Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Design of a Retreat





Figure1: Design for a yoga and meditation retreat

A few like minded friends have been pondering over developing an International Yoga and Meditation retreat in the countryside of the Himalayan foothills where the air and water is pure and a view of surrounding forests and hills inspiring. We are all retired persons and do not know if the concept would materialize. Nevertheless, I am sharing the essence of the concept in this blog so that others elsewhere may make use of the idea if interested. The idea is to provide a place in Sylvan surroundings, to group tours from different countries where they can spend three weeks, learning yoga and meditation from a competent teacher (who too would be invited for the purpose) one hour a day, on week days while joining a tour of nearby Himalayan destinations in weekends, or just relaxing at the retreat.

The Facilities:

The proposed retreat is planned on a five acre country lot that would be developed as a bio-diverse orchard and organic vegetable garden interspersed with two residential buildings and two smaller hangouts as shown in Figure 1. There would also be a small artificial lake on the premises, charged with rain water harvested from the surrounding and water pumped from the ground that is plentiful in this region with help of solar PV driven pumps. The roofs of all building shall have solar PV panels. The lake serves to partially bound the plot too.

The detailed designing of the building has been developed around a very simple concept. These consist of unit areas of 11 feet x 25 feet (excluding walls) that would have partitions to create kitchens and bathrooms or without partitions to create larger halls for lounge and dining etc. This unit construction makes construction very simple yet sturdy and comfortable.

Figure 2

Putting two such units together would create two room suites with kitchen and bathroom as shown in figure 2. The design has been taken from an earlier post of this blog concerning the design of a cottage. A row of six such suites would be the ground floor of building number two and be allotted permanently to the five directors (if it is a non-profit company) or five trustees (if registered as a trust) with one more for special guests/invitees. The first floor would have 12 single rooms and bathrooms, essentially with the design of the right hand side of the unit of figure 2, for visitors.

Figure3
Block1 as shown in figure 3 consists of twelve such 11 x 25 units divided as shown on the ground floor. It would have twelve individual rooms and bathrooms on the first floor similar to block 1

Thus the entire accommodation of the complex would comprise of six apartments for the trustees, one for the manager in block 1 plus two twin sharing rooms for younger staff on ground floor of block 1. This would permit groups of 24 persons as singles or up to 48 as doubles to be a part of a tour group. Other staff as required on the retreat would be hired from the surrounding country and would not live at the retreat.

An Alternative

An  even better alternative, if land is available, is to have four single story blocks rather than two double story ones. These hide better withing tree tops and also permit a view of trees and green for those within them permitting a more natural setting. They are also easier and simple to construct in case full construction machinery is not available at location. The tools required for a single story construction are very simply improvised. Although it may seem that the construction cost of these may be more because of extra foundations, it is not so because of lower finishing costs.

Financing: 

The five trustees or directors would begin their trust or company with a small initial and equal non-refundable contribution only as a token of their intention.  Five has been considered an auspicious number for social management in the Himalayan belt since ancient times. One of the trustees shall be the financing trustee who shall have adequate personal funds to then give a loan to the trust for the development and infrastructure of the retreat, estimated at 2.5 million dollars issued in installments as the project progresses. That sounds like a lot of money for most but then there are those with a lot more looking for a good project to chase that multiplies their money and helps them find peace and joy. The present one fits the bill most eminently. This estimate is on the higher side and it could be done with less too. Half the cost is of land. The trust shall pay back the loan over a 25 year period to the trustee or his nominee (in case of demise) at a flexible schedule depending on the income of the trust. The surety for the loan would be the entire retreat including land and buildings. In case the trust is unable to pay back the loan at the end of the 25 year period the entire retreat and bank or any other assets of the trust would become the personal property of the financing trustee (or nominee as the case may be) to do with as he pleases. With the way land prices have been increasing in the world, it would turn out to be an excellent investment for the financing trustee if he had the funds to invest, while also creating an excellent facility that will exist for 25 years at the very least.

More than one trustee could also join in to finance but in this case the repayment schedule and final ownership in case of default would be a little more complicated although it is not something that cannot be worked out after deliberation.The fact that there might be two financing trustees has been kept in mind while developing the plot symmetrically in case a need arose to divide in two. Two financial trustees would give the financing members better control on the affairs of the trust as member trustees. With more than two however the profit motive may begin to dominate and compromise the activity.

The facility would require two years for construction after acquisition of land, but the five trustee apartments would be constructed and furnished first so that some may live in the retreat at the earliest to supervise the development. Early activity can begin in prefab structures even as plantation/construction proceeds.

Management:

To manage the day to day affairs the trustees shall appoint a managing committee that consists of any or all of the trustees that wish to be in, any or all of their nominees (one each), the manager of the retreat, one of the staff member, full time sharers (described later) if any or any other persons the trustees choose from time to time.

Each trustee would assign a nominee that may be the spouse or any other person the trustee chooses and upon demise of the trustee the nominee shall take his or her place, inheriting the accommodation and rights of the trustee, so that the trust may continue in perpetuity.

It is proposed that once the retreat develops, one month time shares would be sold to other interested persons (refundable only if asked for in the first three years minus charges of time used), on a one time life membership so that the person may stay for a month free of lodging charges at the retreat (board charges would be levied as for everyone else). A person may also purchase more than one slot or even 12 slots a year so that he can stay permanently in the retreat if he or she so desires. Such persons will be designated as full time sharers.

A primary feature visualized for the retreat is to have themed programs i.e. some months for international groups, some for university faculty, authors, politicians, business owners, business executives etc. Three weeks of a stay in a green country retreat at the foot of green mountains charged by spring waters, with sun, breeze, meditation and mindful breathing in loving surroundings can do wonders to rejuvenate a stressed executive or businessman to high levels of performance while programs for university faculty can highlight the introduction of value and ethical education in their respective programs. Authors can hope to increase their creativity through meditation practice. With a three week program and a week for the retreat to refresh for a new program, one program a month for ten months can be held for ten different groups, whereas the peak tourist months of the season for the region of May and June may be left open for the general tourist.

Enlarged Concept

The present note discusses a small project on five acres but with larger availability of land and funds it can be extended. For example if  twenty five acres were available then it could also include an International Institute/Center for yoga studies and  provide one year diplomas in yoga education.

PS: Any yoga minded out there (resident of  UK, USA or India only) interested in joining and contributing to the project, please do get in touch.

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