My heart was racing, my mind running a mile a minute, and my shoulders were solid bricks of tense muscle. Subtle, and not-so-subtle, anxiety had become a way of life for me. At 27, I was running myself ragged, over-scheduling and under self-nurturing. My body was in a in a constant state of fight or flight.
Thus was my physical/emotional/mental state of being as I sat down in my seat for the plane ride from New York City to Nosara, Costa Rica for an August 2009 Conference for the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN).
Take it from me. Sometimes deep, peaceful, and healing journeys don’t start out very “Spiritual”.
Uncomfortable with just sitting and being, I began making a list of everything I wanted to accomplish while on my retreat. As I wrote, head of IIN and my mentor, Joshua, walked down the aisle, greeting the other students on my plane.
Then, he stopped at my seat.
Smiling and annoyingly centered, he asked, “So what are your intentions for your trip to Costa Rica?”
I looked down at my list I had been creating and read aloud:
- Learn to Surf
- Go Hiking
- Make new friends
- Eat good food
- Work out every day
- Write in my Journal
- Try Zip Line
“And there’s a lot more I want to do, but I’m not done yet.”
He listened attentively, nodding his head.
Then, with a glint in his eye, he said, “Cora, I have been observing you as my student for the past couple of years. My perception is that you are always “on”. In fact, you are a TEN at being “on”. How about you have ONE intention for Costa Rica?”
I swallowed, afraid of what was to come next.
“For this trip, what if your only intention s allowing yourself to turn it OFF for once.”
My eyes bulged and my chin dropped to the floor.
My mentor walked down the aisle, leaving me in a state of mild shock and disbelief.
No one had ever told me anything of the sort before. I could turn it off? The world wouldn’t end? My friends and family would be okay?
Tears ran down my cheeks and I blubbered my way through pages and pages of journaling, claiming my ONE true intention for my Costa Rican trip:
I was allowing myself to turn it OFF.
This might sound simple to many of you, but for me this was a deeply profound shift. What I came to realize through my journaling was that as a young child I had decided that it was my role in life to be peppy, entertaining and fun. In a world that wasn’t always happy and magical, I chose to be the bearer of all good things. The other role I unconsciously gave myself was that of the Social Coordinator in any group setting.
I didn’t believe that it was okay for me to feel down, quiet, sad, or angry. That was for other people. As I saw things it was my role to support them. So for at least 23 years, I had played this character to near perfection.
And then, Joshua gave me permission to take off my costume. To just be me. To stop performing. To turn it off. To come Home to myself.
And Nosara, Costa Rica was the ideal place to begin this new chapter in my life.
Nosara is located in the Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. It is a small village known for its traditional native culture, abundant wildlife, fantastic surfing, and yoga schools and retreats. The Nicoya Peninsula is also a “Blue Zone”, one of only five areas of the world known for having the most people over 100 years of age, still living active lifestyles.
Coming from the Big Apple, I felt like everything in Nosara was in slow motion. I was physically sick for the first day or so. When I gave myself permission to turn it off, my body received the memo also! Self-care began immediately.
My beautiful retreat-mates gifted me a birthday body treatment at Tica Massage. I received my massage from Richard, the owner of Tica. During the session, he rotated my arms and legs quite a bit.
“Stop helping me move your legs,” Richard advised. “Just relax and let go.”
I laughed to myself. Even with my intention to surrender and turn it off, I was still having challenges with this concept.
“This is always so hard for Americans,” Richard continued. “We seem to think everything in life has to take so much effort.”
Did he know my Nosara intention? Was he reading my mind? Richard reminded me of exactly what I needed to hear. This allowed me to deepen further into my new way of being.
Instead of starting the morning connecting with others, I would go off by myself, usually to Zen Cafe. There I would meditate, write Morning Pages, and check in with myself. At first this was slightly uncomfortable, but soon this routine became a beautiful way for me to start each day by connecting within, with Source.
In the past, I would have signed up for every possible group activity and been the main facilitator of these events. This time, I stepped back from that responsibility and habit and really asked myself what I “felt” like doing or not doing. My friends went horseback riding. I said no thank you. My friends embarked on the Zip Line Adventures. I opted for a quiet day on the beach. Some did a group surf class. I chose a surf class where I would be alone..
I was also living my life aligned with my intuition. I didn’t schedule anything. I just surrendered to the unfolding of my day, and whatever form that might take. Because I let go of my script or schedule, my days were filled with magic and miracles. I joined an impromptu drive to a deserted beach to watch the sunset. Afterwards, we ate at La Dolce Vita, an absolute gem of a restaurant nestled in the trees of the jungle.
I also said YES to a night time swim in the ocean with two soul friends. There was a storm in the distance with beautiful lightning, and the warm water surrounding my body was deeply healing.
None of these experiences were planned. They were beautiful gifts the Universe gave me when I let go, turned it off, and stayed in the present moment. I was also in a place of receiving, because I stopped doing and giving so much all the time. I was coming back into balance.
On my last full day in Nosara, I woke up and felt moved to turn over a card from my Oracle Tarot Deck. The card that came forward was “The Soulmates” card.
“Whoah!” I thought to myself. “What does this mean? Have I met my soulmate? But wait, I’m married. Hmmmm…what is going on?”
Perplexed, I went to the gym located at Tica Massage and I jumped onto the elliptical. Contemplating the message of the card, I suddenly felt a surge of light entering in through the top of my head.
Then I heard the words, “You are your own Soulmate.”
Following is a poem I wrote about this experience:
“You are your own soulmate”
These words came to me
on the elliptical in a Costa Rican gym
how completely random
YET the true answer to all my questions
For so long I have been searching
traveling, journeying, connecting
outside of myself
Looking for that missing piece
that extra assurance
that I was a Child of God
a person of worth
Wondering if it was really my husband
or a guru or a deep friendship, almost romantic
that provided this Soulmate role.
She was inside me all along
And suddenly this action of “finding myself”
transforms into something that can only be described
as a Homecoming.
A coming home to myself, God, my true Soulmate
And I cried as I loved myself
for the first time
Finally, I accepted me, all of me, the Prodigal Daughter
Wrapped in my own embrace and God’s light
and came Home.
My experience in Nosara was not a formal “Spiritual Journey”, but it became one very quickly. I awakened to my own wholeness and Divinity on a very deep level and began a whole new way of relating to myself and the world. I am forever changed from this experience and deeply grateful for this trip away from my apartment in NYC that in the end, led me to my true Home.
About the author: Cora Poage is a Board Certified Holistic Health Coach and is the owner of Sexy Soul Wellness. She also earned an MA in Spiritual Psychology. Cora’s specialty is guiding her clients in co-manifesting the body AND life of their dreams through intuitive eating, exercising and living. She guarantees that her clients will love their bodies, own their power, and live their dreams. She is a writer and speaker who has been featured on Kris Carr’s website, Crazy Sexy Life, and was recently interviewed for Gabrielle Bernstein, INC. She is also a guest teacher for her alma mater, the Institute of Integrative Nutrition where she leads classes on Soul Centered Coaching and Business. Cora spent her late teens and early 20’s struggling with a diet and weight control addiction. Her dream and passion is to assist other people in finding freedom from weight and body concerns and in living the life of their dreams.