Monday, October 30, 2017

An Attitude of Gratitude

by Jill Ruttenberg

How do you feel inside when you are truly grateful for something someone has done for you, whether they have listened, helped you in a crisis or even made your favorite food for you? Does it make you feel warm, happy, humble? In my Native country, the US, we celebrate a day of Thanksgiving each year at the end of November. It is actually my favorite holiday, partly for the food, but mostly because it feels good to set aside a time to celebrate the people and things for which we are grateful. 
But Gratitude, the most fleeting of human emotions can become a DAILY practice, not something just reserved for church on Sunday or a Thanksgiving dinner. Being truly grateful for something or someone in your life begins a flow of other emotions and helps to align us with our Higher Purpose. 

Here is one definition of Gratitude, offered by Harvard Medical School: “Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives … As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals – whether to other people, nature, or a higher power” 

Check it out yourself: Perhaps in meditation, focus on a few things you are grateful for, and allow the FEELING of gratitude to come into your heart. It may be helpful to think of a gift-either material or of someone’s time or energy-you’ve been given recently. Does it bring you an inner smile? Do you like the feeling of being grateful? How do you feel when someone thanks you for something you do for them? In this often staccato world of disconnection, it seems to me we all need tools to help us feel more connected, more loved and appreciated. 

Many people find it life-changing to keep a Gratitude Journal. A small notebook and pen next to your bed will do, and first thing in the morning you can write down one to three things (or more!) you are thankful for today. It could be something as simple as the warm blanket on your comfy bed. Do the same at night before retiring, perhaps recalling something nice that occurred during the day. When we develop an “attitude of gratitude” and align our Hearts and Minds (see Heart Math for a more detailed explanation of how this works) and when we express that gratitude to others we start a ripple of graceful, loving energy that flows out to the Universe and in many cases brings us more things and people to be grateful for. Little by little our lives change. Soon we find we complain less, we appreciate the little things in our lives more, and we feel good more often inside. According to a 2011 study by Positive Psychology, “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

And this is a perfect time for Bob and I to give you, across the miles and ether-ways, our sincere and deepest thanks for all you do to raise your consciousness and contribute to a better world, and personally for staying connected to our vision and mission here at AmaTierra Retreat & Wellness Center. We hope you enjoy all the gifts of Life you so richly deserve, each and every day. Feel free to write us about your experience of Gratitude and to share this blog with others; it just might raise the vibration for all! 

“Gratitude Unlocks the Fullness of Life
It turns what we have into enough, and more
It turns Denial into Acceptance, Chaos to Order and
Confusion to Clarity.
It can turn a meal into a Feast, A House into a Home

A Stranger into a Friend  ---Melody Beattie, Self-help Author

Jill Ruttenberg, RH, Co-Owner & Wellness Director of AmaTierra Retreat & Wellness Center in Costa Rica, is a professional nutritionist, certified practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and clinical herbalist registered with the American Herbalist Guild. She is also an experienced massage therapist, energy healer and Hatha yoga instructor. The Wellness Center at AmaTierra is Jill's living dream, the fruition of decades of training, practice and experience in natural medicine and the healing arts.  

To learn more about Jill and AmaTierra please visit our web page at
Your comments are most welcome!!!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Sharing the Gift of Yoga

This week, I had the distinct pleasure of teaching yoga for Dream Trips’ Dream Body retreat at AmaTierra. It was a full house, with guests from Texas, Colorado and Alabama, Baltimore and Orlando, France, Japan, China and Curacao. Men and women, young to middle-aged, both tall and short, some super stick-skinny, others athletic-build strong, and a few deliciously curvaceous. Minds, bodies, hearts and spirits from a world of different backgrounds came together in the name of wellness to experience this special slice of jungle in the heart of Costa Rica. For many, it was a willing step outside their comfort zone to explore a primarily plant-based organic diet, brave the creepy crawly critters of the tropical forest, and get active outside the gym. And as serendipity would have it, for most, it was their first ever exposure to the practice of yoga.

As a seasoned yogini – with seventeen years of regular practice and counting, plus growing up with a yoga mom who started teaching all the way back when yoga was still weird – my asana practice has come to feel like second nature to me. Airports, tiny hotel rooms, ocean-view yoga decks, penthouse city studios, campgrounds and roadside picnic tables – wherever I go, my yoga mat is sure to follow. So instilled into my lifestyle, yoga has become a part of my core identity, a self-care ritual for spiritual connection, and my thirty-one year-old body’s essential saving grace. Yet while the practice and lifestyle philosophy of yoga have come to play an integral role in my everyday world, the experience of teaching yoga has been quite the opposite, I must confess. While I’ve taught both regularly and sporadically for years, it’s never felt completely natural to be the one in charge of guiding others through their yoga practice. And while the Yoga Alliance – the internationally accepted accreditation body for yoga instructors - seems to have very few qualms about churning out yoga teachers with unbelievably little experience on the daily, I’ve found it hard to describe myself as a yoga teacher despite my experience practicing and living yoga for more than half of my life - mostly because of the deep responsibility I believe such a title both entails and deserves. So, needless to say, being confronted with the opportunity to share my practice as a teacher with twelve souls from around the world, many new to yoga, I embraced both the honor of such an experience and the self-inflicted pressure of doing justice to the ancient spirit of yoga and its powerful manifestation through all of our modern little bodies.

Nerves were collective on our first morning together, eager hearts open and willing to explore; some seeking to give yoga another go after traumatic experiences with instructors who pushed too hard and instilled a sense of shame around injury and physical limitations; others taking their at-home video-led practice to the next level in a real live studio far from home; and still others completely brand new, like the day-old baby goat we saw at the farm near the local waterfall, finding his legs for the very first time. I welcomed the challenge and taught a gentle Hatha class, warming up slowly and sticking mostly to the basics, while my mom helped with adjustments when needed. I wanted the new and traumatized yogis in the room to experience yoga as accessible despite any physical limitations in their bodies, and encourage them to explore the essence of yoga – the profoundly spiritual practice of peace, mindfulness, connection and lasting well-being that often gets left out of corporate-style yoga gyms in the Western world.

Bodies flowed and bellies breathed and our shared vibration felt peaceful and by the time savasana rolled around, I found a deep satisfaction in knowing that perhaps I don’t need to self-identify as a yoga instructor to share the gift of yoga that lives in my heart and flows through my veins. That I don’t need to feel superhuman for bodies and hearts and minds and souls to benefit from the yoga I’ve cultivated into my being over the course of half a lifetime. That doing what I showed up to do – to teach a mellow yoga class to a rainbow of people on wellness retreat in the Costa Rican jungle – doesn’t need to be anything more or less than exactly what it is; exactly what I was meant to be doing in exactly that moment. And finally, that in sharing the gift that has made me who I am with those who have never experienced it before, I find profound humility in the warrior-like honor of passing on the light of peace, itself a gift to behold.  

So I thank you, new yogis, for your practice. For your willingness. And I thank you for sharing with me on this journey, together.  


Tara Ruttenberg, M.A., is a writer, surfer and graduate student of sustainable surf tourism. To read more of Tara's work, visit her web site at and follow her on Instagram: @tarantulasurf.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

From my Window by Tara Ruttenberg

For ten years, I've watched you. 

All of you. 

I've watched you walk into this place wound up tight, and leave days later somehow lighter. Like magic, or clockwork, maybe. Lips unfurl and creased brow-lines relax, subtle smile lines return. Sinewy muscles in cricked necks lose their muster against the world and everything that fights back, hard. Lackluster skin catches the sunshine, and I wonder if you know you'll never be the same. 

Stuck with the muck of cities, the stress of modern life, the symptoms of systems we harden ourselves against so our souls might feel safe, somewhere deep inside bodies we've forgotten how to care for. I sit across from tired eyes over a healthy lunch on the balcony, wondering if you see the depths of the valley in the postcard-worthy vista before you, or if it's just all too much to bear when you're filled to the brim with everything you've come to leave behind. From my hiding spot in polite smiles and practiced nods, I see you. 

I don't blame you for your heavy presence when you forget to chew before you swallow medicine in the form of food grown with care, just steps from your plate. I don't judge you when you'd rather escape to your smart phone than chat with your fellow guests, whose own stories might provoke an emphatic overwhelm beyond your emotional threshold for casual conversation. My sensitive skin finds the hardened presence of your 'before' hard to sit with; like a mirror of everything I also once chose to leave behind, I choose to keep my distance, sometimes for the length of your stay. 

You might not see me, but for ten years, I've watched you transform. Like a spy on the wall, you can't hide from me the skins you've shed. You aren't the same when you leave here. Held in a space created for your healing, you feel safe enough to drop your defenses and let the good stuff in. You drink wine, you do yoga, you meditate, you hike, you waterfall, you get touched by intuitive massage therapists and healers, you detox, you cry, you watch a movie, you sunbathe poolside, you read a book in the hammock, you eat gourmet in the jungle among the birds and bugs. You stop complaining and start singing, sometimes. You drop the mask and get real. 

And I watch you break free from the strangling confines of your cocoon, too tight now for wings. And your shoulders settle and your smile doesn't look like a chore. I watch you transform, and wonder if you see you, too. 

It's not coincidence. It's not magic or rocket science, either. But it is something special. This place is the space where you come home to your true self. And that's no small thing. 

I see you from my window. 


This isn't shameless marketing for my family's business. This is homage to the beautiful humans who gave me life, whose passionate creations manifest in a healing space of transformation and evolution for the benefit of the thousands of happenstance souls who have blessed AmaTierra with their presence over the years. This is thank you to the place they've dreamed into reality, a sacred space that vibrates with an energy both theirs and all its own. This is congratulations on ten years and counting of their impossible dream come true. This is gratitude for the transformation they catalyze in the hearts of those who meet their presence on the special land, the beloved earth, they've chosen to call home, work, play and AmaTierra

And still, gratitude seems too small a word.

Tara Ruttenberg, writer.  @tarantulasurf

Saturday, April 6, 2013

March Yoga Madness Leaves us Full and Laughing

The monkeys are quiet this week after spying on us (we wonder what they think of all those people in downward dog pose, the Kirtan chanting and southern drawl at the dinner table) throughout the month of March where we hosted one yoga retreat after another. Thank you Nora Byrne from Minnesota, Suzy Weyenberg from upper Wisconsin and our returning (for the third year in a row) instructor Erin Smith from Winchester Kentucky. Erin, you always bring such colorful, wonderful characters with you. This year we learned all about horse racing and training, the Kentucky Derby and how you self-reliant, down-home folks like to laugh and have fun! Massage Oil flowed with everyone enjoying  wellness services and not ONE complaint at this year's yoga retreat. We are so grateful for the Kentuckians' generosity. Our staff lives on a pretty meager salary, and your "propinas" (tips) meant the world to them. One employee has been waiting years to put in a cement floor over the dirt that now serves as her home's platform....thanks to all of you filling our place and the staff's pockets, she can now afford that floor. Things we take for granted in the good ol' U.S.A. are not so easily accomplished in developing countries. It's rewarding to be able to make a difference.

Speaking of helping, please remember that we assist the townspeople here through our AmaTierra Foundation . We helped 14 students attend school this year, outfitting them with uniform, shoes, backpack and notebook. Education is free and pretty good here in Costa Rica (this country has the most educated work force of all of Latin America) BUT some families cannot afford the uniforms, so they keep their children at home, which is tragic. With the school year beginning each year in February, we have spent our allotment and need to build up funds for next year. To donate to the Foundation, please call us (toll free from the U.S.) at 1-866-659-3805 or write to us at and we'll call YOU if you're in a different country. It's a great way to make a very direct difference in the lives of children and the community at large. The kids thank you!

The spring season has been a good one for AmaTierra, and it is not over! We're recharging our batteries to welcome Shata Ben-Avari from Florida, with her group of 12 yogis arriving April 13th. Of course we still have room for the single traveler who just wants to escape the rat race for a time. Sunny mornings and cloudy afternoons with a short shower is what you can expect in April and May. Lower seasonal rates for nightly stays or wellness/yoga packages begin in May also. See the web site for more.

Exhilaration at the Waterfall!
Our Customized Detox program is gaining popularity. Guests report increased energy and a wonderful feeling of well-being from eating our fresh organic produce right from the greenhouse, fresh squeezed juices and medicinal herbs made from plants that grow on AmaTierra's property. See more at
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Partners in Nora Byrne's group

Jill Ruttenberg, reg. herbalist AHG
 Owner, Wellness Director at AmaTierra

Monday, September 26, 2011

Healing the Emotional Self & Somatic (Body) Memory--It's all in the Belly!

Much of what we call healing can be accomplished by understanding a problem, using the right therapies, and changing our attitude, our thoughts, our habits and our lifestyles. But the emotional Self often dominates our whole energy field and healing this aspect can be the most difficult. How do we handle anger, grief, loneliness, anxiety, and fear? And how do these emotions really affect our health?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, each organ system has a corresponding emotion. Liver disorders, for example, may be accompanied by anger and one could go as far as saying excess or unexpressed anger can cause liver problems. It doesn't really matter which comes first, and when we address the physical aspect through liver cleansing, eating fewer fatty foods or subduing rising liver fire with herbs or acupuncture, for example, a person generally becomes less angry. And contrarily, if we find ways to release the anger, the physical symptoms of liver imbalance may actually subside.

What I have been shown over and over again in my practice as an herbalist and massage therapist is that there truly is no separation between the emotional and physical bodies.
Our modern culture puts tremendous demands on us and gives us few tools to deal with the onslaught of stimulus to which our little bodies must react.We take it all in and don't know how to let it out!
As one of my teachers of the abdominal massage modality CHI NEI TSANG, Gilles Marin, explained:
Everything we encounter gives us an emotional charge, and some charges are easier to digest than others. The tougher ones stay in the belly and get held there until we make the time to unravel them.
It is no wonder that over 80% of North Americans take some sort of digestive medicine on a regular basis. We're all carrying a belly full of tangled, unexpressed emotional charges.

The Abdominal Chi Mover has become the most popular treatment here at AmaTierra Retreat & Wellness Center in Costa Rica. People come here to destress, to confront and change old patterns, and to get FREE of these pent up emotions. In our busy lives we need time to process and digest our feelings.
Here is one small exercise you can do to move the energy and the somatic memories that may be stuck in your belly.
1) Lay down on your back with your knees propped up
2) Put both hands on your belly and breathe deeply, feeling your breath rise and fall
3) Ask yourself: What am I feeling right now? Stay in your body, in your belly, and feel the answer. Try to stay out of your thinking mode, just be with your breath. Perhaps nothing comes up. That is ok too.
4) If you do feel an uncomfortable emotion rising in your belly (or anywhere else) try to go with the feeling of it. Treat it as just energy; don't judge it, fear it or repress it. You also don't need to trace it back to any kind of history or storyline. Just be with the emotion and breathe it out, let yourself cry, make sound or pound your fists, kick your feet if you like.
5) End with soothing thoughts and your hands once again on the belly. Perhaps a mantra such as "I am safe, all is well" will now help you regain your balance. Let yourself feel the freedom now that you have made space in your belly for true healing to happen. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh....

For further information about our emotions, the belly etc. I recommend a simple book by my main teacher of this work, Allison Post. The book is titled Unwinding the Belly, and you can find it on line at
Watch for Allison's new book to be released in electronic form soon!

Look for our Next blog: Exercises & Herbs for Resolving Anger & Frustration

Jill Ruttenberg is a registered AHG herbalist and the owner/wellness director at AmaTierra Retreat & Wellness Center in Turrubares, Costa Rica. To learn more about AmaTierra please visit

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Healing Spiral Part 2: Observations from an herbalist

We were talking in the last blog about how healing happens in a spiral rather than any kind of linear progression, and we left off with the question of what are the true healing influence? What really heals human beings?

Within each of us is the Power to heal ouselves, Whole books have been written on this subject (Andrew Weil, MD, Spontaneous Healing & Lewis Mehl Medrona Coyote Healing are 2 good ones), written from both a Spiritual and Medical perspective. But it seems if we are to truly heal a wound, a chronic illness, a deep emotional hurt, we must be willing to go IN there, and to ask the hard questions. One thing I ask myself, when I get injured or sick is, "Did I need a break?
Was I pushing too hard, doing too much and my body rebelled?" Another question might be, "How is this pain or illness or clinging to the past serving me?" Finding honest answers, and being willing to face those answers without judging oneself harshly can be tricky. Everyone experiences times in life when things just feel too hard to handle, and if we can focus on how sick we feel or how sad we are, we might decide to ignore the very things/people/solutions that might help us feel better. Could it be we are wanting to avoid responsibility for our lives? I know for myself this is a natural response when things feel too hard to handle.

If you find yourself in this state of mind, try to really SEE it and don't criticize yourself for falling into this attitude, but instead just KNOW: This is where I'm at right now. And trust that when you are ready (either you are tired of feeling bad or you've stayed long enough in that space) you will eventually get to asking yourself "How do I WANT to feel?" And you'll notice a little shift happening, pulling you back into the center of the Healing Spiral once again. Chances are you will also begin to attract tools to enhance your own body's ability to heal itself. Someone will recommend a certain herb, you'll decide to visit your acupuncturist, a friend will call and lift your Spirits or you'll suddenly decide to go outside and be in nature.

Did you know that being in nature, noticing a beautiful tree, butterfly or flower can instantly raise feel-good hormones? So can receiving a hug (don't be afraid to ASK for one! It will serve the other person well too!) I believe we humans not only have the power to heal ourselves, but we have a natural urge (call it survival?) to want to feel better. When you are in distress, ask yourself: What tiny shift can I make that will make me feel just a little bit better? Simple things may come to mind: a warm bath, a phone call to a friend, picking a flower, 20 minutes of meditation, reading a poem...Your inner wisdom will answer you, and you will be led by that ever-present healing force.

Next blog: Healing the Emotional Self & Somatic (Body) Memory--It's all in the Belly!
Jill Ruttenberg is a registered AHG herbalist and the owner/wellness director at AmaTierra Retreat & Wellness Center in Turrubares, Costa Rica. To learn more about AmaTierra please visit

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Healing Spiral: Observations on the Healing Process

During these last 20 some years as an herbalist and massage therapist I have noticed patterns that seem universal no matter what a person is healing from. Many people come to a wellness center such as AmaTierra to regain their energy and to heal from any number of things: a broken relationship, grief over loss, long-term stress and fatigue, chemotherapy, chronic health issues. And the one common misnomer I see is that people believe and expect that the healing process is a linear one…one that progresses from point A to point B and eventually to Z as though one is climbing a staircase.

“I should be over this by now!” many say, especially regarding emotional pain. And if the problem is physical (although I also now believe there can be no actual separation between the mental/emotional/physical body) people will say “The doctors say the procedure was a success, that I should have this (limp, pain, whatever).

The truth, as I see it, is that healing happens as a spiral, ultimately an upward one, and sometimes with dips. Imagine a spiral beginning at the bottom where the problem first manifested, and as the body/mind begins to understand, respond and use its innate healing power, together with helpful influences such as herbs, supplements, therapy, bodywork to put itself right, we progress more and more toward the Center, toward wholeness and good health. However, being a spiral, we generally return to the place of the original hurt (a song may bring back the grief, steep stairs re-injure the knee), but as the body has gained more wisdom, the pain is less acute. We recognize the return to woundedness and say “Ah, yes, you are part of me, but I have progressed. I feel different, more whole, more healed.

Why is it important to notice that healing happens in a spiral? One, to let ourselves off the hook and stop pulling on the leash, wrenching ourselves into rightness when we are not yet ready (“I should be over this…”). And if we accept that in order for true healing to occur the body must remind itself of the original injury then I believe we can become more conscious of our humanity, and more accepting of where we might be in the present moment.

Is there anything we can do to speed up the healing process? Actually, I think there are many things we can do, and I will save that for the next blog….

Jill Ruttenberg is a registered AHG herbalist and the
owner/wellness director at AmaTierra
Retreat & Wellness Center in Turrubares, Costa Rica.
To learn more about AmaTierra please visit