Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
The Wellbeing Project Broadens Impact with New Initiatives

In 2015, Esalen joined a small group of other nonprofits to co-create the Wellbeing Project, a global initiative to shift the social change field culture from one of frequent burnout to supporting inner well-being. The Project structures its approach around four pillars: experiential programs, research and evaluation, convening and storytelling.

For the past three years, Esalen has helped shape Project content and governance. Now the Project is broadening its scope from mapping individual well-being into higher education training, organizational wellness, expanded research and a planned global summit.

The Wellbeing Project has completed three iterations of its 18-month-long Inner Development Program (IDP), which invites social change leaders to explore their inner lives through a multilayered curriculum that includes integral practices originating at Esalen.

“Gestalt Practice, which Esalen co-founder Dick Price developed, has been a core process of IDP,” says Esalen Programs Director Cheryl Fraenzl. “Esalen also inspired other aspects of the curriculum including group check ins, Gestalt process work and movement practices.” Longtime Esalen faculty and community members Steven Harper, Christine Price, Judith Hemming, Nancy Mortifee, Patrice Hamilton, Zuza Engler and others all have served as contributors and facilitators in the Project.

Wilderness guide and Gestalt practitioner Steven Harper, who has led programs at Esalen for 40 years, has facilitated several IDP cohorts. “There’s a high burnout factor in social entrepreneurs,” Steven shares. “So these participants come in with that, and want to find out if there is another way to be. The program has three main areas of benefit: There is a very personal level, an interpersonal level and then also an organizational level. Over the course of three years, as word of the program has spread, all sorts of organizations have become very interested in what’s happening with this work.”

Aaron Pereira, Wellbeing Project Lead

Aaron Pereira, Wellbeing Project lead, also sees the culture of the social change field beginning to shift. “The capacities that are emerging are essential in addressing the most profound challenges we face in the world today: everything from the increasing polarization in our societies to our environmental challenges. This affirms our core ethos: wellbeing leads to welldoing.”

Last spring, Cheryl and other co-creators convened in Bilbao, Spain, to discuss the Project’s evolution and develop new areas of focus. Outcomes of that meeting guided the core programs of the Project’s second phase. One, the Higher Education Initiative (HEI) gathers institutions around the world that train people in the social change field, and helps them incorporate inner development into their curricula.

In partnership with the Division of Health and Human Performance at Stanford University and the Center for Contemplative Sciences at the University of Virginia, the Wellbeing Project hosted an HEI conference earlier this month in Stockholm, Sweden, to envision a new paradigm for training leaders on the front lines of social change. Participating institutions include the Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance at the University of Cape Town (South Africa), Mondragon University (Spain), the University of North Texas at Dallas and UNITAR (the principal training arm of the UN) among others.

Another new initiative, the Organizational Exploratory Program, continues IDP’s 18-month-long format but focuses on wellness at the organizational level. Through regular retreats, support from consultants and ongoing customized programs, participating organizations will hone in on how to incorporate well-being into their company cultures. Additionally, the qualitative research gathered throughout the Project’s first phase will expand during the Organizational Exploratory Program with the participation of neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson and the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

As Wellbeing Project initiatives continue to take root around the world, its impact will continue to grow. “Esalen is part of the planning team for a global summit for all Project participants, facilitators, co-creators and participating organizations,” Cheryl shares. The summit, planned for 2020, will take place in Bilbao, Spain. “The gathering will be a celebration and showcase of the Project, what’s coming next and how people can incorporate all we’ve learned.”

Also coming up next fall, Esalen will welcome the Project’s fourth IDP cohort. These participants hail from around the world and work in sectors including education, health, human rights and the environment. While gathered at Esalen, they will work with a range of faculty and community members and experience Gestalt and other integral practices in the place where they were developed. The cohort’s visit has been made possible in part by scholarships funded by Friends of Esalen supporters.

Learn more about The Wellbeing Project.

Hear Wellbeing Project participant testimonials.


Photo by Angie Smith

“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

The Wellbeing Project Broadens Impact with New Initiatives

About

Esalen Team

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop

In 2015, Esalen joined a small group of other nonprofits to co-create the Wellbeing Project, a global initiative to shift the social change field culture from one of frequent burnout to supporting inner well-being. The Project structures its approach around four pillars: experiential programs, research and evaluation, convening and storytelling.

For the past three years, Esalen has helped shape Project content and governance. Now the Project is broadening its scope from mapping individual well-being into higher education training, organizational wellness, expanded research and a planned global summit.

The Wellbeing Project has completed three iterations of its 18-month-long Inner Development Program (IDP), which invites social change leaders to explore their inner lives through a multilayered curriculum that includes integral practices originating at Esalen.

“Gestalt Practice, which Esalen co-founder Dick Price developed, has been a core process of IDP,” says Esalen Programs Director Cheryl Fraenzl. “Esalen also inspired other aspects of the curriculum including group check ins, Gestalt process work and movement practices.” Longtime Esalen faculty and community members Steven Harper, Christine Price, Judith Hemming, Nancy Mortifee, Patrice Hamilton, Zuza Engler and others all have served as contributors and facilitators in the Project.

Wilderness guide and Gestalt practitioner Steven Harper, who has led programs at Esalen for 40 years, has facilitated several IDP cohorts. “There’s a high burnout factor in social entrepreneurs,” Steven shares. “So these participants come in with that, and want to find out if there is another way to be. The program has three main areas of benefit: There is a very personal level, an interpersonal level and then also an organizational level. Over the course of three years, as word of the program has spread, all sorts of organizations have become very interested in what’s happening with this work.”

Aaron Pereira, Wellbeing Project Lead

Aaron Pereira, Wellbeing Project lead, also sees the culture of the social change field beginning to shift. “The capacities that are emerging are essential in addressing the most profound challenges we face in the world today: everything from the increasing polarization in our societies to our environmental challenges. This affirms our core ethos: wellbeing leads to welldoing.”

Last spring, Cheryl and other co-creators convened in Bilbao, Spain, to discuss the Project’s evolution and develop new areas of focus. Outcomes of that meeting guided the core programs of the Project’s second phase. One, the Higher Education Initiative (HEI) gathers institutions around the world that train people in the social change field, and helps them incorporate inner development into their curricula.

In partnership with the Division of Health and Human Performance at Stanford University and the Center for Contemplative Sciences at the University of Virginia, the Wellbeing Project hosted an HEI conference earlier this month in Stockholm, Sweden, to envision a new paradigm for training leaders on the front lines of social change. Participating institutions include the Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance at the University of Cape Town (South Africa), Mondragon University (Spain), the University of North Texas at Dallas and UNITAR (the principal training arm of the UN) among others.

Another new initiative, the Organizational Exploratory Program, continues IDP’s 18-month-long format but focuses on wellness at the organizational level. Through regular retreats, support from consultants and ongoing customized programs, participating organizations will hone in on how to incorporate well-being into their company cultures. Additionally, the qualitative research gathered throughout the Project’s first phase will expand during the Organizational Exploratory Program with the participation of neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson and the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

As Wellbeing Project initiatives continue to take root around the world, its impact will continue to grow. “Esalen is part of the planning team for a global summit for all Project participants, facilitators, co-creators and participating organizations,” Cheryl shares. The summit, planned for 2020, will take place in Bilbao, Spain. “The gathering will be a celebration and showcase of the Project, what’s coming next and how people can incorporate all we’ve learned.”

Also coming up next fall, Esalen will welcome the Project’s fourth IDP cohort. These participants hail from around the world and work in sectors including education, health, human rights and the environment. While gathered at Esalen, they will work with a range of faculty and community members and experience Gestalt and other integral practices in the place where they were developed. The cohort’s visit has been made possible in part by scholarships funded by Friends of Esalen supporters.

Learn more about The Wellbeing Project.

Hear Wellbeing Project participant testimonials.


Photo by Angie Smith

“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
The Wellbeing Project Broadens Impact with New Initiatives

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About

Esalen Team

The Wellbeing Project Broadens Impact with New Initiatives

About

Esalen Team

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