Costa Rica changed me with her wide open oceans, teaming with life. The wall of heat persistently sank deeper into my bones each day I was there until I relented and relaxed into the flow of life. Each night, the ancestors of the land greeted me in my dreams and taught me how to surrender to living in the present. I watched the natural fires that blazed across the mountainside in amazement that they just went out without much intervention at all from the local people. Fire is representative of Spirit in the Medicine Way I study. It is clear that these people have a good relationship with the spirit world.
I saw the fishermen on the beach each day catching tuna by hand with only a reel and a hook. They said that “pura vida”- the Costa Rican saying- means “pure living.” The Costa Ricans still live mostly off the land. They are dreamy, unstressed people who work in a steady, rhythmic way. They know how to conserve energy. Attention to beauty and simplicity is everywhere you look- the décor, the meals, and the dress of the people. The generosity and open heartedness of the land is also echoed in the people who live there- willing to lend a hand and offer local knowledge without strings attached.
Costa Rica’s indigenous people are named after this ethos of peacefulness and giving. One of the tribe’s names literally means “those who run.” The ancients simply moved when other tribes came in and took over their territory. At first glance, this may seem to some to be capitulating but it seemed to me to be a strategy that saved them energy. Horses do this too; they avert confrontations that are unnecessary by fleeing from predators. When they have to, they fight predators off vehemently. The Costa Rican government today finds creative solutions to border disputes with neighbouring Nicaragua. Today, Costa Rica has no military and puts her funding into protecting the environment and serving her people.
One Costa Rican lady was sincerely perplexed at why Canadians and Americans seemed so stressed all the time and had no patience. I saw many foreigners lose it on local people when they didn’t get their way or when something didn’t go as they had planned it- despite the service being fantastic, timely, and thoughtful all across Costa Rica. It was a stark contrast to the natural fluidity of the land and her people. A masseuse on the beach noted that this tension is deeply felt in the bodies she works on. This is in contrast to the local bodies. I noticed that after massaging clients, the ladies would work on each other restoring their own bodies back to balance. Balance, in fact, seems to be a really important value to Costa Ricans. This is evident in the way they protect their ecosystems.
Costa Ricans also value the elders- not only in their own communities but also across cultures. I was struck by the way the Costa Rican airport officials pulled all the elders out of the customs line up when we arrived and put them through first so they didn’t have to wait. This simply would not happen in Canada. Could you imagine the uproar if anyone jumped queue?
Because I work online, I was able to work in the evenings while I was there after a day of exploration and fun. I had a fear that if I allowed myself to enjoy life and have fun that nothing would get done and the bills would not get paid. What I learned in Costa Rica is that enjoying myself and having fun made me much more efficient and inspired when I did sit down to do my work with the kids. Last month, I interviewed Saida Desilets, PhD on Going Shamanic. The topic was “Sacred Sexuality” and we ended up discussing why experiencing pleasure was so important for humans. She said that pleasure unlocks our creative genius. If we don’t allow ourselves to live from a place of pleasure, we don’t create the neural pathways in our brains that will allow us to fully evolve as humans. This went through my whole being while I was in Costa Rica. It’s not that I didn’t experience pleasure in my life before the trip but I feel that I can relax into this way of being in the world more fully now. And I began to understand the brilliance behind play as a way of learning. Kids know this intuitively- if it is not fun or intrinsically interesting to them, they will not pursue it. Far from being a threat to learning, I’ve found that this enthusiasm-based way of learning means that kids delve much deeper into the areas they study and come away with a knowing of how to apply concepts successfully in everyday life.
I asked Saida why more people don’t live from a place of pleasure when it is evident that they have all their basic needs met. Her response was telling: “It’s not fashionable to be happy.” When she said this, I thought of how many times I’d been told in my life that I could not be happy and responsible at the same time. What if it is more irresponsible not to tap into the happiness and joy within us? What if neuroscientists and spiritual traditions are correct in postulating that this is the one thing that will allow our species to survive and thrive in alignment with life? How can each of us commit to adding more pleasure to our lives each day in ways that do not harm others, the Earth, or ourselves? I wonder how the world would be different within this new paradigm and what novel solutions we could find to the world’s most pressing issues.
To listen to the show with Saida, go here: