As I lay on my bed, gazing at the moths circling my overhead light and the ants creeping from the crevices in my floor, I can’t help but laugh that this has become my life. Three years ago my interior dwelling couldn’t have been more cultivated and controlled.
I lived in a city with constant stimulation, unforgiving weather, and a greater abundance of concrete than trees. I spent my days in my car in traffic, in my office gazing into a computer screen, in restaurants and bars with insulated walls and windows, and in my immaculately decorated apartment. I spent my days in containers sealed from the outside world.
Consequently I felt a powerful connection between my interior space and my internal state. I struggled to relax among clutter and I felt at peace in understated beauty and symmetrical lines.
I felt so deeply affected by my physical surroundings that I eventually decided to pursue the field of Interior Design. I believed that as a designer I could manufacture environments that would bring others the same peace I sought in my home. I wanted to create spaces that felt sacred to their inhabitants.
While completing my graduate school applications in pursuit of my Master’s in Interior Studies, I spontaneously decided to spend a month living in a hut in the jungle in Costa Rica. I knew that I needed a change.
That single month changed everything.
Where I once had crisp white linens, gilded mirrors, and epoxy floors, in Costa Rica I found myself subject to the wills of nature. I slept wrapped in a mosquito net, geckos decorated my walls, and ants cleaned the cracks on my floor. There was little distinction between my personal space and the great open space, yet I felt better than I ever had in my life.
In my home country I hid from my outside environment, but in Costa Rica I enthusiastically surrendered myself, running into the ocean waves, meditating beneath rainstorms, and walking barefoot down muddy jungle paths. Paint colors and textiles paled in comparison to the blue ocean and the feeling of the sand when I placed my palms onto the earth.
Away from my routines, my family, my culture, and my former environment, I had room to redefine. To question. To wonder. To consider less about what lay outside of me and more about what lay within me.
Some believe that sacred spaces are not created nor found, rather they are lovingly revealed. By intensely immersing me into the natural world, Costa Rica gave me the wide-open space to begin to discover who I was. To me, that felt deeply sacred.
This profound earth connection drew me back to Costa Rica eight times over the sixteen months that followed.
Each time I found myself feeling an even greater sense of peace and wellness in the harmonious presence of nature. Bugs and their bites no longer bothered me, my diet became completely natural, and with an abundance of studios and skilled instructors, I began practicing yoga. In doing so I cultivated a sacred space within myself that I could come back to no matter where in the world I was. I decided I no longer wanted to work as a designer and instead started a blog in hopes of inspiring others to cultivate their own internal sanctuary.
On one of many trips to Costa Rica I made my way to the small surf town of Pavones on the South Pacific Coast.
I walked for miles on shimmering black sand and was greeted by roaming cows, horses, pelicans, and iguanas. I swam in an emerald river with water so clear and so cold I wondered if I could drink it. I watched surfers ride one of the longest breaks in the world, inspired to conquer my own fears by surrendering to the force of the ocean. At sunset I sat on a deserted jungle backed beach, staring out into the crashing waves like I was the only human in existence.
My first morning in town, I braved the trek up the steep hill to a yoga studio, cradled between the jungle and the ocean. When I arrived, winded from the walk up the hill, I quickly settled into a state of ease in the peaceful energy that emanated from the space. I rinsed my feet in the footbath beside the entrance, entered in silence, and unrolled my mat. My instructor sat in stillness, setting the tone of focus and introspection for the rest of the class.
While she led us through asana, her beautiful balance of strength and softness struck me. She spoke with grounded authenticity and her verbal cues brought my awareness to the subtleties that existed in each pose. I resided in a place of deep concentration and found transformation in my movement as a result. I noticed on a new level.
Beyond her lay a landscape that would awe even the greatest cynic. The gulf melted into the horizon beyond a lush jungle that spilled into green fields where cows grazed. Mist rose from the coastline and rested in the trees that surrounded us. Tucans and scarlet macaws met my gaze and the sounds of nature set the soundtrack for my practice. Most dramatically, the studio had no walls and no boundaries to separate me from the powerful wills of nature.
That studio was the Pavones Yoga Center.
It quickly became apparent to me that my instructor Indira , the founder, created the Pavones Yoga Center with the same level of intentionality that she brought to her asana instruction. Everything from the purifying footbath to the wide-open studio to the silence she held before and after class, contributed to a sacred environment where a student could feel safe in exploring the many layers of him or herself.
At the end of the practice Indira led us in a mantra I had never heard before: “Loka Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu.” It meant something close to this: “May all beings be happy. May all beings be free from suffering. May all beings be at peace.” In my own individual practice I had built a haven within myself, but in this meditation I sent my intention towards others. I cultivated a sacred place inside myself and then shone that light on the world, contributing to a loving space for others to explore. The experience was deeply moving.
Over the year that followed I continued traveling, across Central America and Southeast Asia, but I never forgot about that studio. I felt in my heart that when I was ready to take my yoga to a new level and pursue my yoga teacher training, it would undoubtedly be there.
This past month I finally returned to Pavones and received my yoga teacher training at the Pavones Yoga Center. In this safe space free from judgment, free from distraction, and free from physical and metaphorical boundaries, I found myself expanding my own internal sacred space. I sought to grow at the Pavones Yoga Center, and I did in more ways than I could have fathomed.
Today, leaving behind the studio and the town of Pavones, I will look to that place of peace and love within me, that place where I feel safe and I feel free, and as I set out into the world, I will shine that light outwardly in hopes of inviting something sacred in someone else.