Samana + healing centre in Oakland gets hip and cool with local muralist and local message.
by Sandra Radja
Take a healthcare paradigm called the knowledge of life (Ayurveda). Let it observe itself over time, see what herbs naturally grow and watch the angle of the sun play it's light over the seasons. Map out the lay of the land and include those inhabiting with an intention of inspiring creative expression and inner realisation. You could be anywhere, and if done well, you might mirror the tone of your community to make your healthcare centre feel like it belongs to the people that it serves.
The new wave of healthcare does not need to showcase hospital white to claim it is sanitized, which we now know didn't necessarily ring true. It does not need to churn out practitioners that lose their bedside manner and personality in the final exam process. The people of the world demand real these days; to be heard and to be seen and to be given a world of colour and light to make them feel, if only for a moment, that the enlightening of their imagination in what is possible is as important as any pills they might consume.
Malcolm McQuirter and Eric Cetnarski found this sweet spot in Oakland, California - they combined the visual flair of a local mural artist, their own aesthetics for design along with years of study and self searching to provide a space of education and positive well being.
1. Describe the building you have the practice set up in. Why were you drawn to it?
We are located in the old Hooper’s chocolate Factory in Temescal District in Oakland. Besides the flamingo pink exterior, we were really drawn to the feeling of the area and the people in the neighborhood. The owner of the space also had values similar to ours. With all the mindless greed that is the new norm of the Bay Area, it was refreshing to find someone who was just as concerned with mission and values as they were with profit from the lease.
2. Why are you trying to do there?
We are trying to create community at multiple levels. The community we serve through Ayurveda and Sound Healing as well as a community of like minded individuals. We call ourselves Corporate Refugees. We are entrepreneurs who left financially lucrative but soulless, stressful, mindless work for something meaningful.
We are creating a space and a platform for people with interesting ideas, visionary artwork & healing modalities. Sometimes people just come by to hang out because they like the artwork, the colours and feel of the place. The drop In conversations are always interesting. We’ve met some truly inspirational and fascinating people.
3. Your space seems very hip and urban? Was that intentional?
The theme is Ancient Healthcare, Modern World to borrow your turn of phrase. Eric and I are both very committed to our individual spiritual paths and our healing modalities but we are City people through and through. We feel it is important to be true to that in our presentation of the things we are offering. A lot of people (including us) are put off by typical “healer aesthetics”.
We don’t bow and say “Namaste” to everyone, we don’t wear Indian clothing, we are perfectly content with our given, western names. I’ve been joking a lot lately saying that Samana Plus is Andy Warhol’s Factory if it was run by Deepak Chopra.
4. Do you have a message you want to tell the world?
A large underlying motivation for starting this space and pursuing this path has been to encourage others to follow their own dreams. We know so many people stuck in “lives of quiet desperation”. Stuck in jobs they hate, doing things that go against their deeper sense of right livelihood etc. It can be scary and overwhelming trying to figure out a way in the World outside of the grind. But it can be done, it takes focus, planning and a lot of courage but it is a real possibility. I sincerely hope that people look at us and think, “If these guys can figure it out I can too”.
5. How important was the colours you chose in the space? Describe the rooms and murals.
The colours were very, very important. We spent a long time on just that bit. We had so many colour themes that we scrapped. We chose golds and warm colours for the common areas and more subdued greens for the healing spaces. Gold is the colour of Ojas in the Ayurvedic imagination. The muted greens in the healing spaces is just to give a soothing neutral backdrop.
The idea for the murals is that they represent the stages of a healing journey. Our muralist is the brilliant Pablo Soto-Campoamor . He is also happily a resident artist at Samana+. We talked concepts and ideas with him and let him interpret through his visionary filter. We felt that his vision, aesthetics and ideals crossed over with ours in a way that was not stereotypical for a healing space. His style is urban, it reflects his Cuban Heritage and identity.
I’ve known Pablo for years so it was great to get to connect with him through this project.
6. Where is the light facing in the rooms? Were you cognizant of how the play of light affects the space?
Oh yes! We did and that absolutely influenced our colour choices. We get a blend of late afternoon western exposure and indirect light. The spaces with more direct light have the golden ojas (enhances immunity) colour and the healing spaces have the muted greens.
7. How have you and your vision changed in all this? Did you go through a dark night of the soul so to speak to get where you are today?
The whole space is the culmination and resolution of a profound healing crises for both of us. We both left the stability and sterility of unsatisfying jobs to set out on an unknown path. We both lost our fathers at roughly the same time. I personally went through a profound dark night/personal spiritual crises in addition to all of that. All my major points of reference (father, career, spiritual beliefs) all disappeared. To say that I have been plunged into a harrowing darkness would be an understatement.
8. What didn't you have control over that worked in your favour over time?
The Real Estate market! We met some really shady characters along the way. For one reason or another things didn't work out and it was always a blessing. Then we found our space now and we couldn't be happier.
Malcolm McQuirter and Eric Cetnarski are the founders of Samana Plus Ayurveda & Healing Arts located in Oakland California. Malcolm is a long time meditation teacher and Ayurvedic Practitioner. Eric is a Sound Healer who holds an MBA in sustainability management.
Healing Arts Center Address: 4632 Telegraph Avenue Oakland, California 94609