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Is This the Ultimate Spiritual Vacation?

The inside scoop on Rythmia Life Advancement Center in Costa Rica

A CEO, a surf star, and a mom walk into a bar…

While this may sound like the beginning of some lewd joke, it’s actually the beginning of my recent vacation in Costa Rica. The bar was an organic juice bar. The surf star was Kelly Slater, eleven-time world surfing champion. The CEO was the head of one of the largest companies in Canada. And the mom was me, on a much-needed break from my busy life.

There were nearly 40 other guests like us, from all parts of the world, varying in age from mid-twenties to mid-seventies. We looked different on the outside, but we all had one thing in common: we had come for a miracle.

Since Rythmia Life Advancement Center opened its doors in 2015, 96% of their guests report experiencing a life-changing miracle by the end of their stay. And six months later, these people report their miracle is lasting. That sounds like good odds, right? Maybe a little bit too good to be true?

When I looked up reviews of this place—on TripAdvisor, Google, and Facebook—I saw that there were hundreds of them. And they are all five-star, repeatedly using words like “miracle,” “transformational,” and “life-changing.” How could there be so many rave reviews, I wondered. I had to see for myself. I needed to know: is it really possible to architect a miracle?

Anatomy of a Miracle

The week-long Rythmia program sounded like my version of heaven: twice daily yoga, two hours a day of personal growth workshops, daily guided meditations, organic farm-to-table food, three Dead Sea colon cleanses, one massage, unlimited access to a top notch spa with volcanic mud baths, steam room, and three different healing pools, a great gym, excursions to the beach and other nature destinations whenever you want, a life coaching program designed by Reverend Michael Bernard Beckwith, and something called “plant medicine” administered by shamans trained in the Amazon rainforest.

And so, I took a leap of faith and thought, if nothing else happens, at least I’ll come home with a nice tan.

(Spoiler alert: all those five-star reviews that talk about a “miracle” are real. This place really does deliver the goods.)

With the trip booked, I had little time to think about it in the weeks leading up to my departure. I was busily tying up loose ends right up until I stepped off the plane onto Costa Rican soil. I’d been so occupied with doing what I had to do to get away that I didn’t even realize it was my birthday until I arrived at the Rythmia front lobby to a freshly baked banana and chocolate muffin (organic and vegan, of course), decorated with flowers, a birthday candle, and a warm welcome from the staff.

I arrived close to mid-day, so after checking into my room, I headed up to the resort’s restaurant for lunch. Several guests there were on the last day of their stay, and they looked as if they were glowing from the inside. Their beaming smiles gave me the impression they knew a massive secret, and I had a feeling I was about to learn what it was. As I heard them saying things like “Grandmother herb calls to you when you’re ready,” I started to think I maybe should have researched my destination a little more thoroughly before I signed up for this week of personal development.

Plant Medicine Tourism

Over lunch, I chatted with a CEO of a large company in Toronto who told me he knew almost nothing about Rythmia when he made a last-minute plan to visit based on a recommendation from a friend. “I found myself in a room full of beds and throw up buckets with all these people and thought, have I joined a cult?” he said with a laugh. But it was the best experience of his life, he assured me, and he felt he was going home a new man—excited to integrate what he’d gained into his work and life back in Canada.

The scene he described is what draws most people to Rythmia, I quickly learned. Don’t get me wrong, the resort is exquisite. Down to the last detail, every single thing—from the food to the workshops to the yoga classes to the facilities—is top notch. But there’s no denying what the real draw there is: plant medicine.

I’m not talking about just any plants. This is the only medically-licensed plant medicine facility in the world (it’s technically a hospital, actually) to offer a specific medicinal brew of vine and bark that’s been served up by shamans in the Amazon for millennia.

After lunch, I headed to the clinic for my medical intake with an American doctor, Dr. Jeff McNairy. I was surprised to find it was a real medical setting; nurses took my blood pressure and asked me questions about my health background. I’d already been medically cleared to participate in the week’s events, which aren’t safe for people with certain heart conditions, or those on some medications, like antidepressants.

As my first day continued, I asked my fellow guests what brought them to Rythmia, and heard that most of them came for healing, both emotional and physical. Many learned about the resort in the film, The Reality of Truth, while others researched safe places to use plant medicine and came across Rythmia in their search. Some investigated the place for months and others, like my new CEO friend, came on a whim based on a friend’s recommendation.

Many of the guests were in transitions—going through breakups, changing jobs, or looking for their purpose. And many were seeking physical healing from ailments ranging from neck pain to cancer. Some battled addictions—alcohol, prescription drugs like Adderall, cigarettes, and one guest was using heroin up until a month before he came. Some suffered from depression, anxiety, PTSD, or other psychological diagnoses.

The plant medicine used there has a reputation as a “therapy fast track” and until Rythmia opened, the only place these guests could try this form of indigenous healing legally was in the Amazon rainforest in South America.

Miracle by Design

As I heard stories from guests who’d already been at Rythmia for a week, I started to wonder what I’d gotten myself into. “Plant medicine” sounds innocuous enough. I’ve taken herbal supplements for years and really appreciate the power in plants. In fact, plant-derived compounds form the basis of many modern pharmaceutical drugs. But I’d never used hallucinogenic drugs, and I try to keep my spiritualty au naturel, so I wasn’t sure I was up for what Rythmia was offering.

Despite my hesitations however, I decided that since I’d come as far as Costa Rica for a true spiritual vacation, I may as well do everything on offer. And so, I did it all: every workshop, every cleanse, every breathwork session, (almost) every yoga class, every guided meditation, every spa treatment, and yes—all four plant medicine ceremonies. And I am so grateful I did.

I can tell you this, for those who’ve heard stories of plant medicine ceremonies that take place in dirt huts deep in the jungle, this setting could not be more luxurious. Rythmia was created to give people a place to use plant medicine in complete comfort, under the watchful eye of medical staff as well as the spiritual guidance of shamans.

Each person has a private bed (I’m talking about an actual bed, not just a blanket on the floor), a fluffy pillow, soft blanket, and yes, your own personal bucket (the plant medicine is famous for its purgative effect). There are several clean, comfortable bathrooms very close by and personal attendants watching over you all night. Each ceremony is led by an indigenous shaman, following the traditions that have been passed down for thousands of years.

The entire weeklong experience is choreographed from start to finish to create a progressive effect. The combination of the components of the program—colon cleanses, organic high-nutrient food, yoga, massages, volcanic mud baths, coconut water and fresh juices, breathwork, and mind-expanding workshops, combined with the plant medicine—is designed on purpose to create a miracle for each and every guest.

My skeptical mind couldn’t help but wonder, how much of a role does expectation play? Tell people they are going to receive a miracle, have them invest enough money in the experience that they want to make it worth it, and bam! You’ve got results. But what I witnessed and experienced defies skepticism.

I Got My Miracle

When some of the guests who were leaving Rythmia just as I arrived heard I planned to write an article about my experience, they told me I’d never be able to describe it. Unfortunately, they were right. The plant medicine experience at Rythmia truly defies description. There’s no way to describe it that makes sense in this world because it is otherwordly.

And yet, it was the most profound experience of my life. I witnessed my fellow guests shed addictions, free themselves from chronic physical pain, heal broken relationships, leave behind depression and anxiety, and more. I saw firsthand why 96% of guests report a life-changing miracle after their stay at Rythmia, and I feel as if I received a miracle as well.

Since my return home, I’ve been experiencing life with more ease and harmony. While before my week at Rythmia, I knew many things about inner peace and joy intellectually—I thought about this topic incessantly, wrote a book about it, and tried my best to achieve it daily—during that vacation, I got to experience the difference between thinking about something and BEING it.

Is This Miracle for You?

Are there any downsides, you might be wondering? Yes. To be fair, this place is not for everyone. Make no mistake, a week at Rythmia is not a relaxing retreat. The truth is, I barely slept that week, I went through emotional turmoil, and yet, it was the best vacation of my life. This is not a recreational vacation; it is deep, transformational work. I would only check it out if that sounds like your kind of party, because this is not Club Med, that’s for sure. If you go to Rythmia, I recommend doing the program exactly as it’s been laid out because the experience is by design. You must come prepared to dive into the deepest parts of your subconscious.

Also, here’s the not-so-great (but still great) news:

1. It’s not cheap. The price ranges from $300-$700 per night depending on the type of room you get. In all honesty, this is very inexpensive for the experience you get. But the truth is, the price makes it prohibitive for many people. That’s why Rythmia gives away a free trip every month. (Enter to win here.)

There is an upside to the price tag, by the way: scientific studies have shown that people value experiences or possessions more when they pay an amount that they consider expensive. The investment you make helps to strengthen the intention you go there with.

2. It’s in the tropics. I got a sunburn, it’s hot, there are loud howler monkeys in the morning, and there are a few bugs. The grasshoppers are shockingly large. You are not in Kansas anymore at Rythmia.

3. You might throw up. And I know it’s hard to believe (I HATE to throw up!), but it won’t be so bad if you do. The purge, if it happens, comes on fast and is over quickly. It will be the last thing you remember about the experience. I personally threw up once in the four nights of plant medicine ceremonies I attended, and it really, truly was no big deal.

I know this post is long. And yet I’ve barely scratched the surface here. There’s no easy way to explain what happens at Rythmia. But I can tell you this: if you feel like something’s not right in your life, or if you want to take your experience here on Earth to a whole new level, this place is worth checking out.

Worst case scenario, you’ll come home with a nice tan.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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