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Located just below the 79th Street Transverse, the Ramble boasts one of the most beautiful landscapes in all of New York City, offering the opportunity for full immersion into nature. During certain parts of the week, the Ramble is one of the few spots where you can’t hear the city at all. But make no mistake: the Ramble is far from a simple walk in the woods. Spend a couple hours there and you’ll quickly discover that the diverse landscape is able to appeal to a wide-range of appetites. Boasting winding trails, calming streams of water and scenic meadows, it is the quintessential getaway from the chaos in the city. And the sounds… Given that over 230 species of birds visit the Ramble each year, the chattering, tweeting and whistling create a soothing atmosphere that centers the soul. As one of the few woodland landscapes in New York City, the Ramble resembles parts of the Catskills or Adirondacks. The beauty is, you don’t have to drive for a few hours upstate to experience it, as The Ramble can be easily accessed via the subway. Although it is technically situated mid-park, you’ll find that the least amount of travel time comes by entering on the Upper West Side. The Ramble is just a short stroll off the B or C train at the 72nd or 81st street stations. From the Upper East Side, you’ll have a bit more travel time off the 6 local train at the 77th street station. However, it is 2022 and we’ve been conditioned to view convenience as king. So if you’re looking to eliminate even more barriers towards experiencing this contemplative paradise, consider investing in an electric scooter or e-bike. If you can store it in your building or apartment somewhere, it’s a no-brainer. Although you have to walk your bike or scooter once you enter the Ramble, this allows easy access from all over the city. For example, it’s just a 15-minute bike ride from Midtown East to the Ramble. This all matters in a city where we constantly feel rushed and we’re looking to develop a consistent rhythm of entering contemplative spaces. Which goes to say, the most quiet atmospheres can be experienced on weekdays, mornings and at sunset in the summer. And while crowds still do visit the Ramble, it is lightly trafficked compared to the more frequented green spaces in Central Park such as the Great Lawn and Sheep Meadow. So let’s get into the good stuff. As we move along in this guide, what follows is a curated list of spots that provide a beautiful refuge within the Ramble.

THE MEADOW

Set back deep into the Ramble, we’ve found the Meadow to be one the most peaceful spots in the entire city. Exotic London Plane trees surround you, creating the perfect environment to bring a blanket and lay out on your average spring, fall or summer day. Now we must confess, “the Meadow” is not the official name of this location. We decided to coin that term, because this location doesn’t have a name! But the beauty is that it makes this location even more off-the-beaten-path. It takes some strolling in the Ramble to get there and it’s not heavily trafficked. We can’t promise on the weekends you won’t hear any noise, but generally speaking it has a far different vibe than the more famous (and officially named) Sheep’s Meadow. Because it is more secluded, you’ll come to notice that the people around you often come there for the similar reasons you are: reflection and contemplation. On any given day, you might see someone painting, meditating or lounging back and reading a book.

LOCATION

D.U.B.B.O.

Our next oasis is located directly under the Bow Bridge overpass. Like the Meadow, there is no official name for this spot, so we affectionately coined it DUBBO. Extending alongside the walking trail that directly faces the Lake, DUBBO offers multiple alcoves for you to wander into. Rustic benches are situated as viewpoints, both before and after the bridge, creating a picturesque environment to jot in your journal as you face the water. When you visit DUBBO matters, however. During the day on weekends, there is often carryover noise from the famed Bethesda Terrace across the lake. With music playing and loud chatter, this can be distracting if you’re looking for a quiet place. But on weekdays and mornings, few places in New York offer the soothing atmosphere and picturesque body of water like DUBBO does.

LOCATION

THE GILL WATERFALL

Connected to a brook that runs through the Ramble, this tiny waterfall sits directly at the end of the Gill. As the water empties into the Lake, the meandering rocks collide to resemble a miniature gorge. Although this location has a bunch of passerby traffic on the weekends, it provides a therapeutic spot to visit in the mornings to simply sit on the rocks and listen to the stream go by. Apps focused on spirituality and meditation often try to mimic these sounds, but this mini-waterfall provides us the opportunity to soak it up first-hand. As you finish your retreat at the waterfall and move down towards the mouth of the Gill, it connects directly into the Lake. It’s at this moment you can’t help but revel at how deep inside the park you are, with the Central Park West buildings looming large in the background.

LOCATION

SILENCE & SOLITUDE

The common thread between all of these spots within the Ramble is that they are lightly trafficked and off-the-beaten-path, providing an oasis from the hustle and bustle. They provide the ideal environment to reflect, contemplate and be present with ourselves. As we previously discussed in our intro to NYC getaways, science has shown that getting at least two hours each week in green spaces is essential to our well-being. Concluding a remarkable report from Yale, we’re left with this telling statement: “the studies point in one direction: Nature is not only nice to have, but it’s a have-to-have for physical health and cognitive function.” Perhaps no one understood these rhythms better than Jesus, who we find often getting away into the wilderness, before returning back to engage the culture around him. He modeled what would later be known as silence and solitude. When we’re out in nature and captivated by its beauty, it often produces a wonder and heightened awareness of the world around us. How could such a beautiful place exist? That wonder can lead to an awareness of the One who created all the transcendent beauty that surrounds us. And here’s the transformative part — we can allow that awareness to drive us into connection with God. For Jesus, this is what getting away was all about. Being out in nature was about who he connected with whilst he was out there. When we encounter God in these environments of refreshment, we are able to acquire the strength and perspective we need to go back out into the world. We need this to love other people well. To create the change we long to see. To become the truest and best version of ourselves. These rhythms are essential for our well-being. As we see from the science, they are built into the very fabric of our existence. We benefit spiritually, mentally and physically from these environments of refreshment. For much of human history, these were our natural habitats. You could argue that the construction of modern city life is unnatural in this sense, as the constant busyness and distraction prevents us from getting perspective and moments of reflection. So especially living in New York City, modeling this “in-and-out lifestyle” will help us thrive amidst the weariness of 24/7 connectedness and hustle culture. We’ll leave you with a few practical tips before you wander into the Ramble, which include:

1) Pick a time & place

Scheduling time to get away is essential. The hectic nature of life in New York City increases the need for intentionality. So consider where you will regularly visit the Ramble and when it's practical do that. Is it before work in the morning? Is it midday during lunch? Which part of the Ramble is most accessible to you?

2) Start small & build

Success is in simply showing up, nothing more. If you’re making the effort to get away regularly, you’ve already hit the goal. Remember, habits are also formed by starting small. Rather than saying we’re going to visit the Ramble for 90 minutes every morning, try retreating for 30 minutes at least 2-3 times a week. If you get in a rhythm doing that, start ramping that to an hour in the Ramble for 2-3 times a week. And so forth.

3) Put your phone on silent

Smartphones breed distraction and will pull you away from being present in the moment. Try putting your phone on silent and resisting the urge to pull it out. Build up your tolerance over time.

4) Consider your wiring

While all of the spots we’ve featured in the Ramble are stationery, there is no “right” way to do this. If you like to be active, consider engaging your body by walking through the Ramble. Take in all the sights and sounds as you navigate the trails.

5) Bring a blanket

On the flipside, if you like being stationery, consider buying a blanket, particularly for the Meadow. Get comfortable as you enter a place of contemplation.

6) Bring a journal

Fight against the urge to stuff away your thoughts by actively processing them through this form of feeling prayer. How are you feeling? Why are you feeling that way? Name the emotions coming up - envy, greed, sadness, grief, etc. Like Jesus, our emotions are a place to meet with God.

7) Contemplate scripture

This ancient practice, called Lectio Divina, involves picking a small passage to meditate on. Even if you haven’t read scripture in ages, this could be as small as a Psalm, a Proverb or the words of Jesus in the gospels. Let’s say a verse comes up about humility or loving your neighbor, we then pray for a greater understanding of how to model that in our lives. See what comes to mind. You can pick up a copy of the new Passion Translation here.

8) Practice gratitude

Gratitude is hard for us. Sometimes it feels like we suffer from chronic short-term memory loss, only able to see what we don't have or how our circumstances are less than ideal. And while there might be truth in that, this perspective causes us to miss the precious things of life that are sitting right in front of us each and every day. Take some time to write down prayers of gratitude, even for the smallest of things.

9) Be silent

The Ramble is so beautiful and diverse, that some days you might find yourself just wanting to be silent. Embrace this. Engage your breathing. Listen to the sounds around you. The birds. The breeze. The water, if you’re in front of the lake.

Whatever you decide to do with your time, you can start today! Take this opportunity to retreat from the hustle and bustle, opting to get away into the beautiful woodlands in the Ramble.

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