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.

Coincidence? I think not ….

Psychedelic 5I’ve been caught up recently in the concept that writing novels is what I am meant to do. This is all started when my qigong instructor posted a blog about when he realized that teaching qigong was his mission in life, and I responded by telling him I had found mine too.

Isn’t that cool? But have I? And why am I so sure?

One of the problems with writing speculative fiction is that you read a lot of it, and it is full of tales to refute any theory you might have. I could tell you that every time I have run into a stumbling block with my writing, something unexpected has gently appeared to help me through it. Coincidence? Well, I have also read the “The Sparrow“, a wonderful book about space travel and inter-species misunderstandings and the foolishness of turning to small signs around you to decide that you are on the right path.

I’ve also read plenty of novels that compel me ask exactly who it is that I think picks these paths anyway, and to make me question whether he, she or it is both benign and competent for the task. There are a lot of theories out there, any many don’t bode well for those of us who are charging ahead feeling sure of where we are going.

None-the-less, I get up happily each morning certain that I am leading the life I am supposed to lead.  My health remains good, my outlook is great, I continue to be surrounded by love and I look forward to doing what I do. Coincidence? I think not.

(Please send a like to the fine folks at Psychedelic Adventure on Facebook. The great image above came from their site.)

On the Road without Advil or Tums

I love to travel. More accurately, my brain loves to travel. My body finds hours in an airline seat difficult, nights on strange beds rough, walking over rocky terrain challenging and new foods unsettling. So while my mind is having a great time, I’ve learned to pacify the rest of me with analgesics and antacids that I seldom have to take at home.

Because I have no intention of traveling less as I get older, I have pretty much resigned myself to an increasing regimen of over the counter helpers as my aging body keeps pace with the wanderlust in my soul. I mean, this is not a problem that gets better, right? Backs only get more cranky and stomachs only get more particular with the years, or so I have been lead to believe. In other words, this is one kind of change that is predictable and not good.

click to learn more about qigong

click to learn more about qigong

Through a series of odd flukes, two months ago I found myself attending a week long seminar on qigong, an ancient Chinese practice which is related to Tai Chi and bears similarities to yoga. Please don’t ask me how I could just sort of end up at a week-long retreat doing something like this, I know that is weird but it happened. To my surprise, I took to the exercises. They seemed to combine everything I had ever liked about Pilates, Lamaze, yoga, dance, and stretching into a simple fifteen minute routine. So, with only one exception, I have done this exercise every day for two months now.

I did it because I really like doing it. I have no ailments and no aspirations. It simply feels good. About a month ago I had to do something a little bit physically challenging, at least for me. I spent quite a bit of time up on a stool painting two walls bright turquoise and I was a little surprised at how well it went and how good I felt afterwards. Interesting.

But it has gotten weirder. I’ve not only spent the past week traveling, I’ve spent it visiting my in-laws. I and my king-sized husband have slept on four different beds in six nights including an eight-year-old’s tiny pink canopy bed, and a futon never made to hold the two of us. I’m in New England and am inhaling anything with lobster and experiencing cold brisk air almost never found in Texas.

The title of this post has of course given my punchline away. My back feels great. The budding arthritis in my hips brought on by cool weather has yet to show itself. My digestive system could not be happier. I haven’t touched a tablet of anything on my travel kit. My husband actually described me as “spunky” out on a tennis court today and that’s not usually the adjective that comes to mind.

Qigong? Some strange alien formula in my bath water that is reducing my aging process? A kind of placebo effect brought on by my own hopefulness? Don’t know. Hope it lasts. Going to keep up with the qigong (and with bathing) in hopes that it does.

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.