Gustily blowing bubbles as he stomps his 6-year-old feet around a room decorated with eye-popping psychedelic murals, Rory Sailcat might be the last kid anyone would pick to enroll in a New Age-style summer camp.
A bouncing ball of energy, he can barely contain himself when it's time for aromatherapy or a foot massage.
But that kind of childish vigor is exactly what CosmiKids founder Judy Williams hopes to channel and encourage at the camp she started through the Chopra Center at the La Costa Resort and Spa.
The idea is that while parents explore their spirituality during guru Deepak Chopra's popular seminars a couple of buildings away, for $595 a week children ages 6 through 10 can discover their inner selves through activities with kid appeal.
Similar alternatives to typical rough-and-tumble summer camps are springing up across the country.
In the Mother Lode town of Nevada City, northeast of Sacramento, children at the Living Wisdom Summer Camp take yoga and meditative canoe rides under the moon.
Even some traditional camps are adding yoga and meditation to appeal to youngsters who struggle with more vigorous activities such as swimming and horseback riding.
Encouraging kids to be in touch with their sensitive sides is Williams' way of attempting to counter society's fascination with violence.
"We're trying to distill the beliefs and values that we hold dear to kid level," she says. "It's an 'If I knew then what I know now' philosophy."
Williams believes that children today are more open-minded than earlier generations and thus more receptive to the kinds of lessons taught at CosmiKids. Even if they're too young to articulate what they've learned from the unorthodox activities, they absorb the information on a deep and subtle level, she says.
During CosmiKids' first week of operation, the campers are a mix of the introspective and the rowdy. Chubby-cheeked 6-year-old Albert Bozesan already seems to have the inner peace of a seasoned monk.
His parents jumped at the opportunity CosmiKids provided. Without it, his father would have had to stay home in Portola Valley, west of San Jose, to care for Albert while Mom attended Chopra's "Seduction of the Spirit" seminar.
"I'm always trying to find alternatives for Albert to get deeper experiences," says his father, Tom Schulz. "They're so open at that age that in some ways they get more out of them than his mother and I do."
Wearing a turquoise bead necklace he strung earlier in the day, Albert points out his contribution to the Quilt of Happiness, a collection of squares decorated by the young campers that is hanging by a window overlooking the golf course. Albert's square depicts him on Universal Studios' Jurassic Park ride. He says he is enjoying the CosmiKids experience.
"The activities are more fun than any other camp," he says placidly. "And there's good people here."
Rory, on the other hand, can barely stand still long enough to chat about the activities. Finally he sits for a few minutes at a picnic table strewn with art supplies for the Healing Arts PlayShop, and starts drawing -- using a thick black marker -- a scene of his first cat's burial.
"You get to do yoga here, and there's not many camps you can do that," says Rory, of Carlsbad. "I like feeling so relaxed, because normally I'm a pretty active person."
The La Costa conference room where the camp is held has been redecorated to look like a child's version of an Age of Aquarius party. Rainbow-colored mobiles of a long-haired girl and a dragon dangle from the ceiling. The rich, earthy fragrance of Nag Champa incense wafts through the room, and folksy guitar music plays in the background.
Snacks come from a homemade vending contraption called a Scrumption Machine, which for a quarter dispenses small packets of dried bananas, mango, cranberries or roasted soybeans coated with organic sea salt.
Activities are 15 to 30 minutes long, from cooking and stringing beads to dancing and aikido. During 8Board time, children plant each foot on one of two independently moving circles attached to a plastic plank. Then they sway gently back and forth, using centrifugal force to find their physical centers.
Albert quickly takes to the 8Board, bending like a palm frond in the breeze as he leans left, then right. A few 8Boards away, Rory whirls frenetically before hurtling himself onto the floor.
Watching his son tear through the camp activities, Nairobi Sailcat beams proudly.
"We encourage his expression, but we also want him to learn balance," says Sailcat, a music producer. "It was a pleasant relief to find a place that reaffirmed our values of peace and love. We don't want to be putting him in some hard-core competitive camp that stresses him out."
In Spiral Dancing, the last activity of the day, the children frolic as they twirl rainbow-colored socks stuffed with rubber balls in an adaptation of Polynesian fire dancing.
After a few minutes, they are all dancing silently, serene smiles on their faces.
When it's time for the dancing to end, Rory approaches his parents and puts his hands in theirs. "OK, let's go now," he says softly. "I'm at peace."