Voices of Esalen Podcast

Our podcast showcases in-depth interviews with the dynamic teachers and thinkers who are part of Esalen Institute. Hosted by Sam Stern, a former Esalen student and current staff member, the podcasts have featured engaging conversations with authors Cheryl Strayed and Michael Pollan, innovators Stan Grof and Dr. Mark Hyman, teachers Byron Katie, Mark Coleman and Jean Houston, Esalen co-founder Michael Murphy, and many more.

These podcasts are made possible in part by the support of Esalen donors and are licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

Listen to the latest episodes here, and subscribe to Voices of Esalen on Spotify, Stitcher, Soundcloud, Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts.

The Warrior Within: How Amber and Marcus Capone Help Veterans Through Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy
May 11, 2023

Amber and Marcus Capone are founders of VETS solutions, a pioneering organization dedicated to supporting veterans struggling with the invisible wounds of war.

Amber and Marcus's journey began with the often difficult reality of life after Marcus's retirement from the U.S. Navy SEALs, where Amber witnessed the devastating toll that Marcus's service had taken on him, as he battled depression, anger, addiction, and an array of mental health challenges.

But when all hope seemed lost, a glimmer of possibility emerged — a potential solution that lay beyond the traditional bounds of medicine and therapy. In their quest for healing, Marcus's fellow Navy SEAL friend introduced them to Ibogaine, a psychedelic drug known for its ability to unlock deep-seated traumas and offer profound insights. While he was initially skeptical, Marcus embarked on this intense psychedelic experience, and what would become a life-altering journey, one where both Amber and Marcus would find a way forward, towards renewed clarity and purpose.

Join us as Amber and Marcus share their courageous and deeply personal account of how psychedelic-assisted therapy changed their life, and paved a path to supporting veterans through their organization, VETS solutions.

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Stacia Butterfield: Holotropic Breathwork's Unique Power
May 1, 2023

Stacia Butterfield is a somatic practitioner and a Holotropic Breathwork facilitator.

Stacia's journey into Holotropic breath work started in 1999. Since then, she has been on a quest to explore the wisdom of the body and the intrinsic healing orientation of the psyche. She worked with Dr. Deborah Mash at Healing Visions, an early Ibogaine clinic in the British Virgin Islands and certified as a Holotropic Breathwork facilitator in 2005. She worked closely with Stanislav Grof for over 13 years.

In this episode, we delve into Stacia's personal journey into this work, her experience with breathwork versus psychedelics, and the importance of set and setting in creating a safe and supportive environment for healing. We also discuss how she creates and uses an environment for integration after the breathwork sessions, and why Esalen, in particular, is such a significant place for integration.

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Stacia leads Holotropic Breathwork®: Expanded States of Consciousness as a Path to Healing and Transformation at Esalen July 3–7, 2023.

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Katy Bowman: Rethink Your Position
April 17, 2023

Katy Bowman is a bestselling author and speaker who’s revolutionizing the way that we think about movement and our need for it in today’s modern culture.

In this episode, we explore Katy's unique perspective on movement and discuss her upcoming book, Rethink Your Position. We touch on topics such as "tech neck," junk-food movement, sedentary culture, furniture-free homes, minimalist footwear, the art of long distance walking, the benefits of hanging, dynamic workstations, your "sleep shapes" and how to change them, trampolines, jumping, creating movement-positive zones for children, and more.

Check out Katy's website and her podcast, Move Your DNA.

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Dr. Andrew Weil's 1985 Lecture at Esalen on Psychedelic Drugs (MDMA, Peyote, Marijuana)
March 30, 2023

This episode centers on a talk given at Esalen in 1985 by Dr. Andrew Weil. Dr. Weil is a prominent figure and a trailblazer in the field of integrative medicine, which combines conventional medical practices with alternative and complementary therapies such as herbal medicine, acupuncture, and mind-body techniques. (All of this of course used to be rather fringe; Esalen in the 1980’s, was a bit fringe, too. Nowadays, things like acupuncture and herbal medicine raise nary an eyebrow, and Esalen, to be honest, is pretty darn mainstream too.)

On this date in 1985, Dr. Weil speaks about various drugs and psychedelics, as well as the cultural attitudes attached to them. Weil to this point had had a curious relationship to psychedelics: in the early 1960s, while a student at Harvard, he observed the infamous Harvard Psilocybin experiments conducted by Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert, and then reported on them in the Harvard Crimson, ultimately leading to the academic downfall and subsequent dismissal of Leary and Alpert. Later in his life, Weil would reconnect with Alpert, who had by then assumed the moniker of Ram Das, and he would finally taste the forbidden fruit, and henceforth become an advocate of psychedelics.

Weil speaks a great deal during this talk about the drug MDMA, otherwise known as Ecstasy, which on June 1st of that very year was made illegal and classified as a Schedule 1 substance. MDMA had been widely used as a therapy drug for nearly 15 years since its rediscovery in the 1970s by chemist Sasha Shulgin, but in the early 1980s, it also became quite popular in dance subcultures, particularly in the gay community, and most notably in Dallas, Texas. Of course, in the mid 1980’s, Ronald Reagan’s war on drugs was raging, and it provided the perfect storm for MDMA to be made unlawful. So given this context, it’s both interesting and informative to hear Weil, the former psychedelic whistleblower turned hippie physician, speak at length and quite intelligently about MDMA. He also addresses a host of other topics, including whether or not marijuana causes brain damage, peyote, how DEA scheduling works, the so-called new physics, how belief interacts with the physical mechanisms of the body, hypnotherapy, fire-walking, coffee, chocolate, and more. It's a fun episode.

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Deborah Eden Tull: Shadow Work, Limiting Beliefs, and Luminous Darkness
March 16, 2023

Deborah Eden Tull is a spiritual activist, author, and sustainability educator who works to teach the integration of compassionate awareness into our everyday lives. For seven years, she trained as a Buddhist monk at a silent Zen monastery. She has been teaching engaged meditation for over 20 years. Her latest book, Luminous Darkness: An Engaged Buddhist Approach to Embracing the Unknown was released in September of 2022.

She currently resides in the mountains of western North Carolina, originally Cherokee land, with her husband, offering retreats, workshops, classes, and consultations nationally and internationally, integrating presence and partnership with nature.

Eden’s teaching emphasizes the personal, interpersonal, transpersonal, societal, ecological, mystical, and global impacts of awareness practice. She has worked with a wide range of audiences, from dharma students and people wanting to cultivate more compassion in their lives, to concerned citizens and activists, parents, schools, inner city youth, non-profits and corporations, and people who are incarcerated. Her current focus is training and empowering leaders and facilitators in conscious response and regenerative leadership as we collectively navigate the climate crisis.

In this episode, we explore her childhood and her journey as a Buddhist monk, then discuss her longstanding interest in shadow work, the path by which she helps individuals release limiting beliefs, and how she believes mindfulness and meditation can help up tap into our full potential. We'll also explore her work on post-patriarchal thought and practices, her insights on relational intelligence, and principally, we discuss the major themes of her book, Luminous Darkness, focusing on her approach of "Endarkenment," which seeks to challenge traditional dualistic understandings of light and dark in spiritual practice.

Eden’s work has been featured in The Los Angeles Times, Tricycle, Yogi Times, Shambhala Times, The Shift Network, Best Self, and The Ecologist. You can visit her and check out her books, upcoming retreats, and workshops and many of her podcast interviews on her website.

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Bessel van der Kolk: Transforming Trauma with Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy
March 2, 2023

In this recent talk at Esalen Institute, delivered February 16, 2023, to a packed audience, Bessel Van Der Kolk discusses the efficacy of psychedelic psychotherapy. Van der Kolk is a renowned psychiatrist and researcher who has dedicated his career to studying how children and adults adapt to traumatic experiences. He is well-known for his 2014 book “The Body Keeps the Score,” widely regarded as one of the go-to books on the effects of psychological trauma on mind and body.

Van der Kolk is an expert in the field of psychedelics as well, having been the principal investigator in a phase III clinical trial whose object was to evaluate the effectiveness of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in patients suffering from extreme Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

As Van der Kolk told Newsweek in an article about the study, “What the MDMA clearly did, is it allowed people to go into dark places where ordinarily they did not want to go. Sometimes they were quite upset during the sessions. But they always came up with unexpected attitude changes, insights that were more than just intellectual, that often gave them an entirely different orientation towards themselves. Self-forgiveness became a very important part of it also, replacing self-blame for what happened."

Van Der Kolk's talk is followed by a lively Q and A where he and his partner Licia Sky hold forth on a host of topics, including bio-babble, ketamine, LSD, MDMA, antidepressants, eating disorders, the bodily effects of trauma and more.

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Life and Death with BJ Miller: A Live Conversation at Esalen Institute
February 16, 2023

BJ Miller is a renowned palliative care physician, author, and speaker. Well known for his 2015 TED Talk ”What Really Matters at the End of Life,” which has been viewed over 10 million times, BJ is a thought leader in the field of conscious dying.

When he was a sophomore at Princeton University, BJ experienced a tragic accident that resulted in the loss of three of his limbs. He followed a path in the medical field, and fell in love with palliative care while in residency. He has been helping patients and their families ever since.

In this live conversation at Esalen Institute, BJ shares his insights on the differences between palliative and hospice care, the emotional and spiritual needs of patients facing terminal diagnoses, and the role of spirituality in end-of-life treatment. BJ also talks about his experiences working with patients and their families, how to help people come to terms with their own impending death, and how to help them become unstuck from a negative narrative.

One of the most fascinating topics discussed in this conversation is the role of psychedelics in end-of-life care. BJ shares his thoughts on the recent Johns Hopkins study concerning psilocybin mushrooms and end-of-life anxiety in cancer patients, where up to 80% of participants reported significant reductions in anxiety and improved quality of life.

As we wrap up the conversation, BJ shares his thoughts on how he sees palliative care evolving in the future, and what role he sees himself playing in that evolution. He also talks about how his online palliative care service, Mettle Health, will free him up to do palliative care the way he wants to do it.

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Deborah Eden Tull's Dharma Talk at Esalen
February 3, 2023

Deborah Eden Tull is the founder of Mindful Living Revolution. A deeply experienced and respected dharma teacher, Tull is a spiritual activist, author, and sustainability educator. She has taught engaged meditation for over 20 years and trained for seven and a half years as a Buddhist monk at a silent Zen monastery. With a focus on post-patriarchal thought and practices, Eden integrates compassionate awareness into her offerings, bridging personal and collective awakening in an age of global change.

In this podcast, we’ll be playing a talk that Eden gave to the Esalen community on January 18th, 2023. In it, she explores the concept of duality — feeling special versus not special — and explores the impact duality had on the quality of her life growing up. She describes how it was this feeling of duality that ultimately led her to a spiritual path. Deborah also explores the shared nature of cultural conditioning, her own experience of navigating chronic illness, and how she was able to let go of the myth of self-improvement in order to tap into her own true nature, presence and essence.

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Bill Donius: Thought Revolution
January 19, 2023

Bill Donius is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book, Thought Revolution. In this book, Donius explains the science behind non-dominant handwriting and teaches how to incorporate this powerful technique into your personal life. Through the simple process of non-dominant hand writing, you can discover how to connect more fully with your subconscious right brain, unlocking hidden talents, reducing stress, and even healing from trauma. This episode is a bit different, in that we feature a process that Bill goes through with a Voices of Esalen listener, oncology nurse and meditation teacher Nicole Longbine.

Bill is also a member of the Esalen Board of Trustees. He spent 30 years in corporate America in a number of industries, including health care, television production, and banking. He rose through the ranks to become chairman and CEO of Pulaski Bank in St Louis, growing it eight-fold to $1.4 billion in assets. He serves on a number of boards including the St. Louis Art Museum, Maryville University, and Venture Cafe, and served a two-year term on the U.S. Federal Reserve Board as a banker appointee.

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Join Donius at Esalen May 5–7, 2023 for Meet Your Better Half: Unlock Your Right Brain.

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Sam's Top 6 Favorite Things of 2022
December 27, 2022

Voices of Esalen host Sam Stern runs through his top six favorite things of 2022, including cloning his own voice, messing around with the bizarre world of ChatGPT, microdosing things other than psychedelics, intentionally being different in order to gain an outsize advantage, and being intentional and resourceful in finding new music to revitalize your soul and spirit.

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Esalen Institute is open!

However, Highway 1 south of Esalen is closed indefinitely. Don't let this stop you — there are other routes to reach us. Please review these alternate route driving directions and allow for a little extra travel time while on your transformational and healing journey.

We look forward to welcoming you to Esalen.