“If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.” ~William Arthur Ward
They say traveling is the one thing you buy that makes you richer, and I couldn’t agree more. When my yoga instructor first told me about the retreat she was planning in Cabo Matapalo, Costa Rica, I just knew I had to go. What I didn’t know, however, was just how much this trip would change my life for the better.
There’s something so magical about going somewhere you’ve never been before, especially when that place happens to be in the heart of the rainforest.
When living “off the grid,” as the locals called it, you’re forced to disconnect from society and reconnect to your soul. With no television, no phone service, and limited Internet access, material items and social media take a back seat to learning new lessons and making new memories.
It would take a novel to fully explain and describe my unforgettable week in paradise, but for the sake of this post, as well as your time, I thought it would be best to recap the top five lessons I learned while exploring the jungles of Costa Rica, with the intention of encouraging you too to turn off your phone every now and then, and turn on your life.
Lesson #1: Be flexible.
In yoga class, we’re often told to “be flexible, on and off the mat,” and that advice never rang more true than during this trip.
Getting a group of fifteen yogis from Newark, NJ, to Cabo Matapalo, Costa Rica, is a challenge in and of itself, but add in the threat of a huge snowstorm coupled with an airplane malfunction and missed connection, and you’ve got enough to throw even the calmest of yogis into a frenzy!
Thankfully, by some force much larger than all of us, we were able to remain calm, laugh at the confusion, and trust in the process. As it turned out, that hurdle in the trip only brought our group of yogis closer together, showing us all that the more flexible we are, the less life can bend us out of shape.
Lesson #2: Ride the waves.
While I love the ocean, I’ve always been more the type to enjoy it from my beach towel rather than a surfboard. I’m not quite sure what happened to that girl, but I think I must have lost her somewhere between Jersey and the Osa Peninsula, because the second someone mentioned surf lessons, I was all in.
Now, I’ll admit I was definitely a bit nervous to try something new, but I’ve learned through my yoga practice that the only way to improve and progress to more challenging poses is to let my nerves fuel my excitement rather than my fear. So that’s what I did, and what do you know? I got up on my first wave, and just about every one after that.
We can’t control the waves of life—their size, their speed, their motion—but we can control how we react to them. We can either choose to watch the waves from a distance, or to face them head on, trusting that they’ll take us to wherever it is we’re supposed to go. For what it’s worth, I highly suggest the latter.
Lesson #3: Climb the trees.
A little word of advice, if you ever happen to find yourself in Matapalo, Costa Rica, and a local biologist offers to take you and your friends on a nature hike through the rain forest, be prepared to climb some serious trees. It’s basic jungle protocol.
As I watched my fellow yogis climb a seventy-foot tree before me, I realized I could help guide them. I could see where they should place their feet, what branch they should grab with their hands, what step they should make next.
However, once it was my turn to conquer the tree, it wasn’t quite that easy. I could no longer see the big picture; I could only see what was right in front of me, and that, I must admit, was rather intimidating.
That’s the thing with life—it’s all about perspective. Sometimes those big obstacles that seem impossible to conquer can simply be overcome by taking your time, trusting yourself, and knowing that others have gone before you.
Even when you can’t see the top, even when you’re not sure where to step next, you have to keep moving because eventually you’ll make it and that view will be amazing. After all, you never know how high you can go unless you’re willing to climb.
Lesson #4: Embrace the fall.
I should also mention that said tour guide will probably harness you in before you climb and then encourage you to swing out of that seventy-foot tree and channel your inner Tarzan, trusting in him and some questionable cable ropes to guide you back down to safety.
As beautiful a view as it was from the top of that tree, I knew I somehow had to get down. Thus is life. We climb these gigantic trees, we overcome these enormous obstacles, and then we wonder where to go next.
As I rang the bell at the top of the tree, I knew I had two choices—close my eyes and hope for the best, or learn to let go and embrace the fall.
How many times are we faced with similar scenarios in life? We manage to make it all the way to the top and then we either let go gracefully, keeping our eyes open to new possibilities, or shut our eyes, afraid to fall, kicking and screaming until our feet hit the ground.
We can choose to fear the fall, but I must say, there’s a certain freedom that comes with embracing it instead. A certain power in knowing that you made it all the way to the top, and that you can and will do it again. For in order to keep growing, you have to keep climbing, even if that means falling every now and then.
Lesson #5: Trust the process.
Each day in Costa Rica was a new adventure filled with new challenges to overcome, new lessons to learn, and new memories to make, all of which would have been impossible to do and enjoy without a sense of faith and trust in the process. See, that’s the key to life— connecting with our mind, body, and soul so much so that we are confident in all we’re capable of achieving.
But at the end of the day, we don’t need to travel internationally to learn and embrace these lessons.
Sometimes all it takes is just a moment to disconnect from society, and re-connect to our souls; to remember to be flexible, to have the courage to ride the waves, to have the strength to climb the trees, to have the wisdom to embrace the falls, and most importantly, to have the confidence to trust ourselves, every step of the way.
Photo by Colin Davis