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Finding New Ground

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Finding New Ground
- where we are at today -

For people, as for the newly planted salad and broccoli out on the Esalen farm, growing roots takes time – a few months under good growing conditions, perhaps a year or even more. Here are some, hopefully encouraging, news tidbits about our current lives, about the new ground we found, the new visions and challenges we face back home. Three months have passed since Maiko-San returned from Esalen to her hometown Kyoto, Japan. “Time flies,” she writes, “I feel like I was at Esalen a long, long time ago. Coming back to the life I’ve left and making the changes here are, for me, the real transition. I am still transitioning.

I confirmed my will to change my lifestyle so strongly while I was at Esalen. Some things have not changed, but others have. It's up to me to make all changes. It is my choice and responsibility. I have just started to make my dreams come true. I’m going to the United Kingdom next, to stay at Findhorn, another intentional and international community in Scotland. I want to learn about permaculture and sustainable ways of living. I want to explore living in community for a longer period of time. I’m also planning to WWOOF, to join a worldwide exchange network of organic farmers, where you work for room and board and practical experience.

My dream is to start my own small farm some day and live by the ocean. In the future, I want to be able to provide food as self-sustainably as possible. Right now I still live in a city. I don’t really see the sun set. I can’t count the stars in the sky. I want to move to a place closer to nature, to be able to feel the rhythms of the universe. I want to wake up when the sun is up and go to bed when the moon rises.

My journey continues. The story ends, but life goes on…as it unfolds.”

By springtime 2002, after having sat through her first winter back in Belgium, Anna felt, “a bit stronger.” Suddenly she found a shared housing project in Brussels, “one of the only two alternative living projects in this conservative town. Ever since, things have been going gradually better. I’ve slowly managed to build up a small circle of new, like-minded friends. My self-confidence has grown. My faith in the Higher has remained unshakable. I feel less happy than in California. But a lot better than I felt before I went to California.”

“Almost a year and a half on,” Katrina writes from the Greater London area, “I am beginning to feel at home and positive again. I moved to a small town near to my two sisters, moved into a house share rather than living on my own, got myself some well paid part time consultancy public relations work and started working part-time for my local community arts center. I teach creative writing there, inspired by the group I co-facilitated at Esalen with Brammy, and participate in lots of activities, including a Five Rhythms dance class. In my darker moments I have felt that I can’t reproduce Esalen experiences in the ‘real’ world, but I’ve learned that I can, not half an hour away from the town where I was brought up. Melanie (also contributing to this guide) came to stay with me recently, and I awoke one morning with the idea of repeating something Mel had created at Esalen in 2002 – to do a production of ‘the Vagina Monologues’ with a cast from my local community. I gingerly put a small article into my local newspaper and have been inundated with response from over 30 amazing women. Melanie is coming to UK to direct the show for March 2005, and I feel the Esalen blood pumping through my veins again as I begin to bring these women together in a shared project. I am growing a sense of community which I have been craving since leaving Esalen, and which doesn’t seem to come from having many wonderful friends scattered throughout the world. I feel very excited about that, and it feels more solid than anything I had before or during my time at Esalen. I feel that I have finally come home, and I know that reads like a corny line, but if you feel it yourself, you will know that it absolutely fits the feeling I’m referring to.”
 
Janet was a bit worried that she was not only leaving Esalen, but going to a foreign country where she knew only one person. “However, I dealt with it fine. It has been a year now, and I have to say that I have made many acquaintances but no real friends here in Geneva and still feel somewhat isolated and am still settling in. I think it takes quite a long time (one to two years) when moving to a new city to really feel at home and build a support network. I have, however, been dating someone long distance so that helps to fill that void.”
 
From their new overseas home, Lilly reports that she and her husband are are now done with the LA scene. ”Two years of living there was enough. We currently live in Japan teaching English. Our contract is for three years. It isn't difficult finding work here so it might be more than three years...who knows. Once again, it is not a permanent space for us, however a very exciting and very much wanted space. We moved to Japan while I was eight months pregnant, and I gave birth here. The move wasn't easy - lots of preparations and major adjustments, but no different than moving away from Esalen into the ’real world.’ What was most challenging was to have faith in ourselves that we could do it. Right now, I can honestly say that I have no regrets. We embrace our challenges, especially raising our six month old daughter, and we count our blessings every day.”

Tobias, formerly a Corporate Fat Cat, is now self-employed. He lives in a rather modest, student-type apartment and supports teams, he says, “in becoming more effective by helping them to create a space that allows personal growth within the work field. I also help people to deal with conflict by mediating their process and teach leadership-related classes at a graduate school. My third professional field is being a Shiatsu therapist.”
 
Udo was wise enough, he writes, to continue working at public radio in these economically unstable times. He has reduced his workload, however, to a four-day (and sometimes a three-day) week. “I am giving up the desire to build a career or to achieve material security at the expense of my health and happiness. Following my longing to dig my hands into soil again and to be around plants, I have joined an organic community garden in the heart of Stuttgart and grow all kinds of greenery on my balcony, which is a great source of joy to me. I have started an education in Carl Rogers’ approach to non-directive, person-centered counselling and am, at 48, considering training as a Yoga teacher. I keep practicing Esalen massage and find that very nourishing. Also I continue to experiment with radical honesty with varying success. So I guess my stays at Esalen have been transformative in a deep way. Oh yes, and I am starting to understand that it is less important what life throws at me. What really matters is how I react to it.”

Two years into her transition, Gerlinde writes from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, “My crisis of reintegration isn’t over yet – but I did want to radically change my life when I signed up as a workscholar, didn’t I? That I have, indeed, achieved! After many years of contented but, bottomline, boring single life in Cologne, I am now married to an American and am making a completely new start of it. My life is full of new experiences, and I watch how I twist and writhe, how I desperately grope for anything familiar - and how I do, indeed, discover beauty in my new life. Spring has arrived in Milwaukee and the grey, cold city has turned into a leisure-land close to the shores of Lake Michigan, surrounded by pristine nature. That and our deepening relationship give me a break from my bouts of homesickness. Maybe I will be a successful Gestalt and family drama therapist after all, here, in the land of unlimited possibilities.”

Melanie is currently spending time in St. Louis, Missouri, where she grew up. “I am in the process of deciding whether I want to stay here or move back to Big Sur. I have been here for a couple of months, and I already have a thriving massage business. No one does Esalen massage here but me. Thomas Fortel, the yoga teacher, is also from here and has made Esalen a very popular place among St. Louisans.

Everywhere I went I had a lot of judgements about how unaware I think everyone is (I was an Esalen snob). I kept telling myself they are not Esalen people. No they are not. But they are people like us and we can bring what we have learned from Esalen to them. We are all very blessed to have lived there. Now we have the chance to expand our Esalen Tribe and include the whole world.

It took me about a year to make this discovery.”

community – September 27, 2006 – 10:35am

Thank you! Would be interesting to collect more stories of reintegration. I'd for sure have one. Hm, maybe I never reintegrated and must stay close to Esalen all the time (ha ha:-))

ZP - all my best wishes for your speedy recovery. Didn't get a chance to say that before!

away – March 11, 2009 – 7:01pm

 and thank you, Monika. (Monika was commenting on an earlier comment i made under this post.  I have since edited/deleted it because it was out-of-place and didn't even follow the thread of this post!  Sorry everyone!)

And what a beautiful post.  Someday i will be at Esalen, and will be able to carry it with me out into the world when i leave.  Until then, i really have no business commenting on posts such as this one. I have no "roots" (other than Marty) at Esalen, although i am sort of a vegetable lately!  Again, sorry.  I'd like to think it was the painkillers.  :)  

-- PEACE 

zen puppy – March 12, 2009 – 3:29pm