Animal Play in Costa Rica

Travel messes with you. My vacation in Costa Rica has moved on from a week long retreat centered around the ancient Chinese study of energy flow, known as qigong, to the family-fun-at-the-beach portion of this wonderful time. Yet here I am complaining because I’m now finding it hard to find a time and place to be alone. I’m staying at a rental house on a cliff overlooking the pounding surf, surrounded by the rain forest, with five other family members who constitute the people on this earth about whom I care the most deeply. Yet, I need to get away for a few minutes every day, to practice qigong and to feel the solitude. That’s just who I am.

Psychedelic 8I’ve started taking my quiet time at dusk out by the swimming pool. I sneak out like a teenager going for a smoke, and start my routine. Soon I have moved into the portion of my meditation that involves free movement and letting go of inhibitions. In it’s milder form it is known as swaying willow, but at its more expressive it is referred to as five animal play. I’m feeling pretty expressive today.

I hear an odd noise close by in the bushes. We’ve been told that there are howler monkeys nearby, and we have seen and heard them in the distance. I recognize their sound. This lone monkey cannot be more than a few dozen feet away from me but even though I open my eyes and stare into the forest, I cannot see him. They are small and harmless, so I go on. As I ease back into my meditation, the wilder my movements become the more noises he makes. Are we communicating? Does he like what I am doing? Can he feel the sheer joy of it? I roll his sounds into my own exuberance and finish the session with a grin on my face. I think to myself that this creature and I have shared something special on a primitive level.

The next morning I find myself in the pool with a cup of coffee. My son joins me, and we are both startled by what appears to be a small snake near the far edge of the pool. He goes to investigate, and laughs. “Definitely animal shit,” he says. “Monkey shit, if I had to guess.”

The neat little pile of excrement is roughly where I stood doing my qigong last night. Great. Did I maybe misunderstand his noises and he hated what I was doing? Then again, he could have been indifferent to me, making sounds for reasons of his own. Maybe this is a random dropping from another creature all together. Or maybe, just maybe, leaving this little bit of himself here where I stood was his way of saying hello. Who knows. There are some puzzles in life that you simply cannot solve.

For more on my own personal story of my Costa Rica qigong experiences please see
1. Embracing the Yin in Costa Rica,
2. Finding Forgiveness in Costa Rica
3. Many Paths in Costa Rica  and
4. Breathing Deeply in Costa Rica

If you would like to know more about qigong, please visit Flowing Zen

Also please drop by the Facebook page of Psychedelic Adventure and drop off a like for the great image above.

The sound of change in Costa Rica

Costa Rica 1I haven’t given a lot of thought to this trek through the Costa Rican rain forest over slippery rocks and up steep inclines to see a waterfall. It’s not until I’m almost there that I realize that I have avoided the sound of rushing water for five years now.

Single file we follow our guide, to the rocks at the water’s edge. Some in our party have come in swimsuits, prepared to jump into the cold water below the falls. Others of us merely want to look. I opt for something of a compromise, wading into the cold water to climb a rope ladder to the top of a six foot boulder in the middle of the stream to enjoy a full frontal view of the falls.

Costa Rica 4I now know, in a very visceral sense, how much power that water has. It had a enough to trap to me once, to hold me under until I thought I well might die, and all my will and strength were nothing compared to its casual, everyday force. In a similar battle I would lose again. I would lose every time.

I wrote a post awhile back about the common Nietzsche quote “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Not always so, I concluded. I was thinking about the country of Hungary at the time, but also about the many ways trauma makes us skittish and overly cautious. Like avoiding water falls after you’ve been trapped under a canoe in white water. Not stronger.

But this past week I have been going through something of a rejuvenating experience, learning about the ancient Chinese art of working with energy flow. I’ve had the pleasure of doing this while enjoying time with two old friends and the beauty of a resort in the mountains. I feel strong. I stand in front of the waterfall. And I feel that it is stronger. It will always be stronger.

It roars at me. I face it straight on and I roar right along with it. I embrace its strength as we roar together.

Costa Rica 3I decide that sometimes what doesn’t kill you will just leave you open to more interesting experiences down the road.

Read more about my novice attempts at meditation here. Read about other changes this week has wrought here.

To learn more about Qi Gong and what I have spent this past week studying, please visit Sifu Anthony’s website called “Flowing Zen” here.