Paul Dallaghan’s Full Length Interview for AsiaSpa April 2011 (Hong Kong)
1. CN: How long have you been living in Thailand, and Koh Samui? And what made you set up Samahita Retreat there?
PD: I first arrived in Koh Samui in October of 2001 and since then have been based in Asia though the first few years were divided between Samui and India. There was no plan at all to establish a place like SYT. Rather the intention was just to teach and offer programs. At one point land was offered to my wife and I so this presented the impetus to set something up. The reasoning behind it was to establish a place that we ourselves would live in, offering an opportunity to be in yoga and follow a healthy lifestyle. We had seen too many so-called health places with numerous compromises and did not understand it. We genuinely felt a place with authentic practices and integrity was needed and could only be done by those who fully live it. It was almost a responsibility to share that with others who were searching and getting in to this. People needed, and still need, a place to come that doesn’t just “add on” the yoga and health but really lives it.
2 -CN: What is it that you love most about living in Thailand?
PD: An eastern sensibility that fully welcomes the inner quest along with living in a modern world. This is probably what has kept us here this long. It is naturally oriented toward the yoga process. Though the weather, food, people and land itself are major draws and attractions they would not be enough to keep us here long term, rather a more optimum setting for yoga and self-development is the clincher.
3 – CN: What makes practicing yoga, or going on a yoga retreat, in Thailand so special?
PD: Taking from what I said above, though the country is full on in modernity and materialism with its own typical tourist callings, it at the same time carries with it a legacy of spiritual practice through Buddhism and even yogic exposure. The forest monks here are real yogis. This long history along with a great natural environment leaves the atmosphere ionically charged so that yoga practice itself can strongly impact the individual. The student is blessed with support from the land, air and very thought process itself. I have spent many years in India and have felt Thailand can be even more beneficial for people practicing yoga. Of course it is an individual journey ultimately but the environment here is very supportive of it.
4 -CN: How does Samahita stand apart from the other yoga retreat options on Samui – and in the world?
PD: Samahita is one of the few centers in the world, and the first in a modern sense in the Asia region, to be fully started by lifelong and committed practitioners and teachers of yoga and health. Its origin tended to blend the principles of the Indian ashram scene with the conveniences of the modern resort. Really a focused and great environment to learn and practice yoga, let go of over-stimulation of the senses, aid true health through detoxing and relaxation. Though it has to operate as a business it was not set up as a business idea but rather came direct from our hearts. We were the first to set this up, the others have followed since, and if we weren’t in yoga we would not be bothered with this as a business opportunity.
5 – CN: I was told recently that despite the development Samui still has that spiritual draw for people from overseas. Is this something you feel, living on the island?
PD: Absolutely. When you get away from the built up touristy areas you see the real beauty of nature here. That is why we specifically chose to locate our new center down the south of the island in the least developed part, pure nature and peace and quiet. As it is an island you can be anywhere in 30 minutes anyway but still be blessed with a retreat setting. Samui has a particular energy. Much of its land base is raw crystal, it is said to be right in a key vortex of the earth, between here and Siem Reap. Of course I cannot prove that but you get to know as you live and practice here. Before setting up our new center in the south of the island we thought of doing it in Krabi or Phuket but after much research realized we had a wondrous, natural spot here, taking in both the raw beachfront and the incredible hills that form a backdrop. We just could not get that on other islands and still have access to the airport and other amenities. We are right next to the Golden Pagoda of Laem Sor. This is a special place, the tomb of two past realized monks and standing for well over a 100 years. Thought one can get caught up in the fun and games up north of the island this element of raw spiritually still thrives. You just have to be drawn to look for it. This drew us and we hopefully help direct others to it too.