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I’m writing today en route to a chanting and meditation weekend with Bhagavan Das at the Amrit Yoga Institute in Salt Springs, Florida.

Heading there reminded me of the other wonderful spiritual institutes where I’ve spent time, which — if you can spare the time and money — can offer life-changing experiences.

The first one I ever visited was the Kripalu Institute in the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts. I fled there right after my spiritual awakening, when nothing else made sense, and lived in a little red barn with my dog a mile down the road. There, I deepened my yoga practice and achieved my Reiki master. I met loving teachers and lifelong friends. I walked through the halls and felt known, understood, safe, loved, one. I’ll always be grateful for Kripalu, which remains a sort of mothership for spiritual types with workshops for everyone and everything.

Last January, I started the year out at Kalani in Hawaii. This spiritual retreat near the cliffs of the Big Island has a totally different vibe. Where it’s located in Pahoa is really jungle land. You’re outside all the time, sweating, sunning, crying, laughing, awakening. The primal, fierce heart of Pele beats there; she is Goddess of the Volcano, whose red lava blood runs all over the land.

At the foot of the retreat is a legendary black sand beach that only some locals are hearty enough to swim. It’s so dangerous they say it will either take your life or change it, just like the Goddess herself. I did a Goddess Retreat with thirteen women, led by Shakti Sunfire, Marni Scarloff, Anah Reichenbach and Rayna MacInturf. We ate breakfast outside under canopies in the morning, then did yoga, hooped, meditated and swam every day. On the last night of my journey, I experienced my second Kundalini awakening on a cliff, while breathing in the freshest air in the world as it floated in over Mother Ocean.

I’ll let you know how Amrit is. I’m sure it will break me down to break me open and lead to an exciting, enlivening transformation. That’s what the best spiritual centers do.

photo credits: aaron feaver, nishe, valeria lazareva

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