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Stories That Connect Us

Innovating Mindfulness in Trauma and Racial Equality

As a program innovation leader in mindfulness, trauma and racial equity at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, Jenée Johnson is developing an impactful new way to talk about trauma, race and bias. "Some of us thought at the beginning of the pandemic that we were going to ride through it and as we are finding out, no, that is not so," says Jenée. "And now, we've slowed down enough to really face that America has not come to terms with its racial history. We, as a collective, have not fully committed ourselves to having the words of equality on the paper, which truly live for every human being in this nation. In part, it's because we truly do not hold every human being as human. I wanted to make a difference about that by working with leaders."

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Esalen Faculty's Video Series Encourages Self-reflection

For Esalen faculty and sound alchemist Laura Inserra, 2020 has become an opportunity to hone her Shelter in Place video series specifically designed for inner voyagers. “This is a time we've never seen before,” Laura says. “I said, ‘Okay: let's really learn from it. Let's do something that will help us evolve.’ I'm trying to share the message: ‘Let's be present with what this is, but at the same time, let's be sure that there is a larger orchestration that is always about evolution—and that we are part of that. Let's transform and be flexible.'"

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Esalen Farm & Garden Shares its Bounty with the Community

Earlier this year, when Esalen temporarily closed its doors to the public during the pandemic, Esalen Farm & Garden stewards still working and living in the community asked the question: “how can we be of support to those close to us?” Inspired by the credo, “may all be fed,” staff devised a strategy for sharing the agricultural bounty that would have overflowed when springtime arrived. With assistance from Esalen’s Community and Advancement team, Farm Supervisor Chris Omer and others reached out to Big Sur residents who were interested in receiving fresh produce.

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Expand Your Knowledge With These Impactful Films

Relish the power of film. The artform often goes beyond just “entertainment” to guide us through challenging times. As 2020 continues to offer its set of ongoing challenges, we turned to Esalen Inspirational Film Festival (EIFF) Co-founder Corinne Bourdeau, who curated a stellar watch list during this historic time. The following films make for great viewing—right now—and offer a powerful trifecta: they are uplifting, inspiring and educational.

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Esalen Faculty Share Insights During Uncertain Times

The late Maya Angelou said: “We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.” Those sentiments are particularly apt during the first half of 2020. As we experience waves of uncertainty—from the pandemic to social unrest—opportunities to turn inward abound. From this place, we can ask important questions such as: “what really matters now?” and “what can I learn from this historic time?” We reached out to several Esalen faculty who share the insights they have gained over the last three months.

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Understanding Two Pandemics at the Same Time: COVID-19 and Racism

"We have two pandemics going on at one time—COVID-19 and the racial-divide pandemic," says Esalen faculty Ashanti Branch. "What the world is recognizing now after the death of George Floyd is that change is inevitable in many contexts. The racial divide has been going on for years. Imagine the time before cell phones, before we could record what was happening. We were telling people: 'they are killing us; they are beating us.' What we are seeing now is that a move has to be made." Ashanti, who is the founder of the Ever Forward Club, shares more with Esalen News.

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The Inner Work of Healing from Racism

Esalen’s first online retreat was a free community offering entitled Building Bridges of Belonging: The Inner Work of Healing from Racism and Moving Towards Positive Social Transformation. More than 60 participants attended the online retreat in early June, which was facilitated by Jessica Hartzell and Lacy Shannon of Esalen's Community and Advancement team, and Programs Specialist Tanja Roos, and led by two Esalen faculty: University of San Francisco law professor Rhonda V. Magee, an expert on mindful teaching and learning, race and law; and Kamilah Majied, a social justice leader and mental health therapist.

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Relational Mindfulness During COVID-19 and Beyond

“One of the teachings of Relational Mindfulness is turning towards rather than away,” says Esalen faculty, dharma teacher and author Deborah Eden Tull. “That principle really addresses the conditioned tendency in our world to turn away from all forms of difficulty, pain, discomfort and challenging emotion because we may not feel adequate to meet it. Instead, we can learn how to turn towards it, welcome it and everything that arises.”

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Esalen Statement on Our Present Racial Crisis

For many of us this message is late in coming. Not just by weeks but by decades.

Black Lives Matter.

On June 2, we muted social media to support and give space to those who had a basis from which to speak to the current injustice, systemic racism and the murder of George Floyd. Since then we have listened and been in dialogue with people who have both moral authority and a position on the front lines of the fight for justice. Please read our important statement in this edition of Esalen News. Thank you.

    —Terence Gilbey, CEO Esalen Institute.

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Insights From Taoism and Qigong During the Pandemic

The novel coronavirus developed during the last quarter of the year of the Earth Pig. In this guest column, Esalen faculty Kenneth Cohen delves into the Chinese calendar and explains how each year has a heavenly element which relates to the mind, spirituality and an earthly element, which in turn influences our homes, environment, economy and physical body. The prediction for the Earth Pig year, Kenneth says, was a conflict between the heavenly element (Earth) and the earthly element (Pig = water). All of this, he writes, relates to COVID-19.

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Esalen Faculty Share the Lessons They Have Learned During COVID-19

As we experience more stillness during the pandemic, we can turn inward and ask important questions: “what really matters to me now?” and “what can I learn from this unique time in history?” In an effort to understand the wisdom waiting to be discovered during COVID-19, we turned to several Esalen faculty and asked them the insights they have gained during this time. Their answers may surprise you.

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Spring Reads: Five Books to Savor During the Pandemic

Before COVID-19, the modern world had its noise, distraction and disconnection. Large pockets of humanity may have forgotten the subtle sounds and movements of the sacred that can arise within and around us. But then COVID-19 arrived and everything changed. Now that many of us adhere to shelter-in-place protocols, we turned to Esalen faculty Michael Sapiro, PsyD, for some insight through the written word.

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Paul Selig on Operating from a 'Higher Realm' During Covid-19

Esalen faculty and best-selling author Paul Selig is one of the foremost spiritual channels working today. His thought-provoking books, such as I Am the Word and Beyond the Known: Realization, have inspired millions of readers to expand their views of reality and move towards ultimate manifestation. In The Esalen Interview, Paul shares what his Guides reveal about this curious time in history, the importance of operating from a "higher realm," and much more.

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Shelter-in-place Viewing: Seven Inspiring Films to Savor Right Now

Corinne Bourdeau created the Esalen Inspirational Film Festival (EIFF) knowing that a film festival at Esalen would bring together a community of world-class filmmakers dedicated to creating and celebrating inspirational films. Every year our magical cinema-by-the-sea does just that. The festival brings together a remarkable group of filmmakers, activists, producers and film enthusiasts for a five-day celebration consisting of screenings, panels, filmmaker dinners, events and much more. Corinne hand picked seven inspiring films to watch during shelter-in-place.

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The Embodiment Conference Hosts a Free Online Event Designed to Embody Resilience

Craving resilience during these uncertain times? The Embodiment Conference is hosting a dynamic, free online conference on April 30 with a timely theme: Embodying Resilience. The one-day global conference features an array of world-renowned change agents—from relationship coaches and yoga teachers to social change agents and several Esalen faculty. In an era when "community" has become vital now, more than ever, the conference arrives at a perfect juncture.

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How Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Can Ease Unrest During COVID-19

With every challenge comes an opportunity to grow, notes Esalen faculty Christiane Wolf, who sees COVID-19 as a powerful opportunity for inquiry. In this revealing interview, Christiane shares her unique life path and maps out the benefits of using Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) tools to alleviate worry and unease, especially during COVID-19.

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The Esalen Interview: Chip Conley on Midlife, COVID-19 and Other Life Lessons

Esalen faculty and Modern Elder Academy founder Chip Conley expounds upon embracing midlife, COVID-19 and so much more in a candid interview. Among the questions Chip posits: What happens when we become willing to embrace midlife as a brand new opportunity to expand our human potential?

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The Esalen Interview: Day Schildkret Reveals the Transformative Power of Connecting With Nature

To honor the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, Esalen faculty, author, artist and all around man of nature, Day Schildkret, joins us to discuss our beloved planet, Day's extraordinary artistic process creating "Morning Altars" and to debut his riveting stop-motion animated short. Day says: "I am devoted to the pursuit of impermanent beauty and how that can become nourishment for life to continue."

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Lucia Horan on the Importance of Community During Times of Uncertainty

How can we gracefully "flow" through a crisis? Esalen faculty and 5Rhythms® and Insight Meditation teacher Lucia Horan shares her thoughts in this revealing Esalen interview and also touches on the lessons we can learn from the 5Rhythms practice. She reveals that one of our best allies may be how well we pay attention to what is occurring within us and strengthening our connection to our community.

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Cellist Barbara Bogatin Reveals a Soothing Music Option During COVID-19

Can music created during the 18th century soothe the soul during a 21st century pandemic? "Absolutely," says Esalen faculty Barbara Bogatin. In fact, these creative works often have the ability to morph into effective contemplative practices, which Barbara has experienced firsthand—primarily as a master cellist with the San Francisco Symphony since 1994 but also as an active listener to classical music, which allows her to truly be in the moment. Barbara shares more with us about how going "Bach to basics" can generate levity during COVID-19.

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Go Within: A Calming Meditation With Isabel Bueno Fleury Silveira

Stillness has the glorious ability to help us delve deeply into our hearts. We become more present and mindful to what is occurring within. Experienced Clinical Psychologist and Mindfulness Instructor Isabel Bueno Fleury Silveira has made it her life mission to assist others in discovering those precious places within. As a longtime insight meditation instructor and public speaker, she has leaned into her Buddhist practice and led many meditations at Esalen. The results are sublime. Isabel's experience and radiance shines through in this calming meditation set to images of Esalen and Big Sur's beauty. This is an ideal meditation for inviting calm and clarity. Enjoy.

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Filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg's Free Virtual Event Honors Earth Day

As the 50th anniversary of Earth Day approaches (April 22), several Esalen faculty interviewed during the COVID-19 pandemic have reminded us that our connection to ourselves, our planet and to one another can have deep-rooted and long-lasting effects on our lives and our collective future. In an effort to keep these truths close to our hearts, Esalen faculty and award-winning filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg, whose hit documentary Fantastic Fungi screened at the Esalen Inspiration Film Festival in 2019, has created a virtual Fungi Day, Tuesday, April 21. We spoke to Louie about the free event, nature’s intelligence, shifting consciousness and the fascinating web that connects us all.

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Lisa G. Littlebird on the Power of Song

Everybody can use a muse right about now. For more than three decades, Esalen faculty, singer, composer, writer and voice coach Lisa G. Littlebird has been just that for many people. Lisa's mission to restore community singing to our daily lives has been nothing short inspirational. She is part of two dynamic workshops at Esalen this year: Courting the Muse | Many Voices, One Song, a campus-wide gathering August 23-28; and Singing on the Edge: A Community Singing Festival October 9-11. In this thought-provoking live interview, Lisa opens up about building strength in community during the COVID-19 pandemic, the power of song and the vibrancy of the spirit.

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Exploring The 9 Energies System

"The most under-utilized technology out there today is the human body,” says Esalen faculty Susan Fisher. “I discovered this when I learned there are nine physiologically different kinds of people and each of them have what we call a ‘Natural Energy’ system. The amount of confusion that comes from not knowing about this is vast. If we don’t have the same natural energy as somebody else, then we each have no clue how the experiences life. It’s fundamentally important to know and so vital now when we’re all experiencing a global crisis because it helps us become more aware of ourselves and understanding of others.

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Reflecting on COVID-19

Russell Delman has dedicated his life to the study of human transformation and is deeply indebted to his more than 40 years of both Zen meditation and marriage. We reached out to Russell who shared how we can find balance and insight during the COVID-19 pandemic. "We are part of an intricate, complex, fantastically interconnected web of life," Russell says. "We are designed to be in harmony with life. The creative wisdom of our bodies has learned, and continues to learn, to deal with the dangers presented in our environment. This is our collective, adaptive brilliance. At times like these, we must individually and collectively do all that we can to bolster the healthy responses of our individual and collective immune systems."

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Five ‘Conscious’ Films to Watch Right Now

Between stay-at-home mandates, tending to our families as well as ourselves, we may find ourselves craving pauses in our days. We checked in with Esalen Inspirational Film Festival Artistic Director Trina Wyatt for suggestions on “conscious” films to consider viewing that evoke a sense of heart, mindfulness and discovery. From deep spiritual messages and unconventional yet profound journeys to an eye-opening documentary, here are Trina’s suggestions for conscious cinema. Enjoy.

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A Janet Stone Meditation

How do you find your center? Experience Esalen faculty Janet Stone’s tranquil meditation, which invites us to be still, ground ourselves and delve deeper into a space of inner-connectedness. From this place, we can explore what lies beneath the surface of our emotions and tap into a greater sense of inner power. During moments of stillness, the clarity we gain offers an opportunity to discover how to harness our strength and utilize it in other areas of our lives. Janet's soulful guidance stands out here.

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A Reading From 'The Radiance Sutras'

What’s your favorite poem? Esalen Program Specialist Paula Wild reads from The Radiance Sutras edited by faculty Lorin Roche, whose life's work as a beloved writer and teacher shines brightly here. Lorin's contemporary interpretation of the timeless, universal meditations of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra is sublime and in this offering, read by Paula, it explores the deep emotional waters we can swim and the deeper connection to the self that becomes possible.

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Creating Greater Vitality During Prolonged Uncertainty

When Esalen faculty Elissa Epel realized that an inventive mix of pragmatism and science were ideal tools for optimal living, she set out on an ambitious path to share that knowledge with others. As president of the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research and the co-author of the New York Times bestseller, The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Longer, Elissa shows us that when we turn to evidence-based tools for living a vibrant life, even in the presence of stress, anxiety or a crisis, we create a greater capacity for vitality.

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Big Sur Sunshine: An Immunity-boosting Juice for Our Times

While we all adjust to sudden lifestyle changes during COVID-19, there’s a vibrant call to action taking place: boost our immune system. With that in mind, we turned to the Esalen Juice bar to be reminded that juicing raw ingredients like turmeric root and ginger not only provides flavor to our juices but it is one of the best ways to enhance our immunity when health concerns are higher than normal, especially during times of stress. Enter: Big Sur Sunshine.

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Five Books To Read or Revisit Right Now

For many years, Esalen faculty Michael Sapiro, who leads the week-long workshop Stillness and Spirit: Playing in the Fields of Awareness, Sound and Movement September 27–October 2 at Esalen, has been instrumental in assisting others with reducing the “noise, distraction and disconnection” experienced in our modern era. By reminding us to rest in a spacious stillness where we simply are present, Michael, who is a clinical psychologist and meditation teacher, reminds us that dwelling in a place of pure awareness is a treasured gift.

With COVID-19 impacting us globally, that kind of gift can be a powerful tool as we find ourselves sequestered at home. One way to remain fully aware and “be in the moment,” is to read, Michael says. In fact, now more than ever, is the perfect time to catch up on our old favorites or dive into a brand new read. We turned to Michael, who shares five stellar book recommendations with Esalen:

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Seven Ways to Bring Esalen in Your Home

Esalen may be temporarily closed to the public but the spirit of Esalen remains intact. In fact, that spirit, which first came to light back in 1962 when co-founders Michael Murphy and Dick Price founded Esalen, can be implemented wherever we are. During challenging times, we can invite Esalen into our homes and smaller communities. The following guideposts show us how.

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