Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Esalen Reads: What's on Their Nightstand?

We delve into books for so many different reasons: guidance, knowledge, curiosity and oftentimes to lose ourselves in a captivating tale that can take us to the farthest stretches of our imagination. Esalen News invites our faculty to share what’s on their nightstand and why.

Longtime Esalen faculty Jean Houston, PhD, is a philosopher mentored by Margaret Mead and one of the principal founders of the human potential movement. She has written 26 books and is known for her human potential workshops. What inspiring read lies on Jean’s nightstand?

Esalen News: What was the last book you read?

I read a great deal on many subjects but the finest and most astonishing book I have read recently is Hieroglyphic Words of Power: Symbols for Magic, Divination & Dreamwork by poet and Egyptologist Normandi Ellis.

Esalen News: What drew you to the book?

Normandi Ellis is a once and future priestess, poet and practitioner of the mystery, magic and spiritual arts of ancient Egypt. She gives us the injunction of that other hieroglyphic thinker, T.S. Eliot, to "Redeem the time. Redeem the unread vision of the higher dream.”

Esalen News: What inspires you about the book?

It is a mind-cracking, soul-shaking work. Occasionally, one meets someone who has gone so deeply into a subject that it becomes a revelation, a source code into the mystery of reality and consciousness itself—a telling proof that we not only live in the Universe but the Universe lives in us. And thus, we have access to its wisdom, knowledge and sheer unbridled creativity.

Esalen News: What are several things that really stood out?

The author illustrates the enormous difference between our material thought and what we might call our “soul thought” or hieroglyphic thought. In hieroglyphic thought, many disciplines and knowings converge in a synergistic way.

The expression of this synthesis of art, science, religion and architecture is reduced to its crystalline form in the hieroglyph and as such, the hieroglyph imposes pattern upon pattern of thought and meaning upon meaning with all forms and persona inherent in it.

It is a seed crystal that, if dropped into the super-saturated solution of time and space, will require volumes to express its meaning. But if it is dropped into the human mind, the hieroglyph creates a tremendous resonance of activity, associations, brain growth and dendritic and chemical growth, thus providing the hooks and eyes in the brain that allows us to receive the unfolding of essence.

Esalen News: What other things have you learned?

The Egyptians lived closer to the depths of their intra-dimensional minds than we do. By learning to perceive hieroglyphically, we can tap the many levels of consciousness; we can accommodate ourselves to the many transformations of our time. We can also discover the many meanings, the sacred ambivalences.

We can live simultaneously in the temporal and durative realms as we move forward into the past—and “pastward” into the future—to recover the who and what of the many strands of our identity: the Godseeds that we are.

So by consciously shaping our lives through spiritual attunement, by viewing the multi­dimensional viewing of depth realities, by thinking hieroglyphically, analogically and symbolically in charged multi-patterns with webs of meaning, we can begin to create changes in our own forms—and in our bodies and minds.

Esalen News: How would you sum up the book in a word or two?

A work of genius!

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

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
“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.”

“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?“

“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.”

“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.“

“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!”

“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.”
“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?


Esalen Team