Recently, my family and I brought our daughter to Costa Rica to enroll in an IB school with full immersion in Spanish, and yet still allow us to work full-time, thanks to a good internet connection (most of the time, anyway) and an awesome staff.
The stress and pace of life in America was getting to us all and we thought some tropical time would do us some good. You know, a Jimmy Buffetesque change in latitude. It takes a little time to shrug off the insanity of life at the pace we had become accustomed to in America. It took a few days, but I thought I had finally settled in and begun to breathe deeply again. Turns out, I had a long way to go.
In our little town, there is one road in and out of the downtown beach area. It is just wide enough for one car to pass through. One morning, shortly after we arrived, I was doing some writing downtown in a little restaurant on this main street. A large tour company bus stopped in the middle of the road. The driver got out, left the bus running in the middle of the road and went into the little grocery store next door. I thought to myself, “How inconsiderate! You can’t do that!” Soon, several cars and motorcycles had begun to pile up behind the bus, trapped, unable to get off the beach. I was soon fuming at the thoughtless jerk who would do that, imagining what I would say when he finally came back, or what I would do if I was stuck in the line behind him. And then I noticed something…not one person in line was honking their horn. In fact, no one seemed to mind but me! Everyone was patiently waiting, talking to the occupants of their car or to people on the street. When the driver came out of the store, he noticed the line of vehicles, smiled and waved at them….and they all smiled and waved back! And not the one finger wave I imagined would have happened in America.
I realized that I had brought my American attitude and impatience with me, and it was still firmly intact. I know meditation works, but I’m generally fidgety and don’t hold still very long, so I hadn’t really made a regular practice of it. I realized I needed a Costa Rican attitude adjustment.
Here in Costa Rica, a common greeting, rather than “Hello” (“Hola!”), is “Pura Vida”, or Pure Life. It denotes an attitude of gratitude for what they have, the beauty of the surroundings, and a kindness to one another. This is a culture that watches out for each other, is not greedy, and keeps things light. There is no road rage here (in spite of the fact that they are terrible drivers!) There is a gentleness, even under their sometimes rowdy behavior. They stick together. And nothing seems to get them terribly upset. It’s an enviable character trait!
So, I have embarked upon a ritual that helps me focus on my goals during the day, and to maintain a more Pura Vida attitude. Every morning I get up, grab a cup of coffee and sit on my deck which is next to a jungle river with a small view of the ocean. It is a time when all of the animals are waking and getting about their day, with birds singing, parrots screeching and howler monkeys filling the air with the sounds of nature. I tried many different guided meditations, but I settled on just playing native American flute music softly while reading a meditation that I wrote, and then repeating in my head:
May I be Happy,
May I be Healthy,
May I be at Peace.
That may sound corny, but I truly am more relaxed throughout the day, more focused in my work, and easier going. If I wasn’t snow white, I’d almost fit in!
Make time for yourself. We only get one trip on this planet, and dying with more stuff doesn’t make you the winner. Enjoy the ride. Happiness is found in the journey, not some destination.
So, as a therapist, in a crazy, hectic world, we must teach our clients (and ourselves), to slow down, meditate, have gratitude, and be patient with ourselves and others. Mindfulness is key.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on mindfulness, meditation, and your personal practices that you use to keep the madness of the world at bay, both for yourself and for your clients.
Pura Vida! Matt