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Building Peace on Blue Mountain

I’ve just spent a week in Paradise. Okay, technically is was Costa Rica and my paradise was created by a genuinely loving but also savvy retreat center. I was fed fresh picked fruit, gently steered away from news and conventional entertainment, and encouraged to walk through lovely gardens and reflect. It worked and I did.

I also knew I was in a paradise created for those with the cash and support system to allow them to go on this sort of retreat. The idea of having people less fortunate than I conspire to create an idyllic week for me would normally give me at least some first world heartburn, but it didn’t. Here’s why.

I’m lucky enough to know more about this place and the people who run it. Human beings simply don’t come more compassionate. Employees are rewarded and respected and most have become family even if they didn’t start out that way. The degree of affection they have for each other is well beyond what any staff could be coached to fake.

The center, known as La Montaña Azul, is dedicated to sustaining the local environment. Located along the Talari River southeast of San Jose, the retreat has allocated 95% of its land (116 acres) as a natural sanctuary to protect the river and its flora and fauna. In addition, its proceeds support the local schools, help maintain the roads, and allow the center to provide free classes for the community. It’s hard to argue that you are doing harm by forking over your hard earned vacation dollars to this oasis of love.

IMG_5816This visit was my fourth one. I come here to study qigong, an ancient Chinese form of moving meditation that emphasizes energy flow and has helped both my writing and my wholeness as a human being over the last five years. I’m a different person without qigong, and not nearly as pleasant a one.

At this particular visit, I wasn’t surprised to learn that the center has taken on a new cause. They wish to bring about world peace. One might argue they’ve been slowly working at that all along, but this new approach is rather specific.

They have joined forces with an international group known as Peacebuilders. This amazing organization is striving to use restorative practices like meditation to keep young people out of the criminal justice system, to assist those of all ages in prisons and to further social justice. Though it has a presence in many countries, Peacebuilders is based out of Toronto and most active in Canada, where the organization began.

In Costa Rica, efforts are concentrated on the prison system. Inmates with sentences of forty or more years are trained in meditation, voluntarily spending hours a day in the program. The results are amazing. Recently, several such prisoners were certified to instruct others, as the program grows.

La Montaña Azul’s involvement began when the diminutive older woman who is manager and part owner of the retreat center walked, without guards, into a locked room filled with some of Costa Rica’s most hardened criminals. She laughs as she confesses she thought the guards were coming in behind her. The prisoners listened to her offer of an alternative, and today the retreat center provides instructors, resources and funds for the program. Guests at the retreat are asked to provide funds also.

You know we all did. After a week in Paradise, world peace seems like a totally reasonable goal. I hope the feeling will last.

 

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2018 in peace, travel

 

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Passion

growing bolder 2I tend towards vehement feelings anyway, so giving me inspirational material that encourages me to follow my passion is a little like giving gasoline to an arsonist. At the very least, if you’re going to do it, get away quickly.

Over the past year I’ve developed a beginners love for a form of Chinese moving meditation called qigong, and I’ve also come to enjoy the blog of my sifu, or qigong instructor. Recently he wrote about his own decision years ago to leave a comfortable normal life in New York and pursue his dream to teach an ancient Asian art to the of people in Florida. He asked his readers for any similar stories of waking up one day and deciding “I’m meant to do something totally different” and then doing it. There were a surprising number of responses and interesting, even inspirational tales.

word porn 4I mostly prohibit myself from responding to the blog posts of others. I know, I know, that’s against all etiquette and advice for how to be a successful blogger, but it’s a black hole for people like me and I have to just say “no”. I granted myself an exception on this one, though, and told my own story of deciding one day that I’d waited long enough in my life to write the stories in my head. I started an outline for six books and a schedule for finishing them over the next three years. It was a goofy and unrealistic plan, but as it has morphed into something I can do,and now that I’m working on book five it’s pretty certain that I will do it. Why? I’m not sure. Meanwhile, I’ve been learning and growing and improving as a writer and as a human and I’ve never been happier in my life.

Writing my simple response to that post reminded me how lucky I am to be doing what I am sure I am meant to do. There is an incredible power in a such a belief. Where will pursuing my most deeply held passion ultimately take me? I have no idea. In fact, I have a pretty strong suspicion that it might not even matter.

Check out the blog post at Flowing Zen that got me starting on this subject, and drop by Facebook and like Growing Bolder and Wordporn, the sources of the two wonderful images shown here.

 

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2014 in writing

 

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Not thinking in Costa Rica.

I get it. Thinking about not thinking does NOT constitute not thinking.

Costa Rica 1Apparently I have persistent chatter in my head, which I have agreed to refer to by the rather unflattering phrase “monkey mind”, at least for the next few days. Friends have talked me into joining them on this week-long retreat in beautiful Costa Rica for an introduction to the ancient art of Qi Gong.  It is related to Tai Chi and King Fu, all of which involve understanding and ultimately manipulating the flow of energy through one’s body. I’m a long way from doing anything impressive, but I am finding the concept cool and the exercises alternately invigorating or relaxing. Originally we were planning on a girl’s weekend in San Francisco shopping, and I’m not sure how it morphed into this activity instead, but oddly enough I am glad that it did.

We are entering into the meditation phase of the day’s session. Be quiet, monkey I say to myself. Luckily I talk to myself a lot anyway so this isn’t a problem. You’re a person of words my inner monkey replies. You need your words. You use them to write books, remember?  Well, the monkey has a point there.

Costa Rica 3Just to demonstrate her worth further, the monkey begins reciting back to me the post called Feeling Gratitude in Costa Rica that I just wrote for my other blog. It is true that as I write, I stop every so often and recite the words I have written back to myself, listening to their sounds and turning them over in my head, analyzing whether each has conveyed my thought or feeling in the best way possible. See, that’s me and you writing, the monkey says.

Really? Because when the words themselves are being created, once I’ve gotten going, I don’t say the words in my head and it often seems as though I’m not in my head at all. There is this sort of odd peace inside me while ideas flow all mistyped onto the screen and although sometimes I anticipate what I am going to type, more often I don’t. It’s a state in which I can be startled by everyday sounds and can’t easily function for a few seconds after an interruption. It’s dynamic and yet peaceful and it feels as good as anything I know. In fact, it is very much like meditation, but with me being a lot more active.

Then it occurs to me, and I have an answer for my monkey.  I mostly write without you, dear monkey mind.  What you and I do together is called editing. You’re my internal editor! And  you’re a great one. I’m so glad I have you.

Costa Rica 2I give my internal chattering monkey a mental hug of appreciation and then send her off for a nice nap. We’re not editing now. We’re meditating. Not thinking. Not … no not that thought either. Not anything. Not any thought. We are.

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.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on July 25, 2013 in oneness

 

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