Day 3: Bees and Bonfires
I decided to go to the beach after lunch. The beaches in Costa Rica are more rocky than sandy and it was high tide so there wasn’t really a place to lay a towel, but rather than go back and wait until low tide, I decided to climb a tree log to read. For about ten minutes or so I was super proud of myself for my smart thinking. It was pretty cool looking down and seeing the waves roll under my dangling legs. Unfortunately, a few chapters or so into my book I felt something on my neck and proceeded to swat at it. BIG MISTAKE. I still don’t know what it was, but I’m gonna guess some kind of monster Floyd Mayweather never loses a fight type hornet. As I learned later when I googled hornets, there are apparently 177 types in Costa Rica and one of them has one of the most painful bites. Within seconds I felt the worst burning pain in my hand ever and proceeded to semi jump into the ocean wanting to pull my hand off and throw it in, while also thinking, shit this is a library book. Needless to say I got the dreaded swollen thumb, but hey, I also got a good story and a tiny battle scar.
Later that evening we had a bonfire on the beach. I had mixed feelings about returning to the beach after that knockout round with Floyd, but you can’t say no to a bonfire so I bathed in bug repellant. You have to use flashlights at night to get down there because there are no lights along the path and luckily one of the girls had a pretty awesome flashlight. When we got down to the beach she shined her light on the sand and found this huge shell (like those shells they sell at stores and shit) right away. It was pretty hilarious. We were all like kindergarteners at show and tell wanting to see it. I’d like to think it was her reward for her awesome flashlight and my opinion of the beach changed right away. I’ve never been to a bonfire on a beach and I’ve never seen a big shell like that in real life. I always kinda thought those store ones were fake! Mind blown. Of course, the bee and the bonfire reaffirmed a couple things for me. First, past circumstances (including your childhood, recent experiences, your genes) don’t define you or your ability to change your disposition. In every situation there is an opportunity to change. Happiness is a right, no Mayweather bee has the right to take away your positive view of the beach. A lot of scientists and researchers argue that you can only be happy to a set point because your genes determine 40-50% of your overall disposition. While genes undoubtedly play a role in it, many of us have already formed an opinion about ourselves and our potential to effect the rest of the percentage. The bee has overtaken the bonfire and unhappiness becomes a bit of a self-fullfilling prophecy. Sure the bee stings, it can sting a fuckin’ lot, but the bonfire is a lot more powerful with the same potential if not more than the bee. Be the bonfire in your life. Don’t let the bees overtake your right to be happy.
Day 4: Leaving Your Ego at the Door
I was super jazzed for the day because I had signed up to go paddleboarding with one of the girls in my group. Unfortunately, the weather had other plans. About 5 minutes before our lesson, it started to rain, then came the thunder and the wind. Our instructor said it was too dangerous to go out but that we could try again on Friday. I was bummed. The thing about Costa Rica is no one even pretends to know what the weather is going to be like that day. Like if you ask someone, “oh is it supposed to rain all day” they shrug and say “maybe.” It’s kind of refreshing actually the concept of time here. At home, even if the weatherman is as unsure about the weather he’ll attach a percentage and a time to it. Then you’re like…”fuck the rain wasn’t supposed to start until 5pm.” The rain eventually stopped of course, and we hung out at the pool instead.
Later that day we had our daily affirmations class. The class consists of about 30-40 minutes of meditation and then a group reflection. It sounds super new age and it totally is, but the key is to always keep open mind, with meditation and with all things really. Meditation is all about leaving your ego at the door and remaining open to insights. The focus of this meditation was gratitude and kindness. Our instructor Maysa told us to focus on the people who love us unconditionally and thank them. We then take that kindness and mentally share it with those that may not deserve it in an attempt to let go of resentment and experience more joy. The key to a successful meditation is not to ignore distracting/negative thoughts (ie: ugh I don’t want to share any kindness with that person, when’s lunch, how long has this meditation been going) but to think of these thoughts as clouds in the sky. Acknowledge that they’re there and then let them pass by. It’s hard to leave your ego at the door sometimes. It can be easier to judge meditation as woo woo weirdo because you don’t want to associate yourself with what your ego perceives to be unlike you. That’s for hippies, how the fuck do you turn your brain off, mmm thanks but no thanks. I did all of the above. In fact before coming here I had the knee jerk reaction to create mental distance. I’m not gonna be as much of a hippie as everyone else, I told myself. But admitting is the first step to letting go. Sometimes the hardest thing to do in life is acknowledge the power of our ego over our authentic selves. Like the weathermen, we judge, pretend to know, back up our rationale with numbers, examples, statistics, people. But true happiness comes from accepting and being content with certain aspects of ourselves. I never listen to NPR in the car, I don’t buy organic food, and I like watching trashy television. Does that make me less intelligent? No. The key to leaving your ego at the door is learning to be ok with yourself and accepting other people where they are as well. Sure, you’re not always gonna like everyone and there may be things you want to work on in yourself, but realizing that we’re all just trying to figure it out and being content with our progress makes loving yourself a lot easier.
Day 5: Be a Tourist in Life
I went to the town of Guiones with a few girls from my group. The town was super cute with some local shops and cafes. Walking around it hit me and one of the girls, oh my goodness, we’re in Costa Rica, this is awesome! Being a tourist makes you super aware of everything. You notice interesting birds, cool cafe umbrellas, a weird coffee/oil spill looking puddle, hot men walking on the side of the road (ok you might notice this anyway), interesting shells, cool statues. You maintain a sense of mindfulness that’s often difficult at home. I got some cute bracelets and a pair of pants that I may have passed by if I weren’t a tourist. Having the mindset of a tourist in life, makes the world more colorful, interesting, and stimulating.
When we returned to Nosara a few of the women went to a local restaurant while the rest of us had dinner at the retreat center. One of my group mates Claire is a massage therapist. She’s super cool and I totally pick her brain about everything. She introduced us to the concept of the IChing (which I’ll describe in a later post) and showed me this awesome device she uses at her practice called the proteus. It’s a light and sound meditation machine that uses sensory stimulation to improve focus, enhance relaxation, and even creativity. Of course I definitely wanted to try it out! You basically put on these cool glasses and a headset and choose the program you want. I was planning on blogging so I told her I wanted to do the creativity program. It’s a sensory overload at first but oddly calming at the same time. I liked it a lot. It really makes mindfulness and awareness easy for those who may have trouble meditating and feeling relaxed.
Staying open to new things and people, continuing to learn, and asking questions can make you feel like a tourist in life overall. Just when you think you know everything there is to know about everything, you meet people and see places that bring cool new things to learn. Always approach life like a tourist. Ask a lot of questions and take every opportunity to meet people who are passionate about what they do. Also, never underestimate your own expertise and knowledge. You never know who might benefit from it. When you remain open to new things the world will look a lot brighter and you might learn something that changes your attitude or unlocks areas of expertise or interest you didn’t know you had before.