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On the weekend of Feb 24 I will be guiding a workshop at Esalen: “Coming Home.” Esalen Institute holds a most sacred spot in my heart. It is one of the two or three places in the world where hot mineral water can be found flowing into the ocean.
Once upon a time, the land that nurtures Esalen Institute was a sacred place where the Esselen Indians held their rituals and ceremonies. Today philosophy and the experience of the Self nurture the growth of the Esalen Institute. Its beauty and its reason for being make the Esalen Institute one of the finest retreat centers in the world. At Esalen I met the masters who formed me. Esalen has provided a spiritual home for me; a place where eastern philosophies and religion form an agreement with our western nature
In 1970, one of those masters, Peter Mutke, a Carmel physician with whom I shared a private practice, introduced me to Esalen through an invitation to assist him in his hypnosis workshops there at Esalen. And it is also through Peter that the basic principles of Medical Hypnosis and Selective Awareness were revealed to me.
Another colleague and master was Dick Price, a highly intelligent yet quirky chap with whom I shared many an interesting experience. Considered psychotic by some and brilliant by others. Having spent time in a few psychiatric wards, Dick asked “Why isn’t there a place where people could be free to be themselves and enjoy the world?? " He knew someone with land around Big Sur…and the rest is Esalen history.
In the 1960s, every day was “Anything Can Happen Day.” A frothy mood of freedom and hope was sweeping the nation. Martin Luther King, the Pill, feminism, The Beatles, and the first glimmers of the philosophies and religions of the East were awakening in us the awareness that there was more to life than what we experienced in the West. Esalen became a place to taste and experience the difference.
Yoga, hot springs, communal bathing, Gestalt therapy, Hypnotherapy, Buddhism Taoism defined the freedom of Esalen. Nowhere else on earth did these all merge, reflecting the uniqueness of the merging of the fresh, salty, and mineral waters that flow naturally there. Richard Price and Michael Murphy had created a place where there was an astounding freedom to say or do whatever you wanted – constrained only by the Gestalt dictum, “I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, you are not in this world to live up to mine. I do my thing, and you do your thing. If we should meet, that is beautiful – if not, it can’t be helped.”
A fast friendship with Dick developed. Dick was one of the first to really grok my first book, “Selective Awareness,” especially the evocation, interpretation and rescripting of very early life memories I liked to work with in my deeper work with people – so he opened the doors of Esalen, giving me permission to teach anything I wanted. Soon he and I were leading workshops together.
If Dick, guiding people to bring out their conflicting subpersonalities and engaging them in mortal combat, was Shiva, I was Vishnu, stepping in to the therapy session when the cognitive dissonance and emotional turmoil was at its peak. We saw amazing transformations – Dick would bring the conflicting parts of people’s personality to the intense edge of confrontation, then I would guide the person on the “hot seat” as well as the rest of the group back from the abyss and into a deep state of self-awareness, there to access the wisdom, to heal the inner wounds, and to bring transformation to the personality. We used to be called, affectionately, “the hammer and the tit.”
It was in this realm of utter freedom that I could extend my guided imagery and hypnotic work by using the wisdom of the Buddha, Krishna, Lao Tsu, and the panoply of teachings of the Far and Near East. Although I lived in a number of different places during the next 40 years, I returned two or three times a year to teach courses – or should I say invent them? Each time I returned to Esalen through the years, I found I had learned so much since the previous trip that the best thing for me to do was to just set myself free to interact with the group in the moment and construct a workshop. This process left me most open to allowing the flowing of my spirit to create the next thought, word, or experience. And nearly every time it was a quantum leap for me, and for the group as well, of course.
Esalen is a welcome spiritual home for many of us, and being there usually brings out the best in me. I look at where I have been, touch the inner depths of myself, and then recommit myself to my dharma.
Everyone has an inner sense of home, some have an intense feeling, some not so much – but, as Herman Hesse said, “Home is neither here nor there, home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.” Maybe the physical locations where we feel “at Home” are just external reminders of this inner home. I conceive of the Coming Home workshop as guidance in exploring this aspect of your inner realm as well as sharing yours and others’ sense of Home. If Esalen is a kind of spirit home for you, you might want to come and join us.
<!--EndFragment-->Emmett Miller Esalen Workshops guided meditation Healing peace relaxation trance