“It is easiest to live with a decision if it is based on an earnest sense of right and wrong”
When I started this job in the beginning of the New Year I had no idea how far reaching and life changing the values, themes, and ideas that are taught to our students are. Each day I interact with our students and staff I am blown away by how the Lightfoot curriculum addresses not only the students when they are in the classroom, but outside in the “real world” as well. Recently the students and staff of Lightfoot were lucky enough to experience the Lightfoot themes put into praxis on an entire new level. This experience allowed our students to see what happens when a core set of whole-systems values are applied to an entire community.
After a drive down highway 1 our van full of sleepy eyed students pulled into the grounds at Esalen; though the 6am start time of our trip had been rough for the students they all were very excited to see what was going to happen at Esalen. What we were allowed to experience was a place where the goals and values of Lightfoot were put into action on an entirely new level.
As we started the day the students were introduced to the staff of Esalen who would be guiding us along during our time at their facility. The staff members included Shirley Ward, Noel Vietor who is the Farm and Garden Coordinator, and all the wonderful staff and interns who help make Esalen the place it is. Along with these staff members the students also worked with Darren Huckle L.Ac. learning about edible herbs that can be grown in a home garden as well as guiding the students in a Chi-Gong session. One of the first things that we did as a group was a mindfulness check in with everyone; this was not a new idea for the students but the way in which these check ins are used by Esalen were very new. Esalen allots 25% of their workweek for mindfulness practices, this generally includes short meditations and group check ins throughout the day. It may also include a yoga or Thai Chi session or Gestault Communication lesson. These check ins are used by everyone at Esalen throughout the entire day to help keep all staff and interns present for how they and their fellow members are mentally/emotionally feeling during the day, and letting that set the structure of the days work intentions/tasks.
Moving onto the smaller of the two farms that the staff uses to supply the meals for Esalen, the students started to learn more about the farming practices that Esalen incorporates. This idea of eating the food that was grown on site, harvested by your friends or co-workers hands, and then serving it to everyone was something else that our students had done in the past in our own agriculture class, but again it was done in a wholly different was than previously experienced. The students were broken up into small groups and shown different aspects of each part in the small farm by different members of the Esalen staff; each group being shown new ways to look at the food that they were gathering and preparing for lunch.
Following lunch the staff and students again had a check in; for many of the students this showed them that the staff of Esalen “walks the walk” all the time. From the farm the students were brought to a large field with an amazing view of the Big Sur coastline and engaged in a meditation exercise/history lesson about the area that Esalen now occupies. For the students this was again a new level of what they experience in Lightfoot as well as Delta. It is not often in many schools that students are given the opportunity to not only become aware of where they are physically and mentally, but also told the history that they are engaging in when they are present in that place.
Even though I have only been a part of Lightfoot for a short time, I can honestly say that I have never seen the students so completely engaged, mentally, physically, emotionally, as they were during our entire time at Esalen. During the drive back to Santa Cruz the talk was not on plans for the night, how tired they were, but on how good they felt and when the next trip was. Several students are interested in interning at Esalen when they graduate.
Our next trip to Esalen is May 2nd, where we will not only harvest again from the farm, but will work with Esalen’s head chef, Phillip Burres prepping food for the Esalen dining hall. Our third visit is slated to incorporate more harvesting, food prep, and serving a farm-to-table dinner on the Esalen cliffs over looking the Pacific.
Most important is a huge thank you to Esalen for having us in their Community Outreach program and we all look forward to our next experience in Esalen.