Esalen at Big Sur

I had the privilege of spending 5 days at Esalen, a retreat center perched on the precipitous cliffs at the edge of the western continent where the Pacific Ocean offers its restive waves crashing against the shoreline, its seawaters host to  otters, dolphins, whales, and the invisibles beneath the surface. Meanwhile us two-leggeds enjoy soaking day and night in the man-made hot tubs fed by hot mineral springs from the land, as their bodies remember their ancestral connection with the land, evoked by the spirit of the Esselen tribe who wandered the land centuries ago.

In the fast pace of our cultural addiction to consumption, we have forgotten how to be consumed by the natural world, seduced by earth. Slowing down has become a cultural taboo. Esalen offers a place to be truly indulged by the magnificence of the land, nourished by the food, and invited to connect with other humans who are moved by spirit to explore the deeper conversations with the world. Can we find the time to remove ourselves from the endless revolutions of the hamster cage treadmill, and as Robert Michael Pyle so eloquently asks; “What is there, after all, besides memories and dreams, and the way they mix with land and air and water to make us whole?”

In 1969 , I journeyed across America and Canada. My first stop brought me to the doorstep of Esalen. Who knows what might have happened, had my curiosity brought me to stay at Esalen, a breeding ground for new systems of thought and feeling that expanded beyond the constraints of mainstream society. But I continued north, only to return 41 years later.

Below is a photo essay of my 5 days at Esalen where I attended a workshop Seduced by Earth: Deep Imagination, Soulcraft™, and the Dreaming of Nature guided by Bill Plotkin and Geneen Marie Haugen of the Animas Valley Institute.