Elvis Presley Was Known to Frequent Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine
By MICHAEL OLDHAM | Contributing Writer
Singer Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi. His birthplace was a simple two-room house.
But his life and entertainment career would not turn out to be simple—far from it.
Presley, who had a magnifying concert stage presence that displayed all sorts of body movements, was hard pressed to find a peaceful place of rest away from his worldwide fan base. Until, beginning in the mid-1960s, he had found, according to his wife, a place that settled his personhood like no other.
The place was in Pacific Palisades, a beloved retreat alongside a curving section of Sunset Boulevard.
By the time of Presley’s first visit to the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine, the then-30-something singer, who had already added “movie star” to his resume, had seen two sides of life: one poor and unremarkable; one rich and famous.
Presley grew up with little possessions and certainly no luxury toys. This upbringing would instill a humbleness in him that he’d carry with him through life—even after the handsome six-foot-tall entertainer, who favored a slickback head of jet-black hair, became the “King of Rock ‘N’ Roll.”
“I’d just like to be treated like a regular customer,” Presley has said.
Coming from the South, Presley had instilled in him some good old-fashion values. The singer of such chart-topping hits as “Jailhouse Rock,” “All Shook Up” and “Burning Love” always tried to remember where he came from.
“More than anything else, I want the folks back at home to think right of me,” the singer once was quoted.
At his packed-house concert shows, Presley experienced adoring female admirers screaming for his attention. Off stage too, wherever he went, Presley had throngs of people grabbing him and doing all sorts of behaviors, just to be able to get near him.
Presley’s life had become a constant spin cycle of fame, fortune and ever-present mobs of adoring fans. Through all this chaos of popularity, the singer always tried to keep his feet on the ground.
“If you let your head get too big, it’ll break your neck,” the entertainer would tell people.
Presley’s so-called simple life phase ended following his 1956 hit record “Heartbreak Hotel.” Life was never the same for the “Love Me Tender” singer.
And Elvis felt the fame hit him instantly: “I was an overnight sensation.” Television appearances would follow.
“They put me on television,” Presley said, “and the whole thing broke loose. It was wild, I tell ya for sure.”
Soon, Hollywood called and Presley was placed in movies such as “Blue Hawaii” (1961). In 1964, Presley was starring in “Viva Las Vegas.” He starred in movie after movie, beginning in the late 1950s and continuing through the 1960s.
By the mid-1960s, the fast-paced life Presley was leading began to take an emotional toll on him. Instead of hunting for the next hit record, Presley began to seek spiritual peace and purpose.
The King’s soul searching would bring him to the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine in the Palisades.
The Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine was founded in 1950. The retreat is 10 acres of lush gardens and a lake fed by springs. It features waterfalls and many varieties of plants.
The grounds are for walking, meditating or simply to escape daily routines via some of nature’s beautiful greenery.
Presley’s first visit to Lake Shrine was in March of 1965. He was to visit the retreat several times in his life.
In an odd turn of events for a superstar singer, Elvis befriended Sri Daya Mata, the woman who, at the time, was the head the of the Self-Realization Fellowship. Author Paul Simpson told of Elvis sometimes visiting the retreat with actress Deborah Walley, his co-star in the 1966 movie “Spinout.”
In 1967, Presley married Priscilla Beauliu. The marriage did not last and was over in 1973—just a few years before Presley’s passing in 1977.
Priscilla became an actress and business lady. She once wrote about a visit she and Presley took during their marriage to the Palisades in the book “Elvis by the Presleys.”
“I have this picture in my mind: It’s a clear sunny afternoon in Los Angeles,” she wrote. “Elvis and I are on our motorcycles, roaring through Bel Air, down Sunset Boulevard, over the freeway, past Brentwood into Pacific Palisades.
“We stop at an idyllic retreat called the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine. In the distance the ocean is glistening. Elvis takes my hand and gently leads me through the grounds. A sense of peace prevails. Tranquility is everywhere, in the flowers, the garden path, the simple shrines.”
“For a long time we sit in the meditation garden and focus our attention on our breath,” she continued. “I’ve never seen Elvis this calm.”
Priscilla wrote that Elvis had told her while at the retreat that day: “It’s what we all need. A break from the craziness.”
After several months of being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Lake Shrine reopened some of its offerings on July 14 for limited hours by reservation.
Michael Oldham is the author of the novel “The Valentino Formula” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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