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.

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

Tim McKee is publisher at North Atlantic Books, an educational nonprofit 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 nonprofit 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."

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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.

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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."

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Dr. Deborah Egerton on Using the Enneagram for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism
July 15, 2022

Dr. Deborah Egerton is a psychotherapist, Enneagram teacher, author, coach, and spiritual teacher. She brings a focus of inclusion, diversity, equity, and anti-racism to her enneagram work and uses that focus to help individuals and organizations release false historical narratives and open their minds and hearts to a more compassionate and connected approach to life. Her work with The Enneagram and Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Anti-racism (IDEA) is designed to help heal our fractured society one connection at a time with compassion, respect, and awareness. Dr. Egerton uses the Enneagram as a mechanism for social justice and anti-racism to reconnect people across all dimensions of diversity, acknowledging and respecting the humanity in us all.

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Reverend Erika Allison: Gay the Pray Away — Healing from LGBT Conversion Therapy
July 1, 2022

Reverend Erika Allison is a queer interfaith minister and the author of the memoir "Gay the Pray Away: Healing your Life, Love, and Relationships from the Harms of LBGT Conversion Therapy." We spoke about her personal journey of healing after being sent to conversion therapy as a teenager in Texas, the coping strategies she developed after experiencing the trauma of identity harm, the state of conversion therapy in the United States today, how few practices harm teens more than attempts to change their sexual preference or gender identity, how a search for her mother’s approval led to a string of serial monogamous relationships, her path to becoming an interfaith minister, how this book landed with her parents, and her current mission to empower the queer community through spiritual liberation.

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D'Lo: Being a Trans Man in a World of Toxic Masculinity
June 17, 2022

D’Lo is a queer/transgender Tamil Sri Lankan-American actor/writer/comic whose work ranges from stand-up comedy and solo theater to plays, films, short stories, and poetry. His acting credits include: LOOKING, TRANSPARENT, SENSE 8, Mr. ROBOT and Issa Rae-produced MINIMUM WAGE. His solo show “To T or Not to T” premieres June 25th at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles.

Together we talked about trans masculinity and what it’s like being a trans man in a world dominated by toxic masculinity, his relationship with his mother and father, his journey from gender nonconforming to someone who passed as male, what cis gender folks should never EVER ask about being trans, who he makes his work for, what solo performers inspire him (Whoopi and Leguziamo!), how hip hop was his ally, how he became politicized as a kid growing up in Lancaster, California, and what is his secret superpower as a comic.


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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!