“Mindfulness is really about examining what’s at the core of our humanity and taking time to appreciate the beauty of life and nature, but also examining other ways of life, too,” says Chaplain Alex Hernandez-Siegel.
The Chaplains’ Office offered a new fall retreat opportunity, free of charge to students, in Taos, New Mexico, during the second block break. The program was offered in conjunction with the Taos Initiative for Life Together, a Mennonite-created center that emphasizes social change through cross-cultural examination, transformative economics, social justice, innovative outdoor and social education, and shared community practices that also connect nature and spirituality. Nine students had an opportunity to engage in self-reflection, cross-cultural dialogue, and spiritual exploration as they learned about engaging the world and our environment in a proactive way.
This block break opportunity aligns with one of the charges of Colorado College’s strategic plan, namely, that mindfulness and reflection are important aspects of the educational experience, particularly given the intensity of life on the Block Plan. The college is actively seeking ways to deepen and expand students’ educations, help them explore their passions without overextending themselves, and increase the meaningfulness and potential of their experience at CC. To help student integrate the parts of their academic experience, CC is also helping students reflect on and integrate what they learn across blocks and semesters.
“Mindfulness, at least the way I understand it, might be something like being able to feel comfortable and at ease with the people you’re with in a given moment And at CC it’s really hard sometimes, especially when you have a lot going on,” says Alison Baird ’19, who participated in the TiLT retreat.
Students explored the spiritual connections between sustainability and the cultures of the Southwest. Among others, they talked with local resident Angie Fernandez about her tiny home in a rural part of New Mexico where she lives in a 160-square foot space with no running water and solar heat.
“She tries to lead this zero-waste lifestyle,” says Ula Adamska ’20 of what she learned from Fernandez. “I was really inspired. I don’t know if I’ll be able to lead such a life, but maybe I can do something similar, maybe I can adopt some of her practices.”
“We’re really teaching students to be citizens in a variety of ways,” says Hernandez-Siegel. “We were able to recruit a diverse group of students who could learn from each other and their different backgrounds, and learn the things of ‘what are our responsibilities, as far as humankind?’”
The program was a combination of engagement, reflection, and rest. Todd Wynward, the director of TiLT, created a retreat which helped students see how to be allies of caring for the earth and its limited resources, to learn from local, indigenous, and Latinx leaders and their cultural traditions.
“I hope that our CC students learn from this history and examine it with a social justice lens as our future leaders,” says Hernandez-Siegel.