Namaste | A Costa Rica Mind, Heart, Body, Soul Women's Retreat
One day this past January I was skimming Facebook (I was on a Facebook diet for 40 days this winter so IT WAS FATE). I saw a post Kenna Klosterman and Susan Roderick published about a "Mind, Heart, Body, Soul" retreat to COSTA RICA and it just called out to me at the right moment. I knew immediately that I wanted to go. Within 24 hours of seeing their post I had one foot in and within 48 hours I was putting my packing list together. It was a wonderful decision for which I'll be forever grateful.
Why did I need this retreat?
Crossing a "0" birthday is an opportunity to take stock. It's a good time to reset, recharge and reevaluate. For the past 2 years I've been peeling off parts of my photography business and augmenting other parts. I've sensed a crossroad approaching in my life and needed a chance to reflect before deciding what tine in the road to take. This Mind, Heart, Body Soul Retreat was an enormous booster shot for my soul, the new friends I made were like new stars in my sky and Kenna and Susan were incredible mentors, giving me the tools to take home and continue my meditation practice.
Why Costa Rica?
Why NOT Costa Rica! The stars aligned and through mutual friends, an opportunity opened up for Kenna and Susan to bring a group to an lovely home in the mountains of San Jose, Costa Rica. The home is appropriately called Casa Los Cielos, "Home in the Heavens." It was a gorgeous home about 90 minutes (on a non-pay-day) from the San Jose Airport. There was plenty of room for 10 of us. Two of the women, Mallory and her sister Emilie, were there providing to our daily needs, cooking, mixing drinks and making nourishing breakfast smoothies. Kenna and Susan shared a bunk room while the 6 of us 'students' had a choice of double, queen, king or twin beds in gorgeous rooms with large picture windows and in-room bathrooms. We had access to long winding paths right out our front door for daily walks and thoughtful bonding. Just above the hill from our home were a quintet of horses freely roaming along the hills and giving us goosebumps at their magicalness. Loads of friendly dogs were everywhere, one homeowner had at least a dozen dogs of all breeds who loved to greet us as we checked the horses.
In addition to the mountain house we went to Manuel Antonio National Park for 2 full days. After searching for monkeys and sloths we dipped in the ocean to cool off from our long walk. We meditated on the morning beach as the waves hit the shore and birds swooped and sang nearby. Just writing about this retreat is allowing me to relive it. Ahhhhh! And here is how it all unfolded:
Day 1: Saturday - Travel Day
Two rendezvous times were coordinated to minimize pick-ups at the San Jose Airport in Costa Rica. Six of us were coming from all corners of the US. My personal tip is to check flights that DO NOT go through Chicago O'hare as the weather, even in April, is iffy. As it turned out a new snow storm was anticipated to hit the day of my outbound flight. I called United Airlines 2 days prior and they re-routed my connection via Houston (with no fee). Thank goodness for that. And despite having to haul-ass from a domestic terminal to an international terminal in Houston, I had plenty of time to make my connection. Allow at least 2 hours for that. The flight to San Jose was a tad late, but I made up for that by having only carry-on luggage. Although my roommates were already there, it took an hour to get their bags so I was only a few minutes later. Group 2 would arrive just before dinner.
Upon arrival to our home we settled in, had a lovely catered dinner (all meals were included), and had our first meditation and Dharma talk. Namaste.
Day 2: Sunday - First Full Day
Each morning began with a 'pre-breakfast' smoothie, coffee/tea and light finger morning snacks. Then we'd ease into our 20-minute morning meditation followed by yoga. Kenna and Susan would alternate as leads. In the evenings we'd have another 20-minute meditation followed by a Dharma discussion. On Sunday we hiked 10,000 steps roundtrip (I know this from my Apple Health App) from Casa Los Cielos to a wonderful local restaurant called Chicharronera El Pizote where we stuffed ourselves silly. My favorite items were the plaintains, potatoes, pork and the frescos, wonderfully cool drinks made with locally grown fruit. They were fantastic.
Day 3: Monday - Irazú Volcano
Between our morning and evening meditation and Dharm routines, we took a day trip to the Irazú Volcano. This is an active volcano located close to the city of Cartago. In Costa Rica this volcano is known as "El Coloso" (The Colossus) based on the catastrophes that it has caused in the past. From the very top it is possible to see the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, but on this day it was misty so we could not see both. There is also a very ashy area that is like being on another planet. Definitely worth a visit.
That evening we were surprised by a Progressive Dinner. Each course was dished out in a different location. Hors d'oeuvres and drinks on the outdoor lanai; A heart stew dinner by candlelight complete with logs in the fireplace, LIVE MUSIC and dancing; then we followed the LIVE BAND OUTSIDE for dessert - Tres Leche (three milks cake), more music and more dancing under the starry night sky. INOLVIDABLE - Unforgettable!
Day 4 & 5: Tuesday & Wednesday - Manuel Antonio National Park
For 2 full days our group of 8 traveled by hired van to explore this small but incredible rainforest and its beaches. We stayed at Hotel San Bada which butts up against the opening gate of the park. Keep in mind that your ticket is good for entry but you do not get in/out privileges. Our tip is to eat a hearty breakfast and take just a few snacks that are carefully sealed because the iguanas and monkeys freely sneak in your belongings if you're not watching. Even if you ARE watching they will steal an apple or sandwich as we watched a 3 foot iguana crawl up the legs of a little boy sitting on a log eating his sandwich. YIKES!
At the park if you're lucky, you might see the Costa Rica Big 5 (sloths, monkeys, tree frogs, dolphins and toucans). We saw 3 out of 5, not bad, I was happy with that. We had dinner at a local restaurant called El Wagon - I HIGHLY recommend it. It was nice to have pizza, a refreshing pina colada and a local dessert.
NOTE: Our morning and evening meditations were held in a private windowed room that looked out at the hills. Candles were lit for our evening meditation which was magical.
Day 6: Thursday - Back "Home in the Heavens"
Before departing the National Park around noon, we did a morning meditation AT THE BEACH. That was amazing. We could hear birds chirping and the ocean hitting the shore. We also did yoga afterwards, it was INCREDIBLE. We had time to purchase a few local souvenirs before getting back in our van, taking a lunch break, then arriving back to Casa Los Cielos. It was GOOD to be HOME. We missed Mallory and Emilie who stayed back and had their own mini retreat.
Day 7: Friday - A day to relax and remember
Our last full day was calm. We had MASSAGES outdoor on the lanai, a leisurely walk to a place called Narnia(!) and had a catered lasagne dinner that left us satiated. Our last night time meditation and Dharma talk was "lit" with bolts of lightening that we could see from the large picture windows. We had a fire glowing and made s'mores and sweets while we reflected on our week. New friendships were formed and our Pura Vida Tribe was cemented.
Day 8: Saturday - Returning home with the tools
Except for one night, I had the best sleep while in Costa Rica. The air, the meditation, and the energy enabled that. This last day, while it was bitter sweet to be leaving our new tribe, prepared us all for taking what we learned back home. We had two departure times for the airport by our favorite driver, Danny. NOTE: If you have a connecting flight in the US, remember you have to go through immigration at your first leg. I barely had 2 hours to go through that because my flight from Costa Rica was an hour late. My connecting flight was in Chicago (ugh) which meant I would be arriving at the international terminal and have to haul-ass to a domestic terminal. I was glad to have GLOBAL ENTRY (yeah Chase Sapphire Card for the free GLOBAL ENTRY FEE) which allowed me to speed up the process, only to wait in the security line since TSA PRE was closed (can you believe that at O'Hare?). I was literally the last person to board. When I reached the gate it was empty, not a soul in sight except for the agents. They jokingly said, they kept the door open for me. Whew.
MORE FAVORITE PHOTOS FROM Manuel Antonio National Park and other Costa Rica spots
Pura Vida soul sister!! Thank you for sharing such a beautiful recounting of our time in Costa Rica. Wonderfully written. And your images are awesome. So thankful that you have shared them with all of us. Namaste my friend!
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