I am sitting on my bed at the Gecko Verde Hotel in Samara, Costa Rica. My mum and, her partner, Tim are sitting outside reading. My view is out onto the veranda and, beyond that, of my belongings, strewn over rocks and hanging off trees, catching the rays of the sun with a prayer whispered from me across the soft breeze that the stench of jungle mould will pleeeeaaaassssse blow away and that they will be dry before it’s time to leave here on Friday morning!
The last month here has been what I can only describe as ‘interesting.’ I arrived in Costa Rica from California, having just sat an illuminating 10 day retreat with Jack Kornfield at Spirit Rock Meditation Centre.
Here’s a pic of the retreat centre from the hills I climbed daily
For me, this retreat, amongst many things, was one about permission. Being given permission by the teachers and, most importantly, giving permission to myself to fully let go and follow my own inner wisdom and creativity.
I have sat many retreats over the last ten years and many of them have placed emphasis on meticulously following rules, sitting for long hours and overcoming matter with mind. Alongside providing me with a discipline that has taught me so much, something has never felt quite right about the sense of a divide between that within me which is creative, spontaneous, intuitive and wise and that voice which says ‘should.’ Guidelines can be helpful but, when they become fixed, there is a danger of rigidity in body, heart and mind.
I love this quote from H.H the Dalai Lama: ‘Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.’
I realised a number of years ago that I had been using ‘Spiritual Guidelines’ as a means to stay safe and creating an illusion of control (Aren’t we all control freaks in our own unique ways?!? Hehehe). Over the last five years or so, I have been allowing this misunderstanding to fall away. As a result, life has become increasingly playful and full of delight.
I now see the way much less as ‘mind over matter’ as mind with matter. As Ken Wilber states, it is that which ‘transcends and includes all in a genuine embrace.’ I let go of a lot of my preconceptions about what it means to be ‘Spiritual,’ to practice yoga, of living a ‘right livelihood’ as the Buddhists would say. I have been dropping away the layers, letting concepts dissolve, and looking deeply into my own inner wisdom for the answers moment to moment. And life continues to live itself through me with increasing juiciness!
As Rumi says; “I have been a seeker and I still am, but I stopped asking the books and the stars. I started listening to the teaching of my Soul.”
And, in truth, it is this that has never led me astray. In fact, when I am in touch with this innate part of myself, which exists within all of us, then I am even free to make ‘mistakes.’ Because, in truth, ‘mistakes,’ can be the very things that help us to learn and grow…
Saint Teresa of Avila says: ‘To experience something good it is very useful to have gone astray, and thus acquire experience.’
If we consistently base our lives on what those we have exalted to some ‘higher’ level tell us and fail to reach wisdom through our own experience, then this experience, this wisdom, is never truly our own. We can seek and receive wise guidance and listen to it as long as it resonates but, at the end of the day, it is us that must live our own lives and be committed to and responsible for our own growth, whatever that means to each of us. It is important to see when we are truly living our truth or when we are blindly following what another has told us due to some inner lack of self-worth and a need to feel righteous.
I feel that guidance from a teacher is helpful when it comes from a place in which the teacher encourages us to know ourselves with greater depth, fullness and compassion, to wisely discern and navigate the course of our own lives and way of relating with integrity and authenticity and to empower a sense of deep inner knowing that allows us to live from moment to moment with clear discernment and deep intimacy with life. It is not so helpful when the relationship becomes co-dependent.
And sometimes this way of living, of diving into life, involves making ‘mistakes’…. Which, of course, are only ever mistakes if we see them like that, otherwise they are potent medicine! In fact, part of the magic is that we can’t really go wrong so long as we are awake to it!
And the journey goes on…..
I spent the last month in a community, called Pachamama, in the jungle here in Costa Rica. During my time there I was working in a raw chocolate bar. I enjoyed this experience and learned how to make some really delicious treats. I did not, however, ‘click’ with the community there as I had hoped to. I don’t want to go into too much detail about this as everyone has their own unique experience of a place.
I realised at some point that I could feel inwardly defeated through being there and that this wasn’t helpful for me. At one point I almost left, but I decided to stay and explore what was going on inside of me. I allowed all that I was feeling, which wasn’t so comfortable, to penetrate me deeply, to ripple through my veins and permeate my being.
Through this, a sense of clarity and excitement dawned on me for all that is and is to come. Through diving into the apparent pain of separation I was feeling, I discovered a multitude of feelings and sensations that were as sweet and fluid as any other. I focused on holding and loving them like I would hold the one I love the most. And from this my heart began to swell with a deep appreciation for all that is LIFE and a renewed commitment to listening to and trusting my own inner guidance.
Toward the end of my stay there, I began to journal and write about all the things that I value and would like to encourage and move towards in my life. I became increasingly clear about what is important to me, how much I value open and compassionate communication, creativity and deep intimacy through relationship and life.
I feel so grateful for being able to share what I love with people from all walks of life. I realised I do not want to ‘remove’ myself from society, but to live in a place where I have access to it. I wish to create an environment for living in which I have available the activities and people that nourish my being and, at the same time, be not too far away form a space where I can share all that my being has absorbed.
I have learned so much and feel so excited and inspired by the potential that lies ahead and I feel intimately connected to this moment as it unfolds! It has been wonderful to have my mum visiting me in Costa Rica. She has been an absolute angel and I feel renewed and ready to continue my journey.
In two days’ time I will travel to Guatemala where I hope to stay for a few months before I return to California. I discovered a couple of days ago that I have a place on a Work-study program at the Esalen Institute. I am delighted and excited to be returning there in March. Here is a link with some more information. I will be taking the course with Dorothy Charles beginning March 16th and then, hopefully, staying on for the ‘Body Centred Awareness’ course in April too.
And, in line with my renewed commitment to sharing all that my being absorbs, I plan to return to the UK between June and August to teach for a while. I will be integrating all the wonderful skills I have gathered on this journey into classes and workshops. I SO look forward to reconnecting, learning from, and sharing with all of you. In truth, we all learn so much from each other. You all touch me so deeply and give me such inspiration to always return to this moment and all that it illuminates.
My heart explodes with gratitude for you all. May you all be happy and well and full of Love.
With LOVE ❤