When you board a plane, or take an 8+ hour drive on small highways and gravel roads to get to Pavones, you realize you have left all that you know. The streets have no lights, no stop signs. The small cantina has a menu in a language you don’t understand. Even in the bathroom, you realize you must throw out your toilet paper, before flushing it. In many ways, not speaking the language and not knowing the culture, you can find yourself feeling almost like a child again. This is not a bad thing.
In yoga and meditation, we talk often about ‘beginners mind’, coming from the Zen Buddhist tradition. Beginner’s mind is an attitude, attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would. As Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki states: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” When we travel, we are taken outside of our usual spaces of comfort, and all of a sudden, beginner’s mind does not require work—you are already there! You recognize how little you know—how much is this coin worth? What time does the sun rise? Who am I when I am not defined by those around me?
Most of the things I think I have learned in my life, have been abroad. I learned patience in West Africa, where even when you make your best plans for something to work out, inchallah,—it almost never does, because the bus breaks, or a police barricade, or sewer water flooding in the street, or religious festivities’, and on, and on. In Thailand, I learned to smile just because. Sitting and listening to dharma talks from monks who had nothing, some had not even words for months, but still woke up laughing in their sleep in joy at existence. Living, working, and completing my yoga teacher training in Costa Rica, I learned about beauty, inside and out. Pavones, especially has taught me this.
Pavones is located inland of the Gulfo Dulce, one of the tropical fjords in the world. It is also named one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world. From the studio deck alone, students open their eyes to see scarlet macaws, four different species of monkeys, sloths, humpback whales, dolphins, and the list goes on. As part of Pavones’ Yoga Center’s teacher unique nature-informed training, connecting with this beauty of the natural environment becomes a key part of the yoga that is offered. During our teaching training, we ventured deep into the forest with a naturalist guide, who helped to explain the ecosystem and how it is all connected. We meditated to the sounds of the forest, and reflected deeply on our place in that world. Most importantly, PYC takes incredible steps to help protect the natural beauty of its environment, and continues to serve as a beach protector through frequent beach clean-ups, which take away truck-loads of trash from the shore!
Being surrounded by the natural beauty of the environment, I can honestly say it was easier to experience the internal beauty all around us. Living in a house with 13 girls and 1 brave man, 24/7, gave the opportunity not only to really see people, but to let yourself be seen. (See Jeff Grace’s post for more on this experience!) In a world where we often try to hide behind profile pictures and digital realities, it was powerful and beautiful to simply be human.
“Why Pavones?” people often ask, when living in Portland you could find a yoga studio on any corner. And the answer cannot be put in words, or pictures, though we try. We go to Pavones much for the same reason that Thoreau went to the woods: “Beacause I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived”.