Embracing the wisdom of nature
John Stewart, art dealer turned health guru, found a path back to wellness.
Such is the healing power of the outdoors that people instinctively turn to nature as a way of relaxing and enhancing their well-being.
Be it taking time to smell the roses, meditating, trekking, walking on a sunny beach, or, simply watching the last few rays of the setting sun, being one with nature is a fine prescription for overall health and encouraging healing.
Former art dealer John Stewart, 51, is intimately of this. The Canadian came to Thailand in 2000 battered by health problems.
"I was sick with Hepatitis C from many years living in remote Himalayan forests," he says. For three months, he stayed on Koh Samui to rest until regaining his health with the help of local herbs and his wife, Karina.
As a result, the couple have long wanted to be involved with health and healing. An American of Mexican descent, Karina is a Princeton Grad with a masters degree in Chinese Medicine.
A regular visitor to Thailand since 1977, Stewart is the man behind the establishment of Kamalaya, a holistic spa & sanctuary, located on picturesque Koh Samui.
Scheduled to open by the end of the year, the spa was constructed at a cost of US$12 million (Bht480 million) lies on 25-rai (nine acres) of south-facing beachfront property with expansive views of sea, sky, and outlying islands.
Designed by Australian architect Robert Powell with interior work executed by Cindi Novkov, Kamalaya is built at the edge of a pristine lagoon with waterways coursing through rocks and vegetation past a cave temple that once served Buddhist monks as a place of spiritual retreat.
Facilities include a Holistic Wellness Center with consultation and treatment rooms emerging from the surrounding landscape; a natural foods restaurant, "Soma", offering fresh, organic cuisine; an attached Alchemy Tea Room featuring ambrosial tonics and light refreshments; and a swimming pool surrounded by lotus and carp ponds.
According to Stewart, the Wellness Center integrates a diverse range of Oriental and Western healing practices with artistic, cultural, intellectual, and spiritual traditions from around the world.
Experienced practitioners in allopathic, naturopathic, traditional Chinese medicine, and Ayurveda, as well as dedicated professionals in the fields of yoga, qigong, meditation, and related disciplines offer a wide variety of health treatments, consultations, classes, seminars and programmes for individuals and groups.
"Kamalaya is my first large scale project, and is inspired by my life in service and my wife's love of health," says Stewart, whose business partner, Ian Baker, is the best-selling author of "The Heart Of The World: A Journey To The Last Secret Place".
A devout Buddhist, Stewart began practicing the religion at 15 when he met an Indian holyman Herakhan Baba, also known as "Babaji" in a California forest. At the age of 22, he began seriously studying with Babaji and his disciple Munirajji.
"I became a disciple of Babaji who taught truth, simplicity and love, based on sanatan (eternal) Dharma. The monkhood taught me discipline and patience," explains Stewart.
For the next 16 years, Stewart lived a spiritually uplifting life in the Himalayas, having been inspired by Babaji to invest in small business to help residents of the area. He built and developed schools, clinics, and communities in the jungles of northern India.
He became an art dealer working with museums and collectors around the world following on the footsteps of an aunt he was close to in childhood.
According to Stewart, Kamalaya's natural endowment of the elemental energies of earth, water, air, and fire enhances treatments and programmes that seek to harmonize the sensate, emotional, mental, and spiritual dimensions of each individual and bring forth their innate wholeness.
Stewart reiterates that at Kamalaya, the power of place and the synergy of holistic therapies and practices activate the innate healing power, or vital force, within each person and restores a sense of connectedness to universal energies and rhythms - the ultimate source of all true healing.