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Five Months in Costa Rica

Dear reader,

I wish to share some of the insight that has been made available to me after five months of living outside of the U.S, in the beautiful land of Costa Rica. I realized that this length of time - five months - is the longest I've been abroad in one place outside of my old home in Arizona. I've traveled around and lived in a few places, but never for more than a few months. I guess this deserves a little back story which I am happy to share here.

I'll start this story by making the historical statement of how, approximately one year ago, the entire world shifted when public society as a whole shutdown due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. I was leaving Costa Rica on March 15, 2020 after spending three weeks teaching yoga at a festival (Mana-fest) and leading/ facilitating my very first group yoga retreat. We were at the airport when we saw the news. Our flight was one of the last one's back to the States before Costa Rica shut its borders to tourists. Many were trapped in the country (not a bad place to get stuck, I'd say). From March 2020 until July 2020, the world was experiencing a tumultuous series of events, consisting of city-wide lockdowns, border closures, travel restrictions, and other chaos. Fear of this novel virus and its lethality permeated the atmosphere and prevented people from breathing (quite literally). It was a very interesting time, to say the least.

By the end of the summer 2020, with the completion of the programs we had been running through our yoga school Bridge the Gap Yoga and one final summer retreat, I was feeling free and clear to leave home. Travel calls my name a few times a year, and the urge to be alone, to be free, to set sail on a new voyage beckons me. I've lived my life in cycles like this since I first left my career as a mortgage banker back in May 2015 and traveled solo to Costa Rica for the first time in July 2015. The cycles seem to be an ebb and flow of a commitment to serving myself, to my own heart, and a commitment to serving the community and others. Of course, there are cross-overs and sometimes the lines blur between the two. I pray that one day the two worlds will merge, and I won't feel the need to "run away", as sometimes it can feel exactly like that. The difference is that I am usually running straight into the work I need to do, to elevate my soul and spirit, in order to serve in a greater or perhaps purer capacity. I've noticed that this is the trend in my own healing work and path. I will leave "home" and focus on strengthening my spiritual practice, my connection to God, to Nature, to the flow of life that is happening through me, and I tune deeply into the subtle signals that get drowned out by the noise of the world. This is made possible through spending time alone, or otherwise removing myself from the daily duties of my everyday life. These retreats have become an integral part of life ever since my very first experience with retreating myself back in July 2015, which was my first trip to Costa Rica as mentioned, where I attending my first yoga training at . It was here that I saw the great value of an immersion into being, a reconnection with my essence, and a stripping back of all the conditions and attachments that kept me in the flow of my normal routines and habits. In my studies into spirituality and the evolution of consciousness, it seems that these retreats serve and have served many as an accelerator for the inward journey - a journey into the heart. The time alone, in solitude, in some form of contemplate practice, will assist us in the process of seeing beyond the mind and into the space that births the mind and its contents. The key word there is space. We all need it, we all know it, but few are willing to create it for themselves. Our worldly duties and obligations pile onto our plate until it feels impossible to escape them, even for a long weekend, without checking the phone or responding to e-mails (and thereby keeping us connected to our limited world). To touch the infinite is to go beyond the finite. However, I am getting off track here.... hopefully this is building context for the story I am sharing.

The cycles of my life have showed me there is a consistently strong inward pull to renew my spirit, and when I honor this inward pull I am rewarded immensely with new spiritual insight, awakenings to my inner truth, and other invaluable gems that are found in the mining of my own heart and consciousness. I find that I can scratch this itch in a daily contemplative practice which involves body, breath and mind (yoga), but the more I practice, the more the urge arises for me to take considerable chunks of time out of not only my daily life to practice, but periods of weeks or even months to invest into this path. Since my first retreat in 2015 I've spent at least two periods of time each year attending retreats of this nature, taking time off to be alone, to not be involved in worldly affairs, and to tend solely to the flame inside my heart. Over the six years that I've been doing this, there have been dozens of experiences that are best left unexplained and marked as indescribable, ineffable and grace-filled moments of pure magick. I will comment that my own awakenings to the mysterious forces that govern our Reality have come purely by grace, but this doesn't stop me from making considerable effort and disciplining myself to align with these forces in the way that wisdom shows me how. I will also say that I am learning, and learning, and learning... but perhaps a more accurate way to describe where I am at now, is that I am un-learning.

Coming and going to Costa Rica since 2015 has continued to strip my soul bare, and leave me with a feeling that I have a lot to learn. Nature has a lot to teach me. If I could just be quiet and listen. Spending time each morning being with my breath, being with silence, listening deeply, praying with a heart filled with a curious love. This is my commune with Nature, with God, and for almost seven years I've been diving deep in the ancient sciences of Yoga as it has been my experience that these practices are designed to assist humans in revealing their true essence. The more I practice yoga, the deeper my longing to commune with Nature becomes. And with this longing comes obvious and unavoidable forks in the road. The path meanders onward but the deeper I go the more my conditions and human nature become apparent to me, in stark contrast to the Dharma that is the Soul manifesting itself through the human form. That is to say, a Soul manifesting itself through the human form looks like an action that is clearly aligned on all levels of one's being, without need for intellectual confirmation, in fact without any need for an outside confirmation of any sort but rather a level of deep communion and intuitive knowing at an unshakable dimension of one's inner being. It is this inner being that is consistently guiding us forward - some may call it the Soul, perhaps it is connected to Nature and to the Cosmos, but regardless of how we choose to call it, human beings are not without this inner compass. No, I do not believe we are ever left "without", I believe that God comes to us all in a perfectly normal and ordinary way, guiding each of us on our path, whether we choose to acknowledge the existence of God or other. Nature would leave none of Her children alone inside such a beautiful Creation such as existence itself. The perfect harmony of the Universe requires a perfect intelligence to govern all the pieces. This is my own personal philosophy as it arises in this moment, and perhaps this insight changes and shifts with time, or perhaps it is more deeply confirmed as life unfolds, the knowing of either is not important to me. I feel this innate perfection at a level deep within my being as I look out and hear the sounds of birds, feel the sea breeze come up the hill from the ocean, and watch the sun beam down upon flowers dotted with bees and butterflies. It seems obvious. Nature is intelligent, pure and perfect, utter intelligence and beauty, regardless of how the human intellect might interpret the Laws of our Cosmos. It needs no validation of any sort, just as the inner being within us needs no validation of the right choice on its Path. Dharma is upheld.

So, yeah, Nature continues to teach me, and each trip to Costa Rica (or any retreat, for that matter) brings me into closer contact with Her. A closer and more sensitive contact to my heart, a deeper listening, and more space to receive and hear the wisdom of life.

I arrived to Costa Rica after two months with my teacher Steve Harrison in England. This was a spontaneous trip that bore great fruit. My first time in England was when I arrived in 2016, when I first traveled the world in search of sacred knowledge. I was a devout yoga practitioner at the time, and still very new to 'the Path', so I left home to find a teacher who could guide me. I didn't know this at the time, but I felt it deep in my heart. I followed my heart all the way to India, where I first met Master Steve, and knew that he was the teacher I was seeking. So I went to England and spent four months there with Steve and his yoga school (Yoga Sanctuary) - from September 2016 to December 2016 - studying, practicing and training intensely with him and the Yoga Sanctuary Sangha during that time. It was there that I received many blessings, too many to name and impossible to describe anyways, so I'll leave the details for another story. Suffice to say my time there was very fruitful and the impact that Steve and his family had on me and my life continues to evolve and unfold during this time now. I've brought this side story up now to give context, as I spent the next four years (from the time I left England in December 2016 until August 2020) working on the practices and techniques that he had showed me, but also developing my own refinement of the energetic awakening that I had received during that four month long period of intense sadhana. I would say that my first time arriving to England I was "rough around the edges" - a young and ambitious 26 year old, ready to go to the end of the Earth to dig deep into the caverns of consciousness. I was unpolished, and perhaps a bit immature, but I was eager and willing. This made me a great student, but little else. So by the time I returned in 2020, after spending four years building my own community back in Arizona, I had learned a lot about the teacher Steve that I so adored and looked up to. In a way, I had followed in his footsteps, and lovingly. Four years of following the path in this way, sharing the teachings, leading retreats, holding space and facilitating at many gatherings, leading weekly classes and having a group of my own students to care for brought me to a level of understanding and connection with this man that I would not have had otherwise. In a way, my love for him grew (although on one level I acknowledge that there was an immediate Soul recognition when I saw him and feel unconditional love for him regardless). But parts of my ego needed to be purified, tempered and refined in order for me to connect with him on a level beyond the image I had projected of him.

This side-story is shared now as I was discussing how I took a two month trip to England from August 2020 to October 2020. This was a side excursion, one of those soul journey's that arises because that is what life has decided for you. I was intending to fly to Costa Rica at the end of July to see my then girlfriend, Tanya, who I had developed a long-term relationship with over the period of our COVID lockdown. I had a lot of love for her, and still do, but when the flight got canceled because Costa Rica hadn't opened it borders yet (this was at the end of July 2020) I knew life had a different plan for me. So I messaged Steve, asked what he was up to, and asked if I could come visit. I got the green light and was on a flight to London within a few weeks. I arrived there and discovered that there was plenty of Karma Yoga to do, as Steve had just broke ground in building a retreat center for his yoga school. How blessed was I? On this second trip to England, I had the opportunity to finally repay the debt that I felt for the teacher that had given me so much on my first trip. I spent the next six weeks working all day, every day with the Master at Wildwood (the name of the retreat space). We got up, practiced yoga, hit the road to work, came home, showered, practiced yoga, ate, and went to bed. Repeat for six weeks. I was able to bond with this man that I loved so much, and in a real human way, rather than from some elevated spiritual status state that can often come when you look up to a teacher or mentor. It was a big lesson for me, a coming home to myself in a way, to see my own growth and to see my own maturation, and to have that reflected to me through Steve. Living in the small cabin in his back garden, I connected more with his family, with his wife Sarah and his daughters. I loved it and love them so much. This little side excursion to England marked a turning point in my life, as it felt like a major cycle had completed itself and a big loop of open energy was closed. By October 2020, the project was complete, a Yoga Teacher Training program was successfully launched out of it, and I was able to move on in this Wholeness. I said my goodbyes to Steve and his family, and got on a flight to Costa Rica where I was to meet up finally with Tanya.

I arrived October 8, 2020. To Costa Rica. To the place I've been saying I would eventually call home since my first real taste of what Nature feels like, back in 2015. Something about being a desert boy, raised in the Sun and the dust my whole life, is soothed deeply by the nourishing moistness of the humid tropical air, the flowing waterfalls, and the sandy beaches. Yeah, I'm sure if you asked most people who know me, they would say that I am fire... I need water in my life to balance the heat.

That water came in the form of the woman I was arriving to see. Tanya was/ is a beautiful soul. We shared a deep love and connection that was unparalleled in any of my previous relationships. The level of understanding and trust between us was powerful, nourishing, and healing to my spirit. In my adult life, in the few relationships I'd been in, I had attracted a few fiery spirits to reflect to me my own fire. The Goddess, Shakti, if the fire that transform our limited life into a less limited existence. Sometimes this comes in the form of love that can appear as destructive. I've learned to confuse destruction as a bad thing - it makes room for Creation. Ash is the universal fertilizer. But when things are too hot, for too long, they burn themselves out. Tanya and I met around a fire (literally), and it was through the fire that we went (in a beautiful way). She supported me and assisted me in the transition and transformation I had to undergo in order to let go of an old life and old sense of self that I was still clinging to, with all my prefabricated conclusions and ideals about who or what I was. The first few months of being in Costa Rica with her was continuous transformation in this way. Also, being with Her, with Nature, has showed me to slow down, to listen, to create space. And the reflection I had through Tanya's presence in my life eventually came to the point where I realized a certain level of these lessons had been learned. It was a difficult task, to extricate myself from the attachments I had formed around her and who she was to me, but the more I communed with my inner being, the more it became the obvious and right choice to make. My heart ached with this realization - that our paths were separating, and that our ways would part. Steve once told me "Shakti's a bitch". I took that to mean that the creative life-force and energy that manifests through us and as us, guiding our way in each phase of our life, can be quite impersonal. In my experience, this is true. Shakti is indeed a bitch, as she does not care for our human attachments or how we view the world. Her job is to transform us, to rebirth us into who we are actually meant to be, and not who we project ourselves to be. The Hindu Goddess Kali is often depicted as having a a bloody mouth and tongue with a necklace of severed human heads and a belt of severed arms. The fierce form of the archetypal feminine energy represents the great power of Nature to destroy and renew and transform and change. Feminine energy IS this change, this chaotic force. This isn't exclusive to the female form, as this energy is present in all of Nature. It is the nature of a hurricane to sweep away and destroy. This is not personal, nor is it evil or bad. It is merely how existence renews itself. To see the love in this process is to acknowledge its divinity. Life's path for us is unavoidable, and sometimes things need to burn along the way in order for us to see clearly. The human heart, due to its conditions and nature, is often quite blocked from loving freely and unconditionally. We put restrictions and build walls around our heart due to fear. It is a fear that has been poisoning us from a young age, in the first moments that we were hurt or let down, perhaps even as young as being a baby and realizing our separation from the blissful womb of our Mother. Only now, we are in the womb of life, and we have forgotten our connection to the Mother. This forgetting is what causes fear to creep in, to attachments to form, and for a true Love of God to disappear. I believe the spiritual path is a path of returning to this space of pure Love for God, for Life, and for Nature, and this manifests as a complete and total trust in life. The complete trust will prevent us from deceiving ourselves and carry ourselves from a place of honesty and transparency. But, we need to learn and untangle the knots of where we have been deceiving ourselves, where we've been blocking ourselves from Love, and from life. It is a process, and gratefully we have energies in the Universe which support this unraveling. Jai Ma!

It wasn't long into my trip to Costa Rica that I realized that this is now my home. I had finally completed what I needed to complete back "home" to feel like this was now where I would place my new roots. The realization had dawned in waves, and as it grew stronger, it came with the realization that this would be a solo path for me. It was not a time to be in a committed relationship. It was time for Grant to commune deeply with his own Spirit, to connect with Nature, to have space and to listen. I had spent a lot of time in my sadhana since arriving to Costa Rica - the land has an affect on me, spiritually - and my personal spiritual practice was deepening considerably. Which results in an acceleration process in a few things. The karmas seem to quicken, as in, whatever actions (causes) I've taken in the past seem to come to their resulting effects quicker, and the loops close much faster. Anything that is not in full alignment with Nature but is embedded in my human condition gets burnt out, and what is left is a purer "seeing" of the Moment. This "seeing" of the Moment is very much like a coming home to the Self. The limited self, the identity and personality, with all its likes, dislikes, preferences and aversions, becomes nothing more than a looking glass to participate with life. It is with this pure recognition of the Moment that I am no longer re-acting to life, but I am in response and participation with Her. Wisdom becomes obvious and spontaneous and intuitive, versus something that arises from the intellect or rationality. A discriminative function emerges which assists me in discerning what is appropriate and aligned for my Soul and what is not. This reminds of one of the definitions of Yoga sadhana - sadhana is meant to help a person distinguish between all that is Soul and what is not Soul. A fitting definition, I'd say.

What is the Soul? Perhaps it is nothing more than a transparent human being, allowing what is naturally and spontaneously arising from within their Heart out into the world, with no objection, judgment, or restriction of any kind. Perhaps it is the free flow of life-energy, pouring through an individual, into their environment, in pure service to the environment, as this unrestricted Soul sees that it is not apart from the world, nor is it even part OF the world, but that it is the harmoniously interwoven Spirit that flows through all things and manifests through one human to the next. It is Nature, seen through the human lens, but without any of the restrictive human conditions or labels that distort the mind. Perhaps the Soul is Love, or that Love is the Soul, and as one discovers who they are, and what their essence might be, they delight in the discovery that the unchained human heart is the Soul manifested. Who knows.

I would say that I am unlearning more than I am learning. Five months being in Costa Rica has brought me closer to my heart than I've ever been. I am feeling connected to my body, to my breath, and to a mind that is being purified by Nature's Way - a way of simplicity and truth. I am recognizing that what I thought I knew or have known is merely a form of thinly masked ignorance to guard a heart that is still not open. I see that I have a long way to go. I am grateful to be in a land where this process is unfolding effortlessly and naturally, where I am not required to restrict myself but I can be free and play in the ocean and waves and waterfalls of Costa Rica. The water soothes this fire; the same fire that burns brightly in my heart and continues to consume all that is not me, all that is in the way of God's Love.

My prayers are growing deeper as I chant holy names early in the morning to connect me to my heart, and do simple breathing exercises that connect me to my body and breath. I pray to have a clear channel to feel the Spirit that is alive in me. I pray to be able to serve but I know that at this time, with the recent awakenings and realizations that I'm going through, I might just need space. Space for myself, space for Nature, and space for Life. I want to investigate ever more deeply the process that is unfolding within me. I want to let go of the things known and thought to be true and instead accept the energy that is alive in me in each new moment as the Truth. I want to commune with this energy and find a way to express it creatively and lovingly. I want to listen and watch and observe carefully how Life is, holding space for Life, instead of trying to force, or act prematurely, or manifest. I want to allow myself to Manifest; to allow the Shakti to guide me. Perhaps she is a bitch, but I feel her Love more than ever and trust in Her.

I think these next few months of my life, arriving to Costa Rica, are going to be exactly that - arriving. Arriving home. To an open Heart. To Space. To Trust. And to Life. I am not planning anything. I have a yoga retreat to lead next week with a group of some close friends, and then I have a vast emptiness that extends afterwards. What will I do? Where will life take me? I am creating space for it all to unfold as it should. I know I will remain here in Costa Rica, but I know not what I will do. I create space for my being, for the presence of my Soul, and for Love. I plan to make music, to write, and to just fall in love all over again with the mystery of Life. I am falling in Love with my Mother. She has been so good to me, and I've just forgotten. Like an impetuous child, I've forgotten the grace and blessing that has been ever-present for me, all along the way. I've lost trust but I am regaining it. With a slow and steady awakening to it, I am becoming more and more a lover of the Divine. God's Love. Sita Ram.

I look forward to meeting you along the way, because I see now that if our Souls cross, it is due to grace and love. I bow to this grace, and I bow to the Eternal and Mysterious Spirit that brings us together, again and again, and allows us to reflect the Divine Love that permeates every crevasse of our Universe. Thank you for walking with me, and may blessings rain like golden nectar upon your journey. Om.

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