At the New Camaldoli Hermitage, set deep in the Big Sur wilderness, each of the resident Benedictine monks has committed to a life of monastic contemplation. For a "suggested donation," so can you. Bells ring for (optional) services four times a day, but there is, in fact, only one guiding principle: no talking. The first day is the hardest. You pace the 899-acre grounds, wave at people, and sigh. You take your meal to your little "cell" and fall asleep early. By dawn you'll be itching to leave; you've gotten the gist. Stay. Sit on a bench, listening to the ocean two miles below, the birds singing in the tall grass. Feel your heart slow down. For three days, don't say anything, don't take in anything. You will find purpose in your thoughts, your steps. On the drive home, keep your cell phone switched off - for as long as you can. [Rooms from a suggested $110; contemplation.com]
Credit: David Butow / Corbis
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