So slowly our little farm of lovely animals is expanding. It is such a joy to share this land with so many beautiful creatures. I am so overjoyed with this creation and feel so blessed, grateful and fortunate to be the steward of Suryalila, which is nothing less than heaven on Earth.
In my last blog post I mentioned that I would be going to India for a month long retreat with James Swartz, who I now consider my teacher. James Swartz teaches Vedanta, which is one of the six schools of thought under the umbrella of Hinduism. It is a vast body of “revealed” knowledge.
I thoroughly loved the retreat in Tiruvannamalai. Tiru(for short) is a little like a spiritual Las Vegas these days, especially in December and January when the weather is not too tropical. There is a different satsang on every street corner. My friends who live in Tiru gave me the low-down on who is who. It’s a jungle out there if you haven’t already developed the ability to extract the pearls from the swine! Fortunately, I knew where I was going!
An amazing sacred mountain, called Arunachala, looms over the bustling little town, and she inspires great awe. Many worshippers of Shiva circumambulate the mountain, doing pradakshina. The walk is 14 kilometres and all around the base of the mountain are shrines to different gods. Shiva is lord here though, since he apparently appeared as a lingam of light on top of the mountain to win an argument with Vishnu, about who was the greatest. A massive imposing temple is situated in the centre of town, and we got to do a fascinating tour of it one evening. Ramana Maharshi, one of the greatest Indian saints who ever graced this planet, has his ashram there. Ramana passed away in the 1950’s but the ashram is still thriving and saturated with his profoundly peaceful energy. It’s a great place to meditate.
It was a very enriching time for me, connecting with some old spiritual friends, and studying Vedanta with James. I have long loved Eastern Philosophy. As some of you know, it has been my life’s passion. Vedanta is my new love. It is everything anyone needs to know and more: a considerable body of knowledge, that when you are ripe, you can apply to dispel your ignorance. I have long been ripe and the timing was perfect. A few years ago I wouldn’t have been open to a new teacher. However, as in all good spiritual stories, the teacher found me, through my good friend Harry. It took me a while to answer the call, but I am so glad I did! Vedanta came at the right time and my life feels blessed.
Our teacher, James and his lovely wife Sundari, who is also a Vedanta teacher, has also agreed to come teach at Suryalila from 28th January until 10 February next year. How wonderful is that! Our teacher coming to us. He is going to be speaking about the three Gunas, which is a subject I am really fascinated by. He just released a book on the same subject too. Anyone out there interested in Eastern Philosophy, this is a great opportunity to come study with us! You can find out more about James Swartz and Vedanta at www.shiningworld.com
Well my friends, the big day I have been dreaming of finally arrived! Yahoo!!!!
On December 1st I finally signed the papers to purchase Suryalila Retreat Centre, at the Notary in Arcos de La Frontera. A goal I have had my sights set on since beginning this business. Thanks to existence (or Isvara) for allowing this dream to come true. And thank you so much to all my friends along the way that have made this possible in one way or other, with special thanks to Harry, our retreat manager, who has been a massive support from the beginning.
I am sure many of our friends and customers were unaware that we didn’t fully own the property already. We have had a lease with an option to buy up until now. Just over 5 years have passed and everything was on track for the purchase.
And so, after copious amounts of blood, sweat and tears, it has really come to pass. My first feeling was of a heavy weight being lifted off my shoulders, a huge relief and a big step forwards. Until the moment I signed on the dotted line, I was a little anxious that something would come in the way last minute. We only knew the night before that it was definitely going forward. Over the last two days a soft and deep contentment has been arising within me. It was like climbing a mountain, arriving at the top to a very misty view, and now slowly that mist is clearing and the beautiful countryside around me is being slowly revealed in intricate detail. WOW!
Still so much to do here but now the feeling is significantly different and the sense of pressure is off. Of course, as always, there are still a multitude of things that need to be done. And now, on top of everything, I am very tempted to knock down a few walls-just because I can :)))
Right now, Doug Crouch is here preparing for his first Advanced Permaculture course and our Permaculture project is in full swing. We are about to plant hundreds of trees on the ridge and surrounding the garden in the next month, as part of our reforesting project. We took the first steps towards our food forest, by key lining the old wheat field. We have created a separate non-profit business to support the permaculture project and will be doing a lot of fund raising for trees in the near future. If you are interested in offsetting your carbon footprint let me know :)) We will be setting up a donation button on our website.
Doug and Jacob, our awesome permaculture managers.
The sauna is going through a big repair job by Rob, who built it. It had some issues, including leaking, so it really needed this renovation. Looking forward to having it ready in a few weeks, especially since winter is definitely here right now.
My Escape Christmas Retreat is fully booked, so looking forward to using the sauna/steam room during that. (Keep your fingers crossed). As is our tradition now, I will be the Christmas Day chef for the tofu turkey, mushroom gravy and chestnut stuffing!!!!! Amazingly talented Pakistani musician Saeed is gonna play on Christmas Day for us, which I am really excited about; traditional Indian music during restorative Yoga and a fusion concert in the evening, so we can dance off our Christmas dinner.
The olive harvest was just completed, our delicious golden green olive oil for the next year is ready. We are having our green eating olives processed in Prado by a local, as so far we haven’t made them taste as good as the local experts do. But we have a secret production of black Greek olives hanging in muslin bags in the parking area; a practice our friend Tim started last year. Hoping we will soon be enjoying some wrinkled salty greek babies over Christmas!
In the last few weeks we have been blessed with some much needed rain and the landscape is becoming more green and lush. Our wells are finally being replenished. One of our main goals now is to resolve our water shortage issue. We have been working on that in various ways and also using more grey water. But an overall bigger solution is needed. Stay posted for that!
My dear old friend Somesh is here about to begin another eco-building project. We need to replace our glamping tents within the next two years, so plan to build a little eco-village where the camping currently is. The first building will be three twin rooms built from straw and mud. We are thinking eco hobbit village over time :))
I have a big trip planned for January. I met James Swartz a few months ago, at a weekend retreat in Belgium. Harry introduced me to James, who is a Vedanta teacher who he has been into for a couple of years. The teachings really resonated with me and I am thrilled to go do a retreat in Tiru in India with James. Harry and I are going to be there together, which will be the first time we have left Suryalila at the same time. Some of our other dear friends will be in Tiru too-soooo good!
Fortunately, we have a great team here who will manage everything whilst we are away. I was supposed to be leading a Yoga Teacher’s Training but then I felt so called to do this retreat in India that I decided to have some other teachers lead the training for me. Paula Mitten and Alicia Waters, both eminently capable, will do an amazing job and we are all very happy with the arrangement. I am overjoyed to have some precious time to nourish my own soul and now I can be at peace whilst I am away, knowing the purchase has gone through.
This week we are doing a Non-Violent Communication course with 8 of the staff and last week we had four coaches come here to do some work with us also. I find this kind of input very helpful for maintaining a healthy organisation.
So celebration time. Have a glass of cyber champagne with me!
Even though, these are challenging times in the world, I wish you all a peaceful and joyful time with family and friends over the next month!
Yet again, many moons have passed since my last blog post and much water has flowed down the Ganges. But here we are enjoying the first week of August.
Projects we have completed at Suryalila, since my last post, include the completion of our new Moroccan Pagoda, which is a gorgeous nest of embroidered pillows, providing a front row seat to enjoy the glory of the magnificent sunset.
The new Moon Shala’s path and surroundings have been cleaned up and finished. We still need to do a little more landscaping, but not till after the heat of summer subsides.
We have also added three more hot showers to our growing glamping area. These showers also supply water to a bunch of banana trees and flowering shrubs next to them, thanks to our Permaculture team.
A number of new murals grace our walls, including a beautiful Moroccan doorway between the kitchen and the dining room, this was a joint project of Tony (local artist) and Thea (designer of the Dome Art). Many of the houses and rooms are now graced with Moorish style murals. The Shakti boutique also got an entryway facelift.
The main project we have been working on is the initiation of a property-wide Permaculture project, which, in time, will lead to regeneration of our soil, preservation of water, a food forest, more landscaping, serious composting and an overall enhancement of the natural beauty of our property. We have taken back the seven hectare wheat field from our neighbours, who were farming it, and will begin to regenerate the soil there, eventually turning it into a food forest. We will be using something called key-line ploughing and already had a consultation with Jesus (common name in Spain) who is an agricultural engineer, who has started this process.
The Permaculture Project is being led by Doug Crouch, who is an American expert in permaculture design. He is designing the project and is mentoring our new permaculture project manager Jacob, and a small team of volunteer farmers.
Doug is also going to be running Permaculture Design Courses at Suryalila, one Advanced Course in December and a foundational Permaculture Design Course in Feb/March 2017. I am so excited to be working with him. Over time it will be lovely to see our land flourish, and also to inspire others as to what is possible. This is obviously a long-term ongoing project. It will take a few years to begin to see serious results.
Since I last wrote we have many more animals. Coco and Habibi, two of our alpacas had babies, Ziggy and Joey, so now we have five enchanting alpacas. We also bought two more donkeys, one mare called Daisy and her young son, Romeo. Daisy is pregnant but it will take another 6 months before she gives birth. We also have a sweet baby goat called Canela. And one more toy poodle puppy, to be a friend for sweet Rishi. Our new apricot toy poodle is called Kumari and she is now everyone’s darling. There is no shortage of babysitters. Rishi thinks she’s a live toy, and they already are inseparable. So our zoo continues to expand and delight.
Our Amrita Juice Bar is one of my favourite new additions. As well as many great juices and smoothies, we now serve iced bullet- proof coffee, golden milk(made with turmeric and other spices) and Sangria.
Bookings at Suryalila are looking very good since many months now. 2017 has been pretty much fully booked out for a while, aside from a few winter weeks. 2018 is now booking full steam ahead. Tiffany Cruikshank-super big yoga superstar, has booked three weeks for next year and has asked that to be a standard booking every year. Donna Farhi, another very well-known Yoga teacher, has just booked for 2018. Bryan Kest, yet another Yoga giant, tried to book for next year and we had to turn him down, due to no room. We are currently booking him in 2019. In terms of bookings, I can happily say, we have made it. Hallejujah! For all of this, I am eternally grateful. Our vision and hard work is bearing fruit. Thank you so much to my lovely team here at Suryalila, without whom it would not have been possible.
I am very happy to have my lovely niece Mary living here right now and running the juice bar. I am also happy to have my dear friend Lisa working here as Harry’s assistant, replacing Somesh who is away for a few months. It’s really nourishing to have more family around.
This year, and next year my travels will be limited as I plan to stay home a lot more to work on sustaining and perfecting all systems here. My yoga career continues to blossom, I am now being featured on an online Yoga Site: www.movementformodernlife.com. I have also become a regularly featured writer for Om Yoga Magazine.
This October, I plan to study for a weekend with James Swartz, my friend Harry’s Vedanta teacher. He is going to be in Ghent in Belgium and I am looking forward to a little spiritual infusion.
More later. Hasta Luego!
It’s been seven months since I wrote my last blog post and everything is right on track. Suryalila continues to flourish.
My 60th birthday in February was fabulous….I had the best party ever in the Dome. My dear old friend Somesh sang a set of his own beautiful songs, giving his first ever solo performance! DJ Warrior One, AKA my dear friend Carl Faure from Stretch Yoga London, spun some sounds for us to dance to. A bunch of friends came from London as well as all of our local Spanish friends. Champagne flowed and I was showered with beautiful gifts and love. Thank you to everyone for celebrating with me.
The Dome has been completely finished since last spring. Now it feels like it has always been there, watching over us with its intense Buddha eyes. Tiffany Cruikshank has come and gone. Her retreat was fantastic…it went as well as I could have hoped on every level. She will be coming back in 2017. Yeah!!!
In July I held my biggest training ever with 54 participants here in the OM Dome in the middle of the raging heat of summer. It went extremely well, particularly as I held the retreat with the dream team of Alicia Bargh, Jennilee Toner and Carl Faure. We were all really happy with the experience, and the Dome stayed just cool enough. Our pool was full in all the breaks.
I am loving our stellar office team of Tanea, Alice, Lidiya and I. We are contagiously happy and things are really getting done. The Suryalila family really rocks! All of the staff are wonderful and amazing and sometimes it feels more like a love-fest than a business. Everyday I feel blessed and extremely grateful.
After a lot of umming and erring we are about to launch a project for a third small Yoga Hall which in the end will be an eco-project with a team of experts helping us. The new Yoga Hall in the olive grove will be for staff and independent guests as well as being a second massage space. It will be a hexagonal building, made from straw and mud. We have a Dutch expert in cob building leading the eco building project. The building will take place during my October training, which is ramping up to be another mega training of close to 50 students.
We expanded our camping area with an extra bell tent as well as a new and beautiful Mongolian family Yurt. We are also creating a Moroccan style hang-out area for the glamping area!
I had an urge to add more animals to our family some months ago. I now have a gorgeous new fluffy white cat called Chandra and Felix, another stray cat who is slowly winning his way into my heart, a toy poodle called Rishi, who is an absolute delight and two miniature donkeys named Jasper and Basil. So a veritable menagerie suddenly. Oh and I forgot Lulu Bebe de las Tres Patas (our three-legged rescue goat) who is pregnant with one or two baby kids. We are in the process of creating a petting zoo!
Our bookings for 2016 are amazing and we are all super excited. Sarah Powers is coming here, Esther Ekhart will be back, Yoga Works is holding a training and Travis Elliott from Los Angeles is also coming. And many other great teachers! In short a stellar line-up.
We have been loving the long hot summer, the endless evenings and the panoramic sunsets.
I am looking forward to a week’s vacation in Italy with my dear friend Lisa and her family. I was just in London for a weekend training in Marshall Rosebergs Non-Violent Communication. It is something I am going to share with the staff here and that I would ultimately love to teach.
In November, I am looking forward to a trip to Guatemala to run a two week Advanced YTT with Jennifer Yarro. I am really looking forward to that too as I plan to spend a week in Antigua beforehand with Lidiya, my lovely PA, studying Spanish and preparing for the course.
I would love to install a hot-tub, a sauna or both at Suryalila as winter approaches. It sounds so fabulous to bathe under the stars in steaming hot water :)) So that is on my radar. Stay posted!
As always, every day I count my blessings. I am so grateful to be living my dream. And so grateful for all the beautiful people that come through this gorgeous oasis.
Right now seems a good time to review 2014 and commit to paper what I would like to accomplish in 2015.
2014 was a big year for me in so many ways. If you have been reading my blog, the main big event was my taking over the Directorship of Suryalila last April. That’s been a great ride, as I have to temper my enthusiasm with conservatism and good judgment. Not always easy, but I am managing to do that, I think.
Equally as important was the building of the OM Dome, which we are pretty sure, is the most magnificent Yoga Hall in Europe! More about that in a moment…
Creating a New Website was also a labor of love for me and several other Suryalilians. I absolutely love the new website and think it now accurately represents and presents Suryalila. It’s an achievement I feel very happy about.
I participated in my first flash-mob ever in Seville, which was a huge amount of fun, and headed up my first ever fund-raising team. If you missed it here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HX9NT9LXmJM
I am very pleased with the way Suryalila is growing, becoming more beautiful and attracting some amazing rock-star Yoga Teachers like Tiffany Cruikshank, Esther Ekhart and Emma Henry. Bring on the rock-stars! The magnificent Om Dome was built for these big groups. Of course, we also welcome small groups, with open arms, but the Om Dome begs to be overflowing with Yoga students, to fulfill its true purpose.
Though already in use, the Dome is still a work in process. I am pulling out all stops to make it perfect. Thea, my current assistant is an exceptionally talented artist and she has directed a team of artists who have generously contributed to our huge mural. She has also done a substantial amount of the artwork herself, and is still working on it as I write. Hundreds of hours of painting have already gone into it. It’s a veritable modern day Sistene chapel!
I have now decided to lay down a faux wooden floor, as the cement floor doesn’t visually work, due to various mistakes we made along the way, like staining it too soon etc. An expensive mistake, but now I think the end result with the wooden floor will be stellar. I have found the perfect faux wood that looks and feels like distressed planks of old wood that has been painted white. It is better than real wood because it will not insulate as much, which we need with the under-floor heating. We will be laying that down in February. Stay posted!
Finally, the golden cupola, which is made out of fiberglass, arrived and is sitting in our parking lot. The icing on the cake will be the securing of the cupola on top and painting the Buddha eyes on the outside. I am hoping to do that also this springtime.
On New Years Eve we had a great party with a group of Yogis and Yoginis, hosted by DJ Warrior One, who spun some great sounds for us to dance too. The Dome makes a fantastic disco, as I had already discovered on the opening night. We can make our lighting system go disco and the sound system is really awesome.
I would love to start ecstatic dance nights with live music in the Springtime, hopefully with Somesh and Saeed and Ali playing live. I realized how much I miss having a good dance, so that is one of my goals for 2015: A Suryalila live band playing awesome east-west fusion grooves!
Speaking of which, the next big event in the Om Dome is on February 13th and will be my sixtieth birthday bash. If you feel inspired to head on over that weekend to celebrate with me, just say the word. The more the merrier!
I used to think sixty sounded really old, but now I definitely think it’s only middle-aged. Eighty is the new sixty! Well, I haven’t slowed down yet and I can still win the handstand contest, most of the time. So here’s to rocking out my sixties!!!! If anyone reading this would like to attend let me know and similarly if you’d like to challenge me in a handstand contest step right up!
On another note, upgrades at Suryalila are ongoing. In December and early January we have added some more bathrooms: one in Govinda kitchen, as Govinda really needed another bathroom, and also we have installed three toilets to serve the dining room and Ganesha Yoga Shala. Not super exciting, but necessary. We have also moved the dish washing area and bought an actual industrial dishwasher, which should make all our volunteers happy. We are turning the old wash-up room into a beauty salon for pedicures, manicures and facials etc. Not a popular idea with the men on the team but I think it will be a winning addition.
Another more exciting upgrade is the juice bar in the white courtyard, which we plan to open sometime in the Spring-time.
As I write, the dining room is in the process of being painted different shades of gold and orange and new light fixtures are being installed to make it warmer. I cannot wait to see it.
There are a few other upcoming plans up my sleeve. There are many times in 2015 when we will have two groups at Suryalila. This is great, with one small downside, which is the staff and independent guests need a practice space and we only have two halls. This has led us to realizing that we probably need a third small Yoga Hall! Harry and I have been considering something round, sustainable and rustic. We are trying to come up with something ecological and economical. Maybe a straw bale round-house! Any suggestions and/or help building it are welcome! We could also use this new space for meditation and as a second massage room.
If at all possible before the year is out I would like to install either a sauna or a hot tub or both. This seems ambitious but is quite high on my list. Unfortunately low on Harry’s list, so any ideas for accomplishing this inexpensively would be appreciated too.
One of my personal goals for 2015 is to really take a leap with my Spanish, which explains why I am currently in beautiful Playa Samara on the Nacoya Peninsula of Costa Rica. They have a really good Spanish school, right on the beach. So I am doing a week’s intensive here, before my last YTT in Costa Rica. I will also be attending the Spanish intensives happening at Suryalila this year. Quiero hacerlo con migo?
We have had some staff changes at Suryalila. Jessi has left and gone back to the UK to be closer to her family, and Alice has arrived in her place. Thea is moving to Mexico in March, to be with her boyfriend Mau, and Lidiya, who was our marketing intern will be my new PA. So all change! Hopefully it will all be positive for everyone!
On 3rd April we will be hosting our first serious Yoga Festival for 3 days with the EXHALE festival migrating from the UK. That is very exciting…more soon on that. Save the date and plan on joining us.
I’m dreaming a lot about a super successful year on all levels.
To all of you out there reading this, I wish you all a wonderful 2015 also and may all of your dreams be realized! Never forget that you are a phenomenal creator!
Here at our lovely retreat centre we are enjoying an Indian Summer. It’s the 22nd of October and the temperature is 30 degrees celcius. Eat your hearts out or better still come join us!!!!
So much has happened since my last blog post. Most importantly the fabulous Om Dome has happened!!!! So much more than we expected went into the construction and perfecting of this space, but now it is very REAL and yet again I am in absolute awe at my manifesting skills. I practically willed it into existence. What is so magnificent about this Dome is that it is even better than my wildest dreams. I feel awed when I walk into it. It has a real cathedral like feeling to it. My heart sings when I open the door.
A small devoted group of people worked their butts off to make this happen, including Harry, our dear retreat manager, and Richard my dear old friend and then a team of staff and volunteers who worked really hard, first on the Indiegogo campaign and then on the actual Dome construction. I am so grateful to have had this awesome help. I bow down to all of you heros and heroines!
Our Indiegogo campaign raised 40,000 Euros towards the project and this was a big achievement. This is about a quarter of what it actually cost. Without it we wouldn’t have been able to build it, so I am extremely grateful to everyone who donated. It was such a cool experience to run a campaign and it involved a lot of work for all of us!
The last part of the Dome project in early September was the most fun as we had a few different artists flown in from London, to help Thea, my PA, to paint murals on the walls. Watching the murals slowly appear was really exciting!!! What great talented and dedicated artists we had. There is still more to go with the mural painting-we are not finished yet-so stay posted!
I taught part of my September Yoga Teachers’ Training in the Dome, namely the morning classes. It was so beautiful to see the sunrise every morning from the huge bay window. As soon as it came up we had to draw the curtains so no-one got overheated by the late summer sun. During this time we watched the murals grow, the electricity go live, and little improvements every day.
After the training we polished and stained the concrete floor terracotta with black streaks. In the end we were not so happy with the results of the floor, as it looks kind of patchy. The patches came from little holes made by condensation dripping onto the concrete floor, which then needed to get filled with filler. The stain didn’t really cover the patches so well. I am sitting with the results right now and contemplating an alternative floor covering as I really want the space to be perfect and don’t want to settle for less. Since it has underfloor radiant heating we need the right kind of floor that will conduct heat. So that part is a work in progress. We also have not yet finished the outside of the Dome, where we plan to paint Buddha eyes, put a golden cupola on top and drape the Dome with prayer flags. I am waiting for the shipment to arrive from Bali with the cupola, which I made there from fiber glass. Any day it should be here :))
On October 11th we held the Grand Opening of the Om Dome. About sixty local people came, which was awesome, as well as our dear friend the actor, Jerome Flynn, who was filming Game of Thrones in Seville. Most of our Spanish friends were as excited to see Jerome as we were but for different reasons!
The opening was perfect, even though it took place during a large thunderstorm and deluge of rain! I taught a Yoga class in the Dome with about sixty participants accompanied by live music form the very talented Saheed, on all kinds of Indian instruments, including his beautiful voice. We also had Jessica Brookes playing singing bowls during savasana. Aaah heavenly!!! It was perfect and everyone loved it! After that we had an amazing healthy-style Spanish dinner cooked by our chef, the amazing Gemma and team. The tables in the dining room looked really swanky as we set them with wine glasses and wine on every table, as well as flowers and candles. The dining room was buzzing!
After dinner we had a flamenco concert with our dear friend Tino. Tino is a Dutch guy who has lived many years in Seville and has mastered flamenco guitar. He plays professionally in Seville and is an uber-talented virtuoso. We are very lucky to know him! He loves Suryalila and we love him, so he comes any time we invite him and wows us and our guests with his extraordinary talent.
Finally DJ Ali and Saheed played music to dance to and we got down on the dance floor. The music they played was electro Indian and really funky and we loved it! We realized what a great discotheque the Dome makes, with our versatile lighting, awesome sound system and a great vibe. We will definitely have them back!!!!
After all the Dome excitement it was back to work big time to get the new website finished. We have been working on a new website for Suryalila for the last three months. Jorin Hawley and Paddy O’Hanlon designed and created the skeleton and then Jessi, Lydia and myself put the meat on the bones. We have been putting in a lot of hours the last few weeks to finish it. We are really excited about it as it is much more professional and looks much better than the old one and is SEO optimized, so hopefully we will start to come up organically in Search engines, very soon. Today is the day we launch our new website. Yeah!!!!! So exciting!!!
I love the Dome! I love Suryalila! I love the new website! I love my life! I am profoundly grateful to life and to all of my friends! Hope you come visit us soon. Please tell me how you like the new website http://www.suryalilaretreatcentre.com going live 5pm October 22nd Spanish time. Drink some champagne with us! Cheers!