Will dreamed up Suan Sati in October 2015 while having lunch with Thai friends along the banks of the Ping River. Inspired but also tired from nearly 6 years of travel, Will longed for a place to unpack his bags and call home. With the support of his Thai family, Suan Sati was born in June 2016. With little money, few hard skills, and an open heart, Suan Sati began to welcome friends and volunteers to help with the co-creation of this sacred space. The idea was simple – a place in the countryside of Chiang Mai where people from all walks of life could come and experience life changing transformation at an affordable price.
Suan Sati’s intention is to be a place to practice Buddha-Dhamma through meditation, asana yoga, ecological integration, and community living. Underlying this intention is the view that every moment is an opportunity to practice. The space is made conducive to practice by returning to this intention throughout the day in morning meditation, asana yoga classes, observation and interaction with nature, and in the invitation to bring mindfulness into daily life.
Will moved to Thailand in 2010 after escaping from a career in five star hospitality in Las Vegas. He made his way up to Chiang Mai and it was here that he first experimented with yoga. Feeling no connection to asana as it was taught to him at a fitness gym, he stopped practicing yoga and opened to vipassana meditation as his primary spiritual practice.
After two years living in Thailand, Will packed up his bags and traveled through Asia for 12 months, finishing with over one month spent back in Thailand sitting three meditation retreats at Wat Kow Tahm and Wat Suan Mokkh. Over the next three years, he wandered the planet searching for answers to the deeper questions of life. He spent a year in the Australian outback, three months working on an isolated island in Indonesia, brief jaunts through Africa, Europe, South America, and an extended trip to Central America. It was in Guatemala where he again encountered yoga during a one month permaculture and yoga course. He felt firsthand the physical benefits to yoga, but it was the opportunity to dedicate each class to cultivating mindfulness that made the practice stick. This led him to dive deep into yoga, practicing up to six hours a day in the months leading up to a 200 hour yoga teacher training course in Goa, India in January 2016.
The course was a great foundation, but Will’s teaching style was most heavily influenced by his primary teacher Mittra Rawat during nearly two months spent together in 2016 practicing hatha yoga on the banks of the Ganges River in Rishikesh, India. Will also lists Gernot Huber and Bear Tobin as influences in his yoga practice.
Will founded Suan Sati as a lifestyle that would allow himself and others to live the practice and not only visit it. Buddhist meditation, yoga, and permaculture are integral parts of his path, and the opportunity and responsibility to share these things with others in a community setting led him to take on this project. Will is always on site tending the gardens, leading meditation, and sneaking bananas, but he always has time for a chat and a laugh with new friends.
Lisa was a licensed physiotherapist, specializing in fascia treatment back home in Austria, when she realized that passive treatments were not enough to heal the root causes of her clients’ ailments. There needed to be a radical yet accessible change in the clients’ daily lives to support and continue the healing process that starts in the therapy room. She began to search for alternative methods that utilized personal motivation and body awareness to lead to more effective and longer lasting relief. She was drawn to yoga as a practice that clients can practice independently and incorporate into their daily routine to promote holistic health on the mental as well as physical level. This led her to complete a 200 hour yoga teacher training course in Goa, India, and followed that by studying Ayurveda during a 1 month intensive course in Kerala, India. It was in India that Lisa met Will, and he convinced her to follow him to Thailand to help co-create Suan Sati.
For her, yoga is practicing body awareness and connecting with the deeper self. Stepping on the mat is the time to honor yourself. Everything not relevant to the present moment drifts away more with each breath. Her passion is sharing her knowledge with others and helping people to spark their own fire on this path. Her personal philosophy is marked by a strong motivation to deepen the connection within, continuously explore the experience as an impartial observer, start the day out mindfully, set intentions and manifestations, and spend time alone in quietude to invite clarity into what is desired from the day and future.
Yoga opened up a whole new world for her; a world of transformation, acceptance, connection and the direct knowledge of a higher power, without having to label or define it. One key point for her that leads to a healthy, balanced and holistic lifestyle is the certainty that there is a vital force within and around our body that keeps us alive, constantly flowing. Every breath, every heartbeat deserves to be honored, on and off the mat. Her calling as a teacher and healer is to remind herself and others to be present and grateful for our lives.