A picturesque wooden windmill resting atop a blue lagoon. Gushing waterfalls cascading down lush green tropical hillsides. White swans floating gracefully along a glassy lake as dragonflies skip and chase each other. A sprawling rose garden bursting in full Technicolor rainbow bloom. And a sweet gentle hush of stillness so deep you’d swear you entered another dimension. And maybe you’re right. There is definitely something other-dimensional about this place. But luckily, you don’t have to book an international or intergalactic flight to experience all of its tranquil magic. This little piece of hidden Heaven is right here in our own backyard.
Tucked away behind an unassuming wood gate just above where Sunset meets PCH in Pacific Palisades, the Lake Shrine Temple has been helping people cultivate inner stillness since its origins in 1950. Founded by yogi Paramahansa Yogananda as the Los Angeles flagship of his Self Realization Fellowship, the Lake Shrine Temple’s 10-acre grounds provide the perfect environment for contemplation, meditation, inner reflection and connecting to whatever Higher Power you believe in. Open to people of all religious beliefs and backgrounds, the grounds are meant to be a sanctuary for contacting that elusive Inner Peace.
Entrance to the Lake Shrine is free. But since it is a spiritual center, there are certain guidelines to follow. Don’t lounge or sit on the grass—stick to the provided benches—and keep voices low to preserve the peaceful environment. Park in the lower lot off of Sunset and take a quiet stroll around the lake. The Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Memorial as you enter houses a shrine to Gandhi which includes some of his ashes and offers a sweeping view of the lake grounds. As you wind your way around the dirt path, you’ll find many small seating areas with benches where you can take a moment to meditate or just sit and take in the beauty all around you. The small meditation dock is the perfect place to watch the ducks and turtles that regularly sun themselves on the rocks below.
Be sure to stop in at the beautiful and charming Windmill Chapel. This tiny chapel is filled with a deep calm that cannot be described, only experienced. Slip inside, take a seat and let the chapel do all that Inner Peace work for you—all you have to do is sit still and just soak it in. Listening to the silence in this spiritually-charged room is sure to provide you with some long sought for answers for those willing to hear. And any music lovers can take a little extra moment to pay homage to one of our musical greats, George Harrison, whose memorial service was held in this same room.
Take the staircase up to the top of the hill to find the gorgeous white Temple where regular services, talks and meditation classes are offered. For those who are curious, Yogananada’s literature can be purchased in the store here—everything from his world-famous “Autobiography of a Yogi” to small leaflets based on his many themed talks. Before you leave, be sure to check out the small gift shop down below by the parking lot. A glittering trove of Indian trinkets and treasures, it’s the perfect place to find that special little something to bring a piece of the Lake Shrine home with you. Toss a coin in the Wishing Well right outside and trust that any wishes made here have got to carry a little more weight with that heavenly wish-granting committee. And if you wanna go the extra mile, stop in at the sunken green grotto to meditate and set intentions for your year ahead with this New Year’s Meditation…
New Year’s Meditation~
If you spent New Year’s celebrating instead of contemplating, don’t worry—it’s still not too late to take a moment to turn a little inward gaze! You can use the entire month of January to clean house and set your sails for the year ahead. But before you can chart your new course, it’s really important to acknowledge where you’ve been. Here’s a really simple exercise to do if you still haven’t had a chance to sit & reflect. Sitting with your eyes closed…
1) Look back on the past year & ask yourself: what are all the things you are PROUD OF, what did you LEARN, in what ways did you GROW, what are you doing at least a little bit BETTER than you were before, and how did you POSITIVELY IMPACT those around you?
2) Then look ahead at the year ahead & ask yourself: what do you want to EXPERIENCE, how do you want to FEEL, how do you want to treat OTHERS, and how do you want to treat YOURSELF?
3) Finally, ask yourself: “From my deepest heart & soul, what do I want MOST for myself & my life?”
Hope this helps you to fully celebrate your past year with all its wondrous twisting paths that brought you to this moment & to truly chart your heart’s desires for your beautiful new year ahead! Unwrap this present moment with joy~it’s a gift!
Words & Meditation by Christina Huntington // Photography by Sarah Prikryl
© 2016 Sirens and Scoundrels