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Voices of Esalen Podcast

Our podcast showcases in-depth interviews with the dynamic teachers and thinkers who are part of Esalen Institute. Hosted by Sam Stern, a former Esalen student and current staff member, the podcasts have featured engaging conversations with authors Cheryl Strayed and Michael Pollan, innovators Stan Grof and Dr. Mark Hyman, teachers Byron Katie, Mark Coleman and Jean Houston, Esalen co-founder Michael Murphy, and many more.

These podcasts are made possible in part by the support of Esalen donors and are licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

Listen to the latest episodes here, and subscribe to Voices of Esalen on Spotify, Stitcher, Soundcloud, Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts.

Latest Episode:
The Psychedelic Moment, Pt. 6: Laura Dev on the Ayahuasca Economy and Spiritual Tourism
March 8, 2021

Laura Dev is a Postdoctoral scholar in public political ecology at UC Merced whose work investigates the relations and practices surrounding ayahuasca, a psychoactive plant mixture, focusing on the pathways by which plants, rituals, and knowledge associated with the use of ayahuasca travel between Shipibo communities in the rural Peruvian Amazon and the Global North. Together we chatted about global ayahuasca tourism, why ayahuasca became fashionable among middle-class and upper middle-class American searchers and seekers, the various specificities of the "Ayahuasca Economy," how spiritual use of plants can transform native landscapes, what socially responsible use may look like, how Laura asks for and receives wisdom from plants and sometimes helpful writing advice.

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The Psychedelic Moment, Pt. 5: Black-Led Psychedelic Collective The Sabina Project
February 16, 2021

Charlotte James and Undrea Wright are the founders ofThe Sabina Project, a Black-led platform for psychedelic education, legal ceremonies, and integration whose mission is to return reverence to sacred earth medicine ways, to look to and learn from ancestral practices, and to support radical self-transformation in the name of collective liberation.

We spoke about what just and equitable modes of interaction with psychedelic medicine looks like to Charlotte and Dre, who they were ten years ago and how plant medicine has changed their lives, what's most challenging when it comes to educating about anti-Black racism, whether there's a distinctly African psychedelic tradition (there is, and Iboga is an example), what is Kambo, if there is required reading for this moment, and finally, how the founders have been able to manifest their dreams and embody the change they wish to see in the world.

Visit Charlotte and Dre online at www.thesabinaproject.com.

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The Psychedelic Moment, Pt. 4: Dr. Mellody Hayes on Ketamine, Equity, Love, and Healing
February 5, 2021

Dr. Mellody Hayes is an evidence-based and spiritually-centered medical expert in the emerging clinical science of Psychedelic Medicine. Dr. Hayes is a graduate of Harvard and UCSF medical school and is an anesthesiologist, leader, public speaker and founding member of Decriminalize Nature. She’s also the founder of a Bay Area clinic that offers psychedelic ketamine therapy. Dr. Hayes is the creator of How We Heal, an online community of healers and leaders committed to creating belonging, safety, and health for all people, particularly those from historically marginalized communities.

We discussed the mechanics and science of ketamine-based psychedelic therapy, the need for diversity within the psychedelic community, her optimism for the practice of psychedelic medicine in creating cultural change and cultural healing within contemporary society, and the healing power of story.
To learn more about Dr. Hayes's work, please visit www.drmellody.com and howweheal.net.

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The Psychedelic Moment, Pt. 3: Dr. Alexander Belser on Queering the Psychedelic Movement
January 22, 2021

Alex Belser is the founding member and administrative director of a Psilocybin Cancer Anxiety Trial at NYU School of Medicine where he’s investigated if psychedelic mushrooms can ease anxiety for folks facing end of life. In his psychotherapeutic practice, he focuses in part on preventing suicide amongst young gay and bisexual men. We spoke about his queer critique of the psychedelic world from his vantage point as a researcher and a queer cis-gender man, and ruminated in depth about queer spirituality, queer wisdom and the subversive nature of psychedelics.

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The Psychedelic Moment, Pt. 2: Ismail Ali of MAPS on Humane Drug Policy for All
January 15, 2021

Ismail Ali is Policy & Advocacy Counsel for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, otherwise known as MAPS. His job is advocating to eliminate barriers to psychedelic therapy and research by developing and implementing legal and policy strategy. In this interview, Ismail discusses the history of the war on drugs, the intrinsic differences between drug decriminalization and legalization, how MAPS has been able to achieve specific goals with the FDA under the Trump administration, Joe Biden’s "tough-on-crime-Democratic-Party" drug policy history, with respect to the R.A.V.E. act and the 1994 Crime Bill, how medical insurance will play in a landscape where psychedelics may become legalized or medicalized, how MAPS has become a thought leader with regards to social justice within the field of psychedelics, and whether Ismail believes psychedelics can bestow a knowledge of unity, oneness, and connectedness that can affect views and policy on racism and environmentalism.

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The Psychedelic Moment, Pt. 1: Charles Stang on the Mystical Experience
January 8, 2021

Charles Stang, Professor of Early Christian Thought and director of the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School, is our guest for part one of our multi-part series, The Psychedelic Moment, where we speak to thought leaders within the modern world of psychedelics and psychedelic psychotherapy.

Stang and Harvard Divnity School have partnered with Esalen to create a series of free online lectures that examine the psychedelic renaissance. Today, we spoke about the so-called first wave of psychedelics, and how the Harvard Divinity School played its own crucial role, as well as the importance of the mystical experience in achieving positive therapeutic outcomes in psychedelic trials, "divine darkness" and how that affects a psychological reckoning, how somatic practices, apart from any intoxicant, can traditionally bring on a mystical experience, the use of sacraments in the ancient mystery religions of the mediterranean, and much more.

To check out the Center for World Religion's psychedelic collaboration with Esalen, please visit:




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Deborah Medow on Massage, Magic, and Mischief: Fifty Years at Esalen
December 11, 2020

Deborah Medow is an Esalen legend. She came to Big Sur and the Esalen Institute in the late 1960’s, and found it so much to her liking that she never left. Deborah was an early acolyte of Dick Price, who encouraged her to become one of Esalen’s first yoga teachers.

Deborah found her home as a massage therapist, where, as part of an early crew that featured trailblazers like Peggy Horan, Brita Ostrom, and Vicki Topp, she helped to develop and shepherd a school of touch that would influence practitioners around the world.

Through more than 50 years of service to Esalen, Deborah has been a beloved community member, teacher, and leader - insightful and intelligent, curious and kind, hilarious and unapologetically unique.

Our interview begins in Indiana, where she grew up, and it ends with an incantation, featuring her famous rattle.

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Matthew Ingram: How the Counterculture Invented Wellness
December 4, 2020

Matthew Ingram is the author of Retreat: How the Counterculture Invented Wellness. His book is a primer covering the historical unfolding of a host of topics including Allen Ginsberg, Stanislav Grof, LSD psychotherapy, the Prague Spring, psychoanalysis, Freudian Marxism, ego dissolution, the CIA's MK ULTRA program, Tom Wolfe, Libertarians, cultural revolt, and more.

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Maija West: The True Meaning of Thanksgiving
November 26, 2020

Maija West is the CEO and a Founding Board Member of the Healing and Reconciliation Institute, which weaves together opportunities to take responsibility for historical and ongoing traumas to invoke a shared humanity.

On the occasion of Thanksgiving, Esalen’s Christine Chen spoke to West, a trusted educator and facilitator who often speaks on behalf of the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County, to offer perspectives on the story of Thanksgiving, as well as sharing guidance about learning and allyship with coastal tribal communities in and around Esalen Institute.

Esalen Institute is in a long-term, ongoing educational process in partnership with the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County and its representatives. This interview was conceived and explored with the permission, support, and guidance of Tribal Chairman, Tom “Little Bear” Nason.

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Fred Dust: Making Conversation
November 20, 2020

Fred Dust is a former Global Managing Partner at the acclaimed international design firm IDEO, where he worked with leaders and change agents to unlock the creative potential of business, government, education, and philanthropic organizations.

Fred has worked with the US Agency for International Development, the US Office of Personnel Management, and the US Social Security Administration to create citizen-centered strategies and the structures to implement them.

He’s also collaborated closely with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Knight Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and Bloomberg Philanthropies to improve the impact and reach of their programs.

Fred is on the Board of Trustees for the Sundance Institute, on the Board of Directors for NPR, and is Chair of the board of Parsons School of Design.

His new book is Making Conversation, a primer for creating effective strategies that yield creative and pleasurable conversations.

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Travel advisory
Maintenance work on Highway 1 north of Esalen at the Bixby Bridge (PM 59.5) will result in full overnight road closures from 10 pm – 6:30 am for three weeks beginning Monday July 12.