If the hot springs are Esalen’s soul, then the Lodge must be its heart. Both pre-date the Institute. Both are intensely relational and sensorily stunning. And both are full-contact, heart-centered immersions in what it means to be on your own frontier of growth and change.
Encompassing a kitchen, dining room, sun room, and outdoor deck, the Lodge is where workshop leaders, participants, guests, and community members gather around communal tables to postulate and ruminate at all hours of the day and night. Deeply nourishing on many levels, it is a place where synchro-mystical reunions and so-called “chance” encounters are commonplace.
John Heider, author of The Tao of Leadership and longtime Esalen teacher, expressed what those who have been there know: “The real work that happens at Esalen happens in the Lodge.” It is a place where your ability to listen and communicate vaults and your willingness to consider other possibilities comes alive.
In the 1950s, the Lodge was a restaurant and gathering place for the Big Sur community including Henry Miller, who lived on Partington Ridge. He’d soak in the baths and then come up to the Lodge to write. In the late 1950s you might have seen Steve McQueen, Joan Baez, or a young Hunter S. Thompson, who the Murphy family hired (briefly!) as a caretaker.
In 1962, Michael Murphy and Richard Price started Esalen Institute. Soon, Alan Watts gave a lecture in the Lodge, and the famous psychologist Abraham Maslow stopped in looking for a room. Maslow settled in as a frequent visitor, and regular workshops started to happen in the Lodge. In 1963, Fritz Perls drove up from LA. After dinner one night, he set up a makeshift stage and chairs and gave a demonstration of Gestalt therapy. Soon after, Fritz moved to Esalen permanently. From there, Esalen grew and flourished, evolving and transforming with the times.
When you enter the Lodge, whether it’s for breakfast or a midnight snack of homemade toast and jam, you can feel the resonance of this history intermingling with the vibrant energy of today.