Dance Your Way to Self-love and Presence

By Steven Libowitz   |   December 7, 2017

Russian native Yulia Maluta has been teaching tango and other Latin and ballroom dances since even before she first moved to town 20 years ago, when she partnered with David Alvarez at the Santa Barbara Dance Centre, which kicked her professional and competitive dance career into a higher gear. After retiring from competition, Yulia began focusing on connection to dance as a means of self-expression, deepening her embodiment of integrated movement and communication through the medium.

Back in town and once again both teaching (at several studios as well as the Santa Barbara Athletic Club) and creating evenings of performance for herself and others, Yulia has put a lot of what she’s been refining into a single, two-hour workshop that debuts this weekend at the terrific new downtown dance space known as The Dance Hub. “Enlightening Your Relationships Through Tango”, which takes place from 3 to 5 pm on Saturday, December 9, focuses on personal growth, using tango as a metaphor for relationships, the flow of Ying and Yang energies.

“It allows us to balance the aspects of masculine and feminine, of receptivity and intention within ourselves, and become present to communion with Oneness,” she explained in an email. Participants will “explore how to embrace more of true self and let go of what stands in the way of opening to a deeper love inside yourself and with loved ones.”

The Dance Hub, which hosts lots of other workshops, including a new ongoing dance improv offering, is located at 22 East Victoria St. Yulia can be reached at (760) 271-7183, or visit

Holiday Parties

The Sunburst Holiday Family Gathering invites all to join in the holiday spirit at the retreat center in Lompoc from 3 to 8:30 this Saturday, December 9. Come and create a holiday craft, help decorate the lodge Christmas tree, or make cookies to be served at Sunburst’s holiday events. Bring your favorite cookie recipe and ingredients if you’ve got one, and also bring a dish to share for the 5:30 pm Potluck Dinner where soup and salad will be provided by Sunburst. Free. Details at, where you can also see the topics for the Sunday morning weekly meditation and gathering, and other upcoming retreats.

Closer to home, the Santa Barbara Bodhi Path Buddhist Center hosts its annual holidays with the Sangha celebration at its regular Thursday evening gathering on December 14. The 7 to 9 pm event starts with a meditation and short teaching by resident scholar and former monk Dawa Tarchin Phillips before merriment ensues. Bring your favorite vegetarian dish to share. By donation. Info at

Not-So-Silent Night

In a world filled with mystical seasonal celebrations – from Christmas to Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and others – kirtan remains a universal expression of devotion and an opportunity for connection, with the supreme as well as the self and one another. That’s the spirit behind December’s Evening of Melodious Kirtan & Vegan Fare at Unity Santa Barbara, hosted by Divya Dasi and Sarvatma, a not-so-silent night of call-and-response chanting in Sanskrit followed by enjoying vegan eats together. As always, all are welcome regardless of belief or quality of voice. Admission is $10 at the door, which includes food and refreshments, and RSVPs are appreciated for planning purposes. Details online at or

Double Dose of Deep Diving Mini-Retreats 

Both of La Casa de Maria’s monthly donation-based, half-day retreat programs happen this week. The Mindfulness Meditation Practice Retreat with Radhule Weininger, M.D., Ph.D. – who published her first book (Heart-Work: Discovering Compassion in Daily Life) earlier this year and has just formed the new non-profit organization Mindful Heart Programs with husband (and palliative care physician) Michael Kearney – creates a refuge for calming the mind, opening the heart, and finding peace with ourselves and others through gently guided meditations. All levels are welcome to the 2:30 to 6 pm gathering on Sunday, December 10.

The Wednesday Retreat Day “What Are You Waiting For?”, which takes place 9:30 am to 3:30 pm on December 13, delves into the season of advent by exploring our lives through the lens of waiting. What are we waiting for? Be it a vacation, a break, a job, retirement, a partner, an apology, stability, or something else, participants will use meditation and reflection to gain spiritual insight into the depth of the subtle movements of the advent season in your life. Led by the reverend Christine McSpadden, the former priest vicar and chaplain at St Paul’s Cathedral in London who has served parishes in San Francisco and Santa Barbara and is author of What Are You Waiting For?, a book of advent meditations.

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

Writing and Singing at the Soup

Montecito-based author Diana Raab, whose recent memoir Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life has received rave reviews all over the country, offers her final local mini-workshop of the year based on the book at Yoga Soup from 2 to 5 pm on Saturday, December 9. The book is about being mindful of the messages of your heart and tapping into your authentic voice, so attendees will be guided to experiment with different forms of writing, such as journaling, poetry, and memoir. In the process, you’ll journey down a path of self-discovery that cultivates your personal path to bliss. Open to all levels of writers. Bring a pen and a journal. Admission is $20. Raab’s recent writing on the subject has been published in Yoga Journal, Psychology Today, Berkeley Wellbeing, and Museletter: The National Association of Poetry Therapy – all just this past November.

The inCourage Community Chorus wraps up its inaugural six-week session with – what else? – a community singing event. The Big Sing! – slated for 7 to 9 pm Monday – features two hours of melody, harmony, rounds, call-and response songs, plus a little laughter and the chance to feel the healing power of voices in unity. Free.

Yoga Soup is located at 28 Parker Way, near the train station. Call 965-8811 or visit

Tiny, Playful Group of Meditators

Isn’t it grand when your title embodies your message? This new Meetup group, which launches this week, has scheduled the small gatherings for every Wednesday and Friday evening, though dates and times might change as the members desire. The tiny group meditations (six to eight people at a time) will alternate between mindfulness exercises (for example, “catching and releasing thoughts”) and self-inquiry endeavors (paired questions and explorations, et cetera), but with a playful approach. 

“While we do meditate seriously, we are more about shattering the stolid beliefs inside that keep us from the bliss of inner depths or a connected group’s energy,” reads the Meetup’s info page. “Our natural state is the same energy as that silent, echoing space after a good laugh. And so, what good is meditation if you are not effortlessly smiling or laughing during and after?”

The approach is refined from a similar group that organizer Zubin ran in Ojai before he relocated to Santa Barbara a couple of years ago. “I’ve meditated for over twenty-five years, after traveling to the Himalayas… and falling in love with silence,” he wrote. “Nowadays, I do not have a sitting practice, but rather see the stillness infusing every face, tree, car, and peeled-open moment.” Which might also explain his founding of The Santa Barbara Silent Hiking and Activities Meetup (see below) earlier this year. Meetings will be held at his downtown office, and Zubin is also encouraging others to host meetups in their own spaces, helping to build opportunities and community.

More info about the group and what to expect at meditations – which will run 45 to 90 minutes – can be found online at, which is also where you can RSVP.

Meanwhile, Zubin’s hiking Meetup’s next “talking-optional” trek tackles Rattlesnake Canyon Trail on Sunday, December 10, starting at 8:30 am. The 3.5-mile round trip is slated to last 90 minutes to two hours, depending on the period of rest and reflection on boulders at the midpoint. Meet at the stone wall at 1900 Las Canoas Road. Free. Details/register at

Spiritual Short Cuts

Mahakankala Buddhist Center’s new series of meditation classes confront the stresses, loneliness, and other challenges that can accompany attitudes of joy, generosity, and kindness at Christmas. Buddhism presents a way to observe and understand our mind using mindfulness and meditation to help make the holidays a peaceful time. Each class begins with a guided breathing meditation and culminates with a second meditation based upon the evening’s topic. Beginners and experienced meditators alike are invited to drop in to any or all of the classes in the three-week course, held 6:30 to 7:30 pm on Wednesday evenings, December 6-20. ($10; 508 Brinkerhoff Ave.;

“Liberating our True Power” is the newest title for the periodic gathering with Santa Barbara-based End Your Story, Begin Your Life author Jim Dreaver, set for 7 to 8:45 pm on Monday, December 11, at a private residence on Verde Vista Drive. The event is an opportunity to practice shifting into the true power that automatically arrives as we look within and realize we’re not an egoic “I”, the one that gives rise to all emotional suffering – stress, worry, anxiety, self-doubt, resentment, anger, guilt, shame, and fear. Those “negative” states stem from not knowing who we truly are, which is the awareness, the space in which our thoughts arise. By donation; (310) 916-4037 (

Patricia Muesse‘s ongoing Transform Your Mind, Transform Your Heart Meetup has a special guest this week in the discussion of how hypnosis can transform limiting beliefs and negative emotions. Matthew Brownstein, the founder and executive director of the Institute of Interpersonal Hypnotherapy, will talk on the topic of “Honoring the Healing Nature of Sacred Relationships” at the 7 to 8:30 gathering on Monday, December 11. A 25-year veteran, Brownstein, who is the author of The Sutras on Healing and Enlightenment and Interpersonal Hypnotherapy, has logged more than 18,000 hours of clinical and classroom based hypnotherapy. The talk is also geared to be an empowering group session dedicated to exploring the true nature of miracles, relationships, and the power of the mind to bring the light of spirit into our lives in profound and meaningful ways. (Free; Muesse Hypnotherapy Clinic, 16 West Mission Street Suite M;

Gail Brenner hosts the next “Living in Truth, Peace, and Happiness” Meetup at the clubhouse by her home on Wednesday, December 13. The gathering starts with guided meditation that illuminates the deepest truth of our being, one of awareness that is “boundless and free,” before the floor is opened for questions and discussions about discovering our true nature as awareness, getting unstuck, and awakened, and embracing embodied living. (By donation; 11 La Cumbre Circle;


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