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Current Initiatives


"Our mission at Esalen to facilitate change within self and society has never been more vital than it is now." —Michael Murphy

Directed by Esalen co-founder Michael Murphy and Professor Jeff Kripal, Esalen’s Center for Theory & Research (CTR) sponsors research, theory, and action to promote positive social change and the realization of the human potential.

The Imagination and Invisible Presence
March 8-13, 2020
Facilitators: Michael Murphy and Tanya Luhrmann

For scientific research, mindfulness (a secularized version of certain strands of Buddhist meditation) has become the exemplar of contemplative practice and the focus of almost all empirical studies of spiritual practice. Thoughts, images, fantasies, hopes—in this particular understanding of mindfulness, these are distractions. Such an approach woefully misrepresents some of the most important and powerful strands of spiritual practice. For those who seek to experience an invisible presence—be that God, the goddess Tara, or an imaginary friend—imagination-rich practices are often central. This gathering seeks to explore both the use of imagination in the pursuit of invisible presence and the nature of invisible presence itself. We will bring together an intimate group of neuroscientists, anthropologists, psychologists, historians, clinicians, philosophers and experiencers to discuss invisible presence and the ways in which practice can help to evoke it.

Global Threats and Bridge Building
Co-sponsored by Track Two: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy
October 4-9, 2020
Facilitators: Dulce Murphy and Virginia Thomson

In 2019 Track Two explored four global threats with youth and elders from Russia and the United States in St. Petersburg, Russia. In this 2020 conference experts tackling these threats will join the Track Two One Network to reveal and better understand the nuances of relative dialogs and to develop approaches to mitigation.

Bringing Culture to Conflict
Co-sponsored by Track Two: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy
December 6-11, 2020
Facilitators: Dulce Murphy and Virginia Thomson

Track Two invites cultural leaders to explore cultural movements that have influenced peace-building in the North Pacific Rim, (China, Korea, Japan, Far East Russia, Canada, US), Russia and the Middle East. Design and creation will be drivers of a week of inquiry.


Underwriting is needed for project research, facilitators, translators, coordination, summary writers, occasional expert fees, travel and accommodation, and special outreach projects. 

To make a donation, please email Jane Hartford at

Esalen Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, tax-exempt organization. Donations to Esalen Institute are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. Federal tax ID #94-6114235


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