I’m writing this blog in a grassy clearing at the top of a jungle-covered mountain overlooking the bright blue Pacific ocean. I’ve just spent the last hour or so climbing some scarily steep, rubbly hills to get up here so I am disgustingly sweaty. I am also, slightly unnervingly, being circled by vultures. Still, I’m glad to be here happy, relatively safe and healthy (although the vultures clearly don’t think so).
This is my first day of freedom since graduating from an intense 200 hour yoga teacher training course yesterday. I felt oddly anxious this morning without a yoga class to attend at 6am. I didn’t even have the motivation to head out for my own practice, deciding instead to sleep in until 7, which many moons ago in my real life, would have been my typical waking up time. How am I going to cope now without a rigorous hourly schedule and three healthy meals provided at precise times each day? Now I’ve actually got to make choices! I’ve got to regulate my own wants and desires. Am I strong enough?!
Everything has been so strange since the spread of coronavirus became a pandemic. Countries have been closing their borders; a lot of the students on my course disengaged and began to worry about getting home before their countries shut down. One of our teachers returned early to the US. My family began messaging me, suggesting I book an early flight home just in case. I looked into it but in a matter of hours the ticket prices hiked up from £600 to £2,500, such is the way of our unsustainable, selfish, individualistic capitalist society.
All I can do now is continue my trip as planned (hoping restaurants and public transport stay open) and see what happens to my flight when it comes around. I’ve spent the last two weeks learning how to calm my mind and detach from the material world, so that’s going to come in handy over the next few months. Costa Rica has declared a state of emergency but nothing much seems to have changed, at least where I am squirreled away in the jungle between the mountains and the ocean. The restaurants and shops are a little cleaner but there’s no panic buying here. Everywhere you look there’s ripe fruit falling off trees. I get the sense that Ticos know how to survive, and are less reliant on packaged goods appearing magically in shops. They still have a bond with their land – they respect mother earth and unlike us, they understand that things change. After years of capitalism, we live in a bubble in which we treat the consistency of toilet roll production like another law of physics. Incomprehensible that anything should run out. It’s seems as though much of our identities and lives are based on attachments we form with material objects. We feel entitled to the comfort and convenience these things offer us. All over the world we’ve built societies that can’t be sustained – huge complex systems that collapse the moment one tiny cog siezes up. It seems we no longer possess the emotional resilience, self-reliance and compassion to survive. We are so scared of losing material goods that we hoard them like greedy little goblins, disregarding each other, valuing our individual selves over anything else. Somewhere along the way we’ve forgotten that our greatest tool is compassion. Without compassion we’re not a society, we’re just a brittle system. Mechanisms break, always. With compassion we can exist beyond our systems – we recognise that we are more than the money we earn, the things we own, the social points we’ve accrued. With compassion we create much stronger social bonds – not because we have to, but because we want to, because we value each other. With compassion there is meaning in life, there is help, support, comfort, sustainability and balance.
I know there is still compassion left in our nation. It can falter a little in states of fear. We’re all prone to selfishness when we’re trying to survive. I hope the following weeks and months help us cast off the consumerist costumes we’ve all been hiding inside. I hope it returns us to our true selves and gets us through the fear and loss we are all inevitably going to experience.
Right now I am okay but I know that the following weeks might be sketchy. I am going to try to live day to day, keeping an eye on the situation but trying not to be anxious. I feel like I’m in a good place at the moment. There’s sun and space and coconut trees. I’ve been preparing my fat reserves for some years now.
I wish my time here didn’t have to be tainted by uncertainty, and that I could just feel good about actually being a qualified yoga teacher. Life is never as secure as it feels so instead of feeling anxious about what might or might not come, I should try to feel grateful for what I have, even if it’s just a bag full of dirty clothes and a coconut I can’t get into.