mantra

Our First Yoga, Meditation and Astrology Retreat

It was 30 degrees and icy when leaving Asheville at 5 AM.  Ryan and Sonya at the Airport

It was 30 degrees and icy when leaving Asheville at 5 AM. Ryan and Sonya at the Airport

We left the 30 degree (Fahrenheit) weather of Asheville, NC on a Friday morning in February at 5 AM. After a short flight with one stop in Atlanta, we arrived in San Jose Costa Rica, where the food was more expensive than anticipated, the temperature was hotter than most NC summer days and it would have helped to have known some Spanish.

One day later and one more flight on a 12-seater turbo prop plane we arrived in the land of Nosara Costa Rica with green jungle and dusty roads all around. The ocean was visible a mile away from the mountain top on which Sonya Klepper and I would spend 10 days teaching Yoga and Meditation.

The mornings were cool and blue.  Rising at 5 or 6 AM was easy.  No alarm clock necessary. It helped me realize that when the yogis of India advised rising between 4-6 AM every morning to meditate, they did in fact have the help of their climate to make that possible and enjoyable.  Most people in the Northern climes seem to struggle with it, and are told to master their will to make it happen.  It makes me wonder if those of us farther North would do better being gentler with our selves and aim to meditate between 6 and 7 in the colder months?  Or maybe I’m getting soft…

Flying over Nosara in the Turbo Prop.

Flying over Nosara in the Turbo Prop.

Around between 5:45 AM and 6:15 AM each day I would begin my solitary meditation practice, and found it very enjoyable to meditate on the Gayatri Mantra.  It seemed appropriate since the Sun was so prominent.  Of course I also meditated on the grahas, mentally reciting the appropriate planetary mantra for the day.  And when in the ocean, mentally chanting and connecting with the Moon.  Om Soam Somaya Namaha!

Nearly everyday Sonya Klepper led hatha yoga  at 7:00 AM and 4:30 PM, which was followed by a half hour meditation routine led by myself.

Morning Hatha Yoga with Sonya.

Morning Hatha Yoga with Sonya.

The participants found that following hatha yoga with sivasana and then gently moving into a seated meditation helped their minds remain quieter and calmer during meditation.  This is a variation of the recommended process given in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.

Breakfast followed yoga and meditation.  Every meal included fresh vegetables and fruits.  Beans and rice were a staple.  I wish I could describe the food, and how wonderful and flavorful the Costa Rican natives and transplant cooks made such simple meals.

In between sessions, we had numerous adventures, from beach excursions, stand-up paddle boarding down the river, to waterfall and monkey tours.

Every afternoon, Sonya led gentle restorative yoga.  In the evenings I would lead a brief talk on meditation, followed by a guided meditation practice.

Early morning Meditation with Ryan.

Early morning Meditation with Ryan.

Somehow so much seemed to happen even before lunch.  The time in the afternoon when a nap would’ve been appropriate back home required no such rest. Wide awake, inside from the sweltering heat, meditation was alert and tranquil.  Afternoon was also a popular time for personal astrological sessions with the participants.

This popularity gave me the idea to include an astrological class portion in next years retreat.  It seemed fitting to have a retreat with Yoga and Meditation, with astrological classes in the afternoon, when the day is too hot for anything else. What could be nicer than learning the Sacred Science of Jyotish in Nosara?

The theme of this retreat was for transformation and manifestation, and so we spoke about how having a clear mind (from correctly practiced meditation) assisted the process in living the life closest to your highest purpose. This has been our focus since Saturday, February 16th, 2013.

(Follow this Link for a collection of 3 Audio Clips From the Retreat.  Themes include: Meditation, Manifestation, and The Deeper Reasons to Meditate.)

Sunset on Wednesday from La Luna restaurant.

Sunset on Wednesday from La Luna restaurant.

And on Wednesday night, after an outing to La Luna Restaurant  watching the sun set, we led a “burning bowl” ceremony.  Instead of a bowl, we had a large bonfire on the beach.  The Moon and Jupiter were directly overhead.  The ocean swelled gently to our left, and the breeze carried out intentions to the fire.

The participants cast into the fire all those mental concepts that held them back, and accepted into their life and consciousness that which they desired.  I was reminded of the comment Yogananda was said to have made. “Do not affirm anything that you do not want to be true for you.”

Now it is Thursday, and so far we have had a 6:15 AM silent meditation, hatha yoga, breakfast, and a dusty sweaty, walk to the store for various and sundry things.

On our way back up the mountain Lisa (CRYS hostess) and I stopped at Franklin’s.  Franklin is the local dried food, health and happiness shop

Outside of Franklin's with CRYS Hostess Lisa.

Outside of Franklin’s with CRYS Hostess Lisa.

owner.  He is a favorite of the locals and visitors who love to sit and talk with him about that which makes them most happy.  He is a very pleasant and intelligent person to be around.

The 18 participants that came with us and met us here have arrived from Asheville, Toronto, Seattle, Brooklyn, Nashville, and Los Angeles.  We have all moved into the naturally peaceful mood of this Costa Rican retreat and become friends.  I anticipate annual return visits for myself, Sonya and the others.

On our last day together, we rose at 4:45 AM to watch the full moon set over the ocean. We meditated on it’s light until it slowly turned orange and faded into the mists and fog over the ocean.  After the Sun rose we sat a bit longer, drinking coffee, snacking on a delicious all natural chocolate chip cookie cake and giving thanks for our time together.

The full moon setting over the ocean on February 25th, 2013.

The full moon setting over the ocean on February 25th, 2013.

Next year, we are already planning a retreat in mid-February.  More than likely there will be an “Astrology Retreat” option for those who want to spend some time in paradise not only meditating and practicing yoga but learning Vedic Astrology as well.  If this is of interest to you, please contact me and I’ll keep you updated.

There are not the appropriate words to describe this place.  All I can say is that it is supportive, tranquil, and reminds me of how the important things in life are simplicity, sunshine, adventures and inner stillness.  Words cannot describe, pictures can give an indication, but being here is like nothing else.

And so the rest of this entry will be photographs.  Please enjoy them.

The Costa Rica Yoga Spa, although a mile from the beach, is on a mountain.  To reach the beach by foot would require hacking through the jungle. We relied on this pickup truck to carry us to various destinations.

Ryan in the middle. The truck carried all 18 of us, with some riding in the cab.

Ryan in the middle. The truck carried all 18 of us, with some riding in the cab.

The grounds on which we stayed consisted of a main lodge, dining area, pool, and yoga/teaching pavilion.  The entire property was on 50 acres of jungle.

This was the perfect spot to rest after Yoga and Meditation in the morning.

This was the perfect spot to rest after Yoga and Meditation in the morning.

Our meals were served in the open air.

Our meals were served in the open air.

Here is the teaching pavilion and pool area.

Here is the teaching pavilion and pool area.

The beaches were easily accessible and quite lovely.  A beach trip was scheduled for every morning.

Pelada Beach.

Pelada Beach.

beachmeditation

Meditating in the morning Sun.

Late afternoons before dinner was the perfect time to get sun and meditate on the back deck.

The upper back deck, facing West, at the Costa Rica Yoga Spa.

The upper back deck, facing West, at the Costa Rica Yoga Spa.

Ryan meditating in the late afternoon Sun.  "Om Soom Suryaya Namaha"

Ryan meditating in the late afternoon Sun. “Om Soom Suryaya Namaha”

The food was perfect at every meal.  Nearly all meals were vegetarian, with some chicken on at least two nights.

Fresh Salad, Beans and Rice, Fried Plantains, Tomatoes and Guacamole.

Fresh Salad, Beans and Rice, Fried Plantains, Tomatoes and Guacamole.

By the end of the retreat neither Sonya or I wanted to leave. You can see on our faces how we felt about the whole retreat/adventure.

Sonya Klepper (Hatha Yoga Teacher) and Ryan Kurczak (Astrologer/Meditation Teacher) on our last day together in Nosara.

Sonya Klepper (Hatha Yoga Teacher) and Ryan Kurczak (Astrologer/Meditation Teacher) on our last day together in Nosara.

I hope you’ll join us for our next annual Yoga, Meditation and Astrology retreat to Nosara!