The Ojai Retreat Revisited
By Donna Strong


Having been a regular visitor for over three years now, the trek to the Ojai Retreat Center has become a well-worn path of the heart. The town of Ojai and the Retreat Center are both converging crossroads for far-flung travelers from around the globe and California residents, like myself, in serious need of respite from our frenetic urban way of life.

Sitting on five acres at the top of Besant Road, an extensive two-year renovation of the Retreat Center’s lodgings is almost complete. Guests staying in 2008 will find continuity in its caring and competent staff, with the added value of enhanced elegance in its twelve guest rooms. The rooms have been refurbished to accentuate a connection with nature, while offering the comforts of home.

As an example, the Bella Vista room is now painted a crisp white, with mahogany brown furnishings and soothing slate blue accents. The newly remodeled Adyar room is done in calming green, blue and creamy off-white tones. Like the Retreat Center itself, it is a quiet garden-like oasis for renewal.

Many of the rooms now have private courtyards to sit and sun, watch hummingbirds wing by, or enjoy the simple pleasure of reading a book. In this stress-filled world, the Retreat Center is a serene natural environment for time away from the daily buzz. The grounds are populated by resident grass-munching rabbits and a meandering covey of quail. One of the guests remarked, “This is a lovely, relaxing, magical place. A very nurturing and playful spirit lives here. Maybe that is why there is an abundance of birds, rabbits and butterflies.”

Inside, the Main room is still most of the day and the Quiet room upstairs is reserved just for reading and reflection. On weekends and holidays, a delicious organic breakfast is offered. Breakfast can be shared at the big table in the Main room or outside at the tables nestled under the trees with mountain views. This writer has had some of the best encounters with other travelers here as anywhere, sharing insightful and enlivening exchanges. In the evenings when the weather is cool, a fire in the Main room provides a setting for toasty bodies and the warm enjoyment of delightful discussions.

The Retreat Center regularly presents events and educational programs for cultural enrichment and spiritual expansion. One example of an intriguing evening program, ‘Divine Healing Through Color’ was offered recently. Events have included talks with such notables as Academy Award-winning filmmaker Bobby Houston, and another with artist Otto Heino, renowned ceramist who taught the famous Ojai artist Beatrice Wood. In October of 2007, the touring politician and Presidential hopeful, Dennis Kucinich, spoke on his vegan philosophy of eating.

As it begins a new round, The Retreat Centeris in the process of notching up to offer more programs for spiritual and cultural refreshment. It is making plans to present engaging and cutting-edge thinkers, artists and leaders of new thought, such as Deepak Chopra.

Ojai was considered sacred ground by the Chumash Indians. They traveled through for short stays. As it emerges from its own transformation, the Retreat Center offers travelers a hilltop nesting ground for metamorphosis and renewal. A favorite time for reflecting is in the early evening as the sun begins to set. The eastern Topa Topa mountain range reflects the sunset’s afterglow, for an otherworldly experience known as Ojai’s ‘pink moment.’

Ojai has earned a reputation as a modern day ShangriLa. As well, the Retreat Center is a place to get away and reset one’s rhythms in the expansive stillness of this unique locale. It is tranquil, lush and subtly sublime.

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