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Having canyons, desert, mountains and ocean on your doorstep make it incredibly easy to find zen in this city of angels where it’s normally associated with starlets and the walk of fame
The Lake Shrine Temple (Pacific Palisades)
Once a week, without fail, we’d leave our creative hub in Venice and head up the Pacific Highway to Lake Shrine just to get away from it all and do some personal meditation and reflection. This magical haven en route to Malibu is divine and one of the best places in LA to get away from it all and find some inner peace.
It’s part of the Self-Realisation Fellowship founded by Paramahansa Yogananda who envisioned a spiritual environment where people from all over the world could come and experience peace of heart and mind. Today, Lake Shrine offers a lakeside meditation garden with shrines and waterfalls, a hilltop temple with weekly inspirational services and meditations, a retreat for silent renewal and an ashram for monks of the Self-Realization Fellowship. This place is serenely beautiful and everyone’s welcome.
The Den – La Brea
This turned out to be one of our favourite places in the whole of LA and it was by sheer chance that we found it. The Den is a meditation centre in the busy La Brea neighbourhood that offers mindfulness, sound baths, women’s circles and guided classes for every lifestyle every day of the week. Their instructors help you find the practice that works best for where you are right now, and their comfortable, incredibly peaceful and welcoming space will make meditation something you look forward to every day.
If you’re looking for a meditation studio in LA that allows you to be comfortable while starting or expanding your meditation practice, then this is the meditation studio for you. They’ve created a thriving meditation community where you can make new friends, work on your own personal projects, read a book from their library or just relax and decompress before or after your meditation class. There’s even free tea, coffee and Wi-Fi. We like this place a lot and need one to open up in London ASAP.
Full Circle – Venice
A stone’s throw from Venice Beach is Full Circle, a spiritual community centre located in the heart of Venice Beach that offers a range of activities that bring together like-minded people. Seekers of all backgrounds gather at this 111-year old temple for spiritually centred classes, mindfulness workshops, group meditations, music events and art occasions. They hold space for those seeking inner-growth and community connection and have a fresh approach to spiritual practices. Their mission is to transform lives by co-creating spirit through community.
Full Circle recognises that all of us possess unique gifts. Their programmes aim to maximise individual integrity and achievement through empowerment circles that allow participants to connect with each other in a safe space. Movement classes and breath workshops transmute tension and stress while sound healings and meditations hone in on the higher self, providing an innovative approach to inner-growth. We attended two of their weekly Activ888 ceremonies on Sunday mornings where we met a diverse group of people who came together to converse, meditate and experience music together.
We were new in town and it was a great way to meet like-minded people. And it wasn’t all new age hippies in dreadlocks (although we love a good set of dreads), it was actually a supremely eclectic bunch of seriously successful people from the music, film and corporate industries mixed in with healers, layman, writers, entrepreneurs; it was a real mix. We’d definitely make a habit of going every Sunday if we were local.
El Matador Beach – Near Malibu
We thought this beach was incredibly romantic. It’s about 10 miles northwest of Malibu in a secluded pocket beach with rocky shores, robust waves and some of the clearest water in LA. There isn’t much in the way of facilities but there’s a rugged path to the shore that’s the perfect place to enjoy a sunset dinner in one of the hidden coves. Go there if you want some time alone with your beau.
Surfrider Beach – Malibu
If you’re a surfer, then this is a great spot to ride some waves. You don’t have to be an experienced surfer to appreciate the art of surfing, the cool atmosphere of the beach or the toned bodies of the surfers (we’re only human). We were a little intimidated by the size of the waves so hung back and watched the wetsuited surf bods do their thing.
Santa Monica Beach
Located just north of the historic Santa Monica Pier, this is one of the most popular beaches in LA for locals and tourists alike. It’s two miles long and seems to go on forever but is well accessed by a boardwalk. It’s really well set up for volleyball, skateboarding, strolling, running or cycling. You’ll even see yogis practicing at sunset. The sandbar before the water gets deep and is wide so you feel like you have a lot of space and the beach is clean, friendly and easy to get to. Bring sunscreen, a little cash for parking and your swimmers and hit up this very sunny spot.
We loved this beach and if you go during the week it’s really peaceful. Manhattan beach is full of beautiful people and beachfront houses, shiny cars, big sunglasses and tiny lap dogs. On the sand, you’ll find beach volleyball courts that seem to go on for miles and bodysurfing near the pier. You should know that surfing is limited to the south side of the pier, boogie boarding is confined to the water on the north side and swimming isn’t allowed in the areas immediately adjacent to the pier. Check out the aquarium with its fantastic sea creatures and touch pool and there’s a great, relaxed boardwalk that runs for miles and makes a great walk or cycle route. We biked it.
Topanga Canyon & State Park
Located in the cliffs and canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains, Topanga State Park features 36 miles of trails through open grassland, live oaks and spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. The park is located entirely within the Los Angeles city limits and is considered the world’s largest wildland within the boundaries of a major city. There are excellent recreational opportunities for hikers as well as mountain bikers (restricted to fire roads) and equestrians. The park is bound on the south by Pacific Palisades and Brentwood, on the west by Topanga Canyon and on the east by Rustic Canyon. Numerous geologic formations can be found in the park including earthquake faults, marine fossils, volcanic intrusions and a wide variety of sedimentary formations.
Perched between Malibu, Calabasas and the West San Fernando Valley, the bohemian hippie-ness of Topanga Canyon makes it one of LA’s most unique communities. Topanga’s utter lack of chain restaurants combined with a sense of untamed nature, proximity to the ocean and small-town personality can almost fool you into believing you’re not in LA anymore.
It’s the kind of place where no one bats an eye-lid at barefoot shop patrons or pet llamas hanging out in front yards. We instantly fell in love with Topanga Canyon when we arrived. It lives in our minds as one of the most perfect places to live. We love the high desert climate, warm sunny days and building fires on frosty nights. Try hiking Redrock, along the ridge above Tuna Canyon, and you’ll really let go of city-based stresses. Mountains, coyotes, beaches (and the city is right there when you need it). Idyllic.
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