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Where the Chaga tea flows like wine October 8, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — amb33 @ 4:26 pm


What would make an otherwise rational woman get up at four thirty am on a Sunday to drive three hours through the rain and fog?

For a day chock full of workshops, healing, generosity and kindred spirits.

When I arrived at the Northeast Healer’s Symposium, I was immediately taken by the beauty of the location. There were ponds, lots of little nooks perfect for meditation, trails and a living roof! Dreaming Mountain in Johnson Vt is a gorgeous place to retreat to gain some rest and relaxation. My copilot and I were greeted by our host, the mastermind behind the Healer’s Symposium, the uber hospitable Joshua Pfiel.

The first workshop was presented by Ross Conrad the natural beekeeping extraordinaire. Ross is clearly a man who has followed his path. He had a calm, peaceful energy that comes with knowing you are exactly where you belong. We learned about the benefits of propolis and be pollen– amazing stuff. All that beeeeautiful (sorry couldn’t resist) info will be added to my bag o tricks. Ross also talked about the benefits of bee sting therapy and demonstrated. It was areal treat to observe as one woman received bee stings for knee pain. It was fascinating!!

There were workshops on Reiki, sound healing, medicinal mushrooms, breath work and of course everything you ever wanted to know about healing power of bees. The presenters were amazing! I especially enjoyed the sound healing workshop as Eileen McKusick shared her work on some ground breaking developments in her field.

Showing gratitude for our meal


All of the workshops were incredible but for me, the most amazing and healing part of the symposium was Joshua himself. His warm, inviting air and generous spirit was completely free of self interest. He truly wanted to share this information and was literally giving it away. The dining table offered food all day long chaga tea was a brewin, a big bowl of gogi berries, dates and apples, chlorella (incase anyone wanted to chelate 🙂 and many different raw cheeses, delicious salads, Joshua’s signature hot sauce and many more delicacies are slipping my mind. Spending the day there made my spirit soar and it also caused me to consider the differences between generosity and giving.

In the raw food community, and life in general, I have come across many people who give but are not sincerely generous. I have also come across a few incredibly generous souls who are so confident in their place on this earth that they are able to stand firmly and share without fear. On this day, I considered why it felt so different. I realized that giving is often in hopes of eventually getting. Giving only to those deemed worthy or follow certain rules is not generosity. Giving and then taking away is not generosity. It is a tricky nuance that I have always felt but could never put into words until now. Giving can be motivated by many things: the need to be liked, the need to be in control, the need to be needed and a hundred other possibilities. Giving often includes strings. Give is often followed by take.

But generosity……. Generosity has one motive and that is to share our gifts, love and abundance of spirit. True generosity comes from our innermost being and asks nothing in return. Generosity is not concerned with what will be given in return. Generosity is a fountain that continually offers itself without thought of if the water will run dry. Generosity recognizes abundance. The beautiful thing is that true generosity of spirit inspires generosity in return.

I strive to be generous with my love, my heart, my knowledge and my resources. I am expressing gratitude to the universe for giving me such wonderful examples of both giving and generosity allowing me to appreciate the difference and choose for myself.


Dominical Days June 12, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — amb33 @ 2:56 am

tree pose

After a long sweaty bus ride, I was so excited to arrive back at the beach after being away from the ocean for so long– well a week feels like a long time like being away from someone you love deeply. I am realizing how much the ocean feeds my energy. Definitely something to think about as I am considering long term options. Just walking through town it was so mellow and tranquillo. I came to Dominical last year nad loved it. It was so nice to be in a familiar place and know my way around the three streets.

I found the hostel where Jude, Natalie and I had all agreed to meet. I checked in and got the last room SCORE! I found Jude and we went directly to the beach I was so hot and gross from the looong bus ride I could barely speak until I got in the water to cool off. I met Jude’s friends and we chilled out in the shade. In Dominical the beach is empty in the afternoons because it is LITERALLY scorching hot. You can burn your tootsies on the host sand if you aren’t careful. As Jude and I were catching up we saw Natalie arrive which was a surprise because I didn’t know when to expect her. It was fun to have a little crew of familiar faces in a familiar place. Jude had also met some really great people and it was a fun chill group.

The hostel was nice there were free surf boards and the rooms were very basic. I spent about a week in Dominical last year and had a great time visiting all of my favorite spots and some new favorites. Café Ensueno is always great this year they had delicious smoothies which were more like icecream. I found myself wondering if she had them last year and I just was more interested in coffee drinks than smoothies. The beet juice smoothie with mango and banana quickly became my signature smoothie and by the end of the week they had my order down.

The first day there Natalie and I saw a sign for capoeira workshop and decided to give it a shot. I had been wanting to try it for a while and now seemed like a great opportunity.

It was the most AMAZING and challenging workout. It was so much fun. I think I will be looking into training when I get back to the states. At the workshop we met the AMAZING Melissa and FANTASTIC Jesse Chapman. These two had such a beautiful stable, peaceful energy and I was immediately drawn to them. I wish I had more time to get to know them but I have a feeling I will see them again. Melissa shared that there is a pretty big raw community in the Dominical area which is great to know. After our super sweaty workout we grabbed some smoothies and headed to the beach to watch the sunset. That is my FAVORITE thing about the pacific coast. Everyday at sunset everyone converges on the beach and it is surprisingly quiet. It is a time of day for peace and reverence.

Dominical sunset

Natalie and I also decided to attend a kirtan at Bamboo Yoga Studio http://bambooyogaplay.com. I was very excited because the Kirtan I attend in Burlington Vermont is such a source of positive energy and regeneration for me. We invited the others from the hostel and to my surprise Jude was into it. He didn’t really ask many questions about it and was totally openminded which impressed me to no end. A very interesting guy that Jude. It is a truly beautiful thing when people are open to all experiences. We went the Kirtan it was both Natalie and Jude’s first time and it was a lovely experience. After the Kirtan, Sophia, the owner of the studio, set up her yoga swing so I could try it. SO MUCH FUN! It was an amazing release for the back. Then of course Jude jumped on as well. Check it out!

It was great fun to be around people with such beautiful, fun, flowing energy.

While in Dominical I got to surf quite a bit. Much to my dismay I was not good. It took me three days to get my sea legs back which was beyond frustrating to me. I woke up every day at 7 to get out and get a couple of hours in before the waves flattened out. I had a little routine of yoga, meditation and surfing a blissful way to start the day.
I even gave Natalie her first meditation training. We had an amazing talk about attachment and letting go of self/ego. It was hilarious because every time we were ready to begin the meditation there was an interruption a couple from Holland kept coming over to ask us questions about Dominical and then Ryan (one of our friends) came over and chatted with us for a while. It was a great concrete example of releasing attachment to outcome. I love talking with Natalie about the ideas I have been opening up to over the past year and the ideas she‘s been exploring. It was so nice having those conversations and I just soaked up every moment of it. I truly feel that there is something happening in the world right now where people are starting to wake up to different ways of thinking and living. Such an exciting time!!!


No way Jose!

Filed under: Uncategorized — amb33 @ 2:14 am

After Manzanillo it was time to start the trek to Dominical. I planned to take a pit stop in San Jose to get some necessary items….. Sneakers and bathing suit. I have to admit I was a little afraid as I have heard horror stories of robberies and thefts and avoided the city last year. This year I am feeling more courageous and more desperate for certain items I couldn‘t get anywhere else. I arrived in San Jose and had planned to go to a hostel that is well known among backpackers. When I found a cab driver he insisted I wouldn’t like it. I am not sure why but he said in very good English “ trust me you won’t like….. I’ll take you somewhere you like better more nicer and quieter” I was skeptical but said ok. I reasoned that in the worst case I’d wasted four dollars. I arrived at the hostel and it was PERFECT. How did he know?! Really mellow and a beautiful building. It is in the home of an ex-president of Costa Rica. The hostel is called 1110 http://www.hostel1110.com it had an amazing courtyard and was incredibly homey!! One of my favorite places so far….. Have I said that before J Well I mean it this time too!!!! Have I just been lucky or are all of the hostels in Costa Rica AMAZING?! I think I’ve been lucky!

So I stayed in the dorm and it was great. I met a fantastic woman who lives in the dorms while teaching English in a few local schools. I don’t know how she does it with all of the different people in and out every day but she seemed relatively unaffected by it. We had great conversations about the paths we take when life turns us around. She had several losses including a sister, a house and a husband which lead her to realize happiness is not about what you have but your ability to persevere. I had definitely found a kindred spirit and shared my own story of health concerns and losses but also of perseverance. Even if for a while all you can bare to do is breath and most of the time you don‘t even want to do that. It can be as simple and as difficult breathing in and out. No feats of strength or Herculean heroics just breath through the pain ad fear and you will come out the other end. It was a very unlikely friendship but by the time I left I was sad to go.

At the hostel, I also met a delightful British girl who was having romantic problems. My specialty!! Since my love life is non-existant it is always great fun to live vicariously through others without the wear and tear on my own heart. We walked around the city and discussed men and love and sex and how they don’t always mesh quite the way we’d like them to. She joined me on a trip to the post office so I could unload some of my CRAP. My bag was getting altogether too heavy time to lighten up. When we got there the woman behind the counter opened my bags and went through every article of clothing, book and unmentionable I was sending home in front of EVERYONE at the post office. Then she sent me to another counter with some teenagers who referred to us as celebrities. They said I was the divine Ms. Alicia Keys and my friend was the British Avril Levine…. could have been worse!

For the record: San Jose got a bad deal. It isn’t nearly as bad as people say. I had nothing but great experiences there. Yes it is dirty and grubby…. I prefer to call it earthy…. but come on folks…it is a developing nation! I loved it there and as always the people of costa rica were very kind and welcoming! So if you are passing through San Jose on your way to somewhere more beautiful don’t run away too fast . The city does have a few redeeming qualities.


Caribbean Queen April 12, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — amb33 @ 6:59 pm

The culture on the Caribbean coast is very different from the rest of Costa Rica. It is so different it could be its own country. I especially enjoyed the abundance of augua de pipa (young green coconut water) my FAVORITE! I was traveling with a small group of people from the hostel in Bocas since we all happened to be leaving on the same day. I felt very lucky to be traveling with such a fantastic and laid back group! We spent a couple days in Puerto Viejo we saw an AMAZING band, danced the night away with the locals and just really enjoyed the scene. It is an eclectic mix in Puerto Viejo with rastas, latinos, hippies and tourists which makes for great people watching. It had been pouring rain — sheeets of rain– for a most of our time in Puerto Viejo which made it difficult to do much of anything. On our last day in Puerto Viejo, Natalie (my new Dutch friend) and I took a bike ride in the rain stopping at all of the little shops along the way which was lots of fun and very muddy! Good thing I love mud! We even had a watermelon picnic on the beach– BLISS!

muddy water


reeeefreshing mango smoothie!

Finally, we decided to stop waiting for the sun….it was time to move along to Cahuita a town about forty minutes to the north of Puerto Viejo. We arrived late to Cahuita because of some misinformation about the bus. Our cab driver suggested we stay our first night at Calypso which was a great place and had a television which neither of us had seen in a long time. The owner Mustafa was a brilliant ex new Yorker with so much to share about his life philosophies. At Calypso, I made Natalie her first raw meal and she LOVED it!!! We had chili in pepper bowls and Noritos (raw borritos in nori wraps). Princess Natalie enjoyed the catering service a little too much if you ask me. She told all her friends she had a personal chef and yoga teacher traveling with her . It was really exciting introducing her to yoga, meditation and raw food!!!!

In Cahuita, it continued to rain. We decided to move to Villas Del Mar which had an amazing HUGE room for us which was more expensive but absolutely necessary because of all the time we were spending inside.
The next day, we took a bus to a sloth sanctuary about twenty minutes north of Cahuita which was AMAZING. The couple who started it all began when someone brought them one sloth, Buttercup, who had been hit by a car.

That happens a lot due to the development of previously forested areas. The sloths can’t get to the food they need across roads so they come down off the trees to cross the road.

The combination of how slowly these animals move and crazy Costa Rican driving makes their making it across the road highly unlikely. There were lots of sloths there for different reasons. It was amazing to see them up close and feel their hairy fur. I expected them to smell but they didn’t they were very clean and their sweet serene faces made me just want to scoop them up for a cuddle. There was also a wildlife river tour in a canoe and it poured the whole time we were in the boat.

We were soaked through by the end but it was really pretty funny to be out in a downpour looking for wild animals that obviously had the good sense to be undercover during the storm. Needless to say, we didn’t see much besides a jesus christ lizard (walks on water). I was happy just to have gotten to see those sweet-faced sloths.

Natalie and I decided to part ways and she went to see the rainforest in Tortuguero and I went south to Manzanillo. We made a plan to meet up again in a few days on the pacific coast on my favorite beach Domincal. I stayed one more night in Cahuita and only one night in Manzanillo which was another gorgeous town. I stayed in Cabinas something different which was a very simple place with a kitchen. Manzanillo is very peaceful, there was not much development with only a couple of restaurants and a handful of hotels. Manzanillo was by far the most laid back town on the Caribbean coast not too populated and everyone pretty much minded their own business which was perfect!!! After Manzanillo it was off to San Jose for a quick stop and then back to my beloved pacific coast!!!!


BUH BYE BOCAS March 16, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — amb33 @ 3:17 am

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I stayed at Bocas Bound for four nights had a great time with Jude and his brother Steven and met some fabulous people. I’ve decided to head back up to Costa Rica. I loved Costa Rica so much last year and am considering moving there. I felt a big difference in energy from Panama and want to explore whether I still feel drawn to Costa Rica. So, Natalie and I decided to travel together for a bit. We took buses and boats to the border which was exhausting in and of itself.

The passage into Costa Rica involved a lot of haggling….. What do people think of this? Haggling in a developing country seems to be a little inappropriate. The people we come in contact with here in Central America — cab drivers, street vendors etc more often than not, have less than we do. To give them an extra dollar is no big deal to me. I really don’t like haggling and cringe when people around me do it. All the travelers I meet, agree that it is necessary if I don‘t want to get ripped off. A lot of them believe someone is always trying to rip you off. In my opinion, either it is a fair price or it isn’t. For some people it seems to be a sport. To me, if the price seems fair I pay it if not, I say so and walk away unless they make another offer. I don’t stand there and argue with them when it is clear they think their price is fair. I guess I may be naïve but I’d rather be that than cynical. I would appreciate any thoughts on this topic.

So, after multiple taxis and boat we arrived at the border and crossed this wonderfully decrepit old bridge on foot to get to Costa Rica. This was so exciting to me for some reason. Check out the video!!!
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So, I have returned to Costa Rica to explore the Caribbean coast and whether it really is a place for me to make a home long term.

My first night in Puerto Viejo, I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t as shady as some people have suggested. I actually quite like Puerto Viejo it has a wonderful bohemian vibe but the BEST thing about Puerto Viejo is that there is a Raw restaurant there. I was on my way to the grocery store when I saw a sign for a restaurant called Veronica’s Place that was serving a raw burrito. BLISS!! It would be nice to sit back and let someone else prepare my meal for the first time in five months! So I went up and ordered the burrito and a delicious ginger star fruit juice. Needless to say it was ALL FANTASTIC! After my meal I spoke with the owner and chef about her menu and she expressed a desire to add more raw options to her menu. I shared that I had just completed a raw chef certificate and would be happy to consult with her on her menu. We agreed to meet the next day and in our conversation she shared that her husband had had some health problems which led them to embrace the raw and living foods lifestyle. I also told her about my experience with dis-ease and how raw food has helped. We share a common vision and it seems that we may each benefit from working together. So I will stay here in Puerto Viejo for a couple of days longer than intended and perhaps return in a few months to work with Veronica on developing a health center. VERY EXCITING!

Here are some photos of the lovely Veronica and her place.




Bocas Baby March 8, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — amb33 @ 2:53 pm

There was a lot going on in Bocas Del Toro. I arrived during Carnival which meant a heightened sense of excitement and energy. There were also many people in the streets at all hours, most of them drunk unfortunately that is not really my scene anymore. The island I was on, Bastimentos, was small and to my dismay I had random men showing up at my door late at night. These were men I had never met knocking at my door. Apparently, everyone on the island knew where I was living within 24 hours and decided it was worth a shot to see if I was “interested.” I did NOT appreciate that especially since I was staying alone in an apartment but the woman who was renting to me explained that it was because of Carnival which is also known as CARNE-VAL or feast of the flesh where everyone goes wild-n-out before ash Wednesday. So basically, all of the men were looking for a little….. MEAT. I was not pleased with this at all. You all know how much I HATE to be woken up. Clearly they did not know who they were dealing with. They were surprised when the scary bear answered their knock –BIG mistake to disturb my sleep uninvited.

Besides that, Bastimentos was fantastic and really beautiful. I did some snorkeling right outside the apartment and then again at a place called hospital point. It was unfortunate that I couldn’t really go out at night, but I really enjoyed my time there. There was a fantastic organic Cacao Farm tucked away up on a hill. I visited the adorable family that lives there and they sell amazing organic products made from coconuts — a variety of coconut oils and cacao. I got some nibs and two bottles of natural insect repellent made from coconut oil and citronella. It makes my skin so so soft and keeps the skeeters away.

After staying on Bastimentos for a week I decided to find another spot so I went to Bocas Town to check out some hostels. While I was there, I ran into Jude, a friend of a friend, and he invited me to come stay on the other side of Bastimentos at the hostel he runs called Bocas Bound. It was a refreshing change from where I had been. It is a brand new hostel and there is a fantastic jungle walk down to the beach. For a raw foodie it is great because there is a kitchen and the restaurant serves a wonderful fruit plate and smoothies for breakfast. I spent most of my time with a Dutch woman I met on the boat Natalie, Jude and his brother Stephen who was visiting from Florida. It was really nice to have other people around since I had been pretty isolated at my previous location– aside from the midnight visitors of course.

Lately, I have been experiencing overwhelming gratitude to the people I meet ie wanting to hug the guy who brought me coconuts every morning and pretty much everyone else. While I try to embrace the love this is kind of overwhelming. I also am having difficulty saying goodbye to people I meet. This is not new, I have always had trouble with the goodbye part but I am blaming this new level mooshiness on this DAMNED love story I read on the beach. It seems to have cracked my heart wide open. But its all good. I will be practicing my non-attachment and focusing the gratitude on the time spent. I will let you know how it goes.


NO MUERTO February 21, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — amb33 @ 2:58 am
Let me start by saying I have made it to Bocas Del Toro ( the island of Bastimentos to be exact) safe and sound! It is lovely here and this is the view from my private deck.
 Seriously, I am so blessed. The place is run by a lovely Canadian woman named Marlies. I don’t think I am ever going to want to leave. Especially since getting here was kind of a ridiculous escapade!
To recap:

Before leaving Panama City I went shopping and ended up buying WAY MORE than I intended to but was very excited to have found a stick blender randomly at the grocery store Riba Smith. This grocery store is just one more reason to stay at Mamallena since the store is within walking distance and is a haven for raw foodies selling natural products like raw agave, flax and lots of great fruits and veggies as well as a the blender.

So there I was struggling with four bags plus my enormous pack through the bus station. Pretty ridiculous! Pouring sweat and rushing to try to make it to my bus on time. I must have been quite a sight. Anyway, I made the bus and was happy as a clam to have some yummy food to eat when I finally settled into my seat. I was surprised that the bus was mostly Panamanians. I had heard that Bocas was very touristy so this was a happy surprise.

Anyway, the bus ride was uneventful and calm up until about 3:30 am when I heard some branches hitting the bus.  Hmmmm…. Probably just some low hanging trees. And then all of a sudden the guy next to me started saying “heeeeeeey. Heeeeeeeeey!!!” getting progressively louder and then other voices chimed in as the sound of branches hitting the bus continued. Soon, almost everyone including me was awake and yelling as we realized that the bus driver had driven off the road.

When the bus came to a stop we were on an embankment as the woman next to me was pretty much in my lap. We all sat calmly looking at eachother  waiting for an answer to the unspoken question of “now what.” We all waited. A few people joked about breaking the windows to get off the Everyone was speaking Spanish which of course meant that I had no idea what was  being said and could only guess at what was going on.  

Then the elderly man who had been seated across the aisle from me started to get very agitated and yelling what I can only assume was open the door. His getting so upset was strange because he was very calm and mild mannered- he had even helped me untangle my ipod headphones with his handy flashlight. So, I was surprised that he was getting so angry. Over the next few minutes, others joined him everyone started to get upset.   I was not at all interested in being stuck on a bus with an angry mob at three am.  I still didn’t understand what was going on and my thoughts were pretty much “what‘s the big deal we can all just sleep and wait for another bus.” It took the words “muerto” and that mild mannered gentleman motioning the international hand gesture for “bus tumbling down the hill” for the gears to start clicking. I looked behind me and saw that everyone was on my side of the bus. I realized I was not in the states anymore. We were traveling in the land without guardrails to keep us out of ravines. At this angle were in grave danger of this bus tipping and rolling who knows how far into the ravine. It was a blessing that it hadn’t already happened.

So we waited. The door would not open as the bus had stopped just so that the door was pressed against a tree. Eventually, the bus driver broke the driver side window and we slowly began to move to the front of the bus. It was the most beautiful and terrifying thing how calm everyone was like this happened all the time. We milled to the front of the bus and jumped out the window and into the arms of the men who had initiated the escape. The getting off the bus was the worst part because as people got up out of their seats to move toward the front we could feel the bus shifting under us. When it was my turn to jump out of the window I looked back and said a little prayer for those left on the bus that they would make it off safely. It was no joke my friends.

When I got to the window the man across the aisle from me was there he was clearly the leader of this operation. There were many directions being yelled to me to which I could only respond “No habla!!!” and then that same man said “ok baby sit there and jump to me.” Which I did and I was off. Then the rest of us waited holding our breath and looking on as the last people were able to safely get off the bus. Then the poor drivers assistant was directed to get all of the bags people left. He was understandably upset to be the one left to do this job. The bus was tipped completely to one side the wheels weren’t even touching the ground. Eventually, all of the people and the luggage made it off the bus safely and we were happy to be out in the cold on the side of a highway rather than in a ravine.

There was a tiny boy about one or two years old next to me and all he kept saying for the next hour was “ no muerto” which was very funny AFTER  everyone got off the bus.

We waited for three hours. The sun was coming up when the empty buses arrived and it felt as though we had been through a war together. So, I have about 100 war buddies out here on the islands getting some much needed rest and relaxation.

The most amazing part was when we were driving away from the bus and in the light of day it was clear that had the bus driver not stopped exactly where he did, if he had gone even 100 yards further we would not have been so lucky (keep in mind that when a bus is traveling 60-70 mph 100 yards might as well be a few feet.) The embankment had worn away and the earth made a steep decline into the ravine. There is no doubt that if we had gone off the side of the road here we would have rolled down the mountain. 

So when I say I am truly blessed to be here it is ABSOLUTELY NOT a figure of speech.