Señor Tao – Esalen Stories – Getting There, The Long Broken Highway

But the man who comes back through the door in the wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser, but less cocksure, happier but less self satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things of systematic reasoning to the unfamatible mystery which it tries forever vainly to comprehend.

Aldous Huxley Aldous Huxley (July 26, 1894 – November 22, 1963)

E75CECE8-962D-4C1B-B780-FE663CD6AEDA When I heard the voice a second time, I stopped. I turned around only to see empty space. I was not afraid. I realized the voice was female and had a non-threatening tone. It was not a command but an invitation to “Come back here.” I read about the power of place and considering my two experiences in the same day, I knew I wanted to spend more time on the grounds. I did not really care about the classes so much and I could not afford them if I did. I asked about their work-scholar program. I could work in either the kitchen, laundry or grounds for 32 hours per week and attend evening classes 24 hours per week. In exchange I would receive room and board, class instruction, access to instructors and access to grounds. It was the last that inspired me. Access to the grounds.

I mailed my application for a work-scholar position. A new program was starting in a few weeks. Esalen had not entered the computer age yet so everything was done by post and telephone. I was accepted into the Dance and Movement class and assigned to the laundry department. I mailed in the $800 fee. Yes, I know. I was paying to work and live at Esalen. It was the end of October, 1997. I had paid for 30 days and planned to return to San Luis Obispo after the program. I was ready to go.

Highway #1 had a slide closing the southern entrance but I could still get there going south from Carmel on the northern end. Then another slide closed the northern entrance and Esalen was locked in the middle. I was heartbroken. The road crews were determined to come up with a temporary measure so the citizens of Big Sur could get out, fill up with supplies and get back in before a long anticipated road repair. The guests at Esalen had to be flown out by helicopter. Esalen had planned to cancel the last work-scholar program, but decided to see how things went with the Highway Department. I was told to be prepared on short notice in case the highway might open.

Two days before class was scheduled to start I received word from the administrator that I needed to be in Carmel by 2 o’clock Sunday to join the caravan returning to Big Sur and Esalen. The highway would be open going north from 8-12 and going south from 2-6. I had planned to backpack to Esalen if the highway did not open. The call to be a part of that land and experience filled my consciousness and “called” to me.

I took the bus to Carmel, met the Esalen group in a supermarket parking lot. After introductions, we pilled into the cars and vans and started the journey to a place which holds so many memorable moments from my life. As the slow caravan moved south along a makeshift road, I looked out the window to another beautiful sunset and knew I would be there soon to formally accept my special invitation. 

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Arrival: Happy We Made It!

…to be continued.


Señor Tao (April 17, 1948 -)