Inner Path: products and resources for yoga, meditation and a spiritual life in Nevada City
200 Commercial St., Nevada City
Store hours: 10 a.m.to 6 p.m., seven days a week
Free daily meditation room hours: 9 to 10 a.m. and 5 to 6 p.m.
Free healing prayers: 2 to 2:15 p.m.
Free half-hour yoga and meditation: 12 to 12:30 p.m., Mon. through Thurs.
When John Ernst was just seven years old, everything in his world turned upside down.
His 11-year-old sister passed away, and his mother seemed unable to find her way back from a place of devastating grief. Feeling uninspired and incompetent, Ernst struggled through school over the years, only to learn upon graduation that if he didn’t go on to college, he could be drafted to serve in the Vietnam War.
A young 18, Ernst — a lover of oceanography — decided his best option would be to join the U.S. Navy. He was assigned as a security guard on a naval base outside Da Nang, a coastal city in central Vietnam. He instantly knew it wasn’t for him. Baby-faced and slight in stature, naval officers taunted and teased Ernst, who was eager to get off the base in his free time.
“I loved the Vietnamese people and I began to visit Buddhist temples,” he said. “I also liked going to the Navy library, where I found books related to spirit, such as those by and about Edgar Cayce. I slowly started to go from a feeling of isolation to realizing that spirit makes a great friend. I discovered the transformative relationship you can have with spirit. I found comfort with the divine mother, a feminine presence, perhaps because of what I had experienced with my own mother.”
By the time Ernst had turned 19, he had been discharged from the Navy and was back in his native city of Los Angeles. It was then that a girlfriend introduced him to a profoundly inspirational book, “Autobiography of a Yogi,” by Paramahansa Yogananda. Thanks to the G.I. Bill, Ernst enrolled at The Evergreen State College in Washington, where he was able to craft his own curricula, focusing on yoga, meditation and world religions. He published his first book, “Sadhana in Our Daily Lives,” in 1981, which he deemed, “a handbook for the awakening of the spiritual self.”
When Ernst returned to Los Angeles, he continued taking classes and obtained a massage license, which enabled him to perform hands-on healing. He became a minister at the Healing Light Institute, and in 1987 he moved to Ojai, Calif. where he founded Inner Path, then known as the Valley Light Center and Valley Lights Publications. In the spirit of service over profit, Ernst’s intention for Inner Path was “a nonprofit organization dedicated to uplifting humanity, one beautiful soul at a time.”
With a focus on yoga, meditation and the spiritual life, an important component of Inner Path was — and still is — openness to all spiritual and religious paths.
In November 2014, Ernst opened the nonprofit Inner Path in downtown Nevada City. The serene historic brick building with polished wood floors is a place designed to provide “useful and inspiring products, helpful information, healing prayers, uplifting music and a sense of community.”
Ernst’s ever-evolving vision for Inner Path includes a variety of key components, including a boutique, which carries a broad spectrum of spiritually-based items, including greeting cards, devotional photos, books, incense, essential oils, Ayurvedic remedies, yoga accessories and more. The online store at InnerPath.com offers hundreds more items, which can be shipped all over the world.
“We offer products and resources for yoga, meditation and a spiritual life,” said Ernst. “The store is open to anyone of a spiritual nature. People find the store a calm, enjoyable and uplifting place in the middle of downtown. Inner Path is service-fully intended, not designed for financial gain. People pick up on that.”
Ernst also thought it was important to provide a lending library of spiritual and health oriented books, a healing room, spiritual counseling, meditation training and yoga therapy. Of particular import to Ernst’s vision was a free meditation room, open to the public.
“I thought we should offer a quiet place for people to come in to meditate and reflect,” he said. “Churches have often served this purpose, but all the doors of the local churches are locked most of the time.”
Probably the most flourishing component of Inner Path has been their yoga studio, which currently has five instructors who are teaching an average of three to four classes a day. Examples include Vinyasa Flow Yoga, Restorative Yoga, Beginning Hatha Yoga, Yoga Therapy, Kula Community Yoga and more. Other classes of interest include Connecting with the Living Soul, Tao Song, Dance and Music to Transform Relationships, Powerful Chinese Energy Practices, HoneyRoot Women’s Embodiment and others. In addition, certified yoga therapist Bob Ash will be offering a series of free classes to veterans every Monday.
Ernst also maintains a blog, and on his website includes daily inspirational quotes from yogic masters and a compilation of “uplifting” places in the United States.
Ernst’s spiritual motivation continues to spur him to create a wealth of projects that go well beyond the Nevada City location. Among those include plans for a 160-acre site in Agoura, Calif. that will offer a transitional housing and skill development for young adults; a private school; world peace gardens; a cooperative community and a “prayer mountain.”
Nonetheless, Ernst smiles as he thinks back over what’s evolved during Inner Path’s first year in Nevada City, which he considers a spiritual place.
“People come in and say, ‘Oh wow — there should be a place like this in every city,’” said Ernst. “They’re surprised by the beauty of Inner Path. People get a sense of healing just by walking through the store. That let’s me know I’m on the right track.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
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