"Voices of Esalen" features provocative, in-depth interviews with the dynamic leaders, teachers, and thinkers who reflect the mission of the Esalen Institute.
For more about the Esalen Institute, head to esalen.org
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D'Lo: Being a Trans Man in a World of Toxic Masculinity
D’Lo is a queer/transgender Tamil Sri Lankan-American actor/writer/comic whose work ranges from stand-up comedy and solo theater to plays, films, short stories and poetry. His acting credits include: LOOKING, TRANSPARENT, SENSE 8, Mr. ROBOT and Issa Rae-produced MINIMUM WAGE.
His solo show “To T or Not to T” premieres June 25th at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles. Together we talked about transmasculinity and what it’s like being a trans man in a world dominated by toxic masculinity, his relationship with his mother and father, his journey from gender nonconforming to someone who passed as male, what cis gender folks should never EVER ask about being trans, who he makes his work for, what solo performers inspire him (Whoopi and Leguziamo!), how hip hop was his ally, how he became politicized as a kid growing up in Lancaster, California , and what is his secret superpower as a comic.
Mary Sanders on the People of Color Psychedelic Collective and Healing Transgenerational Trauma
Mary Sanders is a founding board member of the People of Color Psychedelic Collective, an organization that provides psychedelic education to historically marginalized communities in order to foster empowerment and healing. She is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in exploring the depths of transgenerational trauma and, in her words, peeling off layers of oppression and cultural conditioning. She is certified in psychedelic-assisted therapies and believes that plant medicines can serve as tools to effectively heal trauma. During our discussion we talked about her experiences as the only black person in psychedelic circles, and what constitutes a safe space for her as she attempts to explore her own healing. we also touched upon what kind of barriers have to be dismantled for BIPOC folks to access psychedelic-assisted therapy, why there’s often an earned skepticism in communities of color around psychedelics studies, how the war on drugs has affected people who might seek psychedelic therapy, what trends in psychedelic research and psychedelic training education she finds especially intriguing, and what she wishes a majority white populace might do to create a more easeful experience around psychedelic healing for folks of color.
Mary Sanders: https://www.empath-center.com/read-me
Asian American Feminist Collective on Intersectionality, Sexuality, Reproductive Rights, and Justice
Senti Sojwal and Tiffany Diane Tso are founding members of the Asian American Feminist Collective, a grassroots racial and gender justice group that works to interrogate and dismantle systems of racism, patriarchy, and capitalism, telling their stories through various modes of feminist media while providing spaces for identity exploration, political education, community building, and advocacy.
In our conversation we explored a host of topics, including the legacy of feminist activism that undergirds their work, the intersectional identities that inform the AAFC, how Black feminist thought has influenced them, their hashtag #ThisisAsianAmerica (on Instagram), how reproductive justice is key to understanding how colonial power functions, what tokenism is and how it differs from genuine inclusion, and how allyship can actually work in a useful, non-performative way. in their words, Asian American feminism in an ever-evolving practice that seeks to address the multi-dimensional ways Asian American people confront systems of power at the intersections of race, gender, class, sexuality, religion, disability, migration history and citizenship status.
Check out their amazing zines and resource page:
Encore Presentation: Dr. Han Ren on Decolonizing Mental Health
Encore : Dr. Han Ren is a practitioner of decolonial mental health: she offers liberation-oriented, anti-oppressive, culturally informed therapy, and practices from a justice-oriented, systems-informed framework. Some of her specialties include Asian-American mental health, anxiety, perfectionism, high achievers, children of immigrants/third culture kids, anti-racism, and parenting. Dr. Ren is also a force to be reckoned with on TikTok, amassing a large following on a platform she uses in an attempt to make therapy accessible and applicable to our everyday lives.
Together we talked about how white supremacy can be internalized, what it looks like when you center BIPOC mental health in treatment, how one decolonizes language, the conceptual shift from a dyadic trauma perspective to a more collective, societal notion of trauma, and her struggles as a recovering perfectionist.
Albert Hoffman: Bicycle Day
Today we celebrate Bicycle Day, a modern semi-holiday (unrecognized by official governmental agencies yet observed by psychedelic enthusiasts across the globe) that commemorates Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman’s bike ride home from his lab on April 19th, 1943, after ingesting 250 micrograms of lysergic acid diethlymide, and in the process creating the world's first recorded intentional LSD trip. When Hoffman originally synthesized the compound in 1938, in the Sandoz Pharmeacuticals laboratory, in Basel, he had deemed it next to useless, and put it up on the shelf to be forgotten - but five years later, something within him told him to take a second look. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today’s Voices of Esalen episode is a treasure drawn from our extensive archives - an interview with Albert Hoffman himself, conducted by none other than Stanislav Grof, sometimes known as the godfather of LSD psychotherapy. Grof was a Czechoslovakian psychoanalyst who was enormously influenced by Hoffman’s discovery of LSD; in his research in Czechoslovakia he oversaw tens of thousands of supervised therapeutic LSD trips. Grof would emigrate to the United States in the late 1960’s, a move precipitated by the Soviet invasion of his country. Grof spent more than ten years as a teacher in residence at the Esalen Institute during the 1970’s and 80’s, where he developed the practice of holotropic breath work and became one of the founders of the school of transpersonal psychology. In this interview, Grof and Hoffman explore a host of topics, including Hoffman’s discovery of LSD and how on his first trip, Hoffman freaked out and thought he was going insane, then thought he was dying; how Hoffman then became aware that his new discovery would have immense significance to the field of psychiatry; why Hoffman believed LSD could be used as a model psychosis and a way to study schizophrenia; how Hoffman collaborated with amateur mycologist R. Gordon Wasson to create a synthetic version of so-called magic mushrooms, which would be known as psilocybin; how Hoffman traveled to Mexico to deliver this modern version of mushrooms to the famed curandera Maria Sabina, who had introduced Wasson to the mushrooms in the first place, and more. They end this interview by speaking about Hoffman’s reaction to the way LSD escaped the laboratory and infiltrated culture during the turbulent 1960s.
This interview was conducted at Esalen Institute in 1984 - just one part of the ever evolving and complex tapestry of history that unfolded here in Big Sur.
Laura Mae Northrup: Radical Healership
Laura Mae Northrup is a somatic psychotherapist, educator, podcaster, and author. Laura has been a guest on this show before, in 2020, when we discussed her podcast "Inside Eyes", a one-season tour de force that focuses on people using entheogens and psychedelics to heal from sexual trauma. She is now the author of a new book, "Radical Healership: How to Build a Values-driven Healing Practice in a Profit-Driven World." Northrup views healing work and healing practitioners through a spiritual and political lens, as they do battle with the forces of capitalism while attempting to heal their clients and take care of themselves, all at the same time.
Find Laura on the web at https://www.lauramaenorthrup.com/
Check out Radical Healership :
Fantastic episode with Dr Richard Schwartz
Powerful and very moving. Thank you, Sam, for being so real and vulnerable.
No show notes?
Just advertising future Esalen events. Enjoyed Jon Hopkins, but ugh I’d like to explore all that music without slow playing the entire hour again to get the names. Also some tact when referring to scrapping by in the 90s on $14 an hour plus tips. There’s a huge population of the US who’d be happy to receive such a raise in pay.
Esalen seems to be hitching their wagon to CRT ideology, which seems to me a refutation of much of the important knowledge-building that’s been done there over the decades. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.