My Favorite Retreat
I go to the place I love the most - Esalen Institute on the Big Sur coast - at least once a year to attend a writing workshop. Usually I sign up for poetry with Ellen Bass, Dorianne Laux, and Joseph Millar who team teach for five days while my fellow workshop attendees whom I've worked with for years and I write furiously to complete our daily assignments. My retreat starts as soon as I leave my home in Manhattan Beach California, and by the time I drive past Santa Barbara I begin to relax. I sink deep into my seat, take some long deep breaths, and watch the beauty of the world go by. The hills look as if they are painted with sweeping brush strokes of mustard yellow, the rows of newly planted grape vines stand tall and proud, and the clear sky except for a few Georgia O'Keefe clouds beckon me up the Coast.
Esalen, created in the 1960s, is where people gather to expand their minds, relax their souls and work on their bodies; they eat fresh, healthy food, and soak in the hot springs baths while watching the waves of the Pacific. It is my place. I usually go there alone, leaving my husband at home.
I find nothing about Esalen to complain about. Sure, the digs are a little primitive; sure, there is no room service; sure, the only way to communicate with the outside world is on a pay phone if you're lucky to get a free line, and sure, meals are served buffet style - and before shoving our dirty dishes into the kitchen area we have to scrape any leftovers into the compost pot.
But I'm never at a loss to find things about Esalen to rave about: its famous massages administered out on the deck, the breathing sounds of the ocean as it laps against the rocks below, the pungent tang of fresh herbs, pine, and sulfur, the fertile ground that produces grapefruit-size roses growing along side rows of emerald green vegetables, and the clothing optional natural hot sulfer baths that soothe the body and heal the soul. It's like no where else I've ever been. It's where I can go to be completely relaxed and at peace.
Causes Madeline Sharples Supports
Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center, Culver City, CA
Vistamar School, El Segundo, CA
Crossroads School, Santa Monica, CA (Endowment in...