Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
How Do Humans of Esalen Relax? Shares from Shauna Shapiro, Jeffrey Williams, Sylvie Rokab, and more
Woman relaxing in the woods in a hammock

What are you doing to relax today? If you don’t know the answer to that question, it’s worth relaxing with a nice cup of tea and pondering about making time for self-care. The importance of relaxing, especially for reducing stress, is in the spotlight more than ever before. Mental health, overall wellbeing, maintaining good health are well-documented as a desired lifestyle for many of us. How about you?

"We can’t avoid stress or control our outer circumstances, but we can control how we meet them,” said Jeffrey Williams, longtime Esalen workshop facilitator and founder of Lifestyles of Light and Vitalist Institute. 

“Being able to do that requires knowing yourself and being able to center back into that knowing so you can make the choice to respond in alignment with yourself, rather than react to what shows up each day. Life is more fulfilling when aligned with your authentic self!”

For National Relaxation Day — August 15th — we decided to ask some humans in the Esalen community and faculty how they relax. Their answers reminded us that there are so many ways to help ourselves. Be inspired: you might get some new, great ideas for finding ease.

“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?

Brita Ostrom, Director of Massage

Brita Ostrom, Director of Massage

“I immerse myself in nature — the wind, the waves, the sun, the stars, a dance — participating in the larger wholeness of this place we call home.”

Brandon Perry, Guest Services Reservationist

Brandon Perry, Guest Services Reservationist

“Meditation. As a Buddhist, the core of our practice is a chant, “Namu Myoho Renge Kyo”. This doesn’t only bring about relaxation, it also helps me to calm and center myself. It also fills my life with peace, vitality, joy and courage!”

Sylvie Rokab, Forest Bathing Guide and Love Thy Nature Filmmaker

“To be in the presence of the wonders of nature and feel embraced by its power and magic!”

Next workshop: Forest Bathing for Homecoming and Belonging, October 11-15, 2021

Darnell Walker, Artist and Teacher in Residence

Darnell Walker, Artist and Teacher in Residence

“I find a patch of land, hopefully with a garden or remnants of what could have been a garden. I remove my shoes, walk, and breathe. The coolness of the grass or dirt on my feet immediately relaxes me. And if there’s a body of water nearby, even better!”

Shauna Shapiro, Professor, Scientist, and Author

Shauna Shapiro, Professor, Scientist, and Author

“I place my hand on my heart. This physical gesture of self-care releases oxytocin and immediately down-regulates my physiology.”

Next workshop: Good Morning, I Love You, October 15-17, 2021

Gianni Arrington, Human Resources Coordinator

“I go on lots of walks and always stop to smell the flowers.”

Jeffrey Williams, Vitalist Institute

“To relax, I sit or lie down, deepen my breath, then move consciously through my body as it softens and releases all contraction and constriction in my tissue. This lets me create spaciousness and awareness in my being... in the here and now.” 

Next workshop: Evolutionary Embodiment, August 20-22, 2021

Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant

Danai Fakutukwa, Guest Services Representative 

“I take myself on little adventures hunting for bakeries and coffee shops in Big Sur, Monterey, or Carmel.”

Nani Almanza, Guest Services Supervisor

“Lately, I’ve been drawing and coloring in my meditation practice. I also weave and play my sound bowl.”


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.