One More Thing Off the Bucket List
Does one have to die when they’ve checked off all of the dreams on their bucket list?
We’d better be careful.
We’ve been marking off a lot of very cool things lately.
A Dream Come True
Arriving at the gates of Esalen was the realization of a big, big dream I’ve had for a long, long time. I have been a retreat junkie for decades and Esalen, in Big Sur, California, is the granddaddy of them all. This is where it all started over 50 years ago. (See video)
Esalen is considered to be the birthplace of the human potential movement. Debra Ollivier from the Huffington Post writes a great piece on the history of this place:
The list of lecturers who participated at Esalen in its early days reads like a Who’s Who of avant-garde thinkers, artists, psychologists, and philosophers. It includes Erik Erikson, Ken Kesey, Alan Watts, Buckminster Fuller, Aldous Huxley, Fritz Perls, Joseph Campbell, Robert Bly and Carl Rogers. They were joined by musicians George Harrison, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Crosby Stills Nash & Young and other kindred souls.
I have had romantic notions about Esalen for thirty years. Being both a psychotherapist and an ex-hippie, this was the place for me. I had to go. Maybe it’s on your bucket list too?
I also wanted to experience Gestalt therapy firsthand. And this was the place to do it. Esalen was founded on the practices of Gestalt therapy and the work of Fritz Perls. You’ve probably heard tales of encounter groups and such, yet still it is a phenomenal approach to breaking down barriers and creating space for new growth in our lives. But sometimes, it is a little wild.
Sex with Stella
Sound provocative? Anytime you talk about sex, it sounds provocative.
While at Esalen, we spent six days in a workshop called The Embodiment of Love and Pleasure with Dr. Stella Resnick from Beverly Hills. Stella is a renowned sex therapist with two books on desire and pleasure, but her work is about so much more than that?
Doesn’t she remind you of Barbra Streisand in Meet the Fockers?
This workshop was about how we demonstrate love in all aspects of our relationships and in our lives. Sex is but one (an important one, but only one) aspect of love. Yes, we did spend one afternoon talking about sex. We learned a lot. We even had a sexy dance party. But it’s simple, if you really want to have a better sex life, have a better relationship.
~ Stella Resnick
In the Hot Seat with Stella
I asked Stella to demonstrate the Gestalt therapy open seat process. Sure enough, she decided to teach me by putting me in the open seat. (Originally this was called the hot seat but was changed to open seat to not be so intimidating. Let me tell you, it’s still the hot seat.)
Stella actually studied with Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestalt therapy. In the open seat ~ with the therapist ~ in the center of the room ~ while the entire class watches ~ you work on obstacles in your life. However, the power of Gestalt is that you don’t just talk about old experiences, you act them out as if in real time. For example, if I have an issue with my dead mother ~ I talk to my dead mother. I say what needs to be said. All for the purpose of clearing out emotional energy that affects current relationships. This can be a very intense process, yet it is also a very effective process. It was for me. And I think it was for the others too.
From Michael’s Point of View
What I learned from our workshop at Esalen:
- Breathe, kiss, laugh. Share simple exchanges of affection. A kiss, a hug, a caress as you pass each other. Let your partner know that you love them.
- You can’t change a habit, but you can interrupt it by taking a deep breath. Then you can choose a loving response, not repeat the same old knee-jerk responses.
- Recognize we are all changing and each needs room for their individual transitions. Kathy and I have learned the need for space on this trip.
- Be present. So for me, I need to stop shouting questions to my partner from the other room. Go find her, look her in the eyes and then ask my question.
- Ask for what you want in a simple sentence and be willing to hear “No”.
- Be playful and laugh at myself more.
- And one more time, take a deep breath. It really is powerful.
There were six couples in this group and I learned a lot from each one. I was overwhelmed by everyone’s willingness to share and be so open.
Maybe it was because I’m still processing the fact that I just turned 70, but one couple, Sonny and Lynette, had a special place in my heart. Sonny celebrated his 78th birthday while we were together. He still runs three major companies and works 80 hours a week! Oh, and he and Lynette go out dancing at least once a week.
My first reaction was “Sonny, slow down. Smell the roses. You’ve got all the money you need and a wife that adores you.” But as the week went along it became obvious that Sonny was healthy and happy. He cared for his employees like family and deeply loved his wife. Sonny was truly following his bliss.
Another example of how we are all unique human beings and that this thing called life is not a “one size fits all”. Our job is to find our unique purpose in life and then enjoy the hell out of it.
The Inner Journey
You start a new list.
Maybe it’s time for some new dreams.
Maybe now it’s time to starting looking for a place to stay for awhile.
Before we arrived at Esalen, we spent three days in Petaluma attending our new on-going class with Atum O’Kane. As a leader in the Sufi Order and a transpersonal psychotherapist who focuses on the depth psychology of Jung, and the Christian and Jewish mystics, Atum conducts spiritual guidance classes world-wide.
We are thrilled to be working with him.
There are 21 of us in this group who will meet for eight retreats over a year and half. We will be studying the eight archetypes central to all religions. This was our first weekend and the first archetype we studied was:
The Keeper of the Sacred Spaces
Part of this work is about acknowledging the importance of sacred moments in your life. Moments when we feel we have touched the divine ~ the holy ~ the sacred. The moment your child is born into this world. The moment when someone you loved dies. For me, waking up by the light of the moon, on the beach of the Colorado River, at the bottom of the Grand Canyon ~ that was a sacred moment worthy of remembering. Then the question becomes how do we invoke, foster, and sustain sacred moments with self, one another, and the world more often?
What are some of the sacred moments in your life that are worth remembering?
After leaving Big Sur, we headed south to Santa Barbara ~ the only way you can ~ on that twisty, scary Hwy 1. I had thought Santa Barbara would be the place I’d want to stay for awhile. It is a stunning beach city ~ the bright sun and the architecture will seduce you into mediterranean dreams. This would be a beautiful place to live.
I love the trolleys that run up and down State Street. And, of course, the seafood. We needed a beach fix so we stayed in a beautiful beach house near Stern’s Wharf. The weather cooperated fully.
But I didn’t want to stay? Michael was very confused.
On the trip down to Santa Barbara, we had breezed right through one of the coolest little towns around ~ San Luis Obispo, or SLO, as the locals say. (San Luis Obispo is known as the “happiest place in the USA”. Seriously.) Even though we spent just one night there in the Best Western, I was overcome with a very strong feeling. I didn’t want to stay in Santa Barbara. I wanted to return to SLO. (See the video.)
We’ve learned to listen to our intuition.
As serendipity would have it, we found a lovely house to rent for a month. It was such a perfect match, a beautiful win-win for everyone. The owner is in Hawaii. See, everyone’s happier already.
So we will SLO down and enjoy Central California’s beauty and it’s gifts for a month. We will invoke sacred space here in this beautiful Spanish casa and use this time to dream up more things for our bucket list. Stay tuned to see where we head next.
Join Us on The Journey
We hope that throughout the year you will keep clicking through to see where we are. We are requesting input and feedback from all of you. Tell us where you’d like to go. Make suggestions for us. Ask us to check some places out for you! We are also hoping some of the places we visit and the experiences we share will ignite your life and maybe even set you off on your own spiritual journey. We’d love to hear from all of you. And if you know anyone who may be interested, please share our blog.
Tags: Atum O'Kane, Esalen, Petaluma, Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Stella Resnick
9 Responses to “One More Thing Off the Bucket List”
A month in SLO sounds heavenly. Perhaps the perfect opportunity to stay put and process all that has happened over the last year!
Hello Kathy and Michael. It’s Fiona here at Yogaville. I have really been enjoying your blogs. It’s easy to see how one could feel blissfully fulfilled, and yet somewhat burned out, with an itinerary like yours. At least you got a chance to rest. All the best to you both.
Sounds fabulous! You two keep going…we can live vicariously through you. My hubby and I just returned from a 10-day trip to Vancouver and that area, which you know first hand how beautiful it is. Enjoy everyday…and breathe! Hugs, Deb
I love the yin and the yang of your blog. I think we all carry some feminine and masculine energy inside each of us. Today I was completely drawn to Michael’s bullet points from Esalen. They were speaking directly to me, especially the one about shouting from the other room. How egotistical is that? I can’t even be bothered to go to the person I am talking to; like my time is somehow more important and they should drop everything to attend to me. Ugh, I still have so much work to do on myself but thanks for some guidance along the way.
Kathy and Michael! It’s so WONDERFUL to hear about your journey to Esalen…I have been thinking about you two a lot. I smiled most reading Michael’s Point of View section, and the sexy dance party 🙂 I am sending love from Ratna Ling to you both. Let me know when you land so I can put my little note in the mail to you. Smiles and sunshine xoxo
I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed reading your blogs. I have discussed them with my husband of 43 years, and he just would never do what you’ve done. But hopefully, we’ll be able to do parts of your trip. I especially want to go to Esalen….and like you, Kathy, I have wanted to go there for many years. I may have to do that journey by myself.
But you and Michael have tread the path before us and we’re so grateful that you’ve shared every step. You are brave and fortunate to be able to do this. Thanks, Joyce
Oh my goodness. I am having such a blast reading your posts !
& becoming aware of so much too. Your experiences are so helpful. Thank you for sharing .
I have shouted my question from another room for the LAST time i am happy to say. & As our hearing fades it probably has been drifting out the windows to the neighbors too, lol.
We are so glad you all are enjoying our posts. Wish you could all be here with us. We have had so many comments about Michael’s points, particularly the one about not yelling from another room. Must have hit a collective nerve here.
Also, thanks for all the suggestions of experiences around this area. We are putting them all on the new list!
I love the fact that you are able to stay in SLO for a month. It takes into consideration what Michael has said about learning that you need space. I think that can take on many many meanings. This time around “space” means a little house in California for a month. I’d like that kind of space, too!
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