Have Money, Will Meditate

by Cameron Karsten Jan 12, 2007

Easing the inward journey

A new breed of spiritual travelers are hitting other lands and cultures. And they have money.

The world is a storm and always has been. Many choose to drop it and head out into the unknown, journeying as much through exotic lands as their own inner terrain. These travelers recognize that life provides countless opportunies for inner exploration and conscious evolution, and actively seek out experiences of a spiritual nature.

A recent article “Easing the Inward Journey, With Modern Amenities” (registration required) writes of Mirabai Bush, one of the first Westerners who made their way to India in search of spiritual fulfillment. These explorers had little money, often carrying only dog-eared copies of “Journey to the East” and their sleeping bags for the monastery floors.

As a child I remember stories from my family and their friends retelling their own travels during the 60s and 70s, while being introduced to books like Be Here Now by Ram Das and music by Jefferson Airplane, Carmen and The Doors.

But these first spiritual tourists have now paved the way for the birth of today’s booming spiritual market.

The new breed of spiritual travelers “used to be the Lonely Planet crowd,” Raymond Bickson, managing director of Taj Hotels and Resorts, based in Mumbai, [says], referring to the guidebooks aimed at those who prefer to experience a place the way the locals do.

“Now, still at the cutting edge of the New Age, wellness and spiritual frontiers, they continue to travel to feed their souls. They just want to do it without giving up their creature comforts.”

Ms. Bush would certainly fit into this new breed:

On her latest pilgrimage to India two years ago … she found that enlightenment and luxury were not mutually exclusive. She and a friend stayed at Ananda, a luxury spa in the Himalayan foothills overlooking Rishikesh, the holy Hindu city near the source of the Ganges River. Rates there ranged from $430 for single rooms to $1,600 for suites.”

Yoga Journal, Tricycle, Ode Magazine and names like Light of Consciousness and Hinduism Today present a variety of resources, articles, lifestyles and ideas exploring this form of expensive spirituality.

For example, an article by Judith Fein entitled “Purity in Portugal” describes the region of Algarve, and a retreat center called Moinhos Velhos.

In Judith’s words, southern coastal Portugal entrances the mind with visions of “white-sand beaches ringed by striking dune-colored cliffs and dotted with deliciously fabulous seaside restaurants.” Uh-uh. This was a retreat from society, but also simplicity at a price.

Judith spent 14 days at the center detoxifying, rising at 6:45 in the morning for chants, meditation and yoga, which continued throughout the day for a mere $3,230 to $4,540 (depending on the choice of accommodation). In her words: “…inspiring.”

Mirabai Bush’s Ananda journey or Judith Fein’s Portuguese retreat-today’s lifestyles allow the experience of the divine in its many varieties. With a willingness to spend money held with the intent of “what goes around comes around”-another method of giving and receiving-the seeker may explore all the possibilities for some form of the spiritual.

While navigating life’s storm, the more options the better. Whether you like it rugged, or whether you prefer the pampered suite with ambrosial oils and a five course vegetarian detoxifying meal…it’s out there.

Cameron Karsten writes a weekly spiritual travel column for Brave New Traveler. Each week he will explore the emerging art and practices of spiritual travel. To read his previous columns, see the “also in this series” links below.

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