The Deep Longing
I’m Niki Coate, founder of Pachānanda Retreat Center. I prefer to refer to myself as their keeper, much like being the caretaker of a dragon. And Pachānanda’s story is my story.
I’ve always been the weird one. Not so weird that I couldn’t fit in, but not normal enough to be considered so. Being different created sort of a cushion between me and normal reality, an identity in which I’ve been somehow freed of expectations to behave like other people. And I’ve always liked that about myself, this freedom-wielding weirdness. But even more than “liking” it, I have always deeply craved experiences that go beneath the surface to expose the surface for what it is: a mask covering the real juiciness of life.
As long as I can remember, I’ve been on a highly dynamic journey of discovering what life is all about, of rejecting the regular way of doing things, and pushing my limits to find something deeper, more fulfilling, more… well…interesting and inspiring. And more consistently joyful.
I remember my first full-time job post-college, as a journalist, which was exactly what I was supposed to be doing since my parents had spent a pretty penny on my BA in Journalism. I sat stunned, like a trapped wild animal, looking over the edge of my flimsy cubicle wall, scanning for any signs of life, hoping to catch someone else’s eye who was wondering the same thing as me — Is this it? Is this all there is to life? This daily grind, living for the weekends and two weeks of vacation? Sure, there was stability of a paycheck, and blood-sucking predictability in my days, but where was the adventure? The meaning? The mystery?
This led me to explore what I saw as the polar opposite of the cube: managing a live music bar. Which led me to have a total breakdown/breakthrough. If you are still reading this, I’ll bet that you know what I mean: life as you know it falls apart, and something else emerges, something that you couldn’t have even imagined before the break.
Within a very short amount of time, I had awakened to a new level of sensitivity, intuition and connection. Honestly, I thought I needed to be locked in a padded cell, but my first spiritual teacher listened to all my drama, from seeing ghosts to dream premonitions to sleep paralysis, and she said: “Oh yay! This is your spiritual awakening!” Honestly, I was skeptical, but as things kept getting weirder, something inside of me was growing stronger. It was an inner voice, a deep knowing — my true North. One day, this inner voice spoke very clearly to me. It said, “Go South.”
Trusting The Heart
It was too strong to deny. It wasn’t that I was being exceptionally courageous or following a clear vision — it just was too strong to do anything else. I see this now as my soul’s path. And when one synchronicity led to another, I ended up heading to South America — to Lima, Peru, to be exact — destiny determined by a cheap airfare. Since my traveling companion wanted to see Machu Picchu, we headed for Cusco.
And because I had just abandoned life as I knew it, leaving me with a grand sense of “nothing to lose,” I could really start getting bold with listening to this voice within me, which I soon learned was my own heart’s wisdom.
“Go sit there,” or “turn left,” or “call this friend,” it would say. And, since I had nothing to lose, I was as free as a human can be to follow this experiment. Well, the little experiments started to affirm, time and time again, that there was really something to this, that it was leading me in the right direction. After this trust became solid, I started getting bolder messages. Like “Go back to Cusco,” after traveling through Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia. “Do the Yoga Teacher Certification.” And “Find your own place to offer Reiki.” All of those pieces led me to opening a space, even though I didn’t know that’s what I was doing. By this point, I was with my now-husband Alvaro, and we had just found a house to rent.
Healing House was the predecessor of Pachānanda, located in the San Blas neighborhood of Cusco, a house that was bigger than we needed, but it also felt like “the one”. So we decided to sublet–the first month to some friendly backpackers, and then to some women who would anchor in the “healing” to our house. They were also in the healing arts, and suddenly Healing House was born, along with lifelong friendships. People started to come before we even had a sign outside. We offered treatments, yoga classes, and weekly meditations. And then more people came…
Soon we expanded into more space, and teachers, therapists, students and seekers of all kinds started to come, from all over the world, to this center, where we were gathering together to create and heal and remember. It became my own spiritual training ground, a place to study from traveling teachers, and to also teach, give and receive therapies and do a great deal of experimentation. It was my very own “Magick University,” and I was both the headmaster and a dedicated student. Together with thousands of people who come through our doors, we practice centering, connecting to our hearts, and listening to its wisdom.
Little by little, Cusco began to reveal its true essence and energy to me, and little by little, as my mind and heart healed and opened more, Healing House began to teach me what it was all about: the joyful awakening of consciousness in one of the most energetically powerful places on earth … and also about the power of community.
I continued radically listening to my heart, and always following it. One day, it told me something new.
I was hosting a retreat, and during a SacredDance session, it said, “You will build a temple for the SacredDance.” I took note, but had no idea how that would happen.
A few years later it said, “You will create a unique style of yoga teacher training.”
To both of these, I said, “Who, me? Who am I to do this?” It said, “You didn’t know how to start Healing House either, did you? Just trust.”
So the Yoga Teacher Training was born, and then the SacredDance Initiation. And then, it became clear that we needed more space.
“Go to the bank. Get a loan,” it said, one day interupting my meditation. There was no logical chance that we would get a loan, me as a yoga teacher and my husband as a musician, but by this point I knew to trust, so we went. And we got pre-approved for a very big loan. Next, a piece of land appeared, and the full moon rose over the property as I looked at it for the first time. I heard, “This is it.”
At the start of 2019, we broke ground on Pachānanda in the mountains above the city of Cusco. It is also my family home. It is my life’s mission up close and personal, my spiritual path and teachings in action, day by day, moment by moment.
It is a space programmed to facilitate the remembrance of Oneness. “Pacha” means “time-space” in the native Andean language of Quechua. The word “ānanda” is Sanskrit for spiritual bliss, specifically the kind that one experiences from remembering that all is one. Together, Pachānanda means a time-space for blissful awakening, and also represents the great fusion of spiritual wisdom traditions that we are practicing here, from Andean to Indian and far beyond.
Pachānanda is a living work — you could call it my spiritual practice in action. And it is a place for others to join together to center, study, teach, practice, and listen more deeply to their own heart’s wisdom. It is a space for community, for remembering that we aren’t alone and that we are doing this together. Through this, we are anchoring in a positive vision for our own lives, and for the earth. I call this positive vision the New Age of Grace, or the New Earth.