Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
The Proust Questionnaire: Cari Herthel

Inspired by 20th-century French writer Marcel Proust, we here at Esalen have created our own version of his favorite parlor game to dig just a little deeper — and differently — into our incredible faculty and staff.

Here, Medicine woman and vice chair for the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County Cari Herthel reflects on the gift of storytelling and her path of recovery. Fueled by ancestral wisdom and life experiences, Cari explains how grief is a teacher and shares her greatest happiness and the power of daily acknowledgment ("a simple thank you, an act of gratitude”). Opening up about loves, limitations, and her deep connections to her spirit guides, this healer, survivor, and tribe elder reveals herself fully to embody love — because "when you know your value, you are able to share that and empower others."


What is Esalen to you?
Esalen is the land that is the ancestral connection to the Esselen Tribe of Monterey Country. The land is located where the sacred three waters meet. Water is life. Water is a deep sacred connection to the people and part of our identity. The land Esalen resides on spiritually aligns our tribe to the source of well-being. 

What do you do/are you doing at Esalen?
I will be leading a workshop in November as an elder of the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County. I am also a Healing Arts practitioner. During my time at Esalen, I’ll be sharing my lived experience as an Esselen descendant. The community of people gathering on the land will have a powerful experience as they become part of a relationship that magnifies the energy of the land. As healing practitioners, we help others to connect to that groundedness — that healing — that support that the land at Esalen offers.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Being in the baths at Esalen, grounding into that source of healing and transformation. I have been visiting the property for decades. It is important to remind my body of the happiness I experience in those healing waters. 

What is your greatest fear in your work?
As I get older, I am realizing my limitations. Waking up to limitations as an elder is scary at times, but it's also healthy embracing this as a part of the cycle of life. The fear is helping me to reach out for support and nourishment when I ask for it.  

Which living or dead person do you most admire in your field?
I resonate with and am inspired by my spirit guide, who was an Esselen leader. He inspires me because he has walked with me in the spirit world and the physical world. My guide has mentored me in my understanding and connection to the Esselen traditions and knowledge. 

What is your greatest extravagance related to your practice?
The embodiment of love. To embody love is to arrive at a place of understanding one's value. When you know your value, you are able to share that and empower others.

What is your current state of mind?
Grieving. Since 2018, I have lost my husband, my mother, and, most recently, my eldest son. In every moment, part of us is grieving, and it's often calling us. It's pointing out to me this value and my own embodiment of love. Grief is a teacher. It is teaching me directly about the embodiment of love, about what we value, who we are. At any moment as we are going through grieving, it can be so transformative. The words, thoughts, and feelings shared out into the world are healing. It is turning poison into medicine and given to others to heal. That is the highest form of prayer. 

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Success in work. People so identify with their work success at the sacrifice of their own fulfillment. Success in its shadow can be a trauma-driven response of survival that commands us to try to save ourselves. We need pause, reflection, retreat — this is the direction of the West. Being in the water, on the sacred land, provides an opportunity to create a space of healing and reflection, harmony and balance. That is the medicine.

What is the quality you most like in a human?
Kindness and compassion. It could be “named” a few different things, depending on each person’s style. Sometimes it comes out of the clear ability of a human to embody deep listening. 

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My current relationship with the person I call Cowboy. All of my different stories are reflected in him. We share a great love for music and dancing. We both share a deep love for celebrating fireside and camping out in nature.

What about your work brings you the most happiness? 
Being an elder and providing mentorship to younger members in the tribe. Teaching and leading bring me so much happiness — seeing our tribal members having opportunities to be in service. Being on the land and giving back to the tribe is very empowering.

Which talent would you most like to have?
I love people who are word artists. They are so incredible. I am a great storyteller, but not pencil to paper. Taking people’s truths and making them into art, reflections, and books. Word art is so beautiful. Writing songs. I would like to develop my ability to write more and honor the word artist in myself.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
If there is one thing I could change about myself, it would be changing how I respond to personal critique. I can give myself a hard time about my body image. I am working on changing that.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Entering into a path of recovery. I don't know if that is mine to hold as an achievement, but the healing path and healing arts of recovery have allowed me to be the elder and medicine woman I am today.   

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
I do love the medicine of horse. How a horse is in such service to a human being. They have an incredible heart of service and such an awareness of feelings and understanding of others.

What would living at Esalen for a month be like for you?
An expression of reconciliation and healing. There is a homecoming feeling when returning to the land. It would feel like a completion. I would feel so empowered. I would feel my full potential to be immersed in that connection to the land. 

What is your most treasured possession?
My medicine spirit bowl. It is an Esselen mobile mortar and is thousands of years old. It is a very sacred artifact. It is used in ceremony and in my own practice. It is a living embodiment of my ancestral grandmothers. 

How do you maintain your practice(s) during challenging times?
I maintain my practices one day at a time. For an Esselen elder, it's a practice and a tradition to start everything with acknowledgment, every day. When we wake, how we walk, before we sleep. One thing very different from western medicine is the pause of prayer: a simple thank you, an act of gratitude, is how I maintain my practice.

What is your favorite component of your work?
The silence, the stillness, to be in that place of deep listening. In stillness, I find my place of receptivity and reflection. 

What is your most marked characteristic?
Resilience. I embody this characteristic by accepting. I am told I have cultivated experiences throughout my life as a form of medicine, born through giving myself to my own healing, self-care, and connection to ancestors. It is the practice of recovery for me.

What do you value most in your work/practice?
Connection to the wider circles of the collective. To not be separated. That interconnectedness of life and community, that longing. It is a great place to be when you belong. 

Who are your inspirations?
The spirit of music and dance. If I had to pick a “who,” it would again come back to my spirit guides as my most profound inspiration. They are a great source of safety, trust, and support that inspires me toward connectedness and value of community.  

Who is your hero of fiction?
The creation stories of my ancestors. Some may view these as fiction, myths, and also non-fiction. I am feeling the hummingbird right now. He is a hero of the sweetness of our lives. Hummingbirds' vibrations are very high and are a hero of dance that I honor.

What is your greatest regret?
My life as an addict. There are behaviors I regret that drove my additions. I acknowledge there is a huge healing here, but it is healthy to also acknowledge that regrets exist. I do use my regret to be in service to others. I can be kinder, tolerant, and compassionate. 

How would you like to die?
In the arms of my love, Cowboy.

What is your motto?
Currently, it's very much “Keep it simple.” Especially in these times of chaos. To let go of the complications and intuit what is real, right here right now in its simplest form, is incredibly powerful.

“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?


Cari Herthel co-leads Healing Waters: The Medicine Wheel and Embodied Motion with Douglas Drummond November 14–18, 2022.

Register Now

About

Esalen Team

The Proust Questionnaire: Cari Herthel

About

Esalen Team

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
The Proust Questionnaire
Cari Herthel

Inspired by 20th-century French writer Marcel Proust, we here at Esalen have created our own version of his favorite parlor game to dig just a little deeper — and differently — into our incredible faculty and staff.

Here, Medicine woman and vice chair for the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County Cari Herthel reflects on the gift of storytelling and her path of recovery. Fueled by ancestral wisdom and life experiences, Cari explains how grief is a teacher and shares her greatest happiness and the power of daily acknowledgment ("a simple thank you, an act of gratitude”). Opening up about loves, limitations, and her deep connections to her spirit guides, this healer, survivor, and tribe elder reveals herself fully to embody love — because "when you know your value, you are able to share that and empower others."


What is Esalen to you?
Esalen is the land that is the ancestral connection to the Esselen Tribe of Monterey Country. The land is located where the sacred three waters meet. Water is life. Water is a deep sacred connection to the people and part of our identity. The land Esalen resides on spiritually aligns our tribe to the source of well-being. 

What do you do/are you doing at Esalen?
I will be leading a workshop in November as an elder of the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County. I am also a Healing Arts practitioner. During my time at Esalen, I’ll be sharing my lived experience as an Esselen descendant. The community of people gathering on the land will have a powerful experience as they become part of a relationship that magnifies the energy of the land. As healing practitioners, we help others to connect to that groundedness — that healing — that support that the land at Esalen offers.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Being in the baths at Esalen, grounding into that source of healing and transformation. I have been visiting the property for decades. It is important to remind my body of the happiness I experience in those healing waters. 

What is your greatest fear in your work?
As I get older, I am realizing my limitations. Waking up to limitations as an elder is scary at times, but it's also healthy embracing this as a part of the cycle of life. The fear is helping me to reach out for support and nourishment when I ask for it.  

Which living or dead person do you most admire in your field?
I resonate with and am inspired by my spirit guide, who was an Esselen leader. He inspires me because he has walked with me in the spirit world and the physical world. My guide has mentored me in my understanding and connection to the Esselen traditions and knowledge. 

What is your greatest extravagance related to your practice?
The embodiment of love. To embody love is to arrive at a place of understanding one's value. When you know your value, you are able to share that and empower others.

What is your current state of mind?
Grieving. Since 2018, I have lost my husband, my mother, and, most recently, my eldest son. In every moment, part of us is grieving, and it's often calling us. It's pointing out to me this value and my own embodiment of love. Grief is a teacher. It is teaching me directly about the embodiment of love, about what we value, who we are. At any moment as we are going through grieving, it can be so transformative. The words, thoughts, and feelings shared out into the world are healing. It is turning poison into medicine and given to others to heal. That is the highest form of prayer. 

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Success in work. People so identify with their work success at the sacrifice of their own fulfillment. Success in its shadow can be a trauma-driven response of survival that commands us to try to save ourselves. We need pause, reflection, retreat — this is the direction of the West. Being in the water, on the sacred land, provides an opportunity to create a space of healing and reflection, harmony and balance. That is the medicine.

What is the quality you most like in a human?
Kindness and compassion. It could be “named” a few different things, depending on each person’s style. Sometimes it comes out of the clear ability of a human to embody deep listening. 

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My current relationship with the person I call Cowboy. All of my different stories are reflected in him. We share a great love for music and dancing. We both share a deep love for celebrating fireside and camping out in nature.

What about your work brings you the most happiness? 
Being an elder and providing mentorship to younger members in the tribe. Teaching and leading bring me so much happiness — seeing our tribal members having opportunities to be in service. Being on the land and giving back to the tribe is very empowering.

Which talent would you most like to have?
I love people who are word artists. They are so incredible. I am a great storyteller, but not pencil to paper. Taking people’s truths and making them into art, reflections, and books. Word art is so beautiful. Writing songs. I would like to develop my ability to write more and honor the word artist in myself.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
If there is one thing I could change about myself, it would be changing how I respond to personal critique. I can give myself a hard time about my body image. I am working on changing that.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Entering into a path of recovery. I don't know if that is mine to hold as an achievement, but the healing path and healing arts of recovery have allowed me to be the elder and medicine woman I am today.   

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
I do love the medicine of horse. How a horse is in such service to a human being. They have an incredible heart of service and such an awareness of feelings and understanding of others.

What would living at Esalen for a month be like for you?
An expression of reconciliation and healing. There is a homecoming feeling when returning to the land. It would feel like a completion. I would feel so empowered. I would feel my full potential to be immersed in that connection to the land. 

What is your most treasured possession?
My medicine spirit bowl. It is an Esselen mobile mortar and is thousands of years old. It is a very sacred artifact. It is used in ceremony and in my own practice. It is a living embodiment of my ancestral grandmothers. 

How do you maintain your practice(s) during challenging times?
I maintain my practices one day at a time. For an Esselen elder, it's a practice and a tradition to start everything with acknowledgment, every day. When we wake, how we walk, before we sleep. One thing very different from western medicine is the pause of prayer: a simple thank you, an act of gratitude, is how I maintain my practice.

What is your favorite component of your work?
The silence, the stillness, to be in that place of deep listening. In stillness, I find my place of receptivity and reflection. 

What is your most marked characteristic?
Resilience. I embody this characteristic by accepting. I am told I have cultivated experiences throughout my life as a form of medicine, born through giving myself to my own healing, self-care, and connection to ancestors. It is the practice of recovery for me.

What do you value most in your work/practice?
Connection to the wider circles of the collective. To not be separated. That interconnectedness of life and community, that longing. It is a great place to be when you belong. 

Who are your inspirations?
The spirit of music and dance. If I had to pick a “who,” it would again come back to my spirit guides as my most profound inspiration. They are a great source of safety, trust, and support that inspires me toward connectedness and value of community.  

Who is your hero of fiction?
The creation stories of my ancestors. Some may view these as fiction, myths, and also non-fiction. I am feeling the hummingbird right now. He is a hero of the sweetness of our lives. Hummingbirds' vibrations are very high and are a hero of dance that I honor.

What is your greatest regret?
My life as an addict. There are behaviors I regret that drove my additions. I acknowledge there is a huge healing here, but it is healthy to also acknowledge that regrets exist. I do use my regret to be in service to others. I can be kinder, tolerant, and compassionate. 

How would you like to die?
In the arms of my love, Cowboy.

What is your motto?
Currently, it's very much “Keep it simple.” Especially in these times of chaos. To let go of the complications and intuit what is real, right here right now in its simplest form, is incredibly powerful.

“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?


Cari Herthel co-leads Healing Waters: The Medicine Wheel and Embodied Motion with Douglas Drummond November 14–18, 2022.

Register Now

About

Esalen Team

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
The Proust Questionnaire: Cari Herthel

Medicine woman and vice chair for the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County Cari Herthel reflects on the gift of storytelling and her path of recovery. Fueled by ancestral wisdom and life experiences, Cari explains how grief is a teacher and shares her greatest happiness and the power of daily acknowledgment ("a simple thank you, an act of gratitude”).

New Workshops

No items found.

Alert! Workshop Space Available


Cari Herthel co-leads Healing Waters: The Medicine Wheel and Embodied Motion with Douglas Drummond November 14–18, 2022.

Register Now

About

Esalen Team

The Proust Questionnaire: Cari Herthel

About

Esalen Team

//