I’ve had in mind to go to Esalen Institute for a while now. I first heard about Esalen when I went to Omega many years ago. Esalen is the kind of mother of all retreat centers and the home of the human potential movement. Greats like Abraham Maslow, Aldous Huxley, Carl Rogers, and B.F. Skinner all taught there in the early years, and several of the rooms are named after these early teachers.
It’s a beautiful place overlooking Big Sur, about an hour south of Monterey. People come from all over the world–my workshop on leadership had participants from Russia, Spain, the UK and a few other countries as well as the U.S. It’s very “California” and more “out there” than Omega, which seems almost sedate by comparison–lots of hugging, group encounters, and clothing optional hot springs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The majestic beauty of the surroundings–really breathtaking–lends a kind of spiritual overlay to the whole place, and has led many to come for weeks, months, or even a year or more of study and contemplation. Most of the food is grown in the huge Esalen garden, banked against the ocean, and the produce was abundant and delicious. Unlike Omega, there was meat at every meal, with vegetarian options, as well as a bar serving beer and wine.
People come to find themselves–and perhaps to lose themselves, as well, in the larger scale of life that is so on display with the pounding surf, the miles upon miles of sharp cliffs into the sea, and the regular siting of whales and dolphins off the coastline.
The workshop I attended was on a philosophy of leadership called “Care to Dare”, which the instructor, George Kohlrieser, developed out of his work as a hostage negotiator. It was very thought-provoking and has given me a valuable new frame of reference for my own work. Best of all, I met some fabulous people from around the world who were in my workshop for the weekend. Due to the distance from New England, Esalen will likely not be a place I visit every year as I have Omega, but I’ll definitely be back.