Where We Belong: Stefano
Love, Freedom, and Living in the Moment
“Being a father gave me the opportunity to completely open my heart.”
The spirit of Florblanca here in Costa Rica is channeled through the jungle and wildlife that envelops us, through the ocean that is ever-present, and through the people that bring all this beauty to life.
And Stefano sits at the heart and center of our community, bringing with him the joy of nature, of beauty, of connection, and of love.
This Father’s Day, we celebrate Stefano and express our gratitude for the joy and appreciation he shares with his own family, with our community, and with his students.
When Stefano moved to Costa Rica over 20 years ago, he immediately fell in love with the beaches, the ocean and the waves, the community, and the culture. He knew that this is where he wanted to lay his roots. He knew that this place was able to give something more to his life. Part of that is the strong connection with the natural elements, especially the powerful ocean and water that brings us closer to our essence, our emotions, and our very nature.
When Stefano’s son, Ashoa, was born here in Costa Rica, Stefano could see how important this connection with nature is for a child. To grow up with so much of the natural world at your doorstep adds a whole new dimension to a child’s education. They can learn through classes and books, but also through nature. This is what provides such a special and precious balance in life.
Ashoa grew up spending all of his time outdoors, on the beach, in the water, surfing. And this connection with nature has woven through his life to this day.
Becoming a Father
Stefano was born in Milan, Italy, and grew to be a rebellious child. This brought conflict with his strict, disciplined father, himself a prized boxing champion. But, over time and with age, Stefano found unity with his father and his family, with much peace and love. And what he learned from that early relationship with his father over time was the power of strength and discipline. He learned how these qualities inform the ability to be present in the things you do in your life.
These qualities of strength and discipline are also what influenced his own approach to being a father. And he’s learned a lot in the process, too. He’s learned that this kind of love you experience for your child is unique. You cannot experience this with any other person in your life. And that kind of love allowed Stefano the opportunity to open his heart completely. Because, try as we might, what Stefano learned – as we all do eventually – is that you cannot live your child’s life. As much as you want to see your child excel and do things according to your point of view, you have to let them be themselves.
The best you can do is be an example, be there to love them, and live life in the present moment.
Stefano came to the practice of yoga from a martial arts background. He received the second degree black belt in Shotokan Karate and became an international instructor of this ancient practice. However, martial arts was physically demanding in a way that was hurting his body over time. In yoga, he found a different experience which could heal and protect the safety of his body. His own practice and teacher training helped him develop a good relationship with his energetic body while also exploring the more spiritual body. This led him to have a more relaxed and peaceful relationship with his body.
As a teacher at Florblanca, Stefano is not interested in yoga as a sport or an achievement of goals. He says yoga is a mix of art and science. You bring to yoga your smiling face. This is the key.
“I practice because I am already free inside. And joy is already in me. I do not practice to become free or joyful. The practice does not make me reach something. Maintaining a smile on your face, it’s because you’re free inside. Practice must be a celebration.”
Everyone’s experience in class is different, but Stefano tries to teach that we don’t come to class with a goal. Instead, it’s your inner joy that leads you to practice.
“As soon as you discover this inner joy, when the class is over, you feel a resonance inside of peace, of emptiness, of lightness. And celebration.”
Breathing and Freedom
Stefano believes that the relationship you have with your breath connects you with your spirit. If you can connect with your breath, you are also spiritually connected and physically connected. If you calm your breath, you create peace in your body, and this breath is what guides you in your practice.
“Breathing calms the mind, the mind never calms the breath.”
The breath is also what connects us to the present moment. Our presence in the moment reminds us that everything we need is here within us, there is nothing to reach. And this gives us freedom.
As a father, freedom is what Stefano wants to pass on to the next generation. He wants to impart the same kind of freedom that he tried to give his family by moving to Costa Rica. Freedom in the connection with nature, of living in the present moment. Of connecting with our senses and recognizing that everything we need is here.
“Shivo Hum. All is contained in these two words. I am Shiva. Everyone, we are Shivo Hum. We all have inside us all we need.”
Happy Father’s Day to Stefano and to all the fathers reading this. Thank you for the person you’ve become, for allowing us to be the people we are, and for imparting your wisdom and experience by your living example.