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VENTURA COUNTY WEEKEND | OUTINGS / JAUNTS

Escape the Mall With Meditation Day

An Ojai mountaintop retreat is inviting the public to partake in five hours of silence Saturday. The event is nondenominational.

December 19, 1996|JANE HULSE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

You can't stand to hear another Christmas carol by Alvin and the Chipmunks, and one more frantic shopping trip to the mall has all the appeal of Aunt Louise's perennial fruitcake.

If you're feeling frazzled, Meditation Mount near Ojai has the answer: Silent Day. This peaceful mountaintop sanctuary is opening its doors Saturday to anyone who wants--and needs--a day of restful, contemplative silence.

"Everyone is so busy," said AlVerna Taylor, coordinator of the event. The antidote is a day without talking or doing much of anything except maybe reading or strolling the grounds of this lovely retreat.

What better spot to spend a day of silence. Imagine a place so quiet that you can hear birds chirping, a place ringed by majestic mountains.

Silent Day runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at least that's when the ban on talking and other annoying noise is in effect. If five hours of buttoning your lip is too much for you to handle, you can drop in for a portion of the day.

Apparently the concept of quiet solitude during the holiday rush has some appeal. "We've had quite a few inquiries," Taylor said.

It's not an entirely new concept for Meditation Mount, where meditation is promoted as a way of building a better world, one that thrives on peace, harmony and goodwill.

Four years ago, the organization decided to hold a day of silence around the time of the winter solstice, Dec. 21. "It's a good time for contemplation and meditation," Taylor said. "It's a time when the world goes inward."

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But it wasn't totally silent. There were periods of silence when the participants were alone or maybe walking the grounds silently in groups. Then they would come together in a group to talk.

About 50 people showed up for the Exploration of Silence, and it became an annual event. But this year, the organization decided to take a slightly different approach to silence--total silence.

That means no talking even during lunch, a brown bag affair. What do you do with five hours of solitude? Stroll the grounds, read a book, write in a journal--even draw or paint. Some art supplies will be on hand.

Some might use the day to think about Christmas in a spiritual sense, Taylor said, although neither Silent Day nor Meditation Mount is oriented toward any religion.

"Some appreciate getting away from the busyness of the Christmas holiday," said Taylor, who serves as coordinator of Group for Creative Meditation.

If total silence gets to be a strain, you can slip into one designated room in the sprawling Tibetan-style complex where music likely will be playing.

Silent Day will start out with a few minutes of silent meditation, then the group will move to the terrace overlooking the Ojai Valley where a blessing to the world will be spoken. At 3 p.m. the meditation and blessing will be repeated.

The event, geared for adults, is free, although donations are accepted to help defray the organization's expenses.

You need not be a regular at Meditation Mount to attend Silent Day. The complex, finished 26 years ago, is open to the public daily until sunset. People drive up to see the panoramic view from the large auditorium, glassed in on three sides.

The spiritual hub is a meditation room, a cool, dark sanctuary with astrological tapestries on the walls. Outside, a path leads to a wildflower meadow and benches where visitors can enjoy the view.

DETAILS

* WHAT: Silent Day.

* WHERE: Meditation Mount, at the end of Reeves Road, off California 150, east of Ojai city limits.

* WHEN: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday.

* HOW MUCH: Free; donations accepted.

* CALL: 646-5508. No reservations required.

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