I’m a sucker for a true story–a story that puts me in someone’s shoes and helps me to fully embody all the feelings that the writer was experiencing. That’s the deal in this week’s blog/true story from Mindrise Coach, Jennifer Wielage…stuck in the jungle, riddled with uncertainty and fear…here’s how she came out on the other side.

Welcome to The Jungle

Jennifer Wielage, Mindrise Coach

The old saying “there’s no place like home” has never felt more true to me than now as I sit in Costa Rica two days past my one-week planned stay.

It all seemed so “meant to be. “ My soul was yearning for a spiritual getaway; a time to rejuvenate and refresh my mind, body and soul.   I needed rest, and a little adventure sounded intriguing after all these months in quarantine.

It was my birthday and how better to celebrate than to get away from it all;  commune with nature, connect with some nice people and practice yoga?  It was an offer I could not refuse!

The retreat had many magical moments:  Riding bikes on the beach, horseback riding, venturing to town where we drank coconut water directly out of a coconut, daily yoga, raising our hearts and minds up to God in gratitude.

I connected.   I made lifetime friendships.   I had a relaxing massage.   I ate plant-based foods and had fresh juices and smoothies daily.   I saw the most amazing sunrises and sunsets.   

We toured the jungle with Kenneth, a guide who spoke the same language as the birds, and we spotted howling monkeys that entertained us with their swinging from the branches, showing off their low-hanging genitalia.

I felt free and alive and without fear or worry.   I felt hopeful and positive.

The kicker was, as it turned out, I was positive.   I had COVID.

The good news is I had no symptoms and felt well, but I still had to stay behind, alone in the jungle.   As the others prepared to leave, I had to face the reality that I wasn’t boarding the plane with my friends.    My heart ached.   It ached for my husband Derek, my sweet dog, Wiley and all of my family and friends.  I missed my home, especially my own shower and bed.   I wanted to get back to work, to my clients, to my life.   Time moved slowly before I was confined to my room; now it is excruciating.  One day in isolation feels like a whole week.

This is my reality, a circumstance out of my control.   I have learned that I can’t control everything in my life, but I can control my thoughts.


These thoughts surfaced first:  Why me?  I want to go home now.   I can’t stay here another week stuck in Costa Rica.   

And some of my thoughts got even more dramatic:  I am going to die alone in the rainforest.

Because our brains are wired for survival, when faced with a situation that may be perceived as dangerous, we go into the fight-or-flight response.   

Howling monkeys, monsoon rainfall in the middle of the night led to sleepless nights and the negative thoughts kept coming.  I felt like a contestant on Survivor surrounded by animal noises and the even louder noises in my head.

This led to panic and panic led to paralyzing fear.   My mind raced with all the “what if’s” leading me down a dangerous path, down which I don’t want to go.

Byron Katie’s book “Loving What Is” inspires surrendering to “what is” rather than what we think “ought to be.”  My favorite Katie quote is:   when you fight reality, you will lose, but only 100 percent of the time.  

Managing my mind has been challenging, but I am thankful that I have learned this skill.  Instead of questioning “why me” which is disempowering, putting me in victim mode, my new question I am choosing is:  why was I picked to have this experience?   This changes everything.

I was picked because I’m strong.  I was picked to make me love deeper and to have more compassion and to be more resilient.   I was picked because life isn’t supposed to be easy and I can do hard things.

I ask:  What is this moment teaching me?   How is it for me?   What if I was faithful instead of fearful?   

I wrote this on the airplane coming:   “When things are not going the way you plan, it is an opportunity to practice faith.  Faith is easy when things are going well.   Challenging times give us an opportunity to trust and surrender.”

I had no idea how prophetic those words would turn out to be.

As I sit and listen to the sounds of the jungle, I allow faith to win out over fear.   I breathe.  I rest.  I allow.