My family and I first connected with Colleen and Thompson Bishop, co-founders of Alchemy of Prana (AOP), in the fall of 2018. It was a brisk morning, but they greeted us warmly, emanating assurance and serenity. Situating ourselves in a grassy opening enclosed by conifers, we let the sounds and feeling of nature draw us into the moment.
Together we honored the Ute lands and set our intentions before crossing what the pair described as the threshold into the natural world. At that moment we knew, a journey that would transcend all of our preconceived notions awaited us.
“The veils between the worlds are really thin,” Colleen recently told The Sopris Sun. “Sometimes we’re not able to see through those veils because our daily lives create a block, but when I approach the natural world with intention, with reverence, and really get to the core of what is happening for me, the veils are lifted.”
AOP, a nonprofit foundation, supports people intent on exploring “the hidden elements of the psyche,” by fostering a deep understanding of the relationship between humans and nature through practices grounded in ecopsychology, the study of humans’ emotional connection to nature.
“We’re not wilderness therapists, but we do believe that it is therapeutic,” Thompson said. “It is very healing for people to have time on the land to really rediscover and cultivate a relationship in reciprocity with this wild earth to which we all belong.”
Colleen and Thompson first met at Naropa University in 2015 when they were both enrolled in the Transpersonal Ecopsychology master’s program. The pair was captivated by the program’s ability to curate foundational wilderness experiences and meaningful Council, a practice of communicating from the heart.
“We were using this form of Council that was secular, developed by The Ojai Foundation (TOF), as a way to sit in circle, have some intentions about it and really make space for each person to have their voice shared,” Thompson said.
Shortly after their first wilderness immersion at Naropa, they fell in love and began nurturing their mutual life passion, “liberating consciousness with nature.”
“After graduation we went on a trip,” Colleen said. “We saw how this place, which had both ice and fire in the same setting, held so much potential and life force, prana, and alchemizing of life force, the ability to transform.”
Inspired by this experience, the pair sat in Council and asked the land if AOP was ready to be born. They received a resounding yes, and set off to train with TOF and School of Lost Borders, two programs that helped navigate AOP’s vision.
“There’s a lot of talk about cultural appropriation, and there’s also a lot of dogma in our world, but Colleen and I were not interested in either of those things,” Thompson said. Instead they focused on creating participant-led wilderness rites of passage, where attendees asked intentional questions and explored them in nature, Colleen added.
“They’re not necessarily searching for an answer, but all of a sudden something happens when they cross through the threshold,” she said.
Thompson added, “One of the things we talk about is that these ceremonies are yours. We can support you by holding a container, and having a secular thing like Council, but at the end of the day, each person’s relationship with nature, with their internal and external wild self, that’s yours.”
Their role as guides is to “mirror back” participants’ experiences by listening to the essence of their story that is sometimes difficult to understand, Colleen said.
Currently, AOP hosts seasonal ceremonies through Wilderness Immersions, Wilderness Vision Fast/Quests and Private Medicine Walks. This summer, participants can seek experiences in the Saguache, Marble and Twin Lakes wilderness areas, and at a private residence in Redstone. AOP also offers a sliding scale for participants across the socioeconomic spectrum.
Flashing back to the moment my family and I reentered the material world, I vividly recall locking eyes with my partner for the first time since we parted at the threshold. While our young son joyously played in the soil, feelings of clarity and peace engulfed us and we bonded over this shared experience knowing it would last a lifetime.
“All of this is about relationships. Relationship with ourselves, to community and to the land,” Thompson said. “We’re reconnecting to all of our individual birthrights on this planet [that] we share with the birds and the trees and with millions of other species. So, it’s not just ours, it’s all of ours, the big ‘ours.’”
Visit alchemyofprana.com to learn more about upcoming Alchemy of Prana ceremonies and how you can foster your relationship with the greater world.