Esalen: A Dream Come True

Founded by Michael Murphy and Dick Price, The Esalen Institute in Big Sur has been a driving force in the shaping and exploration of culture and consciousness since 1962. 

The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Alan Watts, Jack Kerouac, Aldous Huxley, Terence McKenna, Ida Rolf, Abraham Maslow, Joseph Campbell, Joan Baez, Ansel Adams, John C. Lilly, Deepak Chopra, and Stanislav Grof are just some of the many magical people to have studied, taught, lived and played there. 

I first became enamoured with the Esalen Institute when I was in my early teens reading Jack Kerouac’s On The Road.

At that time, I dreamt about leaving the status quo to vagabond around the world and write about my journeys. Back then, much like Kerouac, I felt like a lost soul.

When I was 14 years old, my dad gave me The Doors of Perception & Heaven and Hell by Aldous Huxley, a book that profoundly impacted my perspective of reality.

It wasn’t until 2016 that I first found myself along the majestic Pacific Coast Highway in Big Sur, California. While there, I picked up another of Kerouac’s novels—this one called Big Sur. Within the first few pages, Kerouac wrote about his life as an author, drinking Ayahuasca, and being at the Esalen Institute. Covered in goosebumps from the profound synchronicity of what I was reading, I never made it beyond those first few pages.

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While in Tulum earlier this year, a brotherly connection with Mac Murphy was revealed. Mac happens to be a steward of the Esalen land and the son of founder Michael Murphy. Mac and another dear friend Zach Bell invited me to a special event they were hosting at Esalen in February.

Late last month, I had the pleasure of experiencing a weekend at Esalen for a summit on (crypto)currency, which was hosted by Return. An intimate group of inspiring leaders and dear friends sat atop the Big Sur cliffs in the Aldous Huxley room overlooking the ocean where we explored the future of currency, blockchain, humanity, our planet and the universe. 

We hiked through the Redwood forests, bathed in sulfuric hot springs on the cliff’s edge, were serenaded with one of the greatest musical performances imaginable courtesy of Mardeleva, and I embarked on a death-defying swim that put me in a pre-hypothermic state, all of which felt like a rite of passage.

While I sat on a rock beneath a moonlit and starry night sky at 2:00 am overlooking the ocean one night, tears of gratitude flowed from my soul and out my eyes. I may have been sitting in the very spot that Kerouac wrote Big Sur from. And here I was: traveling the world and writing about my journeys. Only now, I’m not a lost soul. And to arrive here is a dream come true. 

Photo by Eduardo Castillo

Photo by Eduardo Castillo