Los Angeles has long been a magnet for the spiritual, mystic and new age. Whether it’s because of the laidback vibe, the proximity to awe-inspiring nature or some vortex of positive universal energy, I can’t quite find the answer, and it might be all of the above. But it’s that magic energy that makes it so beautifully unique. And there is no better place to experience it all than the boho beach side suburb of Venice.
It’s here where people are open and friendly, they look healthier, they talk about their chakras and when they hug, they literally and emotionally hold each other in energy-exchanging embraces that last just that little bit longer than most people would be comfortable with.
On my recent trip to Los Angeles, I set out to experience the New Age side of Venice, realign my chakras, get in touch with my inner child and experience a bit of mindfulness. Here’s what I got up to and where I went.
A subject that is always close to my heart is food. And Venice has no shortage of options from the most tantalising of snacks to laid-back fine dining. And it was through my culinary exploration of New Age Venice that I discovered so much more than just vegan delights. The L.A. wellness scene is all about adaptogens these days.
Before I get on to those adaptogens, though, I need to tell you about the eating scene first. One of the most “L.A.” eateries is Cafe Gratitude, a plant-based cafe on Rose Avenue. It’s well known around L.A., but for visitors it is worth a visit.
Each dish is named by the qualities of its ingredients. So, for example, the acai superfood bowl is “Vivid” and the black bean patties are “Magical”. But better than that, when your server brings you your order, they present it to you using the name of the dish with a life-affirming “You are…” So my eggplant parmesan panini was served to me with a cheerful “You are Awesome.” Delicious vegan dishes with a side of validation – what a great way to spend your lunchtime.
There’s also the question of the day that your server will pose (“When do you feel most at peace?” On or by the ocean).
Across the street from Cafe Gratitude is Moon Juice, a juice company started up by Amanda Chantal Bacon, a chef and sustainable lifestyle guru. Not to undersell the juices (because they are mind-blowingly delicious), but there is so much more to Moon Juice than just drinks.
Moon Juice is part of the recent adaptogen renaissance. Adaptogens are super herbs, plants and mushrooms that are known for their healing and wellness properties. Different adaptogens are claimed to have different benefits, mostly related to helping your body handle stress. Others have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, boost the immune system, regulate blood sugar, and boost energy levels.
Moon Juice has some gorgeously packaged adaptogen supplements to deal with whatever ails you. I got the pearl extract designed to help with hair, skin and nail health. I’ll keep you posted.
This wellness ethos is also present at the Four Sigmatic Shroom Room on Abbot Kinney. I love the story of Four Sigmatic. It was started by Tero Isokauppila who grew up on his family farm in Finland, foraging for mushrooms and other wild foods. Through this upbringing he learned about the healing effects of these adaptonegenic superfoods. Since then he travelled the world, packed in his corporate job and started up Four Sigmatic to bring ancient mushroom wisdom to modern L.A. lifestyle.
The Shroom Room is whimsically designed to look like a magical birch tree. Inside, Tero serves up health-giving concoctions such as cordycep lattes (to sustain energy levels) and lions mane matcha teas (for focus and memory). The mushroom coffees are a bit of an adjustment to coffee lovers, but people swear by the wellbeing they get from the adaptongenic qualities.
My mindfulness experience came in the form of the most California-style mediation on the beach just north of Venice, in Santa Monica.
The meditation is led by Melanie, a group meditation leader and speech language-pathologist. She has a passion for health, wellness and meditation and leads each group through a few different meditation and mindful experiences over a two hour period.
It starts off with a setting of intentions – we all walked down to the waters edge, and wrote in the sand the things we wanted to let go of in our lives. We then watched as the waves washed them away. Next we walked back a bit and wrote in the sand the things we wanted to bring more of into our lives.
Melanie led us through a couple of different meditation, including a body scan meditation which I found to be the best for completely emptying the mind. Next we did some mindful eating and drinking (California grapes and juice from Moon Juice, mmmm).
The act of arriving at the beach early in the morning for a couple of hours of meditation made me feel so positive and wholesome. And for someone who has struggled with meditation due to an over-active mind, I was actually able to completely zone out and meditate, immersed in the positive ions of the Pacific and the sound of crashing waves.
I am a sucker for a good spiritual book and crystal shop, and Venice is home to a few. Ceremony Meditation and Mystic Journey are my two favourites. Both have sublimely zen meditation and yoga studios attached to them.
Ceremony Meditation on Rose Avenue has a divine shop for all your crystal, reiki-infused bath salts and smudging kit needs. But the magic is in the Zen Crystal Garden at the back of the shop, which feels like a little oasis of tranquility amongst the craziness of Venice.
I joined the Ceremony crowd for an early evening sound bath in the Zen Crystal Garden as the sun set. If you haven’t done a sound bath before, I highly recommend them as a form of meditation. It’s basically a relaxation through sound. You lie down and empty your mind while someone creates sounds, most often with crystal bowls, gongs and chimes. The frequency of the sounds have healing properties and I find that it is one of the few occasions on which I can completely be present in the moment without my thoughts venturing back into the past or freaking me out by entertaining the future.
The sound bath I went to at Ceremony Meditation was led by Elias North, whose music is based on “Pythagorean Tuning of A=432hz and Solfeggio Frequencies: the fundamental and natural Frequencies of Earth and the Universe:” Yes, that’s right. Whatever the frequency, we tuned our chakras and I then totally blissed out to the electronica sounds, only to emerge from the sound bath completely chilled and revived.
I took the concept of the sound bath to a new level at the light, airy and so serene Mystic Journey Yoga studio on Lincoln Avenue. It was an Inner Child Sound Bath. The sound bath was led by Rosanne, an intuitive life coach and sound bath goddess (her official title). It was effectively a guided meditation, with the aim of identifying a moment in your childhood when you didn’t feel happy or safe and you talk to your inner child and tell them everything will be ok. I’m oversimplifying it enormously, but that’s the basic gist of it.
Overall, it was a relaxing experience, and I’d recommend it to anyone who would get on board with the whole inner child conversation (there were symbolic rag doll “inner child babies” to hold which might not be everyone’s cup of tea). The crystal bowls and gongs gave out a frequency that somehow adjustd my energy, resulting in an overarching sense of peace. I pretty much floated out of the yoga studio, with a pretty darn happy inner child in tow.
I feel as though I only scratched the surface to the whole New Age scene in Venice. There are so many more workshops and health giving cafes to try. For a uniquely L.A. experience, give it a try. If you approach it all with an open mind, you’ll gain a whole new sense of peace and wellbeing, L.A. style.