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.
Thanks for the article. I am wondering how many people are involved with their center and how much they invested what kind of costs come up and things like that. Do you think you could write more or add that in?
Hey David! During the summer season there are about ten full-time interns who live at the retreat center and ten local volunteers who help out during the day. A lot of karma yoga and volunteerism went in to make the center what it is today. If you have more questions you can contact me at email@example.com. Have a beautiful day!
These guidelines are so helpful! Sure enough, creating and maintaining a good yoga retreat can be challenging for the owners and taking it step by step is the right way to go. Just like Daren points out, it is important to start locally and then grow your audience gradually. Plus, having different kinds of yoga retreats and activities is very beneficial because that will attract a variety of yogis from all over the globe.
Stonehouse Farm really looks like a gorgeous place and I hope it will grow even further. I am sure Daren will reach his ultimate goal in no time.
Hello I’m guided to open a healing and energy retreat centre in Northern California. The modality is angelic because my own experience with them, and we have the ancient redwoods forest to offer healing and grounding. I’m looking into gofundme initiatives and support to build, so as a model where everyone contributes in some way to maintain the place. Do you think this is ok rather than traditional bank loans and give finance?
Yes, absolutely Peter! I believe in the power of community crowd sourcing, especailly when you have your Angels there, helping you along the way:)
I love this post, but wondering if you’ve ever written a ‘don’t’ list. I watched my favourite ecovillage crash and burn due to inner politics a few years ago and the event sparked me to research ecovillages and their success further. Gaia education has some really amazing resources in this regard, I think it’s important that all the core members of a project educate themselves deeply in ethical businesses, conflict resolution, ecovillage studies, non-violent communication, as well as their general interests in sustainability/spirituality.
We’re in the process of setting up a spiritual/sustainability retreat in the Drakensburg of South Africa.
That’s a great idea. I recommend Diana Leafe Christian’s book on building community. There are definitely some don’ts in there. All the best! Please get in touch with us and add your impact center to NuMundo. http://www.numundo.org
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Hey Katia. Love this piece! Writing on behalf of the Illinois Office of Tourism. We’d love to use your first aid, love and yoga signs pic above in a an article that talks about Stonehouse Farm. Please may we? We would of course credit you as photographer.