Back in the Day with Andrea Juhan

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop

Forty-six years after her first visit, Andrea Juhan remembers the Esalen of the late ’70s. The co-founder of Open Floor International on the personalities, the “pillow pounding,” the emphasis on the humanistic principle, and the entirely unique experience of not “making wrong.” (“I don’t know anywhere else that happened.”) The dedicated teacher and lifelong student shares some of the incredibly valuable lessons, including holding dual relations, that she learned right here on campus.


In 1977, when I was 17 years old, I came to Esalen to be a work scholar. My father thought it would be good for me. I’d had a rough time through high school — unaddressed trauma. The 1960s in Marin were a wild time. Most of the adults were reliving their adolescence. I don't think that was that great for me. 

Esalen was just so exciting. So many people come to Esalen. There is so much beauty and so much possibility. I felt that. Within the first week here, I fell in love with a man who was on the massage crew, Dean Juhan, an exemplary body worker and an intellectual. Really well studied in anatomy and physiology. I learned a lot from him. We had a very special connection. Eventually, he became my first husband and the father of my son.

During the time I was there, which was in the 1970s and 80s, it felt like Esalen was mostly about expression: Can I get what's inside of me out? I think there was a lot of feeling of being repressed in society — boundaried in society — feeling like who I am is not okay. Those were the years of primal scream work, Open Seats, and Gabrielle Roth, who I met very early on. She was all about expression. It's like, can we move? Can we just get it out? 

The Open Seats were less refined than we would see these days. There was a lot of pillow pounding, a lot of wrestling, tearing, throwing, yelling. It was almost like catharsis was viewed as healing — and to some degree, it was. 

In some other areas, it really was not. There wasn't an understanding of how the nervous system works. There wasn't an understanding of how trauma is in the body and that if the body has too much activation, we lose consciousness. We don't gain consciousness.

I think the idea was that a lot of activation, if somebody's really repressed, is good to break through the defenses. But you never know why somebody needed those defenses. We usually have defenses for a very good reason.

In retrospect, we wholeheartedly wanted to bring out the good in people and expand. I think that there wasn't the finesse needed to really understand defenses, and understand what the nervous system would need to integrate the material that was being protected by those defenses. 

Having an open seat every day of the week, I didn't have to be alone with my problems. There was always going to be a more or less experienced facilitator to sit with me. And there was no “making wrong.” I mean, how incredible is that? To have whatever's going on with you not made wrong? I don't know anywhere else where that happened.

The emphasis of community life at Esalen was around healing and the humanistic principle: You are good, you are solid gold; we just need to get the things that are blocking you from blossoming out of the way. Carl Rogers wrote about “unconditional positive regard,” and that was really important in terms of growing us, bonding us, and creating a depth of understanding. 

Andrea Juhan (left) with Janet Lederman

There are downsides to all of that as well: for instance, getting over-involved with yourself, getting over-involved with your own personality, your own wounds. I think there was a certain amount of “my wounds and my process and my history are very special, and I really need my attention.” And I got it! I mean, thank God I got it and could move beyond that, and say, okay, what's of service here? I think that in the late ’70s, that service part wasn't really part of our vocabulary. 

I think one thing that I really see in my life now as a clinician is something I learned here that most people don't discover unless they live in a very small village or community: the role of dual relations. I would sit in therapy with somebody and then go pick my kid up at school, and they might be the teacher or serve me lunch. As a clinician, like most of my colleagues in all the clinical programs, you even avoid trying to be in the parking lot at the same time as your client, and that's kind of strange.

So, how do we hold dual, or many, relations with integrity, with respect, with good communication so that we all know what role we're in with each other at any given time? I think that's a pretty good skill. It's really human. And I learned that here.

“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

Esalen Team

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Back in the Day with Andrea Juhan

Forty-six years after her first visit, Andrea Juhan remembers the Esalen of the late ’70s. The co-founder of Open Floor International on the personalities, the “pillow pounding,” the emphasis on the humanistic principle, and the entirely unique experience of not “making wrong.” (“I don’t know anywhere else that happened.”) The dedicated teacher and lifelong student shares some of the incredibly valuable lessons, including holding dual relations, that she learned right here on campus.


In 1977, when I was 17 years old, I came to Esalen to be a work scholar. My father thought it would be good for me. I’d had a rough time through high school — unaddressed trauma. The 1960s in Marin were a wild time. Most of the adults were reliving their adolescence. I don't think that was that great for me. 

Esalen was just so exciting. So many people come to Esalen. There is so much beauty and so much possibility. I felt that. Within the first week here, I fell in love with a man who was on the massage crew, Dean Juhan, an exemplary body worker and an intellectual. Really well studied in anatomy and physiology. I learned a lot from him. We had a very special connection. Eventually, he became my first husband and the father of my son.

During the time I was there, which was in the 1970s and 80s, it felt like Esalen was mostly about expression: Can I get what's inside of me out? I think there was a lot of feeling of being repressed in society — boundaried in society — feeling like who I am is not okay. Those were the years of primal scream work, Open Seats, and Gabrielle Roth, who I met very early on. She was all about expression. It's like, can we move? Can we just get it out? 

The Open Seats were less refined than we would see these days. There was a lot of pillow pounding, a lot of wrestling, tearing, throwing, yelling. It was almost like catharsis was viewed as healing — and to some degree, it was. 

In some other areas, it really was not. There wasn't an understanding of how the nervous system works. There wasn't an understanding of how trauma is in the body and that if the body has too much activation, we lose consciousness. We don't gain consciousness.

I think the idea was that a lot of activation, if somebody's really repressed, is good to break through the defenses. But you never know why somebody needed those defenses. We usually have defenses for a very good reason.

In retrospect, we wholeheartedly wanted to bring out the good in people and expand. I think that there wasn't the finesse needed to really understand defenses, and understand what the nervous system would need to integrate the material that was being protected by those defenses. 

Having an open seat every day of the week, I didn't have to be alone with my problems. There was always going to be a more or less experienced facilitator to sit with me. And there was no “making wrong.” I mean, how incredible is that? To have whatever's going on with you not made wrong? I don't know anywhere else where that happened.

The emphasis of community life at Esalen was around healing and the humanistic principle: You are good, you are solid gold; we just need to get the things that are blocking you from blossoming out of the way. Carl Rogers wrote about “unconditional positive regard,” and that was really important in terms of growing us, bonding us, and creating a depth of understanding. 

Andrea Juhan (left) with Janet Lederman

There are downsides to all of that as well: for instance, getting over-involved with yourself, getting over-involved with your own personality, your own wounds. I think there was a certain amount of “my wounds and my process and my history are very special, and I really need my attention.” And I got it! I mean, thank God I got it and could move beyond that, and say, okay, what's of service here? I think that in the late ’70s, that service part wasn't really part of our vocabulary. 

I think one thing that I really see in my life now as a clinician is something I learned here that most people don't discover unless they live in a very small village or community: the role of dual relations. I would sit in therapy with somebody and then go pick my kid up at school, and they might be the teacher or serve me lunch. As a clinician, like most of my colleagues in all the clinical programs, you even avoid trying to be in the parking lot at the same time as your client, and that's kind of strange.

So, how do we hold dual, or many, relations with integrity, with respect, with good communication so that we all know what role we're in with each other at any given time? I think that's a pretty good skill. It's really human. And I learned that here.

“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

Esalen Team

Back in the Day with Andrea Juhan

About

Esalen Team

< Back to all articles

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop

Forty-six years after her first visit, Andrea Juhan remembers the Esalen of the late ’70s. The co-founder of Open Floor International on the personalities, the “pillow pounding,” the emphasis on the humanistic principle, and the entirely unique experience of not “making wrong.” (“I don’t know anywhere else that happened.”) The dedicated teacher and lifelong student shares some of the incredibly valuable lessons, including holding dual relations, that she learned right here on campus.


In 1977, when I was 17 years old, I came to Esalen to be a work scholar. My father thought it would be good for me. I’d had a rough time through high school — unaddressed trauma. The 1960s in Marin were a wild time. Most of the adults were reliving their adolescence. I don't think that was that great for me. 

Esalen was just so exciting. So many people come to Esalen. There is so much beauty and so much possibility. I felt that. Within the first week here, I fell in love with a man who was on the massage crew, Dean Juhan, an exemplary body worker and an intellectual. Really well studied in anatomy and physiology. I learned a lot from him. We had a very special connection. Eventually, he became my first husband and the father of my son.

During the time I was there, which was in the 1970s and 80s, it felt like Esalen was mostly about expression: Can I get what's inside of me out? I think there was a lot of feeling of being repressed in society — boundaried in society — feeling like who I am is not okay. Those were the years of primal scream work, Open Seats, and Gabrielle Roth, who I met very early on. She was all about expression. It's like, can we move? Can we just get it out? 

The Open Seats were less refined than we would see these days. There was a lot of pillow pounding, a lot of wrestling, tearing, throwing, yelling. It was almost like catharsis was viewed as healing — and to some degree, it was. 

In some other areas, it really was not. There wasn't an understanding of how the nervous system works. There wasn't an understanding of how trauma is in the body and that if the body has too much activation, we lose consciousness. We don't gain consciousness.

I think the idea was that a lot of activation, if somebody's really repressed, is good to break through the defenses. But you never know why somebody needed those defenses. We usually have defenses for a very good reason.

In retrospect, we wholeheartedly wanted to bring out the good in people and expand. I think that there wasn't the finesse needed to really understand defenses, and understand what the nervous system would need to integrate the material that was being protected by those defenses. 

Having an open seat every day of the week, I didn't have to be alone with my problems. There was always going to be a more or less experienced facilitator to sit with me. And there was no “making wrong.” I mean, how incredible is that? To have whatever's going on with you not made wrong? I don't know anywhere else where that happened.

The emphasis of community life at Esalen was around healing and the humanistic principle: You are good, you are solid gold; we just need to get the things that are blocking you from blossoming out of the way. Carl Rogers wrote about “unconditional positive regard,” and that was really important in terms of growing us, bonding us, and creating a depth of understanding. 

Andrea Juhan (left) with Janet Lederman

There are downsides to all of that as well: for instance, getting over-involved with yourself, getting over-involved with your own personality, your own wounds. I think there was a certain amount of “my wounds and my process and my history are very special, and I really need my attention.” And I got it! I mean, thank God I got it and could move beyond that, and say, okay, what's of service here? I think that in the late ’70s, that service part wasn't really part of our vocabulary. 

I think one thing that I really see in my life now as a clinician is something I learned here that most people don't discover unless they live in a very small village or community: the role of dual relations. I would sit in therapy with somebody and then go pick my kid up at school, and they might be the teacher or serve me lunch. As a clinician, like most of my colleagues in all the clinical programs, you even avoid trying to be in the parking lot at the same time as your client, and that's kind of strange.

So, how do we hold dual, or many, relations with integrity, with respect, with good communication so that we all know what role we're in with each other at any given time? I think that's a pretty good skill. It's really human. And I learned that here.

“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

Esalen Team

< Back to all Journal posts

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Back in the Day with Andrea Juhan

Forty-six years after her first visit, Andrea Juhan remembers the Esalen of the late ’70s. The co-founder of Open Floor International on the personalities, the “pillow pounding,” the emphasis on the humanistic principle, and the entirely unique experience of not “making wrong.” (“I don’t know anywhere else that happened.”) The dedicated teacher and lifelong student shares some of the incredibly valuable lessons, including holding dual relations, that she learned right here on campus.


In 1977, when I was 17 years old, I came to Esalen to be a work scholar. My father thought it would be good for me. I’d had a rough time through high school — unaddressed trauma. The 1960s in Marin were a wild time. Most of the adults were reliving their adolescence. I don't think that was that great for me. 

Esalen was just so exciting. So many people come to Esalen. There is so much beauty and so much possibility. I felt that. Within the first week here, I fell in love with a man who was on the massage crew, Dean Juhan, an exemplary body worker and an intellectual. Really well studied in anatomy and physiology. I learned a lot from him. We had a very special connection. Eventually, he became my first husband and the father of my son.

During the time I was there, which was in the 1970s and 80s, it felt like Esalen was mostly about expression: Can I get what's inside of me out? I think there was a lot of feeling of being repressed in society — boundaried in society — feeling like who I am is not okay. Those were the years of primal scream work, Open Seats, and Gabrielle Roth, who I met very early on. She was all about expression. It's like, can we move? Can we just get it out? 

The Open Seats were less refined than we would see these days. There was a lot of pillow pounding, a lot of wrestling, tearing, throwing, yelling. It was almost like catharsis was viewed as healing — and to some degree, it was. 

In some other areas, it really was not. There wasn't an understanding of how the nervous system works. There wasn't an understanding of how trauma is in the body and that if the body has too much activation, we lose consciousness. We don't gain consciousness.

I think the idea was that a lot of activation, if somebody's really repressed, is good to break through the defenses. But you never know why somebody needed those defenses. We usually have defenses for a very good reason.

In retrospect, we wholeheartedly wanted to bring out the good in people and expand. I think that there wasn't the finesse needed to really understand defenses, and understand what the nervous system would need to integrate the material that was being protected by those defenses. 

Having an open seat every day of the week, I didn't have to be alone with my problems. There was always going to be a more or less experienced facilitator to sit with me. And there was no “making wrong.” I mean, how incredible is that? To have whatever's going on with you not made wrong? I don't know anywhere else where that happened.

The emphasis of community life at Esalen was around healing and the humanistic principle: You are good, you are solid gold; we just need to get the things that are blocking you from blossoming out of the way. Carl Rogers wrote about “unconditional positive regard,” and that was really important in terms of growing us, bonding us, and creating a depth of understanding. 

Andrea Juhan (left) with Janet Lederman

There are downsides to all of that as well: for instance, getting over-involved with yourself, getting over-involved with your own personality, your own wounds. I think there was a certain amount of “my wounds and my process and my history are very special, and I really need my attention.” And I got it! I mean, thank God I got it and could move beyond that, and say, okay, what's of service here? I think that in the late ’70s, that service part wasn't really part of our vocabulary. 

I think one thing that I really see in my life now as a clinician is something I learned here that most people don't discover unless they live in a very small village or community: the role of dual relations. I would sit in therapy with somebody and then go pick my kid up at school, and they might be the teacher or serve me lunch. As a clinician, like most of my colleagues in all the clinical programs, you even avoid trying to be in the parking lot at the same time as your client, and that's kind of strange.

So, how do we hold dual, or many, relations with integrity, with respect, with good communication so that we all know what role we're in with each other at any given time? I think that's a pretty good skill. It's really human. And I learned that here.

“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

Esalen Team

Back in the Day with Andrea Juhan

About

Esalen Team

< Back to all articles

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop

Forty-six years after her first visit, Andrea Juhan remembers the Esalen of the late ’70s. The co-founder of Open Floor International on the personalities, the “pillow pounding,” the emphasis on the humanistic principle, and the entirely unique experience of not “making wrong.” (“I don’t know anywhere else that happened.”) The dedicated teacher and lifelong student shares some of the incredibly valuable lessons, including holding dual relations, that she learned right here on campus.


In 1977, when I was 17 years old, I came to Esalen to be a work scholar. My father thought it would be good for me. I’d had a rough time through high school — unaddressed trauma. The 1960s in Marin were a wild time. Most of the adults were reliving their adolescence. I don't think that was that great for me. 

Esalen was just so exciting. So many people come to Esalen. There is so much beauty and so much possibility. I felt that. Within the first week here, I fell in love with a man who was on the massage crew, Dean Juhan, an exemplary body worker and an intellectual. Really well studied in anatomy and physiology. I learned a lot from him. We had a very special connection. Eventually, he became my first husband and the father of my son.

During the time I was there, which was in the 1970s and 80s, it felt like Esalen was mostly about expression: Can I get what's inside of me out? I think there was a lot of feeling of being repressed in society — boundaried in society — feeling like who I am is not okay. Those were the years of primal scream work, Open Seats, and Gabrielle Roth, who I met very early on. She was all about expression. It's like, can we move? Can we just get it out? 

The Open Seats were less refined than we would see these days. There was a lot of pillow pounding, a lot of wrestling, tearing, throwing, yelling. It was almost like catharsis was viewed as healing — and to some degree, it was. 

In some other areas, it really was not. There wasn't an understanding of how the nervous system works. There wasn't an understanding of how trauma is in the body and that if the body has too much activation, we lose consciousness. We don't gain consciousness.

I think the idea was that a lot of activation, if somebody's really repressed, is good to break through the defenses. But you never know why somebody needed those defenses. We usually have defenses for a very good reason.

In retrospect, we wholeheartedly wanted to bring out the good in people and expand. I think that there wasn't the finesse needed to really understand defenses, and understand what the nervous system would need to integrate the material that was being protected by those defenses. 

Having an open seat every day of the week, I didn't have to be alone with my problems. There was always going to be a more or less experienced facilitator to sit with me. And there was no “making wrong.” I mean, how incredible is that? To have whatever's going on with you not made wrong? I don't know anywhere else where that happened.

The emphasis of community life at Esalen was around healing and the humanistic principle: You are good, you are solid gold; we just need to get the things that are blocking you from blossoming out of the way. Carl Rogers wrote about “unconditional positive regard,” and that was really important in terms of growing us, bonding us, and creating a depth of understanding. 

Andrea Juhan (left) with Janet Lederman

There are downsides to all of that as well: for instance, getting over-involved with yourself, getting over-involved with your own personality, your own wounds. I think there was a certain amount of “my wounds and my process and my history are very special, and I really need my attention.” And I got it! I mean, thank God I got it and could move beyond that, and say, okay, what's of service here? I think that in the late ’70s, that service part wasn't really part of our vocabulary. 

I think one thing that I really see in my life now as a clinician is something I learned here that most people don't discover unless they live in a very small village or community: the role of dual relations. I would sit in therapy with somebody and then go pick my kid up at school, and they might be the teacher or serve me lunch. As a clinician, like most of my colleagues in all the clinical programs, you even avoid trying to be in the parking lot at the same time as your client, and that's kind of strange.

So, how do we hold dual, or many, relations with integrity, with respect, with good communication so that we all know what role we're in with each other at any given time? I think that's a pretty good skill. It's really human. And I learned that here.

“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

Esalen Team