Tourist Tuesday, 12/5/17: Silicon Valley coming to the South Coast of Big Sur


A nude group therapy session in 1968 at Esalen, which was once a storied hippie hotel where nudity was the norm.

From the Nwew York Times:

”And so Silicon Valley has come to the Esalen Institute, a storied hippie hotel here on the Pacific coast south of Carmel, Calif. After storm damage in the spring and a skeleton crew in the summer, the institute was fully reopened in October with a new director and a new mission: It will be a home for technologists to reckon with what they have built.”



With the focus on the emotional life of executives, Esalen plans to close Gazebo, its preschool of 40 years.

“It was the soul of the institution of Esalen — all those little babies and what they’re going to be,” said Zoe Garcia, a guest and nearby resident, who has been going to Esalen for 30 years.

The closing is partly a sign of the region’s changing demographics. As more of Big Sur’s homes are bought by tech executives as second homes, there are not as many young children, so the class of 30 had dwindled to 15 before the floods shut it down.

“It’s incredibly sad,” said Cortlan Robertson, whose daughter attended Gazebo and who said the Big Sur community had offered to pay for the preschool to continue. “Ben is always saying it’s just child care. But it was so much more.”

Closing Gazebo was also a sign of a shifting culture and new rules.

For the rest of the article, see

I will refrain from making editorial comments, other than to say this is a travesty. It isn’t just STRs that are changing our community, but 2nd homes, and institutional changes like this. I have heard about Ventana, but haven’t seen the changes, yet. Please feel free to share and comment.


13 thoughts on “Tourist Tuesday, 12/5/17: Silicon Valley coming to the South Coast of Big Sur

  1. One night about 1973, Robert “Red Truck” Willet and I arrived at the Esalen gate house, where some officious kid from New York was giving us flack over going to the baths. Robert’s long arm reached across me, through the truck window, grabbed the kid by the shirt, stared him down, saying “We’re going in”. And we did.

    I was watching the huge moon set this morning over the neighborhood roofs and thinking of you, Kate, whose dawn would see that Moon gliding into the sea. This is a time when so much of value seems to be falling away and it’s hard to know where or even how to take a stand. Some things, the sea, the mountain’s refusal to stop sliding, the smell of chaparral and bay, remain.

  2. Closing Gazebo is really sad. Esalen management doesn’t realize how many Big Sur families built community and linked closer to Esalen over the years. Interesting how they still have Gazebo photos on their Website of smiling kids and teachers.

  3. Hm-m-m-m…. I was priced out of Esalen years ago, but with this bit of news I wouldn’t return even if I could afford it now. Down it goes….

  4. I spent a month at Esalen in 2000 and even then it seemed to be running on fumes. People were all so busy with their jobs they didn’t have time to play guitar (i play, i asked). Still a nice place but heard a little about the politics and it wasn’t great.

    Just like people human places have a lifespan and constantly change. Silicon Valley wealth is corrupting everything within a 200 mile radius. With tele commuting tech elites can even live anywhere. I met some in Arcata.

    I was fortunate to spend a year of my life in Big Sur in early 2000s before it was totally overrun even in the formerly off season. My sympathy to the long timers who love it so much and have been invaded by conquering techorazzi.

  5. I guess we are feeling the same emotions the coast’s native people felt when the Europeans moved in.

  6. I don’t believe Gazebo had 30 kids even in the booming ’80’s and ’90’s. In fact, there are certainly more Gazebo aged kids in Big Sur today than just five years ago. Gazebo’s closing is a huge loss to the community.

  7. In the 36 years I’ve lived in Cambria, I feel your pain as I’ve watched sidewalks and streetlights go in. All the free spirits are in hiding…. this is progress????

  8. I have so much to say.

    Firstly, I want to Thank All the Big Sur Businesses and Locals who worked Diligently to keep their staff Employed and Locals Fed and Entertained.

    Working Together, with our Greater Community, to turn the
    “Disasters of 2017” into “Community Unity”.


    Nepenthe, Treebones Resort, The Tap House and General Store, Blaze Engineering, CPOA and the many locals who went Above and Beyond.

    The Esalen Institute: Reservations Only

    “On Ancient Ground, Opening New Horizons Pioneering Deep Change in Self & Society” (Front Page on the Esalen web page).

    If you want to go deeper into the “wordy” philosophy of Esalen, check out the Mission and Values Page.

    If you live in Big Sur, or have frequented Esalen from years gone by, you may find many inconsistencies with what is written about Esalen to what is Practiced.

    Many organizations and many people tout their philosophies, yet fail to practice what they teach/preach/tout.
    In my experience, sadly, Esalen is in the category of failing to embrace and practice what they teach/preach or tout.
    Here is a paragraph from Esalen’s Mission & Values Page:

    “Esalen exists to serve the world — not as a refuge from it. We believe in the deeply transformative power of this place, recognizing that retreat and refuge must always be, ultimately, in the service of something larger than yourself. So we are organized to give you the tools to unleash latent capacities and re-energize your sense of purpose — for yourself and the world.”

    Let’s examine how Esalen handled the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge Closure and multiple mudslides that resulted in Big Sur, CA becoming an “island” for nearly 9 months.

    Step 1: Close the Institute and reduce staff onsite to 30-40ppl.

    Step 2: Temporary Lay off 90% staff and 100% students

    Step 3: Promote a “Help us in Crisis” Fundraising Campaign

    *Fundraising 101:::
    Crisis Fundraising Campaigns are not sustainable. Instead, get folks excited to be part of the New Adventures you are offering and tap into the Heart with what your organization is Doing! For example, beef up the Farm & Garden and provide local, organic Food for locals stuck on the Big Sur “Island” and, Market (campaign) your Success in helping those in need!!! Working in and With Community!!!

    Step 4: Hire “Consultants” 3-5 of them from Big Big Cities to ‘fix’ the financial “disaster”; while alienating the Esalen “Community”

    Step 5: Permanently Lay Off 80% of staff. Many of these folks have dedicated their lives to Esalen.

    *** What was the Board thinking? Did the New Director from the Big City of San Diego and Silicon Valley think/feel those staff members, who have taken a plethora of Esalen Workshops, have not creative ideas?

    **** I must add, one staff member (who is in her 80’s) lives a few miles from Esalen and for 8 months had to travel 3 hours (one way) to get fresh greens (she was on a ‘green’ diet). She worked for Esalen 20+years. She was not ‘allowed’ to come to property for ‘greens’.

    Step 1-6: Fundraising: Tout how we are “On Ancient Ground, Opening New Horizons, Pioneering Deep Change in Self & Society”

    Step 1-6: New Director, through Social Media, reacts to every disappointing and shocking decision with “Yet another “difficult” decision.
    (coming from a place of “helplessness” versus “possibility”).

    The above is very condensed time line. From my lenses.

    I am extremely Disappointed in Esalen. I am sad and angry too.

    Before I moved to Big Sur, I immersed myself in an independent research project on the “renown” Esalen Institute. I read The Future of the Body (Murphy), Esalen and the Religion of No Religion (Kripal), The Upstart Spring (Anderson), and a plethora of other works by well-known teachers; Anna Halprin and Steve Harper just to name a few.

    I was Excited beyond what I can type here. I even joined the online Esalen group called iThou (here is the site: and posted a blog every week. For 8 months, while living in Cleveland, Ohio I shed, shed, and shed my ‘old’ self to prepare for my Big move to California, Big Sur, to study, learn and Be In Community at The Esalen Institute.

    Yeah, I know it may be a common story round these parts, and my story my seem a bit of a ‘bore’ compared to the renegade beatniks who arrived in the late 40’s-60’s. Though for me, at 36 years of age, downsizing my life into a 2006 Jeep Liberty with no “roof top storage”, was a Big deal.
    All bets were on Esalen, or what I “thought” Esalen was. You know, embracing the “unknown yet known” sort of thing? Yes, I was on a “Mission with a Vision”. And, at 36, my life thus far had taught me one great lesson:
    Have a Contingency Plan. And, this time, for the first time. I did.

    I arrived at Esalen, after traveling 3500 miles with everything I now “owned” in my Jeep. Nervous, yet Confident I made the right decision.

    *** Oh, I resigned from a very amazing job at Case Western Reserve University to jump into that “unknown yet known” and fully trek on a pilgrimage.

    After week 1 of my work scholar month, I knew something was terribly wrong.

    This 2012 Esalen, was not the Esalen I read about in The Upstart Spring nor did Esalen have the sort of workshops on subjects that Murphy wrote about in “The Future of the Body”. This ‘new’ Esalen was more mainstream. I felt a strong disconnect. Esalen was not part of “Big Sur”. I came here to “be In Community” …well, at Esalen, “Community” is just that: Esalen.
    Not Big Sur. Not Monterey, hey, not even California. Let Alone: “The World” : HA!

    How can you change the World when you Close Your Doors on Your Very Own Community????

    I ask you, The Esalen Board, Wheeler and Mr. Ben Tauber from the Big Big City. How????

    Before I moved here, my good friend and colleague from the renown (they practice what they Teach!) Weatherhead School of Management (where Emotional Intelligence, Appreciative Inquiry & Manage of Design was founded) said to me, and I Quote:

    “Monica! I know you are so excited about Esalen, though I think they may be a bunch of snobs. Check out this place, Treebones, they even have a human nest! I feel this place is the one for you!”.
    Thank You Mimi! Oh, I may have forgot to mention how I first came to know “Big Sur”.

    22 years ago (I was 19), my best friend and I set out on an Adventure. One that changed our lives for the better forever. We traveled the entire United States, in a Toyota Corolla (hatch back two door) for 9 months. Jerry Garcia had just passed and luckily both of us had experienced at least one Dead Show and several “Hippie Happenings” that ignited our dream to travel the USA. Our Mission was to Experience ‘rural America’ and we did. That is another story for another time.

    During our travels we ended up in the SouthCoast of Big Sur for a bit. Daisy had a romance with a local fellow while I bonded with Willow Creek & Sand Dollar Beach. I remember a particular day on the beach as I looked into the sky and shouted
    “I am going to live here someday!!!!”.

    Here I am.
    What is Social Transformation and Social Entrepreneurship? 2017?

    What we need more than Ever, is for our Local Communities to Unite and Love, Learn and get Relational with Food Production, Support Local Business and Ignite Our Local Politicians to “Feel the Bern” and Be For the People.

    We are living in the Age of Trump. Sadly, Esalen has drifted to the “other side” ===Money.

    We need Movers, Shakers and ChangeMakers not Elite White Folk Touting Their Wordy Philosophies whilst Shutting their Gates when Shit Gets Real.

    Thank You Big Sur Kate for creating space for this post. Thank You. Love Laughs and Gratitude to all of us Big Surreans, new and longtime residents.

  9. My heart aches with this news……Esalen please embrace and support those in this community to save your soul

  10. Im literally laughing at the idiotic notion that white people could be feeling similar emotions to the natives because rich white people are spending money at s resort in a white rich town… pathetic. Read up on history please.

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