Santa Cruz Good Times

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Oct 21st
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esalen

coverwebEsalen Institute in Big Sur is a portal of progressive thought, education, healing, and more. A look inside the haven that attracted some of history’s most adventurous thinkers.

Commas, apostrophes and periods.  I couldn’t stop thinking about them. They sat there, a haunting trinity of punctuation, lounging on a wicked conveyor belt in my mind. A conveyor belt that seemed only to be increasing in speed.

Commas, apostrophes and periods.

Commas.

Apostrophes.

And periods.

Yes. The CAP were the speeding chocolate balls (and the not delicious kind) to the frazzled Lucy of my brain. And no matter what I did—and God knows I tried everything from picking more emotional lint out of my navel (there’s always more, trust me) to sweating my ass off in Bikram Yoga just to calm my mind—the punctuation party wasn’t about to end. It just kept going on—for weeks.

Why was CAP on my mind?

You see, if you’re a newspaper editor—like, for a long time—if you’re a writer, the CAP troika plays a vital role in the work you do. You play with them all the time. And, if you’re a hardworking scribe, if you’ve followed your bliss enough, if you’ve opened your creative veins often, perhaps too often, and allowed your thick literary blood to pour wildly onto the page (any page)—over and over and over again—eventually, the creative well goes dry and you need to refill it. Or, something is bound to snap.

Inside.

Big time.

cover_RoundTub1The amygdala has a field day. The amygdala—it is located deep within the medial temporal lobes of the brain. It processes the memory of emotional reactions. It just loves to take over as Master of Ceremonies of, well, YOU.

Commas, apostrophes and periods.

Yes. Somewhere between searching for signs from God and stringing sentences together, I gave birth to a Man On The Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. (Playing Nightly. Unlimited Run. Drinks half off.)

The thing is … life, as pretty and magical as she is, doesn’t always offer you a spiritual bib when you need one. Sure, you have the best intentions. You want to do well. You strive to evolve, be happy. But you’re bound to spit up. Worse, you may have pangs to figure “it” all out. (Red wine recommended.) And, if you’re like me—and good lord, if you are, I just have to say, “Welcome, we here at ‘the home’ will give you an unlimited calling plan if you stay and keep us company”—you’re bound to tire. Eventually, at some point, the experience of being a modern-day Sisyphus exhausts you.

And when it does: Goodbye peace; hello burnout!

And so it went, somewhere between summer and fall in a year that felt like last year but could have very well been this year, when my internal winds reached hurricane-like proportions.

Sadly, I had convinced myself that, perhaps, others, too, had grown weary of approaching me for fear of how I might interact with them while I was in this state. Laugh—like, maniacally? Morph into a bitchy Elton John? (Saturday night may not be all right.) Make plans, forget about them?

(Note of clarity from the HERE AND NOW: Who knows if any of that was really true. At the time, it felt true in my mind and since I was trapped there, then it had to, at the very least, be a distant cousin of TRUE. And because I was the one thinking it was so, then, for me, it was so very, very so. Or, at least I thought so.)

Well, one day, over lunch, a friend and colleague of mine—Doug—reminded me of Esalen in Big Sur. “It’s wonderful, so great,” he beamed with a mixture of integrated grace and enthusiasm. (HEY—I want some!) We had had talks about Esalen before, when my mind wasn’t doing the thing it was currently doing.

“It’s soothing,” he added with a bright, happy ear-to-ear grin. “I really think it would be good for you to go and unwind. It helped me with my book.”

I smiled at him and nodded. Meanwhile, my mind did the following with the information he’d just shared with me:

Esalen. God—YES! Ocean. Fresh air. Renewal. That would be so, so good  …

Book?

Did he just say book? He did. I heard him. Remember when I wrote a book? I still have another draft to go. Damn—I’ll never get it done. It’s just sitting there. I tried. But now I’m tired and besides, today I feel fat. F.A.T squared! Why the hell am I going out to lunch anyway? Doug—look at him. Tall, lean—and an author. I bet he doesn’t have to worry about calories. Or frickin’ punctuation.

, ’ .

!!!!Deadlines!!!!  I should go back to work.

Santa Cruz! Good Times. Gotta tell good stories.

Tell good stories. Edit good stories. Give ’em good stories!

The people. Oh … they’re so great here.

Screw ’em. They’re exhausting!

Whatever. Doesn’t matter. You’re RIGHT! I AM fat, and I DID consume too many calories during this meal and now Doug is getting published and I’m sitting here gaining weight … wondering what the cosmic significance of , ‘ and . might be!

When I finally look up from my plate, I shoot Doug a look. “How do I get a hold of Esalen again?

 

THE PLACE

Esalen Institute was officially born in 1962. It was the brainchild of Michael Murphy and Dick Price, two former Stanford grads who wanted to break from conventional thinking and create a portal where greater human potential could be explored and experienced.

Hold that thought—and let’s back up: Murphy’s grandfather, a Salinas doctor—the guy reportedly delivered John Steinbeck—had purchased the property back in 1910 with the hopes of creating a European type of spa that smacked of nearby Tasahara. But since Highway 1 had yet to be built, the lush 27 acres of land that sat 45 miles south of Carmel along the Santa Lucia Mountains, remained somewhat population-free until a useable thoroughfare came into being in the ’30s.

And then … things changed.

cover_PeopleMeditatingbyPoolThe war came, the highway shut down. When it reopened, people arrived, visiting for a spell, marveling at the view, the grounds, and the healing hot springs. This mysterious shire held a distinctly unique vibe. It was a Nirvana of sorts, a place where the land and the sea collided together dramatically and in surprisingly incandescent cosmic splendor; an arena that often triggered something deep in the minds, hearts and souls of its visitors.

It may have been a relatively new experience to modern-day travelers, but the area had inspired humans for centuries. In fact, archeological findings in the area chart back about 6,000 years, when the Esselen Indians thrived there, benefiting from the healing qualities of the mineral hot springs, if not the land.

For founders Murphy and Price, two men with grand ideas and a hunger to feast on new thought-shifting conversations that could better the world, good fortune arrived in the form of Murphy’s grandmother, the widow of Dr. Murphy. She eventually relinquished the land to her grandson, leasing it to him, and then … well then, the guys found themselves beginning to till the soil of a very different kind of landscape.

Their vision was to experiment with new thought and a variety of philosophies, disciplines and psychology techniques; discussions that dwelled beyond academia and the dogmatism often found in many organized groups. Price had connections and funding. So did Murphy.  Together, they pooled their resources and, as the story goes, in 1961, the men sat down before a small typewriter and wrote letters to “everybody in the world they’ve ever heard of”—big names with bright minds. But they didn’t want just lectures, readings and seminars at Esalen—not in the traditional sense. They wanted something more. And that  “something more” spawned the “workshop” format, where one could experience “personal growth” beyond the couch of psychotherapy.

These were all new concepts at the time. But with the help of such mindbending mindbenders—Alan Watts, Aldous Huxley, Stanford prof Frederick Spiegelberg and others—their “experiment” began. Watts, the acclaimed British philosopher and writer, held the first seminar there in 1962.

Abraham Maslow, a revered psychologist who was considered to be the father of humanistic psychology, eventually became a significant Esalen figure. So, too, did Fritz Perls, the Zeus of Gestalt Therapy. Whittled down to some understandable logic here, Gestalt is “the process of enhanced awareness of sensation, perception, bodily feelings, emotion and behavior, in the present.” As in “Now.” There’s a focus on relationship, too, and contact between the self and the environment. Actually, Perls lived at Esalen for many years in the mid- to late-’60s before his death in 1970. Price became a valued protégé who took Gestalt to new heights.

These bright ideas spilled out of Esalen and began to awaken sleepy minds like enchanted fireflies in the sky on a Midwestern June evening.

Before the year 1967 came to an end, Esalen had become a nonprofit, attracting national and international attention. By decade’s end, Murphy and Price’s “experiment” had blossomed into a full-blown Xanadu for expanding human potential. And some of its early knights of transformation: Richard Alpert, Timothy Leary, Ansel Adams, Buckminster Fuller, Paul Tillich and Carl Rogers, to note a few.

cover_CircleCranialDistMurphy, in a statement of purpose, noted that Esalen “exists to promote the harmonious development of the whole person” and that as a learning organization, it was “dedicated to continual exploration of the human potential,” resisting religious, scientific and other dogmas. “It fosters theory, practice, research, and institution-building to facilitate personal and social transformation and, to that end, sponsors seminars for the general public; invitational conferences; research programs; residencies for artists, scholars, scientists, and religious teachers; work-study programs; and semi-autonomous projects.”

With such good juju being directed out into the world, things sort of went nuclear.

In the early ’70s, Esalen teams traveled to faraway lands to capture other nuances of personal growth. From Europe they brought back psychosynthesis (“an eclectic and comprehensive approach to development focused on the positive and ‘higher’ dimensions of humans”). Another mission to Chile to learn from Sufi master Oscar Ichazo sprouted further developments for what is now well known: the Enneagram. And by the late ’70s: Grof Holotropic Breathwork actually came into being in a month-long seminar at Esalen.

But this hardly captures the entire Esalen kaleidoscope. You’d need a whole book for that. (Don’t tempt me.) So much more was going on. A sea change was happening.

One of the more noteworthy if not fascinating developments came in the ’80s when, in the midst of America’s foreign affairs woes, Esalen turned heads with its own brand of international relations. There were many talks and much think-tanking—a great deal of it designed to mend Soviet-American relations. In 1982, Esalen championed the premier spacebridges, which allowed Americans and the Soviets to communicate directly via satellite. Meanwhile, conferences for “Citizen Diplomacy” were well under way, strengthening ties in troubled areas in the world. And the year 1989 certainly stood out. Esalen coordinated, in conjunction with the United States-based International Center for Economic Growth and Moscow State University, the “Entrepreneurship in the World Economy” conference.

A big coup was afoot, too. The institute hosted Boris Yeltsin on his very first excursion to the United States. Esalen had arranged meetings for Yeltsin with President Bush, former President Reagan, and a number of other prominent leaders in business and government. Yes. Esalen spearheaded the events—not a government.

Beyond these noble feats, the institute’s many workshops and seminars captured the interest of soul-searchers near and far. And numerous initiatives thrived, further pushing thought and ways of being into new realms. Programs such as the Empirical Study of Frontier Topics, or Psychics and Consciousness, and even Sports Psychology turned heads. But there were countless others—from Environmental Studies and Alternative Views and Approaches to Psychosis (yummy!) to Race Relations, Shamanism and Social Outreach. And there are too many more to truly chronicle here.

Esalen generated ripple effects. Big ones. The kind capable of creating major transformation.

But I know none of this before I arrive.

All I know, with the mind I was using to think with—to “BE” with—is that commas, apostrophes and periods had to be responsible for my madness. Or so I thought.


THE JOURNEY

I decided, in a refreshing moment of clarity—when my MIND wasn’t looking—that the best thing I could do to locate serenity in my internal GPS was to take a three-week road trip and that the beginning of the journey must begin at Esalen. If I was going to unplug; really reboot, regenerate, re-invent, rest—whatever—I had to get MYSELF away from MYSELF in the place that I had made MYSELF the mess that was now MYSELF.

I nearly got a speeding ticket.

I arrive at Esalen on a Sunday, the first day of a four-day stay there.

Many who’ve experienced Big Sur know that the forests, mountains and pristine coastlines all merge together quite astonishingly. I immediately find Esalen, which lies several miles south of the well-known Nepenthe restaurant, absolutely hypnotic and a feast for the eyes. The Santa Lucia Mountains rise up dramatically across Highway 1. The grounds of the Institute rest right above the ocean, where the combination of sea air and the sound of the crashing surf immediately capture me. In fact, upon check-in at the main lodge, I find myself standing completely mesmerized by the glorious Pacific in front of me. There’s so much “space” here.

Three words collide in my mind. They create a new sound in there I’m not used to hearing. It sounds like this: I’M NEVER LEAVING!

My cabin. It’s perched high above the famous Esalen baths, and we share the same ocean view—dramatic, just the way I apparently have grown to like things. So I sit here for a while, out on the small deck, soaking up the natural environment. I just sit.

And sit.

And sit.

Prior to my arrival, I booked a massage but since there was some time before the appointment, I decide to explore. A short distance back at the main lodge, I spot a man in clothes that seem plucked right out of an Indiana Jones film. He’s tall with gray hair, and when he smiles, it’s one of those breathtaking happy smiles that radiate an inner peace and simple joy.  He’s toting a large smudge stick and smudging (“clearing the energies”) of an older woman standing in front of him, her eyes shut, arms outstretched. Mr. Inner Peace outlines her body with the musky lit sage for a while. He shoots me a look that seems to suggest I can be next.

He doesn’t have to twist my arm.

Besides, I’m determined to do everything possible to drain myself of feeling drained. I miss ME—the one that smiled a lot and wasn’t so tired all of the time. The ME that didn’t always take things so seriously. And really, when I think about it—something I promised myself I wouldn’t be doing that much—the ME that got ME into this mess, can’t possibly be the ME that was going help transform ME out of it.

cover_MassageTablesSmudge Sticker is actually a Shaman named Hec Ace. I learn that he’s lived in the area for quite some time. And so, with arms outstretched, Hec Ace does what he apparently does best—purify. He tells me about a few energy blocks along the left side of my body, the feminine side (the receptive and intuitive side), and as he outlines the rest of my body with the smoky stick, I inhale deeply a few times and surrender to the experience, imagining the knots in my body loosening, and picturing the tight, pent-up energy draining as if it were gallons of black crude spilling out from a drum. My mind, not having been used to such re-direction lately, doesn’t seem to mind.

Afterward, I thank Hec Ace and walk away chuckling. I feel lighter. Perhaps I’m imagining it. But I don’t care. Off I go, exploring the grounds.

A swimming pool overlooking the ocean lies just adjacent to the main lodge. And off to the side of it is a spacious knoll, with trees and benches—home to those who want to rest in between workshops or any number of other excursions. Eventually, I stroll through the Esalen gardens (and the Buddha Garden), a lush expanse of homegrown vegetables, and other plants and flowers that, I later learn, are tended to daily. A pathway leads me toward a rushing creek, which flows right out into the ocean. And then another pathway takes me toward a rustic meditation hut that is perched right above the creek near a wooden bridge connecting one part of the property to the other. I take off my shoes and head inside of an octagon-shaped structure whose circular bench houses many colorful meditation pillows.

Quiet—aside from the sound of rushing water from the creek, there’s nothing but … STILLNESS. So much of it that you can really hear yourself think, which … if you really think about it (RED ALERT!) only makes you that much more aware of what you are thinking.

Commas, apostrophes and periods.

For the first time, I become intrigued with this mantra—and then I’m back to never wanting to have anything to do with my thoughts—EVER AGAIN.

The detached part of me makes a mental note of all this because, as much as I have become prone to whine—later wine—and avoid dealing with things of late (I’M TIRED, LEAVE ME ALONE), I realize that I have been blessed (cursed?) with not being able to get away with a damn thing. For some reason, I am acutely aware of my thoughts and my feelings—all of them. ALL OF THE TIME.

How I’ve managed to get by without prescription meds is a miracle, I think to myself. And then ... immediately wonder if that’s really such a good thing. (Next Mood Swing: 15 minutes. Don’t be late.)

Enough. I have a massage to experience.

Esalen is internationally revered for its groundbreaking massage, and the practitioners that come out of its massage program are often masters of touch. Those receiving the unique massage can break free from old tension patterns, release old emotions and surrender to the calm. But Esalen massage was informed by a number of works—from Swedish massage and oriental medicine to Gestalt practice and somatic mind-body psychology, to note a few.

Housed in a number of clean, airy and spacious rooms on two levels at the Esalen Baths, the massage rooms overlook the ocean. You feel the breeze, you smell the air, you’re wrapped up in its healing spell. My massage therapist had me at “How are you?” and soon, I was gone—lost in the rhythms of his hands, his pressure, his art. He worked on me. He worked on me well. Really well.

And then … I breathed.

And finally … I exhaled.

(Forget the Mood Swing, pass me a week of this.)


And there, on the table, something happened. My active mind tripped, fell and shut the hell up. Picking up the baton that was ME, seemed to be ... ME. Suddenly, I was all too aware of how tight some parts of my body actually were; how my muscles and tendons, despite enduring continuous stretches in Bikram yoga, had somehow become victims of my mental handiwork.

What the hell have I done to myself?

Commas, apostrophes and periods.

I sigh deeply and imagine taking a fly swatter to the CAP, determined to smack them right out of my mind. Oh, but later, I would realize that doing that—engaging myself in combat—would be just doing things the hard way.

 

THE CLEANSE

Feeling refreshed. I decide that I will book another massage, realizing that it’s going to take several of them to get me back to some kind of normal. And I hit the Esalen baths, which house a number of individual and communal tubs and a silent area, perfect for meditation. The baths are clothing optional.

About that … there is a RESERVED ME, a default version that tends to habitually exist as the byproduct of a conventional Polish upbringing; one that says never to rock the boat, one that insists on abiding by the rules, one that came with a Capricorn mother who often found many of my unconventional ideas weird and disturbing. So, the idea that a former chubby Polish kid searching for signs from the heavens could enter a public bathhouse naked; well, my mind just loved it: YOU CAN’T DO THAT!

Which is one of the reasons why I did it anyway.

Trust me—nudity loses its initial zing within five minutes. Bodies are bodies. Besides, there I was, on the edge of a dramatic cliff soaking in hot mineral waters that have been pouring forth from lovely Mother Earth for centuries, healing people. I could sit here and stew in a rerun of I THINK THERE’S SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME, or simply turn around and contemplate a different view.

The view won out.

But then, I guess, I did too. I soak here for what seems like hours, almost oblivious to who was entering or leaving the small pool I occupied. I stare out into ocean for long spells, sighing deeply from time to time, relaxing  … relaxing.

Dear God—is this what it feels like?

I spot sea otters. I see whales in the distance. The sun, almost setting, begins dipping into thin clouds on the horizon, sending out a vibrant mix of light and burnt orange hues into the vast skyline. The waves crash below. I take a deep breath. And another one.

And another.

And one more ...

 

THE DISCOVERY

The next day, I stumble upon a bit of serendipity in the form of Esalen president Gordon Wheeler (at the time, he was also CEO)—to my surprise, the man and his wife, Nancy Lunney-Wheeler (pictured below), have a home in Santa Cruz and split some of their time between the two locales.

Nancy, I discover, has been the director of programming at Esalen for nearly 30 years and continues to be a senior advisor for Programs and Communications. During this time, she has managed to give birth to 15,000 residential courses taught by faculty or guest faculty, which have reached more than 300,000 students. Gordon is also an enigma. He’s calm. He’s present. He’s in the Now. At least he appears to be. But it makes perfect sense because I later discover, only after doing some digging—because the man is incredibly humble—that Gordon, in additional to being a licensed psychologist, among so many other things in this world, is internationally recognized for his work in Gestalt; that his many writings explore cultural psychology and evolution; that he trains clinicians around the world; and that he is also editor of GestaltPress.

cover_KenChaseLater, when we’re at dinner in the community dining house, Gordon tells me that much of the food at Esalen is grown on the land and prepared there—for the visitors attending workshops; for the staff, for the community at large. As it turns out, Esalen has one of the most impressive sustainable food programs in the country. I then begin learning more about the staff, some 200 of them—not all live onsite or work there at the same time. I hear of the art—and art programs—on site and the thriving pre-school on the grounds. (Actually, dubbed "Gazebo," it's a pioneering outdoor-education preschool, also run by a Santa Cruzan—progressive education leader Joanna Claassen. According to Lunney-Wheeler, "it serves the children of the Big Sur community as well as those of visiting workshop participants and others with its trademark blend of social learning and lifelong eco-education.")

I also hear about yearlong internships and a 28-day work-study program that finds its participants working 32 hours per week in one of Esalen’s departments. I’m fascinated with all this and make a note to later ask Gordon about how it all works and flows with what appears to be such grace and ease.

“Esalen is a village,” he’ll later tell me. “And when you come there, you become part of that village and you get taken into it. We have to deal with each other holistically—it’s what we teach there. Everybody shows up; everybody’s there for you. It’s changed me. The most interesting people in the world come to Esalen, teach at Esalen, and work at Esalen. There is such a love—I learn something every day from somebody.”

My future conversations with Gordon would find the phrase “Santa Cruz is Esalen North” floating out into the ether. Santa Cruz? Esalen North? I think about it—the energy in SC and the flow of scholarly wonder spilling out of UC Santa Cruz and Cabrillo College. “Both Esalen and Santa Cruz have an enormous flow of students, of tourists,” Gordon will tell me, “and they still retain the character of this fundamental community, which is edgy, a little ‘outlaw’, a little anti-authoritarian. They’re also very committed to the environment and progressivism.”

The next day, Gordon, his friend and I cross Highway 1 and proceed to hike a vigorous climb with breathtaking views of the mountains and the ocean. I learn more about co-founders Murphy and Price, particularly that Price died in an unfortunate hiking accident in 1985. I discover that it was assumed that he was meditating when he was struck by falling rock. Gordon, himself an advocate of Gestalt, notes Price’s valued contribution to Gestalt, as a whole.

Murphy, now 82, lives in Sausalito and remains a steward of progressive thought. He is Chairman Emeritus of Esalen, after having been Chairman for 46 years. (Curiously, his 1971 novel “Golf in the Kingdom” is in constant publication and a feature film is in development.)

And of its pristine location, Gordon will also explain that some believe Esalen to be one the greatest power spots of the world. “People like to talk about the meeting of the four waters,” he’ll add. “Those being the ocean that we all come out of, the water from the sky—the rain—and then there is the mountain water from the stream and the deep earth water from the vibrant core of the earth that comes out of the hot mineral springs. Those four all mingle there at the shore. It’s a powerful thought and experience.”

I wouldn’t hear those words until much later, but I find myself experiencing them during my time at Esalen. And at some point, when I realize that it has taken three deep-tissue massages and a number of soaks in the hot springs for just my body to return to some sense of healthy being—well, actually, some good fun and laughs from many people I met in between their various workshops, too—I begin to question what got me so wound up tight in the first place. Because it wasn’t commas, apostrophes and periods.

Work? Sure, I’ve been overworked. I’m lucky to work with amazing creative people, but the pressures of pumping out a weekly—week after week, year after year—I’d be lying if I didn’t say that, at times, it gets to you. Beyond work, there’s life and finances and family and relationships. Yeah, maybe it all became hard to juggle.

But it’s not a blame game, I realize. Besides, if there is anything to attribute my burn-out to, it’s ME.

Sure, I could point the finger at any number of overwhelming life circumstances that took place over the past few years—things I felt were happening to me—but the truth is, all this time, I was happening to ME. I was the one responding to my own events and conditions. Somewhere, along the way, I forgot I was running the show. I burnt myself out.

Well, it’s not glamorous, but it feels like TRUTH. I had to own it. Furthermore, because I was basking in the Garden of Eden of New Thought, I felt it was only fitting for me to A) look at what I was avoiding feeling, B) give myself permission to feel it and C) Consider looking at things in a new way.

And D) Remember to give back. (It’s not about ME, but I chuckle in knowing this because leave it to me to think it’s all about ME.)

Around the time of these curious musings—or was it in between other discoveries (like … sometimes dragonflies like to linger by you longer than you’d think, and a 60-minute silent meditation in a hut all by yourself actually does quiet the mind)—I find myself accepting an invitation from a budding massage practitioner—known here as J—who insists that I must receive a treatment from him during a didgeridoo meditation in the silent quarters of the baths one evening.

“ONLY IN CALIFORNIA!” I hear my Polish mother’s voice call out from within. But I can’t wait for the experience. A massage during a didgeridoo meditation—nice!

cover_peepsThe silent quarters of the baths house two communal tubs, a few individual ones and four to five massage tables. I arrive 25 minutes prior to the meditation, soak in the tubs for a bit and per J’s instructions, find the farthest table near the wall and climb on, face down. And so, with the waves crashing playfully below me, the stars growing brighter, above, J begins his treatment. A half-hour later, others spill into the chamber. I barely hear them crawling into the tubs.

Yeah, I’m basically floating, somewhere … else.

There is no time here. Only peaceful elements—ocean, air, stars, breath.

And when a low, vibrant, vibrating magical note rushes into the room, it bounces off the water, onto the walls, into my ears and sails deep into my body, tickling every cell within.

The didgeridoo man has entered the building.

Another powerful breath is released into the instrument, this one higher in pitch. And then another. And, in varying increments, a family of others.

I just surf each note and let myself be in the moment. (Note to self: Bottle this feeling, this moment, Greg. Drink it whenever you need it. Because, like these notes, everything passes.)

J works his hands across the muscles in my back and I release another deep soothing breath.

Commas, apostrophes and periods are not dancing around in my mind. But, you know what? Even if they did arrive—here, now—even if they did knock on the door in the nether regions of my mind, maybe I wouldn’t resist them. Hell— I’d invite them in. I might even thank them for what they’ve taught me, which, I realize, is this: If there’s a secret to living well, it may just come from understanding the metaphoric significance of commas, apostrophes and periods.

After all, in life, we often find ourselves pausing, possessing or putting an end to something—only to start anew all over again.

And again.

And again.

And again ...


Special thanks to elipses for making a guest appearance. Learn more about Esalen, take note of upcoming workshops, bliss out and/or learn something more at esalen.org. Read the GT Q&A with Esalen co-founder Michael Murphy only at goodtimessantacruz.com. Peace.

(Photos of Esalen by Daniel Bianchetta. Photos of Gordon Wheeler and Nancy Lunney-Wheeler by Keana Parker.)

Comments (2)Add Comment
The "Haunting" Turned Divine Trinity of "CAP"
written by Jesse Keegan, September 27, 2010
It was a CAP-tivating article. En-CAP-sulating, not only the spirit of that place but that of the Santa Cruzian psycho-spiritual zeitgiest [please hold the dogma].

Masterfully done, in a kind of Zen-Hermetic stream of consciousness that tickled my fancy, and my funny bone in a frenetic fantastic fashion, at first. Soon it soothed my existential center as my mind read on carried still within the speedy dance of your words.

I am now sufficiently intrigued regarding the Institute and have gained something unique from the description of your visit. I'll have to check out the Esalen website, posthaste. Here and Now, here I come. Thanks.
An outstanding overview of a remarkable place!
written by Cheryl Cross, September 16, 2010
Thank you for your thoughtful article on Esalen. Your story mimics my own, as I spent a week long sojourn and met HexAce, David Schiffman and so many other Esalen notables. The cover art on Good Times reminds me of the several days and many hours I sat in that same spot - perched high above the ocean. A sacred place where many new life decisions were made. It took me 20 years to get there, but in the two years since I visited, it has come back to me in many ways. Your article was one.

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Libra (our last week) is the sign of creating right relations and values. In Libra we are asked to choose how to be, our identity in the world. We can maintain a hermetic sealed-off attitude (my life, my work, my money, etc.) or we can gain knowledge of world events and learn more about those in need. Libra is a group sign—self with others. Here are some events occurring in our world this week concerning food, poverty, spirituality, values and global realities. The UN (a spiritual experiment) each month places a “light” upon world problems. This week a light shines on Rural Women, Farms, Food & Poverty. Before we choose to respond we must have knowledge. “So we can each do our part.” Oct. 15 - International Day of Rural Women (unrecognized with few resources); Oct. 16 - World Food Day & Family Farming: Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth; Oct. 17 - Eradication of Poverty Day (international). During the month of Libra (with Saturn exalted), we pause, contemplate and assess what it is we know, don’t know, and need to know. Libra receives and distributes Ray 3 of divine intelligence, right relations, right choice and right economy (Venus). Use your intelligence “tips the Libran scales” in terms of being able to see and then choose between the two paths Libra offers (return to the past or step forward into Scorpio’s Discipleship). Libra (the oscillating light) prepares us for the great tests and conflicts in Scorpio. In Libra we are subtly tested as we learn the nature of polarized energies (s/he loves me, s/he loves me not). In Libra we learn more about ourselves through others. Libra’s Ray 3 asks us to become more adaptable and skillful. And then we are to teach each other what we know. In Libra, we all become teachers. In all these ways love is cultivated.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Docs Without Borders

United Nations Association Film Festival showcases documentaries from around the globe
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