Center for Theory & Research

Volume IV: Somatics

Esalen and the Recovery of Classical Osteopathy

Hugh Milne

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.

  • First, Esalen insists I give craniosacral sessions at two-hourly intervals (I began osteopathic practice with four sessions an hour). This opens a doorway into timelessness.
  • Second, it gives me the chance to meet remarkable women and men from all over the world, some as teachers for me, some as clients. The most formative are Angeles Arrien, Emilie Conrad, Ram Dass, Stan Grof, Robert Hall, Arnold Mindel, Gabrielle Roth and Fritz Smith. The CEO at Esalen becomes a role model for me with his clarity and precision, as does our chief of staff, the remarkable Brian Lyke. I meet some of Ida Rolf’s graduates, including Seymour Carter and Don Hanlon Johnson. Don inspires me with his humility and his vulnerability, Seymour with his storytelling. Don is good enough to write a recommendation for a book I write on Visionary Craniosacral Work™ while I work on the ‘Deep Tissue Crew.’ Jacob Böhme observes, “If you want to go deep, be deep,” and in meeting these remarkable men and women I have a glimpse of what that means, the readiness to be deep.
  • Third, it opens up a new world of teaching. Deborah Medow from the Massage Crew offers me a class in Norway in 1988. Michael Espenlaub, a work-scholar, a student in that first in-house class, becomes my class organizer in Wuppertal, Germany, in 1990, and within five years I have classes in Canada, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, and the U.K.

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.

The Esalen eZine is edited and curated by Esalen Board member Jay Ogilvy. To make comments or suggestions, please email him at or write to:
Esalen eZine, c/o Jay Ogilvy
3771 Rio Rd. Suite 101
Carmel, CA 93923