Places of formal worship abound in Santa Barbara, from a bewildering variety of Christian churches to a Buddhist meditation center, and everything in between. There are organizations, however, which cater to spirituality in a less structured and more personal way. One of these is La Casa de Maria Retreat & Conference Center, which both hosts groups looking for a peaceful venue and sponsors retreats, workshops, and lectures.

Two weeks ago, Your Worship discussed the Buddhist teacher Namkha Rinpoche, and his visit to Santa Barbara. His trip to town was co-sponsored by La Casa de Maria, and the retreat center also hosted one of his lectures. This sort of effort is what La Casa de Maria is best at. A truly interfaith organization, La Casa de Maria’s mission statement is, in part, “to provide, through its programs and environment, a nourishing place of peace where persons of all faiths can search for truth.”

Each month, the retreat center holds a wide variety of events. Some of these, such as Rinpoche’s appearance, are free and take place during one day only. Other events, including weekend stays and more elaborate workshops, do cost a fee-but La Casa de Maria, a non-profit organization, charges as little as possible and provides amazing services for the price.

This month alone, La Casa de Maria is offering five retreats. One of these, a weekend of art and spirituality, has just ended; upcoming retreats include a week for Christian families, a 12-step weekend for those in recovery, and another weekend retreat specifically designed for women. This last one will focus on “connections with the natural world, with God and the spiritual universe,” as well as on the personal relationships of the attendees.

La Casa de Maria is also available for independent groups seeking a quiet and welcoming venue for their own spiritual activities. Both single rooms and a dormitory are available, none of them including televisions, radios, or phones. The rooms don’t even offer phone jacks or cable outlets of any kind, ensuring the center’s peace and tranquility.

While groups and conferences are the usual visitors to the center, La Casa de Maria also provides individual accommodations for those who prefer to worship, meditate, or simply contemplate in solitude. Located along the San Ysidro Creek at the edge of Montecito, the center’s grounds have been left as natural as possible, and provide a wealth of pleasure in their beauty alone. The center is truly a place to retreat from the world, in the best possible way.

La Casa de Maria is located at 800 El Bosque Road, and can be reached by phone at 969-5031 or online at

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