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San Clemente Journal

~ Pine Manor ~ An Enchanting Land

Feb 05, 2006 12:24PM ● By Don Kindred
photos and story by Bill Thomas

Peaceful patio surrounded by sculptured wall.What hurts the soul?
To live without 
tasting the water 
of its own essence.
What heals the soul?
Going to Pine Manor 
… motto of the manor
Inland from San Juan Capistrano, about 22 miles up the Ortega Highway, nestled secretly amongst the pines, there dwells a magical place. Its name is Pine Manor and upon entering its domain one steps into a fairyland complete with forest foliage, tinkling chimes, and Hobbit-like, earthen buildings. 
The Manor’s lady in this enchanted land is Gail Warner, MA, MFT. She (along with a terrific staff) has established this mystical site as a gathering place for psychological and spiritual exploration and healing, and on its grounds they conduct workshops, and provide opportunity for others (therapists, Tai Chi and Yoga instructors, creative artists and private parties and groups) to do the same.
This secluded sanctuary is the result of a dream nurtured in Gail Warner’s heart during several years of practicing therapy. And after months of saving and searching, she finally discovered the perfect place to establish her retreat center … on the Ortega Highway. 
“I was very excited about the site,” Warner revealed. “I purchased the place and worked very hard to ready it for my first retreat.”
Unfortunately Gail’s euphoria wasn’t destined to last long. After holding only two retreats, there was a fire that burnt the property to the ground. Broke and discouraged Warner was ready to give up her dream, but as the fates would have it Pine Manor, a property near Gail’s original retreat site, came up for sale. She saw and fell in love with it, but knew she couldn’t afford it. 
Interior of earth building at Pine Manor.Believing in Warner’s dream, the owners of the property had different ideas. They kept calling her back to the site, eventually offering her a deal she couldn’t refuse. Thus, in 1994 her dream was rekindled, eventually becoming reality.
From those shaky beginnings Gail and another seasoned therapist, Michael Seick, Ph.D., dedicated themselves to the mission of creating workshops where an open-minded exploration of self, emotional and spiritual discovery, curiosity and compassion could unfold. They considered Pine Manor to be a Guest House, (as in mystic poet Rumi’s poem), a dwelling with quiet spaces for listening and experiencing nature, for laughter and creativity. To those ends, retreats there offer participants: creative building projects, organic foods, sand tray therapy, music, exercise, massage, meditation and relaxation. 
The uniqueness of Pine Manor is centered in Natural Building. Hobbit-like earthen structures made of cob, straw bale and earth bags inhabit the grounds. Two resident builders, as well as visiting teachers, conduct earth-dwelling workshops there. And the buildings are used for classes, meditation and relaxation.
Ever in a state of expansion, a non-profit branch entitled - Noteworthy: A Center for Healing Arts - has been established at the Manor. Its mission is to promote the healing arts and to provide care for Caregivers. Three specific goals have been determined for the branch for 2006. The building and installation of a Watsu pool (water massage pool); the completion of an outdoor Creative Arts Center, and; the launching of a program entitled Care for the Caregivers (two, three-day weekends of rest and renewal for nominated caregivers in the community). An annual fundraising event - the Healing Arts Faire is also held at the Manor. It features food and musical entertainment as well as classes in Tai Chi, Yoga, belly-dancing and drumming.
Those interested in becoming involved with the Pine Manor retreat center have joined the Friends of Pine Manor. It is an organization with no dues and not many rules, offering lots of laughter and a chance to make new friends. Projects on the agenda are: the creation of sacred spaces; the creation of a Pine Manor and earth-building history board; participation in ongoing building projects; and the planting of an organic garden. b 
For more information, to join the Friends, or to attend or hold a retreat in this magical place, visit or contact Gail Warner at [email protected] or (951)678-2414.
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