Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Living Your Myth
Category:
Mind
Joseph Campbell

For years, renowned mythologist and lecturer Joseph Campbell would celebrate his March 26th birthday at Esalen. Known for his groundbreaking book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the former Sarah Lawrence College professor’s research in mythology and comparative religions would inspire multiple generations as well serve as the creative catalyst behind such blockbusters as Star Wars and Watership Down.

And although Joe (as he was known to friends) passed away nearly 30 years ago, his own myth lives on in a unique “playshop” held each year around his birthday. This year's sold-out event, Revisioning Your Hero’s Journey: A Mythological Toolbox (23rd edition, revised) is taking place this week at Esalen, from March 27-April 1. The following is a conversation with Robert Walter, president of the Joseph Campbell Foundation and Esalen workshop leader.

Robert Walter

eNews: What is it about Joseph Campbell’s work that is so lasting?

Walter: I think what makes his work endure is the profound insight it provides into universal human experience, and how it enables a person to learn to see the transcendent behind the metaphor. It allows us to go into the stories in which we swim, we swim in a sea of stories, and look at these stories through a third eye.

It suggests a way to bring into focus aspects of the human condition that are universal and, at the same time, focus on the uniqueness of culture iteration so that through the historical, local, and cultural manifestation we can glimpse the universal.

Joe’s work informs film and book plots and video games. What we now think of as “the Arts” was the fodder Joe was working with, the clay he was molding. He had insights into the nature and function of art as the carriers of the mythos.

Myths are not just stories. They are fragments of deeply held spiritual truths – other people’s religions – that in many cases have been cut off from their roots. This is expressed not just in stories but in other modalities of human expression such as music and sculpture.

eNews: How would you describe Joseph Campbell as a person?

Walter: He was an inquisitive individual, always entertaining new ideas – which made him exciting to be around. He would spark to something he heard or was asked. He was someone who was really present and listening and observing. And I think that’s why he liked to come to Esalen, as being present is something endemic there.

eNews: What do you hope seminarians take away from your workshop, or playshop?

Walter: I want to create an experience of transformation that enables people to turn a telescope on their own lives. I do this with play. I want to challenge people to find modalities of creative expression that they have lost or surrendered over the years.

Often times, people attend a workshop, get juiced, and then go back in the world and become depleted. I want to give someone attending a playshop tools they can use to find a sacred place outside of Esalen.

That said, while my playshops have had different themes over the years, each one has retained the shape of the transformative heroic journey with Joe’s wisdom woven in, of course. Each year the play is different as are the people who show up, and how they combine and recombine their experiences makes each playshop edition unique.

eNews: You worked with Joseph Campbell as his editor for 10 years. Do you have a favorite story to tell?

Walter: I started working as his editor in 1978, and at one point, when I was editorial director of the publishing company we’d formed with Alfred van der Marck, I was charged with meeting Joe to get him to sign off on the first volume of Historical Atlas of World Mythology. We met at a Chinese restaurant and during lunch I tried every which way to bring the conversation around to this critical topic, but Joe dodged my every attempt.

The end of the meal came, and with it, a bill and two fortune cookies. Joe offered me one, then opened his, read it, smiled and said: “Bob, I want you to know I understand what you’ve been trying to do about making changes to this book, and I haven’t known how to respond. But I just found the answer in this fortune cookie.” He handed me the little slip of paper. I read, in English and Mandarin, “Well done is soon enough.”

Learn more about Joseph Campbell from a tribute by Robert Walter.

Joseph Campbell photo credit: Janelle Balnicke

“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
Category:
Mind
Joseph Campbell

For years, renowned mythologist and lecturer Joseph Campbell would celebrate his March 26th birthday at Esalen. Known for his groundbreaking book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the former Sarah Lawrence College professor’s research in mythology and comparative religions would inspire multiple generations as well serve as the creative catalyst behind such blockbusters as Star Wars and Watership Down.

And although Joe (as he was known to friends) passed away nearly 30 years ago, his own myth lives on in a unique “playshop” held each year around his birthday. This year's sold-out event, Revisioning Your Hero’s Journey: A Mythological Toolbox (23rd edition, revised) is taking place this week at Esalen, from March 27-April 1. The following is a conversation with Robert Walter, president of the Joseph Campbell Foundation and Esalen workshop leader.

Robert Walter

eNews: What is it about Joseph Campbell’s work that is so lasting?

Walter: I think what makes his work endure is the profound insight it provides into universal human experience, and how it enables a person to learn to see the transcendent behind the metaphor. It allows us to go into the stories in which we swim, we swim in a sea of stories, and look at these stories through a third eye.

It suggests a way to bring into focus aspects of the human condition that are universal and, at the same time, focus on the uniqueness of culture iteration so that through the historical, local, and cultural manifestation we can glimpse the universal.

Joe’s work informs film and book plots and video games. What we now think of as “the Arts” was the fodder Joe was working with, the clay he was molding. He had insights into the nature and function of art as the carriers of the mythos.

Myths are not just stories. They are fragments of deeply held spiritual truths – other people’s religions – that in many cases have been cut off from their roots. This is expressed not just in stories but in other modalities of human expression such as music and sculpture.

eNews: How would you describe Joseph Campbell as a person?

Walter: He was an inquisitive individual, always entertaining new ideas – which made him exciting to be around. He would spark to something he heard or was asked. He was someone who was really present and listening and observing. And I think that’s why he liked to come to Esalen, as being present is something endemic there.

eNews: What do you hope seminarians take away from your workshop, or playshop?

Walter: I want to create an experience of transformation that enables people to turn a telescope on their own lives. I do this with play. I want to challenge people to find modalities of creative expression that they have lost or surrendered over the years.

Often times, people attend a workshop, get juiced, and then go back in the world and become depleted. I want to give someone attending a playshop tools they can use to find a sacred place outside of Esalen.

That said, while my playshops have had different themes over the years, each one has retained the shape of the transformative heroic journey with Joe’s wisdom woven in, of course. Each year the play is different as are the people who show up, and how they combine and recombine their experiences makes each playshop edition unique.

eNews: You worked with Joseph Campbell as his editor for 10 years. Do you have a favorite story to tell?

Walter: I started working as his editor in 1978, and at one point, when I was editorial director of the publishing company we’d formed with Alfred van der Marck, I was charged with meeting Joe to get him to sign off on the first volume of Historical Atlas of World Mythology. We met at a Chinese restaurant and during lunch I tried every which way to bring the conversation around to this critical topic, but Joe dodged my every attempt.

The end of the meal came, and with it, a bill and two fortune cookies. Joe offered me one, then opened his, read it, smiled and said: “Bob, I want you to know I understand what you’ve been trying to do about making changes to this book, and I haven’t known how to respond. But I just found the answer in this fortune cookie.” He handed me the little slip of paper. I read, in English and Mandarin, “Well done is soon enough.”

Learn more about Joseph Campbell from a tribute by Robert Walter.

Joseph Campbell photo credit: Janelle Balnicke

“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

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