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My Esalen Transformation: Don Hanlon Johnson

February 2015

I cannot imagine what the second half of my life would have been without Esalen. 

I came here in 1967 as a Jesuit, preparing for my ordination about three months later. The workshop I attended was led by author and religious scholar Huston Smith, who was the Chair of the Philosophy Department at MIT at that time. Fellow participants included such pioneers as psychologist Will Schutz and somatic therapist Stanley Keleman, as well as Gia-Fu Feng, a renowned Taoist teacher and translator of Taoist classics.

The experience I had at Esalen could be likened to the opening notes of a new symphony in my life, and was followed by a half-century of working out the implications of returning to my body and the body of the earth; training with Ida Rolf; leading many symposia under what is now the Esalen Center for Theory and Research (CTR); and gathering bodyworkers, biomedical researchers, philosophers, spiritual teachers, and social scientists to create what some of us have called the field of somatics.

I was only able to do all of this because of Esalen's generosity in allowing me to use its many desirable features to entice world leaders in these various fields to spend time here working out a common vision.

— Don Hanlon Johnson

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