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Faculty Spotlight: Anne Watts

January - June 2018

Anne Watts carries the human potential movement in her DNA. As the daughter of pioneering author and philosopher Alan Watts, she grew up with people like Aldous Huxley, Charlotte Selver, and Ram Dass discussing the nature of human consciousness around the dinner table. While deeply influenced by her father, Anne forged her own path to become an educator, mediator, and counselor devoted to helping people live life from a place of authenticity and love.

We spoke with Anne about her life and work, the ups and downs of being her father’s daughter, and Esalen.

Your father was an influential part of Esalen’s creation story. What’s your first memory of being here?

My first memory is before Esalen was Esalen. I was probably nine years old, and Michael Murphy had just inherited the property. I was with my dad and Michael outside the Big House, and they were talking about what to do with this property. They were just sitting there brainstorming. I was there when the seed was being planted, and that’s a precious memory. Esalen was a major place that my father loved.

What were the challenges of being Alan Watts’ daughter?

I always felt that he could out-talk me on any subject! So that was not so great. Also, for a lot of my childhood he was really not available. He worked hard and he loved his work. He was immersed in it. When he was around, though, he was fun. He loved limericks and he loved to be silly. One of my great childhood memories is when we’d make breakfast. Everyone in my family liked their eggs boiled a different length of time, so he would draw a caricature on each egg — one for each member of the family — so he knew whose egg was whose. It was so much fun you almost didn’t want to break those eggs.

With your sister Joan, you’ve edited The Collected Letters of Alan Watts. What surprised you in reading the letters?

These letters are the most personal view of Alan ever. There are a few things in the letters that were incredible to me. One is his brilliance from a really young age. My breath was just taken away by the depth and richness of his intelligence from very early on. Another thing is that he wrote to people like Carl Jung as a peer, not as someone much younger than they were.

Your Esalen workshops help people live with more potency and joy. What are some of the obstacles that get in the way of living from our most authentic selves?

When we’re little kids we develop beliefs about how the world is. A lot of people have the experience of “I’m not worthy” so there’s a devaluing of self. In order to grow, we have to educate our inner selves about how things can be different. I help people access the inner self and create new stories. That gives us a choice. It gives us a different well to draw from, rather than the one we created as children.

Right now we’re living through challenging times. Why is it more important than ever for people to live from their authentic selves?

All of the work that I do is an opportunity for people to take themselves out of the chaos of the world and go inward. Now more than ever we have to find our own inner peace. The more we’re coming from a place of inner peace, love, and compassion, then the more we have to give. 

Esalen has undergone a rebirth. Can you share a time when you experienced a significant change, personally or professionally?

After my first workshop at the Human Awareness Institute, for the first time I felt real transformation in all areas of my life. That continued through my training to be a facilitator of that work. I was continually stepping into who I never thought I could be. I feel blessed to do this work at Esalen because Esalen gives to me as I give to people at Esalen. It’s a mutually sustaining experience.

See Reclaiming Your Authentic Self June 10 - 15, 2018.

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