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Voices of Esalen: Fall 2020

Deborah Medow on Massage, Magic, and Mischief: Fifty Years at Esalen

Deborah Medow is an Esalen legend. She came to Big Sur and the Esalen Institute in the late 1960’s, and found it so much to her liking that she never left. Deborah was an early acolyte of Dick Price, who encouraged her to become one of Esalen’s first yoga teachers. Deborah found her home as a massage therapist, where, as part of an early crew that featured trailblazers like Peggy Horan, Brita Ostrom, and Vicki Topp, she helped to develop and shepherd a school of touch that would influence practitioners around the world. Through more than 50 years of service to Esalen, Deborah has been a beloved community member, teacher, and leader - insightful and intelligent, curious and kind, hilarious and unapologetically unique. Our interview begins in Indiana, where she grew up, and it ends with an incantation, featuring her famous rattle.

Released December 11, 2020. Length: 55:38.

Voices of Esalen · Deborah Medow on Massage, Magic, and Mischief: Fifty Years at Esalen

Matthew Ingram: How the Counterculture Invented Wellness

Matthew Ingram is the author of Retreat: How the Counterculture Invented Wellness. His book is a primer covering the historical unfolding of a host of topics including Allen Ginsberg, Stanislav Grof, LSD psychotherapy, the Prague Spring, psychoanalysis, Freudian Marxism, ego dissolution, the CIA's MK ULTRA program, Tom Wolfe, Libertarians, cultural revolt, and more.

Released December 4, 2020. Length: 47:04.

Voices of Esalen · Matthew Ingram: How the Counterculture Invented Wellness

Maija West: The True Meaning of Thanksgiving

Maija West is the CEO and a Founding Board Member of the Healing and Reconciliation Institute, which weaves together opportunities to take responsibility for historical and ongoing traumas to invoke a shared humanity. On the occasion of Thanksgiving, Esalen’s Christine Chen spoke to West, a trusted educator and facilitator who often speaks on behalf of the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County, to offer perspectives on the story of Thanksgiving, as well as sharing guidance about learning and allyship with coastal tribal communities in and around Esalen Institute.

Esalen Institute is in a long-term, ongoing educational process in partnership with the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County and its representatives. This interview was conceived and explored with the permission, support, and guidance of Tribal Chairman, Tom “Little Bear” Nason.

Released November 26, 2020. Length: 25:28.

Voices of Esalen · Maija West: The True Meaning of Thanksgiving

Fred Dust: Making Conversation

Fred Dust is a former Global Managing Partner at the acclaimed international design firm IDEO, where he worked with leaders and change agents to unlock the creative potential of business, government, education, and philanthropic organizations. Fred has worked with the US Agency for International Development, the US Office of Personnel Management, and the US Social Security Administration to create citizen-centered strategies and the structures to implement them. He’s also collaborated closely with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Knight Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and Bloomberg Philanthropies to improve the impact and reach of their programs. Fred is on the Board of Trustees for the Sundance Institute, on the Board of Directors for NPR, and is Chair of the board of Parsons School of Design. His new book is Making Conversation, a primer for creating effective strategies that yield creative and pleasurable conversations.

Released November 20, 2020. Length: 41:16.

Voices of Esalen · Fred Dust: Making Conversation

Terence McKenna's 1992 Talk at Esalen: Politics and Ethos

This two-part Archive Edition of Voices of Esalen features a talk by the inimitable Terence McKenna, delivered at Esalen in August 1992. For those not familiar with his work, McKenna was the ultimate psychedelic intellectual: an acclaimed ethnobotanist, mystic, and hyper-articulate lecturer, he spoke and wrote fluently about a variety of subjects, including entheogens, shamanism, metaphysics, alchemy, semiotics, technology, futurism, environmentalism, and human consciousness, to name only a few. His rambling brand of wisdom is admittedly sometimes challenging to decrypt, yet his admirers find that a McKenna lecture is always worth the time, and that the wisdom of the words, even those which defy rational understanding, can be absorbed almost osmotically.

Some of McKenna's notable books include The Invisible Landscape, True Hallucinations, and The Archaic Revival; his brother Dennis McKenna penned a notable memoir of their life together, entitled The Brotherhood of The Screaming Abyss. McKenna enjoyed a long and extraordinarily close association with Esalen and with Big Sur; before his death on April 3rd, 2000, he had been scholar in residence many times and delivered scores of talks which are housed in the Esalen archives. “Politics and Ethos” covers a lot of ground (typical for McKenna), including psychedelic ontologies, modernity, language, reason, religion, freedom, nostalgia and more. Tune into the nasal-voiced genius. Take the ride.

Part One released November 6, 2020. Length: 41:12.

Voices of Esalen · Terence McKenna's 1992 Talk at Esalen: Politics and Ethos


Part Two released November 13, 2020. Length: 1:00:08.

Voices of Esalen · Terence McKenna 1992 Talk at Esalen, Part Two: Politics and Ethos

Abraham Maslow's 1966 Lecture at Esalen: Motivations of Self-Actualized People

This archival talk was delivered at the Esalen institute in September of 1966 by famed American psychologist Abraham Maslow, best known for creating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a theory of psychological health predicated around the idea that the most basic or pressing needs, like food, safety and security, must first be satisfied in order to address needs such as love and belonging, esteem, and finally, self-actualization. Maslow and his school of humanistic psychology was extraordinarily important for Esalen’s development in its early years. Maslow's curiosity about the psychological development of basically normal and healthy individuals in part formed the foundational approach of Michael Murphy and Dick Price’s programming for Esalen. In this speech, Maslow expounds upon what he calls B values, short for Being-values, among them goodness, beauty, uniqueness, Justice, simplicity, and richness. He also explores motivations, metapathologies, and truth.

Released October 30, 2020. Length: 55:44.

Voices of Esalen · Abraham Maslow's 1966 Lecture at Esalen: Motivations of Self-Actualized People

James Fadiman: a Psychedelic History Lesson

James Fadiman is known as the author of The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide and as one of America's most well-known proponents of microdosing. While a Harvard undergrad, he was the "teacher's pet" of Ram Dass, then known as Richard Alpert; as a graduate student at Stanford University, he became a research assistant at Myron Stolaroff's famed International Foundation for Advanced Study, an early non-profit situated in Menlo Park that guided the uninitatited into the psychedelic experience and studied the outcomes. Fadiman was also one of the first teachers at the Esalen Institute, beginning in the fall of 1962 with the workshop "The Expanding Vision," co-taught with Willis Harman. He has continued a lifelong association with Esalen and with psychedelics, and has appeared in countless films as an authority on such matters, including 2013’s "Science and Sacraments" and 2009’s "Inside LSD." Other books authored by Fadiman include Be Love Now, Essential Sufism, and The Other Side of Haight. Together we explored microdosing, the mystical experience, the Human Potential Movement, his friendship with the Merry Pranksters, and more.

Released October 23, 2020. Length: 43:00.

Voices of Esalen · James Fadiman: a Psychedelic History Lesson

Tiffany Yu: Diversability

Tiffany Yu is an entrepreneur, disability advocate, and CEO and founder of Diversability, an organization that aims to rebrand disability through community. She is also the founder of the Awesome Foundation Disability Chapter, which sources monthly micro-grants for disability projects. Tiffany serves on the San Francisco Mayor’s Disability Council, appointed by San Francisco Mayor London Breed in 2019 and was named one of the 100 most influential Asian Americans in 2017. She has been featured in Marie Claire, Forbes, The Guardian, and the Wall Street Journal, and has spoken at the world economic forum in Davos, at TedX, and Harvard. In this interview, she spoke about disability and identity, inclusion and empowerment, visibility and disability, semantics and their function within the context of social justice, PFJ (Play Fun Joy), dating, and how disability has begun to function within the wellness space.

Released October 16, 2020. Length: 1:01:32.

Voices of Esalen · Tiffany Yu: Diversability

Raafi Rivero: Unarmed

Raafi Rivero is a Brooklyn-based filmmaker and artist and is the creator of Unarmed, a series of printed basketball jerseys designed to commemorate victims of racist police violence. Rivero installs large-scale versions of the jerseys in urban areas, so as to honor those who have been slain, and to create awareness around ongoing violence perpetrated against people of color in America.

In this two-part interview, the first recorded two weeks after the killing of George Floyd, the second several months later, the day that a verdict came back regarding the police officers charged in the Breonna Taylor case, we spoke about the complexity of racial identities, Raafi's artistic pain and process, and friendships that cross racial boundaries.

Learn more about Unarmed at

Watch Raafi's short film about Unarmed.

Released October 9, 2020. Length: 1:02:56.

Voices of Esalen · Raafi Rivero: Unarmed

Karena Montag and Claire Whitmer: Racial Justice and Collective Liberation

Karena Montag and Claire Whitmer are the co-founders of Stronghold, an organization that stewards sustainable shifts in systems and cultures towards equity and liberation through strategic consulting and restorative practices.

Karena Montag has worked at the intersection of mental health and social justice for nearly twenty years in multi-stressed communities, with an emphasis in the past ten on the impact of harm, accountability, and restorative practices in carceral settings. Karena, a Black woman, is a founding member of and serves on the Leadership Team for the Transformative Prison workgroup (TPW), a statewide coalition of individuals and organizations that believes in the transformative and healing power of in-prison programs to break isolation, share ideas, and build political power.

Claire Whitmer is a racial justice trainer and facilitator, and as a white, cis woman, Claire has been (un)learning and working in the field of racial justice for over a decade. Claire lives her commitment to collective liberation by supporting white-led organizations and communities to explore their privilege, power & unexamined racism. Her facilitation emphasizes the personal and collective work of cultivating antiracist consciousness and leveraging unearned white privilege in service of greater dignity and safety for people of color.

Visit them on the web at

Released October 2, 2020. Length: 1:05:04.

Voices of Esalen · Karena Montag and Claire Whitmer: Racial Justice and Collective Liberation

Charles Eisenstein: The Coronation

Charles Eisenstein is an American intellectual and author of the books Sacred Economics and The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible, as well as recently the essay "The Coronation," which deals with America’s societal and governmental response to the coronavirus. Much of Charles Eisenstein’s work deals with his thesis that global culture is immersed in a destructive story of separation - and part of his mission is to present an alternative path of interbeing. We spoke in late June of 2020 about his essay, The Coronation, which is available at his website,

Released September 25, 2020. Length: 37:04.

Voices of Esalen · Charles Eisenstein: The Coronation

Jasmine Star Horan on Experimental Early Childhood Education at Esalen

Jasmine Star Horan is the author of The Gazebo Learning Project: A Legacy of Experiential & Experimental Early Childhood Education at Esalen. The Gazebo School is a somewhat legendary institution, encapsulated with the Esalen institute, founded in the mid-1970's by Janet Lederman, one of the early outdoor preschools. Jasmine Horan was born at Esalen - she is the daughter of foundational massage teacher Peggy Horan and sister of Lucia Horan, noted 5 Rhythms teacher. Jasmine attended the Gazebo preschool as a child, where she grew up in an environment where the opportunity for free play and free choice was constant. Child-centered learning was encouraged through an exploratory and inquiry-based environment. The Gazebo Park, located on the north side of the Esalen Institute, is an outdoor classroom with very few toys or play structures with prescribed uses, though the park overflows with abundant gardens, animals, plants, trees, a pony shed, a greenhouse, Pottyville, snacks, cubbies, first-aid material and more. During our conversation, Jasmine describes her journey in documenting the cultural legacy of a unique school that has touched so many lives.

Go to Silver Peak to buy your copy of The Gazebo Learning Project: A Legacy of Experiential & Experimental Early Childhood Education at Esalen, and learn the history and pedagogy of this unique school.

Released September 18, 2020. Length: 51:44.

Voices of Esalen · Jasmine Star Horan on Experimental Early Childhood Education at Esalen

Justin Michael Williams: Stay Woke

Justin Michael Williams is an author, activist, meditation teacher and musician. His book Stay Woke established him as a pioneering millennial voice for diversity and inclusion in wellness. His work has been featured by The Wall Street Journal,, Yoga Journal, Billboard, Wanderlust, and South by Southwest. Justin was the artist in residence at Esalen during the month of July. He shared his thoughts with us on racism, healing, virtue signaling, men's eating disorders, Eckhart Tolle, the decolonization of wellness practices, and more.

Released September 11, 2020. Length: 50:58.

Voices of Esalen · Justin Michael Williams: Stay Woke

Kat Vellos: We Should Get Together

Kat Vellos is an author, speaker, a user experience designer, coach, facilitator, and founder of Bay Area Black Designers, Silicon Valley’s largest unofficial employee resource for Black design talent. Her new book, "We Should Get Together," is a meditation on adult friendships and how to meaningfully cultivate them. Kat spoke about her work, her writing, and about racism in contemporary society. She recommended a host of actionable steps that would-be allies can take to be part of the solution. Find her on the web at and read her powerful essay, "How to Help your Black and non-Black Friends Right Now".

Released August 20, 2020. Length: 39:52.

Voices of Esalen · Kat Vellos: We Should Get Together

Dr. Biko Gray on Race, Subjectivity, and the Politics of Identity

Dr. Biko Gray is an Assistant Professor of Religion at Syracuse University whose work and research focuses primarily on the connection between race, subjectivity, religion, and embodiment. Dr. Gray is currently working on a book that explores how contemporary racial justice movements, like Black Lives Matter, demonstrate new ways of theorizing the connection between embodiment, religion, and subjectivity. Together we discussed white guilt, anti-Black violence, how corporations co-opt diversity and anti-racism, what an equitable Esalen may look like, how scholarships function, tokenism, Hegel, subjectivity, and much more. He's amazing, and this episode is a must-listen.

Released August 14, 2020. Length: 59:58.

Voices of Esalen · Dr. Biko Gray on Race, Subjectivity, and the Politics of Identity

Nkechi Deanna Njaka, MSc. : Race in the Wellness Space and the Dating White Podcast

Nkechi Deanna Njaka - @ndnlifestylist - is a neuroscientist, meditation teacher, modern dancer, multi-disciplinary artist, and the co-host of the podcast "Dating White," where she and her co-host, sex and dating coach @myishabattle, speak about being women of color and their nuanced experiences in interracial dating.

Nkechi is 2017 YBCA Truth Fellow, and an upcoming 2020 Kennedy Center Artist in Residence whose practice is a vehicle for radical presence and progressive wellness. She speaks about her experience of race growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood in Minnesota, what it's like to be a woman of color in the space of wellness, and how her podcast is a lens to speak about larger issues of race and racism in today's America. Visit her at her website

Released August 7, 2020. Length: 45:36.

Voices of Esalen · Nkechi Deanna Njaka, MSc. : Race in the Wellness Space and the Dating White Podcast

Eldra Jackson III on Prison, Toxic Masculinity, and Healing Trauma

Eldra Jackson III is the co-Executive Director of Inside Circle, a support group that helps incarcerated men heal trauma and take responsibility for their choices. Eldra was featured in The Work, a 2017 documentary film taking place within New Folsom Prison in California, which follows a group healing intensive between members of the public and incarcerated men. It's a remarkable project, one of the best non-fiction films of the last five years, and winner of the SXSW Grand Jury Prize in 2018.

Eldra spent 24 years as an inmate at New Folsom Prison, where he found Inside Circle and began a personal journey of self-awareness and transformation that not only led to being granted freedom from a life sentence, but also to a current leadership role within the organization. He is a living example of successful rehabilitation and re-entry, and his current life’s work – as a facilitator, trainer and mentor – includes actively supporting others, both within and outside of prison, in overcoming their limiting beliefs.

Released July 31, 2020. Length: 40:08.

Voices of Esalen · Eldra Jackson III on Prison, Toxic Masculinity, and Healing Trauma

Dr. Stephen Finley on Religious Fervor, Racial Injustice, and the Paranormal

Dr. Stephen Finley, associate professor at Louisiana State University, where he teaches a host of courses that center around African American religious thought and culture, including Black Religion and Film, Race in the Age of Obama, and Black Intellectual Thought. He is the co-editor of “There is a Mystery: Esotericism, Gnosticism, and Mysticism in African American Religious Experience” and the author of “In and Out of this World: Material and Extraterrestrial Bodies in the Nation of Islam,” and together we discussed the pitfalls of diversity, including the very real risks of tokenization, UFOs and their relation to African American culture, and the history of racial terror.

Released July 23, 2020. Length: 49:44.

Voices of Esalen · Dr. Stephen Finley on Religious Fervor, Racial Injustice, and the Paranormal

Dr. Kamilah Majied on Privilege, Human Potential, and Contemplative Practices

Dr. Kamilah Majied is a mental health therapist, professor, and internationally engaged consultant on social justice and inclusive contemplative pedagogy. The practice of Buddhism spurred a curiosity for Dr. Majied about the causes of unhappiness, particularly unhappiness as created by social oppression. A professor of social work, she is skilled in using Buddhist and contemplative practices to help people heal from racism, sexism, homophobia, and other types of oppression to reclaim joy in their lives. Together we spoke about privilege and some of the limitations it imposes, the various blind spots built into the human potential movement, some of the impediments to apprehending privilege, and how not to get stuck in guilt and shame while grappling with the challenge of confronting racism.

No part of this broadcast can be duplicated or distributed without the written permission of Dr. Kamilah Majied. If you wish to make a gratitude offering for Dr. Majied's talk, please do so via her paypal or venmo accounts which can be accessed via her email address,, at which she is also available for any follow up questions or comments.

Released July 17, 2020. Length: 30:52.

Voices of Esalen · Dr. Kamilah Majied on Privilege, Human Potential, and Contemplative Practices

Dr. Mellody Hayes: On Love, Racism, and Psychedelic Medicine

Dr. Mellody Hayes is a physician, writer, speaker, spiritual teacher and the Executive Director of Ceremony Health, a faith-based psychedelic healing center. Dr. Hayes was treated medically with psychedelic medicine for physician burnout, which made her aware of the power of psychedelics. She is graduate of Harvard University and UCSF Medical School and Anesthesiology Residency, a John Kenneth Galbraith Scholar, and a Voices of Our Nation Alumni. Together we discussed her path, her dreams for the future, diversity within the psychedelic community, whether psychedelics can cure racism, and the enduring power of community and love.

If you are able, please make a donation to support Dr. Hayes’ good work at Ceremony Health. You can go to to find the donation link, and help more people have access to psychedelic medicine in a sustainable way.

Released July 10, 2020. Length: 42:08.

Voices of Esalen · Dr. Mellody Hayes: On Love, Racism, and Psychedelic Medicine


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