Suan means garden in Thai, and Sati is the Pali word for mindfulness. Suan Sati set in the hills of Mae Jo, is a yoga retreat that focuses on permaculture, healthy eating, yoga and meditation. Their mission is to create transformation, awareness and empowerment through yoga and permaculture. The creator of Suan Sati Will Hardy, a Washington D.C born native returned to Thailand after receiving a teacher training in India. Growing up, Hardy lived in many states as a youth and as an adult has lived in many Southeast Asian countries like Chiang Mai, Bangkok, and Indonesia. He believed yoga was not for him based on his ethnic background and gender, but eventually overcame his fears and decided to join a permaculture and yoga retreat in Guatemala. This sparked the idea of Suan Sati which has now been open for one year. Hardy who stands at almost 6 feet with a brown beard and dreadlocks, is a practitioner of yoga for now over three years who wishes to find like-minded people to meet him at a garden dedicated to mindfulness.
The land is 5 rai, approximately 2.15 acres, with a view of ornamental plants, herbs, and fruit trees. The land is encompassed with fruit trees of mango, watermelon, pineapple, rose apple, papaya, and bananas. You can’t help, but notice the forest-like cultivation in the vegetable center of the garden with growths of eggplant, kale, spinach, butterfly pea. A day at Suan Sati begins softly with a sound of a gong harmonizing just before the sun rises. The serene sound calmly awakens you to take mindful steps to the big house, a two-story building with the second-story created for meditation and yoga. This space is full of nature, and has a community-oriented ambiance of working together. One more yoga-session is held in the early afternoon, and by sunset everyone shares gratitude for what they are thankful for. Suan Sati recommends your stay for at least one week, but no less than three days with the option of staying in a bamboo style dorm room or private two-bedroom. Outside an integrated open-air bamboo shower, with signs placed next to the sink that read “You are beautiful,” while a luscious jackfruit tree hovers over giving shade to the structure. Note that the trash bins in the stalls read ‘tissue only,’ because Suan turns their toilet paper into compost. According to Hardy, this process is done by “filling up a holding pit with it, letting rain compact it, and then covering it for a year. After the year is up, we have beautiful compost that we can use underneath ornamental plants or fruit trees.” Permaculture is a system of agricultural and social design principles that centers on simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems. The ethical principles of permaculture are as follows: care of the earth, care of the people, and return of surplus to the earth and people. When asked of Suan Sati’s model of permaculture, Hardy observes that, “As we tend to the earth with mindfulness, we aim to design a fruitful environment for beneficial growth.” Suan water conservation systems consist of well, recycled rainwater, and roughly 6-8 liters of water being used to wash dishes each day. Dishwater is then used to water the fruit trees. Recycled trash and leftover food is used to create soil creation, compost, and other soil mixed with various carbons.
“When we give back to the earth selflessly, the earth and its people begin to give back abundantly,” said Hardy. Eco-bricks are another resourceful way to reuse waste. Instead of having common household trash-cans that become filled with an anonymous amount of waste, big plastic water bottles are filled. Anything that can not be recycled or turned into compost are put into eco-bricks: food wrappers, paper, broken items, or miscellaneous material are put inside of the water bottles. They can be used for insulation, building furniture and even garden bed-liners.
Suan Sati allows newcomers to do work-for-trade. An opportunity given to those that wish to give and receive, work-for-trade allows interns to learn skills in the garden with permaculture. In return, free shared housing, three vegan/vegetarian meals, yoga and meditation are available. I didn’t know opportunities like this were still available, so I asked Hardy why he believes this type of integration is a great idea. He proceeded to tell me that “When Suan Sati was in the building stages, volunteers are the ones who built the beautiful outside showers and bathrooms. Community is a central aspect to this project, both inside and outside of our gate, so building this initially with interns was a potent way to start crafting the culture that we wanted to cultivate.” Hardy did just that, and has been attracting similar guest and travelers who wish to be productive and proactive on their travels. Suan Sati holds space for 2-4 interns and up to 14 guest at a time. This fulfills Suan Sati’s core value of accessibility. Hardy concludes that he see’s “The future of Suan Sati increasing to a maximum number of 20 guest, adding a natural swimming pool, and a Mayan temazcal sauna.” The zero waste property of the center is what makes them different from other yoga retreats and the availability of future teacher training and vipassana retreats will also be apart of the future for Suan Sati.
Following the Theravada Buddhist technique of mindfulness, Suan Sati teaches how to bring meditation in the form of sitting, walking, standing, and lying down. Suan Sati seeks to show how a discipline of mindful meditation and yoga surfaces a discipline of mindfulness in daily activities. Beginner and experienced yogis are welcome. If you would like to learn more about the wonderful program you can check the website on www.suansati.com , facebook Suan Sati, and reservations are available online. Will and the rest of the Suan Sati family look forward to teaching, learning and meeting you.
Facebook: Suan Sati
Phone Number: +66 (0) 91 076 4970
Address: Suan Sati
326 Moo 3
Tambon Ban Kad
Amphoe Mae Wang
Chiang Mai, Thailand 50360