Montezuma: Be a light unto yourself

Attitude of Gratitude:

I’m thankful for these objects and people that keep coming into my life at exactly the right moment. I’m thankful that I’ve had full days to do nothing but read. I’m thankful to have the power of both no-thingness and alone-ness. I’m thankful for all the lessons I continue to learn along the way.

One of my first days walking the beach in Montezuma I found a semilla ojo de buey, eye of the bull seed, washed along shore.

semillas

These seeds drift all over the world, getting picked up and tossed around by the ocean’s pull, but are native to the tropics. Sometimes they spend years drifting along. They are good luck charms with healing properties that help develop strength to face change. I read somewhere that,  “When we know we have to deal with something that requires great effort, this seed gives us all the energy we need.” I instantly felt like I was meant to find the semilla ojo de buey.

In my previous post about Montezuma, I wrote about mine and Elizabeth’s conversation about the people who are drawn to Montezuma. At the end of our conversation she said, “And then I wonder if people look at me and think these things. I’m lost, but I’m purposefully lost.”

Montezuma is the perfect place to be purposefully lost.

While in Montezuma I spent full days doing nothing but reading. I spent a lot of time alone contemplating what it means to be purposefully lost, and I found out more about myself.

Afterall part of the reason I also came to Costa Rica was to be purposefully lost. I was drained from constant years of schooling, taking 16 to 20 credits every semester while working two jobs and maintaining internships, scheduling hangout dates with friends between lunch breaks, going from one relationship to the next, and feeling like my life was turning into a never-ending to-do-list. Since being in Costa Rica for the past four months, I’ve definitely learned a lot about slowing down, being comfortable with doing nothing, and finding the courage to be alone, sometimes with only the roar of the ocean drifting into my ears.

After revealing a few things about myself to my roommate Nolita, she told me I needed to speak my truth more. “You are a powerful being when you speak your truth.” But what does that mean exactly? She said that the Universe keeps putting certain patterns into my life so I can realize that they are happening and deal with them. She told me to shift perspective and be in gratitude for things that happened instead of picking them apart. There’s that gratitude, once again showing up in some form of my travels.

Speaking your truth means standing your ground, not giving up, not giving in, and sticking up for what you believe in no matter what.

The next day at Devaya Yoga I picked a card from a deck similar to a Tarot card and it said,

“Growth comes not by fighting with what it wrong, but by loving what is right.”

Instead of looking at a situation and thinking about everything that went wrong, remember what went right. What went wrong antagonizes you. While this can act as a driving force of change for you to be better, you need to also focus on what you know is already true in your heart, what is already right for you. If the reason for why things went wrong has been a similar pattern in your life, then be in gratitude that that pattern presented itself once again, and move forward with what is right. This can also be applied to people and relationships. Learn to love what is right about someone instead of picking apart their flaws. Of course all of this is easier said than done, but another lesson in growth is good for all of us.

03

A few days later at the 03 Institute I picked some Osho Zen Tarot cards. Lately anxiety kicked into my brain as I thought about the future and life post-Costa Rica. The present moment slipped away as my mind constantly wandered to the nonexistent, the future. Before I knew what the Osho Zen Tarot cards were, I picked a card from the top of the deck to look at it. It was completely black and said in white type, “No-thingness.” I thought that was a little weird so I put it back and walked away. Later I shuffled the deck and picked the card, “Alone-ness.” I laughed, showed Nolita and she said, “There’s another one in there that seems bad too,” and showed me “No-thingness.” I couldn’t get away from this card.

No-thingness says, “Relax into the nothingness of not knowing. Treasure each empty moment of the experience. Something sacred is about to be born. The nothing is not just nothing, it is all. It is vibrant with all possibilities. It is potential, absolute potential. It is unmanifest yet, but it contains all. Why in the middle become so worried, anxious, why create such despair? Nothingness to nothingness is the whole journey.”

It’s okay to not know what comes next. In Western culture we are taught the opposite. We are pushed into college straight from high school and then pushed into careers and family life. We often have plans far in advance. We have family and friends who nag us about what we’re doing with our lives. The future looms over us. What we forget to realize is that, it’s okay not to know. It’s okay to let the Universe unfold exactly as it should. It’s okay to not be in control of every little thing that happens to you. It’s okay to let go. Everything, even the nothingness, is part of the experience.

Which goes hand in hand with Alone-ness:

“When there is no significant other in our lives we can either be lonely, or enjoy the freedom that solitude brings. We can either feel isolated and bitter, or celebrate the fact that our vision is strong enough even to survive the powerful human need for the approval of family, friends or colleagues. Take responsibility for the choice you have made. The humble figure in this card glows with a light that emanates from within. Gautam Buddha said, ‘Be a light unto yourself.’ Ultimately each of us must develop within ourselves the capacity to make our way through the darkness without any companions, maps or guides. There is a tremendous difference between loneliness and aloneness. Loneliness is absence of the other. Aloneness is the presence of oneself. Aloneness is very positive. It is a presence, overflowing presence. You are so full of presence that you can fill the whole universe with your presence and there is no need for anybody.”

Remember that being alone is okay. Being alone doesn’t necessarily mean being lonely. Remember that each one of us carries a light inside of us. We can access this light, this power, anytime.

Learn to feel joy in solitude. Learn to know the thoughts that flutter through your mind when no one else is there to influence them. Learn to know how you want to spend the day when the choice is completely up to you. Learn to feel comfortable with nothing but your presence and your breath on your skin. Learn to sit in silence and observe. Then you’ll see how beautiful everything can truly be.

anamaya

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Montezuma Attracts

Attitude of Gratitude:

I’m thankful that no matter where I go in Costa Rica I somehow end up seeing a familiar face. I’m thankful for natural tidal pools. I’m thankful for Montezuma.

In my hostel one night my roommate Elizabeth and I started talking about Montezuma. She said, “I’ve been to so many places in the world, and I’ve heard here more than anywhere else people say, ‘That person is so weird. That person is a little off.’ I’ve never heard people say that so many times in one day before. This place definitely attracts people who are a little lost.”

Montezuma

Right after this conversation my Tico friend Andrei picked me up to get dinner. I asked him about his day, and he shook his head as he said, “Oh man I just got stuck in a two hour conversation with this guy. He just got divorced, and he kept talking about burning things. Crazy people here.”

Montezuma attracts lost souls.

One day on the street I overheard a guy say to two women in a stopped car, “There are no rules here. We’re the rulebreakers and the black sheep of our families.” Days later at the Saturday market I saw him with a wheelbarrow full of coconuts. He kept muttering, cursing and pointing fingers at no one in particular. Andrei later told me that that man, Jack of the Jungle, took too much Reina de la Noche and never came back.

Montezuma attracts spiritual-seekers, yogis, health-conscious folks, healers, people who need to be healed, creators, kindred spirits, backpackers and all kinds of alternative types.

A few times a week I took vinyasa flow classes at Montezuma Yoga, a beautiful outdoor terrace studio at Los Mangos hotel. There I met like-minded people who I saw at the community farmers’ market and other events around town. I also took classes at Devaya Yoga, right in town. One day I was the only one who showed up, so Devaya, the owner, gave me a “healing bodywork” session. In between talking fast about her own life, she’d say random things about my life like, “Continue to use your non-dominant hand. You’re not going to be a journalist, but you’re going to write something. Writing and beauty will dominate your life. You’re traveling alone, aren’t you? Brave for a Libra.”

Montezuma Yoga

Montezuma Yoga

Montezuma Yoga

Montezuma Yoga

One of my favorite yoga classes was on the beach for a Full Moon Rise class outside of Ylang Ylang Beach Resort led by Ireni Stamou. It was one of the best yoga classes I’ve ever taken. After Shavasana the full moon hung low in the sky over the ocean illuminating all of us.

Because there was a retreat happening I was never able to take a class there, but another yoga attraction in Montezuma is Anamaya. It’s a body, mind and spirit resort on top of the hill with spectacular views. I would love to go to a retreat there someday.

View from Anamaya

View from Anamaya

Almost every day in Montezuma I ran into someone I knew. My first night in Montezuma I saw my manager from the outdoor store I worked at in New Jersey. He just happened to be in the middle of the street, right across from my line of vision. I knew he was going to be in Costa Rica, but I didn’t expect to see him in the middle of the street on my first night in Montezuma.

I ran into three people who also volunteered at Rancho Margot. One of them, Jennifer, told me, “You’re gonna love it here. Happy, healthy people.” She’s studying with Dr. Teodoro, a naturopath, at the 03 Institute in Delicias, which is up the hill a bit from Montezuma on the way to Santa Teresa. The 03 is a spa, wellness and healing center. I did the sauna and cold plunge there and also got a facial. I highly recommend this place for everyone, even if you think you don’t need any kind of treatment. It’s a beautiful, tranquil place just to be.

O3

O3

Montezuma attracts love. 

When I was in Santa Teresa my hostel roommate there said that Montezuma was thee place to fall in love. Her and her boyfriend were having problems, and Montezuma changed everything. A guy I met in Montezuma told me, “Montezuma is special for relationships. There’s something about it that makes you fall in love.”

Some say it’s because of the waterfalls.

I got this picture from google because the day I was there the water was brown from the mud.

I got this picture from google because the day I was there the water was brown from the mud.

Andrei said Montezuma is his favorite place in Costa Rica. “I think it has something to do with the waterfalls. Something about them affects your wellbeing and your spiritually. It releases something in your mind,” Andrei said. “Montezuma just maximizes whatever you’re feeling. Here I just feel things. I stop thinking and start feeling.” Cesar, the co-director of my hostel, told me he originally moved to Montezuma because of the waterfalls.

Others will tell you it’s because Montezuma is one of the Blue Zones of the world. A Blue Zone is an area where scientists have found that people live longer and know how to be happier. The whole Nicoya Peninsula is considered a Blue Zone. In 2004, the man behind the Blue Zone concept, Dan Buettner, teamed up with National Geographic and hired the world’s best longevity researchers to identify places around the world where people lived measurably better.  In these Blue Zones they found that people reach age 100 at rates 10 times greater than in the United States. Find out more information about Blue Zones here.

Montezuma attracted me.

Before I came to Costa Rica everyone that had been to Costa Rica told me that I had to go to Montezuma. They all got the same dreamy look in their eyes and sheepish grin as they talked about it. Before I came, it was one of the only towns in Costa Rica I knew about. I was hoping to go right away, but didn’t make it until April. In Costa Rica different people I met had opinions about Montezuma that went from one side of the spectrum to the complete opposite. While I was in Puerto Viejo, I felt really called to Montezuma. I knew it was time to head there.

The first few days I spent in Montezuma I didn’t see what all the hype was about. For starters the prices of everything from clothing and souvenirs to food were the most expensive I’d seen in the whole country. Most casados cost anywhere from 3500 to 4000. But I did find one for 2500 at El Capitan, a hostel/restaurant in town. There are places in Costa Rica with a similar vibe that have cheaper price tags. But by two weeks in, I too started to develop that dreamy look in my eyes and fell under Montezuma’s spell. I abandoned my ideas to explore other parts of the country and decided to stay in Montezuma longer.

Montezuma is on the eastern side of the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. The sunrise side. The sun rises in Montezuma and sets in Mal Pais/Santa Teresa, about 19 km away. To get to Montezuma you drive down steep hills that never seem to stop winding. Between the trees, azure water sparkles in the distance, but it doesn’t seem like anything else can exist down there.

Is there anything down there?

Is there anything down there?

Most of the restaurants, travel agencies and souvenir shops run along the two perpendicular streets along the beach. The Nicoya Peninsula’s information website says, “Montezuma’s town center, with charming old wood houses, itinerant artists, and vivid street life has an almost Caribbean flair and feels like the open-air living room of the community where a continuous mellow party takes place.” There is no post office or bank, but there’s an ATM. There are plenty of vegetarian eateries in town and quite a few places to get vegan food as well. The party night in town is Thursday when Chico’s Bar hosts Reggae Night. The street is blocked off for performers and firedancers.

One street in town

One street in town

The  other street in town

The other street in town

In Montezuma I was instantly greeted with kindness and remembered how friendly the locals on the Nicoya Peninsula are. A huge part of that is thanks to Kerri Bowers and Cesar Benavides, the founders of Proyecto Montezuma, a nonprofit organization which provides free English classes for locals, TEFL training, a tour agency, a hostel, and more, all in one. I ended up staying at Proyecto Montezuma for 16 days when I originally thought I’d spend a week at the most.

The hostel, on a ledge overlooking the ocean with two accesible beaches and natural tidal pools, is the perfect place to relax. It’s about a seven minute walk from downtown and a two minute walk from the waterfalls. It’s perfect for people who want a quieter stay, away from the hustle and bustle of town.

The side of Proyecto Lodge that faces the water

The side of Proyecto Lodge that faces the water

The view on the right of the hostel with the tidal pools.

The view on the right of the hostel with the tidal pools.

The left side of Proyecto

The view on the left side of the hostel.

That is what I had right at my fingertips day in and day out. Life just continues to get better.

The day I left Santa Teresa

It was one of those days where you don´t know whether to laugh or cry at the end of it. So I shook my head and did a little bit of both as I thanked the universe for everything that had been happening to me.

“Lord I´ve got to keep on moving,” Bob Marley sung over the speakers at Casa Zen as I was signing my farewell in the hostel´s guestbook. Even though I´d met some wonderful people and learned a lot, Bob Marley reaffirmed what I already knew, it was time to move on. I hugged my friends goodbye and sadness rushed through me. Goodbye. Why did my friend, Adrian, a yoga instructor at Casa Zen, say goodbye as he hugged me? Goodbye was too definite for me. After he left, I realized I should have said ´see you later´ or ´nos vemos.´

To get to La Fortuna from Santa Teresa, I had another long day of travel ahead of me. Buses and ferries and taxis, oh my. I took the 6 a.m. bus outside of Casa Zen to Cobano. There I transferred to the San Jose bus and told the driver I was getting off at San Ramon. Because they oversold the bus I had to stand the whole ride to Paquera, where the ferry was.

When I got off the bus at the pier, I was shocked to see what was in front of me. Adrian, my friend from Casa Zen, was standing there with a huge smile and open arms. “It´s a coincidence,” he said. He happened to be taking the same ferry.

We sat together and talked the whole ride. We spent the first part of the ride making animal noises and the second part of the ride talking about death.

“Are you afraid of death?” He asked me out of nowhere. He told me that all fears stem from a fear of death. To be aware of death is to be aware of life. To live for each moment with the constant knowledge that death can happen at any moment. From that we started talking about attachments and letting go. He said that we´re like monkeys reaching for vines. We grab on to one, use it to help us on our way and then we let go. So we must be attached for a certain amount of time; we cannot be completely unnattached. We are attached to our bodies, and through our bodies we are able to express our minds. Without our bodies, we would just be floating in consciousness. In this way we cannot become deattached.

As I spoke about letting go, Adrian stopped me. “You are referring to letting go in the past tense. We have to let go in the present too. This moment that we´re having already passed.”

He showed me that letting go means letting go of small moments and not just the big moments. Letting go means being able to release every single moment. We agreed how important it is to try to let go of something everyday and then we had to let go of our shared ferry ride. We each went separate ways, but we didn´t say goodbye. We learned to say see you later.

On the next bus ride my mind was still reeling over my conversation with Adrian. I boarded the same bus after the ferry and then got dropped off in San Ramon. From there I had to take a taxi to the next bus station. While I was on my final bus to La Fortuna, a boy with long dreadlocks sat next to me. We found out that where I was going was down the street from where he was going. At the bus station, my ride wasn´t there so without my knowledge Juan phoned Rancho Margot to arrange a ride for me. I was so grateful for his kindness.

After I ate my first meal of the day at a soda, which I was so pleased to find was 500 colones cheaper than anywhere Id been, I walked back to the bus station. A man with gray-tinted facial hair, green eyes, a cowboy hat with feathers attached and a long, thin braid approached me and asked, “Are you coming or going? Let me help you with your bags.”

He lead me around the corner to Red Lava, an information center. He told me he´s on morphine for bone cancer and mentioned the book that´s being written about his life. At Red Lava, a tico teenager with short dreadlocks and lots of friendship bracelets brought my bags upstairs and hid them in a dark corner as he reassured me in perfect English, “Don´t worry, these are incredibly safe.”

Jesus, the cowboy known to the locals as Tomas, asked me if I wanted anything to drink. When I told him I didn´t have money, he said, “Ah some women never change. Come on sweetheart, I´ll buy you something.”

On the way to the supermarket he mentioned the book again and said, “Maybe you´re too young to know about the revolution in Cuba and my father. Did you look at my name on the card? I glanced at the business card he handed me. Jesus Ernesto Guevara. “Che was my father.”

For the rest of the afternoon while I waited for my ride, Che´s so-called son took me around town. He pointed out the best foods and wines to buy and ones not to buy. He picked me flowers and named each one.  He waved at everyone on the street, knew them by name and introduced me to them. Throughout the afternoon he kept making vague references to friends of his like John Lennon and Bob Dylan and referencing dirty jobs he had to do to protect people, jobs like the ones in the movie The Dirty Dozen. He said if I ever needed him, show up in town, mention his name to someone and he´d be there within minutes. When I told him my name he smiled like he knew it all along. “I knew I´d seen those eyes before. My first wife´s name was April. She was both an angel and the devil´s wife.” He said he felt like he was back in the ’70s.

Back at Red Lava I swung in a chair hammock as I continued to wait for my ride. Tomas continued to bring me flowers and he even brought me a baby rabbit. When my ride showed up, Eric, the tico teenager who worked at Red Lava, took off his neckalace that I mentioned I liked and handed it to me. “A present for you. Welcome to La Fortuna.”

When I arrived at Rancho Margot, the first volunteer I met was William. Within five minutes we discovered that he lived on the same floor as my best friend did their first semester of college at University of Nevada Reno.

“There are no such things as coincidences,” he said. No such thing as a coincidence.

Playa Guiones: The Paradise of Surf and Yoga

When you read about Guiones in the travel guidebooks, most of them say something along the lines of:

“The town attracts residents whose idea of Heaven is to perfect their headstand, amble along one of the three absolutely pristine beaches, or paddle out to surf. A town so laid back that each day seems to last a week.”

Everyone I met in Guiones agreed, “People are here to surf or practice yoga.” People travel to Guiones from all over the world to do both. Most of the people I encountered were locals, expats, families or people vacationing. It´s not a crowded tourist town, which I was very thankful to find out. I´d pass the same people on the street multiple times a day.

Playa Guiones (pronounced ge-oh-nays) is a jungle beach town located in Nosara, in the Guanacaste Province on the Nicoya Peninsula. The peninsula is on the west coast of Costa Rica, and it looks like a limb reaching towards the sea. Or if Costa Rica were a seahorse, the Nicoya Peninsula would be the head.

guiones beach

Wherever you need to go, a jungle path will take you there.

Wherever you need to go, a jungle path will take you there.

The province is named after Costa Rica’s national tree, a guanacaste. This tree is pictured on Costa Rica’s 2000 mil bill.  Nosara is named after an indegienous woman who slit her wrists rather than reveal her tribe’s treasure to a rival tribe. Her blood formed the Nosara River.

Guanacaste, the hot and dry province, is said to get more sun than any other part of the country. At this time of the year, January February  the tree leaves and bushes are brittle. It’s almost as if you can hear them breaking from the dryness when you pass.

To get to Guiones from the Liberia Airport we drove along a main road for about an hour and then turned down a 22mile unpaved rocky road. Barely any of the roads in Guiones are paved, and everything is covered in dust. Quads, motorcycles and dirtbikes are main modes of transportation. You see people of all ages riding them, often with other people squeezed between their laps.

A street in Playa Guiones

A street in Playa Guiones

Street signs covered in dusty

Street signs covered in dust

Because of the rocky roads, I was very thankful I brought my Reef flipflops which are very durable, and even more thankful I brought my Vibram Five Fingers. Because of the constant dust, I was thankful I had my bandana always handy to cover my mouth and nose. And because of the darkness after sundown, I was glad I had a headlamp and my flashlight.

The downtown area of Guiones is in the southside of town where there are a few versions of a typical yoga boutique: organic and bamboo clothing, paisley patterned scarves and gemstone jewerly. Everything was overpriced and in those types of shops I didn’t see anything that I thought really captured the spirit of Nosara. I was surprised to find that prices are pretty similiar to prices in the United States. Even the food at mini supers and restaurants. The best and least expensive place was Rosies, a soda on the main road, close to Coconut Harry´s Surf Shop. Sodas are family owned cafes that sell traditional Costa Rican food for great prices.

Downtown Guiones

Downtown Guiones

Downtown Guiones

Downtown Guiones

My favorite part of Guiones is that its a very health-conscious community. Not only are there countless yoga classes, there´s a juice bar, an organic grocery, vegetarian options at restaurants and a farmers’ market on Saturdays. There are also stands at the beach entrance where locals sell, pipa, fresh coconuts for 500 colones or $1. Drinking fresh coconuts daily was one of my favorite parts about being in Guiones. It gets dark early, usually around 6 p.m., and because there aren’t any streetlights, it gets really dark. Bars close around 11 p.m. so people go to bed early too.

A traveler I met who has been all over the world, said that Guiones is one of the most spiritually enriching places he’s ever been. “I think this place draws a certain type of person,” people said to me often. And often followed by, “You´ll travel all over Costa Rica but you´ll come back here.” Guiones gives you the time to look inside yourself, to  melt into the rhythms around you, to relax, to not worry, to take your time.

I too was in Heaven practicing yoga numerous times a day. Here´s a list of the yoga studios I practiced at in Guiones:

(Most studios provide free mats. Most studios have a free community class.)

Nosara Yoga Institute 

Nosara Yoga Institute

Nosara Yoga Institute

Nosara Yoga Institute

Nosara Yoga Institute

A world-renowed yoga institute that hosts teacher trainings.

The classes are held in a treetop studio, and yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. The first time I took a class there (It was a sunset flow class) was also the first time I saw monkeys! You walk through the jungle to get to the institute. I love this studio because of how soothing it is to be eye-level with the tops of trees and how beautiful the surroundings are. It´s one of the most serene places I´ve ever been. They mostly have hatha flow classes. Drop-in classes are $10.

*Personal bias: This is my favorite studio in Guiones.

The Healing Centre at Harmony Hotel

The juice bar at the Harmony Hotel

The juice bar at the Harmony Hotel

Another beautiful outdoor space. The Harmony Hotel is a beautiful space to relax in general. They have huts nestled within the jungle and a wonderful juice bar. They have a variety of classes: kundalini, vinyasa, sandy feet on the beach. I tried aerial silk yoga and acro yoga for the first time here. Most classes have a drop-in rate of $12.

Yoga House

Yoga House

Yoga House

There´s an indoor and outdoor practice space. For the month of January they had a free lecture series on Monday nights sponsered by Blue Spirit’s Omega Series. They mostly have flow and restorative classes. There was a community Kundalini class on Sundays. The drop-in rate is $12.

Heart of Guiones Wellness Center

Wellness Center

Across from Tica Massage. On the same road as Casa Tucan. They offer a free community pilates class on Saturdays. I tried Ashtanga yoga here with Laura Waite and fell in love with the practice.

Blue Spirit, a hotel for yoga retreats, is also located in Guiones.

And now on to lodging:

Solo Bueno Hostel:

Solo Bueno

In Espanol this translates to only good. This place is known as a surf hostel. If you look around you’ll notice that many things are made out of broken surfboards.

Solo Bueno Common Room

Solo Bueno Common Room

When you walk in the front door there’s a common room with two hammocks, a couch, a table. There’s a communal kitchen with access to a fridge and applicances. There are cubbies to keep your personal food. There are lockers. There’s one room downstairs with three beds and an open room upstairs with all the other beds.

Upstairs room

Upstairs room

A bed is $14/night, camping is $10/night. If you stay for a week you get a reduced rate of $13 or $9/night. Because of the size, this place feels much homey-er than most hostels I have stayed at.

A few other inexpensive places to stay in Guiones:

4 You Hostal

Nosara Beach Hostel

Kaya Sol

The Gilded Iguana

Random Tidbits about Guiones:

With most of the toilets in Guiones and most parts of Costa Rica, you have to dispose toilet paper in a wastebasket. You can’t flush anything else down the toilet because of fragile jungle septic systems.

Keep an eye out for scorpions and snakes.

This family was in my friend´s sink.

This family was in my friend´s sink.

Nicaraguans walk the beach selling pottery, but they won´t bother you if you´re not interested. Other craftsmen set up tables outside the section of the beach by town mainly selling jewelry. But you really need to be aware of swindlers like this one:

Fin, the best jewelry maker in town.

Fin, the best jewelry maker in town.