“Imagine waking up every morning to the silent sounds of the Costa Rican jungle. Imagine falling asleep every night to nourishing darkness, resting in a beautiful and minimalist jungle tree house. Picture each day being filled with love, support, movement, silence and nourishment. Visualize a retreat surrounded by sisters, filled with ritual and sacred practice and encompassed with nature, spiritual shifts and deep emotional opening.” – Chloe Elgar, Chloe’s Countertop
In February 2017, answering the calling of my spirits, I embarked on a life changing journey that took me deep into the Costa Rican jungle. For the first time in my life, I made the powerful decision to invest in myself. I came into the retreat a broken soul, surrendering to the universe. Coming into the retreat, I had no expectations and I truly underestimated the power of what was to come at Chloe Elgar’s Living in Light Retreat.
Ten women went into the jungle and nothing was ever the same for a sisterhood had been formed. Nestled deep within the Costa Rican Jungle at The Sanctuary at Two Rivers, Chloe created a space for a sisterhood to form. A space for ten broken women to heal and rise. Each woman came into the jungle retreat with their own story, their own inner battles. Each woman surrendered to the jungle and unveiled their true self. They released their anger and pain, their heartache and sadness, their resentment and negative self-talk. They released every emotion suppressed deep within them for they feared no judgment. They knew they were supported, they knew they were loved. Each woman shed tears, each woman laughed. Together, they experienced an empowerment, an uplifting, for a sisterhood and divine feminine connection had been formed.
I went into the jungle a broken soul finding her way. Upon arriving at The Sanctuary, I remember being overcome with emotion as we walked up the river and into the jungle. Stricken with fear and anxiety, I began questioning why I was at this retreat. Upon stepping foot in The Sanctuary, it immediately hit me that in this moment, this is where I was meant to be. My spirits reminded me to trust the journey.
The first day of the retreat, was the hardest day for me. My mind trying to overpower the voice of my heart. I remember emerging from my tree-house casita late in the evening, after a sacred sound healing gong bath, with a protein bar in hand, and saying to a few fellow soul-sisters that I didn’t think I could make it through this retreat – they shared my sentiments and what resulted was the first of many soul conversations! I surrendered to the universe and trusted that I was exactly where I was meant to be, mind, body and spirit.
Each morning, we arose from healing sleep in the darkness of the morning, awoken by the sounds of the jungle. The howling of the monkeys and chirping of the birds bringing us into a state of consciousness. The Sanctuary gave us the space to grow and transform naturally.
Retreat mornings were full of liveliness and divine energy allowing us to connect with each other.
We hiked in the early morning darkness to witness the divine sunrise over the ocean.
We sat in silence or to the sound of our morning beats retreat playlist. Allowing our bodies the space to turn inwards and connect with our inner beings. Each day was a practice of putting ourselves back together again.
Engaging in transformative writing, we allowed our souls to flow onto our morning pages. Each morning, we are given a writing prompt to help guide our writing. What followed after was an open, judgement free opportunity to share our words with our soul sisters. As we spoke the words written on our pages, we each resonated with the others words as tears flowed down our faces. At this retreat, we were each given the space and time we needed to shed our emotions, on our own terms.
Our days at the retreat were filled with rituals and workshops, yoga and meditation, nourishing plant-based food and emotional exploration. The retreat allowed us the space and opportunity to turn inwards and reflect on our inner selves. It gave us the space to benefit from the journeys of all the other beautiful women around us.
Nourishing Plant Based Food
Mealtimes were a highlight of The Sanctuary Experience. Guests and hosts came together to enjoy the marvellous Gaia Gourmet Cuisine and discuss interesting topics like Ayurveda, Nutrition and Plant-Based living. Based on the principles of Ayurveda, we were treated to artistic-gourmet, vegan/vegetarian, gluten-free, organic, local and plant-based meals daily. Each balanced meal infused with love and positive energy by the kitchen angels.
Ayurvedic diets are based on the rhythmic changes found in nature. Each day consisted of a regular meal schedule. We were treated to a nourishing and grounding breakfast to start off our mornings with a side of fresh pressed orange juice and lemon water. Lunch, the largest meal of the day consisted of a main meal, side salad and a decadent dessert. Dinner, the smallest meal of the day was the perfect way to end a soulful day on a light note. We really were spoiled with all of the amazing food! Our bodies took a few days to adjust to this style and schedule of eating but by the time I left The Sanctuary, this approach had become engrained in my life. One year post retreat and I still follow this principle of eating.
As we danced into the darkness, I was overcome with emotion. Tears streaming down my face, my body effortlessly moving to the beat of the music. I felt so free, for my soul had been reunited with it’s passion. Dance had been my saviour but somewhere along the line, I had lost the healing presence of the art of dance in my life. In that moment, I was reminded of my love for dance. As I danced in the jungle, I set my soul free.
From cleansing rituals in nature to jungle alchemy dancing, I underestimated how powerful the aspects of retreat rituals and how sharing that with a group of other women could be. I didn’t expect the power of some of the cleansing rituals that we did to move me in the way that they did. Rituals create the space to capture your truth in your decisions. Wherever my body wanted to go, I went there with it. I embraced fear and uncertainty, and allowed my body to manifest what my heart truly desired.
From face masks to body art, we empowered each other as a group during the retreat. We helped each other learn how to practice self-care and self-love.
For the first time in my life, I felt comfortable in my body and I looked at my body with love. I embraced my body and gave myself permission to shed the curtain of baggy clothing which I had become so accustomed to hiding behind. I unveiled my body without fear of judgement or comparison during my time at the retreat.
As we prepared to embark on a Guided Waterfall River Hike Vision Quest, we were blessed to have Liz Lindh from The Sanctuary guide us through cleansing rituals. From silent meditation to sage cleansing to tarot cards to chanting mantras, we were guided to tune in to our inner voice.
Tierra es mi cuerpo
Agua es mi sangre
Aire mi aliento
Fuego es mi espiritu
This vision quest was a highlight of the retreat. As we hiked through the river in silence, guided by our tarot card reading we chanted this mantra in our minds. I remember losing my footing and falling hard onto the wet rocks below me. Initially I was frustrated and angry but before I had time to respond, I noticed a bee buzzing above me. The card that I had pulled earlier from the Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Tarot Card deck was a bee. As I sat in the wet murky river water, the bee brought me back into awareness and reminded me to be present and trust the journey.
From connecting to nature with guided river hikes to waterfalls and sacred waterfall wellness cleansing rituals to simply star gazing and watching shooting stars light up the night sky to falling asleep to the sounds of the jungle, nature was there. It was there to hold us and guide us. The animals were also there to guide us – at times it was the monkeys watching us shower, other times it was the jungle dogs leading us through the darkness. With no light pollution, I saw more stars than I had ever seen in my life. As I sat poolside with my soul sister Mel talking into the night, I witnessed my first ever sighting of a shooting star, lighting up the night sky. Other nights were spent listening to the sounds of the jungle while having soul conversations with my roomie Ale! And before we knew it, the monkeys were howling and it was sunrise. Signalling the start of a new day of the retreat.
Combining pure intention, reiki energy and the light of the soul, Steph truly captures the divine essence in each of her clients. Soul portraits are the gateway to a deeper connection with ourselves. Stephanie Hamilton, the beautiful soul behind all of these photos, captured each of us at this treat in our true essence.
When we began our soul portrait session, Steph sensed my hesitation and reluctance in being photographed. Steph taps into her divine energy and has a way to put you at ease. The picture above was captured after a day in the sun as I stood at Santa Teresa beach watching the sun set. When I saw my photographs, I was in awe. For the first time ever, I felt that I was looking at a photo of ME and not a picture of me. Steph truly captured the essence of my soul, soaking in my own aura in these jungle retreat soul portraits.
Rest and Excursions
Like most guests we never wanted to leave The Sanctuary but on the off occasion we did to surf the waters and experience the small town of Santa Teresa and zip-line through a jungle canopy in Montezuma. I left Costa Rica with a permanent physical reminder of the retreat after crashing while zip lining and scaring/tearing my gluteal muscles! Whoops!
No matter the choice the best thing about leaving The Sanctuary is coming back to her! Nestled deep within the Costa Rican jungle, The Sanctuary was a save haven to rest, relax, release and rejuvenate our souls.
Chloe, the other women and The Sanctuary gave us a support system to release what we were holding on to. Surrounded by the safety of the jungle, shift happens, and you are reminded that you do have the inner strength and that you are worthy. Coming into the retreat, there were a lot of things that I was still holding on to. A lot of weight that I was carrying. The exercises and rituals during the retreat allowed me the space and support to release that. In the safe space that was created, I felt that I belonged which allowed my true, raw, authentic self to shine.
Through connection, collaboration and community we became one. We looked on to the horizon with no limitations. We embraced our differences and appreciated the diversity in the universe and in each of us. We are put on this earth to love each other, to raise each other, to support each other and to be there for one another. We are not alone, no one person is alone as we all have each other.
Words cannot express how blessed and grateful I am to have had these beautiful soul sisters walk this journey with me. Each of us came in as strangers and left with a deep divine, life long bond for a sisterhood had been created!
Chloe was our guide in the space that she created. She was there to catch us as we fell deep into our inner wisdom and to bask in the glow of our joy. Chloe was on this journey alongside all of us. She opened up and showed us her vulnerability. She was one of us. Chloe created the Living in Light Retreat and gave us a space to rise. To tap into our inner joyful child who wants to love and be loved. Chloe was there to see us, living in our light.
The universe blessed me with Chloe, a divine soul sister, a guiding light. Chloe, you took my hand and guided me there, to the jungle, to your Living in Light Retreat. You showed me light in all the darkness. You saw within me my dimmed inner light. You showed me divinity and beauty. You saw within me strength and courage. You showed me the way to trust my inner voice, my gut intuition. You gave me the space to have a spiritual awakening. You awakened my beauty, my intuition, my inner light and my soul. You showed me truth and love, trust and courage. You showed me what a sisterhood is and what it means to have positive divine feminine relationships. Above all, you showed me that anything is possible when you continuously connect and listen to your heart and soul.
I returned home from the retreat connected to my divine feminine.
Empowered to speak my truth and embodying new learnings.
Surrounded by a sisterhood, I found my playful inner child and discovered my inner strength.
In the jungle, the mighty jungle, I found a lost soul.. I found myself.
Photography: Stephanie Hamilton
Videography: SPIRO Creative