thomas m wilson

Finally feeling at home at Esalen.

March 11th, 2008

I’ve moved into a new cabin here at Esalen, (to remind you, Esalen is the expensive, new age, formerly avant-garde spa resort/ workshop centre/ seas-side community that clings to the unpeopled mountains here on the north-central Californian coast, where I’ve been residing for the past six weeks). I’ve also started a new job in the office. It has been a week of experiencing these new things, and thanks to these changes I’ve really started to get into the groove of being here. The new cabin is clean and nice and has a little deck. Up in my double bed with my photographs on the wall I feel like I have a little home here in America. I share the cabin with one other guy, rather than the three others of my previous cabin. It is simple, but it is all that is needed, and it is somewhere to call my base. Apparently having this aesthetically pleasing and comfortable little corner makes a difference to me – maybe its my personality type, I’m not sure. And what with this little home nook, and not disliking my job anymore now I’m away from the noise and clatter of the kitchen, I have come to a point where I find myself relaxing more and more often enjoying what is to be enjoyed at Esalen.

Last Saturday evening I DJed some reggae at a party in a yurt up the hill. There were the people from the new work-scholar group in attendance (work-scholars are people who work and study here in blocks of five weeks).  The new group is doing a month-long workshop in dance.  The party was low-key, with a pile of cushions in the centre of the yurt, on which lay strewn sundry limbs and torsos in various state’s of massage-induced relaxation. Here Johanna, a German lady, is enjoying a foot massage.


The other day I visited Monterey, a town an hour’s drive north on the coast from here. It is famously associated with the novels of John Steinbeck, but the contemporary reality seems quite nondescript and unremarkable to me. Being in Monterey – my second time out of Esalen in six weeks – was a strange experience. I had left Planet Esalen and returned to the real world. Roads and tarmac and cars were one of the first things I noticed. They seemed to be everywhere. That was the first impression from leaving here. Most people live on an area of the planet’s surface that is relentlessly bisected by roads built for automobiles. I realize that I really love having just a little wooden cabin by the sea and walking to and fro. I like not seeing polluting cars en route all the time and being reminded of how unsustainably people live. As I walked around Monterey I started to think about some of the things I’ll miss when I leave Esalen. I counted them out. I realize that when I leave here I will miss being able to roll down to the lodge whenever I want and get a delicious, organic, healthy meal, with endless variety and freshness of produce. Or walk into a free Qui Gong class, or an improvisational dance class. Or talk to somebody I know in the lodge if I feel like a social interaction on the spur of the moment. Or roll down to the tubs for a soak in mineral hot waters while watching waves power themselves onto the rocks below me. Or go and take photos in the thousand year old redwood forest up the canyon. Or meet interesting people over a meal in the lodge. Or get a massage down in the tubs while hearing the Pacific rumble in my subconscious. Or get up in the morning, get out of my bunk bed and walk out a few paces and look at the waves and the mountains and the cypresses and smell clean air. I will miss these things.

As compensation I remind myself that when I do leave here I will be taking some good bodywork skills away, some knowledge of dance and Qui Gong, a Big Sur photographic portfolio, and some good contacts. And of course one part of the Californian coast can’t ever have a monopoly on dance, massage, nature and the like!

Now I can say that I feel connected to Big Sur and I can imagine happily living here in this part of America. I love this landscape. Finally after six weeks I feel like I’ve arrived.


Here’s the lodge where we eat like healthykings:


Here’s the front deck of my little cabin.  At the end of that row of cars is the cliffs and I walk and stand and look out on the coast of Big Sur each morning.  The white stone I found down on the pebble beach here.