It’s generally acknowledged that fast food is bad for you. A quick lunch is often laden with extra calories, shoddily prepared, and unhealthy. It’s worthwhile instead, we’re told, to take the time for a real meal.

But that doesn’t apply to spiritual sustenance, something many people ingest only at specific times and with adequate preparation. Santa Barbara offers several options for a quick midday affirmation of spiritual or religious values. Like food, contemplation and peace are needed every day, not just on the weekend, and some local organizations have gone out of their way to provide the opportunity.

One very cool program is the Mahakankala Buddhist Center’s lunchtime meditation. From 12:30 to 1 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, any interested member of the public can participate in a brief guided meditation session, intended to refresh their minds for the rest of the workday. Rigpa, an American Buddhist monk who works at the Center, said in a recent phone interview that the goal of the lunchtime meditation sessions is to “use meditation to improve our minds and good qualities and to : affect other people positively the rest of the day with our words and actions.” He noted that participants “seem to leave here feeling very refreshed.”

The great thing about the center’s lunchtime meditation sessions is that they’re more or less nondenominational; although meditation is a Buddhist practice, the breathing exercises and focus on relaxation can be enjoyed by anyone of any religious belief. If nothing else, the chance to sit in a quiet room with no stress or pressures could appeal to many workers with a long and busy day.

However, other houses of worship in Santa Barbara also provide very denominationally specific services at times accessible to people who work a 9-to-5 schedule. Our Lady of Sorrows, a Catholic church located conveniently downtown, offers a shortened version of Mass each weekday at 12:10 p.m. Lasting only about half an hour, the weekday Masses are lightly attended, peaceful, and a wonderful way to enjoy both a worship service and the beauty of the church building. Our Lady of Sorrows also celebrates Mass at 7 a.m. each weekday, for parishioners on their way to work.

Saint Barbara Greek Orthodox Church also offers two morning services, an Orthros (known as “Matins” outside of the Orthodox Church) service at 8 a.m. and a Divine Liturgy at 9 a.m. While these may be more difficult for those on a standard work schedule to attend, they’re another way to inject a little spirituality into a daily routine. Christ the King Episcopal is another option for morning service for those who work closer to Goleta, holding a brief Holy Eucharist service each Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.

After the workday’s over, there are many houses of worship in Santa Barbara offering evening services, study groups, and ways to express spirituality. The Chinese Evangelical Free Church holds prayer meetings every Wednesday evening at 7:30 p.m.; many other churches, oddly enough, have also chosen Wednesdays at 7:30 for their evening services, including the Christian Science Church and the Santa Barbara Church of Christ.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with attending services on a particular day of the week but spirituality can also be incorporated into daily life. Santa Barbara religious organizations are trying to make that as easy, as quick, and as pleasant as possible.


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