Losing Fear and Gaining Pura Vida: How Costa Rica Changed My Life

One of the guest teachers here for our most recent yoga teacher training, Karina Ayn Mirsky, said something that stuck with me:

“Fearlessness is not the absence of fear. It’s the quality of Awareness we bring to the moment fear arises.”

 

 

Moments of fear are a natural response to threatening circumstances. They are an integral part of the system within our bodies and throughout the greater world that keeps us alive and pushes us forward through our own evolution.

What we do next, in those moments of fear, is what decides our future. Do we let fear overcome us and rule our lives? Or do we let it spark a greater awareness within us that allows us to discern between threats that are real and threats that are imagined in order to push forward?

 

Costa Rica Waterfall Rappelling tour

 

It has been said that everything boils down to fear or love. Action from a place of fear happens when we are incapable of discerning between real and imagined threats. The confusion that arises make us cower when we should act and act when there is nothing real to fight – it is inherently irrational, and tends to move us backward.

Fearlessness is to act from a place of love. You don’t ignore a threat, but your heightened awareness of everything allows you to see the situation with clarity, which will put you at ease enough to quiet irrational fears and work from a place of love. That can only propel you forward.

 

retreat with John Thurman and Mimi

 

But what does that awareness look like? What is true fearlessness?

It’s something you can cultivate from anywhere in the world, and it’s something many cultures have a concept of in one way or another. Because in the end, it’s within us all.

I stumbled into it headfirst, however, in Costa Rica. To me, this awareness, fearlessness, is embodied through one simple phrase that you’ll hear all throughout the country: pura vida.

Defining pura vida is hard to do. Directly translated, it means “pure life”. But that hardly does the phrase justice. Contextually translated, it can also imply “full life”, “real living”, or “going great”. Often the question “Como estas?” will be met with a cheerful “Pura vida!”

Pura vida is about a lot of things – enjoying life, being happy, slowing down, showing appreciation, carefree living, relaxation and tranquility, optimism, and perhaps most importantly, giving thanks – for good health, for food, for family, for friends, for clean water, for the beautiful nature that surrounds us.

 

 

As a way of life, it’s something you have to be immersed in to really understand. If you come to Costa Rica, its meaning will become readily apparent at every turn. You will grow to feel pura vida in your soul every time you hear the phrase (which will be daily).

So what does this have to do with losing fear?

Well, to me, all of these things that pura vida stands for – from gratitude to tranquility to joy and optimism to living in the here and now – these are Awareness. They are the qualities that, if cultivated deeply, allow one to bring the right presence of mind to moments of fear. They are what allows some of us to face these moments with fearlessness and to act out of love.

 

Blue Osa Yoga

 
Costa Rica has built an entire culture around these qualities, and they are infectious.

I could sense a change within myself the first time I went back to the States. After my time at Blue Osa, it went into overdrive.

Before, I let moments of fear consume me. When I encountered difficult situations that threatened to alter my way of life or set back progress I’d made, I was paralyzed but what I felt was despair but now recognize was fear. I didn’t always have the strength to push forward, to act, and to fight against these forces.

Recently, I’ve been tested by situations similar but perhaps even more trying, but my response has been completely different. Rather than hiding in my room, staying in bed until I feel better, or reacting out of fear, I feel fully capable and ready to face these challenges. I recognize the gravity of each obstacle, but I feel no fear – just power and optimism.

Cambodia Yoga Retreat with Yogi Aaron

Again, you can develop these qualities within yourself from anywhere in the world. But I can’t help but thank Costa Rica for helping to show me the way.

If you pay attention while you’re here and allow yourself to be in the here and now, you can sense the dew of the rainforest sinking into your skin, feel the scent of the orchids fill your nostrils, and distinguish the sound of different far-off songbirds and toucans (or really nearby howler monkey) as they ring in your ears.

And if you let yourself be open, you can feel pura vida sink into your heart as your fears wash away with the ocean waves.

I’m ready for fearlessness. Are you? Check out our fearless yogi leadership training programs coming up.

 

 

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