Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
INSIGHTS: Creating Space To Explore Gender with Ben Geilhufe and Jen Hastings

A new study revealed one in 10 teens identify as gender-diverse. The research, published in Pediatrics, comes at the same time policies targeting gender identity increasingly make their way to the forefront of local, state, and national legislation.

Safe and thoughtful discussions are key to exploring the inner dimensions of gender and how gender affects each of our day-to-day experiences. Coming up in July, Esalen Institute offers humans on this journey the environment and space to discover and connect with personal potential, under the guidance of two skilled facilitators. 

Esalen’s Christine Chen discusses some of the nuances of this work with Ben Geilhufe, LPCC (he/him/his), the Director of Community-based Clinical Programs for the UCSF Child and Adolescent Gender Center, and Jen Hastings, MD (pronouns Jen), who started the Transgender Health Care Program at Planned Parenthood Mar Monte in Santa Cruz and is an Assistant Clinical Professor in UCSF's Department of Family and Community Medicine.

Their upcoming workshop is called: Gender Journeys: Exploring Identity In Community July 9-11, 2021.

Christine Chen: Why was/is gender identity an important conversation for you both, personally?  

Ben Geilhufe: I started my gender exploration very young, when I noticed that my embodied gender did not match society’s expectations for someone designated female at birth. This caused distress and an internal scramble to “fit in” to feminine expectations so I would be loved, so I wouldn’t lose relationships, and so I would be seen as “successful.” It wasn’t until my early twenties that I began to peel back the layers of masking and begin to work on hearing myself accurately. I thought my gender journey would be a reclamation and realization of my masculinity and then – done! This has not been the case. My gender journey is ongoing, complex, and beautiful. I keep uncovering layers as I build stronger, safer communities to explore my authentic experience.  

Jen Hastings: I had been providing gender and transgender care for over 5 years before I realized I had my own gender journey to explore and navigate. I realized that the “box” of “female” was no longer accurate or sustaining for me. I had illuminating dreams and remembered experiences from my childhood that allowed me to step into the world more fully as “not male” and “not female.” While the terms nonbinary and genderqueer are more accurate for me, I find myself in a continuous process of discovery and questioning with elements of both celebration and grief. 

CC: How much is our definition of gender identity influenced by what we see and hear on a daily basis? 

JH & BG: Culturally constructed “gender norms” shape our understanding of ourselves, usually unacknowledged and often unchallenged. Although we may have moved from the confining norm of “pink is for girls and blue is for boys” we continue to attribute universal human qualities as binary masculine or feminine and for many of us, this is highly problematic.

The explosion of media around the diversity of gender and sexual identity (which has existed across cultures and throughout history) provides an opportunity to question the cultural construction of masculinity and femininity and to explore our own gender experience.

CC: How does understanding gender identity, personally, and its impact on daily life, relate to human potential?

JH & BG: Deeper conversations can open doors and windows of our soul that have been closed, or stuck or perhaps imagined, but not known. We get to know ourselves better. When we are in conversation with others, there can be a profound witnessing that is potentially deeply transformative.

We are excited to have a rich dialogue with those who join us about our journeys and experiences of gender, about the diversity of gender, and different ways to explore this personally and collectively, in community.

CC: How does the space and environment at Esalen help facilitate these important discoveries?

JH & BG: The natural beauty and container of Esalen is a wonderful environment for a deeper exploration of gender. A safe environment is part of what helps support authentic personal identity to emerge. And from authentic individual identity we can experience authentic community. We are deeply honored to be together on the sacred lands and waters of the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County.

This upcoming workshop is specifically open to transgender, nonbinary, genderfluid, and/or gender exploring individuals. Find out more here, and apply 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

Christine Chen

Christine Chen is a two-time Emmy winning journalist, best-selling author, California native, and senior teacher of yoga and Ayurveda.

INSIGHTS: Creating Space To Explore Gender with Ben Geilhufe and Jen Hastings

About

Christine Chen

Christine Chen is a two-time Emmy winning journalist, best-selling author, California native, and senior teacher of yoga and Ayurveda.

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop

A new study revealed one in 10 teens identify as gender-diverse. The research, published in Pediatrics, comes at the same time policies targeting gender identity increasingly make their way to the forefront of local, state, and national legislation.

Safe and thoughtful discussions are key to exploring the inner dimensions of gender and how gender affects each of our day-to-day experiences. Coming up in July, Esalen Institute offers humans on this journey the environment and space to discover and connect with personal potential, under the guidance of two skilled facilitators. 

Esalen’s Christine Chen discusses some of the nuances of this work with Ben Geilhufe, LPCC (he/him/his), the Director of Community-based Clinical Programs for the UCSF Child and Adolescent Gender Center, and Jen Hastings, MD (pronouns Jen), who started the Transgender Health Care Program at Planned Parenthood Mar Monte in Santa Cruz and is an Assistant Clinical Professor in UCSF's Department of Family and Community Medicine.

Their upcoming workshop is called: Gender Journeys: Exploring Identity In Community July 9-11, 2021.

Christine Chen: Why was/is gender identity an important conversation for you both, personally?  

Ben Geilhufe: I started my gender exploration very young, when I noticed that my embodied gender did not match society’s expectations for someone designated female at birth. This caused distress and an internal scramble to “fit in” to feminine expectations so I would be loved, so I wouldn’t lose relationships, and so I would be seen as “successful.” It wasn’t until my early twenties that I began to peel back the layers of masking and begin to work on hearing myself accurately. I thought my gender journey would be a reclamation and realization of my masculinity and then – done! This has not been the case. My gender journey is ongoing, complex, and beautiful. I keep uncovering layers as I build stronger, safer communities to explore my authentic experience.  

Jen Hastings: I had been providing gender and transgender care for over 5 years before I realized I had my own gender journey to explore and navigate. I realized that the “box” of “female” was no longer accurate or sustaining for me. I had illuminating dreams and remembered experiences from my childhood that allowed me to step into the world more fully as “not male” and “not female.” While the terms nonbinary and genderqueer are more accurate for me, I find myself in a continuous process of discovery and questioning with elements of both celebration and grief. 

CC: How much is our definition of gender identity influenced by what we see and hear on a daily basis? 

JH & BG: Culturally constructed “gender norms” shape our understanding of ourselves, usually unacknowledged and often unchallenged. Although we may have moved from the confining norm of “pink is for girls and blue is for boys” we continue to attribute universal human qualities as binary masculine or feminine and for many of us, this is highly problematic.

The explosion of media around the diversity of gender and sexual identity (which has existed across cultures and throughout history) provides an opportunity to question the cultural construction of masculinity and femininity and to explore our own gender experience.

CC: How does understanding gender identity, personally, and its impact on daily life, relate to human potential?

JH & BG: Deeper conversations can open doors and windows of our soul that have been closed, or stuck or perhaps imagined, but not known. We get to know ourselves better. When we are in conversation with others, there can be a profound witnessing that is potentially deeply transformative.

We are excited to have a rich dialogue with those who join us about our journeys and experiences of gender, about the diversity of gender, and different ways to explore this personally and collectively, in community.

CC: How does the space and environment at Esalen help facilitate these important discoveries?

JH & BG: The natural beauty and container of Esalen is a wonderful environment for a deeper exploration of gender. A safe environment is part of what helps support authentic personal identity to emerge. And from authentic individual identity we can experience authentic community. We are deeply honored to be together on the sacred lands and waters of the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County.

This upcoming workshop is specifically open to transgender, nonbinary, genderfluid, and/or gender exploring individuals. Find out more here, and apply 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

Christine Chen

Christine Chen is a two-time Emmy winning journalist, best-selling author, California native, and senior teacher of yoga and Ayurveda.

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
INSIGHTS: Creating Space To Explore Gender with Ben Geilhufe and Jen Hastings

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About

Christine Chen

Christine Chen is a two-time Emmy winning journalist, best-selling author, California native, and senior teacher of yoga and Ayurveda.

INSIGHTS: Creating Space To Explore Gender with Ben Geilhufe and Jen Hastings

About

Christine Chen

Christine Chen is a two-time Emmy winning journalist, best-selling author, California native, and senior teacher of yoga and Ayurveda.

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