Opening a healing retreat is no small feat. For most who find themselves on this path, the work comes from a deep soul calling and, in many cases, a story of being pushed or guided along. But this can create an experience of friction as heart-driven healers find themselves struggling to pay bills and fill retreats. The earth-bound nature of business comes knocking, and sometimes they don’t want to answer. Is it possible to have both a spiritual mission and a savvy business sense? We spoke with Rakel Lopez Tomas, the founder of Casa Shambala Yoga & Healing Retreat in Thailand to find out a little more about this illusion, and she shared a perspective of learning to create expectations woven with trust.
“At the beginning, my story was to create this space and I was thinking, ‘Oh, it’s going to happen, we’re going to be able to pay the house, we’re going to be able to find people to help me with the garden.’ I had been in this house for about 4 months, by myself, working alone, and people in the community were asking to come, and they kept saying, ‘I’ll send you some Reiki.’ Fine, but the Reiki is not fixing my garden. I appreciate it’s good, but really it was a lack of action.”
Rakel went on, “And yes, of course, it was a process to go through all this ‘we need money’, I need a marketing person, I need to learn about social media things. I used to have Instagram, I didn’t want to have Instagram — I didn’t want to spend my time on the phone. I have a camera, I’m a photographer… but I make pictures for love.”
She learned the same thing many retreat founders do: building from the ground up requires the devotion of heart, body, time, and money. It can feel like an infringement on personal freedom and space. It can feel lonely. But, says Rakel, she has kept herself focused on feeling supported: “When I speak with all the beautiful souls that are doing amazing things around the world and are my friends, they tell me ‘Oh, I don’t feel good, I have doubts and fear’, and I always tell them that we are connected, these are the fears of your brothers, these are the fears of your sisters, let them come, let them arrive, it’s normal. Many people don’t believe in that yet. The only thing we can do is be happy and inspire and show to other people that it’s possible, we can do that.”
Still, she is learning to find the balance and finding gratitude for this growthful journey — both outside, in the evolution of Casa Shambala, and inside. “To be honest with you, I’m still dealing with that. I’m still dealing with finding the balance between enjoying what I’m doing and starting a new business like this. It’s quite confronting to a free soul because I start this and I start to grow and grow and sometimes you ask yourself, ‘Is this really what I was looking for?’ But then a lot of beautiful things come and then it’s ok, I’ve got it. I always say to the people there is two different histories for me in this process. One, is what is happening outside, and outside is material things, it’s relationships, it’s seeing the beauty of the place growing… but the learning inside of me, inside myself — is completely different. I’m learning how to be more gentle with myself, I’m learning how to say one day, ‘No I don’t want to work anymore,’ how to say one day, ‘No this is not my job,’ how to say, ‘Today I need time for myself.’”
Rakel has gone through waves of wanting to offer her healing services for donations and, in some cases, for free. As an acupuncturist, she sees the potential in sharing her gifts with the community, giving people the healing they need even when they can’t pay. But she realized this left her in a complex relationship with money and being able to support Casa Shambala.
“I don’t get why ‘donation’ means always less than a formal price,” she says. “That means if you can give more, why don’t you give more? …That means that in a common society if it’s two people that cannot give anything, they can get the treatment, and if somebody can give a little bit more, as a total, and if I work maybe one more hour a day, everybody puts a little bit to make the community work, that’s for me, community, that’s what I’m trying to build. But of course, I’m not talking about work for free, no, we need to give value to what we do.”
Healers and teachers, take heed: yes, you are called to be of service. But getting paid for your work is a crucial part of the energy exchange, and it’s time we took a look at how we relate to money. “We cannot say that everything is energy but money is evil. The information behind that is denying ourselves, denying our own abundance by saying money is no good…And I ask people, why don’t you ask yourself why you have that belief? Because I went through that. I went through, why don’t you feel you don’t deserve to say that what you’re doing is the best?”
That belief system carries a flavor of fear, she believes — and it is doing yoga teachers and healers world-over a disservice.
“Yes, it happens to many spiritual people about getting money involved. I see a lot of people coming and say ‘Oh yes, I want to ask for donation but….’ At some point, it doesn’t work. I was thinking to create a yoga course for teachers about how you can make money and how you can deprogram about coming to this world just to be spiritual. Being spiritual means being poor. Who said that?!”
It’s time to change the story.
Rakel Lopez Tomas is the founder of La Casa Shambala Yoga & Healing Retreat in Thailand. The center is situated on the beautiful island of Koh Phangan. To learn more, visit their retreat guru page or browse their upcoming events.