Chris Price, perhaps the most highly esteemed teacher of Gestalt at its birthplace of Esalen, and widow of Esalen co-founder Dick Price, has informed the Board of Directors that she will no longer conduct workshops at Esalen.
How much longer will Michael Murphy persist in giving outsider Sam Yau the power to standardize Esalen on profane corporate goals at the expense of all else, including the legacy of his late friend and co-founder? How much longer will the new Institute be able to call itself “Esalen” with any authority?
With great appreciation (and perhaps apologies) to Doings at the ‘tute, we reprint the following updates from that source, on Esalen’s ongoing trainwreck of corporate coup:
Doings at the ‘tute is saddened to report that its most illustrious elder, Seymour Carter, has resigned from the ‘tute as a protest against the recent, abrupt firing of the three managers, Kathleen Kleinsmith, Eric Erickson and Daniel Crynz who collectively represented over 50 years of experience at the ‘tute. Seymour recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of his association with the ‘tute.
David Lustig resigned from the Esalen Board of Trustees… in a strong vote of protest against the current ‘direction’ being taken by the ‘tute. David was one of the ‘tute’s major donors and a great friend of the Esalen community. He was the only member of the Board of Trustees who was ever a Work Scholar at the ‘tute, and his love for and dedication to the ‘tute unmatched. His wisdom and strong support will be sorely missed. Doings at the ‘tute celebrates David’s integrity and courage in speaking his truth to power in delivering his vote of no confidence. Blessing to you, David, and to all who still support the values upon which the ‘tute was founded.
Once again, Sam Yau, Gordon Wheeler, the CEO, the Director of HR, and Jan Sinclair have underestimated the intelligence of the staff. The idea that anyone would believe that terminating Eric and Kathleen effective immediately is about a reorganization is beyond ludicrous.
Where is the new organizational structure? The plan for the transition? The people capable of filling their roles?* The thanks and recognition for their contributions to the old structure?
It’s too bad that Esalen didn’t have a credible HR person to guide Tricia through this. Crying and saying that “I could have done it better if I knew how” doesn’t suffice.
*Side note: It takes more than grandiosity and a lust for power to fulfill the day to day task of running the organization, something that Jan and Jerry may be learning.
It is our great displeasure to announce that manager Daniel Cryns was also summarily terminated in Thursday’s “restructuring” action. Daniel’s tenure at the Institute, while not as long as Eric’s or Kathleen’s, was marked by a profound respect for Esalen’s cultural heritage and a special facility with words and actions both. This combination, well regarded by the community at large, could not have been more unpopular with the power elite. Like his peers, Daniel was given the heave-ho without notice.
Hoping that I am correct in assuming that my name won’t be associated with any posts I write. Please let me know if there is something different that I need to do to be sure of that.
The answer is that all contributions are anonymized by default. However we recommend that people making risky submissions to Esaleaks not depend solely on our feeble computer skills for their protection. See here for more.
Esalen CEO Tricia McEntee and Guest Services Director Jan Sinclair today carried out the “termination” of two long-time Esalen contributors and community members, at the behest of Esalen Chairman Sam Yau. The terminations are effective immediately.
Esalen Office Manager Kathleen Kleinsmith, whose humanity and evenhandedness often checked Esalen’s increasing focus on hard-line management practices, is no longer with the Institute.
Esalen Gate Manager Eric Erickson, who studied extensively with Esalen co-founder Dick Price and carried the traditions of Gestalt practice and teaching, is no longer with the Institute.
Eric and Kathleen were both major voices in Esalen Community Meetings and other organizational processes, carrying a critical awareness of Esalen’s unique social and institutional qualities. Their removal from Esalen heralds an acceleration in Sam Yau’s plan to transform the Institute from a culturally unique institution focused on learning-in-community, into a resort-hotel focused on efficiency and consumer expectations.
Through the generosity of an Esaleaks contributor, we are able to present Esalen’s complete federal tax returns (IRS Form 990) for the years 2002 through 2009, excluding 2006. The returns include annual compensation data for officers, directors, and trustees. Here we chart the totals:
How has the doubling of executive compensation helped the financially strapped Esalen to achieve its mission? Answers are invited from Esaleaks readers, especially Esalen officers, directors, and trustees.
The raw 990 documents may be downloaded in PDF format here.
In the interview, part of a “Unique Genius Superhero” series which apparently matches McEntee’s recent “Superhero” theme for Staff Week, the CEO discusses how a weekend of salsa dancing and yoga, followed by a weekend of collage, led her to the discovery her life’s purpose. McEntee says that her final collage, shown here, now serves as a “litmus test” for every decision she makes and how she does her job.
Cut from the pages of magazines, McEntee’s “vision board” intersperses new age vernacular like “deliciousness,” “sustainable living,” and “free spirited & fabulous!” with a symbolism consisting mainly of hearts, hands, plants, animals, rainbows and unicorns. The only philosophical content is a laser-printed set of platitudes which pay token service to Esalen philosophy but offer surprisingly little in the way of depth.
Does the vision represented in McEntee’s sparse collage serve convincingly as a litmus test for the how the CEO conducts her job and makes her decisions? McEntee says, “I could hardly separate my own life purpose from what Esalen’s mission is in the world as I saw it.” How well does her life purpose collage reflect the worldwide Esalen community’s sense of the mission of the institute?
All commentary is welcome. Full video and transcript follows:
TM: Hi. I’m Tricia McEntee. I’m the new CEO of Esalen Institute, which the magnificent, magical retreat center on the coast of California in Big Sur. And our mission is all about human and social transformation in the world.
Q: That’s great. So Tricia, recently, in the last year or so, you got really clear on your purpose. So I love to hear about just the process you went through to get clear on it.
TM: Yeah, I was — yeah, it was a phenomenal process, actually my background is really in the business world of being a CPA and very kind of strictly left-brain business oriented, and I was here as the CFO, and I was really trying — you know, I’m passionate about the mission of Esalen, and I was in a place where I was trying to find how I could bring more of that into my work and my job, and I went on — I — it started with like this wonderful salsa dancing and yoga extravaganza workshop that I went to with my daughters in Puerto Rico and we just had a great time really opening up and playing together, and then I came back, and the very next week I got back I went to an inspirational leadership workshop here at Esalen, and that workshop really talked about mission and focus and purpose and I was — you know — it was, as well, kind of a very playful approach, kind of a more right side of the brain approach — and then I was preparing — shortly after that I was preparing for a pretty serious conversation with the Chairman of the Board, exploring ways that I could be more influential and how I could bring my passion more into my work, and as I was trying to prepare for that, I just started this — I basically made a vision board, or a collage, I didn’t really realize what I was — was it a planned process, I just started cutting out different things in magazines that just really spoke to me about my purpose and what really moved me in my life, and it — and I as I put it together I didn’t really know what I was putting together, I just started cutting and pasting and I couldn’t stop and it went on for a whole weekend and I barely slept or ate, and when I got it almost done I kinda stepped back and took a look at what I was creating and just — the purpose, my mission, my life’s mission, just, just came out — it was like a 30 second — a 60 second — moment, and I just knew, of all the pieces and pictures that I had cut out, what my purpose in life was, and it was such that I could hardly separate my own life purpose from what Esalen’s mission is in the world as I saw it. So it was a really “aha” moment for me, knowing that this is where I belonged in life. This is my calling and where I need to be. And it was a blast, it was great fun too.
Q: How did you — so what is your purpose, your calling, your — I’ll focus the video on it while.
TM: Okay. It’s “always stay connected to your heart, courageously respond to the call of leadership, humbly commit to a life of open exploration and growth, be a witness to the miraculous unfolding of spirit, and relish the journey, it will exceed your wildest dreams.”
Q: [reading] “Yahoouo!”
TM: [laughs] Yeah. “Yahoouo!”
Q: Alright, so one last question which is, so now what are you doing with it?
TM: Well, at this — about four months after I created this, the CEO position became available. It wasn’t even an open position at the time — I had no idea — and when it became available it was, again, my wildest imagination that I would be the one in this job, but here I am, it’s a year later, and I am using this [looking at collage] — basically, my mission statement — as a litmus test for pretty much every decision I make and the way I go about my job. And I’m having a great time doing it.
Q: Hey, Tricia, thank you so much for your story, and also for just the work you’re doing here at Esalen. It’s really powerful.
TM: Thank you very much.
McEntee was promoted to CEO after a community-endorsed worldwide search for the position was scrapped by the Board, in favor of hiring the former CFO.
Esaleaks stands not only for the right of people to speak anonymously, but for the particular power of anonymous speech to air marginalized voices and to enlarge the overall Esalen discourse.
The Nine’s collective stance, we have hoped to establish, is that subjective speech without names or faces has a unique power to challenge the status quo, as evidenced not only by some of the great political writings of the 20th Century, not only by many an Esalen séance, but by our own progress. Esaleaks has challenged the unilateralism of the Esalen directorial class, bringing discussions into a new context free from establishment spin and the peril of retribution.
On December 28th, a veteran Esalen contributor wrote to scorn us for the publication of “Super-hero mission” with a bevy of pejoratives, seeking to openly name the article’s author. We responded by inviting him (twice) to contribute his own different interpretation of Tricia McEntee’s much-criticized Staff Week presentation. He (twice) declined, deriding Esaleaks as “immature and shameful” and pronouncing that “a bystander who observes a beating must take action to stop it.” That conversation was only disappointing, but much to our shock it became the first domino to fall in a conflict — that culminated in the trashing of our Internet server, our site going missing for nearly two weeks, and some powerful realizations about conflicting agendas within our own ranks.
That people would sooner attack the very venue of Esaleaks for its imperfection, than contribute to its positive potential, is a commentary on the desperation of a whole cadre which is seeking consolidated power through controlling not only the discourse but also its container. Some would prefer us to behold an uncomplicated painting of Esalen (and indeed placate themselves by gazing upon it too) than to let be promulgated the complex and sometimes hideous picture of Esalen’s spiritual neglect and decline into superficiality. But we, the larger Community, and those of us who remain at Esaleaks, are not afraid to scrutinize, to articulate, to get messy, and to hopefully paint a new picture of Esalen together that is as rich as the human potential.
The whole story of Esaleaks may one day appear in a history book — but with our internal battles now past, and so much happening at Esalen, we wish now only to return to our focus. Our mission is clear as ever. We are back, at dear expense, stronger than before, to publish your words. It is not the goal of the editors to please or appease every reader — and whatever one might find lacking or disagreeable in one contribution, one is beckoned to improve or counteract with better words of new invention. Whether our editors might now be exposed or scandalized by those of conflicted values or shaky conscience, we can assure you that the identities of our many contributors will remain absolutely anonymous, and we will continue to discuss Esalen here. With wishes for personal empowerment, growth, and transformation in 2012, we await your contribution.