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.

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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Adam Bramlage: Microdosing 101
November 30, 2022

Adam Bramlage is Founder and CEO of Flow State Micro, a functional mushroom company and microdosing education platform. Adam has helped hundreds of people, from professional athletes to people suffering from addiction and depression, achieve results through microdosing in his private practice. This interview gives the basics of microdosing; it's a great primer for anyone just at the beginning of their journey.

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Join us online on January 14, when Adam will co-lead Microdosing: The Safe, Surprising and Emerging Psychedelic Frontier, a day-long workshop with psychedelic pioneer and the father of modern microdosing, Dr. James Fadiman, PhD, live from Esalen and guest faculty Connor Murray, PhD, and Rachael Henrichsen, MA.

As you’ll see from this interview, Adam is very skilled at delivering information designed to make any microdosing experience smart, secure, and safe. And Dr. James Fadiman is simply an Esalen treasure. He was a guest on Voices of Esalen in an episode called A Psychedelic History Lesson. Dr. Fadiman was also one of the very first workshop leaders at Esalen — he helped lead a workshop in 1962 entitled Drug Induced Mysticism and he’s been a meaningful figure at Esalen ever since.

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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.

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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.

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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/.

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Esalen has reopened effective Monday, March 27! CalTrans is authorizing local residents and registered guests of Esalen to pass through the Road Closed sign as a “soft” closure is still in place to the north of us, while crews complete road work. A hard closure boundary, meaning no public traffic permitted, is still in effect just south of Esalen.

Please plan to arrive between 2:00pm and 5:00pm. You will need to notify the CA Highway Patrol officer at the closure barricade that you are staying at Esalen Institute. All workshops and programming will continue this week as scheduled.

We appreciate your patience and understanding as we manage through these weather challenges, and look forward to welcoming you to Esalen!