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Meditation Sitemap

Spiritual Centers to Visit in the United States Reviewed

Susan Helene Kramer

1. Meditation Mount in Ojai, California
2. Self-Realization Fellowship Meditation Centers in Los Angeles, California
Vedanta Temple and Center in Santa Barbara, California
Yogaville Meditation Retreat or Courses, Buckingham, Virginia
Ananda Village Meditation and Retreat Center, Nevada City, California

New - 6. Meher Mount Pilgrimage



1. Meditation Mount in Ojai, California


I had a magical experience in discovering Meditation Mount in Ojai, California. At the time I was living in Santa Barbara and had some vacation days. I felt inspired to get in my van and start driving out into the country, not having a destination in mind.
Meditation Mount, Ojai, CA; photo credit Susan Kramer
I drove down Rt. 101 and just before reaching Ventura I took the exit for Ojai - Highway 33, and drove inland about 15 miles, then turned right on Rt. 150 into and almost through Ojai.

It was here that my intuition took over

Just in front of Bocalli's Restaurant I turned left onto Reeves Road. If I had stayed on the main road I would have started ascending a mountain leading to Santa Paula.

(Turning onto Reeves Road gives no indication of the treasure at the very end, the dead end, in fact at 10340 Reeves Rd. Ojai, California 93023.)

I kept driving and did something I had not really done before. I stayed on the road even though it appeared to be a thin piece of private drive. And when it really was a dead end there was a sign Meditation Mount - open 10am to sunset, and a well-maintained asphalt driveway that wound its way with switchbacks up the side of a foothill, ending at a parking lot.

I found myself surrounded by Tibetan-style structures. Upon getting out and walking around I found that several homes were nestled into the sides of the mount at the top, plus right on the top was a circular chapel to meditate, a large glass-walled meeting room and an adjoining office area and public restrooms.

A large patio on the far side of the meeting room led out to a path of gardens with desert style plantings interspersed with benches for sitting, meditating and feeling the impact of this place.

Wow, what an experience I was drawn to, and that first time all without knowing where I was headed when I left Santa Barbara and drove 60 miles headed.

Yes, Meditation Mount has really been a special place to visit and spend time feeling its uplifting vibration. Every time I've visited since I've sat on one of those outdoor benches and imbibed the qualities of warm winds, bird calls, open expanse of sky that only can be seen from a high perch, as the mount is.

The smell of large sage bushes permeates the air and reminds me that there are certain places on our planet that uplift and give a boost to making meditation a daily living experience, and Meditation Mount is one of these points.

Check out the Meditation Mount web site here:

Article and photo of Meditation Mount looking out over Ojai by Susan Kramer

2. Self-Realization Fellowship Meditation Centers in Los Angeles, California

When I lived in Southern California I had two favorite retreat and meditation places that I especially enjoyed. The first is Self-Realization Fellowship Temple and Hermitage, Encinitas; 215 "K" Street; Encinitas, California 92024-5040; Telephone: (760) 753-2888. And the second spot is Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine Temple, Pacific Palisades; 17190 Sunset Boulevard; Pacific Palisades, CA 90272; Tel: (310) 454-4114.

These are both centers for reflection and meditation that could be part of a day trip from either the Los Angeles or San Diego area. Neither have overnight guest facilities but there are motels in the area.

Encinitas Hermitage and Gardens

There are several spots at the Encinitas grounds that I particularly enjoyed: foremost the gardens with winding trails leading from the buildings to the overlook of the Pacific Ocean. The landscaping is laid out with a running stream and small ponds artfully landscaped with beautiful tropical plants and flowers that thrive in the Southern California climate.

There are spots to sit and reflect in the gardens, making this a really great spot to go deeply into your inner self, your place of rest and composure that may be covered up most of the time with day to day concerns.

Also on the grounds is a small chapel and I stayed for the evening program of a recorded talk by Paramahansa Yogananda and kirtan, which is devotional chanting, and then silent meditation. The nuns and monks residing at the complex join in with the gathering and lend there own peace to the visitors' experience.

What I felt and experienced in my heart and soul was worth the time spent at Encinitas.

Also, when I visited the Encinitas center and gardens I combined my trip with a visit to the San Diego Wild Animal Park, just inland from the coast.

Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades

Imagine driving through Los Angeles and getting on Sunset Boulevard, heading west toward the Pacific Ocean and suddenly coming upon an exquisite lake surrounded by shrines to different religions. That was the uplifting experience I had on my first visit to Lake Shrine.

The visitor enters from a convenient parking lot and goes through the guest center building and out the other side to enjoy the stroll around the lake and the various gardens devoted to world peace and unity. One of the altar sites in dedicated to Mahatma Ghandi and houses a portion of his cremated remains.

To me, Lake Shrine symbolizes the heart of peace that lies within every one of us; it is an opportunity to sit and meditate and reflect the whole day if you choose. There is also a tiny chapel for quiet contemplation and a gift shop, also.

I lived in Santa Barbara for many years and found it a real source of nourishment to take the 2 hour drive to this uplifting place of spiritual succor amongst city life.

I highly recommend both centers for a boost to your meditation experience and as a mini-retreat!

Here are the web sites to learn more about each center:

Encinitas Hermitage

Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades

Article by Susan Helene Kramer

3. Vedanta Temple and Center in Santa Barbara, California

Winding up Ladera Lane above Santa Barbara, California, leads to the peaceful and inspiring Vedanta Temple complex on 45 acres. Nine Sri Sarada Devi nuns are in residence.

Here is a photo I took walking up the gently sloping path to the front steps of the Temple where services are held and where you can sit for quiet meditation. The consort of Sri Ramakrishna, founder of Vedanta was Sri Sarada Devi. After he passed on she continued his work.

Vedanta Temple, Santa Barbara, CA; photo credit Susan KramerThe atmosphere around the temple is permeated with the smell of sage which is growing in the local shrubbery and the hills and mountains behind the structures. I've found going onto the grounds an uplifting experience without even going into the temple or bookstore. I like sitting on the temple steps, facing a view of the wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean.

So, this visit gives the best of physical treats, and restoration to the soul, with breathtaking sites of ocean in front, mountain peaks behind, immersion in the garden environment, clear and fresh smells of sage, singing of birds and helpful nuns and friendly visitors.

One could not help but be uplifted by spending time meditating in this environment.

An added advantage of the center is the bookstore in its own small building next to the temple - a complete source to buy books related to meditation and yoga and many world religions, as well as malas, incense, shawls, and all kinds of meditation and altar statues, pictures and other supplies.

The Vedanta Temple website provides a map and detailed driving directions. If you are already familiar with Santa Barbara and Montecito, follow East Valley Road to the east and pass Sheffield Drive and Ortega Ridge Road. Then turn left, north, up Ladera Lane.

The address is: Vedanta Temple, 927 Ladera Lane, Santa Barbara, CA 93108. Phone (805) 969-2903. Visit the website listed below or phone for specific opening times during the year.

For more information and map visit the Vedanta Temple web site:

Article and photo of Vedanta Temple by Susan Helene Kramer

4. Yogaville Meditation Retreat or Courses, Buckingham, Virginia

I was so fortunate during 1985 to 1986 to spend time at the world-renowned meditation and world peace ashram of Yogaville, located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, 50 miles south of Charlottesville, Virginia. The address is: Yogaville; 108 Yogaville Way; Buckingham, VA 23921-9726, USA.

Yogaville is the outcome of the vision of Integral Yoga and its founder, Sri Swami Satchidananda (1914-2002). It is home to the Light of Truth Universal Shrine, L.O.T.U.S.

The site is ideal for daily meditation with its peace and quiet in the wooded setting along the historic James River. Visitors have many choices for spending time at Yogaville, such as a day trip from Washington, D.C. or Richmond, Virginia; a weekend getaway; attendance at one of the planned retreats under a theme; longer term Teacher's Training Certification in Hatha and related yoga and meditation practices, and more options to suit the individual.

All visitors at Yogaville as well as those in daily or set programs have the opportunity to meditate right along with like-minded individuals in the daily ashram schedule, or to meditate in any quiet location on the premises.

Living at Yogaville for a year, I had the opportunity to really immerse myself in meditation, but any length of visit can be arranged to suit your needs. The monks and community members are helpful in accommodating your individual retreat needs.

Living arrangements can be in the motel-style Lotus Inn, dormitories, or even tent camping in warmer weather. Lacto vegetarian meals are served; no eggs, meat, fish. And, as you might suspect, no smoking or drugs are allowed.

Spending time meditating with others cannot be beat for developing your own practice. It is inspirational and supportive to be in the company of others who are making a success of meditation. I felt it was a jumpstart to my personal growth.

And if you really want a solitary and quiet experience you needn't talk with anyone; actually lots of energy is saved in having a silent retreat.

The largest draw for me was meditating in the L.O.T.U.S. - a temple built to house altars representing major world religions and other known and as yet unknown religions. This is truly one place you can experience religious harmony.

A link to their quarterly magazine is just below.

For further information on what Yogaville has to offer visit their web site:

Review by Susan Helene Kramer

Recommended magazine
Integral Yoga Magazine
Sharpen your practices by subscribing to Integral Yoga Magazine, an ecumenical quarterly journal on yoga and meditation applied to daily life, inspired by its founder, Swami Satchidananda. Each issue contains knowledgeable in-depth articles by professionals in their field. Check out the article samples at the web site link. My highest recommendation!

5. Ananda Village Meditation and Retreat Center, Nevada City, California

Ananda is the dream come true of the founder, Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda. The large center is located near Nevada City in Northern California. It is truly a World Brotherhood Community as it was set out to be. The address is The Expanding Light; 14618 Tyler Foote Road, Nevada City, California 95959.

Ananda sits on 700 acres of exquisite forest and clear space very conducive to meditation and yoga practices. Visitors can come for different periods of time in stay in semi private or private rooms or do tent camping.

As I had a camper-van I chose the tent camping which worked out fine. I will have to say that the vegetarian meals were absolutely delicious and inspired my own cooking at home. The atmosphere is congenial and friendly and of course inspirational.

The types of programs offered include: First Timers Weekend and the longer Yoga Teacher Training, and Meditation Teacher Training, as well as specific topics of varying lengths, such as Joyful Vegetarian Cooking.

You can also arrange a personal retreat where you can spend as much time in meditation as you choose, or just enjoy simply walking the grounds enjoying the unique silence of nature. Personally, I love walking in nature and its grandeur never fails to bring me peace of mind, inner calm.

Also in the village is a school for children in grades K-12 with a respect for all religions as well as the virtues we all admire. That may be a reason for visiting if you are looking for that style of education for your kids.

Ananda village has its own distribution center with writings of Yogananda, Kriyanda and others in the field of meditation and yoga. Plus you can enjoy buying from their marketplace.

How to get to Ananda Village: The map at this URL is the recommended route:

I will mention that Nevada City is north beyond Grass Valley on Rt. 20 on the way to Truckee and Reno.

Let's keep in mind that Self-Realization is a worthy goal, and Ananda Village is one place to get a foothold on meditation and right living techniques.

For detailed information on Ananda Village and its wonderful programs go to:

Article by Susan Helene Kramer



6. Meher Mount Pilgrimage

Meher Mount sits at 2,500 feet elevation on Sulphur Mountain between Santa Paula and Ojai. It is a pilgrimage site just a couple of hours from Los Angeles to the south and Santa Barbara to the north. This inspiring setting is dedicated to Avatar Meher Baba (1894-1969).
photo credit Susan Helene Kramer  Meher Mount California
The day pilgrimage site is on 172 acres that is mostly wild, though the area around the main reception house and library, and the meadow down to 'Baba's Tree' is kept clipped short, so it is open and can be walked on, as you see in the photo.

First drive up the mountain to the reception house, sign in to let the caretakers know you are on the property, browse the library and when you are ready, they will direct you to the special coast live oak known as 'Baba's Tree' - in the photo it is the fourth tree from the left.

There you can sit and meditate on a wooden bench and look out over Santa Paula to the left, and the Pacific Ocean to the right, with a view of the Channel Islands beyond. It is truly breathtaking and so peaceful.

Meher Mount is open to visitors Wednesday to Sunday noon to 5pm, and closed Monday and Tuesday.

The address is 9902 Sulphur Mountain Road, Ojai, California 93023.

If you are driving from Ojai take Rt. 150 up the mountain as if driving to Santa Paula. Nearly at the summit you'll pass the entrance to Dennison Park. Go 2.5 miles further. Just past Twin Creek Ranch turn right onto Sulphur Mountain Road and go 2.7 miles to the sign on the left that says Meher Mount. The road gets narrower as you proceed. Park along the driveway before reaching the reception house.

If coming from Santa Paula take Rt. 150 until you pass the Summit Restaurant. Continue on for 1 mile to Sulphur Mountain Road. Turn left and go 2.7 miles to Meher Mount. Park just before the reception house.

Bring water to drink and a picnic if you'd like. Before your pilgrimage fuel your car and have something to eat as there are no concessions at Meher Mount.

It is certainly worth the trip. Driving up the mountain is a process that feels like driving up to the highest point in your own consciousness. Then, sitting under 'Baba's Tree' completes and adds the immeasureable blessings it has been imbued with by Baba. Enjoy.

Article and photo by Susan Helene Kramer

Meher Mount Website

Meditation Lessons for Teens and Adults book or ebook

Gentle Yoga and Meditation - book or ebook for adults



Yoga for All Kids - book or ebook


Spiritual Centers to Visit Copyright 2011-2014 Susan Helene Kramer; page updated December 29, 2013