We reached out to a handful of people who have given us so much inspiration during the creation of Whole & Happy Retreat, and have kept us accountable in living the life that we share with others. We wanted to pick the brains of some inspirational people who live life a little outside the box, and ask them how they live a Whole & Happy lifestyle. We’ll be releasing a new interview on the blog regularly, so stay tuned.
This week we interviewed our friends Will & Lisa from Suan Sati Yoga, Meditation and Permaculture Retreat Centre in Northern Thailand, a beautiful peaceful space built from scratch with a whole lotta love. Suan Sati means “Garden of Mindfulness”, offering a place in the countryside of Chiang Mai where people from all walks of life can come and experience life-changing transformation at an affordable price.
Take us through your average morning routine..
Will: In the morning, I wake up early, write, practice and/or teach meditation and asana, then have a healthy breakfast of fresh tropical fruits, oatmeal, and maybe a vegan waffle!
Lisa: I get up early (most of the time….), go to the bathroom first thing and get myself ready for teaching or self-practice. Usually before I leave our house, I’d put some kind of essential oil or tiger balm on my chest to wake up my senses. I write either before or after practice, that depends on my feel. If I teach, first thing I’d do after entering the shala is ligh up an incense, so the atmosphere is already set while I’m preparing the mats and the rest of the room. I am obviously addicted to good smells and essential oils and all that stuff! After that I’d start preparing my healthy brekky, which is usually some kind of superfood mixture either in form of a bowl, waffle or smoothie. My favourite green smootch nowadays is definitely something with kale or broccoli. That just feels like pure nourishment, the second it enters my body. And it’s so delicious.
What’s your hot beverage of choice?
Will: Gotta be Thai tea with coconut milk! I don’t drink it too often though because the weather is pretty warm here in Thailand year round.
Lisa: Hmmm, I gotta say in the morning I’m always grateful for a cup of high quality coffee to be honest! I’m not gonna lie, just the smell of it does something soothing to my brain, haha. Throughout the day I’ll try to infuse my body with all different kind of available herbal waters. Mama’s recipe and my favourite: pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, lemon and clove. For real, that’s bliss 🙂
What are your non-negotiables? ie. the things that are absolutely key to your happiness in life.
Will: The things that are key to my happiness are quiet time, proper rest and self-care, and being able to create!
Lisa: Key to my happiness in life is definitely making other people happy and play. Self care, taking time for myself to reflect on things and doing good things for my body through nutrition and movement are basic things I need to be able to give my full attention and energy to others. I realise I need that discipline and structure of daily practice in my life to feel grounded and in tune with myself. AND… Durian 😀
What/who/where is your go-to when you’re in need of some inspiration or uplifting energy?
Will: When I’m in need of some inspiration or uplifting energy, I listen to talks on Youtube by spiritual teachers.
Lisa: Usually yoga, going for a run with my favourite playlist plugged into my ears or something active. Just being out in nature, changing scenery, going on adventures to experience something new is always energising to me. Knowing that I’ll always have my partner Will, my family and all my friends by my side that support me and always have an ear is such a blessing.
Who do you admire and why?
Will: I admire my partner Lisa more than anyone! She dropped her round the world travel plans to join my budding dream of opening a retreat center. She has blossomed into a remarkable teacher and leader before my eyes, and I’m eternally grateful to have her by my side through this journey.
Lisa: Huh, there is definitely a bunch of people in my life I admire and I’m just sooo grateful for to have crossed path with throughout my so far 28 years of being (including YOU guys!). My amazing partner Will is definitely the person who brought out the most in me and helped me grow so far, challenging me by inviting me to be part of this project, giving me the opportunity to express myself in my own style and timing. From the day we met, it’s been an adventure and every day I learn something new about myself, relationship and life. I admire him for being exactly who he is, my complementary part to balance out my dominance of fire and air element, bringing in some necessary grounding earth to feel whole and vice versa. I’d say we pretty much perfectly interplay those opposite characteristics and personalities with each other but also within ourselves.
When was the last time you did something for the first time?
Will: Last month, I sang and played harmonium at the end of an asana class for the first time. I was a little nervous, but it was a good practice to build confidence and now I incorporate music into many of my classes.
Lisa: It was actually yesterday taking a Thai Hip hop dance class called SWAG STYLE. And oh my gosh it was literally the best thing. The moment, where you stop thinking and just move to the rhythm of the beat synchronized and totally in the flow with the group just feels incredibly nourishing. Yes! Movement is therapy.
Was there a catalyst or turning point that made you decide to follow your heart and build your business?
Will: I went through a pretty rough breakup a couple of years back and that spurred me to take control of my own destiny and happiness. I asked myself, “If anything is possible, how should you spend your life?” The answer for me was to dedicate my life to loving kindness in the service of others. This business manifested out of setting my intentions to live aligned with my heart’s deepest desires and allowing the universe to use me as it will to that end.
Lisa: The catalyst that brought me to where I am now was definitely drama in my last relationship and suffering, not feeling whole and happy with where and who I was. This longing for a deeper meaning of life, that there is more for me to be found called me to get going and start my journey.
What has been the most challenging part?
Will: The feeling of being overwhelmed at the immensity of having to figure out how to do so many things to make this work!
Lisa: It’s definitely the distance from my family and friends back home. Not being part of their every- day life and more and more realizing how time flies and everybody is getting older. Going back home now for visits makes me definitely more aware of that and at the same time makes me appreciate life even more and the precious time we get to spend together.
What has been the most rewarding part?
Will: The most rewarding part has been learning so many new skills and then being able to share them with others.
Lisa: The most rewarding part has definitely been seeing all the growth in that project and myself, being part of this from the very beginning and especially meeting every single person that has been here on our retreats, as a volunteer, as part of the team or just as a visitor or short- term guest. To see people’s transformation and the happiness this place and our work brings back into their lives is just incredible, life changing and so worth it!
What are you most grateful for today?
Will: Today I am most grateful for some time to myself to relax and read after wrapping up a week long retreat with wonderfully inspiring yogis.
Lisa: I feel so blessed and honored to be in this position where people, no matter what age, older or younger, are open to be guided, let us share what we’ve already learnt, and share what they’ve experienced in their lives. I think it’s the perfect oasis to learn and grow from each other without any judgements, but with lots of love and compassion.
I’m so grateful every day to see all those people flowing into our space, each one of them sent from beyond with their special gifts to be shared and to leave a little sparkle.
What does Whole & Happy mean to you?
Will: To me, Whole and Happy means that nothing is missing. I have enough, I am enough, I am contented right where I’m at.
Lisa: Aw, you guys! Whole and Happy to me means to feel good about my life in general, feeling centered, in balance and grounded. Embracing every part of myself, the good and the bad, the little bits and pieces that are not necessarily serving us at first sight in some moments, but challenge us and help us grow. Thinking of YIN AND YANG – it has to be a balance of both to feel whole. And being focused on the ‘good part in the bad’ MORE than the other way around brings in the ‘happy’.
We gotta be grateful for this magical journey called life, and feel good about things in general, cause how we feel about things is how we perceive ourselves, others and the experience of reality.
What does balance mean to you?
Will: To me, balance means being in touch with one’s self to know what is needed and when. We rarely know when we’re in balance, only when we’re slightly off and in need of something to get us back towards center.
Lisa: Balance means to me finding my individual centre, of feeling whole and happy with where I am, in a sustainable way without getting lost in extremes.
Do you have any words of wisdom or inspiration for our followers?
Will: Haha, I talk way too much on this topic, so perhaps today I will advise your followers to talk less and listen more! Listen to your heart, listen to others, listen to nature, listen to the sound of silence. Listen without the intent to respond or react, just absorb. There is great wisdom in talking less and listening more. That’s why we have 2 ears and 1 mouth!
Lisa: Don’t take yourself and life too seriously all the time and bring in a bit more LILA (which is the Sanskrit word for “playfulness”). In German, this also means the colour purple, which really has a balancing feel to me personally.
We definitely need to “play” a bit more to rediscover the magical around us. So take time every day to breeeeathe deeply, to smile & laugh as much as you can, be silly to feel light & free and spread the LILA sparkle!
How can people find out more about you and your work?
To find Suan Sati online and join the family, check out our website at www.suansati.com or on social media: