During J-Term 2020, 243 students and 26 program leaders will participate in one of Luther's 14 courses around the globe. Each course is a different journey and has a different blogger (or several). Below you'll find a blog post from the Paideia 450: "Practicing Embodiment" course in Costa Rica. Check out the January Term 2020 Course Blogs page for more on each of the courses! Although it's impossible to keep up with everyone, these blogs are designed to provide glimpses into our students' adventures.
We usually imagine things that are close to what we have seen or heard. But the world is so vast that some realities are radically different from what we could even imagine. Based on what we previously learned about Punta Mona from our professors and the internet, we all had our own imaginations about this place. For some, it is what they imagined and for others, a little or vastly different.
As we left Manzanillo, Florentino became our guide for a 2.5-hours hike to Punta Mona. It was one of the very educational and beautiful hikes – relatively long and challenging but very rewarding. Florentino had a great wealth of knowledge about biodiversity on the hike; he was funny too. When we saw a house in the jungle, me: “is that a house?”, Florentino: "that’s what the person called it when he made it”. Upon arrival, we were warmly greeted by Steven: the founder of Punta Mona and the many volunteers standing in line. The next day Steven shared the origin story of Punta Mona with us and left us in awe.
Generally, every day at Punta Mona is a new day with spontaneous activities and lessons. However, some things stay constant, i.e. Yoga at 6:15 AM; the delicious three-time meals made with love; a morning and evening class and the beautiful sounds of nature. To give an example, on Friday, the day started with optional yoga. The horn was blown at 7:30 AM for breakfast which consisted of homemade pancakes with fruit syrup, a pudding, homemade coffee and three different kinds of fruits. After breakfast, we had four phases practice (dance), where professor Hawley facilitated a class based on expressing emotions. This was followed by a one-hour silent spiritual practice which varied for everybody. The blow of the horn called for lunch around 12:30, where we gathered with joining hands to make a big circle before eating. After lunch, Steve and Timo led a permaculture 101 discussion that taught us the principles and ethics surrounding permaculture. Then, people got a small break before dinner around 6:00 PM. Once again, we made a circle for community sharing before dinner. After paying our gratitude for the delicious meal, we put on our headlamps and headed to yoga shala for the evening discussion. The readings come from “Grounded” by Diana Butler Bass. Our discussions touch on various subjects surrounding spirituality; the quality of these discussions is worth appreciating. With a sense of relief to have shared our thoughts, clarified our confusions or with a heart full of emotions and a mind with new questions, we leave the shala at 9:00 PM. 9:00 PM is like midnight in Punta Mona – sleeping early and waking up early is the way of life here.
One example of the unique and spontaneously planned activities was the cacao celebration. I am smiling as I reflect on the event while sitting on a wooden bench in the outside classroom, which is only a hundred feet from the ocean. The tides are high because it was full moon two days ago; we celebrated it with cacao, music and dance last night. The preparation for the event started in the afternoon, as we gathered around the table to peel off the shells of roasted cacao that were gathered from the local trees. Serit (one of the volunteers) explained to us the process while Timo told us fun facts and stories about cacao. Apparently, pure cacao has many medicinal properties, one being that it is good for the gut. It’s bitter – nothing like the chocolate we get at a supermarket in the US or somewhere else. Once the cacao nuts were crushed using a grinder, some of the chocolaty paste was used to make cacao balls (mixed with honey and hot water); the rest was put in boiling water with spices to make the cacao drink. While the full moon celebration with cacao was fun, we missed some of our fellows who were sick and couldn’t join us. Luckily, the Punta Mona health care providers (herbal witches they call them) said that it is a short-term virus condition which should not linger too long. Best wishes for good health to our sick fellows.
Here, I want to take a moment to appreciate the incredible community at Punta Mona. The community of biodiversity that includes the Homo sapiens. People here strive to cultivate a different way of living, emphasizing on building a community that reflects diversity and living “WITH” the nature. I had the honor to interview two volunteers, Lorena (from Costa Rica) and Tim (from Canada). According to Tim, living in Punta Mona is a process or learning and a pursuit of perfection – for building a regenerative community and planet. Lorena adds, “there are standards and goals of this place, but everybody is free, where they respect their own process and personal agreement. It sounded to me like “freedom with commitment”. It comes as Lorena says: “from inside out”. Punta Mona is an international community and more importantly a pluralistic community: “there is no us and them, it is just us” (Tim). The People here are very diverse but they connect on their shared experiences and similar interests. Their hard work in the gardens, kitchen, lab etc. is inspiring. And what is more inspiring is that they enjoy their work, with a clear sense of the positive impact it has on the planet and everybody in it. Thanks for all the love they share, the food they make and all that they are doing for the planet. Cheers to warm sunny and hard rainy days.