You don't need to plan a round-the-world itinerary, the way author Elizabeth Gilbert did in her memoir, "Eat, Pray Love," in order to go on a journey of self-discovery.
With its historic hot springs and spectacular coastline, Northern California provides the perfect environment for personal growth and transformation.
Hidden amid the rolling hills and redwoods, you'll also find a wide range of retreat centers where you can unwind the body, quiet the mind and boost the spirit.
Here are a few of the centers where you can get a much-needed dose of relaxation and renewal after the stressful winter holidays.
The Angela Center (535 Angela Drive, Santa Rosa): Although it is grounded in Catholic tradition and sponsored by the Ursuline Sisters, this long-established retreat and learning center on a landscaped hillside in northwest Santa Rosa promotes spiritual and psychological development, social responsibility and creativity to people of all faiths and cultures.
The center offers ongoing groups, salons and counseling services as well as special retreats. Coming up on Jan. 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. is a "Centering Prayer Retreat Day," an opportunity for prayerful silence within a group. The retreat, which begins with an introduction to the method, will be led by Ruah Bull. Cost is $50.
For more information: angelacenter.org; 528-8578.
Avalon Springs (13333 County Road 107, Middletown): Avalon Springs was previously known as Howard Hot Springs, and operated as a health resort from the late 1800s until 1970.
Avalon Springs will host a New Year's Retreat on Jan. 10 to Jan. 12 for those who want to move into yoga poses and then unwind in magnesium-rich spring water. The weekend retreat will be led by Jasmine Tarkeshi, who is the co-creator of Laughing Lotus Yoga Centers in New York City and San Francisco. Prices range from $449 to $665, depending on sleeping arrangements. Aside from yoga and soaking in spring water, expect to go on hikes and enjoy food prepared by a therapeutic chef.
For more information: avalonsprings.com; 928-9890.
The Bishop's Ranch (5297 Westside Road, Healdsburg): Owned by the 85-church Episcopal Diocese of California, headquartered at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, the ranch has been in operation since 1947.
The 343-acre property offers accommodations for 100 people, including rooms at the original 1930 ranch house, two other lodges and five cottages. The grounds include extensive gardens, oak groves, walking trails and a solar-heated swimming pool.
"We welcome all people, and we serve all Christian denominations, and all other faiths," said Sean Swift, executive director of The Bishop's Ranch. "We see nature as the best path toward knowledge."
The centers hosts 7,800 guests a year, with visitors staying anywhere from one day to two weeks.
Programs coming up include a writing workshop entitled "Your Authentic Life: Finding Your Own True Taste," Feb. 7-9, at $294 per person, and the "Ranch Quilt Retreat" for quilt-making, Feb. 9-13, at $475 per person.
For more information: bishopsranch.org; 433-2440.
Blue Mountain Center of Meditation (3600 Tomales-Petaluma Road, Tomales): This longtime meditation center teaches "passage meditation," which involves memorizing and deeply concentrating on specific spiritual passages or prayers. Students are guided to choose passages from great saints or spiritual leaders and teachers based in a faith language that is comfortable to them. It could be anything from The Prayer of St. Francis to passages from Lau Tzu, Mahatma Gandhi, American Indian tradition, the Bhagavad Gita and more.
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