Healing Trip #4 - Costa Rica
I’ve been putting off telling you all the tale of my trip to Costa Rica. Probably because it was by far the most emotional of these trips to date. Which means the necessary work was being done, but that isn’t always a good time.
When I originally decided to put Costa Rica on my list of travels, it was because one of my soul sisters was leading a retreat there and another friend knew a Shaman in the area that I was hoping to work with. Since one of my requirements for these trips is at least one travel partner to help ensure I don’t end up in a sticky situation, it seemed like a good fit for my itinerary. In the end, I never was able to connect with that Shaman before heading out, so I left without knowing what, exactly, I was hoping to accomplish.
But as we’re all learning through this journey, when a big, gaping void presents itself, that’s when the magic happens.
* * *
We have a saying in Y12SR (the Yoga of 12-Step Recovery) – the issues live in our tissues. Our bodies have an incredible capacity to hold memories and emotions and things we aren’t even aware of. This is why it’s not uncommon to find tears coming during or following an asana practice. It’s all that stored baggage being released and coming to the surface.
So it shouldn’t really surprise me that so much emotional work happened in Costa Rica. Just a small part of our time there was a lengthy asana practice each morning. All kinds of stuff was getting shaken up.
All those issues were trying to move on out.
But for the life of me, I found myself unable to cry for much of my time there.
More on that later.
* * *
As I boarded my plane to Costa Rica, I packed not only far too many flannel shirts, but an excessive number of body image issues as well. I was not sure how I will wear the bikini I’ve packed.
Turns out I really wouldn’t. From the moment we landed, our little band of sisters spent much of our beach time in the buff. I was amazed with myself. I was somehow able to forget that less than a year had passed since I was sliced in half, that I had yet to be in a place to redevelop any kind of abdominal muscles. I was able to forget that my body is a stranger and that I am unsure how to relate to it.
* * *
Along with severe body image issues, I headed to Costa Rica with a blocked heart chakra. All the feelings of betrayal that has been simmering on the back burner since last spring were finally bubbling to the surface and the impact was very real. So along with getting reacquainted with my body, I was hoping to free my heart up as well.
Lucky for me, the retreat wasn’t led by one of my dearest sisters all on her own. Her soul sister – who I had met briefly before and who is now my very own soul sister as well – was leading it alongside her. And she had just finished her Shaman training.
Remember that whole thing about not connecting with the Shaman I had hoped to work with?
After dinner one evening, she led us through a breath ceremony that I really don’t have words to explain. But I can tell you that we were laying on our backs in the middle of the rain forest with drums beating as we connected to our breath. The Shaman wove her way softly between us, eventually kneeling by my side.
“You are safe,” she repeated over and over as her hands rested on my chest and abdomen.
That’s when I heard it – suddenly and from a distance but still so near.
“You aren’t safe!”
This voice shook me to my core. What was happening? Why wasn’t I safe? I felt my heart back-peddling, preparing to shut further down for the rest of our week in Costa Rica.
All around me, my sisters were experiencing intense, deep releases.
As for me, there were no tears.
* * *
The next day, my Shaman friend offered to do some energy work with me, so we cuddled up in her space to see what we could do about my heart. For the life of me, I hadn’t been able to cry in the first half of our time together, and I could feel energy held up in the middle of my chest. She performed some beautiful reiki for me, and in the process I could feel the shell that had hardened around my heart crack open and the energy start moving again.
I breathed a sigh of relief.
But still shed no tears.
* * *
The next afternoon, we headed to a nearby surf town for a little shopping and a lot of sun-setting. It was beautiful. So we asked a stranger to take a photograph of our little sisterhood standing in the wash of the shore.
The photograph brought me to my knees. My belly is all scars and absent abdominals and standing between all these beautiful women I felt old and pregnant despite its impossibility. All the pent-up rage toward my body and this disease and the preceding 11 months welled right up and out of my eyes and I found myself sobbing in the middle of one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever encountered.
I spent the night texting a soul sister at home as I sobbed on the bathroom floor. I cried until it was physically impossible to cry anymore.
I do not want to be a stranger to my body anymore.
* * *
The next morning, I didn’t feel amazing, but I felt decent. Better.
Our asana practice that day would find us moving through space blindfolded. I was happy about this. No one would be able to see my large, old, big body.
After our more traditional practice, we moved into a blindfolded dancing practice.
I love to dance. I don’t do it well by any societal definition, but there are few things that make me happier than be-bopping around to a good beat.
But not on this day.
On this day, I couldn’t move.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to. I didn’t know how.
All they physical trauma of the last year came raining down on me. I no longer felt feminine. I no longer knew how to relate to my body. I know longer understood what it was to move, to dance, to be free.
I took my blindfold off – the sensation of suffocation overwhelming me. All the other ladies were moving in beautiful, sensual ways that felt entirely foreign to me. My body didn’t do that. Not anymore.
“Can you talk today?” I texted quickly, as tears ran down my cheeks.
And then I ran.
* * *
“This is amazing!” he exclaims as I sob with my back against the dense rain forest. Ron is always excited when I need an emergency session. Even though I only need one when I am feeling overwhelmed and lost. I am learning this is a surefire sign of progress.
I had reported to Ron that I was having a breakdown. I couldn’t connect with my body. More clearly explained (at least with the words I could find) I didn’t know what it meant to be feminine anymore. I had been stripped of my ovaries and estrogen, I had lost my hair, and my abs continued to look like those of a pregnant woman. I didn’t know how to be in this body. Or who I even was. I just didn’t know.
Ron explained that Costa Rica is a hotbed of feminine energy. In traveling there with a group of women, I had sped up the process we had been working toward of releasing all the notions of “femininity” I had been sold by society and replacing it with what that truly means to me in my soul. As the toxic energy was releasing, it was simultaneously being back-filled by the true, certain feminine energy of Costa Rica. This was a good thing, but it was moving so fast that I couldn’t keep up.
We talked for another ten minutes or so, with Ron helping to balance me out a bit, and by the time we hung up, I could breathe again.
It turned out that without even planning to - or rather, with all my own plans failing to fall into place - I ended up exactly where I needed to be.
* * *
Later that day, my sponsor’s voice rang in my ear.
“Are you sure that was God’s voice? Or could it have been the enemy?”
I had forgotten this conversation from the week before I boarded my plane to Costa Rica. And it suddenly occurred to me that it hadn’t been God warning me that I was unsafe – it was the enemy trying to prevent me from taking the next step forward on my path.
Not only did Costa Rica serve to speed up an energetic release I so desperately needed, it also served to remind me of one of the most significant lessons of this journey.
It was a fierce reminder that I have a choice each and every day to take another step forward in love. To continue to refuse to give in to fear - so matter how strongly it tries to present itself.
We all get to make that decision. Each and every day.
This whole journey has been about that very idea. So often, its easier to operate from the space of fear. To run screaming toward the easier option in an attempt to avoid the fire. But fear never, ever, got anyone anywhere.
Love, on the other hand, may force us to leap into the flames. But it will always take us closer to where we are intended to go.
Thank you, Costa Rica, for the reminder.