Flowing stream close up

Sketches of

A cave for the heart

📷 Nick Page

Having drunk the nectar of solitude and peace,
One becomes fearless and faultless,
Drinking the joyous nectar of Dhamma.

Dhammapada, v.205


River in Calaceite

One of Sarana’s deepest wishes is to be able to offer people the space for long, silent retreat.

To have room—without impingement; no burdens, no obligations—to turn inwards and just observe is a precious gift. Dwelling in the security of such spaciousness, we have a chance to explore the extent of suffering we carry inside and start to dissolve it bit by bit, creating ever greater ease and happiness within ourselves.

In 2022 we tentatively began the adventure of making our vision a reality and were rewarded and humbled with many lessons on what this takes. Slowly, but confidently we continue the journey, doing everything within our power to be able to provide the sanctuary of solitude to those yearning for a space to care for the mind.

First steps

At the beginning of 2022 a property available in Calaceite in the Aragon region of Spain was brought to our attention. Marked by great natural beauty and exquisite silence we immediately recognized the excellent conditions it could provide for hosting retreatants.

Calaceite property panorama.

Fully aware of our significant economic limitations, after a period of deliberation we felt that the possibility presented to us was of such potential benefit, it was still worth the investment of our energies to see if we could find a way to secure the place.

After putting down an initial deposit of €8,000, there were two main strands to our effort to gather the funds needed to purchase the Calaceite property: fundraising within our community and applying for a bank loan.

We were truly impressed and deeply moved that in a very short space of time our little community were able to offer us a further €10,000, altogether covering of 23% of the total cost. Not only will we remain forever grateful for the material support given to us, but even more for the moral encouragement it signified.

Calaceite property map graphic showing 23% of funds raised.

Our application for a loan from the ethically oriented bank, Triodos, was met with an enthusiastically positive response. In principle ours was exactly the kind of project they wanted to support, nevertheless they were obliged to turn us down as, as a young organization, we didn’t yet have the two years of financial history they require in order to demonstrate our financial stability and ability to cover the required amount.

At the suggestion of both Triodos and the estate agent handling the Calaceite property, we made the owners a generous proposal to rent the property for one year during which we could continue to fundraise and then make the full purchase (being confident of securing a bank loan, if needed). Keen to sell the property quickly, the owners declined.

What now

One of the clearest outcomes of our first efforts is the relevance of our aspiration and we remain committed to ushering it into being. From the outset, we understood we didn’t have the most favourable circumstances to seize the opportunity in Calaceite, but felt it was important to try anyway and—alongside challenges and strains—this in itself brought its own rich benefits.

Among them was a beautiful chance to reach out to people and connect with their own inspiring aspirations, eagerness for supporting Dhamma, as well as needs for places to practice. After sharing information about just the possibility of building a place to host long retreats, we received many requests to come. It strongly affirmed that our goal reflects an existing need.

At this point in the journey we’ve naturally paused to reflect deeply on sustainable pathways to bringing our project to success. No longer having a time-sensitive urgency to work towards securing a specific property, our immediate priority is to continue strengthening our foundations as an organization so that when the next opportunity comes we’re in the best possible position to take advantage of it.

This involves continuing to fundraise and reviewing new avenues that open up, but also carrying on with pre-existing processes. We have to handle the complicated administrative and financial task of transferring the premises offered to Sarana to the organization, while supporting the donor, Sayalay Uttara, further along the path of renunciation as she prepares to take sāmaṇerī ordination in May 2023. Alongside this, we're also taking near-term steps to give us the capacity to welcome people for short retreats, with a new kuti.

How to help

Our experience so far has underscored the fact that we only have the capability to act as a steward to a collective will to see our vision built; we can’t do it alone. We’re holding the funds we’ve already raised for Guha in reserve, ready for when a suitable possibility opens up and deeply appreciate every cent contributed to this project.

We also really welcome information about available places worth considering, and invite people to get in touch to share possibilities with us.



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