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Find solitude with Buddhist monks in Tassajara Zen Mountain Center.
As I lowered myself into the steaming-hot mineral springs on my first night at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, I breathed a deep sigh of gratitude. Carving out a four-day escape from my routine as a working mom with a rambunctious toddler hadn’t been easy, but after just six rejuvenating hours of hiking, restorative yoga, and meditation in the Ventana Wilderness southeast of Big Sur, I could already feel a sense of stillness settling deep into my bones.
Part of the magic of Tassajara lies in its remoteness. Reaching the almost- 50-year-old Zen Buddhist monastery, which welcomes guests from April through September for a series of meditative retreats, requires traversing a single-lane dirt road along mountain ridges. The monk who shuttled me in a Chevy Suburban called the route “kryptonite to brake pads.” And once you arrive, there’s no cell-phone service, while kerosene lamps quaintly light the cabins.
Over the next few days, my sense of complete immersion in my natural surroundings intensified. The retreat I attended included a mix of Iyengar-inspired yoga, guided meditation, and dharma talks, as well as free time for skinny-dipping in mountain streams, soaking in Japanese-style bathhouses, and lounging poolside.
At the retreat’s end, after the same monk who’d brought me to Tassajara drove me back to the lot where I’d left my car, I paused in the driver’s seat of my car to revel in one more moment of stillness. I was ready to go home and throw my arms around my husband and child, but also certain that taking this interlude just for myself was the best thing I could have done—for all of us.
UPCOMING RETREATS AT TASSAJARA
June 24–29: Explore two traditions
Master meditation teachers Michael Stone and Paul Haller will teach you how the practices of yoga and Zen complement one another, and how best to integrate them.
July 7-10: Restore mind and body
Drop into a deep state of relaxation with gentle, supported poses and breath exercises taught by Britt Fohrman, a restorative yoga teacher.
July 7-10: Ground your practice
Learn how to cultivate mindfulness in asana and meditation from Zen priest and dharma teacher Do-On Robert Thomas.