We learned to synchronize our breath to the waves below. We gathered at sunset to marvel at the sun sinking into the sea, in silence.
On the first morning, I joined a stream of participants winding their way across the ravine to a giant yurt anchored to the cliff above the crashing waves of the Pacific. Those waves became a constant comfort as Chris and Kirsten led us in peaceful meditations. We learned to synchronize our breath to the waves below. We gathered at sunset to marvel at the sun sinking into the sea, in silence. And, yes, eventually, each of us braved the hot springs on the cliffs unfettered by bathing suits and, one-by-one, came back to tell about it with humor.
Each evening I would drive back along Highway 101 to my solitary cabin to regroup and each morning I would awaken to wild turkeys on the lawn, a natural alarm clock. I developed a ritual of stopping at the Big Sur Bakery for a ginger scone and a cup of steaming coffee. With each passing day, I became more emboldened and more clear.
The capping glory of my stay at Esalen, though, came at the end, almost an afterthought, it seemed. Chris introduced the naturalist at Esalen, Daniel Bianchetta, who set up an impromptu slide show. “When you get too scientific,” he said, ”you can lose your reverence.” I’ll never forget those words. I’d struggled with the intersection of the world of science and the world of the sacred my entire life, especially in psychology graduate school. All at once I got it. Esalen, to me, represented that crossroads, a place of transformation between the world of science and the world of the sacred.
Three condors circling as if to say, “Come back again when you can sink into the natural beauty of this coast, relax under the redwoods, hike to the falls on the beach, and listen to the waves crashing.”
We sat entranced in our heated yurt as we were led on a journey into the sky of the condors, up the hillside with the women who would gather food and sing as they worked, of the men who painted ochre petroglyphs on rocks in caves. And, at the end of it, he told us where to find the monarch butterflies on a tree on the property, in the process of migrating to Mexico. I began to take notice and spied a red fox as I walked to my car that night. But best of all, the place where he told us to look to find the elusive condors. I found them. Their spirit soared high above my open sunroof as I made my way back up the coast on the way home. Three condors circling as if to say, “Come back again when you can sink into the natural beauty of this coast, relax under the redwoods, hike to the falls on the beach, and listen to the waves crashing.” There they were, right where he’d said they’d be.
Note from Kristy Arbon: I was at Esalen with Jan, Chris and Kristin, in 2013, so got to witness some of the wonder and beauty she writes about. I’ll be there again, with Chris and Kristin, in December 2016! Such a privilege to be at that amazing place.
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