What is the most spiritual city in the U.S.A.?
Most of the gurus on Soul’s Code say that spirituality cannot be measured. But an economist would reply with two words: Ojai, California
BY PAUL KAIHLA — Ojai, CA is to spirituality what Silicon Valley is to technology. Due east and a 40-minute hop inland from Santa Barbara, Ojai has more mind-body spas per capita than anywhere else in the U.S. — probably, the world.
How does Ojai pull that kind of rank? For one thing, it’s got a tiny population: 8,000 souls. For another, Ojai was the North American base of the great Indian mystic, J. Krishnamurti. He underwent one of the most famous enlightenments in history at Ojai in 1922.
Krishnamurti chose an estate there, granted to his foundation by patrons, as his part-time home for the next six decades (The great sage died in Ojai in 1986). “Krishnamurti put Ojai on the map,” says Judy Gabriel, who runs Retreats of Ojai, a site featuring Ojai’s mind-body venues.
In fact, you can sleep in the same house were Krishnamurti slept for $55 a night if you call the Krishamurti Retreat, which sits next to the Los Padres National Forest, and express an interest in the great teacher’s library and archives that are housed on the property.
But there’s only three rooms. Far more options are available in Ojai’s newer retreats, some run by teachers who have indirectly followed in Krishnamurti’s footsteps.
Across the street from the oak grove where Krishnamurti once held forth to hundreds of fans is an artisan bed and breakfast owned by Ronda LaRue (right), Ojai Soul Arts, which has spa features like the “Dreaming Bed” in the image up top.
LaRue isn’t just an inn-keeper: she also happens to be one of the hottest therapists in town. Like this site, she has a post-modern approach: art therapy, energy healing and contemplative meditation.
“It is actually the creative alchemy of change that the arts offer,” Ronda told Soul’s Code, “the antidote to the mind, when we’re not present, that keeps one stuck in trying to ‘get enlightenment.’ ”
The boutique resort in Ojai with the most spa trappings is Shangri La Paradise (they won’t reveal their address until you’ve made a reservation). But the big kahuna in town is the 308-room, 31,000-square-foot Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, a country-club destination. They offer every stripe of massage and manicure you could imagine, and not coincidentally, post this as one of their claims to fame: “a favorite escape for Hollywood stars.” No wonder even the most lackluster room starts at $400/night
If you go to Ojai, here is a stanza of classic Krishnamurti to inspire you for your retreat:
The unknown is not measurable by the known. Time cannot measure the timeless, the eternal, that immensity which has no beginning and no end. But our minds are bound to the yardstick of yesterday, today and tomorrow, and with that yardstick we try to inquire into the unknown, to measure that which is not measurable. And when we try to measure something which is not measurable, we only get caught in words.
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