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Yours truly kayaking for the first time.

Life Lessons Learned In The Adirondacks

Last week, I went to the Adirondacks for the first time. In fact, this trip was full of firsts. Because some members of my immediate family are very allergic to outdoor allergens, such as pollen, etc., we never went camping or spent a great deal of time doing outdoors activity. I’ve been in the jungles in the Philippines, but not in the great woods outdoors of my own backyard (at least, not for an entire week)!

I changed that with this vacation. Not only did I do a lot of firsts – such as living in the woods, canoeing, kayaking, long hikes – but I unexpectedly embarked on a rejuvenating getaway to get reconnected to nature, and to myself. I was not totally sure what I was going to be getting out of being stuck in the middle of nowhere, with no wifi access (qué horror!), but I was ready to embrace it all with open arms!

The City Girl Gets Grounded

Although I’m a city gal at heart, I’ve always strongly believed in the healing that being enveloped in Mother Nature brings. I encourage my patients to get grounded, whether it be through meditation, or literally going out and putting your feet in the earth or walking on the grass. I recently suggested that one of my patients, who complained of feeling ungrounded, go barefoot with his feet in the earth, so he could experience the grounding nature of that action. At first, he gave me a bit of side eye at my crunchy-granola rx. When I saw him the next week, however, he told me that he took his shoes off in an earthy part of the park, settled the soles of his feet, and his toes, into the earth, and said, “It actually felt nice. It did feel grounding. Maybe I’ll do that again sometime.”

Getting In Touch With Stillness

The part of the Adirondacks I traveled to was rather remote. And, even the cabin I stayed at was on a camp that was far away from the other eight on the property. The lake was right outside my door, and I was surrounded by pine, balsam, and oak trees. Various types of birds abounded in the treetops, and the lake was home to the summer loon, an endangered species, that I was informed to kayak or canoe around with a wide girth, so as not to disturb them.

Instead of occasional car horns, alarms, firetrucks, and police sirens, I woke up every morning to only birds chirping, and I opened the shutters to unleash the crisp pine air into my lungs for my morning meditation. It was divine. In fact, I learned that that part of the Adirondacks used to house “cure cottages”, which was all the rage back in the day. People would lug trunks of belongings and stay up in these mountains to “breathe in the vapors”, since it was believed that the pine air was good for the lungs, and therefore, aided healing for all types of disorders.

In addition, history has it that the camp I was staying at was the summer White House of President Coolidge. Each wood cabin had a unique style, and was constructed with great intention. Even the cabin I was staying at had the uneven finishing of tool marks from the handiwork it took to set up the beams and door frames.

In the evening, I’d enjoy the haunting, yet comforting, call of the loon. I drank in the peace, and my soul basked in the rejuvenation of all I was surrounded by. I opened up my heart to Gaia and told her that I was grateful to be with her. And, yes, this tattooed girl hugged a tree! It was grounding to hug a gigantic, tall, majestic pine. I was so thankful for its existence.

Nourishing Body And Mind

There was one ice cream store in town, which sold one flavor a day. This is quite refreshing, since I come from a place that enjoys serving up several gourmet ice creams at a time. The town also only had one gas pump. I went to experience the ice cream two days in a row, relishing its deliciousness, with the milk harvested from the cows down the road. Organic and grass fed at its finest!

I also visited the Six Nations Indian Museum, and connected with Dave, the Mohawk curator, whose family had owned the museum for generations. He shared storytelling of Six Nation history, and I learned about his work with Native youth, and his concern that all Native peoples share in the decline of peoples’ connection to how their food is sourced, as well as the decline of the appreciation of our natural resources. He also remarked on the disconnection of our society from spirit.

On Disconnection From Spirit

I told him that I was a healer in the middle of the NYC, and that the disconnection from spirit is something that I see and treat very often. It was then that I realized how important healing work is for the population I serve – as progressive as we may seem to be, and feeling like we’re on top of everything with all of our handheld devices, internet access, and technology, we have also become increasingly disconnected with ourselves, and each other. We often prefer to text our loved ones, rather than connect in person or on the phone. We multitask at the expense of of our health. At what expense is technological progress? Don’t get me wrong, I love my iPhone, and I seriously was unsure if I was going to lose it, being away from wifi for so long (fortunately, I found a place I could trek to, to get occasional wifi access, but I did that maybe twice throughout the whole trip). The trip to the native museum really got me thinking.

Since it was more like Fall up in the mountains, rather than the Summer that is at full blast in the city, the fireplaces in the living room and bedroom made for cozy journal-writing, reading, and s’mores gooey goodness.

It was a bit of bummer to leave the majestic mountain woods, but deep within, I knew my heart and soul had taken in their fills of nourishment and inner peace.

What I Learned In The Adirondacks

There were times when I literally just sat in stillness to drink in the moment, experience my firsts, and make a mental note of the sensory intake – the smells, sounds, etc. What I came to learn from my trip in the Adirondacks were:

  1. Downtime to detox is necessary.
    We glorify busy, as if it’s some kind of badge. We commend people when we see how rigorously they work, and how spectacular their multitasking is. As wonderful as it is to be in touch with our personas when we work hard, we can best enjoy the fruits of our labor when we take intentional downtime to relax, and be still. Sometimes I hear that people don’t have time to relax, to meditate, or to unwind. When the truth is, people choose to not have downtime, meditate, or unwind. Does it pay off to work yourself to the nib and forget to enjoy the roses? We fail to drink in our beautiful humanity when we do so.
  2. Sometimes less is more.
    I totally appreciate the joys of New York City’s unique and gourmet culinary offerings. I’ve enjoyed artisinal flavors such as olive oil ice cream at Black Tree Restaurant, enjoyed taro/ube at Filipino restaurants, lychee, coconut, and black sesame flavors at the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, and the list goes on. Yes, I love ice cream! But, what a delight to just savor one single flavor by a small town store that prides itself in selling that one flavor all day. One day, it was blueberry with a twist of vanilla. The next day, they offered strawberry with a twist of vanilla. There’s something to be said for a store that specializes in only one thing. Whether it be ice cream, the single pump gas station, or the sparsely populated town I lived in for a week, having room to breathe and savor is essential.
  3. Cleansing rituals for the lungs are essential now and then.
    The Lungs, in Chinese Medicine, is our first line of defense when it comes to our health. When the Lungs are unbalanced, we feel physical ailments such as coughing, colds, wheezing, asthma, and the like. The Lungs also deal with issues around grieving and letting go. When I feel this pulse acting up in a patient, I  know that either they are physically having Lung discomfort (they could be coming down with a cold, fighting off a cough, dealing with asthma, experiencing reduced lung capacity due to anxiety and the shortness of breath it creates), or they are suffering from grief or dealing with issues around letting go. Oftentimes, when we’re dealing with these emotional issues, we will have a lingering, stubborn cold that stays around for a long period of time, and we don’t know why. What is happening is that our Lungs are addressing our grief, and helping us process what we need to process. This is why people often deal with lingering coughing after the loss of a loved one, whether through death or a breakup. Because of this, it is essential to sometimes detox the Lungs. In my case, my Lungs drank in the clean mountain pine air. I relished it during my meditations, hikes, trips on the water, and even while staying in the cabin, since the entire cabin was made of wood. I even brought home a balsam pillow from the nearby store that served as a hub for various hikes, just so I could breathe in the healing while in my city apartment.
  4. Going out of your comfort zone once and a while is healthy.
    Sometimes doing things for the first time can give you an endorphin rush, and you are excited to take the leap. At other times, there is a slight trepidation, and you may consider your life flashing before your eyes. I grew up a swimmer, and I love the sea. But the idea of being at water level in a slight and narrow mechanism that could possibly tip over at any moment into a dark, deep lake was not very appealing to me. Luckily, I boarded the kayaks and canoes with someone I trusted, and soon discovered that my apprehensions were exaggerated. The kayaks and canoes were extremely sturdy. And the person who accompanied me on the kayak reassured me, “You’ll be fine as long as you sit back and relax into it.” This was apparently an opportune time for the Universe to be poignant with me – in order for me to be safe and enjoy the ride, I need to sit back and relax into it. Allow the flow. I did, and I ended up totally enjoying myself! So much so, that I could jet that kayak pretty quickly across the lake.
  5. Serendipity can strike when you least expect it.
    I rented a car to drive upstate. Because I rarely rent a car, I made sure to reserve way in advance, and call to make sure special requests I made would be part of my package, which was confirmed. When I arrived at the rental car place early on the morning of my trip, the special requests I’d put in had somehow vanished from the system. When the car rental representative saw my concern, they went looking for a car to accommodate my special requests. I waited for a while, and I started to think that I may not receive the rental I’d booked for. This actually turned out to the case. Why? Because they couldn’t find the car in my price range that offered what they’d promised me, and instead, gave me a free car upgrade to a full standard! A black Ford Fusion that was easy on the eyes and the gas tank. I thanked the Universe for my bomb ride, and made a mental note that sometimes good things can come from nowhere.
  6. It’s ok not to “do” all the time.
    I love to multitask! Especially because I’m good at it. But, just because I’m good at it, doesn’t mean I need to do all the time. I was unsure how my body would take not doing for a whole week. But, you know what? I eased into the relaxation pretty easily! Reading in a quiet house, I got to do more reading than I’ve probably done the whole year. One day was just spent in my jammies, reading, and sipping wine. Other days, I watched the fire burning in the fireplace, and enjoyed smelling the dry pine wood burning. I also quickly got used to not having my iPhone in hand constantly, since there was no way to make use of it, except to play music. And, sometimes I’d play music as a I took in the wood air. Not doing has its perks!
  7. You can get rid of flying, biting pests without DEET.
    This is more of a practical tip. The flying insects were plentiful there, and my out-of-towner scent must have been intoxicating, because I was often surrounded by them. But the last thing I wanted to slather on was a toxic DEET repellant. So, I found an excellent flying insect repellant, All Terrain’s Herbal Armor Natural Insect Repellant. It was recommend by the sales woman at Whole Foods in NYC, since she found it effective in the Oregon woods. It was also sold in the local health food store in the Adirondacks, and recommended by a local. Another interesting find was that using an oil that I usually use when doing bodywork on the sore muscles of my patients, NOW’s Arnica Warming Relief Massage Oil, was effective on repelling flying insects, as well! After looking at the ingredients, aside from the sunflower oil, extra virgin olive oil, and arnica oil, the following oils included are actually great insect repellers: Organic Lavender Oil, Lemon Oil, Palmarosa Oil, Natural Vanilla Fragrance, Wintergreen Oil. With my one-two bug repellant punch, the times I used it proved effective against the buggers!

What kinds of things, or places, help you access your inner stillness?
I’d love to hear about it!

May your heart and soul be filled with peace,







Copyright © 2014 by Alcantara Acupuncture & Healing Arts. All rights reserved. You may quote, copy, translate and link to this article, in its entirety, on free, non-donation based websites only, as long as you include the author name and a working link back to this website. All other uses are strictly prohibited.


  1. Eulix V.
    July 24, 2014

    Looks like you had an amazing time. I felt at peace just reading this post. I loved reading it and the pictures look beautiful. Thanks! This summer I’ve gone out to Clove Lakes Park in Staten Island since it’s so beautiful there. My toddler loves it too.

    Inner stillness is definitely something I crave dearly. I tend to get up while everyone else is still sleeping so that I can meditate and have time to myself. 😉

    • Margarita Alcantara, M.S.Ac., L.Ac., Reiki Master/Teacher
      July 24, 2014

      Hi Eulix!

      Thanks, yes, it was amazing being in the Adirondacks with all the pine and balsam! I’m glad you felt the peace reading the post. That’s fabulous that you practice self-care with your family in the beauty of Staten Island. It’s a must! Your toddler is lucky to have such an aware mother.

      I hear you about inner stillness being something you crave! I, too, enjoy meditating before I set out to take on my day. It makes a definite difference.

      Kudos to you and your family,


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