Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Back in the Day: When Brita Ate Cake with Fritz Perls

Back in the Day is a new feature that spotlights the colorful memories of long-time Esalen community members and alumni — to capture magical moments that happened once upon a time and are still treasured today.


Brita Ostrom has been part of the Esalen Institute since 1967. For more than 40 years, she has led massage and somatic workshops at Esalen and internationally. She is a founding member of the Esalen Massage School, practices Gestalt awareness work, and participated in Esalen’s two-year somatic education program. She is also a licensed psychotherapist.

“I guess you could say fate brought me to Esalen. A more succinct answer is Alan Watts. I had read him in high school; I had a California boyfriend in Washington state and he handed me Psychotherapy East and West, and I thought, “Wow, this is really different!”

Years later, I was living in Haight-Ashbury, and I heard Alan Watts on KFRC, one of the listener-sponsored radio stations. At the end of his talk, he said, in his British way, “I will be presenting down at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur.” I went, “Esalen Institute?” It's like I had already heard of it, and maybe I had.

Big Sur was where beatniks had gone, like Ginsburg and Kerouac. So I hitchhiked here with a friend and arrived at Esalen on Fritz Perls’ birthday in 1967. I thought, “Who is this funny-looking old guy in a gray suit?” He had a huge beard, and everyone was gathered around him, wishing him well. He was both accepting it, and at the same time, a bit standoffish.

I was fascinated. Who was this character? I was hungry, we'd been hitchhiking, so I asked for some cake and, whoa, he gave me some!

What was your impression when you first came down the hill at Esalen?

When I first came down the hill, I was borderline sneaking in.The first thing I saw was the gate guard, which wasn't good. But the person I was with gave him a big wave and a big smile, and we scooted on in. 

It was like paradise. So much grass, so beautiful, the blue sky, the ocean. Technicolor was the word that just kept coming up for me. It wasn't like real life at all: it was technicolor.

It was also super funky. There was a circle in front of the Lodge of at least five vans in various stages of disrepair. One was called Earthquake Evader. There were trucks with little things built on the back of them. So it was both this lavishly gorgeous place and a place that I could tell was going to be a bit of a scene.

The first people that I saw when I came here, of course, were the residents of those vans. And they were gorgeous people. Long, dark flowing hair. Beautiful long skirts. One woman floated across the lawn and she was beautifully pregnant.

She was with her husband. He had on a white Mexican shirt, big, full beard, long hair. Everyone had on prints and all the women had on long skirts. Out in the world outside of Esalen, people were [meanwhile] wearing those little jackets and bell-bottom long pants.

All the bread was made here. There were people who had been movers and shakers in the natural food world in Southern California, so we learned all about herbs and all about how to take care of ourselves.

There was also an enormous distrust of anything that smacked of the establishment. That included hospitals, it included doctors, it included any big business. It included college. We were against [it all] in a very powerful way.

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 
–Aaron

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
–Karen
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
–Charles
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
–Steve

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
–Rainer

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
–Suzanne

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
–Peter

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
–Lori

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
–Steven
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.


Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?



About

Sam Stern

Sam Stern is the host of the Voices of Esalen podcast. He lives in Big Sur with his wife, Candice, and a magnificent three-year-old, Roxy.

Back in the Day: When Brita Ate Cake with Fritz Perls

About

Sam Stern

Sam Stern is the host of the Voices of Esalen podcast. He lives in Big Sur with his wife, Candice, and a magnificent three-year-old, Roxy.

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop

Back in the Day is a new feature that spotlights the colorful memories of long-time Esalen community members and alumni — to capture magical moments that happened once upon a time and are still treasured today.


Brita Ostrom has been part of the Esalen Institute since 1967. For more than 40 years, she has led massage and somatic workshops at Esalen and internationally. She is a founding member of the Esalen Massage School, practices Gestalt awareness work, and participated in Esalen’s two-year somatic education program. She is also a licensed psychotherapist.

“I guess you could say fate brought me to Esalen. A more succinct answer is Alan Watts. I had read him in high school; I had a California boyfriend in Washington state and he handed me Psychotherapy East and West, and I thought, “Wow, this is really different!”

Years later, I was living in Haight-Ashbury, and I heard Alan Watts on KFRC, one of the listener-sponsored radio stations. At the end of his talk, he said, in his British way, “I will be presenting down at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur.” I went, “Esalen Institute?” It's like I had already heard of it, and maybe I had.

Big Sur was where beatniks had gone, like Ginsburg and Kerouac. So I hitchhiked here with a friend and arrived at Esalen on Fritz Perls’ birthday in 1967. I thought, “Who is this funny-looking old guy in a gray suit?” He had a huge beard, and everyone was gathered around him, wishing him well. He was both accepting it, and at the same time, a bit standoffish.

I was fascinated. Who was this character? I was hungry, we'd been hitchhiking, so I asked for some cake and, whoa, he gave me some!

What was your impression when you first came down the hill at Esalen?

When I first came down the hill, I was borderline sneaking in.The first thing I saw was the gate guard, which wasn't good. But the person I was with gave him a big wave and a big smile, and we scooted on in. 

It was like paradise. So much grass, so beautiful, the blue sky, the ocean. Technicolor was the word that just kept coming up for me. It wasn't like real life at all: it was technicolor.

It was also super funky. There was a circle in front of the Lodge of at least five vans in various stages of disrepair. One was called Earthquake Evader. There were trucks with little things built on the back of them. So it was both this lavishly gorgeous place and a place that I could tell was going to be a bit of a scene.

The first people that I saw when I came here, of course, were the residents of those vans. And they were gorgeous people. Long, dark flowing hair. Beautiful long skirts. One woman floated across the lawn and she was beautifully pregnant.

She was with her husband. He had on a white Mexican shirt, big, full beard, long hair. Everyone had on prints and all the women had on long skirts. Out in the world outside of Esalen, people were [meanwhile] wearing those little jackets and bell-bottom long pants.

All the bread was made here. There were people who had been movers and shakers in the natural food world in Southern California, so we learned all about herbs and all about how to take care of ourselves.

There was also an enormous distrust of anything that smacked of the establishment. That included hospitals, it included doctors, it included any big business. It included college. We were against [it all] in a very powerful way.

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 
–Aaron

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
–Karen
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
–Charles
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
–Steve

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
–Rainer

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
–Suzanne

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
–Peter

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
–Lori

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
–Steven
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.


Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?



About

Sam Stern

Sam Stern is the host of the Voices of Esalen podcast. He lives in Big Sur with his wife, Candice, and a magnificent three-year-old, Roxy.

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