Posted inHenry's Messages

Message from Henry: Postcard from Esalen

March 9, 2016


Early morning on the cliffs. Far below, white foam breaks over rocks, and the dark-grey rocks glisten in early sunlight. From up above, the boulders, the sea-rounded rocks along the shore, look like small wet pebbles you might take up in your hand and throw in a handful over a pond, strafing the surface.

The outdoor wooden counters at Esalen are smooth – lovely California wood. All the wood here is smooth. Right now I’m sitting under a pine tree. It’s peaceful under the tree. Like a little pool of normality.

Below, wave after wave rolls in, hair streaming behind, and throws itself against those pebbles. So thick the waves come, it’s one continuous roar.

Yesterday I took a look at the little play-school. It made me want to cry. For my own children’s childhood, which is mostly gone now. For the kind of place a school could be. For all the children who know nothing like it. This one had adventure-houses, play-trees, live kid-goats, and lambs and chickens. The great adventure of living things. Trees growing overhead. Lambs bleating, hens purring as they peck at the dirt, dogs slumping on the grass. All of it moving, and resting, and moving, and not saying a word.

* * *

Shakyamuni Buddha accepted that. In what some scholars believe was his first and earliest teachings and all traditions accept as his second, he declared that existence was “marked” by impermanence, in other words loss. What he offered, what he had found for himself, was the beautiful heart-breaking relief inherent in accepting that.

* * *

Note on “Nonleaking Practice”

It’s resolving the matter of life and death in a way that doesn’t “leak”. It’s final, though also a start, an endless beginning. That would be “nonleaking” ….. As opposed to temporary stays against angst, misery, distress, whatever…. (which would be “leaking samadhi”). Master Sheng Yen says we’re looking for the experience that “sticks.”

Yet at the same time there is no regression or backsliding in practice. It’s not possible.

Image: Esalen’s 6th Annual Yoga Festival, by Brad Coy, CC-by-2.0, from

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