At this time of celebrating a new year, it feels like passing the GO in the board game LIFE. There is a feeling of new possibilities. In the game, players receive $200. In life, we have another chance for a better run around the board this year. As is my ritual, in December I took out my goals from last year, and the past few years to review. It was fascinating.
As I reflected on what I wrote down on those lists, and where I am today I saw a few big successes that I had worked hard to achieve. My business has continued to grow and I am at a good place in my life. What I noticed most, however, was that the goals on my list did not capture the areas of the most significant shifts in my life, relationships and work. I realized the things that had happened were things I had not dared even to write down, or dream could be possible. How could these other things have happened?
In the last few years, my life has turned inside out. I finally realized much of life is not what it seems, nor does life follow the rules of business or neatly sort into tidy expense categories. Like my namesake, Alice, I sipped from tiny bottles that said “drink me,” and outgrew some things. I tasted cakes that said “eat me” and became a miniature version of myself. It’s been a journey through my own Wonderland. Along the way, I’ve been lucky enough to notice flying cards that alerted me to new possibilities in unexpected places.
It was a chalkboard sign in the corner of the yoga room at my gym. Yoga Trip to Costa Rica, May 2015. Two wonderful yogis that I knew and trusted were the guides for the trip. I signed up. The details didn’t matter. I was going to Costa Rica.
Sounds easy and simple. Today, it is a sweet memory. At the time, it was not easy or simple. I was deconstructing some of the structures of my life that were no longer working. It was heartbreaking. I had no idea what was next. For the first time in my life, I had no plan. Prasada was still a fledgling business and resources were tight.
My accountant, who is also my friend, did her best to conceal her concern about my finances. Committing to the trip was a stretch of my courage and trust. Somehow though, I knew it was an investment in the life ahead of me. At that time having that trip to look forward to was a much-needed light in the distance. It was the beacon I moved toward each day.
The trip to Blue Osa delivered so much more than I ever expected. It shifted my life and subsequently, my business. I fell in love—with the country, the people and Blue Osa. I remember wondering as I flew home if it was just a case of summer love.
In my subsequent trips to Costa Rica, I’ve visited other places. They didn’t feel the same. On that first trip to Blue Osa, I knew there were layers of the experience that made it so rich. The beautiful facilities sat at the edge of the beachfront site and had what architects call power of place and so much more. It has taken me a few years, and a broader perspective, to understand all of the layers.
Listening to my own wise voice about what I needed to take care of myself was also the tiny hidden key to unlocking how to take care of my business. Yes, it sounds cliché, but I can only share what I know to be true.
My trip to Blue Osa was not only the best kind of self-care, it also seeded the future, intangible shifts; the goals that I could never write down. It was an invaluable business investment.
The five benefits I share below are not things you can find within a professional development course, marketing strategy or even time with the best business coach. I’ve invested in all of those and they have provided other valuable benefits.
These are something different. These are the things that have made work, play, joy, love, presence, nature, beauty, compassion, peace and tremendous gratitude the new strands of the tapestry of my life.
#1. Being unique and interdependent.
The trip to Blue Osa was with a group of people I did not know. In the past, I had a belief that other people, especially people I did not know, were a potential threat. Many of us have this unconscious belief below the surface because of uncomfortable experiences as a child. It was easier and felt safer for me to keep the circle of people in my life small and familiar, so I’d know what to expect.
I trusted the two women leading the trip and anticipated they would attract people like me. Some of them were. Others were not. On the way to the Newark airport it began. Four women, who barely knew each other, were giving conflicting directions to the long-term parking lot.
I had become very good at shutting people down and taking control in situations like that in the past. But this time I paused. We were now on the trip. The journey had begun. What if we missed the flight? Could I let go and trust that together we’d figure it out?
We made our flight to San Jose and as we loaded the tiny plane for our flight to Puerto Jimenez, and they checked the weight of the luggage to balance the plane, I decided to shed my cloak of independence. On this trip, I was willing to explore being engaged, an interdependent part of the group. This was a chance for the dance with others to be different.
Each day we had slivers of time together, by the pool, eating delicious meals or walking on the beach. We shared about our families, work and heartbreaks. As we learned more about each other, the trust grew between us. It felt nice to lean in.
We also got to know the amazing people who were part of the Blue Osa team who helped us with adventures, prepared our meals and cared for us in every way. They showed us the big hearts and deep pride of the Costa Rican people. Other solo travelers who were there blended into our group and enriched our conversations.
Within the relaxed atmosphere of Blue Osa, the laughs and sharing of food, bug spray and rich time together we felt connected and courageous. There were stories of fears and loss and our sweetest hopes, passions and dreams. We learned how we were different and the same.
As I shared, I felt vulnerable but safe and my new friends helped reflect some of my strengths and talents that I had not recognized. I became more clear about what mattered most to me and my purpose for being here. More importantly, it was a test of my willingness to trust and surrender to being an interdependent part of a group. I needed that practice to kindle my understanding that I can be unique, independent and connected.
Life, and work is a group project. With so many things feeding our fears and encouraging separation, we need each other now more than ever. When we support each other to each find our unique purpose and service, and lift-up our differences with the highest respect as the best gifts we give each other, we can work together. When that happens, anything is possible.
#2. Different scenery = different solutions.
Two weeks before the trip, a colleague asked what part of Cosa Rica I would be visiting. I had no idea. I had not checked the details quite yet. He felt that Osa Peninsula was the best place to go, the most diverse and with the fewest tourists. I crossed my fingers. What were the chances?
I got home and was delighted to discover that Blue Osa was deep in the heart of Osa Peninsula and right on the beach. It felt like the perfect fit for the curious, adventure-seeking part of myself that was waking up again. I had noticed that often as I’d be looking for an image online for an article I was writing, I’d find myself lost in daydreams of being in the places that appeared on my screen.
All of the brain research shows that our brains are designed for novelty and diversity. My brain works best when I am feeding it with new stimulus. It is similar to using a muscle so it does not atrophy. From my past travel experiences, I know how great it makes me feel and Costa Rica promised to be the sumptuous buffet of new scenery I was craving.
Each day at Blue Osa came with new experiences and adventures. I went on a Rainforest Jungle Adventure Hike where our guide helped us see tiny spotted frogs, busy tree cutter ants and the most amazing blue butterflies like the ones you see in Disney movies. Others in our group rode horses on the beach at Cape Matapalo and then rappelled down the impressive King Louis Waterfall and went on a Canopy Zipline.
Something inside me began to stir and come back to life. I felt the stories within me shifting within this new stage. The challenges with my life and business were cast in a new light and new frames emerged. Ideas began to flow like graceful, calming waves. The new scenery began feeding new solutions.
#3. Nature nurtures presence.
I am an earth sign, Taurus girl and I love my time outdoors. For most people, a walk on the beach, the view of a luscious green valley or sitting to watch a fire are enjoyable experiences. They reconnect us to the comforting and soothing rhythms of nature.
A field of work called biophilia and biophilic design now show how and why this happens. It is not my horoscope that determines my desires. It is an inherent human inclination to affiliate with nature. This inclination reflects our past, as homo sapiens who evolved spending most of our long history outdoors.
It is only within the more recent past that humans have spent most of their time indoors. The extensively built environments of most developed countries came about in response to our need for comfort, protection and safety. However, biologically we have not evolved so quickly. We still crave and need connections to nature; the light, air, water, fire and the patterns and rhythms of nature for us to flourish and thrive.
After my first visit to Blue Osa, I wondered if this place was as rare as it seemed. In Costa Rica most places follow one of two approaches. Some have a conquer and command approach. It’s an attempt to control the wild, a constant battle to cut it back and insert safe, tight bubbles of comfort. Nature stays at arm’s length never to touch the pristine, crisp sheets in your air-conditioned room.
The other approach is what you find at a place like Finca Bella Vista, a treehouse community deep in the humid jungle. There you become another creature in nature and hike to your real treehouse. It is life deep within the buzzing whirr of the jungle. Day and night, things creep and crawl, call and cry, filling every square inch of the place with life energy.
Blue Osa is the rare and perfect balance between these two approaches; a magical sweet spot where nature and creature comforts are beautifully interwoven together. When I learned about the vision of the Blue Osa’s founders, I understood how they had worked with what was there, with reverence and respect, for both the place and the inhabitants; those who were there already; humans, plants and animals and imagined every experience for those who were to come.
Every space at Blue Osa vibrates to match the activities within. It is architectural magic when function, comfort and beauty wrap seamlessly together. As our group spent time in the beautiful pool, took in the beautiful colors of the plants and animals, was wrapped in the smells wafting from the food cooking in the concina and the scent of the ylang-ylang flowers, something happened. We all fell into the soothing circadian rhythms of this unique spot on earth. It was like being lovingly rocked by mother earth in her most beautiful cradle.
Words fall short to describe the impact of this environmental nurturing. The nature of Blue Osa, and everything about the place, nourished my capacity to be present for myself and others. I was infused with a deep sense of peace. I felt grounded in myself and I brought that feeling home.
People called it presence. When the first person commented on it I was surprised. Me? Then different people said the same thing. Again, and again. They thanked me, not for my work, or my words or my wisdom; but for my presence. In a distracted world, presence is a gift.
#4. Life and work as play.
The over-booked calendar. A constant yes to more responsibilities and activities. Life as a responsible adult. Intense seriousness. I remember longing for a day with no plans; a day to do whatever I felt like doing, or nothing at all. No schedule, going moment by moment. My reality was more like being tethered to a ticking clock that was constantly measuring my efficiency, by the second. As my life was getting disassembled, so too was my approach to time and activities.
At Blue Osa, I sat and watched kittens play and iguanas chase each other around a tree. I rescued a mouse out of the pool and sat in the morning silence as macaws cracked nuts in a tree over my head. I walked on the beach with aimless curiosity, no agenda and no watch. I left my phone in my room.
They ring beautiful bells at Blue Osa when a meal is ready or a yoga class is about to begin. Without the need to monitor time, and the vise of productivity released, I discovered tiny pockets of delight. Time felt different. Minutes softened and spread to reveal the sweet freedom of play.
When I returned home, I realized I create my attitude toward time and activities. It was my choice to re-engage with my old mindset or hold on to this new softness and sense of play. Could I still get things done?
Slowly, I felt content that what got done each day was enough. The rest was meant for another time. I realized that even though I enjoy the benefits of lightning-fast technology that does not mean everything in life is urgent. As the weeks continued, I noticed, more things got done. I could hear my inner wisdom. I was more clear about what mattered, what to ask for help with and what things needed a polite no.
I started to take a few minutes to notice the beautiful spider spinning her web outside my window. Everything felt lighter and required less effort. The lines began to blur and things started to melt together. The new mixture spread a fragrance of contentment through my days. There was no more work vs. life. It all began to feel like play.
#5. Pura Vida
This one has been the hardest one to comprehend. You will not find this on any job skills or leadership qualities list. Pura Vida is a tagline or motto for Costa Rica. T-shirts, license plates, key chains and airbrushed signs along the roads share these two simple words.
The phrase has multiple meanings, as a greeting or farewell and as a way to say yes, all is well. My favorite description calls it an awareness and perspective of gratitude. It’s translated loosely as pure life.
It’s taken time in the country, driving the bumpy roads, walking the beaches, sweating deep in the jungle and making friends all over Costa Rica to understand this feeling I first experienced at Blue Osa. Pura Vida for me is abiding in deep respect for the grace, wonder, beauty and delight of a simple life, all that I have right now. It is being humbled by the love and support of my community of family and friends, the Prasada team and our amazing clients.
It was the feeling of lying in savasana at the end of a beautiful yoga practice in Blue Osa’s open-air studio; a feeling of sparkling peace within a beautiful blue stillness. Pura Vida and that spirit of living and working has become my compass. There is no metric or scale for that ROI. It is beyond measure.
POST UPDATE: We’ve got another Wholebeing Journey planned for Blue Osa, Costa Rica in May of 2020. We’d love to have you join us.