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Ojai: The Shangri-La of Spirit

Home of the Deborah King Center

I’m excited to announce that the Deborah King Center has moved to Ojai, California, a true Shangri-La for the spirit. I taught a workshop here a few years ago, and sensed the deep vibration that the Valley holds; that motivated me to relocate our Center here. You may not know much about Ojai, so I thought I’d tell you something about this magical mystical place and the people who were its earliest inhabitants—the Chumash—who chose Ojai as their sacred ground.

The Chumash tribe lived along the California coast, from Malibu to Paso Robles, for the past 13,000 years. They were some of the first people to inhabit North America and may have settled here after Atlantis and Lemuria were lost.

They called themselves “the first people,” and said the Pacific Ocean was their first home. Their creation legend of the Rainbow Bridge says that the Chumash were created from a seed planted by the earth goddess. They prospered for many years on Santa Cruz Island until they became too populous, so the earth goddess created a bridge out of a rainbow in order to move the people over to the mainland. The rainbow bridge stretched from the high peaks of Santa Cruz Island to the shore near modern-day Carpinteria. Many of their people made it across the bridge, but some looked down at the waters of the Pacific, shrouded in fog, became dizzy and fell into the ocean. The earth goddess turned the fallen ones into dolphins, which is why the Chumash claim dolphins as their brothers and sisters.

With a fortunate climate and lots of natural land and sea resources, the Chumash developed over 150 well-organized villages that thrived with basketry, bead making, boat building, and trading. The word “Chumash means “seashell people.”

The Chumash astronomers charted the night sky and had their own solar and star charts, which were interpreted by their shaman/astrologers. In their cosmology, the Sun was an aged widower who carried a blazing torch; the Moon was a female god who controlled human health, and Venus was a kindly god as the morning star, but an evil god as the evening star. The “Scorpion Tree” arborglyph (a carving on a tree) in a centuries-old gnarled oak on top of the Saint Lucia Mountains shows the rotation of stars around Polaris and portrays the constellation of Ursa Major, the Great Bear (which includes the Big Dipper), in relation to the pole star.

The Chumash were a matriarchal society; nevertheless, both men and women were equally able to serve as chiefs and priests. They lived in direct relationship to each other, their land, the greater world, and out into the universe. Every part of nature was seen as imbued with spirit, from lowly rocks to the celestial orbs in the sky, and these spirits could communicate with one another. The Chumash were master herbalists. Their shamans were the healers, astronomers and community leaders; they drew strength from the two sacred mountains at each end of the valley. On the summit of Iwihinmu (Mt. Pinos) was a shrine for offerings—a sacred spot where they could look in all four directions and see their entire world.

They were guided by three basic laws: (1) To be happy in your own abilities, not envy those of others; (2) To take only what you needed from the land and sea and leave some for the future; and (3) To give from the kindness of your heart without expecting anything in return.

The Chumash brought their values to the primordial beauty of Ojai, and the vibration of their sacred connection to the land is still palpable here.

Ojai is the only place with a street named for the Theosophist Annie Besant. She owned the Ojai newspaper and felt Ojai was the magnetic center of the universe. She started a school in Ojai where students were taught how to think rather than what to think. Ojai is also home to the Krishnamurti Foundation. Krishnamurti was a protégé of Annie Besant and a noted spiritual teacher in his own right; he founded the Oak Grove School that continues to operate in Ojai today. Ojai is also home to the Krotona School of Theosophy, which began as a Utopian oasis in Hollywood with a focus on Forbidden Knowledge and human potential. There are all sorts of theosophical shrines—as well as the Liberal Catholic Church of Our Lady and All Angels; Meditation Mount, the center of Alice Bailey’s “New Group of World Servers”; and the Ecumenical Ministry of the Unity of All Religions. Even the community Art Center holds monthly Sufi Dances of Universal Peace.

In the Chumash language, Ojai means “Valley of the Moon.” The valley, only three miles wide and ten miles long, served as Shangri-La, the mythical paradise of eternal youth, for the 1930s movie Lost Horizon. And that’s what Ojai can be for you—a paradise in which you restore yourself: body, mind, and soul.

My next Retreat will be in Ojai at the Ojai Valley Inn in the Fall, check it out and hope you can join me for a hallowed and uplifting weekend.

Read more about Ojai, and all it offers spiritually, here.

Deborah King