Monday, August 5, 2013

Photo Essay: In Search of Peace Awareness

You know me, I'm up for anything.

My explorations of LA and its environs are becoming more and more remote and esoteric.

But what I seek is simple: peacefulness and beauty. I often find those in the most unexpected places, and sometimes I have to challenge myself and face my fears a bit to achieve peace of mind, but every adventure brings me solace, whether on the water, up in the air, or behind the wheel. Repetition and predictability rile me up. Breaks from the norm settle me down.



While passing through LA's historic West Adams neighborhood last week, I stopped at the former Guasti Villa, an Italian Renaissance Beaux Arts mansion built between 1910-13 for wine magnate Secundo Guasti.



The glamorous setting is replete with ornate chandeliers, ceiling murals...



...a ladies' sitting room...



...and a men's sitting room...



...which now serve as the headquarters for the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness and the Peace Theological Seminary, which has occupied the villa since purchasing it in 1974.



Now, theological students climb the grand staircase once graced by Busby Berkeley, who bought and moved into the villa in 1937, and all of his Hollywood friends.



Up the sweeping staircase...



...you can find various dorm rooms and offices, as well as a curved solarium that faces the back reflecting pools and gardens.



In fact, it's what's behind the mansion...



...through wrought iron and glass doors (though to have been added by Berkeley)...



...past plaster reliefs...



...and under the curved bay windows of the solarium above...



...that's the big draw for visitors like me.



A reflecting pool leads down to a golden sand path...



...and to its right, the Peace Awareness Labyrinth.



Made of hand-cut travertine marble, this labyrinth was modeled after the one at Chartres Cathedral in France (circa 1220). It's not a "maze," per se (like those you see cut out of shrubbery in England) because you can't get lost in it.



Forty feet across with a circuitous path totaling about 0.3 miles long, there is only one place to start and end (at the "HU" symbol, an ancient Sanskrit name for God)...



...with no dead ends in between. Once you hit the center of the labyrinth, you follow the same path back to the "HU." The biggest challenge is not taking it too quickly, blowing your way through it to get it over with.



Once the labyrinth walk is completed, you pass a fountain down to the Meditation Garden...



...where light streams between leaves...



...and sometimes through them...



...in a quiet, hidden setting with a koi pond, a turtle...



...plenty of flowers...



...and plenty of shady, peaceful seating.



I didn't really want to hear about the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness and the teachings of Dr. John-Roger, its founder and spiritual advisor, but I find "practical spirituality" appealing. I find any kind of retreat appealing. I think it's good to be aware of our souls, to get in touch with our higher selves, to try to see flowers blooming wherever we go. To take a minute (or several) to just walk, think, breathe...or not. Sometimes letting go of ourselves is the best way to feel connected to others.

The key is not having to do any of these things. It's just nice to have it as an option.

It turns out there are 88 labyrinths within a 100 mile driving radius from my zip code. Looks like I'll have plenty of options in my travels in the near (and distant) future.

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Photo Essay: The Hidden Fire Roads of Tuna Canyon
Photo Essay: Lake Shrine
Photo Essay: Climbing Mount Washington to Self-Realization
Photo Essay: (Frank) Lloyd Wright's Joshua Tree Retreat