Words by Megan Martin
Photograph by Michael Lanzano
The commute out of the city was quite simple, hop on a couple of trains through a couple of stops and some beautiful scenery. Then there was the hike through a long windy highway across a rural town in upstate New York, and the nice, young man who stopped to pick us up and drove us to our destination. The journey was well worth it. Sometimes after being surrounded by city and all it has to offer – all you want to do is get out. The concrete melts away to grass and the skyscrapers are replaced with silos and trees, welcome to Goshen; and more importantly, welcome to Heartland.
Sitting upon nearly 72 acres of land is an old farmhouse and it’s surrounding nature. The house itself has been completely renovated into a home, yoga studio, and weekend retreat by the hands of crafty helpers, includingWorking Class’ creative director. The man (or one of them) behind this project, which offers various yoga workshops and classes as well as the opportunity to leave the city grit behind for a piece of the outdoors, is Paul Manza.
“It is challenging to create and maintain a project like this,” says Manza, “and I have to say it would have been impossible if it weren’t for the help from all of the people who collaborated on it.”
Photograph by Elizabeth Perrin
The collaboration was the root of its origins, bringing in people with different skills and passions to create something bigger, something built on love and a consciousness of the human spirit.
I knew the second I stepped out of the car that I had just been taken to another world. Sprawling fields of tall grass, birds, bugs and the like were all around me. Natural beauty is something you just don’t see when mixed in with the bustle of the city. The sky was the limit, but also only the beginning. Careful planning and a little bit of mystic had created a wonderland of this upstate palace: from hammock city to the two white owls shacking up in the abandon chicken coop. It was simple, but there was an attention to the details that made it greater each time you stepped outside.
Long rows had been mowed down in the fields leading to giant prayer circles with mats or tents. There is where you could sit and meditate or sleep or read or do whatever it is you needed to do to make you feel you apart from civilization.
Photograph by Zoe Day
“We are dealing directly with the most sensitive and subtle aspects of human consciousness so the details involved are daunting,” says Manza of the long process of changes that have taken place in building Heartland. “But from the renovating of the house to dealing with legal advice, people have been unbelievably generous and intuitive and have believed in it in a way that has carried it above and beyond any challenge that has arisen so far.”
Manza is a yoga instructor and sort of unofficial community developer. He has a home in Greenpoint, Brooklyn that houses a rotating cast of characters and friends. The loft is known as freemanslove and is less an extension of Heartland than it is of Manza and his peers’ kindred spirit.
“Freemanslove is the more intimate urban version, a few years ago I thought I had it made when I got this huge loft on Freeman Street and then a year ago we turned it into a commune of sorts, its been one of the great joys of my life.”
Photograph by Elizabeth Perrin
Heartland was built upon a similar agenda, with the idea of sharing something beautiful and available with people who were interested in an alternative to what they had. Its name, which accidentally matches that of the American term for all those states in the middle, was derived from part of this ideology.
“The land part seemed obvious, it is almost overwhelming when you arrive the way the house sits in the middle of the fields and trees,” says Manza, “And heart because that’s what we are about. Living with heart.”
Heartland offers weekend retreats to city dwellers, but mostly it offers an opportunity to connect with others and with the land.
“My hope for Heartland is that it continues to draw people together who enrich each others lives, seeing that unfold and continue has been beyond any idea of success that I had in mind,” says Manza.
For more information on Heartland, Manza and the gang, and how you can get involved, visit iheartheartland.com.