Editor’s note: In this two part series, Stephanie Powers travels to two American small-town spiritual meccas, Cassadaga, Florida, and Crestone, Colorado, in search of natural healing for her thyroid disease.
year after visiting Cassadaga, and many moments of truth later, my next thyroid revelation occurred. My husband and I were planning a trip to Colorado to do some exploring, of the land and the soul both. Our goal was to experience Denver then hit the road to check out some quiet Rocky Mountain towns. It was a hot and muggy summer day where we live in Carolina as I was sitting in my office clicking through eccentric Colorado rentals on Airbnb. A bad thunderstorm started to brew outside, adding to my excitement.
I scrolled through image after image trying to find the perfect spot when suddenly I saw Haelan LifeStream Center and Retreat. The place looked astonishing! It was completely off grid and solar powered, full of meditation spots fully equipped with wild lavender, sage, and gongs. The center, I learned, is owned and operated by trauma surgeon turned holistic doctor/spiritual guru, Dr. John Day.
I quickly entered in our travel dates and hit calculate on the total. My computer was slow for a bit, probably due to the lightning outside, but when it finally finished the total was $333.00. I opened my mouth in awe and just stared at it. 333. All the taxes, cleaning fees, etc., they all added up to this divine number and I knew better than to call it coincidence. I paused for a moment and spun in my chair to face the window to process it all. The dark storm clouds were beginning to move out and sun rays were poking through. A vibrant, late summer rainbow formed right in front of me perfectly in line with my office window.
I immediately booked it and a couple of months later, we were on our way. Crestone or bust!
A double rainbow forms over the Haelan LifeStream Center in Crestone, Colorado *Photo Courtesy of Dr. John Day
We touched down in Denver on a chilly late September day. We knew Crestone was far away from civilization so we ran errands around the city to load up on groceries and toiletries. Everyone we spoke with had no idea Crestone even existed. We began to wonder what we were getting ourselves into, but every time I received a text or a call it was at 10:10, 11:11, 12:12, 2:22, and so on—more and more signs that I was on the right path.
We woke early the next morning and began our drive through the city, then the mountains, then South Park (who knew that show was based off a real town?!). Finally, after a few hours on the road, we drove up and over a large mountain pass and began our descent into the most beautiful valley. Upon entering Crestone, we were greeted with signs such as “UFO Parking Only.”
Alien signs abound upon entering Crestone, Colorado
Dr. Day calls me, of course, at 3:33 to see if we were getting close. I laughed and told him we’d be there in a few minutes. When arrived at Dr. Day’s house, we immediately got a tour of his wonderful greenhouse garden. With a mouth full of fresh cherry tomatoes and snap peas, I nodded my head yes when he asked if we were ready to drive down to the retreat. We followed his pickup truck down windy dirt roads, getting closer and closer to the base of the impressive mountains. Five minutes later we turned into a field and drive up to a beautiful house.
Dr. Day gave us a tour of the place and invited us into his office where he gives health consultations. We walked into a room filled with both eastern and western medical books, chakra posters, and an inversion table. He began telling us stories about how his parents were both doctors in the South and Helen Keller was one of their patients!
Haelan LifeStream Center in Crestone, Colorado *Photo Courtesy of Dr. John Day
Within minutes I found myself sitting at his desk across from him discussing the many health issues in our country. He mentioned thyroid diseases and I yelled, “OH! YEAH! I was diagnosed with Hashimo…” And before I could finish my sentence he cut me off and motioned for me to wait a minute with his finger while he ruffled through papers in his desk. Speechless, I watched him quickly sift through mounds of papers and finally pull one out that had a neat, handwritten list in pencil. He pushed it across the desk to me and I began to read the list: gluten, corn, soy, oats, quinoa, rice…
“Gluten,” he said as I read the list. “You absolutely need to eliminate gluten from your diet.”
Desert Sage in bloom at the Haelan LifeStream Center owned by Dr. John Day in Crestone, Colorado
I looked at him and his eyes were fixated on mine with a very serious tone. I had heard of the gluten free diet but never dreamt I would fall into that. Trying not to overwhelm me, he explained that I had a ‘leaky gut syndrome’ and all I needed to do was eliminate gluten and most grains to heal it. All I had to do? Now, to someone used to eating whatever they want without any real issues, this hit me hard. I mean, I had pretzels in my bag. I ate avocado toast for breakfast every morning. My favorite dinner night of the week was our homemade pizza!
I was really upset by this. Life as I knew it just dramatically changed. How would I do this? Isn’t gluten in like…everything? I tried not to let it ruin my trip but the look in his eyes sent a message to my soul that this had to be done, or else.
The next morning I woke up, threw my pretzels away and headed into town for food. What would I eat? What would I buy for groceries? I felt overwhelmed. There’s no way a small town like this is going to have gluten free food, I thought.
I walked into the Elephant Cloud Market, the cute corner store where all the residents shop for groceries. One of those places where everyone knows each other by name. I walk into the attached cafe where soft reggae music was playing and locals were working on laptops, greeting every person that walked through the door with a hug and a how are you? The entire community seemed like one big family. It made me smile, and when it was my turn to order I had no idea what to say because I was too busy people watching to look at the menu! I nervously looked up at their hand-written menu board and what did I see? Nothing but gluten free breakfast sandwiches and gluten free muffins. Ha! No way. This is so meant to be. I ordered gluten free avocado toast and headed back to the retreat, hopeful.
Crestone is known for their ‘green community’ feel. Everyone takes care of each other, no one goes hungry, no one is without anything they need. The center of town features a ‘give and take’ cottage where you can trade a pair of pants for a pair of shoes. Additionally, a lot of extraterrestrial enthusiasts travel to this town because of the constant reports of alien sightings in this valley. There’s even a dedicated alien watch tower for people to freely use at night!
Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, September 2015
The other mystical aspect of Crestone is the Great Sand Dunes. The National Park Service claims that walking on these dunes at night during a full moon is the closest you can ever feel to walking on the moon.
You better believe I danced and ran all over these sand dunes, barefoot in a dirty bohemian dress! Carefree, happy as can be, not thinking about my new drastic diet or my thyroid disease. In this moment, I was one with the earth and I knew she would take care of me no matter what. The visions in my head were 333, the rainbow, and Dr. Day’s blue eyes gazing into my green ones, giving me the final key I needed to heal myself, if I would accept it, and I did. I had to. I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.
Six months after my mystical trip to Crestone. I was sitting in a cold doctor’s office waiting for my lab results. By now I had been practicing speaking my truth daily, as learned in Cassadaga, with the vision of a vibrant blue pinwheel in my throat while I spoke. I focused all of my spare time on my photography, blogging, and writing—the things I loved. My work was being published in magazines, welcome signs, and hiking maps. I was featured by The Weather Channel, Travel Channel, and multiple state tourism bureaus. I naturally fell into a vegan, plant-based diet and hadn’t touched gluten since I threw my pretzels away in Crestone.
The crunchy paper they put on the beds in a doctor’s office crinkled below me as I dug through my purse for some almonds. I scrolled through my Instagram, reminiscing about all of the adventures I had gone on lately, especially missing Crestone. And just as I was lost in a photo of the Haelan LifeStream Retreat, the nurse walked in holding a clipboard with papers. She looked down at them, then up and at me and said with a smile:
“Well Stephanie, despite all the odds, you did it. Your thyroid levels came back completely normal.”
Walking into the sunset at the Great Sand Dunes National Park, September 2015