• 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

    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.

  • May 31, 2012

    A human writes:

    After weeks of writing letters and making calls to Board Members I am beginning to feel that the only way to truly make an impression on the President and Board is for those of us who are not on staff to organize a demonstration or sit-in on the road at the entrance to Esalen. It would be a good way to let the “leadership” know that this issue is not going to blow over and there are many, many people who support the staff, and are willing to fight to preserve the feeling of community that has helped make Esalen great.

  • May 30, 2012

    A human writes:

    In my work I consult corporations in designing and developing their corporate and leadership culture. A lot of what I do I take from my experience at Esalen (as an extended student for almost two years). It comes as a real shock to me to see how the Esalen management is handling things. They seem to be out of touch with their base.

    The community is (or was?) what created the experience at Esalen. This is what most visitors care for and this is how Esalen is distinguishing itself from other spa and workshop locations. Where Esalen is heading now is to become just another spa that will have a hard time to distinguish itself from other ones. This new pond is way more competitive, and I have my doubts whether Esalen will be able to prevail without substantial financial investments. Welcome to the corporate world. I hope that the Esalen management finds the strength to let go of their fantasies that they fell in love with. In other words: get out of their minds and come to their senses.

    My heart and well-wishes to everyone.

  • May 30, 2012

    A human writes:

    Some years ago, I spent many days and nights on the edge of Earth — Esalen.

    Such a delicate balance existed — give & take, preserve & give up, community & solitude, dreams & manifestations, death & birth.

    Never was it a resort with a division of servers and those served. It was, and hopefully will remain, a glorious experiment, wabi-sabi, muddy, messy, perfectly unfinished.

    The operating structure felt seamless and quietly low key. Everyone, no matter the “role,” was giving & receiving.

    I hope the wise elders are available to describe all this to those newbies who may be limited in their understanding of what would be lost if the delicate balance is lost.

  • May 30, 2012

    A current Esalen community member writes:

    In response to the question, “What can I and other friends of Esalen do for you, the community members who are there?” I offer the following suggestions.

    As a seminarian, you can get in touch with the Office and express your concerns about what is happening here, and how it affects your plans to visit Esalen in the future. [+1-831-667-3003]

    As a workshop leader, you can get in touch with your contacts in Esalen’s Programs Department and express your concerns about what’s happening here, and how it affects your plans for future presence here. [+1-831-667-3013]

    Finally, if you are a donor, please get in touch with your contacts at Esalen’s Development Department (and with other donors you might know) and express your concerns about what’s happening, and how it affects your plans for future giving. [+1-831-667-3032]

    Thank you for your support.

    A Community Member Who Is Here

  • May 17, 2012

    A human writes:

    I agree with the idea of community demonstration. I also agree that the guest feedback is highly important. If anyone has objections to the way things are going, or objections to the misuse of donated funds, speak up now. Now is the time to let these people know just how much they have let you down by squandering the esteemed positions that they hold. This situation is an alarming microcosm of the outside world and the continuous dilemma of the few holding back the many, that permeates the rest of capitalist culture. Not that that is exclusive, but I thought we were trying to take the high road and set a better example of what could be.

  • May 16, 2012

    A human writes:

    I am crying tears of both gratitude and pain. Gratitude for having been a daily community member in the not distant past, and real pain for those that are there now. Yes, drastic measures that will make the mark where it is felt most to the few who are holding back the many.

    No kale or quinoa either — for as long as it takes.

    For peace.


    Another human writes:

    I support this idea. I would love to think that intelligent communication could hold the answer, but as I have learned over the years, communication takes two parties. At the next orientation session, why don’t we all as a community sit in Huxley to offer a broader orientation about what’s going on here.

    The Nine support departmental walk-outs and orientation teach-ins. When community action is united, corporate retaliation is impossible — until there is no community left.