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It can be such a joy to be at Esalen! It can be such a challenge! And it can, indeed, be a powerful experience of transformation, especially for those of us who are lucky enough to stay for an extended period. No matter whether you live at Esalen for a few months, a year or even longer, this time too, of course, shall pass, and in a profound way, it is probably just right that it does. Cofounder Dick Price thought of Esalen as a “bus stop,” where you would get off, spend some time, and then hop back on the bus again, taking home what you had learned and integrating it into daily life. From his perspective, leaving Esalen is probably no less important than spending time here - it is very much a part of the overall experience.

I found that it is not an easy part during my own transition from the serene coast of Big Sur to my landlocked, heavily industrialized hometown of Stuttgart, Germany. Luckily, I was aware that others had been through similar difficulties. In the prologue to Andy Glazer’s “Guide for Transitioning Out of Esalen” I read, “While there were some good moments, my first two years after leaving Esalen were mostly sad, unhappy, frustrating times. Happily, that’s changed rather dramatically in the last year or so, and while I have no doubt that some of the difficulties eventually led to some of the successes, I’m quite convinced that had I been smarter, or more ably led, about how I made the transition back into ‘the real world,’ the miserable times would have been less miserable and not as lengthy. In an effort to give back to the institution a tiny percentage of what it gave me, I’m starting with this ‘guide,’ a reference work about making the changeover. It is my sincere hope that others later contribute their own experiences and questions (...). One man’s experience simply isn’t enough.”

I am sad to tell that Andy passed away in the summer of 2004. And I wish I could have told him before his passing that I was about to embark on part two of his vision. I had written an email to former workscholars, interns, and extended students, asking for their personal experiences of transition, their trials and successes and their sources of support. Fifteen people from eight countries responded: four Americans, four Germans, two Brazilians, and one person each from Belgium, Denmark, Japan, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom - twelve women and three men. Their combined life experiences make up the wealth and diversity of this booklet. It is not a “how-to-guide.” Think of it as an extended, international “weather-report,” focused on leaving Esalen and life post-Esalen.

As I sort through this rich harvest of emotions, memories, and insights, looking for something like a red thread, a convincing “narrative structure,” I hear one base note in our multilingual choir of voices, “You are not alone!” You, who will soon be packing your suitcases or backpacks and getting ready to leave Esalen, you absolutely are not alone! There are people out there who you can turn to, little networks, phone numbers to be dialed, email-addresses ready to receive and to respond. No matter how exhilarated or devastated or both you may feel about leaving, it may put things in perspective to remind yourself that many hundreds before you have driven past the Gate of No Return (unless you have arranged to be guested, of course). And hundreds more will leave the place long after you’ve left, long after you’ve grown new roots somewhere else. Besides all the practical details and inspirations in this guide, this simple truth, to me, is the ultimate comfort. After all, my own transition isn’t over yet.

August 27, 2004

at the mountain farm “Beim Müllerle”
high in the Austrian Alps


community – November 23, 2006 – 9:37pm