“I don’t want to be here. I don’t like this. I made a huge mistake thinking this would be a cool adventure.”
“Why did I think this would be so great?”
It was the middle of the night. I was lying in my super small mummy-style solo tent in the middle of the Costa Rican Corcovado National Park, and I had to pee. I had to pee really bad.
My stomach was hurting from trying to hold in my pee for hours, but I just couldn’t muster the courage to get out of this tent and face the unknown. I knew what was out there. I could hear them: the animals roaming around in the bushes around me. They had even pulled at my tent with their little beaks and paws.
It could have even been wild boars. And if those noisy animals weren’t enough to make me want to pee myself, it would be the idea of meeting the snakes, scorpions, or forest spirits that inhabited this place. Rather, I pretended to be dead, hoping that the animals wouldn’t notice me, and killed time by singing the same song over and over again in my head:
“Don’t worry…about a thing…cause every little thing…is gonna be all right!”
Here I was, on this magical adventure, spending six days and six nights fasting and meditating in a small 75-square feet circle in the deep rainforest of Costa Rica, surrounded by the tallest trees I had ever seen.
I had thought about doing this for a year. I had imagined conquering my fear of the dark, feeling fully liberated, and becoming truly one with the wild nature. I had imagined how adventurous and mind-shattering this experience would be. And after having re-read the description of the program over 10 times a few months earlier, I had decided to take the leap of faith and fly to Costa Rica.
The preparations had been extensive: getting the right gear in order, abstaining from sugar, alcohol, and coffee, reading books, and practicing different types of meditation, Qi Gong, and Tai Chi. But all I could think of in that first night was why I’d ever imagined this would be fun and liberating.
But as it tends to go with the human body, at a certain moment, I just had to go. I had to get out of that tent and pee, I had to face my fear, and I had to turn on that headlight, unzip my tent, and move into the darkness of the unknown, facing whatever would come my way.
I couldn’t hold my pee in any longer, and these are the lessons I have learned:
1. This too shall pass.
Even in those darkest hours at night, when I would be too scared to fall asleep and sing in my head, time would eventually pass by. Even though it felt like those first three nights lasted a lifetime, at a certain moment, the sun would rise again, and my fear of the unknown would disappear. The fear that felt so real at night would vanish from sight in the morning—like nothing had ever happened.
After surviving the first two nights, I even started to challenge myself to embrace the darkness of the forest. When the moon would rise, I would push myself to meditate outside of my tent. And although the fear never completely subsided, I started to feel okay whole feeling my fear, knowing that when the morning would come again, my fear would subside.
2. Faith is not the same as feeling fearless.
Of course, I knew when subscribing to the program this wasn’t for the faint-hearted. But I thought of myself as an adventurer—as a badass.
I love nature, I had always felt instantly connected to animals, and as one of the guides explained to me in the introduction to the program over the phone, this particular rainforest was of a benign and gentle nature. Somehow, from my Western city girl’s ignorant viewpoint, it had felt safe. I trusted the program. I trusted nature. “It would all be fine,” I reassured myself.
And yes, it was fine. All four of us, sitting in our own circle out of sight of the others, made it through the experience in perfect health. Some basic safety precautions were taken: a walkie-talkie in a plastic bag, a safety whistle, and a buddy system to check on each other every 24 hours without getting in direct contact. But what I never could have guessed is that we can feel so much fear while also having faith.
My fear was real. I’ve never been so scared in my life. I could almost touch it. The possibility of being in real danger was all-encompassing, but I never lost faith; I never lost faith in the experience.
I realized that feeling safe was not required for me to have faith in my safety.
3. Nature just is.
In my total ignorance of what nature actually is, I imagined the experience would be beautiful—maybe even romantic in some way. And I can tell you, it was, but not always in the ways I would’ve thought.
Of course, nature was easy to love in those moments in which colorful butterflies came flying by, a hummingbird swirled around, and the sun played with the bright green leaves. In those moments of beauty, I would feel blissed out, tears would roll down my face, and I would feel at one with the whole galaxy.
But nature wasn’t just an orgasmic colorful paradise. I also experienced nature as boring, harsh, aggressive, and intimidating. When clouds would cover the sun, or the tall trees would cast their shadows, the earth felt dark. Ticks ate me alive, ants angrily bit my feet, and groups of Howler monkeys threw branches and screamed.
Nature isn’t just loving; nature just is. Animals come as they are: present, alive, and loud, creating a wide range of experiences on my human spectrum.
4. Wherever you go, there you are.
You can sit alone in nature all you want, but wherever, you go there with your thoughts, doubts, and fears. I often giggled at the cosmic joke of this seemingly deep and transcending experience while I couldn’t stop my mind from thinking about the grilled cheese sandwiches I was going to eat at home.
There is no fast-track to enlightenment. We have to do the work.
5. Nature helps us discover our true “nature.”
My most precious lesson came when I reentered the real world again. What I hadn’t even noticed, while I was immersed in the jungle, was that I had become fluid.
It was as if my body, mind, and soul had turned liquid while being surrounded by all those tall trees. A deep relaxation had entered my system, making my body feel like liquid gold. Even though my muscles felt sore from sitting on the earth and sleeping on a thin air mattress, it felt like nothing ever could possibly hurt me: not physically, not emotionally, not mentally, not even spiritually. Nothing stuck. It was amazing to just be in nature. And even though I spent so much time getting caught in the games of my mind—feeling fear, or drooling over grilled cheese—my system had gotten rid of many layers of tension and identity. Nature had uncovered my true power: the untouched bliss.
Although that specific experience didn’t last for long, nature had done its job. It had poked its holes through the veil and forever changed my experience of life.
Freedom is our true nature if only we gave ourselves the chance to discover it.