1. What made you start a retreat location?
I used to work as a model for 17 years and was more than sick of that environment and of being permanently on the road. Privately, I was looking for more grounding, deepness and nature. I had an intense insight during one of my meditations in nature. It was a very clear vision of what path I would have to follow next, even though I didn’t have the capital at that point.
2. Tell us a bit about how you started and how you found this beautiful retreat location?
Luckily, my partner who is half Indian took me on a journey to this extreme country, where I was able to get deeper insights into all kind of healing techniques like Ayurveda, Osho meditations, craniosacral therapy, ancient wisdom, shamanism, tantra etc. In Goa, I met my future landlord, a British photographer and immediately felt a very strong connection with him. One year later, I met him in India again by chance. An intense impulse guided me to show him the business plan I had already written for the future Chez Zen, which I wanted to locate preferably in France. A few months later, after visiting the location in France, I realised that this property provided most of the features I had planned for in my original business plan. Even so, I knew I still needed to invest a lot in order to transform my dreams into reality, but I felt truly guided and knew that there would be a way for me to do so.
3. How did you finance this amazing space?
I was able to cash in my inheritance ahead of time and get four private loans; one was from someone who was a stranger at the time, two were from friends and one was from my partner’s mother. I was so lucky that they believed in me.
4. How many retreats do you run at Chez Zen every year?
Around 21. Some of them are our own retreats such as holistic silent meditation & yoga retreats or silent Ayurveda yoga retreats. Others are run by external teachers who bring their own group. Occasionally, we run small holistic festivals as well.
5. What make Chez Zen special and what is your philosophy?
Aside from the picturesque beauty of the nature, the magical energy everyone feels sooner or later and the comforts (e.g. 9 bathrooms, 8 terraces), Chez Zen is a place where all human aspects and feelings are fully accepted in order to find your way into wholeness. It’s a place of detachment and deep transformation. Chez Zen accepts that polarity exists and doesn’t try to create a place just full of light. I strongly believe that polarity is both part of life and the human condition. The feelings that we don’t want to feel need the most compassion. Chez Zen is a place of conscious compassion. We want to support transformation (which we see as a transformation of the heart) and self-awareness. That’s why our own retreats include silent periods, although screaming is also allowed at Chez Zen. 🙂
6. How much space do you offer for retreat organizers?
On 2,2 ha, I provide nine guest rooms in two guest houses (single, double and triple rooms). Camping is allowed as well. The maximum amount of people who can practise yoga on the yoga deck and in the indoor hall at the same time is 23.
7. What do you think is the most important thing a yoga teacher should look for when choosing a location?
From my experience, the location can be a ramshackle hut as long as the spirit is right and the teachers are able to deal with the expectations of their participants. This is even more important when students have unfulfilled expectations and emotional issues. In terms of successful destinations, I would choose always a country where retreat centres are still rare.