After a marathon season of Pepper Festival and Death Faire, I boarded a plane at 6 in the morning with Frank and actually had NO expectations. I knew we were going to Esalen @ Big Sur and that we were going to a workshop with Charles Eisenstein who I knew a tiny bit about. His new book is just out: Climate, A New Story. I kind of thought we would be learning about the science of climate change and while I think that is fascinating, I secretly thought that I would be skipping out a bit to just rest and be.
We stopped at a dispensary in Santa Cruz and saw the sea lions on the pier and drove through the redwood forest. Exhausted, I went straight to bed when we arrived at Esalen in their cute cabins.
How do I describe the campus of Esalen? It is a gorgeous strip of land on the edge literally and metaphorically of the Pacific Ocean. It is breathtaking. It’s a mixture of beautiful farmland, exotic flowers that smell delicious, redwood trees, bridges and walkways and tons of monarch butterflies fluttering around. Almost like a Hollywood set, completely mystical. It’s a famous place of adult education and is part of the human potential movement. Folks like Henry Miller, Aldous Huxley, Allen Ginsberg, Hunter S. Thompson, Fritz Perls, Alan Watts, Joseph Campbell and Boris Yeltsin have all hung out there. Oh, and there is NO CELL COVERAGE!
The first night, we walked down to the bathhouse. There are natural hot springs in the MOST BEAUTIFUL stone and concrete bathhouse built on the side of a cliff. You strip naked and shower in a shared shower over looking the pacific. Then you choose a single tub or larger hot tub. Everyone is naked and it becomes quite normal which I found so refreshing. You would towel off next to a strange naked man and talk about childhood houses as if we were standing in line at the grocery store. How did we ever normalize all the body issues we have as a culture? I suppose it started with the church and then corporations took over the shame of the body, but I think that a week of being nude (just at the bathhouse) created a vulnerability and comfort that allowed folks to open up with each other. It was absolutely a lovely experience.
Day One of Workshop we started with Kirtan Kriya meditation. There were about 35 of us in a yurt and something about that meditation did me in. I don’t usually do this, but I sobbed. I couldn’t help it. It was ok because everyone had their eyes closed and the music and chants drowned out my crying. Except sweet Megan saw me and came and held me and of course that created a deluge of tears. Great way to meet 35 people, except these were the folks you could cry with. Over the week I got to know about half of them and we could jump into a deep conversation immediately. The group was super special and some had come from Australia and the U.K. to be at this workshop.
Charles was brilliant. The name of the workshop was The Space between the Stories and he goes to the very root of the issue of climate change. The state of our planet is a direct reflection of our inner selves. What we do to the planet we do to ourselves. We examined judgment, forgiveness, belonging, collective consciousness, projection, and the future world we could envision.
Charles would tell stories and then give us exercises to do in smaller groups. The stories were compelling and triggered so much wisdom for everyone. I was reminded about how effective story telling is for understanding.
Some takeaways for me from Charle’s messages were:
· There is no other side, we are all one
· We can choose what we pay attention to: pay attention to our gifts
· If I was in anyone’s shoes, I would behave EXACTLY as they do with their set of experiences and background (even someone say…like Trump for example)
· Forgiveness is a side effect of understanding
· Violence is just unmet needs
· Addiction is unmet needs
· Lying is a safe space where you get to be you if you don’t think you can have what you want
· Narcissism is not being loved for who you are, but praised for what you are not
· We are life growing around the conditions given to us
· Death is not the end
One exercise was to describe a dilemma in your life with a small group and retell it in the future as you wish it were. We were recreating stories for ourselves to help with painful relationships.
Charles sat in on my dilemma…my child died and I’m dealing with 3 broken hearts and he said, simply “You’ve created a crucible for yourself!”. When he said that, I thought, of course. That is what I have done, burnt everything down in order to create new.
So, I am starting anew.
With morning yoga, ecstatic dance, farm fresh food, hot springs under the stars, beautiful people and very stimulating curriculum, I left Esalen with a new lease on life, courage to step back into my wild life, and totally refreshed. A new clarity is unfolding. I’ll bring this work to Abundance, this community, the bend in the road, and my family.
Thank you, Charles (clear brilliant visionary), Adam (warm honey and butter with poprocks), Megan (love, comfort and joy always), the amazing vulnerable participants, and my dear dear friend, Frank (soulmate of the stars).