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.