This week’s conversation is with Michael Murphy, co-founder and chairman emeritus of the board of the world famous Esalen Institute, tucked away on the coast of Big Sur, in California.

Michael and Esalen have been ground zero for the human potential movement: exploring everything from consciousness, Eastern philosophies meeting Western frameworks, the birth place of Gestalt therapy, to generating scores of mind body interventions.

In 1950, Michael was a premed student at Stanford and wandered into a class discussing Eastern and Western philosophies and religions.

The miscue changed his life.

Soon he was meditating and, after earning a bachelor of arts in psychology and serving in the U.S. Army, he lived on an ashram in India for 18 months.

Upon returning to the United States, he and the late Richard Price started Esalen on property the Murphy family owned.

Over its 50-plus years of existence, it has been described as a “personal growth think tank.”

The organization is focused on personal growth, meditation, massage, ecology, yoga, psychology, spirituality — there was nothing quite like it at the time .

On the Esalen website, it reads: “The people… more than 750,000 who have come from all over the world to participate in Esalen’s 50-year-long Olympics of the mind, heart, body, spirit, and community, committing themselves not so much to stronger, faster, higher as to deeper, richer, more enduring in the fellowship of other seekers.

Michael’s contributions have created a ripple of significance. His spirit is infectious and his presence is felt. It’s a gift to laugh with him and learn from him, and I’m honored to share our conversation.

“We have to learn to be skillful in living in the two worlds: the world of being and the world of becoming.”

In This Episode:

  • The moment in college that changed the course of his life: dropped out of pre-med and his fraternity and became… a yogi
  • The meaning of atman: our deepest self, our deepest identity and how we access it
  • The positive effects of mediation practice
  • The difference between a vow and a commitment
  • What he set out to build with Esalen institute
  • His practice for figuring out who he really is
  • How he came to write “Future of the Body”
  • His views on evolution and competition
  • The balance between being and becoming
  • His views on sport: an experiment of nature
  • What does progress mean in relation to human nature
  • Where pressure comes from
  • The different ways to look at pain


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Michael Murphy is the co-founder of the Esalen Institute, a key figure in the Human Potential Movement and author of The Future of the Body and other books on topics related to extraordinary human potential.