"[Pura Vida] embodies a philosophy in which communal ties are strong and close; difficulties are overcome with a resilient and happy spirit, where life is enjoyed leisurely and to the full, and where fortune of whatever size is heartily celebrated." – Tony Cousins
I have spent the past week in Costa Rica surfing, doing yoga, eating, recovering and relaxing. This is truly a different part of the world, whose charm was captured by my daughter after 3 weeks at an orphanage here. She was surprised how happy the impoverished, parentless children were, how cheerful the staff was and how welcoming the villagers were. They had little material wealth and little opportunity for advancement. It was only upon landing back on US soil, the land of opportunity, that gravity set in again.
My journey to Costa Rican enlightenment had many more ironic and synchronistic twists and turns than my daughter's. I took a Vinyassa yoga class on my third day to detox and center myself. Unfortunately (and ironically), doing so in 96 degree heat with electricity out in the city after eating something disagreeable, landed me in bed for two days. My efforts to find my youthful surfing zen from growing up in La Jolla resulted (ironically) in badly bruised ribs which made bed that more enjoyable. Additionally, the resort I was at was full of self-contained 5 person families from the US. Half the trip shot and I was really regretting coming down during the "dry season" with temperatures too hot to zipline. To salvage a piece of the day, I went out at 5:30 to surf at sunset. I was definitely not living la Vida Pura but was sore, sick and alone (small violins please).
I should know from my own past posts that this is when the learning begins, and always from unexpected quarters. I was mesmerized by a local longboarder who would hang five (toes) on the front of the board, step on it and rotate the entire board 180 degrees while going down the wave. Eventually, I went in and sat on my board, watching him as the sun set, thinking I should tell him how amazing his surfing was but figured I'd leave before then. Synchronistically, he lost his board just at that moment and it came into shore. I could have let him get it but thought, hey, I could do two acts of kindness by getting his board and complimenting him. My good fortune…not his.
His name was Jochim from a small town in northern Costa Rica, had taught where I was taking surf lessons and now had his own small business selling excursions, renting bikes, etc. I mentioned how friendly everyone was in Tamarindo. Jochim smiled and said that while there was some crime in San Jose (& other urban areas), that generally crime was low and people generally content. Pura Vida (pure life) is the motto of the country. He said that when his friends and he go out, some one is always talking about how grateful he/she is for something, even the smallest things. He said he was Catholic but not a church goer but he would often be out surfing, with a beautiful sunset and he would look up and say thank you for such a wonderful afternoon. Friends would comment about how grateful they were for some development in their life. Because they enjoyed what they had, no matter how small versus what they didn't have, they could enjoy the present. Furthermore, they could be grateful in the midst of setback. Ironically, he pointed out that the temperatures of the dry season killed all the mosquitos so I could be down there without serious concern of airborne disease (while being laced in DEET)…synchronistic lesson right there about gratitude versus complaining.
Gratitude has always struck me as one of those touchy feely, elusive concepts that had wiggled its way into most major philosophers/religions' core tenants. I've never really gotten it a deep level. At a high level, sure…be grateful for things around you, live a happy life. Ironically, it wasn't until my string of events & a talk with a local surfer in Costa Rica that it hit me. Gratitude is at the heart of resilience and integrity (see quote above)…and the life's blood of entrepreneurship and living a good life.
When things don't go as planned, we tend not to celebrate the small (or large) successes and fortunes of the day but rather what has gone wrong. The attitude and focus we bring to our thoughts/intentions fuses either positive or negative reality into our lives. Focus on the incredible development team you have or bemoan the issue they are having with the code; celebrate how healthy and fortunate your family is or worry about some minor issue; celebrate the large customer that been there always for you or obsess on the one you probably shouldn't be chasing. This is not to say celebrate mediocrity or let your kids gorge on TV and candy (set expectations and help them become their best). However, learn to be grateful. More importantly, seek it out…hunt for it in your every day, no matter how poorly things seem to be going. If you are grateful for what you have, you can live in and address the present versus fearing the future. I'll leave you with one last quote before signing off in Costa Rica to hit the surf…Pura Vida, my friends.
"When we are grateful we do not wish for more than we have, but appreciate that which is already present in our lives. We do not chafe at the good fortune of others, or resent or mourn that which is missed, lost, gone, or never had. The desire for more can be boundless and endless." – Existential Buddhist