10/18/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Searching For Silence: America's Best Meditation Retreats

Face it. Your brain is dirtied with deadlines, sullied with schedules and clogged with responsibilities. You need a psychic bath. It's time to manage what meditation experts call your "monkey mind"--the modern brain that jumps from thought to thought like a monkey on steroids.

Meditation has been found to lower cholesterol, ease pain, speed healing, curb insomnia and boost the immune system. It can also help slay the demons of depression, anxiety and the kinds of compulsions that send you back three times to check the stove. By practicing meditation, you'll feel more energized, gain self-knowledge and achieve a healthier state of mind.

For too long, Americans sniffed at meditation as little more than paranormal twaddle peddled by gurus of dubious expertise. Californians, of course, braved the psychic frontier. In the early '60s, Stanford grad students Michael Murphy and Dick Price saw that the times were a-changin'. On the craggy cliffs of Big Sur, the weird and wonderful world of Esalen Institute was born, and, along with it, the human potential movement. Aldous Huxley, Joseph Campbell, Hunter S. Thompson, Timothy Leary and Jack Kerouac are just a few of the luminaries who have shared Esalen's good vibrations.

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for more retreat recommendations, including the Omega Institute, Colorado's Shambhala Mountain Center, and Maui's picturesque Ala Kukui...


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to view Forbes Traveler's meditation retreat slideshow.