Manifesting a Dream

Villa Sumaya author publishes best-selling book

By Jacqueline Sheehan

In 2006, I arrived by water taxi from Panajachel and stepped onto the dock of Villa Sumaya to be part of a writing and yoga retreat. My mother had just died a few months before, I was still reeling from working with survivors of Hurricane Katrina, and I was trying to finish a novel. My job as a psychologist at a college counseling center had grown stale. Correction: I had grown stale. Full disclosure: To say that I was hollowed out was an understatement.

I wanted to do yoga, lots and lots of yoga, and scribble in my notebook until something shifted. And that is what I did. I also received hours of body work from the skilled group of people chosen by owner, Wendy Stauffer.

The yoga was not the ordinary studio yoga that I was accustomed to, even though I had practiced yoga since college and taught yoga at retreats. Every morning I arrived early to meditate in the Tiger Temple as I watched a great blue heron soar low over the lake. Later, the huge temple vibrated with our Om’s and laughter. But the temple vibrated with something else; it was the strumming heartbeat of Villa Sumaya, Lake Atitlan, and the Mayan people who have lived in the highlands for so long. Something started to shift, although it would not fully manifest for months.

Here was a sanctuary along the shores of Lake Atitlan that was so far removed from my daily life that I had to go through a reality check. Was it truly okay to nap in my hammock mid-day? Could the food really be this fantastic for every single meal? (Yes!) Are the stars actually this bright at night? Would I ever have as much courage as the delightful ex-pats who had created new lives around the lake?

I put the finishing touches on my novel. It was my second and I assumed it would sell as tepidly as the first. And then somehow, I got the message that if Wendy Stauffer could manifest her creative, spiritual genius in the form of Villa Sumaya, if the Mayan people could survive an oppressive history, if that great blue heron could swoop over the lake every morning with such hope, if the local Shaman could insist that I would return to the Mayan Highlands, then I could chose to do the one thing I had always dreamt of, become a writer.

When I returned to my job, I handed in my resignation. That book that I finished? Lost & Found became a New York Times Bestseller and sold over half a million copies. I’ve since published four more novels and returned to Villa Sumaya many times to embrace my yoga practice and write.

Now that Villa Sumaya will offer Yoga Teacher Training of the highest caliber, allow it to stretch open the places that have gone stale and experience dreams to unfold that may have seemed impossible.

Jacqueline Sheehan has visited Villa Sumaya countless times over the past 17 years. Learn more at