I recently brought my family to Costa Rica. And although the Latin American, Catholic culture and the many hippies who inhabit this little mountain community arent that different from what I find familiar, this experience has already been a massive test of my adaptability.
I am noticing both the micro shift within my own personal reality, as well as the macro differences of flora, fauna, climate and culture and they ways they influence the individual and collective psyche.
In the book, Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond hypothesized that there is no cultural superiority. We humans merely evolve and adapt perfectly to match our environment. Not only do we adapt to our external world, as Diamond posits, but I find, the environment we live in colonizes our psyche as well. Our internal archetypal reality begins to resonate with and mirror the morphic resonance of the surrounding external landscape.
This is purely my experience. And these thoughts and ideas are percolating up from my own depths.
In Salt Lake City, Utah, my experience is an acidic harshness and rigidity. In the Utah desert, there are extreme weather shifts in the dry, desert environment. Winter is bitter cold and summer is blistering hot. There is an energy to hoard. “Make hay while the sun shines.” There has been a long history from the pioneers who settled the area that still continues today, to have the moral incentive to work hard and store food for the long, harsh winter. The pioneers adapted perfectly to the local environmental stress. And somehow, what used to be storing fundamentals like land, grain and potatoes in the 1800’s has culturally morphed today into hoarding money and products of consumer culture.
And this is not only in Utah, but throughout Western culture. The hedonistic treadmill feeds an insatiable sense of lack, coming from the consumer culture spewing advertising out on billboards, magazine advertising and television, 24/7. Its nearly impossible to escape.
The result of this environmental input on my psyche has been to strive and struggle. I experience there is a need to resist and defend from outside offenders. Almost like an auto-immune disease in my energetic field. And even when I resist, the consensual reality seeps in. I work incessantly and have a directed, driven way of living. For me, life in Utah feels like a struggle. To make ends meet, to measure up to an external ideal of a married woman with children who is not only successful and talented, but also witty and funny.
I strain to resist the constant input of advertising because after consuming its message, I feel a sense of lack and helplessness. I end up feeling old and ugly…less than. And if I just buy the next thing, and the next thing, somehow at the end of the yellow brick road, I will arrive and all will be perfect. Of course, built into the consuming system is that I will never arrive and that keeps me spending, and working and spending endlessly on some sadistic hamster wheel of life energy.
And then again, that drive and directed sense of purpose, which in Jungian psychology is the Positive Masculine, is very effective. It gets shit done, takes care of business. It created things like the internet and this very blog I am now writing this on. I definitely have gratitude for some of it. I’m grateful for the parts of that system that suit me, I guess. And Salt Lake City has been good to me in many ways. It is just in this comparative state and the nascence of my new adventure that is revealing these contrasts.
So here I am, in Costa Rica. Where I live, there are no billboards. I do not have TV. I am lucky to get spots of internet. Women here have a natural beauty- no make-up, hair color, or fancy clothes. But rather, they possess wide-open eyes, bright smiles and a mindful, patient presence that I have rarely experienced.
The environment reflects what I have experienced in its people. The land is wildly beautiful in this lush cloud forest. Life inhabits every nook and cranny. If I hang the bathroom rug to dry on the shower, within an hour there is a happy spider with a full spun web all settled in munching on a bug.
Here, Pachamama has spread her dank Yin all over the place. And the dominant force in this land is the Positive Feminine.
I marvel at the moss and bromeliads, spiders, insects, birds covering the whole world like a moist blanket. The roads are unpaved and rocky, and the old people walk up and down them with a life force unmatched by people I know in the USA who are 30 years younger. The hippies and Ticos here remind me of Hobbits hidden in the mountain. They live in quirky, half-assed built houses made of stucco and salvaged sheets of visquene.
And nothing, nothing is done in a linear way. I was once told Costa Rica is process oriented, rather than results oriented. And after being here, I couldn’t agree more. The answer you get to any inquiry as to when something will be finished, “Now and also in a little while.”
I showed up with my hoarding nature, and I’m not sure how long its going to take to shake it off. In Utah, I go to Costco and buy bulk packages of everything, leave my bread bags open on the counter, and wait a week for avocados to ripen.
In Costa Rica, I buy bananas and the next morning I find them half-eaten by animals and all black. There is no hoarding here. The jungle consumes all. That’s why there are no archeological artifacts other than a few pots and the stone temples in the jungle. Like Ankor Wat in Combodia, the jungle eats everything here as well.
The energy is, why buy two bunches of bananas? Just walk over there and pick one off of the tree when you’re hungry. A new friend told me, “You don’t need money here. If you’re hungry, just go over there and pick a mandarin orange. If you have 2 oranges, trade one for eggs from the neighbor. In the USA, you have to pay money you work for hours for just to drink clean water.”
There is also an energy that accompanies pervading Yin… surrender and to be receptive. I am finding my energy, so masculine and driven, is usually met with either a confused stare or a chuckle and a shaking head. Another new friend told me, “You’ll get over that (waving his hand in my general direction), in a year or so.”
The lovely pregnant mama of the family who is sharing our communal kitchen strides slowly about, getting things done at a tranquil pace, poco-a-poco. I marvel at her serenity. When she speaks to me, her big eyes taking me all in and just listening with long pauses, I get self conscious and start making random chit-chat to fill up the quiet.
This is good for me, though. I can feel it. Getting all that shit done wasn’t what it was cracked up to be. In this land of abundance, maybe all that “make hay while the sun shines” energy is useless and counter-productive. We’ll see if I will adapt to my new environment, as Mr Diamond posited. Perhaps the old cow paths will grow over and new ones will form, this time, through the dense jungle.