Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
The Return of LEEP

The season of rebirth is well on its way, and it’s accompanied by a buzz of excitement for the relaunch of our Live Extended Education Program (LEEP), formerly the work scholar program. 

For one month, twelve students come from everywhere imaginable to live, learn, and work at Esalen. A program that’s been transformative in so many people’s lives since its inception in the 1970’s, you’ll be hard pressed to sit in the Lodge and not share a meal with a former work scholar who became rooted in the community through this program. Many of our current staff members began their journey at Esalen this way.

A new year is blossoming here on the Big Sur campus. The powerful rain storms of winter and full days of beaming crisp sunshine are starting to reveal seedlings, sprouting in the garden, and monarchs dancing into the canyon. In the midst of such omnipresent transformation, some previous work scholars shared how their lives transformed by living, working, and learning at 55000 Highway 1.

Sam Stern, Content Creator and host of Voices of Esalen

“I had been coming from a situation where I was poor not only in resources but in connections. When I came to Esalen, I received direction (in the farm and garden), a course of study (meditation), and a community. My fellow work scholars formed a close-knit group of like-minded individuals. Just like a smile can be passed from one person to the next, our thirst for exploration affected the rest of the community in what I imagine was a useful, fun, and dare I say radical manner.”

Shannon Hudson, Esalen Webmaster

“I was burned out in my job but didn't know what else to do, unhappy in a long-term romantic relationship but afraid to be on my own, and also estranged from my parents without other elders in my life who might give advice or offer support. Being at Esalen for a month didn't fix all of that, but I felt a sense of belonging I'd never experienced before. The time marked a turning point that set me firmly on a decades-long path of healing.” 

Liz Meyers, Esalen Healing Arts Supervisor

“Two months after my extended education program I ended up back at Esalen working full time in cabins. While taking care of the baths and working with the practitioners through some extensive energy and body work, I felt a calling. Six months later, after writing up a proposal I became the Healing Arts Supervisor, and three years later I am still madly in love with this place, my job, and the people I've gotten to know along the way.”

“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?

LEEP is available because of the generosity of all of our financial supporters, the Friends of Esalen. Our deepest gratitude!

Learn about LEEP


Emily Peck

Emily Peck is a Community & Advancement Associate at Esalen.