The first weekend of August, I had the pleasure of attending AcroCamp, a 4-day extravaganza of AcroYoga, yoga, Thai massage, slack-line, breath-work, nature walks and campfires. It was almost like living in a dream conscious community that shares, plays and learns together.
AcroCamp was held at Stonehouse Farm, a beautiful 40-acre eco-retreat and sanctuary founded in 2013, just a few hours away from Chicago. Stonehouse Farm is the perfect place to deepen your yoga practice and develop satsang, or community. At this magical site you will discover a historic stonehouse built in 1863, a 10-acre forest, a meadow, an organic farm, a pond to cool off in and a renovated bathhouse. Guests and volunteers can camp, glamp, or even stay in a yurt.
Everything seemed to run so smoothly that it’s easy to forget all the hard work that is put in to make an impact center thrive. I was lucky to chat with the founder of Stonehouse Farm, Daren Friesen, who is also the director and owner of Moksha Yoga Center in Chicago. Here are some of Daren’s insider tips on creating and managing an impact center!
1. Start with a strong community base.
To open a yoga retreat center, an ecovillage or a permaculture farm, it is best to already be well integrated in a community. This will attract guests and volunteers, and you won’t have to start from scratch. For Daren, Moksha Yoga, the Midwest’s largest classical yoga center, was important in the creation of a tight-knit community at Stonehouse Farm.
2. Opt for continuous refinement.
Before becoming a seasoned yogi, Daren worked for a Japanese company where he learned the concept of kaizen, or continuous improvement. At Stonehouse Farm, the team is constantly seeking how to grow and change for the better. Nothing is set in stone.
3. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
Diversify partnerships and revenue. Do not rely on one source, partner, person or group. At Stonehouse Farm, they produce and host festivals and retreats to maintain balance.
4. Think local, regional, and then international.
We all want to make a global impact, but think about starting locally first. Daren Friesen spent almost two decades developing the yoga scene in Chicago before going regional with Stonehouse Farm, and now global with upcoming impact center projects in India.
5. Nobody can do it alone.
While it is important to have people in charge, an impact center is not a project somebody can do alone. It takes time, collaboration, passion and community to create a successful impact center.
6. The beauty and growth process outweigh the challenges.
Opening and managing an impact center is not easy. Keeping team members focused, financing and operating solely during the summer season are some challenges for Stonehouse Farm. However, the amazing visitors and staff, experiences and growth process create a nice balance of challenges and pure joy.
7. There are no rules.
Stonehouse Farm functions without rules because “everybody is conscious and awake,” states Friesen. This requires responsibility, awareness, and non-violence. Unanimous decisions are made and the team is always working on making things better. This is very challenging to accomplish outside of an impact center, but we can start by taking small steps in conscious communities.
Creating projects like a yoga retreat center, a permaculture farm, or an intentional community can require a lot of work, but with passion you can do anything! You will be surprised how quickly you can make a difference and transform people’s lives. Daren Friesen’s ultimate goal at Stonehouse Farm is to create a self-sustaining community where people can deepen their yoga practice and develop satsang. What’s yours?
To find out more about Stonehouse Farm and upcoming events like Sukhava Bodhe Yoga & Music Festival, visit www.stonehousefarm.com.