Dick Price comes to Poona in 1977. I first hear of him in London, at osteopathic school. In the mid-1960s we are taught about shamanism and the pioneers in perception – particularly C.G.Jung – and are introduced to the work and thought of Freud, Adler, Maslow, Reich, Rogers, Perls, and Rolf.
Anna Freud lives, reclusively, two houses from the school. I long to visit Esalen, but am too timid. Instead, I take part in Encounter Groups with Mike Barnett and Jay Stattmann in London, and in Psychodrama and Gestalt with visiting American teachers. I am a student in Moshe Feldenkreis’ first UK training. It is The Age of Aquarius, and Esalen is Mecca.
In 1972, England’s most respected Encounter Group leader, Paul Lowe, who did some of his training at Esalen, pulls up stakes and moves to Bombay to live with a guru. This is something! I listen to tapes of the guru and decide to go too.
Four years later, I am the guru’s bodyguard, and sit inches from Dick at his first meeting with Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (‘Osho’) at his Poona ashram. Dick’s quiet presence, his openness and sincerity, are palpable.
Dick stays four weeks and then leaves the ashram, shocked by his experience in Paul Lowe’s elemental encounter group. Referring to the literal meaning of ‘Bhagwan,’ Dick writes a letter to the ashram office noting that, “It is as if the worst mistakes of some inexperienced Esalen group leaders of many years ago have been systematized and given the stamp of ‘God.’”
I am impressed by Dick’s clarity, and his readiness to speak his mind.
Five years later I am in California, on a motorcycle vacation from the ashram, which has re-located to Eastern Oregon, six hundred miles to Esalen’s north. In those days if you arrived unannounced at midnight, you could soak in the hot springs all night for free. It is the night of the full moon. I stay in the hot tubs until dawn.
As I walk out through the Esalen grounds, the beauty of the redwood cabins emerging in the light of dawn catches my heart. ‘I want to work here,’ I say to myself. It would take five years, during which time I leave the ashram and return to osteopathic work.
In 1987 I am invited to teach a five-day ‘in-house’ craniosacral class at Esalen. We begin in the "Watts" meeting room. The class cost is $150. The participants are a wonderful, skillful group. They intuitively understand in a day things it has taken me twenty years to grasp. I feel like I have come home.
I like working at Esalen so much that I apply for a job. My application is accepted. I leave the medical practice in Santa Fe and begin work in January 1988. I feel honored to be given Dick Price’s old therapy room, ‘21A.’
Ned Callahan, Esalen’s senior craniosacral therapist, works out of 21C. Exchanging sessions with Ned helps deepen my understanding of dreamtime, and dreambody. Ned and I just do our work. We do not brainstorm a new approach to bodywork, we do not teach together, nothing evolves from our work except personal development. Esalen lets us be. But that is everything, to me. Esalen gives me that opening, to develop, deepen, and introduce the visionary into my work.
Esalen enriches me in three ways.
I give craniosacral sessions in Dick’s room from 1988 until 2005. I am so grateful for this opportunity.
Hugh Milne is a third-generation Scottish osteopath, and author of The Heart of Listening: A Visionary Approach to Craniosacral Work.
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