25 September, 2017

Spiritual Exploration, Community, and Shared Experience - A Spirit Tours Pilgrimage

Going to France in April 2017 to explore Paris, Toulouse and Carcassonne was not on my bucket list.  At least, I didn’t know it was! I had been to Paris twice, but both trips were many years ago. However, when I read the description of the Spirit Tours pilgrimage to France, I decided to go and explore part of France that would be new to me.

I signed up for this Spirit Tours trip, which was lead by Dr. Edward Viljoen (Senior Minister of the Center for Spiritual Living, Santa Rosa), because once again I was seeking spiritual exploration, community, and shared experiences. Having been on three previous trips with the Center for Spiritual Living, Santa Rosa, and Spirit Tours, I knew that all three considerations would be realized. Plus we would be staying in some lovely and charming hotels and eating wonderful French food!) (Note: Everyone’s food requirements were able to be met during the entire trip.)

Spiritual Exploration:  The focus of this trip was on the plight of the Cathar people (who were considered heretics by the Christians), the sacred sites and areas where they dwelled and the divine feminine in the form of Mary Magdalene. Every day was filled with beauty, mystery, adventure and amazing experiences. 

Community:  There were 20 interesting and adventurous people on this trip.  Most were from CSLSR with a couple “friends of” joining as well as a traveler from New Zealand who was quickly and completely adopted by our group.  Each morning we gathered in a circle for prayer, practice, sharing and we also received an overview of our upcoming day from our Spirit Tours leaders.  We were blessed to have Janet Pullen* as our guide, as she is an authority on the Cathars and the areas of Southern France where they lived between the 12th – 14th centuries.

Shared Experience: Each day the group visited Cathedrals, basilicas, museums, chateaus, and fortresses.  We learned about history, architecture, people and religious practices.  Our guides were graciously and generously available to us as we traveled around Paris and then on to Toulouse and Carcassonne.  Riding in two small vans gave us the opportunity to get to know our travel mates along the way.

Lovely walks – hikes, views, countryside, gardens, old houses in small villages...I wouldn’t change a thing about this trip as it was so well planned and guided. I hope you consider participating in the next one. Talk to me if you want a first-hand account!

By Chandra Farnsworth 
*Janet Renu Pullen author of In Secret and Shadows  Discovering Light in the South of France

22 September, 2017

The Universality of Story Magically Brought to Life - A Spirit Tours Pilgrimage

Photo by Pahala Basuki on Unsplash
There was a point in our masterfully facilitated Bali pilgrimage where I was reminded of the universality of story. Nestled in our gorgeous landscapes, Dr. Edward Viljoen narrated and magically brought to life important sections of the great epic Hindu poem – The Ramayana. Two scenes stood out to me – the first is when Rama, the avatar of Vishnu who is destined to become king, is instead banished into the forest. His response to the news is devoid of pity and blame and instead accepts the verdict with dignity, taking his leave.

The other was Manthara, the handmaiden who never stopped manipulating the King’s third wife Kaikeyi with her relentless gossip and calculated mental poisoning to get all that she could for herself.

We each have the dignity of Rama as well as the manipulative fear mongering of Manthara within us. Our life unfolds, and mental patterns are established based on which of these traits we become most devoted to.

What I witnessed throughout our time with Jim Cramer, William Abel, Evan Dow-Williamson, and Edward Viljoen, was pure Rama consciousness. Learning of Jim’s ceaseless years of gaining the trust of the Indonesian Temple authorities so those of us on the journey could be welcomed into temple ceremonies where typical tourist are not, was a remarkably unexpected and selfless gift for all of us to experience.

I was humbled by his devotion to the Balinese culture and the way in which we each benefitted from the ripple of effect of his decision. And like Rama, when there were criticisms, Jim never wavered from his dignity and did his best to accommodate demands.

Too, William, Evan, and Edward gave of themselves with such high-level courteousness that I cannot imagine an introduction to Bali with anyone else.

In times such as these, we are all called to bring to the light our inner Rama - not just on special occasions but as a way of life.

I am reminded of the quote, "How you do anything is how you do everything." I know that this trip fueled my devotion to allow everything within me to be like Rama.

I have had the great fortune of experiencing much of the world in my lifetime, but I have to say that this trip nurtured me deeply and I am grateful to Spirit Tours and the Santa Rosa team for this lasting treasure. My lasting, heartfelt thanks!

24 July, 2017

Develop or Deepen. Yoga in Costa Rica. Spiritual Tourism with William Abel

Our Base in Arenal
Join me in Costa Rica (January 15, 2018) and spend some time exploring the nature of this beautiful land, and also, the nature of your being. Yoga is about discovering your true nature, which is peace, and meditation is a method that is used to do it.

Daily Spiritual Practice

With a daily gentle yoga practice to help bring peace to the body and daily meditation practice to help bring peace to the mind, time in Costa Rica might be just what is needed to help reset a busy mind to a more peaceful way of being, with plenty of time to relax and enjoy time away from your daily routine.

For people who have never practiced yoga, or for those who prefer a gentle approach, this tour is a great way to learn more about yoga and meditation. Gentle yoga uses classic yoga poses to help build balance, strengthen and flexibility to the body, with modifications to help make the practice accessible to any level.

Develop or Deepen

Because meditation is an integral part of a yoga practice, time will be spent with different meditation techniques and instruction to help develop or deepen a practice. Even those who have difficulty with meditation can benefit from our time together in the peaceful setting of Costa Rica.
Surrounded by spectacular nature

A soak in Tabacon Hot Springs is terrific

A guided trip over the hanging bridges is part of our tour experience

Arenal Volcano

22 July, 2017

My Trip to New Zealand: Spiritual Tourism

Multi-colored thermal springs
Daily Spiritual Practice

While the flight to NZ is long, in winter there is only a two-hour time difference between California and NZ, so jet lag is minimal. A bigger shock is jumping from late fall to brilliant spring. On the flight we were introduced to NZ’s delicious passion-fruit flavored Sauvignon Blank. Each morning Dr. Edward Viljoen led us in a spiritual practice. These were typically connected with the day’s activities and deepened our appreciation.

History and Views

We started on the North Island in Auckland and Rotorua. A walk up Mt. Eden gave us a history and the opportunity to walk done into the grassy slopes of a volcano’s caldera. One highlight was a boat trip to Mt. Rangitoto with views of Auckland and a climb through native vegetation to the summit. Rotorua gave us the opportunities to walk through farmer’s markets, visit the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, see a Maori Cultural Performance, and dine at a Hangi.

At Home In Queenstown

Then we were on to the South Island, home of adventure sports – next time for us. Queenstown was our base and on our first day we hiked from Arrowtown up the mountains through waist-deep fragrant lupines. We took a ferry across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak, an operating sheep ranch and had a lovely dinner.

Perhaps the highlight of the tour was Milford Sound. The bus trip there stopped at breath taking sights of mountains mirrored in quiet streams, while watching flightless Kea parrots stroll the grounds. At the Sound we boarded a small cruise boat for an over-night stay near the entrance to the ocean. We kayaked around the Sound looking at penguins and fur seals. That night the gentle waves rocked us to sleep.

Returning to Queenstown we took a gondola up the mountains to the Skyline Restaurant for our farewell. We enjoyed the diversity of the group and as usual, made many new friends.

Dennis O., Verified Customer

Spirit Tour's next Spiritual Pilgrimage to Australia and New Zealand is this November 2017.  If you would like more information, click here.

19 July, 2017

Why I Enjoyed Peru So Much

Edward and Kevin Viljoen on Machu Picchu
This great testimonial from one of our travelers reminds me that we're going to Peru again in 2018!  If you would like to have more information about Spirit Tour's pilgrimage to Peru with Dr. Edward Viljoen, author of Ordinary Goodness, please visit us at Spirit.Tours.

Dear Dr Edward Viljoen,

It is with great pleasure that I write to thank you for helping make my trip with Spirit Tours to Peru this past summer both heart warming and memorable. As you may remember, I joined the Center for Spiritual Living, Palm Desert under the leadership of Dr Joe Hooper at a time when my life seemed to have been shrouded in darkness. My sister had passed away after a long and painful battle with cancer and my personal and professional relationships had suffered in the process.

When Dr Joe recommended that I join his group on this trip, at first, I was hesitant. Visions of sitting around a candle and chanting almost kept me from calling to book the travel. Had I sat in my ignorance, I would have missed the tremendous gift that was waiting for me in Peru. The effortless travel in the most idyllic settings of ancient cultures lended itself to a nurturing environment that helped me start the process of forgiveness and spiritual growth. I remember sitting in our group meditation practices, peeking through one eye at fellow travelers who I later got to befriend and share in their own spiritual journey, thinking I'm not alone in my pain. There were others from all walks of life who sought comfort and guidance in their times of need. Some had lost a husband, a father, a career. Some had a void that needed to be filled, a wound that needed healing or something that needed to be addressed and mended.
Ara and Dr. Joe in Peru

You, Dr Joe and the family at Spirit Tours made me feel at ease in sharing my challenges. The daily group spiritual growth practices helped set the stage for several life lessons that I was about to learn and that I keep with me to this day. Most of all, I remember the release and levity I felt when I realized that just like the giant granite stones that were perched on top of mountains at soaring altitudes, there are structures and circumstance in my life that are both unexplainable and unknowable; but also, that not knowing how or why things are, doesn't keep us from basking in its beauty and sharing in wonderment of how we are all connected.

So, to anybody who is hesitating in joining us in this shared spiritual journey, please consider my first experience in making your decision. If you want to take a spiritual vacation at a leisurely pace along people who seek a connection with beautiful places in the world, then, all you have to do is pack lightly and show up, the rest will be taken care of by Spirit Tours and the amazing practitioners that come along. I look forward to walking with you in your journey.

Yours Truly,

Ara Gabrielian

Silence as a Spiritual Practice: Australia and New Zealand, a Spiritual Pilgrimage

Experience the refreshing, pristine air, water and land of Australia and New Zealand and discover how silence can become a pathway to inner peace. On November 6, 2017, I'm headed down that way with a group of spiritual pilgrims on Spirit Tours "Spirit of Nature" retreat.  I'll be facilitating nearly daily practices (except when we are in transit) as a way of tuning in with the deep quiet that is already, always present in each person.

Using accessible daily contemplation practices, with a booklet to record insights from your silent time, we will explore our inner world, and then we'll venture out together to experience spectacular New Zealand and Australia.

Edward Viljoen
Author of The Power of Meditation and Ordinary Goodness 

"With its size slightly larger and population similar to the state of Oregon, there are vast areas of land untouched by human hands. The On the South Island of New Zealand the southerlies blow from the South Pole and purify the air. In Australia, we will explore the world famous city of Sydney and sit and walk Aboriginal people in the Blue Mountain Range. The atmosphere in this region of the southern hemisphere is like no other place in the world. By just experiencing the people, its culture and you will understand why Australian & New Zealanders rarely move away from their native land."

The general acceptance of the term meditation is contemplation or continuous thought. We mean to convey something more-the recognition of the [Power] within, the certainty of our Oneness with the Whole, the immediate availability of the Power and Wisdom resulting from this Oneness. Such communion with [Divinity] brings harmony into our lives and affairs; establishes the law of health and prosperity, and makes us a light to all who cross our pathway.

Ernest Holmes
The Science of Mind

18 July, 2017

Travelers are Amazed by the Magic of the Milford Sound: New Zealand and Australia - The Spirit of Nature

When I went on my overnight cruise in the south west of New Zealand's South Island, I wasn't expecting to be amazed.  Words couldn't prepare me for the majesty of this World Heritage site.   It's no wonder that it is a top travel destination, and that Rudyard Kipling called it a wonder of the world.  Getting there is an adventure too.  The bus took us through amazing country side, a photographer's paradise.

An overnight cruise on the Milford Sound is part of Spirit Tours upcoming trip to Australia & New Zealand, titled "The Spirit of Nature" for good reason.  The Blue Mountain Range is another big highlight of the tour, along with visit to the fascinating, and truly charming cities of Queenstown and Sydney.

For the adventurous, consider climbing Sydney's Harbor Bridge, one of the Australia's most
photographed sites.  It is, after all, the world's largest steel arch bridge, and you can climb it!  It's amazing, I've done it!

I'll be facilitating the tour, making sure we have regular spiritual practice so that our trip has the tone of being a pilgrimage on which we take time to observe what arises within is when we are still.  This daily practice (except for one day when we are in transit) allows the spirit of nature to be felt and appreciated more completely.  It's my highly of traveling with spiritual community: practicing together.

Would you like to know more about Spirit Tour's Australia and New Zealand tour?  Registration is now open to all.  You can join me, and Dr. Joe Hooper from Palm Desert Center for Spiritual Living on November 6 through November 17, 2017.  Visit spirit.tours and read more.  The price for double occupancy includes round trip airfare.  ($5689 good until July 31.)

Thereafter, land only price is $4189

Edward Viljoen
Center for Spiritual Living, Santa Rosa
Author of Ordinary Goodness

From Spirit.Tours

Journey with Spirit Tours staff to Australia and New Zealand. This trip will explore the New South Wells, Australia, The Queenstown area and Milford Sound of the South Islands, New Zealand. Experience optional guided meditations, take nature hikes (Bush Walks), spend the night on Milford Sound, stay in Queenstown, visit local farmers markets, Be guided through the Blue Mountain Range by an Aboriginal cultural expert, journey through Sydney just to name a few. This itinerary was created by Spirit Tours staff, James Cramer and Timothy Omi who both lived there for a short time.

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