Classes with a Side of Turkey

By Steven Libowitz   |   November 23, 2017

What better way to start off the Thanksgiving weekend than by centering and grounding yourself before the relatives arrive? Two local yoga centers are offering free classes on Thanksgiving morning, though one of them comes with a give-back catch.

YASA Yoga & Wellness Center, 22 W. Mission St., begins the day with a half-hour Thanksgiving Core Fusion Class with Catherine Rhodes at 8:30 am, followed by her Welcome to Meditation offering, which will feature a special guided thankful meditation from 10 to 10:45 am. On Saturday, there’s a free two-hour Intro to Peaceful Pranic & Meditation with Chantal Evrand from 1-3 pm. Pranic Healing is a revolutionary and comprehensive system of natural healing techniques that utilize Prana, the Sanskrit word meaning “Life Force,” referring to the invisible bio-energy or vital energy that keeps the body alive and maintains a state of good health. YASA Yoga is located at 22 W. Mission St. Call 845-4626 or visit

Santa Barbara Yoga Center, the granddaddy of yoga studios in town, also offers two free workshops on Thursday, November 23, early enough to get home to start the turkey (or Tofurkey, as the case may be). You’ll have to choose between “Flow with Meditation for Gratitude and Relaxation” with Nuria Reed, which takes place 9:30 to 11:30 am, or “Give Thanks and Relax” with Jim Derrick, happening 10 am to noon. And they’re only free if you are a volunteer with Organic Soup Kitchen, either later in the day at the popular annual community Thanksgiving at the Veterans Memorial Building or a sponsor/volunteer for monthly meals for cancer patients and house-bound elders. Otherwise, they’re $20 each.

No strings are attached for Vanessa Bacher‘s upcoming Fundamentals of Yoga class, which can give you a jump start on a possible New Year’s Resolution to begins or resume a practice. The free two-hour intensive is geared for beginning students who would like to learn the basics before attending an ongoing class but also open to any yoga student who’d like to brush up on the foundational concepts of the practice. Emphasis is given to the understanding of the basic yoga postures – their effect and correct alignment – preparing students to proceed to ongoing lower level classes. The noon to 2 pm workshop takes place on Saturday, December 9. Santa Barbara Yoga Center is at 32 E. Micheltorena St. Call 965-6045 or visit

Thanksgiving Retreat and a Journey Within

An attitude of gratitude is at the center of the experience of the 12 Steps, so Thanksgiving Weekend is a fine time for those in recovery to reflect upon their own stories in a life-giving way at a workshop at La Casa de Maria Retreat Center. John McAndrew, M.A., MDiv – the former director of Spiritual Care at the Betty Ford Center who has been directing retreats for people in recovery for 30 years – will lead a weekend full of presentations, quiet time, small group processing, and 12 Step meetings, a holiday pause to consider the maintenance of the spiritual condition. All in recovery, and those who love them, are welcome. A Thanksgiving Retreat for People in Recovery takes place this Friday to Sunday, November 24-26, at the Montecito center. The weekend costs $265.

Next weekend brings “Journey to the Light Within: A Contemplative Yoga and Spiritual Deepening Winter Retreat” to La Casa de Maria. The winter season – when the life force in the natural world surrenders its outer layers, receding again to its innermost core – offers the opportunity to tap into the wellsprings of our own inner selves, peeling back the layers of our outer identities to recall and rekindle the purpose, peace, and wisdom within our hearts and souls. The workshop features practices of gentle yoga, movement, meditation, silence, and prayer, and employs such tools as journaling, art, and sand play to rediscover and rekindle the ever-present, renewing source of the divine. Led by Taran and Katherine Collis, the latter of whom provides spiritual direction for La Casa’s Center for Spiritual Renewal, the workshop takes place December 1-3. Retreat fee is $325.

Next month’s Wednesday Retreat Day also has a holiday connection: “What Are You Waiting For? An Advent Retreat” slated for Wednesday, December 13, invites all to dive deeply into the season by exploring your life through the lens of waiting. What are you waiting for? Is it a vacation, a break, a job, retirement, a partner, an apology, stability, or something else? The reverend Christine McSpadden will lead periods of meditation and reflection so that participants can gain spiritual insight into the depth of the subtle movements of the advent season in your life. McSpaddenis, author of What Are You Waiting For?, a book of advent meditations, is a former priest vicar and chaplain at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, and has served parishes in San Francisco and Santa Barbara. The 9:30 am to 3:30 pm mini-retreat is by donation.

La Casa de Maria is located at 800 El Bosque Road in Montecito. Call 969-5031 or visit

Can’t Drive 55?

Sorry, Van Halen, but actually you can – if you are Mark “Dr. Dream” Peebler, who deftly handles nearly five dozen Tibetan bowls in his Tibetan Healing Bowl Experience, which comes to Center of the Heart next weekend. Peebler, a holistic healing practitioner and speaker based in Joshua Tree, employs the bowls from the Gilung and Sindupalachoka villages in Nepal, using the hand-crafted sound tools to create an aural experience to wash over your being and expand your consciousness. But the event is more than simply a sound bath, as Peebler’s “The Universal LOVE Galactivation Experience” – which has been conducted nearly 500 times in more than 170 cities around the world – offers a multi-sensory journey utilizing several energetic modalities to create a tangible spiritual experience through a deeper connection to “Source”. Also used are high-frequency rose essential oils known as The ROSE Frequency plus other essential oils, Raw Chakra Chocolates and Citrine Generator Crystal, plus visualization and storytelling. Admission to the 2 to 5 pm event on Saturday, December 2, is $25 in advance, or $33 at the door, and proceeds will benefit the Gilung and Sindupalachoka villages in Nepal which were devastated by a series of earthquakes dating back to 2015.

Also at Center of the Heart: Aquarian Morning Chanting with JoAnn Mermis, an ongoing Satsang Service every Sunday at 9:30 am, followed by a group meditation at 10 am before the weekly celebration service at 10:30 am. For details, visit or call 964-4861.

Giving Thanks for the Present of Presence

For many of us, nothing can trigger our old patterns of thoughts and behaviors and have us buying into “stories” like spending lots of time around extended family, or, perhaps worse, finding yourself alone on the holidays. And even if you’re secure on your path of inner peace and largely living in the moment, it sure can’t hurt to get a booster shot of awakening. Fortunately, Jim Dreaver leads one of his periodic presence gatherings next week, providing a refresher if some unhappy energy still lingers from the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

“The Joy of Freedom”, which takes place from 7 to 8:45 pm Wednesday, November 27, at a private home on Verde Vista Drive, reminds us that the shift into true presence and joy comes as we further integrate the concept that we are not the ego “I” we’ve always taken ourselves to be, but rather an awareness that we can observe without judging. While the ego self comes and goes, shifts and changes, suffers and revels – at mercy of the “story” – “we” as simple awareness, are always here, unchanging, clear, open and present.

At the gatherings, Dreaver – the author of End Your Story, Begin Your Life – invites participants to share where you’re not yet free, then guides you in exploring the “story” behind the issue. As you learn to welcome your emotional reactions, you see more clearly how your “story” comes and goes. This results in a shift where suffering unwinds replaced by the simple joy of presence. Even better, the whole group gets to have a vicarious shift of their own as they observe the process and get more insight into their limiting “stories.” Who knows? You might even look forward to sharing the insights amid the power of awakening with your tribe next month at Christmas. Call (310) 916-4037 or visit for details.

Sūnyatā a Week after Thanksgiving

Following a week off so we can all fill our bellies (hopefully with gratitude in our gut along with the turkey), Santa Barbara Bodhi Path Center next Thursday hosts a talk on emptiness from visiting Dharma teacher Trinlay Rinpoche, who at 13 months was recognized by the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa (the spiritual leader of the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism) and the Venerable Kalu Rinpoche as the reincarnation of an important Buddhist teacher. The teaching on “Emptiness”, a translation of the Sanskrit term śūnyatā, presents the most subtle, irrefutable, and fascinating insight into the ultimate nature of reality. The notion is synonymous with the Buddha’s famous formulation of dependent arising known as pratītyasamutpāda in Sanskrit whereby both the process of origination and cessation of our conditioned existence are explained. Trinlay Rinpoche’s Buddhist studies ran concurrent with his Western education at the Sorbonne University, among others. He has been filming an extensive video course in which he teaches on Shantideva’s 8th-century spiritual gem The Way of the Bodhisattva at Bodhi Path Centers in North America. Santa Barbara BodhiPath Center is located at 102 W. Mission St. Admission to the 7 to 9 pm event on Thursday, November 30, is by donation. Visit

Who is Dreaming the Dream?

Considering studying at Pacifica Graduate Institute? Perhaps a one-day seminar with Pacifica’s chancellor and founding president Dr. Stephen Aizenstat might offer some guidance. “The Fate of the Dream in the Future of the World” explores how the fields of depth psychology and deep ecology might be impacted by emerging virtual and augmented realities afforded by new technologies. The presentation offers foundational ideas that underpin coursework, as well as the mission and core values on which Pacifica was founded, including the sharing of Pacifica origin stories featuring contributions from Joseph Campbell, James Hillman, Marion Woodman, and others. Using his DreamTending work, Dr. Aizenstat will offer tools in working with dreams that address the emerging interactions between the Natural World, the Dream World, and Virtual Worlds. Admission to the 10 am to 1:30 pm Pacifica Dialogue event on Saturday, December 2, costs $20, including lunch and the opportunity to explore the grounds of Pacifica’s two campuses in Montecito and Carpinteria. Pacifica’s $75 application fee will be waived for those who attend. Visit or call 879-7305.


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