20 Years to Here

Sitting on the balcony overlooking the pacific ocean, I’m in the midst of my favorite combination of temperatures—warm sun with a crisp kiss from a breeze that has the leaves and ocean rustling and toiling, respectively. My friends and their children with me and my family—my extended and chosen family, both—I am enveloped by the bliss of a dream having come true: teaching at esalen in big sur.

I’ve been coming here to esalen for the last twenty years—for solace and respite and recharge. It has been the ground upon which I’ve done so much learning, researching, diving deeply within, taking responsibility, and then cracking open and shutting down, falling down, both. Back and forth. Down low and up again, like a delicate, feisty, vulnerable, and audacious human ping pong ball.

All the while, I’ve wondered if this inner work—this fierce responsibility-taking, this inquiry, this brazen and relentless showing up—would have any farther-reaching effects beyond my reaching the people in my inner sanctum: best friends, family, extended family, or even beyond my beautiful established career and the incredible people who come to my shows around the planet. How is it possible, with my life circumstances, to reach beyond what I am most known for and what has offered such solid ground? Through the chronicling of my unfolding—the highs, the ebbs, the moderations, the spikes and valleys of life—so much of it has been captured in 4-minute (or so) songs. The whole crescendo—my head, heart, body, soul crashes and risings—all weaved into chord choices and chord changes; into cords cut and cords nurtured. Playing with linguistics and malapropisms and words that “don’t exist.” Using words like paint and my body as the instrument through which songs and prose have coursed through, again and again.

And yet here it is, again, predictable—the nudge. The yank in my heart. To take my skis ever-further forward, again, in the virgin snow. Really? ….more? Another form of self-expression calling? Another tentacle to a vocation to serve and distill and clarify for the sake of calming and regulating my/our revved up nervous systems? A vocation to help, in my own unique way, in alleviating suffering, even in the tiniest of degrees, even for one person. But this time, perhaps, more often in person? With eye contact? With no bright lights onstage separating us? With no guitar to hide behind. With no pretty wall of sound to curl up under. Might it be possible to live out what I wrote in my journal as a six-year-old when I answered the question of “what I wanted to be when I grew up” by saying that I wanted to be in involved in medicine, music, dance, comedy, acting, writing, student-ing and teaching?

This call to my next incarnation is both fueled by and born from the burning desire to CONNECT. Or to at least feel the connection that, according to some of the most titillating and resonant teachers I have been exposed to, was extolled as my most inalienable human right (or at least human potential).


Connecting while distinct. individual. From merging and feeling God together, and then feeling god in the silence and solitude and then back and forth and back and forth. “Happy to see you come, happy to see you go,” while knowing and living the truth of how linked we are at the core of who we are—beyond race, culture, religion, tradition, and history.

Connected. Something I’d been made fun of for wanting.

But I don’t feel shame about this desire to connect anymore. Science and the therapeutic community have made clear that we are born to connect. On a neurobiological and biochemical level.

Connecting the two sides of the brain. Connecting with the many parts within me that often fight for the driver’s seat of my life (and fight amongst each other!). Connecting to or accessing this SELF that scripture and religions and non-dualism teachings have taught me to know as “the truth of who I am.” So often this felt and sounded exciting, but I had NO IDEA how to access this Self. I touched on it in meditation as I “watched my thoughts.” But the thoughts, the feelings, and the sensations in my body were careening at me and through me at such a fast clip that there was no way I could keep up with “watching them” without merging with them at times.

But luckily the calling continued…

This burning, yearning desire to connect my mind with my heart and soul and body.

To come back INTO my body.

To heal, for reals, in relationship—not just grow-like-a-weed.

To express from the deepest mission held in my heart’s golden pocket.

To connect with Spirit. Life. Earth. Others. Myself.

To have a way to ACCESS or FIND it now, I’m excited to share my newfound GLEE (I can think of no better word) at being able to conjure this wise, expressed, clear, grounded, connected, eternal, permanent part of me … the official drop that was seemingly (achingly) separated from the ocean.

None of this made sense. Until it DID.

And even as it did, I saw that my humanity—my life challenges and griefs and goals (and hormones, ha)—continued to present themselves, oblivious to “my awakening.”

So grateful for all the solid supports—in the form of teachings, writings, and invitations from authors and professors and teachers and wisdom-keepers. With gratitude and bowing, I see all that I have learned has been blending together in my psyche and mind and body and my soul. That I have been adding and expanding and generating my own “take” on it all—channeled and intuitive and learned and personalized. All through this filter I call “me.”

To have found all these “ways to come home,” and to practice my favorite ways of doing it, in real time, and to share these findings with everyone who came to esalen has been one of the greatest moments of my life. And all of it made even sweeter due to sharing the ride with justin hilton, ann randolph, and andrea juhan—the masterful teachers who taught alongside me in service of the accessing and expressing of self.

I know people learn at a different pace, in their own way: some theoretically learning; some somatically learning; some learning through direct experience. Gently, pointed, direct, succinct, or flow-esque. Through writing, exercises, improv, dance, silence. And in this case, the four of us offering different entry-points, different portals to this experience of SELF.

My dream. It happened.

We covered so much ground in such a short time, with safety, humor, density, lightness, no pressure … freedom. There was feeling seen, pulled, lulled, assuaged, inspired, comforted, validated, spent. Full.

I have yet to fully integrate the beauty that was this five-day experience at esalen. It is like a time-release capsule: I feel its cascade while standing in the shower, pulling into my driveway, right before sleep. So many moments to take IN all that happened and all that moved through us.

And I know that none of this would have been possible without the support from those nearest and dearest to me, for without them, I couldn’t do this. I can’t do this alone.

Suffice it to say (for now) that all my life’s inner and outer work—and growth, and hunger for wholeness, and come-to-jesus moments, and on-the-ground begging-for-mercy revelatory moments—is now formally being shared through teaching, through speaking publicly, through this website, through the book I’m now finishing, through art (all the forms I have loved since I was a tiny girl), and always always through music.

Thank you to everyone who was there at esalen. Thank you to my fellow leaders, teachers, and students alike—both at the front, middle, and back of the room. Bless each and every person who was there, and those who were there in spirit. You have made this all-roads-led-me-here dream come true.

This shift has my life make more sense than I thought it ever could. And is allowing me to blend everything I love into one. fiery. Mission. I Love you.




What is calling you, or tapping on your shoulder right now—calling you forward,

calling you higher, calling you to dive deeply inward, calling you to share more of

yourself, calling you to speak the truth about what lights up your soul?

Read Alanis’ post Hurtling towards Wholeness on Esalen.org.

Alanis at Esalen