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The Story : Expression of Life Experience & Desire to Serve

Inspired by passion and created with insightful vision, Kamalaya is an expression of two people’s life experiences and their desire to serve and inspire others.

The story of Kamalaya began in 1982, in the far jungles of the Himalayas, when Kamalaya founders John and Karina Stewart first met. The idea for Kamalaya was inspired by the 16 years John spent devoted to a life of service and spiritual studies in a Himalayan community and Karina’s 22 years of experience in the study and practice of diverse Asian healing and spiritual traditions, including her background as a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Guests are invited to enter the silence and peace of Kamalaya and in doing so, rediscover the path to their own heart.”
John Stewart, Kamalaya Co-founder and Chairman

John Stewart...

John was introduced to Asian philosophy and spirituality at the age of fifteen. Intrigued and eager to experience more than his comfortable western existence could offer, he left home at age 16. After 7 years in North American and Europe, he arrived in the jungles of northern India, somewhat doubtful and anxious about what lay ahead. His yogi master greeted him with a slap in the face and a question; “what took you so long?” With that greeting, as strange as it may sound, all thoughts of anxiety and doubt slipped effortlessly from John’s mind. This incident speaks volumes about the depth of John’s capacity for surrender, service and love.

John spent his first year in India living in a cave beside a Himalayan river. During this year and the following 15, he embraced a traditional yogi lifestyle that taught him the values of truth, simplicity, love and sanatana (eternal) dharma, and developed qualities of patience and discipline. John’s instinctive ability to recognise authenticity, which was honed during the time with his master, was the foundation for the initial stage of John’s post-ashram life. When he left the ashram in 1993, he became a successful art dealer and settled for some years in Kathmandu.  

A regular visitor to Thailand since 1977, John returned to Thailand in 2000 with health problems. He was drawn by the healing nature of Koh Samui and stayed four months to rest and regain his health with the help of local herbs and his, by then, wife Karina. It was during this visit that he found the site for Kamalaya. The land, a densely forested landscape studded with ancient granite boulders, immediately captivated him. Walking the tropical jungle terrain reminded him of his years in northern India, a memory that became even more vivid and significant when he came upon a cave that was once used as a place of meditation and spiritual retreat for a lineage of Buddhist monks. Serendipity had provided the place for him and Karina to build their dream.

John’s defining view of business as a medium of cultural exchange, worthy only of projects that ‘make a difference’, is central to Kamalaya’s creation. Kamalaya unfolds from a learned truth – that happiness comes from giving - and combines John’s wish to both communicate spiritual teachings in a way that is easily understood, and share with others the healing power of nature and the joy of community.

Karina Stewart...

Dr. Karina Stewart, Lic. Ac, DOM, is committed to creating a place where healing and harmonious transformation can flourish. Born and raised in Mexico until she was 15 years old, Karina’s life journey has been greatly influenced by her mother’s interest in natural healing, meditation, yoga and Asian spiritual philosophies. Much like her future husband John, Karina’s inner yearnings during her adolescent years were in stark contrast to the cultural norms of her environment. From the age af 14, when she began meditating and exploring Asian spiritual philosophies, her heart was opened to an existence of devotion and self discovery. With a naturally passionate character and a fearless desire to live authentically, Karina headed for San Antonio at age 15 to continue her studies. She later went to Princeton University and completed a B.A in cultural anthropology and Asian religions. It was during her Princeton years that Karina first met John, when she took a year sabbatical to immerse herself in a meditation retreat under the tutelage of the same Himalayan yogi master.

After completing her degree at Princeton, Karina’s fascination with the East and passion for health led her to California’s Yo San University, where she gained a Master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine and did internships in Japan and China. Her training extends to structural therapies such as Hellerwork and Cranial-Sacral Manipulation, yoga and Taoist philosophy and practice.

Prior to Kamalaya, Karina founded a health centre in Kathmandu, Nepal, where for seven years she practiced Oriental Medicine and produced a range of Chinese herbal products. Following this period she collaborated on a research project in California with Dr. James Dahlgran, founder of the B Well Centre, and Dr. Maoshing Ni, founder of the Tao of Wellness, to develop and test medical detoxification protocols combining modern medicine, Traditional Chinese medicine and Naturopathy.

In California, Karina also designed and directed a medical detoxification program at the Hall Centre and facilitated her ‘Awakening’ retreats in several cities, which focussed on cellular detoxification and purification practices from both Eastern and Western traditions.

Karina’s life experiences and her training and study of Asian healing traditions and philosophies are evident in Kamalaya’s integral wellness approach, which aims to access the inner healing power within each person through the harmonious integration of heart, body, mind and spirit. As Kamalaya continues to evolve, the depth of Karina’s experience, knowledge and passion and her engaging energy become more profoundly evident.

Three…the resolution of two

When Kamalaya began to take physical form in 2003, John and Karina recognised that the holistic execution of their concept depended upon a more balanced and complete set of core competencies; a stronger and more stable foundation that could bring their vision to life. Serendipity once again stepped in to help them. When they were introduced to Marc-Antoine Cornaz, they knew that they had found the vital missing ingredient for Kamalaya’s success.

Already embarking on his own journey to a more authentic and meaningful life, Marc was immediately intrigued by John and Karina’s vision and inspired by their commitment to creating a highly innovative business model. He saw enormous potential in their concept, and agreed to join them. His strong hospitality management and business background provided a natural fullness to the management team, which now had an ideal balance of competencies to help realise the concept.

Karina, John and Marc remain an integral part of Kamalaya’s evolution. Karina is the creative force behind Kamalaya’s integral health programs and the inspiration for Kamalaya’s ongoing evolution. John continues to guide the development of Kamalaya’s vision and services in his role as Chairman, while Marc ensures that the original vision is delivered with authenticity, integrity and quality.

While the story of Kamalaya may have begun with John and Karina, it continues to unfold through the inspiration, work and dedication of many. John and Karina honour the many people who have contributed so eloquently along the way; the team of consultants, managers, practitioners and hosts, both past and present, and the friends and guests who have come to stay. The manifestation of John and Karina’s vision is a beautiful expression of the power of the collective spirit.  

"There is something humble and is of great service to others. Kamalaya is unpretentious and wholesome in a good way! Everything feels well balanced, thorough and loving. Owners and management obviously have their hearts in it."
Anthea Amore, Australia. June 2008