Retreat Review: Vulnerable and Naked in Costa Rica
We were sitting in the hot tub…naked. But it was completely fine. It was pitch-black except for the array of stars above us. Coming from NYC, I don’t see the stars often. Actually, I don’t go skinny dipping often either so this retreat was all a pretty novel experience. I was having a perfectly lovely conversation with Anita, who I just met a week ago, and the fact that we were naked in close quarters didn’t matter at all.
In truth, for the retreat itself you had to be naked a lot, emotionally that is. Pink Pangea hasn’t really gotten into any hedonistic retreats yet, but they can always branch out if there’s need for it, I suppose.
The whole retreat (my second with Pink Pangea) was quite a vulnerable experience. The organizers made it that way: a safe haven to express yourself and write about your travels. In fact, this meant writing about yourself, your desires, dreams, aspirations, and regrets.
I was having a perfectly lovely conversation with Anita, who I just met a week ago, and the fact that we were naked in close quarters didn’t matter at all.
Vulnerability and opening up aren’t my strong suits. I leave that to my family and a few carefully selected friends who I’m quick to shun from the inner circle after any transgression. But here I was reading a story aloud about a break up (that I’m obviously over and don’t care about anymore) to a room full of women who were strangers just one week ago.
We were sitting on the floor of a gorgeous yoga studio of the Pura Vida Spa & Resort. One of the walls was a full window overlooking the San Jose valley of Costa Rica. The view was so wonderful that when the yoga instructions told you to close your eyes and breathe, you didn’t want to. You paid for this view and it was breathtaking, which may not be conducive to yoga but is fantastic for the soul.
When you had to focus on something to keep your balance, you didn’t find a spot on the wall but the peak of a mountain or volcano that made up the Costa Rican skyline. The evening yoga classes started during daylight and as the sun set on the valley and the mountain we were on, Shavasana would be done to the stars above and the city lights below.
Waking up in a naturally darkened space, with your body finally listening to the earth’s natural rhythm letting you know it’s time to wind down from your day and start the evening is such a relaxing and tranquil experience that I imagine it resembles some semblance of inner peace.
It was passion. I was angry and the dents in my notebook where I pressed my pen so strongly showed it.
But this time we weren’t in the yoga studio for a yoga class but at our soul writing workshop. A workshop that I almost ran away from. I came into the class ready to be defensive, possibly even aggressive and I did not want to do this. I was feeling great and making friends. I was away from the life that I usually like but one that comes with its own set of problems. And here Jackie, our writing instructor, is looking at me and telling me to write about something that I feared would happen and then did.
Why Jackie? Why take away my zen?
But I started to write. I wrote furiously because even though I was over it, I’ve never put it down in words. While at first the words were general as I told a story that happened a long time ago, they quickly turned into what I would have said to this person had I had a chance (or even cared anymore).
Retreat Review: Vulnerable and Naked in Costa Rica
I read it aloud, cringing about the experience. Thankfully, for this exercise, we were told not to critique the writing. But one of the participants, Jazmine, couldn’t hold it in and blurted out, “I loved it.”
It was passion. I was angry and the dents in my notebook where I pressed my pen so strongly showed it. The women around me understood in their own way and let me have that anger and transform it into a story that allowed me some closure.
I breathed in and felt the zen take over again. Maybe writing from the depth of our soul won’t ever be easy or really be my forte in particular, but I can see the cathartic experience that springs from not only writing it but sharing it.
When you can have an open and honest conversation, naked in a hot tub with an almost stranger, what else do you need?
So later that night we sat in the hot tub talking about our lives, the retreat, Costa Rica, future plans and dreams. My skin was hot from the heat of the tub but my face and arms were cool in the air. I breathed in and smiled. I dreaded coming out of the hot tub to the cool Costa Rican night air but for now I didn’t worry about it because I had received what I came to Costa Rica for.
I was open to other people, to myself, to my writing and I hoped that it would last. That the feeling of being accepted and talented would translate into my “real life” and “real self” back home.
Being open, trusting and vulnerable isn’t a weakness but a gift that may be hard for some and may get others in trouble. But it’s real. It’s true. And at the end of it, when you can have an open and honest conversation, naked in a hot tub with an almost stranger, what else do you need?
Anna Lasker participated in Pink Pangea’s 2016 retreat in Costa Rica.
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