• December 26, 2011

    Speak your truth Esalen Staff.

    As an older member of the Esalen tribe, I want to open a door to you current staff at Esalen, allowing for you to express yourselves, in a possibly more honest conversation than otherwise, by using the intermediary of willing Nine.

    So, with interest and curiosity, and if you so desire to answer, I ask you:

    • How was your Staff week?
    • Did you have an outside facilitator for the week?
    • Where you able to sleep in seminarian rooms on the property?
    • Did the managers cook and serve you any of your meals?
    • How were the morning Community meetings?
    • Was an honest process permitted to unfold?
      • If yes, how?
      • If no, why not?
    • Where you able to express any of your current issues/concerns?
      • If yes, how?
      • If not, why not?
    • Did you have a voice in the theme presented of: “the Future direction of Esalen”?
      • If yes, how?
      • If not, why not?
    • Now that Staff Week is over, retrospectively, what has been the overall outcome for you:
      • on a personal level
      • within the Community
      • and how do you feel about that?
      • closer to management?
      • empowered?
    • Any additional comments you would like to share?

    Thank you for responding. From a caring Esalen member.


  • December 25, 2011

    Growing up in rural America, my early life was naturally involved with Christian Fundamentalist subcultures. We often had Mormon missionaries appear on our doorstep. My family would invite them in to hear what they believed. We were taught by our parents how to examine the nature of Christian belief systems — to ask ourselves whether these Christian ideals, these concepts and their terms, formed a coherent and logical world view.

    So picture a young woman Mormon missionary on your doorstep, alert, emotionally honest, inspired, full of herself, on a mission from God for humanity. Now imagine that same young woman, Tricia McEntee, grown up and CEO of the famed Esalen Institute, still on her Salvationist mission for humanity.

    There she was, introducing this year’s 2011–2012 Esalen Staff Week. Ms. McEntee proceeded to give her talk outlining the future of Esalen, as she sees it, with the title “Inspiration into the Future.” What followed was actually a mostly incoherent, rambling monologue. She followed the standard form of Salvationist Mormon missionary rhetoric, about how this vision of hers will change the world as we know it. She even broke down in tears, filled with the emotion of potential salvation she was bringing to us with her testimony.

    Like Sarah Palin, she spoke as a provincial, with a very limited range of existential terms. She failed to muster even the least of philosophical vocabularies, and resorted to superlatives — amazing this, awesome that. How different from the distinguished leaders and teachers of our past: Aldous Huxley, Gregory Bateson, Allan Watts, George Leonard, Buckminster Fuller, and so many others.

    And then, toward the end of the week, community members were instructed to perform an exercise in which we were to don paper capes, which were supposed to represent our “super-hero nature.” Our paper capes were to be worn in order to remind us that we were all super-heroes. How soon can we expect the mandatory investiture of Mormon Sacred Underwear at Esalen Institute? How long until Esalen philosophy and spirituality are fully consumed by shallow religiosity?


  • December 23, 2011

    If Esaleaks is creepy disinformation then why doesn’t everyone just openly air all the “real” information and then everyone will be informed, able to create their own opinions and action plans based on “the facts” and transparency? A virtuous state of communication between people would be achieved. The solution seems so simple to me. —Anonymous

  • December 23, 2011

    The big picture is lost — not only at Esalen, but in the world at large. It seems the world financial crisis has lead to Esalen Management using what Melanie Klein calls the “shock doctrine” to push the elite agenda — sheer capitalism — during a crisis, while folks are too numb and scared to respond. —Anonymous

  • December 23, 2011

    Consider this contribution by a reader:

    When the Nine held sway at the Institute the world was changing radically, and people were looking for new ways of being, new ways of seeing, new ways of interacting with the Divine and with each other. Esalen is as American as apple pie — and it is being taken over by corporate greed heads, group-speak fear mongers, and insidious Power Point thinking. And the workers are distracted, getting triggered by things like lack of health care and insecure financial futures.

    All are losing sight of the big picture — the transformation of consciousness and each person’s role in it. The transformation is partly in moving past a “Maslow-based” model. His ideas have been co-opted and twisted beyond recognition. His true focus was on peak experience, not management principles. Self actualization is available under all circumstances. If we all and each seek peak experience, we will contribute to the transformation of human consciousness. And we will transform our community, and it’s influence in the world. Social transformation is coming. We are already a part of it.

    The trick is to experience ourselves as actors in this cosmic game, and to transcend the limited culture of our time.

    Know yourself as the “warrior with no enemy.”

    We agree that Esalen workers are distracted by minutia, but “lack of health care and insecure financial futures” are not mere distractions. The notion that “self actualization is available under all circumstances” can only come from someone who has never experienced a lack of fulfillment in their basic needs. This is a limitation of many in the upper ranks at Esalen and elsewhere, who have forgotten that the lower levels of Maslow’s Pyramid are the foundation for the higher ones, not vice versa.

    The Nine invite more contributions about the notion that Esalen can move successfully to a post-Maslow model.

  • December 18, 2011

    Staff Week is traditionally a time for the Esalen community to reflect. Esalen executives and administrators have largely dismissed the role of community process as an adjunct to decision making. But as these leaders sadly lose sight of what makes Esalen truly unique and sacred, the wisdom of the broad community is more crucial to the institute’s progress than perhaps ever before.

    It is sometimes noted that Michael Murphy’s philosophies gained a critical foothold on the printed page, while Dick Price’s mostly unwritten wisdom relied on attentive and active listening in the moment to be received. Esalen’s decision makers have exhibited deepening deficits in hearing the broader community’s voice for years. Thus, Staff Week 2011 must be a time not only for direct communication like Dick, but for writing like Michael.

    Please consider writing for Esaleaks during this Staff Week. Written words that transcend the speaker, and build a bridge to many readers, become durable monuments and guideposts, to be read and re-visited in many different moments, as we attempt to plot a sacred and successful path for our beloved Esalen. We call on you — erudite staff, rebellious trustees, worldwide adepts — to write! In gratitude,

    The Nine

  • December 16, 2011

    Esalen President Gordon Wheeler recently sent a message to the Esalen community in which he derided Esaleaks as a “creepy” disinformation campaign, in which we have supposedly discredited ourselves by noting that he and Nancy were compensated over $200k yearly by Esalen. Wheeler’s hefty rebuttal of course ignores the whole thrust of Esaleaks as a platform for the unheard, and the important questions being asked.

    On this note we must present Esalen Staff Compensation January 2008, graciously provided by an Esaleaks contributor, in which the Wheelers’ combined total compensation of $282,760.00 is disclosed, based (naturally) on a calculation of their (then) Point House residence at equal value to a room at South Coast.

    The ultimate point of course is not the Wheelers’ compensation, but the total balance of power at Esalen, threats to its moral and spiritual constitution, and whether the community can preserve the fundamental qualities of our spiritual home amidst some very destructive influences.

    We look forward eagerly to hearing and publishing the community’s words, humbly winnowing for the truth, and inclusively plotting a righteous and resonant path for Esalen. The power of anonymity will serve the community so long as the power of personal intimidation is abused by authority.

    The Nine

  • December 16, 2011

    A reader responds to “Life and Death” —

    I don’t wish ill on anyone, but I’m sure Trisha and Scott would be grateful for their disproportionate compensation and benefits package and understand the importance of being treated like a human being if they faced the same situation [cancer]. We are not cogs in a machine, even if our acquiescence to the status quo and our commitment to working for the benefit of our community keeps the machine running smoothly. Tricia and Scott [executive team], et al, you are the “leaders” of a unique organism. Our health is important.

    Why does Esalen not pay [nurse] Helen? She and [doctor] Geno and the other medically skilled people on property are vitally important to the community as well as to the paying customers. The nearest hospital is 45 miles away, the nearest medical clinic is 15 miles away, all on one unpredictable, curvy mountain road. Someone cuts or burns themselves in the kitchen nearly on a daily basis. I personally have been injured in my job and relied on the help of the medically trained members of our community.

    It is irresponsible for the administration to be so blatantly uncaring about the health needs of the people who serve it.


  • December 12, 2011

    Some 20 years ago when I first wandered across that expansive green lawn beneath the cypress trees to gaze at the Pacific Ocean, I decided to change my life and enter into a new relationship, one with Esalen Institute, a community I thought was magical, pure and full of promise.

    In the year or so that followed, I did see cracks in the pretty picture: the childish cliques, the pathetic jockeying for power involving manipulation and lies, the self–importance of some of the department managers and community leaders. It’s astonishing how people who could never make it in the real business world seem to gravitate to management positions at Esalen. Meanwhile the front line workers there have always been crazy enough to try to scratch out a living in exchange for their faith, sweat, and a tiny bit of money.

    I’m lucky. I walked away from the Institute with my hard-earned wisdom, happy and proud, a product of a very brief golden age.

    Over the years, I’ve watched many fine people crash and burn there, frustrated and mystified when their talents and devotion were overlooked and/or crushed. It has seemed like some kind of rite of passage, to outgrow one’s need to be loved and validated by a synthetic “community.”

    Now though, what I see has me disgusted and outraged. It seems that Esalen, the world leader in the “human potential movement” does not bother to offer health insurance to its hourly employees, the bulk of its workforce, much of it long term, and many of whom have been waiting through multiple administrations to receive a living wage and a compassionate benefits package.

    Case in point is my friend, a long-term Esalen community member and gifted worker in his department, who waited and waited and waited and waited for promised health insurance benefits. Seems he’s waited too long — he has cancer, and delayed getting critical medical attention while he continued to wait for his much-needed benefits. Most horrible of all, he was approved (by his direct manager and others) to enter a position this week that would give him health benefits that would save his life. Yet, the CEO Trish McEntee and HR Manager Scott Stillinger have flatly said NO. Not to him directly mind you, but by announcing in a community meeting yesterday that while “tragic,” he would have to do without the benefits promised to him for years.

    If my friend dies on their watch, Scott [Stillinger] and Trish [McEntee] will have his blood on their hands.

    Shame on Esalen Institute: Who let these evil snakes into the garden?

    Esalen now spreads consciousness and bliss only to those who can afford it. Worker bees beware. And buy your own health insurance.


  • December 9, 2011

    What does it mean that, where we once had teachers gaining world recognition for Esalen in long-term residency, those programs are now eroded and our best teachers are turned into visiting outsiders?

    What does it mean that, where the tone of Esalen life was once shaped by its attached philosophers and practitioners, they have been substituted in this process by policy consultants and outsider executives?

    What does it mean that, where Esalen once praised radical self-expression and triggering as vital to healing and understanding, a workshop like The Max is being moved from the Lodge Deck to keep these things out of sight?

    What does it mean that, where the staff wage disparity was once 3:1 and the institute was financially viable, it is now 20:1 and we’re supposedly on the verge of collapse?