14 Mar Garden of the Guru: Seeking Inner Peace and Plants at the Self-Realization Fellowship
When I turned 16, I got a copy of Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda for my birthday. In those days I was just getting into yoga — contemplating boys while in bridge pose — as I tried to branch out beyond my number-one concern (i.e., myself) and into broader, more ethereal territories. That gift came at exactly the right moment.
Fast forward six years: I was living in LA, and on Amtrak to visit this guy. As the train rolled through Encinitas I saw for the first time the gold, lotus-shaped domes of the Self-Realization Fellowship, founded by the same Paramahansa Yogananda in 1920. Little did I know one of the most fascinating, most serene gardens in California grew just beyond those domes.
But first, we juiced.
After a lunch of sandwiches and zingy cold-pressed refreshments at Swami’s Cafe, we headed across the street to the garden. With spring just around the corner, the cyclamens were flashing everything they’ve got, the proteas were tall and electric, and the succulents were soaking up the midday sun. Below the cliffs, surfers waited for waves at Swami’s beach. The landscape exudes a wild perfection that’s absolutely otherworldly. It’s also a huge source of inspiration for our own gardening efforts.
Join us as we wander the paths, marvel at the plants and entertain new ideas…
– The Self-Realization Fellowship Hermitage and Meditation Gardens are located at 215 K St., Encinitas, CA.
– The fellowship was founded in 1920; the Encinitas ashram was established in 1937.
– The garden is cultivated on 17 acres and grows bromeliads, protea, cyclamen, mandevilla, ferns, ivy, Indian hawthorn, water lilies, and a wide range of succulents including cacti, agave and aeonium. (Just to scratch the surface.)
– Koi the size of small dogs also dimple the ponds.
– Admission is free; there are opportunities to leave donations.
– Per the “meditation” part of the name, loud conversations will be shushed by guards. Maybe even with a bell!
– Ravi Shankar gave his first U.S. concert at the hermitage here during the 1950s, and George Harrison retreated here as well.
– The gift shop is a real gem. The wide-ranging inventory includes jewelry, furniture, singing bowls, sitars, perfume oil, incense, books and Indian handicrafts.
What public gardens inspire you? Let us know in the comments!