Part I: Returning from a Bumpy Ride
|The original Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at Disneyland, 1956|
Our plane touched down at SJO at 1 pm. And we made our way through familiar lines and aimed towards home. It had been a combined business pleasure trip for me – teaching and family gathering. For Frank, a Canadian who rarely ventures back into North America it was an opportunity to meet my family. Together, we were experiencing our first real trip as a senior couple. We had been in Seattle for just two weeks. Standing in the customs line we were exhausted. Depleted. The Tico chatter and activity at the airport was welcome, even soothing but I felt disoriented - like a time way back in 1955 when I stepped out of the little vintage motorcar named ‘Toady’ on that original dark ride at Disneyland called Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Why did I feel so shaken? What had happened during this trip that affected me so completely?
The trip was filled with the usual ups and downs. But there was more. After the incredible joy of reunions and the elation I always feel when teaching watercolor my energy dipped and I began to feel heavier, weaker. I withdrew. I noticed a few lingering fearful thoughts in my mind – talking-head ‘news’ from airport television monitors and newspaper headlines. This time the announcements of terrorist alerts and war had been replaced by fearful rhetoric of doomsday forecasts for economic collapse, credit defaults, debt ceiling crisis and austerity cutbacks to social security, medical care…. Pretty soon I projected the universal fears onto myself and began to notice and focus on the things in my life that were not okay – which now included me. As I looked around I saw stores filled with clothes or furnishings or sauces from all parts of the world. Fancy new car models I didn’t recognize passed me on the freeway and obvious wealth dotted my surroundings like exuberant splashes of bright colors on a neutral painting. In comparison I began to feel less, old and poor. It got worse once I became fully in gear with my fear. A simple traffic misunderstanding ballooned into a police matter. An old back injury reappeared. Meanwhile, Frank who is normally positive and adaptable became easily agitated, even frantic by the fast pace on the freeway and the overabundance of things available in the shopping malls and grocery stores. By then it felt like we were fully aboard ‘Toady’ plunging through the opening doors into the darkened interior of ‘Toad Hall’ with the piped in theme music adding a surreal accent.
“We’re merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily on our way to nowhere in particular!”
Propelled through rooms echoing scenes from Wind in the Willows, the ride was startling from start to finish. Doors opened suddenly. Signs popped up just ahead. The car veered just before crashing into a policeman with a hand raised in a Stop gesture. And then, toward the end of the ride I remember seeing the signs, “Go Back”, “Detour”, “One Way” just before we crashed into a courtroom past a judge and into a jail cell just seconds before turning into complete darkness and coming face to face with the bright light of an oncoming train! From the perspective of a 13 year old and the technology of the fifties, this ride was somewhere in the midst of bizarre, unnerving and terrifying.
Our senses overloaded and with no good way to replenish ourselves, we did the best we could. It would take nearly two weeks back in the relative calm of southern Costa Rica, surrounded by nature for us to regain our balance – together and separately.
Why did we feel so off balance? Why are we more comfortable with a simple life in Costa Rica? Why do we feel like we have plenty here when, by North American expectations we don’t? And why do things seem to just fall into place for us here?
Living in Costa Rica has shown a way to live more effortlessly. Life in my Tico neighborhood moves along more slowly and spontaneously with most things getting attended to when the need arises. When I moved here I had a choice. I could keep my American identity in place - with all the things I was supposed to have and to do or things I was supposed to worry about or protect myself from. I found it more comfortable to adapt to the ways of my neighbors. I found my best days were calm and peaceful, unfolding as they do, prompted by moment-by-moment intuitive nudges. I may wake with one thing to accomplish for that day noted and underlined on my To Do list. Then, the day moves on and unfolds in most unpredictable ways. A neighbor waves and we talk briefly, which gets me thinking about someone or something else that might become a new project. After a few hours working on the computer, I go out to make a cup of coffee. A new bird flies through the outdoor kitchen/studio and I go to the bird book to identify it and while I’m there looking at it, I think about a painting I’d like to do or an article to write. I spot a sloth in a distant tree and get out the binoculars and then let my view wander over the city below and find myself thinking about larger views, bigger issues, a new article. I often move through the day in this moment-by-moment discovery instead of a plan. You might say that this sounds either like I have nothing to do or I am losing my mind but I’m finding that I feel really good by the end of such a day. I don’t feel depleted. I’ll admit that it is not an easy thing to just allow my intuition to guide me through instead of the To Do checklist …. But….the best part is that the critical things actually get done while I meander. My unfolding days have contained enough watercolor workshops, planning and writing to enable me to earn enough to build what I’ve needed. I began to get it. My job was to be conscious - to pay attention to the messages from my intuition and to stay alert to things like signals and signs. Then I could make decisions from a position of excitement. Not from a position of fear.
|Ticos walking home|
|Mother's Day Gathering for the women in my neighborhood, San Rafael Norte|
Part II. Coincidences and Serendipity
|My Tico house, 2008|
Now, nearly three years later my exterior life has changed significantly and the experience continues to convince me that there is a lot more to this life than the things that make sense financially or logically. And the synchronicities continue.
My Tico house was 40 years old – completely empty with a leaky roof, flooding during the rainy season and no place for guests or students. Having arrived with just $6000, I didn’t see how I could repair or rebuild what I had bought. It is almost like I asked the question How? And the answers came forward in surprising nudges. A couple of students suggested a way for me to get the money I needed for the cabinas by setting up a Timeshare Painting Intensive idea. While wandering through a local hardware/lumber store I met a young man who would become my first builder. A neighbor fixed a window and we talked about building a studio. My casual conversations started me thinking and dreaming. Now, almost 3 years later this property contains two self contained cabinas for students, a landscaped yard, an outdoor studio with a complete kitchen and a remodeled house with a new roof. And no more flooding! It didn’t stop with buildings. Right after my first year here I met Frank, who is now my life partner and best friend. Life simply unfolded through gentle nudges, good suggestions and what looks to me like a little bit of magic sprinkled in. My Western trained planning nature has had to take the back seat from which to pause and allow things to fall into place.
|My Tico house, 2011|
|Frank walking on his farm|
So – what is Going ON? Why are we having these kinds of experiences?
For me it seems to be affected by how I am feeling. My personal energy level varies considerably, feeling lower whenever I am nudged down the fear path – whether it is fear of losing Social Security, fear of not having ‘enough’, fear of having no health insurance or or…. Sometimes it is too easy to be lured down that path – especially in these times, when fear is rampant whether used by corporate news for political gain or by well meaning friends passing on the latest bad news. I have to take special care to prevent an almost unconscious descent down that path especially now that I seem to have increased my energy sensitivity through lifestyle choices. Having given up my antidepressants when I moved to Costa Rica I sometimes miss the steady balance they provided. And sure enough, as soon as my energy drops, I start feeling bad physically as well as mentally and I creep towards the dangerous downward spiral. I have to be particularly careful with television. If I decide to watch CNN or BBC to see what’s happening in real time, I need to make sure I don’t just leave it on ‘in the background, where it seeps into my subconscious. I balance corporate media with selected alternative media such as YES! Magazine and Real News that offer positive approaches and new ways to think about the never-ending traditional debates. I found I needed effective ways to boost my energy to get my Optimistic Self back and allow the positive to quietly flow in again.
I admit that when I’m down, I sometimes look for distraction – a movie, a book. I remembered again the amusing respites during Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride that relieved the mounting tension and distracted me from what I feared was coming. There were weasels hanging from chandeliers and a jolly bar tender in Winky’s Pub with a tray full of balancing beer mugs. But distractions never seem to last long enough or truly raise my spirits.
My best real energy lifter is Nature, which is sometimes closer than I, the Buddhist wannabe who resists even stepping on an ant, want. Fortunately I’m more amused than bothered by the huge cane toad hopping through the house or the Great Kiskadee that screams at me for being in its way in my outdoor kitchen! Nature is part of life in the Tropics and my simple life here lifts my energy more than anything! Having enough to ‘get by’ while surrounded by my Tico neighborhood lets me avoid seeing conspicuous wealth and start the old comparison game. Music helps a lot too, as well as time painting with a few friends or students. A good conversation with a trusted friend and I’m back in balance and I begin to feel the intuitive nudges and see new possibilities I couldn’t see before.
All this is true for me. But there is just one hitch. My scientific core always wants to understand. So fasten your seat belts for Part 3 of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride… The Science Behind the Magic.
The Science Behind the Magic
|The Blue Morpho butterfly|
I am a person with two essential cores – scientist and artist. Left-brain and Right-brain.
Having finished college in the sixties with a major in Zoology and minor in Chemistry, I was heavily steeped in the scientific method as my means of discovery. But my scientific training came after a childhood filled with drawing, painting and music. Always I tried to find ways to bridge the gap between the arts and science. Though I missed the age of the Hippies by a few years, New Age ideology intrigued me and the ‘woo woo’ phrases, Your thoughts can effect your health, You create your reality, and We are all connected aroused both my interest and my skepticism.
In 1979 a book hit the shelves – The Dancing WuLi Masters by Greg Zucov – and I was intrigued because it appeared to suggest connection between New Age thinking and Quantum Physics. Then What the Bleep and a few other books and videos kept my scientific mind from closing shut.
The changes that happened in me over these past three years in Costa Rica and more recently in Seattle rekindled my interest. I needed to understand. As I often do, I started surfing the web via Google and came up with a book! The Field by Lynn McTaggart.
The Field is the story of the scientific revolution of the Quantum scientists who have validated areas that were largely the domain of religion, alternative medicine and New Age speculation. The story is told by a Ms. McTaggart, a lay person with the advice, corroboration and explanation from the many published and notable scientists who have verified the theory through hard scientific experimentation and mathematics. She starts the book with the life changing experience of Apollo 14 Astronaut, Edgar Mitchell on his return flight from the moon in early 1971. Two years later he became the driving force behind the Institute of Noetic Sciences, which continues research into areas including consciousness and psychic events. For me it was like coming home. Finally the pieces of the puzzle clicked into place and the magic made sense. This was the start of what I needed to ecstatically bridge the chasm between how I had been taught to view the world the way I knew at my core. This was scientific validation that I was connected to everything around me. Though difficult to grasp by a disbelieving mind, here were answers to some fundamental questions. How does energy work? How does what I think affect reality? Why do things seem to work out for me when I can stay peaceful, positive and in tune with my natural surroundings? Why does this seem to break down when I am steeped in negativity and fear? What exactly is the collective consciousness - the field?
Some of the scientific concepts in the book that are especially meaningful to me include:
· Energy. Thoughts are energy and thoughts have power. What we focus upon can affect everything from machinery to cells to entire organisms. We affect our lives and the lives of others by what is in our minds.
· Interconnectedness. Our world, at is most basic, exists as a complex web of interdependent relationships. We and everything around us are joined through our individual electrons and sub-atomic realities in one underlying energy field that includes time, space and matter. This is The Field.
"Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect." Chief Seattle, 1854
We humans have a predominant worldview that has been shaped by the Cartesian science of Newton, Descartes and Darwin. We see ourselves as separate from each other and Nature. British Physicist, David Bohm believes that our almost universal tendency to fragment the world and ignore the dynamic interconnectedness is responsible for many of our problems – i.e. we think we can extract what we want from the earth without affecting the whole. Like ecstatic spectators in the stands, we chant and scream for our team, our country, our rights, our individuality. And truly, as long as we believe in our separation, we feel separate. But quietly, beneath all the commotion and noise there is a gentle, cooperative wave of change and hope fueled by quantum research. What the Quantum Physicists suggest is that we humans individually can change our lives. Collectively, we can change the world.
On a personal level I am still working on incorporating all of this into my life. I know that the most powerful tool I possess for implementing the changes I want is a steadfast belief in this power. It isn’t about hoping for good fortune but rather the belief that one already has it that makes it real. Understanding the science of quantum physics provides the foundation I need to build the rest. I still sometimes have trouble with distractions and fears. I need to keep remembering that the message I got was Be Conscious. And it probably could have included the phrase, and Stay There!
I wonder how it would be if I could revisit Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and once more step aboard Toady and head straight through those huge, yawning doors. Could I shut out the distracting noises and looming fears and actually take control of the ride?
|Frank and me in my outdoor kitchen|