September 25, 2010

Pura Vida: a Yoga Teacher’s hard lessons of love & adventure in Cosa Rica.

Photo by Federico Di Fresco.

Full Circle.

The beauty of being where you are.

“Do you realize that you’ll have come full circle?”

…My mother asked me this recently as I planned my trip back home.

“Yeah, Ma, I can see that,” I said.

“So what then?” she asked.

“One day at a time…” I told her. I haven’t gotten there yet.

Of course, tough questions have a way of hanging around, and this one has been lingering these weeks since my arrival.

When I left home nearly three years ago I had two suitcases of belongings, a dog named Cain—who I loved and cared for better than myself at times—and a head full of unanswered questions. There were those questions of my own that I’d carried around all my life, questions asked of others who didn’t or couldn’t understand, and a multitude of others yet to come. I landed in Costa Rica with a heapful of faith that one step at a time would unfold naturally, and like this I tread with great care into my new life.

Warm, early dawn tropical air greeted me as I stepped from the airport terminal. Kindness from a taxi driver who understood my fatigue carried me from San Jose to Manuel Antonio snuggled in the backseat with my confused dog like two spoons.

Four hours later, groggy eyes looked across mountains and sea and sunshine. “Where to?” the driver asked. “I don’t know,” I managed to respond. “Pura vida,” he replied and continued on.

Sol y Mar Backpackers Hostel received us with a smile, an open door, a clean bed, a hot shower. Days passed much like this as we adapted to our new home.

In small town Costa Rica, atop a rainforested mountain that dwindles down into endless blue sea, a yoga instructor in love with nature and her dog, once accustomed to the humid heat, blended in as easily as the foliage, as smoothly as seafoam into sand.

At least at first. Tourists in a town that thrives on tourism are catered to like kings and queens. There comes a moment, however, when a gringa who hangs around too long shifts from tourist to local—but not fully. It’s in that strange limbo that the real challenge begins.

For two years, I learned to surf in Costa Rica, literally and figuratively…and every wave was a wild ride. I awoke each day with the birds and insects the size of birds singing their wake up call outside my windows. I hiked barefoot through jungle mud, because even Havaianas just don’t hold up. I met new friends daily from all around the world, some who stayed days, others for months. A few are still there journeying on.

I learned a hard lesson in how to not to hold on too tight to anything: I lost Cain one day to an unexpected crocodile on the beach and learned the hardest definition of all of pura vida.

Every day, a new lesson stripped me raw. Every night, I offered what I learned to yogis, new and well-practiced, from all around the globe. I found myself, some days, for a myriad of reasons, without a penny or colón, and learned how far my feet can carry me to wherever I need to go. I learned to crack coconuts for milk and coconut meat. I savored mango season, sometimes out of necessity and sometimes for the pure tasty pleasure of biting in and dribbling sweetness down the front of my bikini on the long hike (that eventually became a leisurely stroll) down the mountain path to the beach. This, the juiciest version and true essence of pura vida.

Sometimes we lose things to make space for something new. I met love one afternoon while walking the very same beach where I’d lost Cain, just one week after burying what washed up of him after a few rainy days. I’ve spent the past year and eleven months learning the joy and pain of having a partner on my journey through all its heights and valleys.

I’ve learned the value of what I’d considered poverty in even my poorest moments while traveling in Nicaragua. I’ve climbed volcanoes and watched red lava spew fiery rivers inches from my feet, lain in Savasana upon a quaking terrace during a tremor in Guatemala. I have climbed through deep passages in the Earth and come back to the surface with a sense of awe. I followed hope to Argentina, which some days felt like another planet altogether, learned a new take on Spanish, wine, cheese and pastries. I’ve slept on white sand beaches in Uruguay when rest was what I needed more than anything else. I learned what it’s like to forget who I am and have to start over, from scratch, like a newborn.

And so now, after all this long time traveling, as I packed up those same tired old suitcases, now worn through, with what’s left of what I’ve got, I realized that the less I carry with me, the more I’ve got to share.

My journeying has brought me home. I don’t know for how long. I don’t know my next step. But I’ve got a heapful of faith that the next step will show up in its time.

I remember during my training to become a yoga teacher, my mentors explained to us exactly why we chant Ommm at the beginning and end of every class. That one small syllable, om, is pregnant with the entire cycle of life. Every person, place and thing, every movement, every breath has a beginning, a continuance, a completion and that resonance that follows that can be felt to the very core.

Some beginnings and endings are not so obvious, and some like birth and death are undeniable. The resonance, however, is unmistakable. Every experience, every person leaves their trace, their hum, their footprint, behind in some tangible way. And sometimes only in that absence, do we know their true significance.

The ocean encompasses the whole globe. How can one say where it begins and where it ends? It makes a great big circle, and I don’t think it asks itself why.

Every day the sun and moon turn themselves full circle ‘round the Earth, and I don’t see a single thing wrong in that.

I have come full circle.

And now, I wait.

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