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Community Voices Reflections on the Land


Steven Harper is a wilderness guide, author, artist, longtime Esalen leader, and Big Sur resident. His work focuses on wild nature as a vehicle for awakening. See pages 13, 32, 49, and 74 for his workshops.


Wildness, rich diversity, and the dramatic meeting of edges — both inner and outer — converge to create the place we call Big Sur. Here the elements meet, greet, and co-create. Fire, Air, Earth, and Water come together in a manner so clearly on display that we have no choice but to come to our senses and awaken in our human body.


Esalen’s underlying support comes from a constella- tion of dynamic factors. Well before spoken word and long before people, the elemental dance of cre- ation has been and is now forming and shaping this mountain seascape. If we look at Esalen as just the human-inhabited grounds, we miss the deeper integral webs that literally ground and connect us to the extended community of things — to the timeless source of everything. From this heartfelt and bodily-felt


basis we are supported in allowing ourselves to try on the new and dif- ferent, to deepen, to ask the frightening questions, to touch that which has not been touched. Nature here is not separate, but inclusive of all, and it is the primary teacher of those human beings that choose to inhabit this wild coast.


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Christine Stewart Price is a teacher and ongoing student of Gestalt Awareness Practice. She was married to Esalen co-founder Richard Price. See pages 11, 12, 48, and 78 for her workshops.


Long before any of us fell in love with this place it was home to others, for many generations. In the “Institute Era” of the past fifty years, there have been weddings celebrated, often for couples who met on the


property. We have blessed pregnancies, held vigil during births, and delighted in the babies who arrived. We’ve gathered to mourn our dead and rejoice in their lives.


Within the shelter of the cypresses, fortified by the sound of the ocean, I have birthed one child here. I’ve said goodbye to my father, my first hus- band, and another child here. In these very personal ways this property holds my life, my history, and the history of so many of us.


I am only one of many who have experienced profound moments of their lives within these village gates. This includes what happens within the bodies, psyches, and souls of those who come here to explore their inner landscape. In these moments of deep opening, we bond with this land, like a newborn turning toward the biggest, nearest, warmest pres- ence. From that moment forward, we belong to this place in some way, and it to us.


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