I recently had the pleasure of attending a retreat on an organic farm in the jungles of Costa Rica called Tribal Alliance. The event brought together more than 80 of the most conscious individuals I have ever come across in a 5-day experience – an experience filled with workshops, a sweat lodge, kambo ceremonies and more ecological beauty than one can imagine.
Picture a miniature Burning Man in the jungle.
True to its name, the gathering felt like how you would imagine tribal life to be. It was a visceral reminder of what life can be like living in a tight-knit community of people who share your values.
Here are my 6 most memorable experiences from the retreat.
1. The (Naked) River Ceremony
I became much more comfortable with public nudity at Burning Man, but TA really brought that comfort to the next level.
The entire gathering lined up at either side of the river running through the bottom of our campground, armed with tobacco to release into the river as an offering. One woman broke the ice and removed her clothes and sat in the river. Soon enough half the group had removed their clothes to sit meditatively in the rushing water. I joined in and felt incredibly liberated.
Another woman discovered that she could lie down flat in the water and float down between the two lines of people, just barely grazing the stone river bottom. We followed after her one-by-one in unspoken ritual.
It was one of those most ethereal experience I’ve ever had to close my eyes let the water guide my body downstream in front of strangers and new friends.
2. Hoʻoponopono (Ho-Oh-Ponoh-Ponoh)
Hoʻoponopono is an ancient Hawaiian healing practice centered around forgiveness (of the self and of others). We had the good fortune of having a seasoned Hoʻoponopono practitioner at the gathering who ran a packed workshop with 60+ people.
We began with a heart breath, visualizing each breath coming in and out of the heart. This centers you in your chest area and prepares you for the heavy healing practice that is Hoʻoponopono.
Then we visualized being in the same room as our entire family tree, extending 12 generations into the past. We started by looking deep into the eyes of our mothers and fathers and whispering the classic Hoʻoponopono phrase…
“I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.”
Then we visualized our fathers and mothers saying this to each other. Then to their respective fathers and mothers. We repeated this up the entire family tree.
Then came the part that really hit home for me.
We were told to imagine having a conversation with our 5-year-old selves. To remember what was going on in our lives and in our minds at that age, and to tell our younger self that we love them. We did this for each age sequentially up until 18.
It is unspeakably moving to remember your mindsets and hardships at each stage of life, and to be able to tell yourself at each age that everything is going to be okay. You forget that you haven’t always been a grownup, and you went through so much to get here.
3. Bathing in the River
Hot showers pale in comparison to bathing in the rushing waters of a jungle river. It felt so natural and so invigorating to jump in the water each morning, followed by meditation perched on top of a rock near the water.
Who needs a meditation cd when you have real nature sounds?
4. World Cafe Discussions
Since there was such a wide variety of skills, knowledge and backgrounds in the gathering, it was a prime place to host a discussion circle covering the most pressing issues of today. We did so through a method called World Cafe, which allows each person to participate in several small discussions that pique his/her interest, and for each successive group to build off the discussion of the previous group.
5. Men’s Circle
The men and women parted ways into two groups to have gender-centric talking circles. At the men’s circle, we discussed the challenges of being a man in this modern world, and ways that we can bring healing to the our relationship with the sacred feminine.
After the healing was complete, we were asked to envision the hundreds of warrior lives we have lived throughout the centuries while the entire circle broke out into a tribal war chant. Then each man called out the name of a powerful warrior from history (Gandhi, Buddha, Moses, etc), invoking an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia and power. This climaxed with everyone letting out their most animalistic of howls, hoots and roars.
6. Being a Tribe
5 days transformed 80+ strangers into a cohesive tribe. I’ve written about the magic of live communally before, but doing so in such a large group was even more powerful. You may have experienced this first-hand at summer camps, boarding schools or perhaps at Burning Man. It is a warming feeling of togetherness, where this is always someone to speak to no matter what your query. Where there are always amazing events/meals/experiences going on because there are so many beautiful, motivated people working to create for the tribe as a whole. It feels like home.
Some intention setting before a sweat lodge ceremony.
Yes, this experience was pretty out there :)
In all honesty, it was very difficult for me to let go completely. Social barriers were being broken down at a furious pace and I struggled to keep up.
I think of myself as a pretty forward-thinking, open-minded individual and yet there I was hesitant to become truly intimate with others and to bare my all — and I don’t just mean taking my clothes off.
It was strange to realize that I’m not as free spirited as I thought.
That’s life for you. You think you’ve attained something or learned a final lesson, and then life slaps you on the head and says:
Hey sunshine! You still have more to learn, more room to grow, more to experience!
And that is fantastic :)