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 Using the Offerings of the World’s Greatest Growth Center
To Build Your Own Integral Program for Personal Growth

This is the eighth in a series of eight excerpts from our book-length study on the fabled human potential growth center, Esalen Institute – on Northern California’s dramatic Big Sur Coast.  The entire series (to be posted on successive weeks) is as follows:

1.      REPREIVE FROM DEATH: Hugh Martin’s Journey from Terminal Cancer to Personal Transformation.

2.      THE MAGIC OF ESALEN: The Special Features that make Esalen Institute One of the Most Extraordinary Places on Earth.

3.      ESALEN AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF INTEGRAL: The Key Role Played by Esalen Institute in the Development of Ken Wilber’s Integral Worldview.

4.      THE HEALING POWER OF PSYCHIC TRANSFORMATION: How the Processes of Growth offered by Esalen Institute Aided Hugh Martin in His Battle Against Terminal Cancer.

5.      THE ESALEN REPORT CARD: A Frank and Candid Evaluation of the Strengths and Weaknesses of Esalen Institute.

6.      ESALEN VERSUS INTEGRAL INSTITUTE: How Ken Wilber’s Integral Institute Stacks Up Against Esalen Institute.

7.      THE PHENOMENON OF GROWTH CENTERS: How Growth Centers and Holistic Growth Situations Can Support in Your Own Journey to Personal Transformation.

8.      TRANSFORMING YOUR LIFE IN SEVEN STEPS: How You Can Use the Offerings of Esalen Institute To Create a Life-Changing Program of Personal and Professional Growth.

You can view or download an MS Word or PDF version of the full study. 

For other excerpts from this study, and for detailed descriptions of other articles by Hugh & Kaye Martin, click here.

For biographical background on the authors, Hugh & Kaye Martin, see the end of this excerpt and the end of the full study.

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How You Can Use the Offerings of Esalen Institute
To Create a Life-Changing Program
of Personal and Professional Growth

Hugh & Kaye Martin

Copyright 2009


The Growth Coordinator (also called Integral Life Counselor) is the navigator for our life voyage.  This key person helps us weave ‘Together’ all the diverse strands of Dimensions, Participants, Processes that make up the growth process. 

In the case of programs through a Growth Center like Esalen, for example, our Coordinator might help in the following ways:[1]

{     Investigation.  Investigating, assessing, and selecting the Programs and Workshops we will find the most helpful and the most enjoyable.

{     Preparation.  Making practical preparations, and becoming psychologically ready to benefit from such Programs.

{     Support.  Supporting us during the Workshop itself – when difficult situations arise, or when special opportunities present themselves.

{     Integration.  Integrating the Workshop experience once it is done.  Distilling the lessons to be learned.  Reinforcing the attitudes and behaviors to be changed.

{     Preservation.  Helping us perpetuate the highlights of the Workshop through artistic expression or journaling.

{     Extension.  Extending our experience by planning a series of Workshops on different but related topics.

{     Combination.  Helping us combine Esalen-style Workshops with other life experiences to cover all 35 Processes adequately.

{     Coordination.  Knitting together and coordinating this diverse array of Workshops and life experiences into a unified and focused program of personal growth.

{     Accountability.  Helping us remain accountable for any plans, commitments, or resolutions we may make.

{     Assimilation.  Digesting and metabolizing each experience – incorporating it into our very nature, so that we are deeply and permanently changed.

{     Celebration.  Celebrating and rejoicing in each insight and breakthrough – so that life becomes an enticing, exciting adventure.

To summarize these components of ADAPT, the Growth Continuum is like a map of the world.  The Processes of Growth are the steamships and sailing vessels that carry you to your destination.  The Growth Coordinator is the navigator who helps chart your route.  You yourself are the captain of your own ship, and bear final responsibility for its ultimate destination.


We conclude by showing how Esalen’s offerings can be orchestrated using ADAPT to form a truly Integral program of personal and professional growth.  In the first section on this topic, we outline a general seven-step Program for producing effective growth experiences.  In the second section, we show how you can apply that program to the offerings of Esalen Institute, using ADAPT as a guide.


Every voyage we take needs a plan – a set of actions items we must follow to make sure we reach our destination, accomplish our objectives, and enjoy ourselves along the way.  A Growth Program is our plan of action for the journey of life.  At its essence, any Growth Program consists of seven distinct steps – each of which has a distinct effect on the growth we achieve.

1.      Investigate.  Study, understand, and viscerally digest each element of the comprehensive Growth Program outlined in the ADAPT Model.  Investigate the general aspects of the experience you intend to undertake.

This step enables us to get a broad perspective on the growth activity we are undertaking, and a clear understanding of its components and implications.

2.      Plan.  Select and investigate a particular type of growth experience that you can give yourself to wholeheartedly.  Understand it so well that you can ‘live the experience in your mind.’

This step helps us to understand the particulars of our chosen growth activity -- to know in advance what situations to expect and how to cope with them.

3.      Prepare.  Prepare yourself for the anticipated growth experience physically and psychologically.  Become physically strong and resilient.  Become psychologically flexible, receptive, and attuned.

This step prepares us internally to take full advantage of the growth experience when it occurs.

4.      Participate.  Participate and engage in the experience with a full commitment to gain everything it has to yield.  Don’t equivocate or avoid.  Dare to take risks, while maintaining appropriate boundaries and limits.  When the ‘moment of truth’ comes, welcome and embrace it.

This step encourages us to immerse ourselves deeply and unrestrainedly in the experience as it is taking place.  It often involves key moments of transformation, when we ‘die to self.’

5.      Integrate.  Integrate and assimilate your experience – both while it’s happening and afterwards.  Consciously recognize the growth that’s taking place, and understand its implications for your life.  Relive your experience often, using a variety of media.

This step enables us to assimilate the growth experience at a deep and permanent level – so its effects do not evaporate once it is over.

6.      Extend.  Now that you’ve had one success, extend that experience into other areas and activities.  Apply the seven-step process described here to each Arena, real-life experience, and Holistic Situation in your life.  Bring the rest of your life up to the standard you’ve set with your seminal experience.

This step enables us to expand the understanding and insight we have received in a particular experience to a whole range of related experiences.

7.      Coordinate.  Use the skills of a supportive and insightful Growth Coordinator to help interpret and guide each step of your path.

This step enables us to weave all our growth experiences into a unified whole, so that our entire identity participates in the growth process.

Now let’s apply this seven-step Program to the offerings of Esalen Institute – and create a truly Integral program of personal and professional growth.


Now let’s apply those seven steps to an actual growth situation.  In this section, we’ll show how you can combine the offerings of Esalen, the principles of ADAPT, and the insights of a skilled Growth Coordinator to create a growth program that can transform your life. 

1.     Investigate Your Growth Program

{     Find a Growth Coordinator.  To get the most benefit from the ADAPT Program, find a Growth Coordinator, or Life Counselor, who can help guide you through it.[2]  Engage in each of the following activities under the guidance of your Counselor.

{     Study the Dimensions.  Study the eight Dimensions of personal development carefully, using our article The Human Growth Continuum as a guide.  Pay particular attention to the examples indicated by arrow-bullets.  Print yourself a copy, and note on it examples of each Dimension from your own life.

{     Study the Processes.  Study the 35 Processes by which people grow, using our article The Processes of Human Development[3] as a guide.  Pay particular attention to the examples indicated by arrow-bullets. Print yourself a copy, and note on it examples of each Process from your own life.  Try Exercise A1 in that article – Applying the Processes to Your Life.

2.     Planning Your Workshop

{     ‘Forget’ what you’ve learned.  Now that you’ve absorbed and internalized the necessary conceptual information, ‘forget’ what you’ve learned.  Let your conscious attention shift from your thoughts to your feelings, emotions, and personal experience. 

{     Select some Workshops.  Now go through the Esalen catalog (or some comparable set of offerings), selecting Workshops and other Programs that appeal to you.  Choose Workshops that sound especially interesting and might be especially beneficial.  Let your intuition and your immediate response be your guide, not some mental analysis of what might be good for you.  For the moment, also lay aside any possible time or budget constraints.  Then, from your longer list, chose a few that are your special favorites.

{     Investigate the leader.  Pay particular attention to the qualifications and experience of the Program leader/s.  Look up their writings, their website, and their professional offerings on Google and Amazon.  If you have any questions and concerns, or if you’d just like to connect, ask Esalen for the leader’s phone number, and call the leader directly.  You will spend a lot of intensive time with that person, so it’s worth making sure the chemistry is right.

{     Choose a Workshop.  Taking into account your interests, you investigations, your scheduling needs, and your budget limitations, choose a Workshop to enroll in.  Choose one that will be enjoyable, but at the same time will challenge you and stretch your limits.  If you can afford the time and expense, take a Program at least five days long.  Weekend Programs are hardly long enough to detach you from everyday life.

{     Enroll in a Workshop.  Sign up well in advance for your preferred Program.  The popular ones can sell out early.  If money is an issue, note the ways available to save cost – shared room, sleeping bag space, off-site camping, work scholarships, membership, and the Work/Study Program.[4]

3.     Preparing for Your Workshop

{     Prepare physically.  Before you go, prepare yourself physically – by getting plenty of rest, exercise, and nourishing food.  Workshops can be as challenging as an athletic contest, so you’d best be in shape.  Bring comfortable, casual, unpretentious clothes that feel good to wear in styles that seem natural to you.

{     Prepare psychologically.  Do what you can ahead of time to open yourself up to the experience.  Spend time with friends and loved ones talking about what’s important in your life.  Talk with parents, siblings, and relatives about your childhood.  Contact important people in your life you may not have seen for a long time.  Revive special memories by viewing family picture albums and family videos.  Take time to reflect, pray, and meditate.

{     Discuss with Growth Coordinator.  Discuss with your Growth Coordinator what you hope to gain from your Workshop experience.  Anticipate situations that might come up:  What could create stress?  What opportunities might arise (relationships and otherwise)? What constraints or inhibitions do you hope to relinquish?  What are your boundaries?  How do you intend to cope with difficult situations?

4.     Participating in Your Workshop

{     Attend the Workshop.  Be physically and mentally present for every session of your Workshop.  Missing any part of it will disrupt your experience and skew the dynamic of the group.  You are no longer just an individual now; you are a member of an organic whole.

{     Confirm your decision.  If it turns out the Workshop is just not right for you, sit in on other Workshops offered at the same time (with the approval of the leader and members), and find one you like better.  Make the switch early, so you don’t miss out on both experiences.  Switch only if your original Workshop is truly inadequate or inappropriate; if the Workshop just challenges you, stick with it.

{     Live the Esalen experience.  As time permits, participate in everything Esalen has to offer – not just the Workshop, but the baths, the dance, the yoga, the meditation, the open seats, the performances, the meetings, the art, the natural surroundings, the dynamics of other Workshop groups, the intrigues and undercurrents of life among the Staff.  Every aspect of the Esalen way life is part of your growth experience.[5] 

{     Take chances.  Because you are in a relatively anonymous situation, you can afford to take chances.  Try out new attitudes and behaviors.  Interact with people at a new level of intimacy.  Be honest and real.  When unexpected emotions stir within you, let them bubble forth.  Disclose hidden truths about yourself:  What seems the most sensitive or embarrassing may connect you most deeply with others.

{     Maintain appropriate boundaries.  Although freedom and spontaneity are important, your boundaries are equally essential.  While appropriately shedding inhibitions, don’t do anything you might seriously regret later.  Be careful of romantic flings, or life-changing pronouncements, if they will disrupt your life back home too severely.  When you need to digest your experience, or need to detach from interactive intensity, spend quality time alone or with a close friend.

{     Use available support.  Sometime during the Workshop, you are almost sure to face stressful and challenging situations.  View these situations as perhaps your greatest opportunities for growth.  When they arise, don’t freeze up or close off.  Take advantage of them by availing yourself of all the support that is available – from other Workshop participants, the Workshop leader, sympathetic Staff members, and professional Counselors on Staff.

{     Use your Growth Coordinator.  Even though your Growth Coordinator or Counselor is probably not on-site, he/she is perhaps your best resource for clarity and perspective.  Telephone him/her during the Workshop to share both your challenges and your triumphs.  Your Counselor can remind you of your original expectations and objectives, your unique strengths and talents, the attitudes and strategies that will get you through the tight spots.  Your Counselor can help keep you open, confident, and bold.

5.     Integrating the Workshop

{     Decompress and debrief.  After the Workshop, you are likely to experience a let-down – a kind of ‘post-partum depression.’  After all, you’ve probably ended on an emotional high, and now must return to mundane reality – with all its attendant conflicts and frustrations.  Find some way to avoid closing down.  Don’t plunge right back into the fray.  Give yourself time to decompress and debrief – perhaps a day of solitude, some quiet time with your partner, a session with your Counselor.

{     Keep the experience alive.  Do what you can to keep your precious experience alive.  Discuss it with a friend, or in a group.  Write down the highlights in your journal.  Draw or paint a special moment. Keep photos of your Workshop group on your desk, along with pictures of Esalen.  Stay in contact with fellow participants by email, shared photos, get-togethers and reunions.

{     Integrate the Workshop.  As you write, draw, or discuss, try to make sense of your experience.  Focus on the highlights and the epiphanies.  What did you learn or discover – about yourself? about others?  How can you apply these insights in everyday life?  What goals and action items can you set up, to give substance to your resolutions?

{     Find a support group.  Join a group of people who can understand and empathize with your experience.

{     Celebrate.  A meaningful Workshop experience is a remarkable accomplishment – an achievement experienced by few people in an entire lifetime.  Celebrate how bold and adventurous you have been, how far you’ve gone, how much you’ve gained, how deeply you’ve come to know yourself, and how abundantly you’ve been blessed.

6.     Extending the Growth Experience

{     Take more Workshops.  From your list of favorites, take other Esalen Workshops– using the same procedures for selecting, preparing, attending, and integrating.  Try to include Programs that incorporate various Dimensions and Processes, and address various Stages of your development.  Try Programs that involve you increasingly in the fabric of Esalen life – longer Workshops, Work/Study, and on-Staff work.  Explore comparable Programs through other organizations.

{     Explore other Holistic situations.  Other than growth centers, a number of other Holistic Growth Situations lend themselves well to an Integral approach.  Each one of these ‘worlds in miniature’ contains many, or all, of the elements of a complete growth program.[6]  Use these settings as foundations for creating complete growth experiences. 

{     Explore real-life growth experiences.  As you review the 35 Processes, note that most important growth experiences are not structured Workshops, or even self-contained growth settings.  They are just aspects of ‘Real Life.’  Begin looking at your everyday activities as potential growth experiences.[7]  Start a new educational program; apply for a job; organize your finances; seek out a life partner.  But as you initiate these new activities, apply the Seven Steps of a complete growth experience – as if you were exploring a new Esalen Workshop.  In doing so, you are transitioning from life experiences that ‘just happen’ to those that help you grow.

{     Assemble life’s building blocks.  In the course of growing psychologically, you are also putting into place life’s great building blocks.  The building blocks of one’s external life are the individual and social Arenas[8] in which life takes place.  At the individual level are the Arenas of education, career, finances, health, and recreation.  At the social level are the Arenas of relationships, sexuality, family, community, and society.  As you explore Real Life experiences, consciously endeavor to fill out all ten Arenas – so that your life will become well-rounded, integrated, and complete.

{     Recognize a Higher Power.  No matter what your religious or spiritual orientation, recognize that some Higher Power guides your path.  Through prayer, reflection, meditation, scriptural study, and a variety of spiritual practices, tap into that Power, and yield to its guidance.  It will take you much further than you could ever travel on your own.

7.     Coordinating the Growth Experience

{     Coordinate.  Use the skills of a supportive and insightful Growth Coordinator to help interpret and guide each step just described.

Many people who go to Esalen have a great experience, but don’t really grow.  Because they come to Esalen ill-prepared and leave without any mechanism for integrating their experience, such people may drift from one amusing or titillating Workshop to another, without ever really changing or evolving.  Because they’re ill-prepared, they may choose the wrong Workshop for their needs, or have the wrong expectations about the Workshop leader – or be vague about why they’re taking a Workshop at all. 

If you don’t want to waste your life on shallow, short-lived experiences, this article shows you how to make each life experience really count.  It offers an important way to transmute random everyday events into life-transforming activities.  If done conscientiously, this work will produce remarkable benefits.  You will become healthier, more alive, more authentic, and more fulfilled.  Your everyday life will acquire a scintillating glow that will enrich even the smallest experience.  We encourage you to continue with us on this exciting, illuminating, and rewarding journey.


HUGH MARTIN.  Hugh Martin is listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World.  He has appeared on numerous talk shows, led seminars at many colleges and corporations, and spoken at numerous professional conferences and colloquia.  Mr. Martin is president of the FINRA-registered securities brokerage firm, Hugh Martin Securities, and of the California-registered investment advisory firm, Hugh Martin & Co.  Hugh is also an experienced Life Counselor.

AMALIA KAYE MARTIN.  Amalia Kaye Martin (‘Kaye’) is a ‘clairvoyant’ Life Counselor, gifted natural medicine practitioner, and early education specialist.  Kaye is also a dedicated homemaker, full-time mother, instructor in natural medicine and nutrition at Bauman College, certified natural foods chef, and dynamic community organizer.

HUGH AND KAYE MARTIN.  Hugh and Kaye are primarily qualified as Integral theorists and practitioners because they have led Integral lives.  Both Hugh and Kaye have extensive experience in personal transformation, natural medicine and health, early and advanced education, societal change, natural and cultural environments, and high-level academics.

Hugh and Kaye have been married for over 30 years.  They have five highly-independent, multi-gifted children with strong family ties. 


WHOLE LIFE COUNSELING.  Hugh and Kaye Martin are the founders and co-directors of the life planning and counseling firm Whole Life Counseling.  Whole Life Counseling is a comprehensive program for personal and professional growth, which empowers clients to achieve success and fulfillment in 12 key arenas of life -- education, career, marriage, family, community, emotions, sexuality, finances, health, recreation, nature, and spirituality. 

For more information, please contact the authors at [email protected].

Everyone in the Martin Family has attended an Esalen Workshop or Festival, participated in the Work/Scholar Program, and/or enjoyed the sunset from Esalen's steamy hot baths.
Counter-clockwise from lower right: Kaye, Hugh, Pat Dobbins, Mollie Martin Dobbins, Livvie, Josh, Becky, and Sam.


[1] For a fuller explanation of the Growth Coordinator, see The Growth Continuum,, Growth Coordinator section, page 10. 

[2] For suggestions on what to look for in an effective Counselor, see the Growth Coordinator section of this article, page 16.

[3] This earlier version of our Processes model describes only 33 of the 35 Processes.

[4] See Cost Reduction Options, Appendix A2, page 67.

[5] In Table A5, The Processes of Esalen’s Workshops, page 78, note that approximately two-thirds of the Esalen Processes are covered by non-Workshop experiences.

[6] For examples, see the section Holistic Growth Situations, page 18.

[7] For a systematic approach to exploring the Processes, see The Processes of Human Development, Exercise A1: ‘The Processes: Applying Them in Your Life.’

[8] For further discussion of Arenas, see The Human Growth Continuum – Arena Growth section, page 11 and Table 7, Arenas (Life Passages).