in the room, open the windows so you could hear/smell the rain, read a lot, make lots of art, rest, tell stories with friends, bake, get cozy, have some tea, put our feet up, order take-out and watch movies. The part of myself that is thirsty for adventure outside is in contrast with the part that is thirsty for a rainy day. I suppose there is a balance.

In Alaska there is more dark than light through out the seasons. One of the final chapters in the book “Permanent Vacation” is about Christine Byl’s life in Alaska. I could not help but think of her story on our second grueling day of hiking. When there is light in the Summer, the days are so long. Byl says the days are “intoxicating– roof the shed at midnight! start a climb at four int he morning!— but it’s also exhausting, the never stopping, the sense that all things are possible, ALL THE TIME.” When I read this, I thought to myself “this is exactly how I feel!” I want to do it all! Seize the day! Go go go! Byl says that outsiders always ask her how she stands all the darkness in Alaska, but her answer surprises me: she says it is the light that is much harder. She says dark “shuts out all stimuli but what you choose for yourself. Dark gives permission for mulling, for hours of reading and late breakfasts and free-of-sensory-overload unconscious time that rebuilds me.” She expresses to readers that dark does not mean to “quit” but to expand our sense of day. In her words, “Winter tells me, push past the limits the body’s clock sets for itself.”

Dark is magical, she says, “Winter feeds a primordial hunger, an urge to curl up and lick your paws, to pause on the questions that light rushes us past.” I am going to do just that! Pause.

Sanity hangs in the balance of light and dark. -Christine Byl

Licking her paws,

Rachel

Part II: Exploring in Nicaragua!

Happy Forth of July everyone! We are enjoying the day off together and getting ready for our hike this weekend: Skyline to Sea Trail. We attempted this one-way 33 mile hike weeks ago but ran into a mountain lion and turned back. It was scary but an adventure! In the documentary 180 Degrees South, Yvon Chouinard says, “The word adventure has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong – that’s when adventure starts.” I absolutely love this.

I’m so excited about the hike this weekend and I feel like I need it; although I think I’m still trying to comprehend (mind and body) jumping out of a plane last weekend for my 26th birthday. I will write more about skydiving another day. For now, I am glad to be on the ground, hiking 33 miles of it in celebration of how beautiful this country is… Happy Birthday America!

As promised, I am sharing with you my Part II video from my Art Therapy trip to Nicaragua. It shows a whole lot of new experiences, beautiful people, and exploring in Nicaragua condensed down to about 4 minutes. I smile so much when I watch it. I miss it!

Smiles,

Rachel

Part I: Art Therapy in Nicaragua!

I flew to Granada, Nicaragua with a group of Art Therapists from my alma mater, Notre Dame de Namur in Janurary 2013. This trip shook up my whole world! When we got there we met with an organization named Viva Nicaragua! founded by an amazing woman named Carrie McCracken. We were there to provide Art Therapy for about 2 weeks in a poverty area in Solidaridad, Nicaragua. Our team of Art Therapists got split up and I got to work with a group of girls (ages 3-13) experiencing poverty, domestic violence, abandonment, and/or neglect. I will never forget this experience. I am so glad to have finally finished this little video of some clips and pictures I took through out my time there.

Part 1 of the video shows glimpses of the Art Therapy work with faces and identities of the girls protected/not shown. Our team created a community art show displaying the artwork everyone made: children and elderly that participated in the Art Therapy groups. Anyone was welcome. It was amazing. I remember tears rolling down my cheeks during the art show and when we walked around their village with masks on, the girls were screaming our group name “The Strong Girls!” I remember feeling the power and strength of their voices.

I also got to help facilitate a mural at a school in a different part of Nicaragua that was also an underprivileged area. There were students from another college that were there to do a mural and I happen to LOVE murals so they kindly invited me to help because this had been their first mural experience. I was thrilled and I still can’t believe how everything fell into place. I remember looking through the sketch book I brought and how we decided on painting a tree in reference to something I drew during my time there. The end of this video shows glimpses of the mural painting process. We also painted in Spanish, several rights of children as the students wanted to address social justice issues. Children naturally came up to the mural while in painting process and wanted to help. The children helped pick out stencils and colors when I was spray painting the border. They put their hand prints on the tree, too! It brought everyone together and I remember feeling so alive! This is the kind of work I dream of!

I journaled and made art the whole time to help me process everything. I could go into so much detail about how amazing and life changing this was for me but also the human side… how hard it was, how much I cried, and felt devastated and did not want to leave. How hard and confusing it was returning home and what to do with all of what I had experienced, saw, and learned. It all has become a part of who I am. I had a client who told me once, “We are all tattooed into each other’s lives, one way or another” “we make an impact”. I love that.

My journal is FULL from this trip but instead of sharing every detail I will leave you with a few phrases taken from my journal in no specific order.

“I learned that in Nicaragua, sense of time is different- family and friends are more important and being “on time” is not always important. For example: A Nicaraguan will run into a friend and talk to the for a while and be late for their meeting/work because that relationship is more important.”

“It is 6am and I hear the birds loud as the sun enters my room through the ceiling. There is so much life in Nicaragua- you let the lizards and the bugs live with you.”

“Carrie told us about the tragic and traumatic history of Nicaragua and said that the majority of the country is suffering from PTSD.”

“I have no words to describe seeing poverty with my own eyes. Yet the children were smiling and waving at me. A smile in such darkness… their eyes are like bright, glistening beams of light.”

“My host mom, Ana, lived during the war, when I asked her about it, I saw her face drop with sadness. I remember her using the word for “suffering/pain” in Spanish. It is amazing how much emotion we exchange with so little words. I feel it by just being with her and looking into her eyes.”

“This is why I exist. For moments that cut to the core of life. It’s these moments that I feel most alive.”

“Crying with her. Crying for her because no one else could or would. We are vessels for love.”

“As I stood there holding this little human being in my arms, I thought- I’m not sure what her life is really like, what’s it’s like to live this way, or the difficult things she has gone through. But, what I did know was that I got to hold her in my arms, tell her I thought she was special, smile at her, be with her and love her in this moment we shared… I am so lucky to have this moment.”

“Yessar and Carrie told me I should just travel and paint murals… what do you need a degree for? Just go do it! They were so excited, supportive, and encouraging toward me. I loved being around them, it made me realize all the possibilities…”

“I don’t think I have ever had this many goosebumps in my whole life!”

Hope you enjoy the video as much as I enjoyed making it!

Stay tuned for Part II: Exploring Nicaragua! 

With much love,

Rachel

Rituals & New Things.

Happy Summer! I just ended with my little buddies at the Elementary School I work at and was swimming through paper work (not my thing, but I get by) and art (my thing). I set up art shows for each one of my clients as a ritual and celebration of the end of our Art Therapy sessions. Throughout the existence of the human race, rituals and ceremonies have been used to place emphasis on the “passage from one state of experience to another,” (Papp, 1983). According to Papp, rituals place importance, significance, and meaning to experiences in one’s life. I love rituals. It is a moment of pause and acknowledgment, and in that moment you realize how special it is (how special you are!). Ritual makes things special as silly as it may sound. I feel like in those moments of pause and reflection, rituals can promote change. I just finished reading this amazing book called “The Dance of the Dissident Daughter” where Sue Monk Kidd claims, “Rituals performed consciously can be powerful catalysts of change.” 

During each art show with the kids, we lit candles, celebrated our relationship, the child’s progress, and just how special each of them are. All of which is represented in their artwork, acting as a transitional object as they took their art-filled portfolios home. All of this inspired me to get back to filling my sketchbook each day. Themes of the sketchbook art below are: change, transition, myths, animal medicine, and my dreams. 
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I also created a nature table for the full moon celebration/ceremony. One of the reasons I’ve created nature alters is simply to stay connected with nature. We recently hiked Angel Island and we are constantly looking for our next nature adventure but sometimes we might go a a little bit without spending a full day in nature. Sometimes just picking up a sea shell and spending a few minutes with it can help you to reconnect to the earth. Or, sometimes I go out on my porch, light the candles and meditate after a long draining day. Most people want a home with walls, I just want to live in the forest. 

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I love what Walt Whitman says in his preface to Leaves of Grass: “Re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem, and have the richest fluency, not only in words, but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes, and in every motion and joint of your body.” I feel like he is expressing that we are our experiences. Sue Monk Kidd says, “Embodiment means we no longer say, I had this experience; we say, I am this experience.” I loved reading about Kidd’s journey… she says that is really isn’t enough to “have the experience” and it’s also not enough to have a “sacred place” (like my little nature table, the forest, or a circle of trees). She expresses beautifully at the end of her book, “I needed to become the circle of trees, to be the sacred place wherever I went, to dwell so deeply inside my experience and have it dwell so deeply inside of me that there was no separation between us.”

We are our experience. We are the rituals we do: be it the art we make, the things we write, the music we make, the dance we do, the peaceful places we go…  =)

Thanks for stopping by! We are heading back to Yosemite today for a couple nights! I am also in the process of rebuilding my blog/website. I’m really excited to share with you… I am starting to sell my art again! Also, I have been invited to paint a mural this summer at the mental health clinic I work at. Lastly, being in the process of renewing my passport makes me really excited for adventures! 

Stay tuned,

Rachel

 

Russian Nesting Dolls & “The Cosmic Joke.”

I was given these unpainted wooden Russian nesting dolls by a healer/Art Therapist. They can be purchased on Etsy.
Artistically, painting these little detailed dolls was different for me: I love to paint big, using my whole body. There was something very intimate and special about painting my dolls. I used acrylic paint, glitter pens, and very small brushes.
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Unpainted Russian Nesting Dolls (before paint picture).
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Front picture of all five dolls painted.

I learned so much about myself during this project and they are still telling me more. As I was painting I thought about the different parts of myself. One question I ask myself constantly is: “What is underneath?”

When I was in my group supervision this morning, my supervisor told a story about her former mentor, Virginia Satir. Virginia Satir is an influential woman I studied in grad school, a huge pioneer in the field of psychology: she basically invented family therapy. She died the year I was born and we actually have the same birthday- weird! My supervisor knew Virginia Satir pretty well and she said that when Virginia was 8-years-old she told her parents she wanted to be a “detective of people.” This got me thinking! In relationship to my own personal healing and growth, I was recently told by my healer that I’m like a “detective on myself”- working hard to understand the complexities of myself and being open to the clues so that I can learn more. Coming back with another “clue” wanting to dig deeper and deeper. The dolls are like clues to understanding parts of myself. Which is a huge component of Art Therapy! We are constantly being presented with “clues” in life: clues are in the things we create, the people we meet, the way we react or interact, each meditation, each hike… clues are in all of our experiences. If we want, when we’re ready: we can learn from those clues. They are all like little teachers. Also, I feel like we cannot successfully be “detectives of people” if we are not also detectives of/on ourselves.

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Back picture of all five dolls painted.
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I love them! Just hanging out by the pool.Image
Playing. They are so fun to photograph!Image
“Your sacred space is where you can find yourself over and over again.” -Joseph CampbellImage
Another view.

A non intimidating way to peal back the layers and ask ourselves and clients “What’s underneath?” Personally, I loved how containing this felt. Especially because each doll represented very expansive parts of myself that feel too big for my body. The expansiveness of wanderlust, freedom, adventure, love, exploring, nature, empowerment, and much more. 

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First layer. Visual themes: many elements, rainbow, lots of color, day/night, yin/yang, light/dark, sun/moon, nature, mountains, two birds, time, clock, hourglass, key, spiral.

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Second layer. Visual elements: air element, key hole, gold, sky, blue, heart, owl, two birds, cage, key, flying.
Third layer. Visual elements: water element, ocean, fish, waves, moon phases, spiral, blue, swimming.
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Forth Layer. Visual elements: fire element, skull, death, warm colors, black.
Fifth Layer. Visual elements: earth element, wink, smirk, nature, green.
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Someone’s finding her fire. It is burning more brightly than ever before!
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I have been writing a lot about these little ones, being curious about what they are trying to tell me. The smallest doll (winking one depicted above) is the one that seems to have caught my curiosity the most lately. I know she lives inside me and I am most curious about what she has to say. As an Art Therapist, there are many ways I help my clients to dialogue or write about their creations. The process matters so much but we often forget to reflect on the finished product. It is so profound what we can find when we slow down and reflect back. I will share a small excerpt I wrote about the “winking one.”

“The Cosmic Joke”

She’s winking at me because she knows it’s funny, you see…
It’s all temporary, there is time, there is death and
we are just ants running around underneath the stars.
We exist.
She’s laughing because
The joke is on us for trying to live by other people’s rules.
The joke in on us that we ever settled for anything less than magical and amazing.
The joke is on us for taking the small amount of time that we have here and worrying
worrying about our busy schedules, our titles, our metals…
worrying about all the fancy things we can buy to hide behind.
Or anything we can do to ignore our hearts. Anything not to be vulnerable.
The joke is on us for waiting until we’re on our death bed for each and every suppressed emotion to finally come to the surface.
The joke is on us because we were the monsters.
We were just scared of ourselves this whole time.

When this life is over will you be able to say that you followed your bliss?
Whatever that was, even if it seemed crazy?

Would it be so crazy to take the path less traveled?
Play this game a little differently?
Because at the end of it all … we are stardust.

We are just ants running around underneath the stars.

This writing feels full of contradiction and confusion. At the same time this voice feels the most honest and makes the most sense to me. How does that even make sense? I call it the “sweet spot” of living… or “the cosmic joke.”

It is a contradiction. The “largeness” of our lives yet the insignificance. But, we are all contradictions!
I am reminded of something one of my favorite people said.

“Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am complex, I contain multitudes.” -Walt Whitman

Your fellow “ant” friend running around under the stars with you,

Rachel Nova

 

Yosemite: Day 4: Union Point & Yosemite Valley.

Our last day in Yosemite… we did not want to leave. We woke up and packed up our home, put our gear in the car and parked in Curry Village to get a coffee. We talked about how it would be amazing to live in Yosemite for a while. I remembered what the women said last night before introducing Ron at the showing. She came to Yosemite for the first time when she was 7-years-old and she knew it was a special place. She continued to go back ever since and now she works here. She said, “I wake up in my favorite place in the world every morning, it’s a dream!” We agreed with her, it really is a special place. She told us stories of her life in Yosemite. One story included a bear cub encounter on a long hike! 

We charged our phones in Curry Village, not that we really needed them. As we sat there we gazed out the window. We saw people who were living out of their vans… one man pulled out a garbage bag full of clothes and rock climbing gear. We thought about how awesome that was and how crazy we probably sound to most people. But hey, I guess all you really need can probably fit in a garbage bag!

We decided to hike to Glacier point via the 4-mile trail which is about 4-5 miles to the top. It is yet another high elevation gain day hike.
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Views of Upper Yosemite Falls on the 4-mile trail.
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Union Point lookout… amazing! This is where we turned around (about 3.5 miles up the mountain). The rest of the trail was closed and there was a ranger citing people who trespassed.
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The more we hiked each day, the more I trusted my body. We ran down the mountain on our descent. My feet felt so light and I trusted them more than I did my first day hiking here. It was so fun, so freeing, I felt like I was flying down the mountain. 


Before we left Yosemite we hung out in the beautiful Yosemite Valley. 

We laid down and absorbed each sun ray. We absorbed each precious minute of this moment…

In our 4 days in Yosemite National Park, we hiked over 50 miles, no internet, no phone calls, made fires, and slept with the bears under the stars every night… connecting to what’s real with my favorite person. After that 50 miles, surprisingly I had more energy than I knew what to do with and wanted to keep exploring. However… showers were sure a privilege when we returned to our apartment that night. 

We will be driving back to Yosemite in mid June when Tk’s brother and girlfriend come to visit. We are really looking forward to it!

The world is a big playground…

So go play!

Rachel

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