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Nosara and the Creative Process

When I originally planned to come here to Nosara for 6 weeks to write, I was really focused and appreciative for the gift of time.

I thought that by being here fewer distractions would allow me to be a more intense version of, well, myself. I envisioned myself sequestered in my room, writing for hours on end. After all, my first book was born laboriously through the power of discipline, routine and sheer will.

I had carefully planned what I was going to work on here (as not to waste a moment of time!) I knew that I’d be flexible with that, but I more or less had an outline that I planned on sticking to. Now that I’ve been here for three weeks, a more organic creative process has taken over and that kind of thinking has been slowly flipped on its head. What I have been given is not only time, but also transformation.

The first thing that starts to happen here is a natural disconnection from media and pernicious influences, and a reconnection to nature and self. The majority of people in this world are being carried by the voice of fear, or the other. When you stop listening to the outside voices, and start being a part of what’s outside, your messages change too.

In this place, we are surrounded by incredible nature. We are also surrounded by the gifts of stories. For some foreigners here, Costa Rica is a land of heightened adventure, and they have amazing stories. Costa Rica is also home to many people who are are still “of the land.” They too have incredible gifts and knowledge, and a culture that deserves to be upheld.

So my creative process here is changing. I am no longer just in front of my laptop cleverly wordsmithing in my room, but what I’ve come to realize is that the story is in the living. If I just go out of my room, walk around and talk to people, it leads to a story falling in my lap. Stories, I realized, are not just something that we create, but something that we catch.

So my best advice to someone in the creative process is: allow yourself to be led. Don’t be so rigid in your plan. Leave room for genuine interactions that touch your soul. The stories that you seek are also seeking you.


Karen Henson Jones is the author of Heart of Miracles, a spiritual travelogue. She is also a Philip Stein Global Filipino Hero and speaker for Women in Leadership’s Economic Forum. www.karenhensonjones.com

Nosara Local Life

Nosara has a very strong community base. People here enjoy gathering and supporting each other, and there are few social barriers here when it comes to supporting good causes.

Here are a few highlights from local life:

Sabor de Nosara, which translates to “taste of Nosara,” is a fundraiser for the local firefighting club. Set up outdoors under tents, over 20 local restaurants come together to sell food samples to fundraise. There was also live music and a raffle. I was surprised to discover there that Harmony Hotel’s beautiful Director of Sustainability, Cindy Alonso is a volunteer firefighter.

“You’re a firefighter?!” I asked her in amazement.

“Oh, we don’t just fight out fires,” she informed me. We also capture big snakes!”

Annexation Day Celebrations

July 25 is Annexation Day, a holiday that celebrates the Guanacaste region’s decision to officially join the country of Costa Rica. There is a week long festival in Nicoya’s town center that includes the highly charged Tortilla Making Contest! Hundreds gather to watch dueling grandmothers toss their tortillas in the air as part of a 2-day event.

I didn’t make it to Nicoya, but I did attend the Annexation Day celebration at the local elementary school where there was also a tortilla-making contest. Cindy Alonso explained to me two standards of the contest: the tortilla should inflate when placed over the flame, and the ball of corn dough should be flattened only when in mid air.

As part of the celebrations, children dressed in festival costumes. They participate in a lasso contest and Bomba!, a rhyming contest, all against the backdrop of live marimba music.

Green Zone Trail Clean Up

Parts of Nosara are protected nature reserves with stunning hiking trails. A few weeks previous, Harmony staff sponsored a clean up of the trail. They kindly invited me on a hike to see if the trails were still clean. Here, Andrey is holding “orejas,” seeds of the Guanacaste tree. Orejas is the Spanish word for “ears.”

Stop the Shocks

Stop the Shocks is an annual 10K run to raise awareness and money for the issue of monkeys getting shocked on local electrical wires. Monkeys can mistake electrical wires for vines, and sometimes get shocked. Stop the Shocks advocates for burying the wires underground or covering wires in sheaths. They also aid injured monkeys. This year, Harmony housekeeping staff member Yordanny Diaz came in second with the town and Harmony staff cheering him on at the finish line at the Harbor Reef hotel!


Karen Henson Jones is the author of Heart of Miracles, a spiritual travelogue. She is also a Philip Stein Global Filipino Hero and speaker for Women in Leadership’s Economic Forum. www.karenhensonjones.com

Matambu: Indigenous Territory

Matambu is a beautiful community of a modern day indigenous tribe called The Chorotega. In fact, the Nicoyan peninsula is actually named after the last great Chorotegan warrior, Chief Nicoya.Today, the original land of the Chorotegan natives has been returned to their descendants where they live in a lush and thriving protected community 90 minutes by car from Nosara.

I decided to visit Matambu to because I wanted to learn some of the grace and wisdom of the native tribes. Since, in 2017, living in harmony has eluded so many of us, could the ancients teach us how?

Ezekiel Aguirre-Perez is a pottery maker, storyteller, historian, naturalist, and indigenous tribe council member. He owns a beautiful ranch in Matambu, where he receives visitors to share all manner of things.

“Do you have time for a walk?” he asked. “I have an old Chorotega trail in my backyard. We can walk along it and I can tell you the history of the Chorotega.” And with those words, we walked back in time.

The first place that Ezekiel showed me was a wooden dome with a wooden circle hanging from its ceiling. He explained that it was called a “temescal” and it was used for a ceremony with Mother Nature.

In the temescal, each stake that goes into the ground is sprinkled with a bit of salt and accompanied by a prayer when it goes into the ground. Then, the wooden skeleton is covered in blankets, and hot stones are placed in a dirt bowl carved from the earth in the center of the dome. The Chorotegans burn leaves and sing prayers.

They begin by apologizing to Mother Earth for any harm.

“Mother Nature gives us food, we must respect and take care of it,” Ezekiel explained. “We then ask Mother Nature for providence. At the last ceremony that we had, everyone felt the presence of the Spirit of the jaguar.”

Nicoyans are also known for their longevity, and I asked Ezekiel his opinion on why Nicoyans not only live long, but also remain very active into old age. Part of the explanation was temescal, which detoxifies the body and soul.

He also added a few of the same answers that I kept on hearing:

  1. Going to bed early, rising before dawn.
  2. Simple diet with a lot of organic corn.
  3. Strong social network.
  4. Pure drinking water.

Basically, he explained, it’s living as previous generations did. Ezekiel had one more to add to the list:

“Sex with your clothes on!” he said with a chuckle.

Ezekiel continued to pull us down a trail that wound down a steep mountainside. He gave an amazing tour of the jungle whilst sharing Chorotega history and ways of life. At the end of the walk, he brought me to his pottery workshop, where he started molding a pot on an electric wheel he built himself from scratch.

“Don’t tell NASA,” he said with a wink.

After a few more jokes, he left me with some very powerful words of inspiration in the spirit of the Chorotega:

We have to share every single thing because the things don’t belong to anyone. They belong to everyone.

I picked out a piece of Ezekiel’s pottery to bring back home with me. Just above his pots was a sign that said

In Lak’ Ech  …. Hala Ken ….

I asked him what the significance of the sign was, and he explained that is how Chorotegans bid each other farewell. They come together for a type of handshake in which the fingers become intertwined in a design that looks like a snail shell, to symbolize the ongoing spiral of infinity, friendship that never ends.

One person says:

In Lak’ Ech  

It means:  I Am the Other You …. 

Hala Ken is the reply. 

Translation:

You Are the Other Me. 

In Lak’ Ech (Matambu)
https://vimeo.com/227542912


Karen Henson Jones is the author of Heart of Miracles, a spiritual travelogue. She is also a Philip Stein Global Filipino Hero and speaker for Women in Leadership’s Economic Forum. www.karenhensonjones.com

Majestic Monteverde

“Do you want to go meet a bunch of crazy scientists running around?” my friend asked me. The invitation was a bit more seductive than that: there was going to be a meeting of ecologists at the University of Georgia Field Station near Monteverde and it promised to be very interesting. Scientists, farmers, and civilians were getting together to talk about reforestation, biological corridors, and soil regeneration. The conversation would result in a proposal for project funding a new biological corridor.

Ecological rejuvenation is a strong focus here in Costa Rica, a country with an agricultural economy that has increased forested lands from 27% to 55%. Also, nearly 100% of its electricity comes from renewable sources. But this work isn’t just important to Costa Ricans: the work that scientists do here offsets carbon pollution all over the world. In other words, the crazy scientists are making life better for everybody. It would be an honor to meet them and see what they were up to.

The Field Station was in a small town called San Luis, just by Monteverde’s town and biological forest.

Originally an eco-lodge, it was purchased by the university and turned into a research center for students and scientists. There are labs on campus, and they regularly hosts talks on climate and environmental issues.

Driving to the field station, I was reminded of photos I have seen of Machu Picchu. A windy gravel road takes you up the green mountains. The trees are tipped by misty clouds, which are formed from sea condensation that gets carried there by the wind and then trapped.

The field station is actually a converted eco-lodge. Housing are cabins with bunk beds, the food is in a mess hall, and it’s filled with UGA students. I was thinking how easy it was to feel young again, until the students started addressing me as “M’am!”

The conference was conducted in Spanish language, so I didn’t fare as well there as I had hoped, but it was still interesting. I gained a new appreciation for these exotic forests, which are home to pizotes, sloths, blue morpho butterflies, and butterflies with transparent wings!

On the field station property there is also a magical botanical garden where you can experience many of Costa Rica’s incredible plants, all in one place (just beware of the dangerous datura, a plant with harmful psychedelic properties if eaten or smoked!!!)  The Field Station also has many, many incredible hiking trails, with no other souls in sight.

If you are further interested in ecology, check out the work of Monica Araya, a Costa Rican Yale PhD who is spearheading a movement for Costa Rica to go 100% free of fossil fuels.

Pura vida!

Karen

 

Univerity of Georgia Field Station:

https://www.externalaffairs.uga.edu/costa_rica/

What is a cloud forest?

http://www.canopyintheclouds.com/learn/

Ideas from Monica Araya:

https://www.ted.com/speakers/monica_araya

 


Karen Henson Jones is the author of Heart of Miracles, a spiritual travelogue. She is also a Philip Stein Global Filipino Hero and speaker for Women in Leadership’s Economic Forum. www.karenhensonjones.com

Pura Vida: The Nicoyan Secret to Long Life 

When people talk about the Nicoya peninsula, something that always gets mentioned is the longevity of its residents. Not only does Nicoya have many people who live past one hundred years of age, but they also have many active octo and nona genarians who behave as if they are much younger!

One factor that contributes to long life is an attitude that is summed up in the Costa Rican Spanish phrase, pura vida. Pura vida is a greeting that can mean: hello, goodbye, thank you, great, good luck. Translated strictly it means “Pure Life.”

My new friend Esteban, Harmony’s reservations manager, shared with me a bit more about pura vida. He said that the expression has its etymology from a village in Mexico that uses this expression, and was brought down to Costa Rica by Spanish conquistadors. But pura vida is more than two words put together. It is a way of life.

Esteban shared with me the story of his grandfather Gabriel, who spent his life residing on a mountainside, in the small town of Hojancha. Gabriel would rise every single morning at 4:30 am, in the dark, to grind corn. After grinding corn, he would drink coffee while watching the sunrise, every single day. All of his friends would do the same.

Imagine a magical world, where people of all ages rise before dawn and watch the sun rise with a cup of coffee in their hands. It exists, that is the pura vida. To practice a daily renewal of gratitude, awe, divinity and grace. 

Esteban continued to frame and expand upon his explanation. He thought that sunsets were for people who were a bit lazy and depressive, but that watching a sunrise would create a higher percentage of good feelings in the body. (I’m going to go out on a limb here and dare to guess that Esteban does not have a Netflix account.)

A couple of days after my conversation with Esteban, I found myself stirring in the early hours of the morning. Just like Esteban’s grandfather Gabriel had done every morning on the mountainside, I quietly made a cup of coffee in my room while the world outside still slept.

Just before dawn I slipped out the door, coffee in hand, for the 2 minute and 40 second walk from Harmony to Guiones beach. A nearly full moon lit my path, and I took a seat on the beach.

As light broke through the clouds; a higher percentage of good feelings filled my cells. The beach was now alit, but the moon was still visible in the sky. Esteban’s hypothesis was sublimely correct.

I was convinced, and meeting Esteban inspired me to check out Hojancha for myself, to understand more about this beautiful way of life. I was about to learn that a 90 minute car ride away can also be worlds away …..

Pura vida,

Karen


Karen Henson Jones is the author of Heart of Miracles, a spiritual travelogue. She is also a Philip Stein Global Filipino Hero and speaker for Women in Leadership’s Economic Forum. www.karenhensonjones.com

The Journey to Harmony

Hola y Bienvenido! 

My name is Karen Henson Jones and I am a guest blogger here for the Harmony Hotel. For the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some snapshots about life here in Nosara.

Specifically, I am here in Costa Rica to work on my second book, which touches on themes of how to live a good life.

My teacher explained to me once that your relationship with anything begins from the moment you first come into contact with its energy. For example, my relationship to the Harmony hotel would have begun when I first saw a photo of it somewhere on a travel article.

On a more practical level, in 2017, my journey to Harmony began at the Liberia airport, where I was picked up by a driver called Randall, an affable, well-dressed Costa Rican guy whose name came from his father’s passion for American football, a game that neither Randall nor I follow, because we cannot understand its rules.

Randall asked me if I spoke Spanish, and I think I may have told him “poco” when the correct answer would have been “un pequito” (a little.) Shortly into our journey, we stopped at a small shop so that I could pick up a few snacks. Randall elected to stay behind and guard the car. “You’re not coming in?” I asked him.

“No, but you’ll be fine, because your Spanish is amazing,” he said with a chuckle.Well, at least the first part was true.  

As we drove through emerald mountains and passed well-kept houses with gardens spilling over with butterflies, Randall shared that Nosara is his favorite place in all of Costa Rica.

He said that it had a special energy that couldn’t be found any other place in the country. It seemed as the one and only bumpy dirt road to Nosara – the same road that wrecked cars and made people carsick had a dual purpose; it created an inaccessibility that has somehow over the years acted as some kind of barrier to over-development in Nosara. As we turned a corner, Randall signaled to some mauve colored dirt spread on the road.

“Do you see that?” he asked. “That dirt is that color because it is so rich in minerals. Toss a seed anywhere around here and it will grow.”

Nosara is located in what is called the planet’s “blue zones” a geographic area of Earth where a high percentage of inhabitants experience longevity and stunningly good health. Here, the soil, unspoiled from industrialization, yields some of the most nutrient filled food on Earth.

There are some really interesting environmental projects going on, such as reforestation of the beach edge, turtle protection, and a sanctuary for monkeys. And then there is local life stuff:  town soccer games and church, the two staples of Costa Rican town life. I’m looking forward to exploring and experiencing how this culture changes me.

Toss a seed in the soil here and anything will grow. Maybe even a book. Maybe a dream or a wish you’ve been waiting all your life for. And before you know it, your Spanish will be amazing.

Pura vida,

Karen


Karen Henson Jones is the author of Heart of Miracles, a spiritual travelogue. She is also a Philip Stein Global Filipino Hero and speaker for Women in Leadership’s Economic Forum. www.karenhensonjones.com

A Conversation with Jane Fryer

If you love restorative yoga at Harmony, you will almost certainly know Jane Fryer. Her Tuesday-afternoon classes are packed to the rafters. Attendees fit their mats into every available square foot of floor space and a devotional silence fills the room.

It’s not hard to understand why. Fryer’s gentle practice of moving the body into cushion-supported poses works to promote physical rest and renewal, while her spoken instructions are meditations geared toward quieting the mind. She doesn’t stop at ‘relax,’ however. Her deeper insights into the nature of stillness urge us further, toward ancient mystical tradition – as do her occasional invocations of the sacred feminine, which are central to her way of seeing.

I spoke to Jane in March about her practice, awakening and the connection between spirituality and feminism. Here’s our edited conversation.

Where were you before Nosara?

I was born in Washington, D.C. I travelled around the world a lot. I first came to Nosara in 1995 to visit my friends Don and Amba Stapleton who started the Nosara Yoga Institute, which just closed after 23 years. They kind of created Nosara, brought in so many students from around the world. In the 70s, all three of us were studying with the same Indian yoga guru, Yogi Amrit Desai. In the day, we called ourselves guru brothers and sisters.

Was all this hard to explain to your friends back in America then, before ‘yoga’ was a well-known word?

I couldn’t get a date! After the ashram, I was trying to reintegrate back into urban east coast culture. The type of people I was attracted to were always more conventional. I grew up in a very conventional kind of upper-middle-class American blue-blood situation.

On that first trip, we bought land. I moved here with my ex-husband in 2007. I was on the faculty (at Nosara Yoga Institute), which was a tremendous honour and a profound shift in my life. The opportunity to teach teachers was such a blessing, so stimulating and rewarding.

What did you feel that yoga was offering people like yourself?

For me, my initial experience with yoga was dropping the mind – my mind, a mind. It was in a community centre (yoga class) in Georgetown while in stressful grad school. After that initial experience, I wanted to turn other people on to it. I was enrolled in a graduate program in Women’s Studies and film production at American University and George Washington University. This was when the first Women’s Studies programs were offered – there were only four in the country. I got kicked out of the (film) program for being a feminist. Men in those days really felt attacked. Early feminist rhetoric was brutal, take-no-prisoners. I was constantly correcting everyone’s grammar. In any movement, in the beginning of it, it’s not balanced.

You emphasize yoga’s sacred feminine in your teaching. Wasn’t yoga originally designed to be practiced by men?

Primarily. The original classical yoga was very male-oriented. The philosophy is very disciplined and focused on the “nons.” Non-attachment, non-this, non-that. The tantrika tradition is about receiving the fullness and grace of life, which is very feminine.

But it was originally more ascetic.

Patanjali was the guy who wrote the sutras. They would have been the yoga bible. The point of the asanas originally was to develop the focus to sit in meditation and transcend the body. And prepare for death.

The tantric tradition, which is my tradition now, evolved in southern India, where life was good. There was fruit on the trees, fish in the oceans; the weather was good, sex was good. It had more female adherents. The goddess was equal. One of my teachers put it this way: She doesn’t need him, but he needs her because she beats his heart. Shiva and Shakti, that existed in the original scriptures and everything, but it was all about Shiva because it was all about transcending – transformation through transcendence of the body. The body was the temple, you keep it clean, you stretch it, you meditate in a cave.

My experience of (yoga) is more an embodied philosophy of active connection to everything than limited to an asana practice, or mediation practice.

I notice that in your relaxation class, you drop in a lot of ideas. You say, “Your breath is Shakti.” If the breath is female, what is the male principle?

Shiva is, in this context, our spiritual muscle – the capacity to focus on the light of awareness. Key word here is focus. Shiva’s mythology includes the ascetic, who just wants to meditate on top of a mountain, or in a Himalayan cave beyond culture. He is depicted with a blue throat. This is where he drinks the poison, but does not swallow. So, he engages fully with life, but is mindful and discriminating.  Think of the “man cave,” where men need to go for regeneration and perspective. The masculine in all of us needs this. St. Francis of Assisi put it this way: “The one you are looking for is the one who is looking.I am sure this sounded more poetic in Italian!

The merger of Shiva and Shakti, the sacred union within us, opens a portal to the Witness, where we are able to have moments of spacious direct perception. Unlimited, numinous, eternal. That’s in us.

Our nervous systems are wired to access this. In the West we call it “rest and digest”, first coined by Herbert Benson at Harvard decades ago. Now the cutting edge of all this is called interpersonal neurobiology. I could go on and on. Such exciting times, when the scientific and the esoteric are merging.

Do you teach kundalini yoga?

All yoga is kundalini yoga. Yogi Bhajan teaches that it’s a very awesome direct path. Childbirth can be kundalini yoga. It all is. It’s all geared toward awakening the chakras. It’s all geared toward awakening the sacred marriage (of male and female, Shiva and Shakti).

If one wanted to accelerate this kind of awakening in their practice – this sacred union of energies – are there ways to do that?

 What I love most about yoga, if possible to say that, is it is experiential. Everyone has a unique experience within yoga. Yoga means “union.” It’s all of it, it’s all of life. The awakening that comes, the union that comes internally is not so predictable. It’s part of the mystery. If you have a conscious heterosexual couple who intentionally ignite and support the sacred marriage, yes, that will probably facilitate your experience exponentially.

None of my partners have been capable in that way. I once met a man at Esalen, who was married, who wanted to explore this. Why would I do that? I share my energy with you, and you go back to your marriage all juiced up, and I get….what, exactly? I don’t think so.

That’s so typical.

Right? <laughs>

Are there ways for homosexual couples to access that same awakening? Considering we all have Shiva and Shakti within us…

My intuitive answer to that is yes.

Do you think our culture could use more of a feminine perspective?

That’s a very gentle question. My answer to that would be we’re on the edge of extinction unless there’s a radical and urgent blooming of feminine influence and values globally. Feminism is not in a good place in this particular moment in the U.S. There’s been no progress in the last 50 years. After tremendous progress during the time of John F. Kennedy…the women who broke the glass ceiling all played a very male game.

Everything is unbalanced toward the masculine energy. Sometimes I think women have more challenges because we’re good at multitasking. We’re holding it all and thinking it’s our responsibility to make progress on everything all the time. Which is basically insane.

Do you think that yoga could almost get the feminine in through a back door ­– through our bodies, rather than through arguments and debates about rights and equality?

It’s important to stay optimistic. It’s imperative.

My transition from this grad school thing to this yoga lifestyle was a radical shift into believing that transformed individuals make a transformed world. But here’s the thing – how many people are willing to transform it? Transcend the world, fine. Integrating that consistently so that the tough, tough passages where we die to ourselves and become a chrysalis, not knowing who we are and where we’re going – very few people have the courage to do that. Or the calling. Certainly, in a place like Nosara there people who are called to their own potential for transformation. It is a magnet for people called to “do the work.” It is an escape for the tourists who sustain our economy. But so many of them want to come back – to do the work. Change their lives.

As I observe and support people going into full-blown transformation, I’ve come to see the value to the collective in these individual sacrifices. Letting go of one’s identity and purpose in life and still being alive – it’s like Persephone’s journey into the underworld. And that’s a feminine journey.

That’s funny, because often when we picture these ultra-transcended meditators, they’re men.

Well, I wonder how those meditators do in the “chop wood, carry water” department. Which is the realm of the feminine. I’m not dissing people in any way who sit for a lifetime. They’re creating a container that’s also urgently needed.

Transformation is a really sticky wicket. How are you going to define transformation? These friends of mine who started the Nosara Yoga Institute had this Cycle of Transformation. It had five different stages. One is The Fertile Void. That is where I guide people in restoratives.

 That’s where you guide people on Tuesday afternoons.

Yes. When you drop in at the end of the exhale, there’s a stillness. The still point at the end of the exhale is a portal to the infinite. The infinite holds the space between the worlds. Between all worlds. That exploration is the path of the mystic. Multi-dimensional place. The comingling of Shakti and Shiva. But you don’t get there without the focus. Without Shiva. It’s where focus and breath meet.

Oh. Wow. I’ve never heard it explained that way before.

Well, how many people are interested in the mystic path? Not many. But everyone wants peace of mind.

Restorative practice is one way to embody our multidimensional selves and luxuriate in the radiant light within. Meditation is another practice that gets us there/here.

I think that’s a perfect last thought to end on. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

 

 

 

Creativity and Expression

I love Guiones and the energy that keeps this place alive. The Harmony family received me with so much love and appreciation, and I give my love back… It’s definitely one of my favorite places in the world.

A magical week, full of amazing flow in every unexpected way.

I did a lot of introspection, which led to this video and song.

Enjoy your creativity, be opened to receive and let go. Grasp those ideas in the air that make you feel alive and give them life. Share. Remind yourself every day of the infinite love you are made of. Define yourself, and declare your intent. Speak it and let it know you are there. It is an announcement to yourself as it is to the universe. Hearing this announcement your soul will mobilize accordingly.


MishCatt is a Costa Rican artist, musician, songwriter, photographer and creator.