The excitement was building as we drove down the coast toward Big Sur. We were scheduled to deliver our first Esalen weekend workshop in the middle of January. We initially had worried that the weather would be cold and stormy but Nature supported us with brilliant warm sunshine…perfect for an Esalen weekend!
Our initial anxiety dissipated with our arrival for the new leader reception as the monarch butterflies filled the air, the surf crashed on the rocks below and the setting sun glowed in a golden sky in the West. The Esalen staff were so warm and helpful, making us feel very welcome.
We gathered the first evening with twelve women drawn from Northern and Southern California and even Oregon, in front of a blazing fire in the Price house (named after one of the Esalen founders) with a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean. The women brought their personal hopes and diverse expectations; and over the next two days they shared their life stories, offered insightful wisdom for each other and raised questions and challenged us.
When the workshop drew to a close on Sunday, new friends and connections had been made; understanding and insights were shared, and the women had ideas, goals and plans for their individual 3rd acts. One participant memorialized our weekend with a group picture. Some headed for the baths for one more relaxing dip overlooking the Pacific; others headed for home. As the weeks have passed our Esalen circle has stayed in touch with support for each other’s next steps.
As workshop leaders, we debriefed our experience. We had learned a lot. We needed a design and an approach that took in the Esalen experience more than we had originally planned. We valued our resilience as leaders responding to participant challenges and questions. We had stepped outside our traditional venue and format to present at Esalen. We challenged ourselves to re-vision our work. The risk we took was well worth the outcome and we would like to use our new learning and do it again.