There are few places in the world that feel like Ojai.
The town has a magical reputation for drawing people from all over the world who are seeking a spiritual life.
People come here for new beginnings, to leave the stress of big city life behind and to delve inward into themselves through practices like meditation, yoga and time spent communing with nature.
Here are a few reasons to check it out for yourself:
1. A Simpler Life
Locals will tell you that life here is relatively uncomplicated.
The weather is warm, the pace of life is easy and nature is abundant. People go to bed early and wake up with the sun. You can hike, bike, eat fresh, organic food and walk around town without a map—which is exactly what I did.
People sit for hours over a meal or a drink. The leisurely pace and all of the sunshine made me feel like I had all the time in the world. I felt incredibly relaxed after just a few days.
2. It’s A Spiritual Mecca
Located in Southern California, 90 minutes north of Los Angeles and 45 minutes southeast of Santa Barbara, the small town has been called the most spiritual zip code in the U.S.
Seekers have been coming to this self-proclaimed Shangri-La since as far back as 1878, when the Los Angeles Times named it “the magnetic center of the earth… [where] people come to reach the God centers in themselves.”
But it wasn’t until I arrived in Ojai (pronounced “oh-high”), wandered around, meditated at Meditation Mount, did yoga at the infamous Pepper Tree Retreat and started talking to people, that I understood the intensity of this pull.
The setting is mystical—the Spanish architecture, surrounding mountains, desert flora, warm sun and pink sunsets— plus there are so many people here involved in pursuing their spiritual or artistic calling, that it is easy to resonate with the vibe.
3. It’s Allegedly Located In An “Energy Votex”
Walk around town and you’ll hear people talk about the town’s “magnetic pull” (created from the Topatopa Mountains) or how the area is situated on a vortex of energy that has medicinal healing qualities.
The land around Ojai was first settled by the Chumash Indians who also practiced herbal medicine and dubbed it “Valley of the Moon” for its surrounding breathtaking mountain valley views. Later, it became the home base for Indian sage, philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti and his disciples. While there, I signed up for an herb hike, where my guide Lanny showed me how to identify different plants and their medicinal properties.
4. Krishnamurti Experienced “Enlightenment” Here
Krishnamurti and his brother Nityananda (who had tuberculosis) originally came to Ojai in 1922 for the area’s warm and dry climate. Soon after, Krishnamurti is said to have experienced a “life-changing” experience while sitting under a tree near what is now the Krishnamurti Library. This moment of enlightenment is said to have cemented Ojai’s reputation as a sacred place. One of the highlights of my trip was wandering around the sacred Oak Grove where Krishnamurti gave his lectures and talking to the house librarian, Michael, who was Krishnamurti’s personal cook and who candidly told me about life with the sage.
5. Artists, Writers and Hollywood Folks Abound
Krishnamurti’s talks on spirituality, religion and philosophy drew a number of famous writers, artists, musicians and Hollywood actors including John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Aldous Huxley, Jackson Pollack, Christopher Isherwood, Ann Morrow Lindbergh, Charlie Chaplin and Greta Garbo.
6. People Come Here To Grow
This is a place of deep transformation. “Don’t be fooled by what seems like a quiet, peaceful life,” explains local yoga teacher Kira Ryder. “Ojai has become one of my fiercest teachers.” She says the demand to stay aligned with the heart’s deepest wishes is loud and clear when in Ojai.
That seems appropriate for a town whose current celebrity sage is Byron Katie, a popular spiritual teacher whose self-inquiry offering called “The Work” is a tough, take no prisoners approach to ending suffering.
Author: Jennifer Mattson
Editor: Caitlin Oriel