Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Michael Murphy Reflects on Esalen’s Past and Future
"Our mission at Esalen to facilitate such change within self and society has never been more vital than it is now." —Michael Murphy

In 1962, Esalen Co-founders Michael Murphy and Dick Price planted the seeds for a remarkable new endeavor. The creation of Esalen Institute was a rare kind of kismet, one that attracted thinkers such as Alan Watts, Aldous Huxley, Abraham Maslow, Joseph Campbell and Paul Tillich as well as men and women from around the world who wanted to explore new worldviews and ways of growth. The human potential movement was born.

Michael continues to explore unique opportunities for Esalen to advance its work. “The Institute is opening new horizons of human transformation today,” Michael says. “That is at the heart of what we’re about.”

In recent interviews, Michael shared his enthusiasm about the past and future. In Fall 2019, he told the San Francisco Chronicle: “Esalen can go where others are unlikely to go. That’s at the very core of our mission, to go where other organizations cannot or will not go, whether they are academic, commercial or governmental. That was why we started the Institute, to explore the human potential in ways that the culture generally tends to neglect (or cannot see).”

Esalen’s early years were rich in possibility. Michael and Dick (pictured below), who attended Stanford University at the same time, wanted to promote new thought-shifting conversations that could better the world. Michael quickly saw that the serene environment and quiet solitude allowed people to be present with each other in new ways. Unique conversations and ideas sprouted over meals, in various group settings or in the mineral baths. Taken back out into the world, those ideas could catalyze powerful personal and cultural shifts, something Michael feels is particularly necessary today.

“The Esalen environment makes for more creative conversations,” Michael went on to tell the Chronicle. “It’s conducive to inquiry and introspection and conviviality.”

Milestones: Then and Now

One of the most fascinating developments in Esalen’s history not only proves that observation but anchors Michael’s belief that conversation and authentic human connection have the ability to truly change the world.

During the height of the Cold War in the 1980s, as Esalen’s programming continued to evolve, Michael and Dulce Murphy, with Jim Hickman and other colleagues, created the Soviet-American Exchange Program, now Track Two, an institute for citizen diplomacy.

They launched a series of Soviet-American citizen gatherings at Esalen, which generated many cultural exchanges, among them the first spacebridges, which enabled Soviet and American citizens to speak directly with one another via satellite.

In 1989, Esalen sponsored Boris Yeltsin’s first trip to the United States. The eight-day trip allowed Yeltsin to witness the contrast between the prosperity of the U.S. and the poverty of Soviet Communism.

“Our sponsoring Yeltsin’s first trip to the West led him and the Soviet Union to reject Communism with citizen diplomacy. Our work with Russians has been one of the best things Esalen has ever done,” Michael reflects.

“We also brokered the entrance of the Soviet Union’s Writer’s Union, which every writer there had to belong to in order to publish, into PEN International, the world’s leading organization to fight against censorship.

“We catalyzed the creation of the Association of Space Explorers, which includes everyone who has ever traveled into space. We brokered dozens of conferences for Russians and Americans seeking common ground in medicine, political psychology, arms control and other fields.

Those events, along with current initiatives taking place within Esalen’s Center for Theory & Research (CTR), which holds a deep commitment to the development of a new worldview and a transformative practice that can embody it, stand out for Michael.

“Among the new initiatives at CTR is Esalen Board Chairman Jeff Kripal’s work on a major study of what he calls the ‘Super Story,’ which is emerging from cutting-edge work in quantum physics, evolutionary biology and studies of human nature’s further reaches.”

Michael also sees Esalen’s growth in other arenas, primarily a renewed focus on maximizing mission impact, as promising markers for the decade ahead. As previously outlined by General Manager and CEO Terence Gilbey, a set of strategic priorities will propel new changes at Esalen in 2020.

They include: creating a flourishing global community that supports Esalen and human potential; drive higher sustainability and reduce negative environmental impact on campus; design a guest experience that supports personal transformation; foster greater diversity, equity and inclusion in the Esalen community; supporting staff in exploring and realizing their own potential; and maintaining long-term financial viability.

“Our mission at Esalen to facilitate such change within self and society has never been more vital than it is now,” Michael says. “I’m looking forward to the cumulative effect of these new initiatives. They promise to trigger the most creative period in our history. We see better now how we can better serve the world. I think Esalen now may very well be on the verge of its most creative period.”

“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

Michael Murphy Reflects on Esalen’s Past and Future

About

Esalen Team

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
"Our mission at Esalen to facilitate such change within self and society has never been more vital than it is now." —Michael Murphy

In 1962, Esalen Co-founders Michael Murphy and Dick Price planted the seeds for a remarkable new endeavor. The creation of Esalen Institute was a rare kind of kismet, one that attracted thinkers such as Alan Watts, Aldous Huxley, Abraham Maslow, Joseph Campbell and Paul Tillich as well as men and women from around the world who wanted to explore new worldviews and ways of growth. The human potential movement was born.

Michael continues to explore unique opportunities for Esalen to advance its work. “The Institute is opening new horizons of human transformation today,” Michael says. “That is at the heart of what we’re about.”

In recent interviews, Michael shared his enthusiasm about the past and future. In Fall 2019, he told the San Francisco Chronicle: “Esalen can go where others are unlikely to go. That’s at the very core of our mission, to go where other organizations cannot or will not go, whether they are academic, commercial or governmental. That was why we started the Institute, to explore the human potential in ways that the culture generally tends to neglect (or cannot see).”

Esalen’s early years were rich in possibility. Michael and Dick (pictured below), who attended Stanford University at the same time, wanted to promote new thought-shifting conversations that could better the world. Michael quickly saw that the serene environment and quiet solitude allowed people to be present with each other in new ways. Unique conversations and ideas sprouted over meals, in various group settings or in the mineral baths. Taken back out into the world, those ideas could catalyze powerful personal and cultural shifts, something Michael feels is particularly necessary today.

“The Esalen environment makes for more creative conversations,” Michael went on to tell the Chronicle. “It’s conducive to inquiry and introspection and conviviality.”

Milestones: Then and Now

One of the most fascinating developments in Esalen’s history not only proves that observation but anchors Michael’s belief that conversation and authentic human connection have the ability to truly change the world.

During the height of the Cold War in the 1980s, as Esalen’s programming continued to evolve, Michael and Dulce Murphy, with Jim Hickman and other colleagues, created the Soviet-American Exchange Program, now Track Two, an institute for citizen diplomacy.

They launched a series of Soviet-American citizen gatherings at Esalen, which generated many cultural exchanges, among them the first spacebridges, which enabled Soviet and American citizens to speak directly with one another via satellite.

In 1989, Esalen sponsored Boris Yeltsin’s first trip to the United States. The eight-day trip allowed Yeltsin to witness the contrast between the prosperity of the U.S. and the poverty of Soviet Communism.

“Our sponsoring Yeltsin’s first trip to the West led him and the Soviet Union to reject Communism with citizen diplomacy. Our work with Russians has been one of the best things Esalen has ever done,” Michael reflects.

“We also brokered the entrance of the Soviet Union’s Writer’s Union, which every writer there had to belong to in order to publish, into PEN International, the world’s leading organization to fight against censorship.

“We catalyzed the creation of the Association of Space Explorers, which includes everyone who has ever traveled into space. We brokered dozens of conferences for Russians and Americans seeking common ground in medicine, political psychology, arms control and other fields.

Those events, along with current initiatives taking place within Esalen’s Center for Theory & Research (CTR), which holds a deep commitment to the development of a new worldview and a transformative practice that can embody it, stand out for Michael.

“Among the new initiatives at CTR is Esalen Board Chairman Jeff Kripal’s work on a major study of what he calls the ‘Super Story,’ which is emerging from cutting-edge work in quantum physics, evolutionary biology and studies of human nature’s further reaches.”

Michael also sees Esalen’s growth in other arenas, primarily a renewed focus on maximizing mission impact, as promising markers for the decade ahead. As previously outlined by General Manager and CEO Terence Gilbey, a set of strategic priorities will propel new changes at Esalen in 2020.

They include: creating a flourishing global community that supports Esalen and human potential; drive higher sustainability and reduce negative environmental impact on campus; design a guest experience that supports personal transformation; foster greater diversity, equity and inclusion in the Esalen community; supporting staff in exploring and realizing their own potential; and maintaining long-term financial viability.

“Our mission at Esalen to facilitate such change within self and society has never been more vital than it is now,” Michael says. “I’m looking forward to the cumulative effect of these new initiatives. They promise to trigger the most creative period in our history. We see better now how we can better serve the world. I think Esalen now may very well be on the verge of its most creative period.”

“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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