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#16 The Doors You Open I Just Can't Close

February 5, 2016 — Costa Rica

Journal entry from my Friday morning beach meditation:

New meditation today- the theme is “Acceptance." He starts with a question: “Who or what in your life are you resisting right now?” Feelings of sadness, fear and overwhelm- no surprises- all about work. I'm resisting making my job better. I’m resisting leaving it. I’m resisting making a plan for what I’d do when I leave. How would I live? Freelance? Some other career? Marry well? I want to take some time to write down my dream life. How much will I commit to creativity? How much will I commit to work?

I wish I had more time. More time before I have to go back.

I may not be ready to go home, but I’m more than ready to make the most of my last day in Costa Rica. This yoga retreat has been a beautiful experience. Exactly what I needed to escape the pressures of my corporate job. And the self-imposed pressures I've been putting on myself to leave it.

This little guy sat with me every morning as I meditated on the beach. I never caught his name, so I called him Guapito.

During morning yoga, I feel strong, challenging myself by going upside down in forearm stand and almost getting into the elusive crow pose.

Forearm stand assisted by the lovely Christine Chen. Jules looks on, undoubtedly hoping she's not next.

Over lunch, I discover that some of the group are going horseback riding. I’ve only been on a horse once - a mild trail ride in the Hamptons back in the 90s - and thought it sounded great.

I ask: “Is it OK for beginners?”

The response: “Absolutely!”

We arrive at the ranch and are introduced to our guide for the day - a lovely young German woman who is here on an internship. We get a brief overview of the day as we sign our safety waivers. I barely notice that I’m signing mine with a pink highlighter because I’m distracted by a stray dog who had shown up at the ranch the day before and decided to stay. We don’t know his name, but he’s made himself our honorary mascot.

The Stray.

My horse, Mishka, is a grand, tall mare. I’m only 5’3” and my head just about reaches her neck. She seems powerful, but the intern assures me, “she’s a nice horse.”

I’m inordinately proud of myself that I’m able to get up on the horse and into the saddle without a boost or a platform. All that yoga is really paying off!

Once I’m settled into the saddle, I marvel at how high up I am. Mishka is calm and steady beneath me and I feel calm too.

I call out to the intern: “Hey, how do I work this thing?”

She demonstrates the basics: left, right, squeeze lightly with my calves to cue her to walk on, pull on the reins and say “whoa” to slow or stop.


It’s a bright, hot day and the ranch is expansive with rolling hills criss-crossed by dirt trails. For the next hour or so, we wander around the ranch at a slow pace, checking out the scenery. The horses know the terrain better than any of the humans so it’s really easy- so easy that we can have full conversations with each other, the stray trotting alongside.

Occasionally, we have to pick our way down slight, but rocky inclines. It’s scary being up so high. But I tell myself - “Just trust the horse. She knows what she’s doing.” I start to feel like I’ve really gotten the hang of this thing. Maybe horseback riding will be my hobby!

Just like Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet. But in yoga pants. (Photo credit: Tyler Batson, @peacemadetyler)

I’ll never know what really happened. Did I do something wrong? Did Mishka get spooked? Stung?

All I know is that one minute I’m sitting pretty in the saddle, and then next minute Mishka takes off in a full gallop. I pull the reins, yelling “NO!!!

(I mean, it’s not “whoa” but close enough, right?)

I bounce in the saddle, hard — once, twice, and the third time I lose my grip, flying straight off the back of the horse, landing with a dull thud on the hard dirt trail.

I hear a noise I’ve never heard before and it takes a moment for me to realize that it’s coming from me.

The stray is the first of our group to reach me. He licks my face and frets around until the intern shoos him away. She looks panicky and asks if I’m OK.

I am not OK.

I've landed directly on my right hip. I’m afraid to move, afraid to breathe. I’m in the fetal position, covering my face with my hands, dirt and rocks pressing into my skin. The intern determines that I’m not bleeding and that, through my tears, I can answer basic questions. But, it’s clear I’m in no shape to move, let alone walk. She calls the owner of the ranch, relating the details in rapid German, while the others in the group shade me from the scorching hot sun.

The intern finally hangs up and delivers the news: we’re so far out that there’s no way an ambulance can get to us. We’ll have to get me out to the main road the way we came in: on the horse.

Arnold Jackson (aka Gary Coleman). So young, so wise.

A different horse. Though the others say Mishka seems distraught, I can’t quite muster the fortitude to let her near me.

It takes five people to get me on the horse, executing a maneuver that involved an assisted piggy-back ride and a lot of crying. They reassure me, saying that as soon as we get back to the resort, I’ll have a nice shower and a soak in the jacuzzi. I’m too dazed to realize how insane this sounds. I need a hospital, not a hot tub.

For 45 harrowing minutes, the intern leads the horse, with me slumped over in the saddle, and we bump up and down those rocky inclines. We stop every few minutes so I can drink water and cry.

Note my attempt at a camera-ready smile. Worth noting that chimps also make that face when they are terrified. (Photo credit: Tyler Batson, @peacemadetyler)

The stray escorts us back to the road, racing ahead when we’re close enough for the ranch owner to come out to meet us with her SUV.

It’s clear from the look on the owner’s face that the intern has downplayed the situation. I’m pale, dehydrated, and disoriented. I need medical attention, at minimum, an x-ray. As luck would have it, the only x-ray machine on the island belongs to the town's veterinarian.

To be continued in the next post... Boy, I hope I make it!

PS- I've just realized that the comments feature isn't working in the mobile version of this site. Trying to fix that, so stay tuned. In the meantime, sound off on FB or IG!


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