• June 26, 2012

    A human writes:

    I came to Esalen in 1972, fresh from Yale and the Star Hill Road hippie goat farm. I helped Selig put in the garden. I had group sex in the old baths while tripping on acid. I took a 5 day psycho-something workshop with John Lilly where we dropped LSD twice, which John provided. I was 25. Dick Price Gestalt Workshops and transformations, Sweet Baby James playing in the background. I visited Esalen 20 times before I was 30. Living an hour away, that was easy. I could sleep in my VW Van. Esalen was magic. A beacon to the world. Truly the Human Potential Movement, ecstatically spiritual before the world had heard the words.

    I came back to, well, being in a dinner line in 2008 and being criticized by Gordon Wheeler for joking with my wife and a friend in a mildly raucous non-PC way. We came and enjoyed ourselves over the next few years, tourists really, from Montana. At some point in time I got to reading an article by Trisha McEntee in the catalog, introducing herself and her vision to the community and the world. What pure utter unmitigated garbage, I thought, and I haven’t been back since. Good luck. She holds confused and primitive beliefs in the nature of reality. Oh, and that hotel guy on the board of trustees? While I’m not a huge psychic, the future is being mapped out. As with everything else these days from absurd wars to free passes for 2008′s financial criminals, follow the money.

  • June 12, 2012

    A human writes:

    As a very long term staffer of Esalen, the yearnings and comments of Larger than us all ring true for me as well. What we want for Esalen long-term always needs to be put in the context of what is happening right now, and what is working — what stands to be impacted as a consequence of this upgrade. Impatience has no place here.

    From all of the reports (Ventana and the current survey), Esalen’s biggest problems are finding ways to deal with conflict safely and creatively. Addressing this issue realistically and head-on would in turn allow us to maneuver gracefully through changing seas.

    Your emphasis on a non-profit organization’s mandate to serve humanity could take many shapes and forms. However, I appreciate your underlining it because it seems to have been left out of the discussion on the ground (although not the rhetoric throughout the catalog, etc.).

    I am particularly grateful regarding your defining of the various communities. At most Esalen “staff meetings,” the external community, as well as the current community of workshop attendees and leaders, is completely omitted from the discussion.

    I am disillusioned by today’s lack of congruence through the management structure. That we can co-create and build trust on one day, and fire three people with 15 minutes notice the next, is beyond belief, particularly if it really had been planned for 5 years as one top exec retorts. That we can talk about communication and fail to use those same skills to address the hard topics is beyond belief. The response of the top leadership to the discussions has been underwhelming at best. It may well be that they just don’t get it because of the isolated nature of the organization structure regarding the roles of directors and trustees. When we speak of change, I must notice that a few of today’s exec team are not solution focused, but rather maintain their “rightness”, a reactionary view as prevalent as the one the writer suggested above.

    To the author of Larger than us all, thanks for your two years of service to the ’tute, as well as your on-going interest and vision. It is exactly your community that is now making me proud to continue to stand with Esalen.

  • June 9, 2012

    A human writes:

    After reading this post, I feel encouraged to write a response as I was a member of the community during the same time period. To be honest, I feel the entire community (on all levels) needs to adhere to a protocol of personal responsibility for their actions, inactions and the impact both of these have on the entire body of people who come to Esalen.

    I found that what Esalen promotes in its catalog is a far cry from what it lives on a day to day basis. On any give day, I heard over and over, “I need to get my needs met.” It didn’t matter if this entailed stepping on or over another person’s boundaries, taking advantage of someone’s kindness, or lying to cover their own behinds. “Get your needs met” was like mantra and it was only during the fires of 2008 that I felt Esalen let go of the “me, me, me” mentality in order to come together as a unified whole where everyone looked out for each other and everyone’s needs were met with generosity.

    I’ve seen Esalen from all levels… as a starry-eyed seminarian, work scholar and extended student. I find it fascinating that I was willing to pay thousands of dollars to work there and now, so many years later, realize that my experiences, while often heart-opening when connecting with kindred spirits, cost me more than I ever imagined and took me to rock bottom. It’s been an emotional struggle to come back from those years, and while I don’t regret my choices at the time, seeing what has happened to the community since I left does not surprise me. It will be long while before I will spend any more of my precious time or energy in a place of so much in turmoil.

  • June 6, 2012

    A former Esalen executive writes of his experience:

    “[T]here were persons on staff and on the board who were saw the pace of change as far too slow and a danger to survival. For them everything needed to move faster. I believe they failed to take into consideration the amount of progress that had been made and the need to respect the impact of change on the close Esalen communities.… I wish now that I had stood up… while I was at Esalen instead of knuckling under to the bullying from both sides and leaving quietly.… I wish there were a place for reasoned dialog about the future of Esalen.”

    Esaleaks.org has emerged as a place for sharing information and experiences, and raising awareness, but not as a forum for the human dialog needed to map Esalen’s future. Our contributor discusses the need for that forum, and much more, in this excellent contribution:

    Comments on current situation and future of Esalen

    I only recently discovered esaleaks.org and have now read through all the postings and comments. I am saddened by the described division and acrimony. The disharmony that has long plagued the dream, community, and reality of Esalen appears to have substantially strengthened since my days as a member of the Esalen executive team. While I was only at Esalen for 29 months and did not live on site, I cared and continue to care deeply about the organization, its legacy, and its ongoing mission.

    While at Esalen I believed that a middle path was the needed response to the challenges posed by the transitions that harsh economic realities were forcing. I also believed that in exchange for the privilege extended to Esalen to operate as a nonprofit organization, Esalen’s highest responsibility needed to be to its defined mission, and I believed that mission must be one of service to humanity — the wide, globe-encompassing community of humankind, not merely the narrower community of people who live and work at Esalen, nor the somewhat wider community of people who have, are, will be able to visit Esalen. I still believe all of the above.

    When I came to Esalen in 2007, It was with many expectations. Not included in those expectations was the personal acrimony of many community members that turned potential discussions of Esalen’s future into soul-scorching verbal hostilities that obliterated civility, demonized individuals, and prevented vision. I thought that what was taught at Esalen would be at work at Esalen. It wasn’t, at least apparently not well enough to stave off the further descent into the culture war that now threatens 50 years of hope and a future of promise. Read the rest of this entry »

  • June 5, 2012

    A human writes:

    To those of us who come to Esalen often on workshops and personal retreats felt the changes coming for a long time.

    The signs were many.

    Prices north of $700 per weekshop and $200 per night… German and Japanese luxury cars dominate the parking strips on property… Many of the workshops cater to the new audience — Yuppie Yoga is edging out the Gestalt work, serious religion and philosophy of human development replaced by shallow Indian guru talk…

    The laughter in the lodge, the boisterous hugs of those overzealous youngsters replaced by Reservations staff meetings run by a very serious business woman bent on maximizing revenue… Conceiving and executing those layoffs in the manner it was done… Denying, and sweet talking the changes as ‘necessary evil’ in the press…

    Refusing to stand behind a maintenance engineer who was dying with cancer — a lost opportunity to demonstrate compassion even more so, as he tragically choose to be below the 30 hours benefits limit. [See note*]

    It is not going to be easy to recover after these. Where do you start? This crisis runs deep, and it is a crisis of values and philosophy, not something you can work out easily by talking. Most of the assumptions about how things should be done are ‘in the background’ — unconscious. The management may be entirely unaware of the damage they are causing.

    My wife is a nurse at small a non-profit hospital, originally funded by idealistic large donors with aspirations of creating a healing facility for the local community. The hospital almost went under when a similar conflict erupted between the management and the community. The conflict even went violent — slashed tires and threats to family — when similar unskilled layoffs were executed. Fortunately, the early founder was still healthy enough to step in and threatened to pull his funding, forcing a board and leadership change.

    * Editor’s Note: The notion that this maintenance engineer “tragically chose” to work 29 hours a week, instead of 30, is a callous absurdity promulgated by Gordon Wheeler in the recent news article “Dissed Utopia” which appeared in the Monterey County Weekly. No isolated incident, Esalen’s 29-hour-week charade abused the letter of the law for years, to the detriment of many workers.

  • June 5, 2012

    The Nine are slightly queasy to present a clear photograph of Esalen CEO Tricia McEntee’s “Vision Board.” The CEO says that her Vision Board serves as a “litmus test for pretty much every decision I make and the way I go about my job.” Her sparse collage, made over a weekend after a salsa dancing extravaganza, is new-agey feel-good.

    But is this the house that Murphy, Price, Maslow, and Rolf built? Where is the grand confrontation with the self? Where is the yearning to explore the depths of human experience? This saccharine vision is, in the end, an icon of Esalen’s spectacularly failed leadership.

    (click to enlarge)

    We would remind our readers to review January’s article “Vision Board” which completes the picture with a video and transcript.

  • June 5, 2012

    A human writes:

    Exactly one year ago I found myself in the middle of an interview process for the then-open position of Manager, Marketing Communications at Esalen. I’m not a typical corporate marketing/branding person. I work mostly with non-profits and corporate philanthropy departments of large companies. I have direct experience with the kinds of seminarians that Esalen could be attracting — young, committed, mission-driven, smart men and women who could grow the mission of Esalen and take its many gifts back into the world.

    During my many interviews, I proposed multiple ways that Esalen could attract a new demographic while still maintaining its intellectual and spiritual legacy — new forms of digital engagement, marketing to socially conscious businesses, and an invigorated visual identity. However, I’m certain now that this is not what the current Esalen leadership wants.

    This was without a doubt the most dysfunctional, juvenile, and disappointing interview process I have ever been through. Time and time again, I found myself asking, “Is this really happening?” Weeks passed without any communication from the CEO, head of HR, or other personnel. My e-mails and phone calls were routinely ignored, and, when finally answered, were full of vague evasions and passive-aggressive avoidances. Read the rest of this entry »

  • June 4, 2012

    A human writes:

    I think the current executives could show signs of “getting it” and moving closer to the ideals of The Nine through the following actions:

    1. An immediate 25 to 50 percent reduction in their pay.

    2. An immediate expansion of the Work Scholar program, including scholarships and a reinstatement of the 32 hour work-week. The community should decide how many positions and where they are needed.

    3. Create more artist-in-residence programs. The Institute needs more musicians, painters, actors, sculptors and thinkers performing their magic amongst the background of the daily chaos.

    It seems that most of the hardships of “reorganizing” have been felt by the community workers and not the executives. These ideas, and others, might help bring their positions more in contact with those of the community.

    The Nine support this plan as a possible alternative to sloughing Admin Row into the Pacific Ocean this December.

  • June 1, 2012

    The web site esalenleadership.org has published more complete results of Esalen’s Leadership Culture Survey, which we leaked and commented on earlier in the week. The most striking addition is the official graphic showing the results of the survey, reproduced here:


    Current leadership is producing an environment that is almost precisely the opposite of what is desired. Its scores are in the “high” range for “caution over creating results, self-protection over productive engagement, and aggression over building alignment,” and firmly in the “low” range of all 5 positive leadership competencies. No wonder the results were kept under wraps for so long.