R.D. Laing in the 21st Century: What is Happiness?
August 30 – September 3, 2021
August 30, 2021
 - 
September 3, 2021
with Michael Guy Thompson, Nita Gage and Fritjof Capra
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R.D. LAING wore many robes in his career, including psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, philosopher, social critic, author, poet, and mystic, and at the peak of his fame in the 1970s he was the most widely-read psychiatrist in the world. Arguably the most controversial psychoanalyst since Freud, Laing’s meteoric rise in the 1960s was the result of his rare ability to make complex ideas accessible with such best-selling clas­sics as The Divided Self (1960), Sanity, Madness and Family (1964), The Politics of Experience (1967), Knots (1970), and many others. Laing’s impassioned plea for a more humane treatment of those in society who are most vulnerable catapulted him into the vanguard of intellectual and cultural debate about the nature of sanity and madness, and inspired a generation of psy­chology students, intellectuals, and artists to turn this disarming Scotsman into a social icon.

One of the most seminal aspects to Laing’s approach to the human condition was his exploration into the meaning of life. Laing was psychoanalyst, philosopher, and existentialist, with a no-holds critique of both the dark side of the human condition, as well as its passions and glory. Our workshop this year is to explore what it means to be happy from the broadest possible perspective, including secular, religious, and philosophical approaches to this issue over the millennia, including the Greek Hellenistic era, Buddhism, and common wisdom.

This workshop, designed for those seeking answers to the meaning of life, is a continuation of our previous Esalen workshops that focused on Laing’s take on the nature of sanity and madness, the therapeutic relationship, altered states, plus the nature of love, authenticity, and most recently, spirituality. This workshop is best suited for those who are familiar with Laing’s work and who wish to explore it further. Our three workshop leaders will be joined by other attendees and speakers (many of whom worked intimately with Laing) to assess the question of happiness at the most fundamental level. The workshop will be comprised of theoretical presentations, panel discussions, and experiential exercises to demonstrate practical aspects of Laing’s legacy. View the detailed workshop schedule.

Recommended readings: M. Guy Thompson, The Death of Desire: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness (2nd, revised edition, Routledge). Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism (Shambala). Nita Gage, Soul Whispering: The Art of Awakening Shamanic Consciousness.

CE hours offered for psychologists; see leaders.

CE hours offered for nurses; see leaders.

CE hours offered for LMFTs, LCSWs, LEPs, LPCCs; see leaders.

Michael Guy Thompson

Michael Guy Thompson

Michael Guy Thompson, PhD, is a psychoanalyst who worked with R.D. Laing for many years in London. He continues to work with extreme states, and has been training therapists for more than 30 years. He has lectured all over the world and his books include The Death of Desire: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness (2nd, revised edition) (Routledge).

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Nita Gage

Nita Gage

Nita Gage, DSPS, trained with R.D. Laing at the Philadelphia Association in London. She also trained with shamanic teachers and specializes in integrative psycho spiritual healing, and is a teacher with Hoffman Institute. Nita is the author (with Linda Star Wolf) of Soul Whispering: The Art of Awakening Shamanic Consciousness.

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Fritjof Capra

Fritjof Capra

Fritjof Capra, PhD, is the author of several international bestsellers, including Uncommon Wisdom, which features his extensive conversations with R. D. Laing. His latest work, co-authored by Pier Luigi Luisi, is The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision (Cambridge University Press).

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Workshop Schedule

Mon 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Tue - Thu 9:30 am – 1:00 pm
Tue - Thu 4:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Fri 9:30 am – 12:00 pm

More activities can be found on our open class schedule.

See general schedule information including arrival, departure and meal times.

Accommodations & Tuition

Click Register Now to view availability of accommodations and all-inclusive, program-specific tuition. Please note that not all accommodation levels are available for every workshop and additional faculty fees may apply.

Accommodations & Tuition

For this workshop, you will register and pay for accommodations and tuition in two separate steps.

First, sign up and pay tuition directly to

Second, click Book Accommodations from this page and enter the password to complete your reservation to stay at Esalen.

Prices for accommodations include your lodging, meals, open classes, and use of the baths and other facilities. View partner program accommodations pricing.

COVID Update

In addition to proof of vaccination, all guests and faculty must provide proof of negative test results at time of check-in. Please read our current COVID safety guidelines for complete details prior to booking your stay.

COVID Update

Effective January 7, 2022 in response to the rapid spread of the new Omicron variant, all guests and faculty will provide proof of negative PCR, NAAT, or antigen test results at time of check-in. The test must be taken within 72 hours nd results must come from a laboratory or healthcare provider.Please read our updated COVID safety guidelines prior to booking your stay.

COVID Update

Effective December 15 in accordance with new guidance from Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Health, all guests, students, staff, residents, and faculty are required to wear masks in all indoor public settings, irrespective of vaccine status, for the next four weeks (December 15, 2021 through January 15, 2022). Please read our updated COVID safety guidelines prior to booking your stay.

COVID Update

Effective November 19, 2021, in accordance with new guidance from the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, all guests, students, staff, residents, and faculty are no longer required to wear masks indoors on campus. Please read our updated COVID safety guidelines prior to booking your stay.

COVID Update

Starting November 5, 2021, due to substantial levels of COVID-19 transmission in Monterey County, a mask mandate established by the Monterey County Board of Supervisors will go into effect. Please read our COVID safety guidelines prior to booking your stay.

COVID Update

All guests will be required to provide proof of vaccination upon arrival starting September 3, 2021. Please read our COVID safety guidelines prior to booking your stay.

COVID Update

Masks are no longer mandated indoors or outdoors, except during massage sessions. Guests are not required to provide testing or vaccination verification before arriving on campus. Please read our COVID safety guidelines prior to booking your stay.

All-inclusive Pricing
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