Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Bliss of De-Stressing

It’s no surprise that people are feel stressed. Life is a series of ups and downs. Stocks sink, retirements plans plummet, even interest bearing savings accounts cam take a swan dive into a shallow pool. Friends and family get sick, we have grievances with neighbors, our health or the health of loved ones declines. Money, or lack of it, is one of the biggest stressors in our lives. While the economy is something we can’t do much about, our spiritual health is. In Santa Barbara, there are spiritual retreats, which will help you detox, refocus and energize. Even a walk at Leadbetter Beach is better than bemoaning our fate (at least as we perceive it) and spiraling into a depression. Sometime we need a day or two to unplug, to have time to reconnect with yourself, free from the constraints of day-to-day routines. Taking care of the spirit, mind and body are essential to weathering the uncertainty we all face. These Santa Barbara area retreats offer a wide range of options, pricing and locations to enable anyone to face their stress without getting buried by it.

La Casa de Maria in Montecito has been hosting retreats for 55 years. The drive into the hills above Montecito will begin to relax you even before you leave your car. The old oaks, some more than 300 years old, have withstood every economic downturn. The Immaculate Heart retreat house and neighboring Hermitage are the ideal choices for individuals, couples, even a small family seeking time away. The original manor house, built in the 1920s feels more like a B& B than a Spartan monastic experience. The Hermitage house is more sedate with fewer amenities. Either way, as Juliet Spohn Twomey, associate director who oversees the ecumenical approach to the center says, “People come here to discern their next step.” The current economic crisis however is not current at all. “The economy wasn’t working long before this crisis, it was driving mother earth into the ground,” she says. They offer vegetarian and vegan meals, as well as meat and fish for the spiritual carnivore. Three acres of orchards and organic gardens allow for the physical to be nourished in concert with the spiritual. A large formal dining room utilizes some foods grown in the garden. Like every retreat center, the goal is, “restoration through silence,” and there is a 10 p.m. noise curfew throughout the entire 26 acres. There is also a pool, volleyball court, even massage services, and lodging for larger groups.
The Views from White Lotus
The White Lotus Foundation, formed in 1983, has been dedicated to the principles of yoga ever since. Founder Ganga White has been involved with yoga for 40 years and sees the current situation in America as a blessing in disguise. “Everything’s in flux right now and we have an opportunity to change our lives,” he says. “What’s needed is a transformation in consciousness.” The Personal Retreat Program allows you to stay in a yurt surrounded by bay laurels and oak trees where you can meditate and do yoga, all with views to the islands. Meals are not included, but with the proximity to upper State Street you have an abundance of choices, or you can bring your own food. Natural swimming holes, a 30-foot waterfall and two miles of hiking trails are located less than eight miles up Highway 154. “We have everything we need on this planet to feed everybody, to take care of everybody,” White says. “We have to shift our perspective. There’s definitely a light at the end of the tunnel,” he believes.

The Sunburst Sanctuary sits on a stunning 2,000 acres of ranch land studded with oak trees off Highway 1. They offer private retreats, a Hopi labyrinth, meditation facilities and organic food. Eight private cedar wood cabins are available for individuals or couples who desire a mini retreat, though alcohol, smoking and dogs are not permitted. Maximum stay is one week. Sunburst offers Sunday mediation beginning at 10:30 a.m. which is followed by a vegetarian brunch. “If guests just want to shut the door and be by themselves, that’s okay,” founder Patricia Paulsen advises. “I’ve been doing this for 39 years and I’ve learned to take care of your own garden, let people do what’s best for their station in life,” she says. Sunburst is a residential community of about 25 people who work the land and raise cattle. Patricia is keenly aware of the need most people feel these days to reconnect with something meaningful. “Right now people are reawakening, working with energy, being more conscious.” The suggested donation for a cabin is $65 per night. There is also the option of driving to Lompoc or Buellton for food, which is a 30-minute drive from the secluded ranch, but given the serenity of the environment, consider bringing your own food and cook on site.