My experience of transformation at Esalen has not been one event, but a series of meltings and unfoldings that have contributed to a profound shift in perspective. I notice that, almost immediately upon arriving at the Land of Esalen, a softening takes over, an ease of tension. Slowly, at sunrise, after sunset, after nourishing soaks in the hot baths, after deep soulful practices, the transmission of nature begins to do her work. A resetting of the nervous system and calming of the monkey mind unfold, a reminder of the great power that is below us in the earth and within us.
I have been co-leading the Yoga Festival at Esalen for the past six years, and leading at least one other Esalen workshop per year, often on Gratitude. Every time we arrive, the entire sangha (group) seems to set down their “baggage” and be received by the intention, love, and devotion on Esalen's property. This year, I will be staying at Esalen for my longest duration to lead the Path of Devotion, Esalen’s first-ever 108-hour Yoga Teacher Training, on February 8-22, 2015. This title was birthed from the sense of devotion to one’s life purpose that seems to arise when surrounded by the power of this land.
I’ve designed the training to be in accord with the qualities at Esalen that I have found most transformative: devotion to living an aware and conscious life, spaciousness, intention, inquiry, and nourishment. This training aims to express the core values practiced on this land for decades through tending to the body, soul, and heart; through contemplation, movement, study, and creative practice (mostly in the form of devotional chanting, and innovative solo and partner movement); and through balancing the care and nourishment of self and others.
Creativity and healing live here. The loving hands of the healers who work in the spa; the wide open spaces; the curled-in small nooks; the myriad of trees, carrying stories of so many who’ve come before; the waterfall, coming from deep in the woods and returning to its mother ocean in splendor; the food that nourishes and heals; the light at almost all times of day and all seasons. When I immerse in these, and encourage my students to immerse in them, letting regular schedules and activities fall away for a few days, there is precious space for transformation, and a renewal of the devotion that gives our lives both foundation and fresh direction.
Since spending time at Esalen, I find that I make clear and heart-driven decisions and that I set aside time for the type of deep nourishment of this environment. My life may not appear different on the outside and one could possibly not point to any obvious KAAPOW transformations that we could all conveniently point to and applaud a particular moment where everything became easy and made sense. Change has come more in terms of subtle kindnesses and deep pulses of the land, baths, nature, nourishment, and mostly people that live with me and remind me of a deeper truth. A truth below my mental constructs and defense mechanisms. A richer life, in terms of showing up even a tiny bit more present and grateful in the face of mothering.
When Esalen approached me to lead its fullest and longest yoga training ever, I had to think carefully about stepping away from my usual steady focus on caring for my children, maintaining my weekly classes, and engaging in the daily activities of supporting and nurturing myself, my family, and the students who practice with me. But when thinking back over the transformations that I have seen in myself, my students, and so many loved ones who have spent time in my workshops and trainings at Esalen over the years, it seemed possible to make those sacrifices in exchange for the kind of deep transformative potential that would be available both to myself and to all of us who will be spending two full weeks training and practicing devotion at Esalen.
My deepest hope is that others will find a way to take what I know is a great leap to step away from their daily lives and into this uniquely intimate and immersive experience. Path of Devotion aims to give fullest expression to the profound synchronicity I feel between my values as a lifelong student and teacher of yoga and those of the entire Esalen mission.
~ Janet Stone