Costa Ricans have a phrase, “Pura vida.” It’s the standard reply when someone asks how you are. Literally translated it means “pure life”. When used as a reply, it means life is good.
When I was young, I wanted to travel. I talked big about seeing the world, but I was secretly locked in a finely crafted box of fear and duty, of my own making. I never did the things I wanted to do. I just got moody and accusatory instead. It was always someone else’s fault that I didn’t do the things I wanted. I squandered my youth because I was afraid.
But, when my son went to live in Costa Rica for three months, just because he wanted to experience a culture other than our own, I cheered for him. What a great way to step out of the box, by flinging himself into another world.
Our culture, here in the U.S., is one of strong work ethic, and accumulating as many things as we think will make us happy. We are an individualized society, focused on what we consider the "good life", but I think that we leave a lot of important things behind in our quest for the good life.
When I went to visit my son, I flew myself out of that box that I had put myself in long ago. And I learned something. It doesn't take money to buy happiness. In Costa Rica, people were living la pura vida everyday, even though by American standards they have very little money or material goods.
In fact, Costa Ricans are curious about the American drive for success. They think it's peculiar that we work ourselves to death to save for a retirement, that will allow us to finally do the things we want, and to finally spend time with our families. Costa Ricans wonder why we don't spend time with our families all along, and do the things we want as we go. Living la pura vida everyday of our lives, instead of working ourselves to death for the good life someday.
How did we get so skewed? When did we let go of living in the moment? When did we shut out the family in favor of the dollar?
It doesn't take a New Age Guru to figure out that to make life simple again we just need to slow down and appreciate at what's in front of us. It's all right there. Our family. Our children. Our own pura vida.
What are we working so hard for? The newest cell phone, a brand new car, the latest outfit?
Pura vida is all about slowing down, taking our rat out of the race, and being content. Yes, content.
All the crystals, soothsayers, and new age strategies in the world will never give us pura vida unless we focus and live in the moment that is before us. Enjoy the people in our lives now. They might not be around by the time we turn 65 and finally make time for them.