Cindy Rodriguez Is Reclaiming Hiking and the Outdoors For WOC
It began with a girl, her journal, and a hike through nature. This simple, but transformative act became the driving force for Cindy Rodriguez, the founder of Reclama, to share her journey of healing with other women of color – some who never connected to Mother Nature before.
“It would just be a day for me to reset, and this became especially important in 2015,” Rodriguez tells POPSUGAR. “I had just left a long relationship, moved back in with my mom, and I didn’t have health insurance but discovered I needed to get a thyroidectomy.”
The stress of it all took a toll on Rodriguez’s mental health, but not having health insurance also meant not being able to afford a therapist. So, she turned to the trees. Turns out, hiking is free, and exactly what Rodriguez needed at the time.
“I’m always thankful for it because I don’t know if I would have gotten through all of that without it,” she adds.
From solo dates with nature to creating a community of women, Rodriguez found her niche in the healing space. Without knowing it, she opened a space for women of color to heal and support one another while their ancestors and mother nature hold them. One fateful day on a hike with her cousins changed everything. Her secret was out. They felt the energy of the trees, flowers, and earth too. But self-doubt reared its ugly head, causing Rodriguez to second guess whether this was something she wanted to share publicly or not.
“I felt like I’m going to put this out there and no one’s going to come and it’s going to be so embarrassing,” she recalls. “And then I let it go for like a year.”
When Rodriguez returned from a trip to her family’s home country of Peru, she felt recharged, grounded, and balanced. This energetic shift helped her to open up to the idea of inviting others on her hikes. After volunteering to lead a workshop about journaling and healing, attendees were asking Rodriguez for more. They inquired about upcoming workshops and events although she didn’t have any planned.
“I really had no plan to create everything. I feel like the women I was serving were like ‘we want more, make it happen,'” Rodriguez shares. That opened up the opportunity for her to create space for other women, and in the summer of 2018, she hosted her first hike at Palisades Interstate Park in New Jersey. Rodriguez collaborated with another person to produce the hike, which attracted 30 women. From there, her community continued to grow, and more women were ready to strap on their hiking boots and hug a tree.
Reclama hikes welcome women of color who are 18 and over. It typically includes three circles or three moments of reflection. The first is at the start of the hike before hitting the trail. Rodriguez asks attendees to gather for a sharing circle where they each set an intention for the hike. Depending on the time of year, Rodriguez has asked guests to remove their shoes during this time to truly connect and feel grounded. The second pause is in the middle of the hike when Rodriguez instructs the community to find a tree to hug, or they may stop, sit, and journal in the middle of the woods. Finally, the group gathers for a circle at the end of the hike to reflect on how they feel as opposed to when they began, and also let go of whatever they need to shed, leaving it behind on the hiking trail.
“A lot of women of color have dealt with PTSD and trauma, and some have never been in nature like this,” she says. “So, it’s important for me to just continually be guiding them, which means I have to take them to a park that I know like the back of my hand.”
Now, Rodriguez is hosting a Reclama gathering to honor Mother Nature for Earth Day on April 20th at New York City’s Central Park. The event will not be a hike, but rather a sharing circle where Rodriguez will teach them the spiritual and medicinal benefits of earthing.
“Scientifically there is a force in nature that will immediately balance you out.
“Scientifically there is a force in nature that will immediately balance you out. It will bring down inflammation,” Rodriguez says. “It will make you calm. It will help reduce any stress and spiritually it’s like one of the best places to connect, not just with yourself but with your ancestors.”
According to the National Library of Medicine, “earthing (or grounding) refers to the discovery of benefits-including better sleep and reduced pain-from walking barefoot outside or sitting, working, or sleeping indoors connected to conductive systems that transfer the Earth’s electrons from the ground into the body.” The National Library of Medicine goes on to describe the scientific findings around earthing being “a simple and easily accessed global modality of significant clinical importance.”
Rodriguez knew this without knowing it. Her call to Mother Nature was answered and uncovered healing not only for herself but for anyone who joins her for a Reclama hike or her Earth Day celebration in Central Park. While it’s gratifying to see scientific research backing what Rodriguez discovered during that first solo hike in 2015, it’s even more profound to experience it for yourself.
“You come back with a sense of self I think that I haven’t been able to get out of any other exercise,” Rodriguez says. “I always used to feel like I wonder where my area of expertise is going to be. How am I going to spiritually connect? I guess I’ll go on a hike and figure it out.”
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