Esalen. The word itself summons up tantalizing visions of adventure, of unexplored frontiers, of human possibilities yet to be realized. There is the wonder of the place itself, 120 acres of fertile land carved out between mountain and ocean, blessed by a cascading canyon stream and hot mineral springs gushing out of a seaside cliff. There is the delicate and subtle Big Sur air of a late afternoon in May, the midnight mist of July, the drenching February rain. There are October nights so clear the Milky Way can light your walk along the darkened garden path. And always there is the sound of the sea.
And then there are the people—the people who live there and love the land, and the 300,000 more who have come from all over the world to participate in Esalen’s forty-year-long Olympics of the body, mind, and spirit, committing themselves not so much to “stronger, faster, higher” as to deeper, richer, more enduring.
They come for the intellectual freedom to consider systems of thought and feeling that lie beyond the current constraints of mainstream academia. They come to discover ancient wisdom in the motion of the body, poetry in the pulsing of the blood. They come to rediscover the miracle of self-aware consciousness. At best, they come away inspired by the precision of a desire to learn and keep on learning through all of life, and beyond.
Esalen is a place with a global reach. It is a place, as Thomas Wolfe said about America, where miracles not only happen, but where they happen all the time.
Welcome to Esalen
Big Sur, California
The Esalen Institute was founded in 1962 as an alternative educational center devoted to the exploration of what Aldous Huxley called the “human potential,” the world of unrealized human capacities that lies beyond the imagination. Esalen soon became known for its blend of East/West philosophies, its experiential/didactic workshops, the steady influx of philosophers, psychologists, artists, and religious thinkers, and its breathtaking grounds blessed with natural hot springs. Once home to a Native American tribe known as the Essalen, Esalen is situated on 27 acres of spectacular Big Sur coastline with the Santa Lucia Mountains rising sharply behind.
There are various ways to experience Esalen, ranging from an overnight visit to a long-term stay as a seminarian. Prior Reservations are always essential. The weekend and five-day workshops described throughout the Workshops section of the catalog are the standard route for coming to Esalen. The Experiencing Esalen workshops, scheduled periodically, offer an introduction to practices such as Gestalt, massage, sensory awareness, and meditation. From such a sampling, participants can then choose those approaches they are most attracted to and pursue them in subsequent seminars.
Another way of being at Esalen which allows a greater involvement at a lower expense is the Work Study Program, an intensive twenty-eight day work-oriented program for individuals who want to make a directed, personal commitment to self-exploration and growth, and a contribution to the Esalen community.
For those who wish an extended stay, there are periodic long-term programs which involve didactic seminars or professional trainings as well as experiential workshops. Please see Special Programs.
Finally, there are other events that enrich life at Esalen. There are occasional forums in which writers and thinkers, both visiting and resident, share their ideas with the community. On Wednesday nights there may be lectures, films, dance performances, or other events. Bodywork of various kinds is available by appointment with individual practitioners. There is also a community event schedule offered. Please check the bulletin board when you arrive.
Esalen is a center for experimental education. We offer neither psychotherapy nor assurances of change.