Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Pura Vida > Dolce Vita

After an emotional morning saying goodbye to people who I had traded so much heart with over the course of teacher training, Greta and Jess and I continued on our own adventure. 

Greta: let me tell you about Greta. My first interaction with Greta was on an online forum for our teacher training, and Greta had posted that she was looking for a roommate before training began.  
Greta and I instantly clicked, and talked about our plans to travel and see what ever else we could manage see in Costa Rica in the couple of days we had after teacher training ended. In retrospect I still think its pretty incredible that she was so open to plan an adventure with someone she hadn't met yet (thank goodness for me, because I can't imagine Costa Rica without her!)

Greta has an incomparable sense of adventure and a vast wealth of love to give to the world. The best way I can describe her is that she is a rainbow distilled into a human being. I am so grateful for all that this little lady taught me. 

This gorgeous soul is Jess, who has come to be like a sister in many ways. Jess and I met and almost instantly realized we had so many things to talk about and work out and through together. I am eternally grateful that I found her when I did, or that she found me. Jess had no period, no full stop at the end of her teacher training, and was open to joining Greta and I on our adventure to Nosara. So on we went. 


When I was in Nosara, it was March, and it was dry season. To me, it seems ironic that the hotter the climate, the deader everything is, because I am used to when things are cold and dreary it also means that everything is dead. It was strange to see that in the equivalent of what I consider a Canadian summer, everything was dead or dying. This is the importance of travelling: experiencing things that are upside down or backwards from your usual way of thinking about them. 

When we got to the Lagarta Lodge where we were staying, we were greeted with fresh coconut water. 

I had never liked coconut water before, but then I had only ever had it from a tetra pack from a grocery store. Coconut water from a coconut that is machete'd open by a jacked Costa Rican lady seems so much more legit, and evidently tasted better (is it possible to taste context? Because I think what I'm saying is that I did.)

The meals at our teacher training were all vegetarian (and ayurvedic to boot!), and after teacher training, we loved how great we felt, so decided to continue to not eat meat. 

After lunch, our room was ready, so we went to check out our pad for our stay. 

Boy, we weren't disappointed. Can you even believe that view of the ocean flanked by the rain forest? (Side note: is it possible for anyone ever to be disappointed in Costa Rica? One of my friends who you will meet later in this post had ants crawling in her underwear bag in her suitcase after a 12 hour long travel day, which she then brought into our other friend's hotel room. They both took it in stride… A few other friends got "attacked by" (okay, I'm being dramatic, 'surprised by' and 'stung by' are more accurate) scorpions and barely even flinched. Apparently pura vida is an instant state of mind). 

Our first morning in Nosara, Greta and Jess and I rose with the sun. Jess decided to do some yoga on our patio overlooking the ocean while Greta and I traipsed happily into the rain forest that was literally the backyard to the lodge where we stayed. 

Is there a word for when leaves sift the sunlight that pass through them, like nature's stained glass window? There should be. 

We came upon what I feel was the highlight of the hike: 

A vast clearing filled with massive trees whose roots were exposed to show us the way in which they appeared infinite and tangled. 

As far as we could see on either side of us were roots ecstatically spiralling into and out of the ground, intertwining with one another. 

The pictures do not do this breathtaking view justice. 

What better way to pay tribute to these incredible trees than by taking tree pose? 

After our inspired yoga poses, we played on the roots as balance beams… 

… and Greta quite literally became the tree hugger that we all already knew she was. 

With a sense of reluctance we peeled ourselves away from these incredible trees and continued on the road away from the grove of infinite roots, with eager excitement for what the path had in store for us ahead. 

Exploring was a multi-sensory experience. The exotic sounds of the monkeys and birds enveloped us, and the scent of trees and the leaves in the humid air flooded our noses. We saw things that we never imagined we could see, and when we felt around with our hands, what we felt didn't always match our other senses. 

The adaptability of nature never ceases to amaze me. Whenever I need to feel hope, I know I can immerse myself in nature and be instantly uplifted. Take for example this tree (above), who uses its bark to extend the surface area by which it can absorb sunlight and become even more proficient at photosynthesis, thereby maximizing its energy. Can you even believe how cunning that tree is, to overcome the elements that threatened its survival? Pretty amazing if you think about it. 

Other trees adapted in various, but all unique ways. We may have been tree huggers in the photos above, but we certainly weren't about to hug this spiky tree. 

Greta went to touch this bamboo tree, and found that even though the bark looked smooth, when she ran her hand up towards the sky, it actually felt like a fur coat.

We are yogis after all, and when the mood to arm balance strikes you all of a sudden on the path in a rain forest in Costa Rica, you more or less just have to concede and go with it. (Also, its Greta… when doesn't the mood strike her to take on some advanced yoga asana would be a better question.)

As we meandered through the trails, we made sure to take the time to stop and smell the flowers, being entirely present in our experience. 

We emerged from the rain forest to find a river that seemed to run almost into the ocean, but not quite (to our vantage point anyways!)

People were doing SUP on the river, however when I talked to one of the locals, they mentioned that saltwater alligators hung out in the river, which immediately and entirely extinguished any of my interest in trying to SUP in Nosara. 

Perhaps one of the things to take away from these extraordinary trees in Nosara, is that even though they are all extremely unique, the are similar in the way they use their roots and their grounding to allow them to reach up. Although I am always looking for the next adventure, the next challenge, and am busy flying from event to event, it is important to find grounding, to root down into the present, and to absorb and appreciate what each moment has to give me. The important thing is synthesizing all of the wonderful aspects of each moment and pulling them into my self, so that I can grow and reach new heights. Perhaps grounding down is the best way to learn to fly.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Battle Studies and the Radio Lottery

 On the flight from Newark to Liberia, in my anti-nausea/ sleep deprived state the urge to listen to John Mayer’s album Battle Studies struck me. This is especially peculiar and contentious, because I more or less loathe(d) John Mayer, much to my friend Charles chagrin. We had had many discussions where Charlie would extol on the virtues of Mr. Mayer, and I could never get past how in love with himself he was with his silly guitar solos (I mean, c’mon, he’s John Mayer, not Jimi Hendrix or even Jack White).  Nevertheless, for some reason beyond me, I listened to Battle Studies on repeat for an hour or so while I flew over volcanoes and realized I was not in Kansas (okay, Canada) anymore. 

            The story gets more strange when every night after I checked my bed for scorpions and before I fell asleep, I compulsively listened to Mayer’s “Heartbreak Warfare”. Admittedly, this year has held a fair share of heartbreak for me, but I’m quite sure it has for most of us. Sorrow is miserable feeling, but its also beautiful because its part of the human experience. What a glorious thing to be able to feel devastated, and to hold on to the hope of feeling the exhilarating high of the opposite extreme. And so it was that the unexpected John Mayer continued to serenade me to sleep every night in Costa Rica. 

The odds kept getting weird when the next day, my newfound soul friends all poured ourselves into a pile of cuddles on a swinging couch after a long day of teacher training and had acoustic guitar jam sessions. We were lucky enough to find a guitar and even more fortunate that some of us were talented enough to play it (thanks Jason, Greta and Mykayla!) One of our favourite songs to sing was another John Mayer song from Battle Studies, called “Who Says”. I promise you, I had not mentioned my growing preoccupation with this album to any of my friends, and I was not even the one who started to sing it. I just allowed myself to lay there in my friends arms, with my arms around my friends, and let the feeling of being totally enveloped in love be permanently associated with this song. The best part is that we made it our own, slowing the tempo down entirely, pausing where we needed to, adding lots of giggles, repeating parts whenever we felt we needed to. I recorded it on my phone, and I still listen to it whenever I feel sad, or happy, or miss my friends, or just want to smile. 

  A couple of days later, my friend Brittany from back home tagged me in a facebook post listing her favourite albums. Brittany is a music aficionado in the best sense. If I were to print you a transcript of our facebook conversations, at least 50% would be of her sending me links to fantastic music. I’m sure you can see where this is going, but of course she had Battle Studies on her list. During my time at yoga teacher training, Brittany was my personal antidote to homesickness. Anytime I felt unsure of myself, or like I was missing out on anything back home, I just had to check my inbox and there would be an update from her. This little hint that Battle Studies meant to her what it was growing to mean to me was just a small symbol at how much I appreciated her constant support buoying me up. 

             Are you still with me? Because this is where it starts to get real. Our last morning at teacher training arrived, and the people who I had spent every minute of every day with (seriously, we mostly even slept in the same room), who I had laughed with, cried with, who taught me, who changed me, who invested themselves in me, and who I gave pieces of myself to, those people that I love packed their things in a shuttle that would take them back to the airport and away from me. In the background, the radio played. 
             I am pretty certain it was a satellite radio, but even still, there are so many variables with radio. There is the timing of radio hosts talking, of commercials, there are an infinite number of artists, and exponentially compacting that is the number songs in the catalogue of any particular artist. Sometimes when you listen to the radio, you hear that Katy Perry song for the four millionth time and want to steer your car into oncoming traffic. That makes it even more special when there is a song that you are craving, that would entirely make your day, that makes you feel like you really ARE the lead in your own movie, and yes, this is the soundtrack to your life. 

             On the radio that day, at precisely the moment I looked at my friend Taylor’s eyes spill over, and as she told me my eyes were pretty when I cried,  “Heartbreak Warfare” came on the radio.  I broke open. It was like listening to this song before I even knew these people, and every night as I fell asleep was priming me for this moment, of one of the hardest parts of my life, of having to say goodbye to people that I love. 

             I have no idea what I believe about the divinity, about the universe, about probability. But I do believe that this moment was magic. At teacher training, one of our favourite things to do was chant. We would sing seemingly random sounds, finish our practices with long and resounding “om”s . We didn’t know what we were saying, and while this can be a dangerous thing (words are powerful things), our focus was more about the vibration of the sounds that we were making, and how that made us feel, and what that meant to us. We made our own meaning with chanting together, and with singing together nightly. I made my own meaning to Battle Studies with the events I associate with those particular vibrations. 

             Think about going to a live concert. The vibrations of the music are literally tangible as they course through your body. The same vibrations cause physiological responses in hundreds or thousands of strangers, causing you to instantly be a part of one larger community. 
             Music, sound waves, shared vibration have the power to heal, unify and connect—how is that for magic? 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Let's Get Involved: Graduation Day in Nosara

I recently gathered the courage to go to Yoga Teacher Training. I did my research, and a particular training in Costa Rica seemed to be calling out to me. Less than a month after I decided to do it, my plane touched down in Liberia, Costa Rica.

Upon arrival in Liberia, I met a group of people who I would eventually share a lifetime bond with. From the get go, we bonded over our wanderlust, and within the hour decided to get our feet wet immediately, so hopped on a local bus into the heart of Liberia. As we stepped off the bus, a girl with a short blonde pixie cut and the sexiest English accent you've ever heard declares, "Right. Let's get involved".

I just thought this was the most perfect phrase for this trip, for travelling, for life in general. This phrase became the official motto of the trip, and was used for such menial things as "I am going to involve myself with that ice cream", to "Let's get involved with our first practise teach".

In the nature of jumping in with two feet, or into the deep end, or getting your feet wet (I am the worst at mixing metaphors), I am starting this blog with the end of my trip. This is largely because for the first two weeks of the trip while I was completing the training, we lived by the sun: we were up at 530 am and only finished at 730 at night, which did not give me lots of time to be a good travel blogger. This diiiiid however make me quite snap happy on our graduation day, when we took a field trip to Nosara.

We were dropped off in town, and walked along a wide, long wavy surfer beach called Playa Guiones. 

After walking a couple of kilometres on the beach, we came to a rocky peak, so we had to cut through a path in the brush to continue to the other side of town. 

On our journey, we stopped to make a friend. 

This little guy escorted us for a full 45 minute hike. What a nice guy. (Maybe his owner that he ditched didn't share that sentiment…)

We also made sure to stop and take time time to adore the local flora. 

After following the path through the brush, we came to an opening to the other section of Nosara's beach, called Playa Pelada. 

The approach to the beach from our path was elevated, and made for quite the view.

Playa Pelada was a smaller, calmer cove like beach, so we had some playtime. 

I think I can speak for the group when I say our favourite feature of Playa Pelada was the blowhole. 

Seriously, who doesn't love an all natural Splash Pad/ water fountain. 

My spunky Brit and I got throughly soaked...

So I made sure to be prepared upon my return…. 

We worked up a good hunger with our beach trek and play time, so settled into what is probably my new favourite restaurant in the world, called La Luna. 

La Luna is conveniently nestled riiiight onto Playa Pelada.

It didn't take us long to make ourselves right at home. 

As if the location wasn't enough of a selling point, just check out the bohemian decor of the restaurant. It helped create a perfect beachside vibe. 

My favourite feature of La Luna were these two gorgeous pups. 

Dear reader, please meet my spirit animal. 

I like to think of her name as Luna-- obviously because of the restaurant, but I also sort of have a thing for the moon as a symbol. 

Her dark fur contrasted with her bright eyes captivated me right from the moment I saw her.

And her playfulness melted my heart. 

I only wish could have taken her home.

Once the gang all caught up, we settled in for some beverages… 

Which, after eating and drinking and living so purely for 2 weeks, we all felt the effects of immediately (in a good way!)

Don't get me wrong, the food was AWESOME at our training. I love vegetables, I really do… 

But NOTHING can replace the taste of a good pizza. 

We snacked away the rest of the afternoon munching on calamari, plantains with guacamole, and different mediterranean dips (its turns out La Luna is owned by a Greek family). 

Enough about the food...Not a bad view from table, right? 

After our wonderful dinner, I decided to try to walk off some pizza by people watching on the beach. 

Is there any better way to people watch than through the lens of a camera? 

The day had been slightly overcast, but when the sun started to set, it was like the most beautiful filter had been put on my eyes. 

After some sunset playtime, La Luna turned on some fairy lights they had strung (seriously, this place was plucked from one of my dreams). 

The fairy lights beckoned us back to our final night with our friends and teachers. 
I have been thinking a lot about wanderlust lately, and about how my heart seems to get split into so many pieces every time I travel. The hard part of being afflicted with wanderlust is that the people that really get you, the people you meet and fall head over heels in love with, those people all have wanderlust too. 

So at present, pieces of my heart are all around the world. Does this sound lonely or tragic? Its not...

I couldn't have it any other way.