Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Photo Credit: Michelle Magdalena
Explore Self, Identity, and Soul with Handpicked Podcasts by Sam Stern

Voices of Esalen host, Sam Stern, came to Esalen as a student, much like the rest of us — to learn, to explore, and experience something new in his heart, mind, body, and soul. Much like the rest of us, this journey to Big Sur — on a precipice (physically and spiritually) — changed his life forever.

And so, Stern set upon extending the reach for Esalen teachers and leaders whose wisdom influenced him and moved him to his core. He wanted to start a podcast; but, he had never done a podcast before. “I had always been a fan of interviewing people,” said Stern. “Interviewing talented people about their work is a great way to ensure that I'm constantly enveloped in education.”

Through Voices of Esalen, Sam realized his exploration and learning would continue and deepen as he tapped into his creative mind to produce something new and keep at it. “It's that whole Malcolm Gladwell thing of ten thousand hours. I'm excited about uncovering more knowledge and wisdom from amazing leaders who can help our audience discover themselves more fully. And, all the while, figuring out ways to do so in an honest and ethical way."

Now, one hundred-plus episodes later, Stern remembers the ones that surprised him and the others that marked major tipping points for him as a human being.

For International Podcast Day, September 30th, we asked Stern to share more about how Voices started and transformed with him and the times. We also asked him to choose five episodes that inspire us to keep learning. From the first episode, to the most surprising guest, and someone who tops his list for a future Voices of Esalen interview, we’re sure you’ll continue to evolve as you listen.

Christine Chen: Tell us about your first episode. 

Sam Stern: My first episode was with Peter Myers, who schooled me about public speaking. He was easy, because he was a brilliant speaker already.

CC: What did you learn along the way? 

SS: Several of the episodes have gotten personal, without me planning it that way. Paul Selig is an amazing psychic, and I fell into a state of utter madness with him. The tricky part was navigating the interview while under the influence of his "guides” — lots of dead air and awkward silence, as I fumbled for my words…

CC: Was there a guest that marked a turning point for you? 

SS: Richard Schwartz is the founder of Internal Family Systems therapy, and we did a demo that went into my past, when I'd been bullied as a teen. It ended up being a huge and useful piece of work for me. Now, I see an IFS therapist every two weeks, and it's a big part of my life. 

CC: Which guest surprised you the most? 

SS: Byron Katie just floored me with how much presence and self-acceptance she emanated. She had that magic yogi/guru vibe, without trying at all. Michael Murphy, whom I've interviewed twice, is exactly the same way. 

CC: Is there anyone you would like to interview some day?

SS: I'd like to interview Robin Carhartt-Harriss and some of the other leaders in the new psychedelic therapy movement. I'm very interested in that world and the way that it can affect change. 

CC: Why did you choose to highlight podcasts that explore the self, identity, and the soul?

SS: Voices of Esalen originates from Esalen, birthplace of the Human Potential Movement, and home to the inner seeker. 

Voices of Esalen: Sam Stern’s Picks to Explore Self, Identity, and Soul

  1. Dr. Biko Gray on Race, Subjectivity, and the Politics of Identity - LISTEN
  2. Dr. Richard Schwartz on Internal Family Systems - LISTEN
  3. Dr. Emily Silverman on the Soul and Psyche of the Modern Physician - LISTEN
  4. Dr. Ben Sessa on Psychedelic Psychotherapy - LISTEN
  5. Pico Iyer on Esalen, Big Sur, the Dalai lama, and Global Soul - LISTEN

Check out the full episode list for Voices of Esalen 

Listen on SoundCloud

Listen on Apple Podcasts

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.

Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?

Voices of Esalen is made possible, in part, by the support of Esalen donors and are licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.


Christine Chen

Christine Chen is the host of Esalen Live! and Chief Editor of The Journal. She is a two-time Emmy winning journalist, best-selling author, California native, and senior teacher of yoga and Ayurveda on Esalen Faculty.