Founding Story and the Growth So Far
We have long believed that a place like home can exist that is totally dedicated to personal growth and the upliftment of each and every individual through personal effort. A place which emphasizes and thus helps educate people about living healthy and embodies all that is spiritual without being limited by a group or identity. A place which sticks to its ideals, beliefs and principles without having to compromise on quality, value and integrity just to survive in this modern, commercial world. The best we found was to live the path, do the practice, employ our skills to organize, plan and serve, and then offer this home to everyone who has an interest. This is our story where we believe in a healthy and spiritual way to live and finding a way to make it work today.
My direct path in Yoga began in 1995. By 1999 into 2000 Centered Yoga had become a reality and by 2003 Samahita Yoga Thailand had officially come to be. Late 2008 sees the opening of the new fully built home for Samahita Yoga Thailand, which is now known as Samahita Retreat. It has been a long journey over many years keeping a vision in mind from a dedication to practice, growth and the belief in inwardly empowering all who care without the need for compromise.
The Full Story
Since we opened in 2003 we have continued to practice and teach while seeing our family grow. First our son Sean in 2004 and then our second son Dylan in 2007. In the middle of that we were faced with the question of what to do next. In one sense you don’t have to answer but rather look at what is in front of you now and where is it headed. The first home of Samahita Yoga Thailand was only a five year lease. Would we pull back and live quietly or dive in deeper and continue the growth? In reality there was only one choice. Anything good and of value has to be shared. Our workload and the pressure to create it is just part of the service. From 2006-08 has seen a tremendous amount of planning and sacrifice to put the vision into action. The humble beginning of Samahita Yoga Thailand has been able to serve as a platform for the next level. As the years have gone by our connection to practice and inner growth has deepened. We have learnt what is needed in a modern center dedicated to healthy and spiritually oriented living. What began as a seed is now able to flourish and grow in new facilities.
In the meantime family life, practice and all the work goes on. Without any plan to be in Thailand it has followed its own course for us. And now it is home. The primary interest from the beginning was to live healthy and true lives and, if possible, share it with others. That, we are happy to say, has not changed and is why we are still here, still motivated, still happy, still clear.
The Story as it was in 2003 – The Early Years
After many years spent living, practicing and teaching in New York the two of us (Paul and Jutima) knew the next stage in life, and on this yogic path, was calling. They were fruitful years in the city, full of learning and challenges. But we instinctively knew we were done. This was 2001. The deep inner call was to go much deeper in to practice. Only then could teaching bear fruit and have integrity. Paul’s wish was to spend an extended time in India and Jutima was ready to revisit her place of birth, Thailand. With only limited savings we took off, drove out of Lincoln Tunnel and all the way over to LA. Next stop Bangkok. Once there we were drawn to visit the island of Samui and stayed at what became the first location of Samahita Yoga Thailand. We spent a few months after that traveling around all of Thailand and other parts of S.E. Asia but were ultimately drawn back to this spot on Samui.
Before we would teach there extended stays in India were needed. Paul had spent two months the year before, early 2001, on a spiritual journey around India after attending the KumbhaMela. There was an instinctive desire to visit many holy spots and places where some of the yogis who influenced him stayed. Thus came visits to Sivananda in Rishikesh, Ramakrishna’s room at Dakshineswar, Yogananda’s abode, Aurobindo’s ashram in Pondicherry and the meditation sites of RamanaMaharshi. However, knowing that direct contact with a living teacher is always most powerful and that time in one spot is essential to focus on practice, we found ourselves in Mysore. Here is the home of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and his grandson Sharath, teaching many students in the ashtanga system. We had met them a few times before in New York but now came time to devote some serious study time with them. And we did, and do. For only this time could bring fruit to what we offer to others in the teachings. At the same time we were being strongly called back to Samui, teaching under our banner of Centered Yoga to many students at a few places. As things were growing we felt a need for one spot to teach from. We have witnessed the evolution of this growth, it a result of focusing on our practice and what we teach instead of any superficial business plan. We listened to our hearts and trusted higher guidance. What resulted was our original favorite spot becoming available to us. Within the space of one week it became clear that this was the base for Samahita Yoga Thailand. We had the bungalows and now just had to design and build a special yoga shala to suit our needs so that the yoga can be taught and practiced in a dedicated and correct environment.
Up to this point we had relied on others to supply the services such as food and accommodation while we focused on the teaching. However, yoga, in its fullest sense, is an approach to life, completely holistic. Up to now our experience had been that those supplying the food, accommodation, etc. didn’t fully understand, were just businesses supplying these services, and hence there was always compromise. This in itself is fine but we knew we had to give more. It became clear that this place had come to us so we could offer the full experience. This evolution has been natural and unforced, a beautiful and positive sign that it is meant to be. We see thousands of other spots on the island (and beyond) catering and entertaining to all sorts of “tastes” yet nothing that was dedicated to yoga, self growth and real relaxation. So we spent a few months renovating, designing and building a place that can harbor a clean energy, honest practice and still the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of being in the tropics by the water, sand and palm trees.
We have found that our place has evolved in to a quiet and beautiful retreat spot. It is dedicated to practice and a clean and simple life, with a private garden and beach, and both indoor and open air shalas. Rewardingly, this has left us, and those who have come to study here, incredibly nourished and relaxed. Seeing so many others with a similar desire and mindset we find great harmony with our guests and much time for enjoyment and fun. Most of all is the opportunity to live yoga in a harmonious and relaxed environment, focus on practice and chill out when needed on a hammock or on the beach. In 2008, we built the fully purposed retreat center on Laem Sor beach in the south of the island and in which by 2013 we celebrate our 10 years anniversary.
In 2012, Paul began his PhD studies and research at Emory University in Anthropological Biology and dividing his time between Atlanta and Samahita Retreat. Jutima is living in mostly Atlanta where the children attend school. Both remain good friends, business partners and parents to Sean and Dylan.
Thank you for joining us here and we hope you can experience this place.
Paul and Jutima