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About

Esalen at a Glance

“There is nothing like Esalen anywhere in the world. I truly believe it has changed the course of human history.”–Ken Wilber, Founder of Integral Institute

Esalen Institute, a nonprofit organization, is considered the birthplace of the human potential movement and serves as a sacred place for personal and social transformation. Through workshops, conferences, a working farm, and residential community, Esalen provides a unique opportunity for individuals and nonprofit organizations alike to forge a deeper understanding of self and society in order to pioneer new paths for social change.

Our Offerings

Esalen offers weekend, five-day and seven-day workshops as well as a 28-day residential study program. Additional offerings include unscheduled workshops through A Time to Reflect, conferences with through our Center for Theory & Research, public night bathing and massage and other healing arts treatments. Volunteers are welcome to participate in our five-acre working Farm & Garden.

Themes of workshops include:

  • Arts & Creativity
  • Body & Movement
  • Leadership & Society
  • Meditation & Spirituality
  • Mind & Psychology
  • Nature & Sustainability
  • Relationship & Self

Our History

Since its founding in 1962, Esalen has welcomed more than 925,000 visitors. Inspired by Aldous Huxley’s belief in the human potential — all those unrealized capacities of mind and body that point to the further evolution of human nature — Esalen has been a cultural thought leader, generating and promoting new ideas, methods, and connections that have transformed our world. As we look ahead, we honor our rich legacy and celebrate our initiatives to advance both personal and social transformation worldwide.

Notable teachers who have taught and further developed their work at Esalen include: Ansel Adams, Gregory Bateson, Joseph Campbell, Fritjof Capra, Ram Dass, Buckminster Fuller, Anna Halprin, Abraham Maslow, Fritz Perls, Ida Rolf, Gabrielle Roth, Virginia Satir, Huston Smith and Alan Watts.

Arts and music have been an essential part of Esalen’s history. Well-known musicians who have performed at Esalen include: Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Simon and Garfunkel, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt and George Harrison.

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Our Co-Founders

Michael Murphy

Michael Murphy is co-founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Esalen Institute, and serves as Director of Esalen’s Center for Theory & Research (CTR).

Born and raised in Salinas, California, Murphy graduated from Stanford University in 1952. He lived for a year and a half at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, India before starting Esalen Institute in 1962 with his fellow Stanford graduate, Richard Price. In Big Sur, Price and Murphy co-created a magical and magnificent living laboratory on land owned by Murphy’s family. Michael insisted that Esalen focus not only on the wonders that happen for the thousands of people that come to be healed and made whole, but that it also work for social advance in various fields and support fundamental research into the potentials of human nature.

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Richard Price

From a Chicago family of business men and women, Dick graduated from Stanford University the same year as Michael although the two did not meet at that time.  After a year of graduate work at Harvard, Dick left due to the lack of clinical emphasis. He joined the Air Force and was stationed in the San Francisco Bay area where he simultaneous studied at the Academy of Asian Studies with Alan Watts and actively explored eastern practices in the midst of the North Beach Beat scene. In the course of this he had a psychotic episode/spiritual emergence, depending on one's point of view, and was hospitalized by the Air Force. Dick emerged from this experience feeling healed and renewed but his parents then maneuvered his commitment to a private institution where he was kept against his will for a year, undergoing electroshock and insulin shock treatments. Finally discharged, deeply affected by the damaging nature of conventional mental health treatment, Dick set about restoring his body and spirit.

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Key Milestones

1960s
Abraham Maslow forms Humanistic and Transpersonal Psychology Fritz Perls forms Gestalt Therapy at Esalen

1964
Ida Rolf creates Structural Integration/Rolfing at Esalen

1976
Connections between consciousness and quantum physics made at Esalen with Fritjof Capra and Nick Herbert

1970s-1980s
Complementary Medicine and Humanistic Medicine developed and legitimized by Sukie Miller and Wayne Jonas, leading to the first federal legislation on Humanistic Medicine

1980s
Soviet/American relations improved during the Cold War through spacebridge cosmonaut/astronaut program and Boris Yeltsin visit leading to Track Two and citizen diplomacy

Holotropic Breathwork and Spiritual Emergence Network created by Stanislav and Christina Grof

Somatics and shamanism conferences by Don Johnson and Michael Harner

1993
Field of Ecopsychology created through a series of Esalen conferences by Theodore Roszak

2000s
International Abrahamic Network founded in response to the rise of global fundamentalism and terrorism

Esalen Leadership

Terence Gilbey, General Manager and CEO

Terry Gilbey is a seasoned executive who has worked in both for profit and nonprofit organizations leading change, bringing stability, and empowering organizations to step into their full potential. While his primary focus has been solving complex problems within organizations and teams, he also has started companies from the ground up. Terry retired from the corporate world 10 years ago and first came to Esalen as a work scholar. He later returned as an extended student, and then remained on with a handful of community members during the Institute's closure.

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Gordon Wheeler, President

Gordon Wheeler is a licensed clinical psychologist with extensive experience in his field along with a history in teaching and consulting with nonprofits on such topics as mission development and strategic planning. The author of numerous books and articles in the field, Gordon is noted for his work integrating the Gestalt tradition with relational and developmental psychology.

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Esalen Board of Trustees

William Donius
Bill James
Mary Ellen Klee
Jeff Kripal
Nancy Lunney-Wheeler
Anisa Mehdi
Dave Morin
Michael Murphy
Annabel Teal
Gordon Wheeler

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Learn

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