Mind Games

The day Dr. Sue Morter’s retreat was set to begin in Nosara, I still hadn’t established how I was going to get there. The mind was playing games; life was responding. 

My heart wanted to take the long shuttle ride to The Bodhi Tree with friends, but the injured knee was rightfully calling the shots.

It laughed at my original plan, which involved going back to the airport for the shuttle. But when the solo ride the retreat center allegedly booked for me straight from Playas del Coco didn’t show, there didn’t seem to be a choice. Could I even make it to the airport in time, at that point? To make matters even more interesting, the power was out.

Four days of relaxation yielded quickly to stress. Moments earlier, my mind was resisting the idea of leaving the comfort zone of my current haven for a retreat it insisted I wasn’t even going to be able to participate with. Now suddenly, it was all bent out of shape about not getting to the retreat center by check-in, several hours before the welcome dinner.

My driver showed up just as I was about to give up on him, and within minutes, I was sorry he had. He texted while driving and passed every single car ahead on the two-lane road, sometimes with very little time before oncoming traffic. When we stopped for a restroom, I returned to an unlocked running car – with all my stuff in it.

“This is the best driver a five-star retreat center could come up with?” my mind scoffed with judgment. “Assuming this guy doesn’t get us killed, I’m telling the center about this horrific ride and requesting a refund!”

The retreat began right there, in between deep breaths and mind ramblings. I realized that just like the injury, this ride was the experience I was meant to have. The higher version of myself that I was getting in closer touch with had orchestrated it – not to scare me, but to show me how often I still allowed my mind to govern my life.  

Luis returned to the car with a smile that exuded pure joy. Where was mine?

Since Luis and I did not speak or understand enough of one another’s language to hold conversations, I was free to be entirely present with every moment of the magical ride through Costa Rica. Instead, I was allowing my fear-based mind to hijack my sense of wonder and delight.

The mind encouraged me to demand Lois stop driving like a maniac and lock the car if we stopped again. Instead of listening to the mind, or trying to silence it, I lovingly validated its feelings and gave it a project, to redirect its focus. 

“Let’s play a game, mind!” What if you absolutely had to write a positive review of Luis and this ride? What would you put in that?”

“Nada!” 

“C’mon, mind! You love games! And you’re so good at them. I’ll help you get started. What about the view right now?”

The mind stopped spinning long enough to take in the stunningly gorgeous countryside and begrudgingly began its list. “Luis pointed out monkeys and birds in the trees that I wouldn’t have seen. I mean, he should have had his eyes on the road, but…” 

“You can only share the positives in this game, mind. But great start!”

“He stopped at a fruit stand to get mangos, without me even having verbalized my craving. And I liked drinking coconut juice right out of the shell. That was super refreshing!”

“Awesome! What else?”

“He probably left the car running to keep the AC on.  It is, after all, in the upper 90s. And when he vanished at the rest stop, he was getting me snacks, including my first taste of deliciosa Costa Rican chocolate. Now he’s playing really good music and dancing while driving. He’s highly entertaining!”

As my mind focused on the “good,” Luis began to drive like a pro. We hit the bumpy part of the ride that anyone who has been to Nosara can likely feel in their memories while reading this. Other cars and shuttles looked like they were about to fall off the side of the road, but we traversed the bumps and craters with ease. Even the mind felt safe.

I arrived at The Bodhi Tree in one piece, and instead of complaining about the ride, took Luis’s info for a future one. Having won the game, the mind was all for that. But it wasted no time launching back into fear and finding something else to protest as getting to my cabin required 75 stairs.  

“I need a different room!” the mind insisted. This was pretty convincing. I’d already come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t going to make it up and down 108 steps to the shala several times a day for my actual retreat classes, but getting back and forth to my room wasn’t optional. 

In the past, I would have hobbled straight back down to the lobby to ask for the change. But the true self I was learning to think from more frequently replied. “This is the cabin we were assigned. Let’s at least give it one night.”

Needless to say, the mind was not thrilled. So, I gave it another game.

It liked a lot about the cabin, which was off to the side and very quiet. It had a private backyard, with a hammock. The sun was setting in the distance, which was reflecting beautifully through the trees.

“Are you willing to hold off on requesting a change until tomorrow?” I asked while witnessing the mind’s attitude metamorphosizing to a more positive one.

“Si, amiga. We’ll take those stairs one step at a time.”

Stay tuned for posts about the miraculous retreat and the adventures that followed!

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