Updated: May 18, 2022
On October 28, 2021, I retired after 20 years in the corporate sector. The next day, I stepped on a flight to Costa Rica with my life partner, Andrew. My intention was to slow down, rest and reset or as Andrew likes to say “land the plane”. A hard break from the known, predictable world of meetings, long to do lists, fast paced daily stress and restless sleepless nights. For him, it was an experiment for the digital nomad life — same schedule, new environment. We had one month.
Travel during COVID can at times not be for the faint of heart but for us, it was a smooth trip in both directions. It did require more patience, a virtue that has never been my strong-suit but one that COVID has tested and expanded., We rented a small SUV, as anyone who has driven the infamous Costa Rican dirt roads will appreciate, and made our way to our temporary home in a small village known as Playa Negra by the tourists and Los Pargos by the locals on the northwest Pacific coast. Population less than 500 people, this village is off the beaten path that barely shows up as a dot on a map. The journey along rutted dirt roads is about one hour from the Liberia International Airport. Here we quickly settled into the charming, peaceful fishing village where the pace flows with nature with hypnotic sounds of the ocean, howler monkeys and tropical birds and the main attraction is surfing with the best reef break in all of Costa Rica. At the end of each day, the friendly community of locals and expats gather on the beach to watch surfers, the mesmerizing waves and spectacular setting of the sun . For Andrew and I, this was our special time together that became known as our “sunset dates” — the one recurring meeting scheduled in my calendar.
La Paz, “peace” in French, was our home for the month. Owned by a friendly French couple, Sophie and Andre, who have the biggest hearts and focus on customer service. La Paz is on one acre of lovingly manicured jungle surrounded by Sophie’s artwork, Inca sculptures, stone walls, lush gardens and impressive variety of vegetation including a century old Guanacaste tree, royal palms, bamboo, cacti, jasmine, several fruit trees and a small river edging the property. For the first three weeks, we stayed in the one bedroom casita Zen. Our plan was to explore a new area for our last week, but when we told the owners we regretted not booking the full month on their property, they generously opened up their own home so we could extend our stay.
Through Sophie, we met their friends Patrick and Tasia who own Villa Deevana. Patrick Jamon, a French Michelin star chef, left the faced paced culinary world of New York/LA in 2009 with his family and decided to settle in Playa Negra. It is an unexpected find — a 5-star restaurant of this caliber in a small village in the jungle but people travel from all over Costa Rica to enjoy the gastronomical adventure. I enjoyed the locally foraged menu especially chanterelle season and trying conch for the first time.
Through my pre-travel research, I was excited to meet the Canadians who owned the nearby Peace Retreat Costa Rica. As Andrew set up for work, I made my way for a visit. I met owner Kevin McQuillan who kindly invited me to join them every morning for 7:00 am yoga. I felt honoured to be part of the daily morning program for the 200 hour YTT for two weeks and 100 hour Ayurveda students in training for one week with Kevin and his partner Serena Arora. From 7:00 am-10:30 am each day, I participated in the morning talks on various personal development topics, deep group sharing, chanting, kriyas, meditation and yoga, and got to know the students, volunteers and staff from all around the globe, and myself a little better. I am grateful for their inclusivity and support of my spiritual growth in their safe container.
“Closing our eyes in yoga gives us the opportunity to see ourselves more clearly”, Serena Arora
Through Kevin, I heard about the local adventure tour “go to” guy, Javier and organized a waterfall hike for the following week. It felt good to be in the forest again and after seeing my interest in nature, Javier generously shared his knowledge of the plants and trees. As we walked by one particularly tall tree, he said, “that is a ceiba, it is a sacred tree.”
After our rigorous hike that day, I kept thinking about the ceiba and took my curiosity online to find out more about this tree. The Mayan people considered the ceiba as the most sacred tree, the “first tree” and home of the gods thought to stabilize earth within the chaotic and circular energy of the universe.
According to Tree Spirit Wisdom, the Ceiba tree represents change, “a turning point in the trajectory of our life…Now is the time to reevaluate our life by going inward and controlling how we react in order to move forward…nothing is constant but change. Even the best made plans can change due to unforeseen circumstances. This may signal a turning point in our life that causes us to reevaluate our choices or perception. By embracing this time of change, we can learn how to bring out the best within us. This is a chance to turn things around and seek new opportunities”.
Base of a mature ceiba tree
This is interesting to me for obvious reasons given this transitional stage of my life but also because of my friendship with another tree I met on my morning walks along the jungle path to yoga classes. I didn’t know it was a ceiba tree at the time but there was an invisible thread connecting us, an energetic pull, as we greeted each other in the mornings.
My online search also lead me to discover that the world’s largest labyrinth was less than an hour away, La Senda outside of Tamarindo. I have always been fascinated by labyrinths after experiencing their magic many years ago so this was a truly exciting discovery.
Later that day, Peace Retreat Centre invited me to join their yoga teachers for a sacred Cacao medicine ceremony with a shaman that evening. During the trance-like ceremony, I saw images of the ceibas and labyrinth — I was being called this sacred place.
After a few emails with the owners, I made my way one early morning for a visit. As I navigated dirt road after dirt road, one wrong turn and an unnerving river crossing (thank you SUV!), I saw a small sign “La Senda” and drove down a long driveway lined with ceiba trees. Overwhelmed with emotion, tears filled my eyes. On arrival, I met Ann who invited me into their home, an architectural marvel in its own right with a spectacular view of their farm and surrounding jungle. The owners, Ann and Griet had a meeting in the city and asked if I was comfortable on my own. I knew that this experience was unfolding as it was meant to so I said yes, not knowing what to expect. I thanked them for sharing their land, made a donation and expressed my surprise that so few people knew about this magical place. Ann told me that don’t advertise because the labyrinth calls those meant to be there. I let her know that I certainly felt that calling…but it was from the sacred ceiba.
Ann escorted me to the beginning of the trail with their three happy dogs by our side and one staying with me for the entire time, I felt as my self appointed guardian.
The walk to the labyrinth is about 15 minutes down a dirt path lined with signage along the way. The full messaging can be found at the end of this story but here are a few highlights I found interesting:
La Senda is the biggest labyrinth in the world and the only one with 2 centers. It is almost 3 acres and the path is 1.7 miles. Sergio Salas, biologist, geologist, homeopathic doctor and dowser, discovered two large energy columns with an opposite charge, one positive and one negative. The path is lined with cactus plants as they repel the negative energy with their barbs while their antennas attract positive vibrations.
The first labyrinths go back 4,000 years and their origin is a mystery. They have been found all over the planet in times when there was no contact between ancestral cultures. We do not know what they were created for and the science of their design was forgotten but they are universal.
Meditation labyrinths are gaining popularity as a pathway to mental health and clarity and current science recognize these benefits. Harvard recommends they be built in hospitals, companies, schools, universities, temples, churches and public parks.
People walk labyrinths to find themselves, to meditate, to lower the mind’s volume, to connect with the essence of being.
We connect with our essence when we allow the cosmic energy to flow through our being, when we allow inspiration, innocent joy, inner strength, acceptance and intuition to emerge.
When you walk a meditation labyrinth, it directs you toward the centre, in silence, peace, with hope. And that’s why when you reach the centre of the labyrinth you also reach your centre, your essence, the best of you, from where you unleash all your human potential.
So into this large electromagnetic field I went with my guardian dog and no expectations. A slow and silent meditative two hour walk along a path marked by tall cactus plants — one step at a time with an open mind and heart. I felt safe and relaxed and when I reached the center, I felt…well…centered. Grounded. And in a liminal state — a state I’m familiar with from my forest therapy guide training.
When I arrived at the centre, I placed my hand on the ceiba tree and immediately saw thousands of images in my mind like black and white photos. I later learned in a Buddhist meditation retreat that what I experienced was seeing infinite consciousness and was surprised to have had a similar experience of seeing thousands of consciousnesses in seconds during the retreat.
There were two stumps next to the tree and I slowly made my way to one and called in reiki energy — the energy in this space was palpable. I took a few pictures then placed my phone on the wooden stump next to me. What I can’t explain are the photos on my phone where rainbows and auras appear.
It has taken me some time to process this experience. I still can’t fully put it into words. What I do know is that it was pure, beautiful, powerful energy found in nature. I’m grateful to have had this time alone to connect with it and raise my vibration.
Just before leaving, I decided to lay on the grass to completely charge my body with this powerful energy. As I gazed dreamily at the bright blue sky, in the clouds, I saw an image of an angel holding a book — a clear message for me — write! So I share this story with you now and hope it brings peace to your heart and a reminder to slow down to connect with the essence of who you are. You do not have to travel far from home for this in my opinion — slowing down, noticing the natural world that is all around you and connecting with mother earth can bring you back to who you are.
Signage along the path to the labyrinth La Senda:
Welcome to the biggest labyrinth in the world and the only one with 2 centers. It measures almost 3 acres and the path is 1.7 miles. It was build in 2009. We talk about labyrinths to find yourself, to meditate, the ones that have one path. Unlike the ones called mazes which have the purpose of getting lost and where you have to decipher the route, using reason and logic. In true labyrinths, we rather lower the mind’s volume, to connect with the essence of being.
The first labyrinths are very old, they go back to the beginning of the written history 4,000 years ago and their origin is a mystery. They have been found all over the planet in places as distant from each other as Sumatra, India, Africa, the Americas and Europe in times when there was no contact between ancestral cultures. We do not know what they were created for and the science of their design was forgotten but they are universal.
We connect with our essence when we allow the cosmic energy to flow through our being, when we allow inspiration, innocent joy, inner strength, acceptance and intuition to emerge. When you walk a meditation labyrinth, it directs you toward the centre, in silence, peace, with hope. And that’s why when you reach the centre of the labyrinth you also reach your centre, your essence, the best of you, from where you unleash all your human potential.
Meditation labyrinths are gaining popularity as a pathway to mental health, and clarity and current science recognizes these benefits. Harvard University has recommended that labyrinths be build in hospitals, to constructively handle grief and pain; in companies to unleash creativity and control stress; in schools and universities to develop concentration and the ability to solve problems; in temples, churches and public parks for people to explore their interiority and raise their level of frequency. In the U.S. more than 100 hospitals and other health case facilities such as hospices have walking labyrinths.
Sergio Salas, our friend biologist, geologist, homeopathic doctor and dowser*, discovered two large energy columns with an opposite charge, one positive and one negative, or male and female, yin and yang. To solve the polar duality of male and female energetic columns, the architect Ronal Esquivel based his design of the labyrinth on the vesica piscis, a geometric figure that since ancient times symbolizes in sacred geometry the womb , the cradle of creation. The vesica is constructed starting from two circles that each touch the centre of the other. The intersection of these two circles has a pointed oval shape. All the turns and changes of this labyrinth happen within the vesica piscis.
The layers are seven per column or fourteen in total and have a ripple effect to amplify the power of the energy centers. Because this labyrinth consists of two centers, contrary to a one-centered labyrinth, you never walk the same path twice. The trail is composed of three trails that flow in to the other while the second path also mirrors itself and also unites the 2 polarities.
Why cactus? Because in the Mesoamerican indigenous tradition, the cactus has the quality to repel the negative energy with its barbs and at the same time they are like antennas that attract positive vibrations. The candle like cactus as a large antenna represents the male energy and the prickly pear represents the receptive female energy.
Take advantage of the healing power of this big electromagnetic field: walk it in silence as a meditation, each at your own pace and with an open mind.
What happens in the labyrinth?
The dance of life is made
From the joy of the sequence of steps
And counter steps, turning points and curves
That not only take possession of our bodies,
But of our whole Being.