The Self-Realization Fellowship Shrine

Embark on a journey of self-realization and reflection at the California oasis.

This piece originally ran in our August Magalog, written by Lauren Kolodny

Escape is often about physical location, but the mind’s ability to escape can be just as powerful. We hear so much about “wellness” these days and are so often told the road to wellness can be reached through this juice cleanse or that form of exercise, but wellness is just as much a state of mind as it is a state of body. Go outside, sit under a shady tree and close your eyes. The sounds of nature — birds vocalizing, water running, the rustle of wind through grass — these are equally valuable paths to wellness and connect us to the earth in a way a green juice or a Pilates class cannot. Wellness is not something we have to purchase; it is something we can all find, a joy that can come from mind and body. As Donald Altman explains, “recapturing your childlike curiosity for all things natural and untamed, you can recharge and reinvigorate yourself in the very next moment.”

Wellness can indeed be found anywhere and it is rare when one location — one inside the boundaries of an urban setting — offers both the beauty of a far off locale and the meditative quality of a spiritual oasis. The Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine may be just off the Pacific Coast Highway, but it is a place that everyone invariably feels amazed that they didn’t know about a sanctuary so close to our busy urban lives. Few people leave unchanged by the beauty of Paramhansa Yogananda’s creation, one that is open to everyone.

While any place as inspiring as Lake Shrine is difficult to describe in words, what exists within its bounds seems almost unreal. The grounds are centered around a natural spring-fed lake filled with swans, turtles, koi, and lily pads. Just a stroll around it, through covered walkways and lush vegetation, begs you to take a seat on a bench and escape to somewhere completely different. Smell the aroma of the rose garden as you gaze up at native palms. From the bright hues of hibiscus flowers to the sturdy strength of mature bamboo, the sights and sounds invite mindfulness to even the most distracted among us.

This sanctuary offers us all the ability to listen to a waterfall, to experience the whimsy of the houseboat and the windmill, the sunken gardens and stonewalls, and to stare at the majesty of the bright white temple. Outside of India, Lake Shrine is the only other location in which to be in the presence of Mahatma Ghandi’s ashes. It has intrigued artists, from George Harrison, whose funeral was held there, to Elvis Presley who was also impressed with Paramhansa Yogananda’s vision.

These environs will put you at ease and there are plaques with quotes throughout for those of us who need a little meditative encouragement. On anyone’s path to wellness, nature should be an integral part of that journey. And if you are looking for that magical peacefulness you found on your last global jaunt, remember that a quick escape to this local oasis of Lake Shrine will be both transformative and inspiring.

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Learn more about the shrine here


  1. Wow- not only are these photos beautiful but the writing alongside is beautiful. Truly just a magical post and a reminder I needed :)

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