A collage of images. The words "VOICES OF ESALEN" appear in yellow over a black and white photograph of a farm. Along the left edge of the image, there is a geometric design with black lines on a cream background;
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.

Louie Schwartzberg: Gratitude Revealed
November 23, 2022

Louie Schwartzberg is the filmmaker behind Fantastic Fungi — he's back now with a follow up film: Gratitude Revealed. Louie has created and worked on a score of films in his life, including his own features like Mysteries of the Unseen World and Wings of Life, as well as the Netflix series Moving Art. Over the process of his career, it's fair to say that he’s revolutionized the field of time-lapse photography. Louie has also been a contributing cinematographer or visual effects artist to many idiosyncratic Hollywood movies, including Men in Black 2, Erin Brockovich, Vice Versa, The Heavenly Kid, Xanadu, Altered States, and the 1982 masterpiece Koyanisqatsi. His inventive TED talks have garnered more than 60 million views. Together we talked about how he balances a love of documentary footage shot in the wild with his continuing dedication to time-lapse footage that's shot in studio, how he sees making work as a spiritual practice, how social justice photography gave him his start in film, what Los Angeles was like in the early 1970’s, why he split town after graduation from UCLA and moved to a tiny town in Northern California, where he started retrofitting 35mm movie cameras to enable them to take high-resolution time-lapse photos. Louie also talks about how he lent his own take on psychedelic iconography to the film Altered States in the early stages of a film career that has always existed in a fiercely independent realm. And I couldn't let him leave without talking a bit about how Esalen continues to inspire a sense of wonder in him.

Listen on Soundcloud
Chef Elle Simone on Cuisine and America's Culture: How Flavor Shapes a Nation
November 11, 2022

Chef Elle Simone is a well-known American chef, culinary producer, test cook, and food stylist. In 2013, after realizing that women and persons of color were underrepresented among chefs, she founded SheChef, a mentoring and networking organization for women of color in the culinary field. She can be seen on PBS on America’s Test Kitchen and is the first African American woman to appear as a regular host on that show. Chef Elle is also a survivor of ovarian cancer and shows up as an activist and representative in that space.

Chef Elle is interviewed by S. Rae Peoples, Associate Director of
Diversity & Inclusion Education at Tufts University. She has over 25 years of experience serving in leadership roles that revolve around social justice in the arts, education, political, and nonprofit sectors. She advises organizations on how best to create internal conditions that allow equity, diversity, inclusion, and justice to flourish. Her opinions and writings have been featured in The Washington Post, Oakland Post, BlogHer, and YFS Magazine. S. Rae is currently rooted in motherhood, love, and community in Somerville, MA.

Listen on Soundcloud
Esselen Tribe of Monterey County in Dialogue with Esalen Institute
November 1, 2022

Today we’re sharing a conversation that took place in October, 2022, between members of the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County and the Esalen Institute. Representing the Esselen tribe are Jana Nason and Stephen Vicente Arevalo.

Jana Nason is an Esselen and Rumsen descendant, and an enrolled tribal member of the ETMC. She is the nonprofit secretary, and serves on the Tribal Council as Tribal Administrator and Secretary, Publications Chair, and Cultural Resource Committee member. She also manages the Cultural Archeological Monitoring program and serves her Tribe in that capacity. She is dedicated to education, and protecting and preserving the cultural heritage and ancestral sacred sites.

Stephen Arevalo is an Esselen and Rumsen descendant. He currently serves on the ETMC Tribal Council as well on the Cultural Resource Committee. Stephen serves his Tribe on many levels and is a tribal cultural archeological monitor. He is deeply passionate about his ancestry and has started a language re-learning class for tribal members. He is an educational speaker, and an active community member.

Representing Esalen Institute is Douglas Drummond. Douglas serves as the Director for Healing Arts and Somatics and the Director of Community Alliance at Esalen Institute. He is also faculty. Douglas is originally from Aotearoa New Zealand and now makes his home in Big Sur, California in Esselen Territory, with his family.

Learn more about the Esselen Tribe at www.esselentribe.org/.

Listen on Soundcloud
Tim McKee on White Men's Role in Racial Justice
October 24, 2022

Tim McKee is publisher at North Atlantic Books, an educational non-profit publishing house that collaborates with partners to develop cross-cultural perspectives; nurture holistic views of art, science, the humanities, and healing; and seed personal and global transformation by publishing work on the relationship of body, spirit, and nature.

Tim is interviewed today by S. Rae Peoples, Associate Director of Diversity & Inclusion Education at Tufts University. She has over 25 years of experience serving in leadership roles that revolve around social justice in the arts, education, political, and non-profit sectors. Her expertise lies in advising organizations on how best to create internal conditions that allow equity, diversity, inclusion, and justice to flourish. Her opinions and writings have been featured in The Washington Post, Oakland Post, BlogHer, and YFS Magazine. A native of California with a Midwest upbringing, S. Rae is currently rooted in motherhood, love, and community in Somerville, MA.

To ground this interview, S. Rae People’s writes: “The conversation with Tim McKee, publisher for North Atlantic Books, is of unique importance particularly for white men who want to engage in the collective work toward racial justice. Both candid and coming from a seat of compassion, the conversation explores the distinct role and responsibilities white men have in moving the needle forward on racial justice — given their location within a racialized society where they are beneficiaries given the fact that they are both white and male."

Listen on Soundcloud
Encore Presentation: Michael Pollan at Esalen Psychedelic Integration Conference, 2019
October 6, 2022

Michael Pollan is the author of six New York Times bestsellers, including 2018’s How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence. This tome has become a four-part Netflix show, also entitled “How to Change Your Mind.” In this encore presentation of his keynote presentation at the 2019 Psychedelic Integration Conference at Esalen Institute, Pollan gives a great speech touching upon the pervasiveness of the human tendency to want to change consciousness, the ways that noetic understanding can add to healing on the psychedelic journey, the radical ways that plants can change us and change consciousness, and the ways that he remains a skeptic to some of the more grandiose claims of the psychedelic movement. A must-listen for fans and for newbies alike.

Listen on Soundcloud
Mirrored Fatality: Non-Binary Kapampangan-Pilipinx and Pakistani-Muslim Duo on Healing Noise Punk
September 23, 2022

✧༺mirrored fatality is the nonbinary Kapampangan-Pilipinx and Pakistani-Muslim performance art duo of Mango and Samar, artists in residence at Esalen during the summer of 2021. Together we discuss the difference between non-binary and trans, how they share their rituals, altars, and medicine through DIT (Do It Together) experimental and healing noise punk, why punk as a genre is their musical choice, how fashion can be weaponized, why farming is a huge part of their lives and creative practice, how capitalism functions as the backdrop for their world, what an anti-imperialist education would look like, what they love about one another, how to educate, how they might react when they are misgendered, what they hope for Esalen's future, and much more.

We play selections of several of their songs throughout this episode. To support Mango and Samar, head to their bandcamp and check out their music.

In their words: "mirrored fatality’s performance activism allows them a safe space to release their bubbling, fermenting primal rage rooted in the settler colonialism, transphobia, racism, xenophobia, and intergenerational ancestral trauma they experience daily as nonbinary people of color. mirrored fatality’s intentions for their art is for Queer Trans Black Indigenous People of Color to embody their rage, disrupt the silence and isolation from existing in a white supremacist capitalistic apocalyptic world, and harness collective care, catharsis, and holistic healing. Join them in imagining the future we’ve been fighting for and experience mirrored fatality’s reflections to witness our highest, truest selves."

Listen on Soundcloud
Brian Pace & Neşe Devenot: Right-Wing Psychedelia, or, Lucy in the Sky With Nazis
September 12, 2022

Dr. Brian Pace is a lecturer who teaches Psychedelic Studies at Ohio State University. He is trained as an evolutionary ecologist, specializing in phytochemistry, ethnobotany, and ecophysiology. He believes in grassroots drug decriminalization efforts and hopes to find alternative policies to the imperial drug war. For more than a decade, Brian has worked on agroecology and climate change.

Dr. Nese Devenot is a Postdoctoral Associate at the Institute for Research in Sensing (or IRiS) at the University of Cincinnati; an Affiliate Scholar at the Center for Psychedelic Drug Research & Education at Ohio State University; and the Medicine, Society & Culture Research Fellow with Psymposia. She also researches and teaches bioethical approaches to psychedelic medicine. She was a Research Fellow with the New York University Psilocybin Cancer Anxiety Study, where she participated in the first qualitative study of patient experiences.

Dr. Pace and Dr. Devenot are authors of a paper entitled “Right-Wing Psychedelia: Case Studies in Cultural Plasticity and Political Pluripotency,” a piece they created to rebut the common cultural assumption that psychedelics have the potential to improve society because of inherent characteristics that tend to point their users to a liberal, free-thinking ideology.

In the discussion that follows, they suggest that psychedelics are non-specific amplifiers of their set and setting, which, they take pains to remind me, is within the capitalist realm, and that contrary to the de facto cultural credo, conservative, hierarchy-based ideologies are quite able to withstand the face melting effects of a few hits of LSD. They speak about many cases where psychedelic users either remained authoritarian in their views or became conservatively radicalized after taking psychedelics. We also get into conservative thought leaders who happen to be psychedelic cheerleaders, like Jordan Peterson, as well as the moneyed individuals who are central players in the corporate psychedelic world, like Peter Thiel and Rebecca Mercer. I have taken the liberty of importing some clips that I found on YouTube of these famous folks up for discussion, in the hopes of better illustrating the points being made. Hope you enjoy.

More information akin to this can be found at psymposia.com.

Listen on Soundcloud
Emily Ladau on Disability Awareness and The Accessible Stall Podcast
August 26, 2022

Emily Ladau is a disability rights activist, writer, storyteller, and digital communications consultant whose career began at the age of 10 when she appeared on several episodes of Sesame Street to educate children about her life with a physical disability. Her writing has been published in The New York Times, CNN, Vice, and Huffington Post.

She is the author of Demystifying Disability: What to Know, What to Say, and How to be an Ally.

With co-host Kyle Khachardurian, Emily is the host and creator of the podcast The Accessible Stall.

Our interview touches upon representation of folks with disabilities in the media, how to make podcasts and other forms of media more accessible for all people, working from home and what that means in terms of creating inclusivity and equity in the workplace, how she feels about educating people about disability, and what people could do to meet her halfway, ableism and internalized ableism, tropes and cliches of disability inspiration, tokenization, intersectionality, and much more.

Sign up for Words I Wheel By, Emily's newsletter

Check out The Accessible Stall podcast.

Listen on Soundcloud
Encore Presentation: Akuyoe Graham on Spirit Awakening Foundation and Esalen
August 11, 2022

Akuyoe Graham is founder of the Spirit Awakening Foundation, an arts-based non-profit dedicated to helping underserved youth in the juvenile justice system. Since its inception in 1995, SAF has been a pioneer in developing and offering restorative, trauma-informed, prevention and intervention programs to underserved, incarcerated, and systems-involved youth in Los Angeles County.

Akuyoe speaks about how difficult and broken the juvenile justice system is, what tools she gives the participants in her program to empower them, including meditation, writing, and dramatic arts, and how the young people of Spirit Awakening Foundation have come several times to Esalen Institute for a leadership retreat of their own. This episode contains bonus material from a recent conversation that is a follow-up to the original 2021 interview.

Donate now to Spirit Awakening Foundation.

Listen on Soundcloud
Jack Kornfield and Trudy Goodman: Hatred Never Ceases by Hatred
July 29, 2022

Welcome to a Voices of Esalen archive edition. Our featured lecture was delivered at Esalen as a part of a weeklong training in 2018, by wise teachers Jack Kornfield and Trudy Goodman.

Jack Kornfield is one of the key teachers to introduce Buddhist mindfulness practice to the West. He trained as a Buddhist monk in the monasteries of Thailand, India, and Burma, and has taught meditation internationally since 1974 .After graduating from Dartmouth College in Asian Studies in 1967 he joined the Peace Corps and worked on tropical medicine teams in the Mekong River valley. He later met and studied as a monk under the Buddhist master Ajahn Chah. Returning to the United States, Jack co-founded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, and the Spirit Rock Center in Woodacre, California, with fellow meditation teachers Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein. His books have been translated into 20 languages and sold more than a million copies. They include A Wise Heart; Living Dharma; and After the Ecstasy, the Laundry.

Trudy Goodman has devoted much of her life to practicing Buddhist meditation. She is one of the earliest teachers of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and co-taught with Jon Kabat-Zinn at the MBSR clinic at University of Massachusetts Medical School. In 1995 she co-founded the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy, the first center in the world dedicated to exploring the synergy of these two disciplines.

From 1991 to 1998, Trudy was a resident Zen teacher at the Cambridge Buddhist Association. She then moved to Los Angeles and founded InsightLA, the first center in the world to combine training in both Buddhist Insight (Vipassana) Meditation and nonsectarian mindfulness and compassion practices.

After becoming a mother, Trudy co-founded a school for distressed children, practicing mindfulness-based psychotherapy with children, parents, teenagers, couples, and individuals.

She has trained a generation of teachers, mindfulness humanitarians who make mindfulness and meditation classes available for professional caregivers, social justice and environmental activists, unsung individuals working on the front lines of suffering – all done with tenderness, courage and a simple commitment to holding hands together.

(Side note: She is also the voice of “Trudy the Love Barbarian” on the Netflix series Midnight Gospel.)

This is an wonderful talk. They cover so much, including how we may misuse mindfulness, how thought is a great servant but not a great master, how we may navigate living in this life of 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows. Also, Jack and Trudy are married, for those who don’t know, and they comment insightfully on their relationship during the question and answer section of this talk.

A final note: at one point, Jack and Trudy comment on an Esalen community member who died unexpectedly in 2018. They are in fact referring to Weston Call, who was a friend to so many people at Esalen and in Big Sur. This episode is dedicated to his memory.

Listen on Soundcloud

Join us for a free webinar on May 10:
Tap Into Your Unshakeable Trust with Alchemic Yoga Practices

Learn more