“Wiricuta, wiricuta, wiricuta, gran espiritu. Wiricuta, wiricuta, wiricuta, gran espiritu.”
We chanted in the darkness among the night owls and the cicadas. Their hum and occasional coos like melodic improvisations among our repetitive voices. I was in the mountains, in the middle of nowhere, on a retreat in Costa Rica, running away from someone I never wanted to face.
Just two days before, I was in Puerto Viejo, the one place I considered home in four years of global travel. I had been to Puerto Viejo at least ten times over the years, always pulled back in by its intoxicating magic.
I had also been pulled in by the intoxicating lust of a man there. We met on my first trip to Costa Rica, and played out the typical tourist+local saga I’ve come to know quite well. He took me surfing and hiking in the jungle and brought exotic fruit to my house, and the more I fell in love with Puerto Viejo, the more I fell in love with him.
The rest of the story didn’t go so well. He pulled away, fed me an excuse, and I left heartbroken. Months later I learned of his ex wife, his girlfriend, and his two children.
An extremely likely story in Puerto Viejo, but for the sweet, open, naïve, heart on her sleeve, loves with her whole being, girl I was back then, it was shattering. Even writing this now, I feel sad for her, and I feel sad that I lost a part of her in that experience.
Over the year that followed there was always tension when I saw him. It hurt seeing him with other women. It hurt more when he showed that he cared about me. His presence made me deeply uncomfortable in a place that otherwise felt like my mother’s womb.
So I guess that’s why more than a year since I had last seen him, I decided to do something that would end our cycle forever. I did the one thing he’d consider unforgivable. Though, to be fair, I didn’t do it consciously.
It happened at the end of my nine-month journey in Southeast Asia, where I thought of him nearly never and thought that I had moved on. On the beach one day in Cambodia, I met a woman who also traveled quite frequently in Puerto Viejo. We had mutual friends and realized on Facebook that we would both be in Otres Beach at the same time.
Those of you who have been following for a while may remember what went down when we met.
In short, I discovered that she was the best friend of the girlfriend of my Puerto Viejo lover. I remember feeling sick in my stomach, and when she asked me if I knew him, I reluctantly told her the whole story. Of course in that moment, I didn’t consider the consequences of sharing my truth.
It exploded within 24 hours, both he and the girlfriend sending me angry messages, her asking for more information, him asking why I said something at all, and both of them displacing their shame onto me. (Read more in my post A Karmic Love Story.)
That fire that began in Cambodia exploded a few months later when I returned to Costa Rica. He and I never spoke, but he made his anger clear. I felt either resentful or ashamed whenever I saw him, and despite not speaking to him for more than a year, I felt like I was still in love with him.
The only thing keeping me sane in all of this drama, was my Metta meditation practice. I learned Metta during my Yoga Teacher Training in Pavones, and had been sending it to myself ever since.
The practice of Metta is one that reminds us of our inherent perfectness in a state of pure love. In that state, we can recognize the perfectness in others, and send them genuine, unadulterated love.
And it was starting to work. I began to view him with deeper compassion (read more in my post There are Many Shades of Black). I began to fill my being with such compassion that I could recognize that there wasn’t space for him in my world anymore. I began to connect with that perfectness in myself, and seeing his perfectness, I could almost giggle about the trivialness of the entire conflict.
Then his sister beat me up in a bar one night.
As a “girly girl” raised by flower power parents, I had never been in a physical fight in my life. Definitely not with a drunk woman three times my size. It was traumatizing to say the least. (Read more in my post Why I Practice Love.)
After that experience, I considered that perhaps I needed to leave Puerto Viejo. At least for a little while. Though I wondered if it was a wake up call from the universe, telling me I couldn’t avoid him forever. That one day, I’d have to face him. Nonetheless, I decided to run away.
So there I was, in the mountains of Costa Rica, chanting with a group of strangers. The particular chant we did, was one our instructor explained as a method for flooding the dark spaces within us with light. After the practice everyone opened their hearts and shared their deepest truths, to people they met only hours before. (Read about my whole retreat experience in my post How Nature Heals Me.)
After our session ended, I climbed up to my little wooden shelter, and crawled into my sleeping bag surrounded by a mosquito net. With no light pollution and only the sounds of the jungle, I fell into a deep sleep.
I dreamt that I was with my friend Julie, and we were riding bicycles around Bocas Town in Bocas del Toro, Panama. One of her friends pulled over with a truck, and she got into the front seat. I got into the back, and to my surprise, my former Puerto Viejo love got in as well.
“Shit, now I can’t escape him,” I thought.
He had other ideas, and scooted all the way across the seat until our bodies touched.
“If I could do it all over again, I never would have had anything with you,” he said.
“Good, ‘cause you had a girlfriend, so you shouldn’t have!” I said indignantly.
We argued for a while, tossing the blame back and forth, but then something shifted. We began speaking to one another with respect and kindness. We objectively assessed the situation. We were two people in the midst of a negotiation.
And then something truly unbelievable happened.
I realized that I was awake.
If you’ve never had it happen to you before, it might be hard to fathom. However, I felt it so plainly that no logic could dismiss it. I had the awareness of being in my sleeping bag, alone, in the middle of nowhere in Costa Rica, while simultaneously having the awareness that I was sitting with him in conversation. The two were occurring at once and neither felt more real than the other.
I was afraid to open my eyes, unsure of what realm I might see, so I stayed there, eyes closed, in conversation with him. Then, it clicked. I realized that he and I were in the midst of a powerful healing meditation known as Ho’opono’pono.
Ho’opono’pono was first introduced to me by a blog reader, who commented on one of my posts, recommending that I practice it. A few days later, a friend in Puerto Viejo who saw my distress over this man, recommended it as well. I recognized the synchronicity, but put the practice on my plate for “later.”
Clearly my conscious dismissal meant nothing to my subconscious psyche, who summoned it during my sleep. Realizing that this was precisely what this man and I were doing, I recalled that an apology is instrumental in the healing process.
“But what could I possibly be sorry for?” I thought.
“He’s the one who lied! He’s the one who cheated! He’s the one who has caused me and other women so much suffering.”
But beyond the blame, the truth came, and so I delivered it.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“I’m sorry I carried this for so long.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t let it go sooner.”
My eyes sprung open, and I stared up at the top of my mosquito net.
“It’s finished,” I thought.
“Now, it’s finally finished.”
I realized the incomprehensible. That I could heal my relationship with him, without even speaking to him. His ego and my ego may not have been ready to reconcile, but our spirits certainly were. Though admittedly, I was still a little concerned about bumping into his ego.
When the retreat had ended and I returned to Puerto Viejo, I never saw him again. In a town as tiny as Puerto Viejo, this is almost unheard of. For weeks I cycled up and down the one road, on my way to teach yoga, to shop at the market, to go to the beach, to visit my friends. I went out to the bars, socialized with people, and still, I never saw him.
I told my friends that he must have left town, and they replied that they were certain he hadn’t. They had seen him, I just hadn’t.
Soon after, I flew back to the USA, spent Christmas with my family, wrote my first eBook, and went on a massive press trip in Europe. I practiced my Metta meditation, read a transformative book called A Return to Love, and opened myself to the idea of being in a relationship for the first time in a very long time.
I returned from Europe and Morocco to spend the summer with my family, and prepared myself to go back again to Puerto Viejo. I felt in every fiber of my being that Puerto Viejo was my one true home, and being there after such a long cold winter, and a summer full of constant work, was the best reward I could imagine.
Until I thought about seeing him.
Friends informed me that his girlfriend, the mother of his child, had returned to Puerto Viejo after living in another country for several years. I felt sick with anxiety that more drama would soon greet me in Puerto Viejo.
I wondered why the place that I loved most delivered me the hardest lessons.
Dwelling on it didn’t make things better. It gave Puerto Viejo a sour taste. For a moment, I decided against coming back. But I reconsidered, and I meditated instead.
That evening, I mentally scanned through the different men I had fallen in love with in my life. I made a little checklist, asking who I had let go of, and who still lingered. A few I decided I had let go of, one I decided to address later, and when it got to him, I felt a heaviness. So I consciously meditated on releasing him. I let him go from my heart and from my mind. I could actually see him disappearing.
The next day, he sent me an apology.
Seriously. It actually happened like that.
This baffled me on so many levels. First of all, he and I had not spoken face to face in two and a half years. Secondly, the last message I had received from him, was a year prior, when I was in Cambodia, and he angrily accused me of lying about our relationship. Third, in the culture of Puerto Viejo, you’re unlikely to ever get an apology from anyone.
I responded to him with kindness and gratitude.
It was like a huge weight had been lifted.
And now that I’m back, in my little jungle beach town of Puerto Viejo, all that I see is light. The heaviness that once accompanied my experience here has dissolved.
This time, when I saw him for the first time in two and a half years, he said, “I don’t want to keep hurting you anymore.” In that moment, I knew I would never become intoxicated by him ever again. I was also pretty sure he’d never become intoxicated by me again. So I smiled and said, “Don’t worry, you won’t.”
Whatever karma once existed between this man and I seems to have cleared.
That’s not to say that I will never feel it again. That I won’t have more lessons to learn here. That I’ll never have unease in his presence again. That I’ll stop being attracted to him. That I’ll stop loving him.
But little by little, bit by bit, breath by breath, smile by smile, heartbeat by heartbeat, I’m moving on.