Our family skipped the holidays this year and dodged out of town to what feels like a whole different world. The “Ticos” call it Pura Vida and here in Costa Rica I am experiencing pure vida for real-a rhythm of ease, happiness and connection to each other and to nature that seems all too simple and idyllic to achieve and to sustain. I sometimes wonder why I’m so determined for a daily yoga and meditation practice to help me maintain a sense of equilibrium, inner peace, clarity and contentment when the people here seem to just live that state of being without a “practice.” I suppose it’s because the daily life here is the practice. It’s already woven through the cultural vibration and essence of the people that there isn’t much striving for “peace” or happiness-it’s the natural state of being here. 

What’s more is that 65 years ago the government demilitarized the country-can you imagine our country soldierless? The then president Jose Figueres Ferrer said he believed that by demilitarizing the country he could then reform the budget and invest in education, healthcare and environmental preservation. To this day, Costa Rica has no army, navy or air force, no heavy weapons of any kind. There are local police forces but no national defense force. When visiting dignitaries arrive in San Jose, they are never met by bands in military-style uniforms or uniformed national officials of any kind, because by law there are none; rather, foreign VIPs are met by schoolchildren wearing the visitor’s national colors.

Imagine. Just imagine a place on this beautiful earth where there is no military, the children are honored and the people live in accord with nature and are generally happy, peaceful and at ease. 

I suppose this is why eco-tourism is the number one employer here in Costa Rica. So many folks from around the world want to experience the Pura Vida. We have had fun conversing with the Ticos about growing up in a place that feels so natural and joyful. 

We spent a couple of days hiking up through a jungle with our kind and humble guide Diego who wore old mustard colored rubber boots and a swim suit. He floated up the steep and windy trail with a smile on his face. He stopped when one of us needed to catch our breath and he would say in his cool-guide English, “yeah, it’s good-slow down, we aren’t in a rush…take it in and look here did you know that you can eat this plant here we are walking on-it’s cilantro.” We carried on up and up into a garden that Diego and his finance have started so that they can use the food to make the meals for the excursion.  He also picked different medicinal leaves for different ailments for healing and restoration.  He told us that he grew up on a farm in the mountains where you could only arrive by horseback or walking 9 miles from the last road. He and his 17 brothers and sisters grew up with what he said, everything he could dream of-a garden to feed the whole family, a makeshift soccer field to play soccer with his family (he said that even his mom played soccer with them) and a deep connection and relationship to nature. Pura Vida. 

I want to bottle up the “Diego” essence. His warmth, kindness and innocence was his way of being. As i think about the possibility of integrating the Costa Rican way of life into my life in the States I think of all the challenges and obstacles that are stacked up against this life. The underlying vibes of greed, hostility, intolerance and arrogance are active like a volcano and I just wonder if we are on the brink of eruption or self-destruction. I’m however, equally optimistic that one person, one community and one brave step in a peaceful direction can shift the paradigm. And, I’m reminded that change starts with me. This year I’d like to make small shifts that have big heart and the possibility for big change…that could last a long time-Costa Rica still doesn’t have a military after 65 years. I’m rounding the corner of this New Year with a desire to listen more and act with kindness and love. The mantra, “preach all the time, sometimes with words,” feels appropriate right now. 

Pura Vida.