Lessons From The Jungle (Part 2) - EP 011

pleasure & profits podcast Feb 01, 2024


In this episode I share Part 2 of the lessons and reflections from my recent retreat in the Costa Rican rainforest. The retreat focused on the Art of Attention and a deep and reverent connection to nature. It was held at a location that is stewarded by a loving and thoughtful staff – a love that beautifully permeates everything.

Over the course of my time in Costa Rica, including three days in San Jose, before flying home, I received so many messages and lessons and reflections, that I’ve decided to share them with you in 2 (maybe 3!) episodes.

Listen in for Lessons 5 through 8 in this episode, and be sure to check out episode 10 for the first part of this series.

This episode includes lessons 5 through 8:

Lesson 5: Gnowing vs. Knowing
Lesson 6: When we listen to our bodies, we get exactly what we need
Lesson 7: There isn’t always a direct translation
Lesson 8: Abundance allows for impact


Episode Takeaways

  • There is a difference between knowing in our head and knowing in our heart and body.
  • Our bodies crave the rhythms of nature, and if we listen, we can get exactly what we need.
  • Some experiences cannot be directly translated into words, but they can still have a profound impact.
  • We have the power and influence to make a positive impact in the world, and it is important to use our abundance for good.


I hope you enjoy and be sure to check out episode 10 for the first part of this series!



Pleasure & Profits Podcast, Episode 10 - Lessons From The Jungle (Part 1)

Carrie Firestone, Deeper Than Bones

Wild Kuan Yin Oracle Deck, by Alana Fairchild

Wild Unknown Spirit Animal Cards, by Kim Krans


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Episode Transcript

Hello and welcome to Pleasure and Profits. I'm your host, Rachel Anzalone, and that was the sound of the Costa Rican rainforest, because this is part two of Lessons from the Jungle. I'm sharing reflections from a recent trip to Costa Rica, where I spent a week in the jungle on a Qoya Inspired Movement Retreat. If you haven't listened to episode 10, that's where you'll find part one.

And I suggest you check out that episode as well. And episode three, where I'm in conversation with Rochelle Sheik, the founder of the movement practice that informed so much of my work and my way of being in the world since becoming a teacher of that practice in 2017. And episode 10, I shared the first four lessons and I'm gonna pick up here with lesson number five.

A lesson I'm calling Gnowing vs. Knowing. On the first full day of the retreat in our first Qoya Inspired Movement class during one of our very first sharing opportunities, a wise and beautiful young woman said something to me that grabbed my attention and stuck with me. Community plays a big role in Qoya Inspired Movement classes and there are multiple opportunities to connect with individuals and sometimes with the whole group to share experiences and reflections to presence and tensions and to hold space and witness others doing the same. 

Oracle cards also play a meaningful role as we begin each class by pulling a card and sharing with a partner our reflections on the image and the message of that card and how it feels relevant to our own lives. That first day we had pulled cards from Alana Fairchild's wild Kuan Yin deck and the card I pulled was Sacred Falcon Shows the Way.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a strong connection with birds of prey. Hawks appear to me often, sometimes in very close proximity. I once sat with a hawk about 10 feet away from me for nearly an hour. Sometimes they appear in large quantities. Once on a bike ride, I came upon a field full of hawks, like full of hawks. There were like 20 or 30, there was more than you could count. And all the guys I was riding with all but one who I later married were like, oh nice, and just rode on like it was nothing oblivious to how special this signing had been. 

The previous year at the same retreat center, a hawk had come to us on our final day and sat in a tree at eye level just outside our movement space for a while, blessing us with his beautiful presence. On the previous day, shortly after our arrival, a hawk had swooped through the trees over our heads as we got our tour of the property.

There's your hawk, Rachel, one of the women who knows me well had said. And then there are ospreys and owls, so many owls that come to me, great horned owls. There are two that live in my neighborhood that I visit with every chance I get. And there was that one that hung out with my husband and I as I did a full moon ritual while camping in Big Bend last year. Well, there is nuance in the message of each of these birds. All birds of prey bring clarity of vision and perhaps most importantly, perspective. They tell us to rise above it all, take in all of the opportunities, and to only make a move when the timing is just right and the opportunity is perfect for us. And so, of course, on this first day, I pulled the Falcon card. And as I read the message attached about wisdom embodied in nature about messages coming from the natural world. And this was just hours after having received the same message from the river that I shared in episode 10. I thought, of course, of course this is my card. As I shared the message from the card with my partner, I reflected on the difference between knowing in our head and knowing in our heart and our body. You know, like really knowing. She responded enthusiastically, yeah, like GN knowing versus KN knowing.

The sentence stopped me in my tracks. Yes, like gnosis, I agreed. I hadn't heard or thought of the term gnosis in like, I don't know, like a decade. And I can't say the word had resonated with me in any particular way back then. I knew it mostly in the context of a chocolate brand by that name, back in an era when I was practicing as a naturopath and trying desperately to differentiate myself from all of the woo healers by focusing on nutrition and hormone health and staying far away from anything deemed energy work or not grounded in science. 

On this day, in this era, it felt very different. In case you're unfamiliar, gnosis is Greek. It's a feminine noun, which means knowledge or awareness. And it's often used to describe personal knowledge, mystical or esoteric knowledge based on a direct participation with the divine.

This compared with intellectual knowledge that we and our culture rely so heavily on. Even speaking or thinking it now, the word creates a ripple of vibration as my whole body shouts, yes! 

We've been conditioned to spend so much time and effort searching for knowledge, for knowing with a KN, which is all well and good. But there's so much valuable to us when we lean into GN knowing. And that's the kind of knowledge, gnosis, that moves us from the hustle and the grind of entrepreneurship as we've been taught it, and into a place of expansion in our business and life as a result of trusting that we GN know, because we're receiving the information directly from nature.

Directly from the divine because we are nature. We are divine.

Which is the perfect segue into lesson number six.

Our bodies crave the rhythms of nature, and if we listen, we get exactly what we need. I often speak about tuning into the seasons as a guide for how we're moving through the world. We cannot be in perpetual summer. Even tropical locations, even the North and the South Pole experience changes in season, though they might be less dramatic than other places. But besides the four seasons, there are countless cycles in nature that involve increase and decrease, growth, and rest.

The notion that we as humans, and especially as women, could or should live in full production mode at all times is absurd. When we slow down and get present, our bodies fall into the natural rhythms of nature, and our bodies tell us exactly what we need. This is what happened to me in the jungle. The first thing that happens to me every time I go to Costa Rica is my sleep schedule changes almost immediately.

Without the city lights, computers, and to-do lists, my body naturally falls into the rhythm of getting tired around 9 or 9.30 and waking up on its own around 5.30 or 6. It happens every single time. No alarm needed. So of course that happened on this trip. And then something else happened. After not having a regular 28-day menstrual cycle in over a year and a half and 45, and I've been in perimenopause for at least three years, something we all need to talk more about.

My cycle has been running about 6 to 12 weeks instead. I had no expectation that I would bleed while on my trip to Costa Rica. And then 48 hours after arriving, mere hours after going on and on about how I really wanted some chocolate, on exactly day 28 of my cycle, there she was waking me up at 4 a.m. Yet another rhythm our bodies fall into if given the chance, bleeding and birthing babies in the darkest hour.

At first I was a little annoyed. I had no supplies with me. And so I sent out a plea in the group WhatsApp channel and began collecting random assortment of menstrual products from anyone who had them to spare. I felt crappy and crampy and tired. And this was not how I wanted to spend my retreat. I wanted to feel energized and I wanted to participate in all the things. And then this thought crossed my mind. If I was at home, I'd probably take an Advil and go on with my day. Maybe I'd ease off at the gym or I'd watch some Netflix one evening, but I'd basically go about life exactly the same. I am, after all, a 90s chick. We were taught that life does not have to stop because you have your period. You can use Tampax and MyDoll and continue on with life as usual. You can swim and do sports and go horseback riding. That's what all the commercials told us, anyways. It's all your little secret. And then I thought about this.

I don't have to do that here. I don't have to do anything here. So what if instead of fighting this natural cycle or even half-heartedly accepting it, what if I fully embraced it? What if I leaned the fuck into it? It could be an interesting experiment, I thought. So that's what I did. I got really present and I asked my body in each and every single moment exactly what I needed. And here's what happened.

Instead of dancing enthusiastically in Qoya, I rested on my mat for the first half of class, doing the movements that felt good to do from a horizontal position. Instead of talking and sharing, I sat those sessions out, taking the time to write in my journal or just lay with my eyes closed instead. About halfway through the class, I felt re-energized and I rose to my feet to move with the rest of the women. I realized that by giving my body what it needed, when it needed it, it was restored and energized and was able to join in.

I didn't need to push through the discomfort. I needed to listen. After class, and as we gathered for lunch, I thought, I really want some hot chocolate. Not the most common request on an 80 plus degree day in the jungle, but my body was craving it. And so I asked, and I received, and it was so nourishing and delicious. After lunch, instead of socializing or going to the pool, I took a long and lovely nap on the porch of my bungalow.

Then I pulled cards and wrote in my journal in the peace and quiet of the jungle. That evening, there was a breath work session scheduled that I really wanted to attend. I had an intense and powerful experience during breath work at this location the year before. The setting is so powerful, deep in the jungle in a place where people come to connect with themselves, with nature and to heal. Did not wanna miss out on this experience. So I decided I would go and just listen to my body.

I knew I didn't have it in me to push as hard as I normally would, so I accepted that it might not be the same magical experience from last year, but I would go and receive what I could from the session. If you haven't done breath work, I'll share a little bit here of my experience. It often involves an intensity of breathing that can feel pretty uncomfortable and can push the boundaries of what you think you're capable of. You might feel like you hate it for moments, sometimes for long moments.

And you might have to force yourself to push through the discomfort to get to the part of it where it becomes a magical experience of entering an altered state and receiving the gifts that come with that. Because I was feeling less than optimal and had decided to lean into this restful phase of my cycle, I decided I do much of the breath work as felt good and then I just lay in the vibes of the space and enjoy it, thinking it would be more like a yoga knee draw or a relaxing contemplative experience for me.

And that is not at all what happened. I knew our session would be about an hour and would have music playing from the artist and fellow Qoya sister, Carrie Firestone, and assumed that each song was about four to six minutes. As the first song began and I began the intense inhale and exhale, I made it maybe halfway through the song before my body said rest. And so I did.

And I was amazed that I slipped into a slightly altered state of consciousness anyways without all the hard work and stayed there for the rest of the song.

When the next song began, I started the intensity of the breath again, and again I made it a couple of minutes and then relaxed into the altered state. I repeated this for a few songs, each time doing the breath work less and less and enjoying the resulting state for longer and longer. The whole time this went on, I was experiencing a laser green light show resembling the northern lights. It was spectacularly beautiful, and it made me feel giddy inside.

I knew I wasn't going to the depths that I have in other sessions, but listening to my body felt way more important than the FOMO that could have caused me to push myself. In the final two songs before we began, our return to the present—of course, I didn't know they were the final two songs until they were over—I stopped doing the breathwork altogether and just allowed myself to be. And somehow, without being induced by breath, I entered an altered state that was deep and all-encompassing.

And that's when a bright white shining light appeared above my head and bathed me in the warmest most loving sensations. And it just stayed there for a long, long time. I said those green lights were spectacularly beautiful, but this light was a whole other level. It was transformative and an indescribable way. And so I didn't miss out on anything by not going all out, by not pushing myself to the breath work the way that it's supposed to be done.

I got exactly what was meant for me, a beautiful, mystical, and mysterious experience that felt gentle and nourishing and loving.

And that leads me to lesson number seven. There isn't always a direct translation, but that doesn't mean the message wasn't received. As the altered state started to dissipate and I slowly began to come back to the present consciousness, the light began to fade away and a little voice in my head wondered, but what does it all mean? And the answer I received, not as a voice or an image, but an internal knowing, that's GN knowing.

Was that sometimes we experience things for which there is no translation into any language we have access to and that there doesn't need to be. The cells of my body received the message, even if my brain couldn't interpret them. And that moment, that message felt like the truest thing I could possibly know. And so I said, thank you for the experience and came back into the room. At the end of a breathwork session, participants can feel all sorts of ways. As I sat up on my mat, Rochelle came up to me and said, you seem like you're doing okay. I feel great, I beamed, and I made my way through the jungle back to my bungalow. 

The next day, laying on the beach, looking up at the clouds, letting my eyes go soft, my vision was suddenly filled with a thousand or thousands of sparkling white lights. I've never seen anything like it. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me, so I focused them and looked around, and they disappeared. And then I let them go soft again, and there they were.

A thousand tiny light beings saying hello. Remembering the message from the night before that there's no translation for this, I thank them again for visiting and trusting that the message was being received, even if I couldn't directly understand it and enjoyed the rest of my time at the beach.

For lesson number eight, I want to go back to the moments before that breathwork session began. When I entered the open air space where we had been gathering each day, there were foam mattresses laid out in a circle, each covered with a white sheet, with a small round pillow and a blanket for us to use. And the center of the room was an altar of flowers surrounded by oracle cards for us to pull at the specified moment. I chose a mat in the far right corner, perhaps because that's where I had such a great experience the year before.

On my right was a woman I had met just a little more than 48 hours before. As we began, we opened the space together and each chose our card from the center of the room, and then we returned to our mats to talk with our partner. I flipped my card over and I laughed. Lamb. I pulled the lamb card. What's so funny about that? My name, Rachel, means lamb in Hebrew. I remember learning that as a kid in sunday school and thinking it was so weird and kind of terrible. Then in my early 30s I was speaking with a healer who said, Lamb of God, that's pretty special don't you think? And I changed my perspective. This is the message that accompanied the card from the Wild Unknown Spirit Animal Deck. The lamb is the bearer of an important message. Its contents can only be heard when a deep level of quiet has been established.

Lamb energy is the honest guidance you hear from an old friend, a young child, or sometimes a surprising stranger. Though the lamb's message may channel through another person, the wisdom resonates within you. It will repeat and reverberate until you listen. Approach this gentle creature with utmost patience and reverence. Truth is a gift. Sit still. Listen. Receive.

That brings an interesting perspective to the experience I had in the breathwork session immediately after, don't you think?

As I was sharing with my partner, she referenced something I'd heard her say on the day we arrived, that she was struggling somewhat with the idea of being here in Costa Rica on a retreat while there are people in the world with so little. On that first day, when she shared how she was feeling, a memory was triggered for me that often is in such moments. I was 26, sitting in the back of a public transport van at a bus station in Nukuru, Kenya.

Windows open, just baking in the sun. I'm not sure what we were waiting for, but we were waiting for a really long time. I'd come to Kenya for a month to volunteer at a children's home. Maybe it was a little bit altruistic, but mostly I was in my 20s. I loved to travel and I had very little money. So I was always looking for an inexpensive way to be somewhere new. And so I had discovered a volunteer vacations as a way to see the world. For this trip, I had worked like, four jobs I think all winter in the ski town I'm from. I was a bartender. I worked in a snowboard shop. I had a coffee shop. I had a bed and breakfast. And I may have also been writing for a newspaper, but I'm not 100% certain about that one. 

Anyways, I'd saved up as much money as I possibly could to buy an airline ticket to Kenya, pay to participate in the program, maybe get to do a cheap safari before I came home, and most importantly to not work for a whole month.

So there I was sitting in the back of that sweltering van in the crowded, dusty, unpaved bus station parking lot, waiting for the driver to get us on the road, watching not a small number of young men high on cat, which produces a high like coke or meth, approaching vehicles asking for money. One young man came up to my window and without saying a word, reached his open hand inside and held it there in front of me, hoping I'd reach in my pockets and hand over some coins or bills.

I remember thinking in that moment, I'm a broke 26 year old. Even if I emptied my bank account, which probably only had a few hundred bucks in it, it wouldn't be even a drop in this bucket. I realized that the best thing I could do was not to give away the few dollars I had in my pocket, but to go home and become prosperous so that I could have a real impact someday. So I thought about that moment when this woman was sharing how she was feeling on our first day together.

And then as we gathered for the breath work session, I found myself sharing with her when she said something to the same effect. And so I reflected this back to her. I told her I'd been thinking about what she said and looking around at the beauty of the nature surrounding us. It had occurred to me that in nature, there are plants that produce big, beautiful flowers or giant leaves or grow enormous in height. And there are plants that are teeny tiny or produce delicate little flowers or simple blades of grass.

And the big beautiful flowering plants do not hold back and say, I can't bloom because it's not fair to the blades of grass. They are big and bold and audacious and they take up space and capture our attention and the towering plants create shade for the smaller plants and they all work together in the ecosystem. Now obviously there are significant differences between the natural conditions of these plants and the manufactured conditions of capitalism and colonialism.

Regardless, becoming smaller, taking up less space, feeling bad about having created abundance in your life, that's not the answer. If you want to have an impact, use your power and influence and abundance to make change. Don't hide away in embarrassment or shame because the person who's going to step in and take up the space you're leaving, chances are they're not going to use their power and influence and abundance for good. The best thing you can do for the world is to create abundance for yourself and to share it in a meaningful way.

So that was lesson number eight, and I am not done. I think there might end up being a part three to this. So be sure to subscribe so that you get notified when the next episode comes out. And until then, I'm wishing you even more pleasure and profits, and I will see you soon.

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