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Our Ethos

When we moved to France in 2001, we had a clear vision of what we wanted to do, though at that time we didn’t have the place or the people to do it with. Having been inspired by a visit to the holistic holiday centre Skyros a few years earlier, we knew we wanted to work among people who were interested in personal and spiritual growth. We wanted this to take place in a beautiful environment, a place with an enormous amount of stillness and natural beauty where people - including ourselves - could relax, let go, feel safe, be at peace, and just BE with ourselves. After a ridiculously small amount of time spent looking, we found a little spot of heaven, halfway up a hillside in the middle of nowhere, and called it The Sun Centre.

In November 2005, we moved from our original location to a larger site, to cater for increasing numbers of French students and to upgrade what we were able to offer to guests. We renamed ourselves Gardoussel Retreat after the hamlet which we occupy, meaning 'guardian of the birds'.

From humble beginnings, we now enjoy humble middles. It is not our aim to be a residential venue for people wishing to experience all the comforts of the city, a home from home. We are not a spa or a modern health centre. We are certainly not a chateau with parkland offering exclusive packages, room service and all-mod-cons. We are a family-run retreat (we have two children and Alex’s mother Frances lives on-site) where individuals and groups come to share in our life in a small way. What we have here are simple, clean rooms, and lovely facilities which include outdoor and indoor spaces for yoga and other practices. What we offer are delicious meals that we make ourselves, and down-to-earth advice and guidance on our own specialities which include Ayurvedic health, self-development, meditation, yoga and the best local hiking trails! And what we provide most easily of all is a beautiful, unspoilt environment where anything is possible – it all depends what you want to make of it.

We welcome up to 24 people at a time in our home. We can’t do this alone, nor do we want to. We need the help of everyone who passes through. We all work together to make any given week a successful one. Guests help mainly by lending a hand after mealtimes – clearing up afterwards and washing the dishes - stocking the wood burning stoves with logs (in winter or cold nights), caring for your room and looking after the communal living spaces. In reality, this requires about 15 minutes a day of each guest’s time.

Some people call this karma yoga – an effort to nurture our sense of inner peace while going about our daily duties and activities. Others refer to it as seva – loving service to others. Whatever the yogic definition, working together for the pleasure of it helps to foster a sense of community spirit and creates a more authentic atmosphere. In our experience, communication becomes more honest, judgement is released, sincerity grows and relationships are more meaningful. We certainly appreciate the help, but much more than that, we feel we are working with friends instead of guests. To work with friends, doing a job we love, striving for an ever greater involvement in our day-to-day tasks of our own spiritual ideals, that’s our aim. That is our ethos.

Alex & Sharon - November 2004.

Sharon & Alex at The Sun Centre, Prades.



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Gardoussel Retreat, 30940 St Andre de Valborgne, France
09 64 28 32 71 (from UK/world dial 0033 964 283 271)