This summer my son and I decided to follow our hearts all the way to Costa Rica. Our hopes were to experience the deep jungle and to meet our longings for whatever rare creatures cared to cross our paths.
Mid-way through our adventure we found ourselves heading into unmarked terrain in a decked out Land Rover. Our driver was hell bent for leather as he had been delayed by an accident and was determined to get us to our destination before the countries formidable night fall at 6pm. The ride was a jumbled toss up of craters, creaks and crevices reminding me of how boys might aggressively play with their Tonka trucks on a muddy rutted road; somehow we were in one of those Tonka trucks!… and I had to pee like mad!! Fearing we might actually have to drive under water, I asked in broken Spanish if the roads (or whatever we were on) were ok? Receiving a look of concentrated intensity through the rearview mirror our driver muttered, si bewhnoh, and the Tonka foraged on.
We arrived at the gondola about 2 hours later, hustled into the old cable car and let loose across the Pacuare River where we were met with an ATV pick up and a guide holding 2 fruity drinks… Pura Vida! …A bathroom had to be nearby.
Ten minutes later we arrived at our bungalow… where, following my waddle to the washroom, I took in the immense beauty everywhere. The canopy was 300 feet tall! Gumba’s the size of an entire room marked the age of some trees being several hundred years old!! There was the sound of rushing rapids, rich new smells of tropical plants and fresh earth, unusual bird calls and a soothing moist air that seemed to soften, exfoliate and smooth all at once. The beautiful bamboo bungalows were nestled down into the steep jungle slopes overlooking the Pacuare River and it’s teeming lush banks. A raised patio held a leisurely hammock and two welcoming chairs of which I immediately sunk into one; time took on a new dimension.
Darkness arrived shortly after we did. Hungry and mildly intimidated by the blackness , sans electricity, we made our way to the main lodge for supper. Sitting out on a high deck overlooking the sound of the river and the dancing light of candles, we watched a bonfire flare down on the rocky shore, as our courses arrived. One by one, the most delectable, flavourful, creative, gorgeous, succulent combinations for our palettes pure pleasure and delight! Pura vida!
Our first night was uneventful in some regards and totally a new adventure in others. Simply walking from the lodge to the bungalow in the black of jungle was unique. Our flashlight seemed to be absorbed by the dark as its beam lit the stony path before us. Arriving to the flicker of candlelight, we parted the grand doors and entered the indoor space with little separation from the outer space. The entire bungalow, but one interior wall, the roof and slated floors, was all screen. Several layers of curtain could be drawn for privacy- but otherwise the sounds, smells and ambiance of the jungle were all around…sort of like camping, but in luxury. No locks, no electricity, no people… just the flicker of candle light until the sun rose.
While enjoying a morning breakfast on the beautiful patio deck- I marveled at how here I was in the thick of the jungle and not once had I put on bug repellant. No relentless mosquitoes whining about, annoying wasps frantic for a nip of flesh or stinging cacophony of black flies swarming our food. The very air was calm. We watched an iridescent blue butterfly the size of my two hands float by and it reminded me of the movie Avatar. Brightly coloured birds swooped from the canopy and a small lizard inched across a branch. Life was different here.
After breakfast and before Isaac’s big hike we stopped to watch a fuzzy black and yellow ant walking across the stones. We leaned way down, peering into its personal space, and marveled at its unusual coat. It seemed not to notice us. We watched a gecko sit on a leaf soaking up the sun and high in the canopy a pair of Toucan swept by. We were of no concern to any of them. Their purpose continued on around us; independent of us. We could have been trees.
While Isaac hiked I walked around the grounds and marveled at how well designed, and beautiful, the bungalows and the main lodge were. They were both a part of the jungle and yet still afforded a feeling of luxury, safety and comfort to us human inhabitants. It was hard to describe and hard to understand, but there was something more going on, something different about the place that I had never experienced at any time in my life. I couldn’t identify what it was, I compared it to previous experiences of luxury, beauty, safety, comfort, nature, relaxation, peace, pleasure and joy… and it was some of these, more of these AND also something different…all I could do was let this mysterious feeling soak its way down through the layers over the next 3 nights of our stay.
During our time we zip lined, hiked, walked, played chess, slept, ate, practiced yoga, visited, white water rafted AND continued to observe and feel something very different. Isaac noticed it too. Truly I couldn’t put my finger on it. Was it outside in the jungle or something inside my body? Inpatient for understanding I started to question and contemplate everything.
I learned that the owner used to come to this land camping with close friends. He was a local man and as each person spoke, I saw the respect and admiration they had for his vision. It was obvious, even without confirmation that the place was created with care and love. I learned that all the food was grown locally, sustainably and organically on his farm outside of the valley and I saw it brought in by raft over the days we were there. I saw that the bungalows were made of the land and seemed to be accepted by the land rather than a constructed intrusion of space. I realized that the staff weren’t “workers”… as we typically see, they were indigenous people, people who understood the region, guides whose families belonged for generations and whose very souls were alive in the place. They arrived for a few days and then rotated back out as friends and community. They weren’t conditioned to be marketable, perfect little pleasers with spray on personas; they were authentic natives willing to share some of their history, some of their community and a whole lot of their heart and soul!
The people were different, the land was different and especially the creatures were different! Isaac found a spider in his mosquito netting one evening and was determined to remove it before bed. Gently he coaxed this, rather large by Canadian standards, creature down the netting where together we moved it to a cup and placed it outside. I was struck by how docile, gentle and seemingly unconcerned it was through the whole transition. No sudden lunges or accelerated scurrying off into a crevice or up an arm. No classic unpredictable movements. The creature was calm, allowing and somehow even gentle.
One morning we ordered pancakes with fruit and syrup and only then did the sweet smells of our meal attract flies. A small few, like 2 or 4…. not the swarming hoards one might expect in the jungle. Yes, even the flies were different. They were not the frantic, in your face, all over the map, born to taunt you flies of North America. They were chill…like the spider and even kinda cute. No kidding. Their legs dangled down, furry on the backside, a bit like a bees, and they flew in quite docile, with a seemingly simple and harmless purpose of tasting just a wee bit of syrup…. if I may? They were so easy going even shushing them away felt like overkill, so to Isaac’s mild embarrassment, I pointed to them and spoke. Don’t go there, off you go now….and to his further amazement, they seemed to listen.
I could write a short book about the marvels of our time at the Pacuare Lodge; from the warmth of the people to the excitement and beauty of white water rafting to the delectable nourishment of every bite of every meal. I’ve been home now for over a month and all this while I’ve been contemplating the experience, comparing and contrasting it to life as I know it, to other holidays, to things I’ve read about, feeling the differences and trying to capture and share with words just what that mysterious new feeling was.
Condensed to a single sentence I’ve decided to call it the experience of life without Squeeze. Until I experienced this in such totality; I couldn’t even imagine this feeling of life without some sort of squeeze, somewhere. People, animals, plants, insects, land, water, air, space, time… something always seems to be getting the squeeze in any given situation. Metaphorically speaking the Pacuare Lodge was the Garden of Eden. A place where Every Thing from flies to people live in harmony with their own nature, their own rhythms of being and with each other. There is enough of everything for Every Thing. No rushing, pressure, hoarding, fighting, competition, greed, excess, force, carelessness, …
Imagine the place where an ant can live out its days doing exactly what Ant was born to do. Not needing to find new ground, experience pesticide or live in attack mode out of generations of fear. The spider isn’t frantic for survival and the trees can grow to be many hundreds of years old, creating all kinds of symbiotic relationships from plants to insects and animals. People are valued, respected and afforded the enjoyment and physicality of living relationally with the land, coming together for a common purpose, learning a new language, expressing creativity, sharing their culture and their own uniqueness while living freely with an open heart. It felt that Every Thing was doing what Every Thing was born to do. Where the layers of conditioned fear, anxiety and persona we are accustomed to didn’t exist. In fact the layers of conditioning stood out with absurdity, both in my own self and when the occasional guest brought it in. This soul purpose, with enough for Every Thing, created balance and a deep feeling of harmony. That was the mystery.
It is known that earlier civilizations commonly divided time according to human development. In yogic philosophy these cycles of time are referred to as yugas. Sat Yoga, is a time referred to as The Golden Age; the hallmark of this era was that humanity defined itself by the depth of consciousness and righteousness. It is described as a time without competition, disease, depression or struggle. It is a time when the Vedas- or ancient yogic texts, were written. “Fruits of the earth and heavens were obtained by imagining, by being openhearted and according to personal necessity.”
At one time I would have read such words purely as metaphor or, on a bad day, even fiction. Imagine how far from The Golden Age our modern cultures are now. OMG! We can’t even have a glass of milk, flush the toilet or heat the house without creating imbalance and squeeze somewhere to something or someone. I would render that most people are incapable of even imagining a world where we could all experience a life lived without squeeze, a life where we consult our hearts wisdom before taking the next step, and there is enough for Every Thing. I would dare to say that most people live so immersed in a conditioned modern culture (Kali age) of egocentricity (self interest), fear (greed, force, lies, etc…) and materialism, so separated from their own authentic nature that just reading this blog or contemplating its message is creating anxiety (the proverbial squeeze upon squeeze) or pissing them off or both.
So what now? I live in modern culture, just like you. Of course I challenge people to know themselves, to hear their hearts, to work through unhealthy conditioning, to develop an authentic way of living. Is it enough? I don’t know. But imagine just for a moment the entire world of 8 billion people with each person, each day, doing just one act for the soul purpose of creating a life without squeeze, a life of harmony. Would that be too much to ask?
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
Walden- Thoreau (1817-1862)