Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Fostering Creativity at Esalen

"Photograph what touches you. And I would suspect the images will then touch others.”

“Be present to what is in front of you.”

“Visit the Art Barn and play with paper and tempera paint.”

These are just some of the suggestions by Esalen staff who, as artists themselves, embrace Esalen’s natural beauty to foster and spark their creativity. Some, like longstanding community member Daniel Bianchetta and technology specialist Kyle Evans, express their creativity through photography. Their work can be seen in the latest Esalen catalog and is also available for purchase in the bookstore.

For Sam Stern, a former Extended Student and now staff member, creativity is expressed in a new podcast series he’s named Voices of Esalen, where he engages Esalen teachers in thought-provoking conversations. And for Resident

Education Manager Branan Freeman, printmaking is a favorite outlet for her creativity along with teaching others how to express and take safe risks through art.

“I love printmaking,” says Branan, who formerly worked as an art and museum educator at the San Diego Museum of Art. “It’s a way for me to combine my drawing and painting skills. And as an educator, I love finding new media that invite participants to express themselves in different ways.”

Branan will be teaching a month-long workshop in August for Esalen Work Scholars and staff that will include an exploration of leadership through the visual arts.

Author Tim Ferriss was Sam’s inspiration to create Esalen’s own version of a podcast that showcases world-class thinkers and teachers. “I'd really like for the people who come through Esalen and have profound experiences to be able to extend their arc of learning and transformation,” says Sam. “Podcasts are magical that way – you can be stuck in traffic in downtown  LA or San Jose, and with the click of a button, suddenly you're back in Big Sur, learning about color therapy or radical social justice.”

For Daniel, photography became a creative outlet after he met his wife Cynthia. Years later they would both teach photography workshops at Esalen. “She was going on a photographic workshop to an amazing petroglyph site called China Lake,” Daniel recalls. “She bought me a very nice camera (Canon AE-1) and when I got to the site I was touched to the depths of my soul.” Daniel has been capturing the beauty of the Big Sur coast for decades and attributes his ability to see things in a deeper way to his intuitive nature. “I am not out trying to ‘capture’ an image,” he explains, “I tend to be more open and in wonder, allowing images to present themselves.” In addition to being showcased at Esalen, Daniel’s work has been published in a variety of magazines including National Geographic and Vogue.

Born and raised in Big Sur, Kyle has been capturing its beauty on film and digitally from an early age. Favorite locations to shoot for Kyle are Esalen and along Pfeiffer Ridge near his home. However, location is only part of the equation. “Approaching photography as an artistic way to express myself is what is important to me,” Kyle says in describing his approach. “If you shoot foremost for yourself and if you produce something you love, people will take notice.”  For new visitors to Esalen, Kyle offers a few helpful tips in capturing moments on film. “Slow down, take less photographs and instead look closely at what is in front of you. Photography is about observation.”

“Art always has been a way to connect people throughout the world,” added Branan, and as a result another opportunity for Esalen workshop participants to enhance their visit. Esalen visitors are welcome to use the Art Barn located on the northside of property when not in use for a workshop. Seminarians are also encouraged to bring a journal or sketch book to unleash their creativity.

To view Branan Freeman’s artwork, visit: http://www.brananbird.com.

To listen to Voices of Esalen, visit: http://www.esalen.org/page/voices-esalen-podcast.

To view Daniel Bianchetta’s photography, visit: http://www.bigsurphoto.com.

To view Kyle Evan’s photography, visit: http://www.studio-inspiration.com/KyleEvans.

Voices of Esalen photograph by Daniel Bianchetta, podcast hosted by Sam Stern; prints are Orchard Series #1, Orchard Series #2, and Orchard Series #3, monoprint on paper by Branan Freeman; Esalen garden photograph below by Kyle Evans.

“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