Meditate Under the Moon at East Beach

Rupa Meditation’s Tom O’Brien Offers Full Moon Meditation Workshop

Tom G. O'Brien picked the beach as a location for its relaxing energy.
Paul Wellman

On Saturday, July 8, join meditation master Tom G. O’Brien as you put mind — and moonlight — over matter in a guided full moon meditation on East Beach. Designed for newcomers and meditation experts alike, the non-dogmatic, hour-long session is open to anyone seeking to enjoy the therapeutic and practical benefits of meditation, with the added scenic and sonic bonus of gently crashing waves lit by the moon.

Tiki torches will light the way to the meditation location, where O’Brien will commence the hour with a set of concise instructions and breathing exercises. Arrive a few minutes early, warmly dressed and with a blanket, towel, yoga mat, or beach/lawn chair to sit on, and let the universe, as O’Brien might say, do the rest.

Started in 2012, O’Brien’s full moon sessions have provided hundreds of Santa Barbarans with an hour of peace along the beach. A Santa Barbara native, O’Brien is happy to share the wisdom he has gained from a practice that has taken him far and wide. As founder of Rupa Meditation — its name refers to a soft, sacred blue light often seen by meditators behind closed eyes — he has served young teens and adults, prisoners and pensioners.

He first encountered meditation around the age of 28 while living in New York and finding work as a “perspiring actor.” Uncertain where his life was headed, caught on a carousel of decreasingly satisfying work and relationships, he reached a “turning point” when, seeking answers in various philosophical texts, he found some resonance in the centuries-old teachings of Zen masters. “I was like, I need to find a teacher with a capital T, someone who has crossed over to the other side in terms of their human experience,” he said. He sought out various meditation groups in New York and stumbled across a little flyer in a Jewish deli for a nondenominational class. “I owe my spiritual awakening to a knish,” he joked.

Since having a profound spiritual awakening, O’Brien has meditated almost daily. “I’ve meditated 98 percent of my days on this planet,” he said. He’s felt far more creative, far more energetic, and he’s thinking a lot clearer.

And he’s gone on to share the benefits with others — especially in prisons, such as the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo and numerous state prisons in New York. “I’ve seen dozens of men whose lives have been completely transformed” after regular meditation practice, O’Brien said of the inmates he’s instructed. “They’re back with their families, raising their children, paying taxes, being functioning members of society for the first time in their life,” he said.

O’Brien emphasized the practical benefits of meditation, citing a Harvard neuroscience study that showed frontal lobe growth after just eight weeks of meditation. Meditation improves your brain, slows your heart rate, and offers “freedom from the tyranny of our own thoughts. Where we are the witness of our mind, we are not being swept away by our thoughts,” O’Brien said.

The Full Moon Meditation Workshop takes place on Saturday, July 8, at 8 p.m. East Beach. RSVP to


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