The name "Costa Rica" will immediately ring the bell if you haven't already visited this rich, natural Land of wonders.
Whenever you think "Costa Rica" you picture beautiful beaches and green mountains; Roaring volcanoes and magical tropical jungles that together comprehends 5% of the Global biodiversity, considering that this land represents only 0.03% of the Earth's territory.
This colorful country has lots of treasures that are now known by thousands of tourists, but there are still a couple of secrets this paradise holds. I’m going to share a small adventure I had in a cold humid jungle and how I discovered Costa Rica's natural secret to well being.
I woke up really early a Saturday morning and my friend and neighbor was getting ready to go out in his hiking boots. I asked him where he was going. Surprised to see me out of bed so early, he told me he was going to help build an aboriginal "tipi" up in some mountains. Impressed by the idea, I told him if I could join him! 15 minutes later we were riding my car up the mountains where the Central Valley meets the Caribbean border. It was rainy season in Costa Rica, so it was a bit chilly, but nice if you're going to do some "exercise". Getting a bit off-road, the experience started before even arriving. We met some of my friend's friends who were cutting bamboo trees by the side of the road and help them carry them inside my car. From that point on, we drove for maybe a bit more than an hour through a beautiful dark green landscape covered by thin layers of fog that at points breached by the morning rays of light; for me, this exhibition already made worth the driving, I felt calm and peaceful, but most important, I felt happy for being out of my bed; being exposed to a different surrounding took away all my negative thoughts from my day to day routine.
Stress is a killer. It's not only a "state of mind" you have to battle with in your daily-basis. For me, it's like a bug that deteriorates your entire system, making you more vulnerable to diseases and sickness. On a long term, it might even shorten your life.
It's very hard to fight stress off on the daily struggle; it probably will give you more stress just to think that you're stressed out. I've been there; feeling tired, lowering my productivity; sometimes I’m angry out of nothing, affecting my family and those that surround me. It's just overwhelming how fast everything is going and how technology and communication has reached a frequency we cant keep up with and ends up consuming us.
I always try to get away from my routine, at least 30 minutes during the day, I leave everything and walk my dog out and just sit somewhere to read while he plays around. But sometimes this is not enough and luckily this one weekend I left my heavy, tired head at home and freed myself from any attachments.
By exposing yourself to new, different experiences in life you might find awakening and learn how to balance your work with things that make you happy, this was what I was about to discover. My friend told me to stop the car on a wet dirt road. He got out of the car and opened an improvised gate made with thick wire and wood sticks; it was a "stargate" to new possibilities.
There was an old lady that had a small house inside the property, so we paid her $2.00 to let us park the car there, after that, we started walking down a hill until we arrived to this magical place. A thick cloud forest with treetops so tall your eyes can't reach where they ended, an infinite green color scheme continuously changing as the fog slowly consumed the forest. On brief moments we would see an open space between trees, giving a spectacular view of what seemed to be an endless mountain range. A well-kept secret trail that soon will talk to us through its natural beauty.
Everything felt very harmonious, almost as if we were a link within Nature; I mean, we evolved from nature, shouldn't we feel more connected to it?
I think we use our brains like if it were a mechanical non-stop organ. It's true the brain is always working, but we over exceed its fast-paced energy. We should slow down and seek out surroundings that inspire us; nature sure knows how to make you feel restored! I proved this theory right. Once we entered this forest, it was time to try its healing powers.
“...the occasional contemplation of natural scenes of an impressive character…is favorable to the health and vigor of men.” - Frederick Law Olmsted
It started raining, but we didn’t mind getting wet, it was part of the experience and part of becoming one with nature. We now were literally "forest bathing" and now that we were reconnecting, we entered a sort of meditation; surrounded by the quiet sounds of trees moving with the short breezes of wind, pushing the fog, creating white veils towards our path. Different bird songs tuned a symphony on a loop, creating a mantra, quieting our mind and relaxing our bodies. At this moment we started walking slowly, taking big breathes...opening our senses.
This was like an out-of-body experience, I just went somewhere else in my head, like leaving my body; I was in some sort of trance. All of these natural elements working together to take you to a place where you felt as one with the universe, what I call my "body's energy" (or soul) found it's core and I was in total tranquility.
As we continued the path I will start to see everything with more detail; the textures in different leafs, the organic, strategic patterns of tree roots that stand out of the ground with living organisms all around them. It seemed obvious how all this eco-system worked together for the benefit of every single molecule, being there just felt right, I was energized and felt more vigorous.
We ended up at the banks of a small stream, we washed our faces in its water, and its cold temperature freshened us up. I woke up from this magical dream and I felt like in a new reality; a more relaxed -free of everything- sense that gave me goose bumps, it was almost as being reborn. All my senses were sharply awaken, feeling every drop of water caressing my skin.
That is how I discovered the natural secret of well being in Costa Rica. I learned that our minds and bodies could relax in any natural surrounding. Our senses must be adapted to them; we were once among plants and trees, not traffic and office noises. We shouldn’t think of Nature as going out for a cup of coffee or shopping; we should see it as a way to increase our health, but most importantly to be happy. Happiness is life.
Story & Photos by Juancho Otalvaro