I am sitting in a cafe on a sunny San Francisco day, waiting for a friend whom I ‘co-work’ with every Friday afternoon at about this time.  I use the term ‘co-work’ lightly because I mostly just catch up on whatever I haven’t done that I have needed to do this past week (paying credit card bills, answering emails, processing what my therapist and I discussed, etc.).  And, I figured right now is a perfect time to write in my blog.

Speaking of processing, I am doing something pretty big on Monday that I need to write about:  I am going back to the jungle for a two week visit.

It has been 6 months since I left my Costa Rican jungle/beach town of Puerto Viejo and moved back to the United States.  Funny enough, I never planned to stay in the USA.  The idea was to come back for about 2 weeks so that I could attain more coaching clients and then make my way over to Medellin, Colombia (a city I fell in love with when I visited last year).

But, as they say, we make plans and God laughs.

It turns out that I had a LOT of deeper, internal work waiting for me upon my return to my home country…and, while it has been a struggle, I feel like I am finally starting to get the hang of it and in that, I am cultivating a more solid foundation upon which to continue to grow my life.

So – why am I returning to Costa Rica?

I initially thought I had booked the trip because I wanted to see my friends (and that is certainly part of the reason).  Truly, there is no stronger bond one can build with people than by living in a small, remote town in a developing country.   We rely on each other for companionship as well as for survival in case of flooding, power outages, water shortages, etc. (all of which happen pretty regularly in good ole’ Puerto).  After thinking it over a bit, however, I realized that there is something much deeper going on than a simple visit to see my peeps.

A bit of context:  Puerto Viejo is like Neverland from Peter Pan.  You can be anything you want to be and do anything you want to do – all is fair game and is part of what attracted me to that particular part of the country.  Naturally, this paved the way for two very different  extremes to coexist in the same spot: light and dark.

When I was living there, I was a part of both sides.

On one end of the spectrum is the spiritual community.  I would regularly attend women’s cacao ceremonies where we would sip ceremonial doses of natural chocolate as a heart opener and then sing songs to goddesses and dance around with homemade percussion instruments.  In addition, the yoga was some of the best I had ever seen:  A member of the community would lead the group in either slow or fire flow against the backdrop of monkeys and sloths in trees, chirping birds and, a bit farther out, the blue of the Caribbean Sea.  Also, there would be huge potlucks with delicious homemade food:  exotic fruit salads, lentils with a variety of Caribbean spices, salads with fresh avocado and herbs picked from the garden, flourless chocolate cakes made with local cacao.

On the other end of the spectrum was the darker side, fueled primarily by alcohol and cocaine.  Both incredibly cheap and the latter very pure.  Costa Rica is on the drug trafficking route from South America to The United States, so there was always plenty of blow available at about 1/12 of the price it would eventually be sold up north.  There was a part of town known as ‘crack alley’ where the less fortunate would spend  they day drinking cheap booze and smoking homemade crack, pass out and then wake up only to do it all over again.  While I was never a part of that particular scene, I certainly had another group of friends with whom I would snort cocaine fairly regularly and, eventually, it became almost a daily habit.

So, I lived two lives for quite awhile.  I had my party side and my party friends and I had my spiritual side and my spiritual friends.  Dappling in both but fully committed to neither.  Ironically, despite the all of the people with whom I surrounded myself, I was quite lonely towards the end of my time in Costa Rica.

The truth is that I fall somewhere in the middle of those two sides (though certainly more on the spiritual side of things these days):  I am not someone who wants to sit around drinking alcohol and snorting blow all day…but nor am I someone who  wants to make offerings to the Gods nor uses crystals to heal my Chakras on a regular basis.

That said, Costa Rica was symbolic as the beginning of my journey of discovering myself and going against the ‘norm’ as far as what was expected of me in the USA.  It was the beginning of my relationship with my heart, my intuition, my higher power and allowed me to experiment with the extremes of life.

So, while I am excited to see many of my friends…I also suspect this will be a very cathartic trip for me.  It will be an opportunity for me to offer a sincere ‘thank you’ to a magical place that has given me so many gifts as well as challenges.  It will be an opportunity to connect with the land in a more conscious way, thanks to the work I have been doing in Al-Anon and with my therapist.  It will be an opportunity to acknowledge and revisit some of the deep pain that I was feeling towards the end of my time there.  And, as I know from past experience, diving into the pain is the quickest way to get the best answers to the most important questions.

[Important note (because I try to be somewhat responsible these days!): I am not advocating use of cocaine.  It is a dangerous drug and I do not recommend getting involved with it.  If you have specific questions or have struggled with cocaine use yourself, please feel free to send me an email at melanie.bernstein@gmail.com and I’m happy to discuss it with you.]