Welcome to Alaya Retreat Centre

15 years at the masia

The scene is set in a completely abandoned 1880’s wine farm in the middle of the Penedes region of Spain. When a Dutch Professor of Information Systems starts renovating the 1000 m2 ruin she soon realises that she left her construction, renovations and hospitality degree back at school.


Meanwhile, she discovers that her future husband and father of five children mugs her off and steals all her savings. Penniless and pent up, she waves the bad man off and welcomes in a van full of Polish builders. All equipped to help her through the storms and battles with the local city hall and in preparing to renovate the farm and finally open the doors to guests in December, 2007.

While the newly opened guest house brought with it energies of tranquility and serenity, Ellen found herself alone and trapped with a new set of challenges………. Suicidal guests, unforgiving housewives with vendettas for cats having given birth on their beds, one meter large harakiri knives by the bed of the cleaning lady with a letter from her jealous husband, volunteers sexually harassing volunteers, drunk guests found sleeping on staircases, money embezzlement by a group of local Marocans, four police officers who promise each other eternal love during an ayahuasca ceremony, ex-prisoners who find themselves in jobs for cheating their way through the interview process, drunk cooks found sleeping in the guest suite while dinner was waiting to be served, a renowned polygamous international writer who came to play adultery but mixed up the dates and had two women in 2 different rooms the same weekend, a local plasterboard specialist who travels for years through Spain with a horse drawn cart and ends up in the masia to write his spiritual book. A bipolar man addicted to diazepam who ends in a blood shed fight with his asperger wife, an employee who threatens Ellen with a circular saw, clairvoyant children who observe auras, crooked cooks failing in court while the management couple were hoping for their usual ferraries.

After all those years of shit hitting the fan, the gardens kept their beauty, the masia remained poised, and we continued to grow. The building Alaya transformed the farm into it’s now well-known retreat centre. But not after a little wobble that almost took Ellen to a second bankruptcy. Thankfully she was saved in the nick of time with a 3-day hippy festival and over 100 visitors one New Year’s Eve.

Nowadays the masia is getting bigger and bigger and brings a new stream of visitors and their teachers: shamans, tibetan monks, tantra gurus and tatas, yoga masters, psychics, channelers, dream interpreters, strippers, Amma supporters, Animal communicators, therapists, reiki masters, erotic masseurs, music and theater groups, yoga and biodanza groups. But that too was a somewhat arduous drive forward while Ellen balanced her spiritual practices with managing the kitchen for groups of 45 and over, learned how to recycle mountains of leftover couscous, stopped the pool from going green, keept up reservations, cleaning, laundry, gardens, maintenance and taxes andmeanwhile keeps up her usual happy heart.

This blog briefly describes the 15 years that Ellen used to transform an old wine farm into a busy retreat center. It covers the ways she repeatedly almost collapsed and the news of her strange recoveries and lessons that came from them.

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