What Does "Pura Vida" Mean, Anyways?

(A Fly Sansa Airplane keeping it light and breezy by proclaiming ¡Pura Vida!)

Within this very simple, commonly used phrase among Costa Rica locals (who refer to themselves as Ticos) lay a lot of juicy life lessons that are definitely worth the squeeze. And as I sit here writing at the beautiful Peace Retreat in Playa Negra, a Costa Rica yoga retreat, I am very quickly learning the meaning of Pura Vida and letting go of rigid timelines and expectations.

The well-known book “Mindfulness in Plain English” by Bhante Gunaratana begins with this:

In my experience, I have found that the most effective way to express something new in a way people can understand is to use the simplest language possible. I have also learned from teaching that the more rigid the language – which is to say, the less it accounts for flexibility for the inevitable variety of people’s experience – the less effective that teaching is.

And this is just one of the ways that Costa Rica got the phrase “Pura Vida” right. It literally translates into “pure life” or “simple life” but it would be a shame to take it so literally. Pura Vida is a way of life, it’s about not taking things so seriously, it’s about expressing love and gratitude even amid challenging situations, and it’s about simply learning to let go, lean back, and relax.

Look at the image below, pulled from a costaricatravelblog.com post, to see just how flexible this phrase can be!

(Credit: costaricatravelblog.com/what-does-pura-vida-mean)

The well-intentioned positivity and words that support the Pura Vida lifestyle mean nothing without the attitude to back it up. Pura Vida is about embracing the upside of life as opposed to letting everyday stressors overtake us. Which is very hard for most people to do.

Pura Vida is a reminder to let negative thoughts pass so that we don’t end up missing out on all the beauty around us in this very moment. As Mark Twain once said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened to me.”

Maybe it really can be as simple as “don’t worry, be happy.”

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