Sweat dripped off my face after the ninth downward dog done in rapid sequence to Katy Perry’s top hit “Chained to the Rhythm”.
Power yoga is a place I have not visited often but it felt good to move through the poses and challenge myself in the 90 degree heat. Most of the yoga I have enjoyed has been an hour of slow steady strengthening and stretching. Some teachers focus more on the spiritual aspect of introspection and self growth. Some are sticklers for correct formation or holding poses for agonizingly long seconds while others are lucky to be able to speak over the chatter box ladies catching up on the latest gossip.
Sean Conley had played in the NFL for 4 years and was my yoga instructor for the week long retreat at Blue Spirit Resort and Spa in Costa Rica. He is an inspirational, friendly father of 4 who lives in Pittsburgh with his family. He and his wife Karen own four yoga studios and plan several retreats each year to Mexico, Costa Rica and Cuba.
I arrived to Liberia, Costa Rica airport and took the almost 3 hour shuttle to Blue Spirit Resort in Nosara. The last one hour of travel was difficult as the road was full of potholes or was simply gravel, so the driver needed to weave around the street to avoid damaging his van.
Everyone who visits Blue Spirit stays for a full seven days. Three vegetarian meals each day are included in the package. The meals were amazingly delicious. Meals were served buffet style and there was always a wide variety of dishes as well as fresh bread and butter. Since I wasn’t eating meat, I of course went all out on bread and butter. A cafe is available to purchase juices, smoothies, desserts and in the evenings, wine and beer.
My room was amazing. I did not know what to expect. Rooms vary depending on how much you pay. Some economy units include tents with fans or eco lodges that you can share with a roommate. I had splurged on a single unit and I was not disappointed. My room was one of three Pacific Cottages. The cottage was air-conditioned and had a nice closet and bathroom with a fun out door shower. Also, the best was a front porch with a hammock and sitting bench where you could sit in the jungle, yet hear the ocean not far away.
My first evening, I took a walk just before sunset and took some awesome photos. I had dinner with people that I had rode the shuttle with and then went back to my room and wrote in a journal.
At orientation the first morning, all four groups who were staying at Blue Spirit met together in the Sky Mind Hall with the owners of Blue Spirit. We were given some basic information about Costa Rica and introduced to the therapists available. Suma, who is originally from Germany, offered 60 minutes of Somatic experiencing. This holistic healing is based on the understanding that that symptoms of trauma are the result of a dysregulation in the nervous system. My session seemed like it fit with my 3rd intention of this trip, to find my truth and get in touch with my inner feelings that I have been avoiding. I was able to have a good cry and understand that it is OK to visit that place, but I do not have to live there.
Sunday, we met Lee Gutkind, an author and the founder of the Creative Non-Fiction journal. We were to meet with him two times each day for instruction on writing and then share our writing as the week went on. Lee brought slides and gave us a thorough introduction to the genre of Creative non-fiction. Many best sellers such as Wild, Angela’s Ashes and The Glass Castle are Creative Non-Fiction. Lee gave us the outline for telling good stories with a scene and then giving more information. I was excited to try.
Several flights had been cancelled so some members in our group came a day or so late. Sean Connelly, our yoga instructor, and former kicker for the NY Jets, delivered his first class Sunday evening. Sean was familiar with many of the women on the trip who had taken his classes in the past. The class started and the commands were delivered quickly and executed by yogis in tight leggings and serious expressions. I was glad that I had been practicing for a few years and at least knew what he was talking about, even though I was constantly looking at the other people in class to be sure.
After sweating profusely with consecutive vinyasas and warrior poses, we held still a bit for some balance poses. That is when I first started to get distracted. The sun was setting outside the two large glass walls of window. I am good at knowing when an awesome sunset is coming. The cloud formations were spectacular and the shades of red and orange in the sky are still hard to forget. I wanted so badly to run to my bag and take out my phone for a photo. I knew if I shared that photo with the amazing water view from this high vista, I would get so many likes on Facebook! But I wasn’t supposed to think about that. I was trying to do a balance pose. Knee up. Knee to the side. Look like an airplane. I just wanted to look at that sunset!!
I took a deep breath and remembered that I am here for me. I made 5 intentions for the week. Relax and Just Be were numbers 1 and 5. So I refocused and decided that I could enjoy the sunset and focus on my balance and the rest of class. I was doing this for me and I would focus on gratitude now (number 4). We moved to the floor for happy baby pose, fish pose, pigeon pose and then finally shavasana. I was proud of myself for finishing class, staying focused with my group and now moving into the final rest pose.
I tried to clear my mind and think only of the present. Not think about anything else during this final relaxation pose. I am really good at laying quietly. Trying not to think can be hard, but I was going to do it. That’s when I think my husband sent me one more thing to distract me. Howler Monkeys. Now, I am sure it is not Mike’s fault but seriously once these crazy loud scary monkeys started to make their growling noises outside the windows, I thought to myself, no way is everyone so zen that they can’t hear those crazy monkeys!! I started to laugh, quietly. Now I knew I could do this week and thought, I am still going to have fun.
Settling into the routine of a meal, writing class, yoga, swim in the infinity pool, lunch, time to reflect and read and write on my porch with the hammock. Repeat: afternoon writing class, yoga, swim, dinner, socialize, read before bed. I could have done this for a month or two. It was relaxing. I love to read and if I was going to write a book, what a great place to write.
On Wednesday we had the morning off. Activities were available including zip lining, horse back riding on the beach, paddleboarding, a shuttle to town and surf lessons. I signed up for a surf lesson, that was number 2 on my list, try something new. My new friend I met from Texas joined me and we drove in her rented car to Playa Guiones, 5 km away. The waves roll in from far out so there is plenty of time to ride the wave and then try to stand on the board. I got up a few times but not for long. It was lots of fun!
Two days later, my new friend and I decided to skip Friday morning’s yoga class and rent a board. We went back to town and took turns using the longboard. It had cost us $75 each for the lesson, but was only $10 for 5 hours to rent the board. We both had a successful experience. I was thrilled to be able to stand. We celebrated by having lunch at the Beach Dog Cafe, a hostel and restaurant located right by the beach.
The end of the week came much too quickly for me. I could easily have stayed longer. As I slowly came back to reality, I remembered some of the loss I have had this past year. The fact that I am now a widow really hit me at the airport.
I saw it when I stood behind the young honeymooners. She with her shiny new diamond ring and her strong husband carrying both bags. I felt that loss when I saw the dad carrying the young son around the airport as he asked questions and the dad gave calm attentive answers. I felt it as I saw the grandma and grandpa on line waiting to go through security at the airport with their 2 grandchildren. I imagined their visit to Costa Rica together and how I can never have that.
My reality has changed. The future is not promised. After I came back from chaperoning my son’s youth group trip in 2012, Mike had thought moving to Costa Rica was an option worth considering. I was more practical and felt we needed to wait until the kids graduated high school and maybe college and I was eligible to collect a pension.
I wonder what would have happened if we had moved to Costa Rica then. Maybe we should have. Would Mike still be alive? I often wonder what I could have done to change my story.
That is no longer an option for us.
I feel restored and relaxed from my retreat. I set my intentions, and I achieved what I wanted. I am learning to let go of what I thought should happen and live in what is happening. I am grateful for everyday that I am here and am determined to live a good life, for both of us.