Ojai Journey Notes (2005)
“The weekend in Ojai was like a little piece of heaven. When I try to describe it to friends I can’t do it justice. The estate is beautiful. What a special treat to be allowed to enjoy all it has to offer. I hope you’ll have another retreat there, and when you do, sign me up!”
L. Romo – Executive, non-profit organization, Temple City, CA
It only takes 90 minutes to drive from Los Angeles to the “little piece of heaven” mentioned. The 52 acre estate, now called Ojai’s Eco-sanctuary, overlooks the Topa Topa Mountains where “Lost Horizons,” a 1936 film classic about utopian Shangri-La, was filmed. The main house (a bungalow that comfortably sleeps 15-20) was designed by Greene and Greene, the master Arts and Crafts movement architects famous for such “ultimate bungalows” as Pasadena’s Gamble House. This was Health Habitravels home June 9-11. A group member said “It’s amazing to actually be eating, sleeping – living – in a Greene and Greene, instead of speeding through on a tour.” So true, and that’s why the estate was this retreat’s highlight. What better spot to harmonize body, mind and spirit than a place vibrant with spiritual essence, harmony and balance that honors naturally beautiful surroundings by angling a garden bench just so – stationing blessing figures of Mother Mary, Buddha and pagan stone totems benevolently among flower and herb gardens – and drawing sunrays through leaded glass doors to well placed Tiffany lamps. If you’re into Arts and Crafts then a weekend at the eco-sanctuary is indeed heavenly. Founded by British poet, essayist, designer and socialist William Morris, the Arts and Crafts movement flourished from 1895 to 1930. A reaction to the soulless mechanized Industrial Revolution, proponents of Arts and Crafts celebrated the union of hand, head and heart. A century later, bombarded by consumerism, many of us now grasp the grave importance of the tenets valued by Morris and his followers. The current mind-body-spirit movement is an outgrowth of their philosophies. What we call New Age was then “new religion,” theories and practices culled from ancient mysticism, oriental belief systems and paganism, or in present day verbiage Earth honoring or Goddess based religions. Arts and Crafts aimed to create contemplative objects and environments that encouraged spiritual attunement. One the movement’s writers, William Henry Channing, succinctly stated the artisans sought “…to let the spiritual, the unbidden and the unconscious rise up through the common.” The movement flowered fully in California at the turn of the last century, where the Puritan ideals of high thinking combined with plain living, and free spirits settled in the Eden-esque landscape to live the American dream. Greene and Greene and other California based masters created a signature California style strongly influenced by the Spanish, Asian and Native American presence in the West. For more information and links on Arts and Craft visit www.arts-crafts.com and http://anc.gray-cells.com/Intro.html.
Craftsman bungalows have features that make them ideal summer places: sleeping porches where you feel like you’re camping but you’re in the house plus patios and terraces for El Fresco dining. Our weekend home had both and a huge salt water swimming pool and Jacuzzi. Add a recently built Craftsman yoga studio to the equation and you have an optimal retreat location. The estate is also close to both town and country. A ten minute hike passed fanciful neighborhood gardens with free standing blue doors leading from the outside to the outside and giant crane sculptures bowing gracefully to morning glories, lands you on Los Padres National forest trails, totally away from civilization. These mountains are home to the Sespe Condor Sanctuary, which is not open to the public, but is helping to save this endangered species. If you visit www.localhikes.com you’ll find information on an excellent hike to Sespe hot spring. For the fossil lovers among you, try a Matillija Creek hike. Along the trails you’ll meet up with helpful, friendly locals who’ll be more than happy to suggest routes suited to your needs. It’s a five minute drive to Ojai’s main street, where you’ll find galleries, shops and restaurants. Many of the early followers of Theosophy, a “new religion”, lived in Ojai, and a there is a foundation, library and retreat center dedicated to the late philosopher Krishnamurti – more at www.kfa.org.
We stayed most of the weekend at the estate. I taught Pilates, very gentle yoga and energizing Gyrokinesis®. Diane Mandle, the only Sound Healer certified by the state of California, contributed meditative concerts/accompaniment during our stay. Diane states on her website www.soundenergyhealing.com, “Sound healing is a therapy that is becoming internationally recognized as an effective tool for the treatment of insomnia, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, ADD, emotional imbalance and other stress related conditions. It has been successfully used as an integral part of the healing process with cancer patients and provides pain relief for a variety of symptoms including kidney stones, headaches, back pain and more.” The Friday evening concert she played us was living proof. As sound waves washed over and through me I felt like I was floating. We were all awed by Diane’s seamless playing of an assortment of sacred Tibetan bowls, chimes, bells and deep, resonating gong. Saturday the healing continued. Diane “jammed” on her scared instruments with keyboardist David, there for the retreat on keyboard and Didgeridoo player Mike on Didgeridoo. I’m a huge Didge fan – and this instrumental trio rocked! I’m hoping the three will collaborate and come out with a CD. For now you can purchase Diane’s “Return to Om” for meditations and mind-body practice. I’ve played it to enthusiastic students in several of my classes. Link over to Diane’s site to for and listen to give yourself a sound treat. For those unfamiliar with the didgeridoo www.laoutback.com is a great source of information.
The weekend went too fast. We left wanting more time at this beautiful place. The Ojai property is privately owned and only available for a limited number of retreats, workshops and non-profit events. It is one of a handful of Craftsmans, some originals, some built in the style, available as lodgings. Yoga and yoga-based practices like Pilates and sound healing find everything they strive for, inner harmony, balance, focus, the union of body, mind and spirit mirrored in the Arts and Crafts nature-centric Asian influenced structures. You can be sure there will be future Health Habitravels retreats at Craftsman style venues.
Blessings – Tannis Kobrinsky
Founder – Health Habitravels