Garden offers unique escape in South L.A.

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Heat waves, smoggy days, and traffic jams. South L.A. is used to those things. But in the heart of the city is a place where everything slows down and you can take a second to breathe.

“A little peace of heaven in Los Angeles,” said Carol Jones, and she would know, she lives there.

There, is the Peace Awareness Labyrinth and Gardens. The Adams Boulevard house is home to a church called the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness.

“It’s all about knowing ourselves as one with God and becoming more aware of our soul energy,” said Jones.

The church moved into the West Adams house in 1974 to use as the headquarters for its 5,000 members worldwide. Secundo Guasti, an Italian immigrant who built one of the largest vineyards in the world to prohibition, had built it the house. It passed down many hands including that of famous Hollywood choreographer and director Busby Berkeley. At one point, it was a home for young girls aspiring to be actresses. In 2002, the church decided to turn the old, rundown orchards into a three-level meditation garden.

“The administration here said, ‘well let’s let LA in on this,’” said Jones.

With open hours almost everyday, anyone can come and enjoy the house, the gardens, or walk the labyrinth. One woman who didn’t want to give her name, found comfort in the gardens during a separation with her husband.

“During the summer, I was in quite a bad state. I was having anxiety attacks. So I’d come here at noon and talk to nobody and make a beeline for the back of the meditation gardens and just sit there for four hours. Within 5 minutes of being here my blood pressure would drop so it was palpable that it was having some effect. And I just came here all summer long,” the woman said.

The woman now volunteers at peace awareness to pass on everything it gave to her.

“And just having that open to me, I’m so grateful because it was such a calming influence for me and wasn’t the only thing that helped, but it was profound, it was profound for me,” said the woman.

The gardens include citrus tress, a koi pond, an avocado tree, water features, roses, lilies, and so much more. Jones calls herself the “mother hen” because she watches over every petal and every leaf. She says one thing that makes the gardens so peaceful is that there’s barely any street noise.

“The only interruption I remember is the ice cream truck,” said Jones.

Although the Peace Awareness Labyrinth and Gardens is home to a church, Jones says they don’t like to preach to visitors. They just want to share their treasure and give the public a welcome break from the chaos of the city.