Finding Your Center

new business offers space for ‘creative spirituality’

Tom Giffey, photos by Andrea Paulseth

The Center offers space for wellness and creative classes of all sorts, including yoga (held in a new sunroom).
The Center offers space for wellness and creative classes of all sorts, including yoga
(held in a new sunroom).

Finding your center is a goal of many religious and spiritual paths, whether that center is a place of inner peace reached through meditation or an eternal soul that connects you with a higher power.

More tangibly, The Center is also the name of a new business designed to help people find their own centers through spiritual practices ranging from yoga and meditation to counseling and art. The Center, 3701 U.S. Highway 12 East, is focused on “creative spirituality,” say founders Anita Norha and Scott Daniels. What is creative spirituality? “A sense of being in touch with the spirit that comes from your center – that’s why we call it The Center,” explained Daniels on a recent afternoon while seated in the serene comfort of the nearly 80-year-old converted stone house just east of Eau Claire near the former Hillcrest Golf & Country Club.

“A sense of being in touch with the spirit that comes from your center – that’s why we called it The Center.” – Scott Daniels, co-founder of The Center, on the concept of “creative spirituality”

Fittingly, opening The Center is something of a leap of faith for the couple, who own two other retreat centers, Bridge Creek Cottage in Augusta and Meadow Ridge Cottages in Elk Mound. While those centers are designed for use by scrapbookers, quilters, and other crafty types, the couple have long envisioned creating a similar space that would be spiritually focused.

“There are yoga studios,” Norha noted, “but there isn’t a space for creative spirituality.” After buying the home last year, the couple – along with friends and volunteers – began transforming it into a space that can be used by a broad spectrum of practitioners and groups.

“There are no employees here,” Norha explained. “We’re just the landlords. We get to play and provide space for all these things.” The ground floor typifies The Center’s calming vibe: soft music, inviting furniture, candles, and a fireplace. There are several comfortable rooms, including a quiet den that’s available for rent for ayurvedic medicine, counseling, or other purposes, as well as a growing lending library. Upstairs, three bedrooms have been transformed into cozy offices for practitioners, including spiritual and life coaches and a licensed therapist. Below, the basement and garage have been transformed into pottery and metalsmithing studios where other art classes will be held as well. And the finishing touches were just put on a 1,600-square-foot octagonal sunroom, which will be used for yoga classes, meditation, seminars, and whatever else people can dream up. Looking out the sunroom’s windows and through the autumn leaves, you can just glimpse Otter Creek down the slope to the west.

One of The Center’s first tenants is Tina Frank, a licensed counselor, nurse, and proprietor of Positive Living, whose practice focuses on improving people’s wellbeing by building on the positive aspects of their lives, a complement to the problem-fixing approach of traditional therapy.

“I was looking for a place that would kind of embrace that concept,” Frank explained. “I knew instantly when I came here that this is the place for me,” she added. Much of that had to do with the setting, amid the tranquility of nature. “There was a real sense of sacredness,” she said.

Frank plans to refer her clients for yoga, for spiritual guidance, or even to find ways to explore their creative impulses through art. “I think there’s a real sense of health and wellness tied into all the themes,” Frank says of The Center’s diversity.

Co-owners Norha and Daniels hope The Center fosters such cross-pollination among practitioners and clients, becoming a hub for spiritual activity and community. While they come from a Christian perspective – Daniels is an ordained Methodist minister, and the couple met in seminary – they say they’re open-minded about other paths and have opened their doors to people with a multitude of spiritual beliefs. Symbolizing this message is a polished teak root that stands inside The Center. The crevices formed by the gnarled wood hold objects representing a number of spiritual traditions, including a Nepalese prayer wheel, a Christian chalice, a statue of a cross-legged woman meditating, and a stone bearing the “om” symbol sacred to Hinduism and Buddhism.

Despite its name, The Center is a bit off the beaten path – at least geographically speaking – which is part of its charm. If you live in the Chippewa Valley, you’ve probably driven by hundreds of times without even knowing the secluded cottage is there. (Google Maps or your GPS might not find it, either, at least if you enter its official address; try 3701 E. Clairemont Ave. instead.)

Some practitioners began using The Center in early May, but it’s now in the midst of a “soft opening,” with classes beginning in the new studio Oct. 21; an open house slated for 11:30am-2pm on Sunday, Oct. 27; and a grand opening from 1-4pm on Sunday, Nov. 10. Daniels noted that, with only 30 parking spaces, The Center can’t accommodate large crowds. Instead, it will rely on smaller groups of clients and users coming in continuously. “It will be all about flow here,” he said.

To learn more about The Center, go to www.thecenterec.com or www.facebook.com/TheCenterEC, call 715-529-3344, or stop by the center between 9am and 3pm Monday-Friday.