“The Esalen community, like redwoods, grows tall by weaving their roots together. Esalen’s roots branch from Big Sur and grow around the world.” — Ben Tauber, Executive Director
Esalen's sturdy roots have been essential as Ben Tauber, an entrepreneur with an interest in somatic practices, assumed leadership at Esalen during an unprecedented closure resulting from landslides and a bridge failure. As founding partner of Velocity, an executive coaching company based in Silicon Valley, Ben has both the passion and experience for helping individuals and organizations realize their highest potential. “Esalen is an extension of my own purpose,” said Ben. “With Velocity, I felt that if I could help even a small number of founders more fully realize their potential and operate from a place of purpose, I would have a profound effect on humanity. Now I have the privilege to work with the Institute capable of helping to realize potential for the whole world.”
If you were to visit Ben’s home office in the Bay Area, you would find a piece of paper tacked to the wall which reads: “Realize individual and collective human potential.” For the 33-year-old entrepreneur, this is the “why” that has led him from previous management positions at Adobe and Google to serve on Esalen’s Board of Trustees in 2015 and ultimately to join dozens of candidates vetted over the last nine months for Esalen’s new Executive Director role. The position was held formerly by Tricia McEntee as CEO.
Originally Ben had planned to begin his tenure at Esalen as a work scholar, a 28-day immersive program that allows individuals to become part of the Esalen residential community, work on property, and participate in workshops. Those plans dramatically changed with the Institute’s temporary closure on February 12. Instead, his role began suddenly as he supported the helicopter evacuation of non-essential staff from Big Sur at the end of February, before assuming a full-time position last month. He now splits his time between the Bay Area, Esalen’s Carmel office, and Big Sur. He views this moment of time for Esalen as one to reimagine what is possible for the non-profit organization.
While wellness and learning retreats continue to expand nationwide, Ben sees Esalen as something all-together different. “Esalen is an extraordinary catalyst for individual and social transformation. From personal healing to new movements – legacy of Gestalt to the writings of Maslow – all have been incubated and grown here,” he said. “We have the history, the land, the community, and the passion to push the edge of human potential like never before.”
Looking ahead to Esalen's reopening in June, Ben views one of his responsibilities as helping Esalen evolve into a new way of being. He recalls a recent conversation with Esalen co-founder Michael Murphy who framed Esalen as a microcosm for the world. “It’s a little like Rolfing,” said Michael. “When you work on the shoulder, it flexes the toes. As in Rolfing, what happens at Esalen ripples out into the world.”