The Proust Questionnaire: Elissa Epel

The Proust Questionnaire
Elissa Epel
Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop

Though she grew up less than an hour from Esalen, Elissa Epel couldn’t imagine one day teaching here. “I never thought I would have something to offer there,” she admits. However, this summer, the international expert on stress, well-being, and optimal aging joins forces with other brilliant minds for the Come Together Festival of IntraConnectivity and Spirit. “We have created a beautiful tapestry that we hope you will be part of,” says Epel. Read on to learn more about the bestselling co-author of The Telomere Effect, including her inspirations, teaching style, and which Esalen class she calls “one of the best times of my life.”


What is Esalen to you? 
A home.

What do you do?
I am both a teacher and a student. I have been leading retreats at Esalen for many years, and it has been one of the most cherished places and parts of my life. As a student, I have learned from many wise teachers at Esalen through the years, including Qi Gong with Roger Jahke and Bhakti Yoga with Janet Stone, as well as exploring concepts in meditation and consciousness at the Center for Teaching and Theory. As a teacher, I leave Esalen with the most satisfying feeling of deep content and purpose in life. It is a pure joy and a privilege to support people on their path of healing and discovery. It is with humility and awe I get to witness their insights, breakthroughs, and deep and contagious sense of ease and peace. 

How have you evolved as a student and teacher?
As an older teacher now, I have progressed from showing slides and data, trying to share as much information as I can, to sharing the essence of ideas and curating experiences that provide a felt physiological and spiritual connection between mind and body, self, and other.

Who do you collaborate with in your work?
I complement and learn from my co-teachers, who bring different backgrounds and practices.  I have co-taught with Dan Siegel, Rhonda Magee, Cassandra Vieten, Nichol Chase, Shauna Shapiro, Michael Sapiro, and my sister Andrea Lieberstein, who teaches Mindful Eating to the public and professionals.

How did you find your way to teaching at Esalen?
I grew up in Carmel, the town one might pass on their way to Esalen. Big Sur was our backyard. Coming to Esalen back then felt very special and I never thought I would have something to offer there as a teacher. My scientific path to understanding the mind-body relationship has led to contemplative and spiritual practices, and they are my personal passion.  The land has a deep familiarity and emanates the energy of healing and possibility from its history of being cared for by the Esselen people and the recent Esalen Institute. It is both essential and comforting to know there is a relationship being built between the two now.

What can we expect from your upcoming workshop?
To teach with my old friends, Dan Siegel, Rhonda Magee, and Nichol Chase, who know Esalen well, and to be joined by Tribal Chairman Tom Little Bear of the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County and many others from the Esselen tribe is an honor beyond words. Hearing Tom Little Bear speak is a profound experience. We are coming together, returning to the land, and wanting to give back to the land. We have created a beautiful tapestry that we hope you will be part of. 

What is your greatest extravagance related to your practice?  
Residential retreats are my extravagance. I love Buddhist retreats with noble silence and learning the various manifestations of the Dharma from different teachers. 

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Financial success.

What is the quality you most like in a human?
Kindness.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Mentoring. Sharing lessons learned. Helping people find their passion. Having continuity in that way. 

What would living at Esalen for a month be like for you?
When I turned 50, I stopped saying, “My other path not taken was as a yoga teacher,” and I signed up for Janet Stone’s three-week teacher training. It was one of the best times in my life to live at Esalen. 

What is your favorite component of your work?
It used to be the discovery aspect of research. And mentoring. Those never get old. But I find that convening people around topics brings me joy. I am turning toward climate work, and I find my role is often convener. 

What is your motto?
These days, it seems to be “Drop the rope!” Or, give up what you can’t control anyway. 

“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?


Join Elissa Epel for the campus-wide Come Together Festival of IntraConnectivity and Spirit happening July 24–28, 2023.

Learn More

About

Esalen Team

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Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
The Proust Questionnaire: Elissa Epel
The Proust Questionnaire
Elissa Epel

Though she grew up less than an hour from Esalen, Elissa Epel couldn’t imagine one day teaching here. “I never thought I would have something to offer there,” she admits. However, this summer, the international expert on stress, well-being, and optimal aging joins forces with other brilliant minds for the Come Together Festival of IntraConnectivity and Spirit. “We have created a beautiful tapestry that we hope you will be part of,” says Epel. Read on to learn more about the bestselling co-author of The Telomere Effect, including her inspirations, teaching style, and which Esalen class she calls “one of the best times of my life.”


What is Esalen to you? 
A home.

What do you do?
I am both a teacher and a student. I have been leading retreats at Esalen for many years, and it has been one of the most cherished places and parts of my life. As a student, I have learned from many wise teachers at Esalen through the years, including Qi Gong with Roger Jahke and Bhakti Yoga with Janet Stone, as well as exploring concepts in meditation and consciousness at the Center for Teaching and Theory. As a teacher, I leave Esalen with the most satisfying feeling of deep content and purpose in life. It is a pure joy and a privilege to support people on their path of healing and discovery. It is with humility and awe I get to witness their insights, breakthroughs, and deep and contagious sense of ease and peace. 

How have you evolved as a student and teacher?
As an older teacher now, I have progressed from showing slides and data, trying to share as much information as I can, to sharing the essence of ideas and curating experiences that provide a felt physiological and spiritual connection between mind and body, self, and other.

Who do you collaborate with in your work?
I complement and learn from my co-teachers, who bring different backgrounds and practices.  I have co-taught with Dan Siegel, Rhonda Magee, Cassandra Vieten, Nichol Chase, Shauna Shapiro, Michael Sapiro, and my sister Andrea Lieberstein, who teaches Mindful Eating to the public and professionals.

How did you find your way to teaching at Esalen?
I grew up in Carmel, the town one might pass on their way to Esalen. Big Sur was our backyard. Coming to Esalen back then felt very special and I never thought I would have something to offer there as a teacher. My scientific path to understanding the mind-body relationship has led to contemplative and spiritual practices, and they are my personal passion.  The land has a deep familiarity and emanates the energy of healing and possibility from its history of being cared for by the Esselen people and the recent Esalen Institute. It is both essential and comforting to know there is a relationship being built between the two now.

What can we expect from your upcoming workshop?
To teach with my old friends, Dan Siegel, Rhonda Magee, and Nichol Chase, who know Esalen well, and to be joined by Tribal Chairman Tom Little Bear of the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County and many others from the Esselen tribe is an honor beyond words. Hearing Tom Little Bear speak is a profound experience. We are coming together, returning to the land, and wanting to give back to the land. We have created a beautiful tapestry that we hope you will be part of. 

What is your greatest extravagance related to your practice?  
Residential retreats are my extravagance. I love Buddhist retreats with noble silence and learning the various manifestations of the Dharma from different teachers. 

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Financial success.

What is the quality you most like in a human?
Kindness.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Mentoring. Sharing lessons learned. Helping people find their passion. Having continuity in that way. 

What would living at Esalen for a month be like for you?
When I turned 50, I stopped saying, “My other path not taken was as a yoga teacher,” and I signed up for Janet Stone’s three-week teacher training. It was one of the best times in my life to live at Esalen. 

What is your favorite component of your work?
It used to be the discovery aspect of research. And mentoring. Those never get old. But I find that convening people around topics brings me joy. I am turning toward climate work, and I find my role is often convener. 

What is your motto?
These days, it seems to be “Drop the rope!” Or, give up what you can’t control anyway. 

“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?


Join Elissa Epel for the campus-wide Come Together Festival of IntraConnectivity and Spirit happening July 24–28, 2023.

Learn More

About

Esalen Team

The Proust Questionnaire: Elissa Epel

About

Esalen Team

< Back to all articles

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
The Proust Questionnaire
Elissa Epel

Though she grew up less than an hour from Esalen, Elissa Epel couldn’t imagine one day teaching here. “I never thought I would have something to offer there,” she admits. However, this summer, the international expert on stress, well-being, and optimal aging joins forces with other brilliant minds for the Come Together Festival of IntraConnectivity and Spirit. “We have created a beautiful tapestry that we hope you will be part of,” says Epel. Read on to learn more about the bestselling co-author of The Telomere Effect, including her inspirations, teaching style, and which Esalen class she calls “one of the best times of my life.”


What is Esalen to you? 
A home.

What do you do?
I am both a teacher and a student. I have been leading retreats at Esalen for many years, and it has been one of the most cherished places and parts of my life. As a student, I have learned from many wise teachers at Esalen through the years, including Qi Gong with Roger Jahke and Bhakti Yoga with Janet Stone, as well as exploring concepts in meditation and consciousness at the Center for Teaching and Theory. As a teacher, I leave Esalen with the most satisfying feeling of deep content and purpose in life. It is a pure joy and a privilege to support people on their path of healing and discovery. It is with humility and awe I get to witness their insights, breakthroughs, and deep and contagious sense of ease and peace. 

How have you evolved as a student and teacher?
As an older teacher now, I have progressed from showing slides and data, trying to share as much information as I can, to sharing the essence of ideas and curating experiences that provide a felt physiological and spiritual connection between mind and body, self, and other.

Who do you collaborate with in your work?
I complement and learn from my co-teachers, who bring different backgrounds and practices.  I have co-taught with Dan Siegel, Rhonda Magee, Cassandra Vieten, Nichol Chase, Shauna Shapiro, Michael Sapiro, and my sister Andrea Lieberstein, who teaches Mindful Eating to the public and professionals.

How did you find your way to teaching at Esalen?
I grew up in Carmel, the town one might pass on their way to Esalen. Big Sur was our backyard. Coming to Esalen back then felt very special and I never thought I would have something to offer there as a teacher. My scientific path to understanding the mind-body relationship has led to contemplative and spiritual practices, and they are my personal passion.  The land has a deep familiarity and emanates the energy of healing and possibility from its history of being cared for by the Esselen people and the recent Esalen Institute. It is both essential and comforting to know there is a relationship being built between the two now.

What can we expect from your upcoming workshop?
To teach with my old friends, Dan Siegel, Rhonda Magee, and Nichol Chase, who know Esalen well, and to be joined by Tribal Chairman Tom Little Bear of the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County and many others from the Esselen tribe is an honor beyond words. Hearing Tom Little Bear speak is a profound experience. We are coming together, returning to the land, and wanting to give back to the land. We have created a beautiful tapestry that we hope you will be part of. 

What is your greatest extravagance related to your practice?  
Residential retreats are my extravagance. I love Buddhist retreats with noble silence and learning the various manifestations of the Dharma from different teachers. 

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Financial success.

What is the quality you most like in a human?
Kindness.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Mentoring. Sharing lessons learned. Helping people find their passion. Having continuity in that way. 

What would living at Esalen for a month be like for you?
When I turned 50, I stopped saying, “My other path not taken was as a yoga teacher,” and I signed up for Janet Stone’s three-week teacher training. It was one of the best times in my life to live at Esalen. 

What is your favorite component of your work?
It used to be the discovery aspect of research. And mentoring. Those never get old. But I find that convening people around topics brings me joy. I am turning toward climate work, and I find my role is often convener. 

What is your motto?
These days, it seems to be “Drop the rope!” Or, give up what you can’t control anyway. 

“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?


Join Elissa Epel for the campus-wide Come Together Festival of IntraConnectivity and Spirit happening July 24–28, 2023.

Learn More

About

Esalen Team

< Back to all Journal posts

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
The Proust Questionnaire: Elissa Epel
The Proust Questionnaire
Elissa Epel

Though she grew up less than an hour from Esalen, Elissa Epel couldn’t imagine one day teaching here. “I never thought I would have something to offer there,” she admits. However, this summer, the international expert on stress, well-being, and optimal aging joins forces with other brilliant minds for the Come Together Festival of IntraConnectivity and Spirit. “We have created a beautiful tapestry that we hope you will be part of,” says Epel. Read on to learn more about the bestselling co-author of The Telomere Effect, including her inspirations, teaching style, and which Esalen class she calls “one of the best times of my life.”


What is Esalen to you? 
A home.

What do you do?
I am both a teacher and a student. I have been leading retreats at Esalen for many years, and it has been one of the most cherished places and parts of my life. As a student, I have learned from many wise teachers at Esalen through the years, including Qi Gong with Roger Jahke and Bhakti Yoga with Janet Stone, as well as exploring concepts in meditation and consciousness at the Center for Teaching and Theory. As a teacher, I leave Esalen with the most satisfying feeling of deep content and purpose in life. It is a pure joy and a privilege to support people on their path of healing and discovery. It is with humility and awe I get to witness their insights, breakthroughs, and deep and contagious sense of ease and peace. 

How have you evolved as a student and teacher?
As an older teacher now, I have progressed from showing slides and data, trying to share as much information as I can, to sharing the essence of ideas and curating experiences that provide a felt physiological and spiritual connection between mind and body, self, and other.

Who do you collaborate with in your work?
I complement and learn from my co-teachers, who bring different backgrounds and practices.  I have co-taught with Dan Siegel, Rhonda Magee, Cassandra Vieten, Nichol Chase, Shauna Shapiro, Michael Sapiro, and my sister Andrea Lieberstein, who teaches Mindful Eating to the public and professionals.

How did you find your way to teaching at Esalen?
I grew up in Carmel, the town one might pass on their way to Esalen. Big Sur was our backyard. Coming to Esalen back then felt very special and I never thought I would have something to offer there as a teacher. My scientific path to understanding the mind-body relationship has led to contemplative and spiritual practices, and they are my personal passion.  The land has a deep familiarity and emanates the energy of healing and possibility from its history of being cared for by the Esselen people and the recent Esalen Institute. It is both essential and comforting to know there is a relationship being built between the two now.

What can we expect from your upcoming workshop?
To teach with my old friends, Dan Siegel, Rhonda Magee, and Nichol Chase, who know Esalen well, and to be joined by Tribal Chairman Tom Little Bear of the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County and many others from the Esselen tribe is an honor beyond words. Hearing Tom Little Bear speak is a profound experience. We are coming together, returning to the land, and wanting to give back to the land. We have created a beautiful tapestry that we hope you will be part of. 

What is your greatest extravagance related to your practice?  
Residential retreats are my extravagance. I love Buddhist retreats with noble silence and learning the various manifestations of the Dharma from different teachers. 

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Financial success.

What is the quality you most like in a human?
Kindness.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Mentoring. Sharing lessons learned. Helping people find their passion. Having continuity in that way. 

What would living at Esalen for a month be like for you?
When I turned 50, I stopped saying, “My other path not taken was as a yoga teacher,” and I signed up for Janet Stone’s three-week teacher training. It was one of the best times in my life to live at Esalen. 

What is your favorite component of your work?
It used to be the discovery aspect of research. And mentoring. Those never get old. But I find that convening people around topics brings me joy. I am turning toward climate work, and I find my role is often convener. 

What is your motto?
These days, it seems to be “Drop the rope!” Or, give up what you can’t control anyway. 

“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?


Join Elissa Epel for the campus-wide Come Together Festival of IntraConnectivity and Spirit happening July 24–28, 2023.

Learn More

About

Esalen Team

The Proust Questionnaire: Elissa Epel

About

Esalen Team

< Back to all articles

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
The Proust Questionnaire
Elissa Epel

Though she grew up less than an hour from Esalen, Elissa Epel couldn’t imagine one day teaching here. “I never thought I would have something to offer there,” she admits. However, this summer, the international expert on stress, well-being, and optimal aging joins forces with other brilliant minds for the Come Together Festival of IntraConnectivity and Spirit. “We have created a beautiful tapestry that we hope you will be part of,” says Epel. Read on to learn more about the bestselling co-author of The Telomere Effect, including her inspirations, teaching style, and which Esalen class she calls “one of the best times of my life.”


What is Esalen to you? 
A home.

What do you do?
I am both a teacher and a student. I have been leading retreats at Esalen for many years, and it has been one of the most cherished places and parts of my life. As a student, I have learned from many wise teachers at Esalen through the years, including Qi Gong with Roger Jahke and Bhakti Yoga with Janet Stone, as well as exploring concepts in meditation and consciousness at the Center for Teaching and Theory. As a teacher, I leave Esalen with the most satisfying feeling of deep content and purpose in life. It is a pure joy and a privilege to support people on their path of healing and discovery. It is with humility and awe I get to witness their insights, breakthroughs, and deep and contagious sense of ease and peace. 

How have you evolved as a student and teacher?
As an older teacher now, I have progressed from showing slides and data, trying to share as much information as I can, to sharing the essence of ideas and curating experiences that provide a felt physiological and spiritual connection between mind and body, self, and other.

Who do you collaborate with in your work?
I complement and learn from my co-teachers, who bring different backgrounds and practices.  I have co-taught with Dan Siegel, Rhonda Magee, Cassandra Vieten, Nichol Chase, Shauna Shapiro, Michael Sapiro, and my sister Andrea Lieberstein, who teaches Mindful Eating to the public and professionals.

How did you find your way to teaching at Esalen?
I grew up in Carmel, the town one might pass on their way to Esalen. Big Sur was our backyard. Coming to Esalen back then felt very special and I never thought I would have something to offer there as a teacher. My scientific path to understanding the mind-body relationship has led to contemplative and spiritual practices, and they are my personal passion.  The land has a deep familiarity and emanates the energy of healing and possibility from its history of being cared for by the Esselen people and the recent Esalen Institute. It is both essential and comforting to know there is a relationship being built between the two now.

What can we expect from your upcoming workshop?
To teach with my old friends, Dan Siegel, Rhonda Magee, and Nichol Chase, who know Esalen well, and to be joined by Tribal Chairman Tom Little Bear of the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County and many others from the Esselen tribe is an honor beyond words. Hearing Tom Little Bear speak is a profound experience. We are coming together, returning to the land, and wanting to give back to the land. We have created a beautiful tapestry that we hope you will be part of. 

What is your greatest extravagance related to your practice?  
Residential retreats are my extravagance. I love Buddhist retreats with noble silence and learning the various manifestations of the Dharma from different teachers. 

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Financial success.

What is the quality you most like in a human?
Kindness.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Mentoring. Sharing lessons learned. Helping people find their passion. Having continuity in that way. 

What would living at Esalen for a month be like for you?
When I turned 50, I stopped saying, “My other path not taken was as a yoga teacher,” and I signed up for Janet Stone’s three-week teacher training. It was one of the best times in my life to live at Esalen. 

What is your favorite component of your work?
It used to be the discovery aspect of research. And mentoring. Those never get old. But I find that convening people around topics brings me joy. I am turning toward climate work, and I find my role is often convener. 

What is your motto?
These days, it seems to be “Drop the rope!” Or, give up what you can’t control anyway. 

“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?


Join Elissa Epel for the campus-wide Come Together Festival of IntraConnectivity and Spirit happening July 24–28, 2023.

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About

Esalen Team