Sunday, December 21, 2008

Workshops in the Wilds of Big Sur

I have been learning to use iMovie and Youtube. Here is a compilation/montage of images from many of the workshops I have led over the last year or two.

Wishing you a Happy Solstice!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Solstice Celebration

Also, Find out more here: iThou Solstice Celebration

Wishing you a soulful solstice,

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Big Sur Weather: Winter of 2008 & 2009

Big Sur River Mouth

For those of you that have a connection to Big Sur and want to follow this winter's progress this could be of interest?

Here is a link to a webcam set up in the back of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park (up river from the ball diamond and down stream from the Gorge where there was a bridge). Of course at night you can't see anything, but during rainstorms in daylight you might catch some interesting stuff. Once you are on this page scroll down to the the webcam picture: Big Sur River Web Cam

For the current weather in Big Sur here is my favorite link: Big Sur Weather: 7-day forecast

For Nepenthe's webcam that looks south down the coast towards Esalen: Nepenthe Web Cam

With both of the webcams you might need to occasionally hit the refresh button on your browser to get the udated image.

Here in Big Sur we are hoping for light rains in well timed intervals... we will see.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Esalen Office Goes Wild

I try to take the Esalen office for a hike each year. We went to Big Creek Reserve a few days ago and were blessed with a clear sunny day in one of the few places that did not burn in the fires. It was a smaller group than normal because half of the office was sick with a cold. This is for the office crew and all they do day in and day out.


For more photos of the hike click here: Esalen Office Goes Wild

Monday, October 20, 2008

Conscious Embodiment and the Path of Nature

For additional photos of our workshop click here: Conscious Embodiment

What a personal delight to work once again with Wendy Palmer. For many years Wendy and I taught workshops together. The unique blend of her work that is deeply inspired by Aikido and the experience of wild nature as teacher come together as a profound combination.

Thanks to all of you that so fully showed up for the weekend... next time we will have to make it a weeklong program.

Two claps, One bow,

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Nature and Contemplation: September 2008

For more photos of our group click here: Nature and Contemplation
(Thanks to Ken for sending photos... I will post more photos soon)

Con • temp(l) • atio(n)
"It is not happiness that makes us grateful, it is gratefulness that makes us happy."
Brother David Steidl-Rast
From swimming in the creek to talks about the native peoples before us, from celebrating birthdays to to visiting the recently burned areas, from the fog to the hot sun we had a diverse and rich contemplative time balanced between being and doing. We did pay attention... "What else should we have done."

I was touched to see so many familiar faces and meet so many new. Thanks to all of you and I look forward to seeing you all again,

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Art of Pilgrimage: Green Gulch 2008

For more photos of the group click here: Art of Pilgrimage

Here's a version of the Zen story from the "Book of Serenity" that Meg told the group:
Zen Teacher Earth Treasury asked the monk Dharma Eye as he was leaving the monastery, "Where are you going?"
Dharma Eye said, "I'm going on pilgrimage."
Earth Treasury asked, "What is the purpose of pilgrimage?"
Dharma Eye said, "I don't know."
Earth Treasury said, "Not knowing is most intimate."
Dharma Eye was greatly awakened at these words.

At the beginning of our retreat I gave a short talk about what pilgrimage has been and is for many cultures and religions. I was asked by the group to share in written word some of what I spoke about on Saturday morning. The following is loosely drawn from my notes.

I have a long standing fascinated by practices and rituals that occur in many cultures. When practices occur across culture boundaries they perhaps speak to the larger human condition and are greater than the culture itself. It is interesting to me that most wisdom traditions have some form(s) of pilgrimage.

As a general statement, we contemporary westerners living in the United States don’t have a great deal of pilgrimages that emphasize our relationship to our spiritual journey. This opens the question of how we might create and participate in the practice of pilgrimage in a manner that is both skillful and has meaning. Most forms of pilgrimage that I have studied share these characteristics and outcomes:

• A physical journey through time and space
• Leaving home (leaving what is known)
• Simple lifestyle during pilgrimage: e.g. simple clothes are worn that do not reflect status, simple diet, etc.
• Special rituals and/or prayers that marks significant milestones along the journey
• Circumambulation: moving around a sacred temple, object, mountain, and the like
• Pilgrims return with objects (water, statues, talismans) and/or special knowledge from a sacred site
• Pilgrims return with something for the community, family, as well as self
• Emphasize the journey itself as much as or equal to the goal
• Emphasize the merging of inner and outer (e.g. climbing the Mt Fuji inside as I am climbing the physical Mt. Fuji)
• Encourage a relationship to and deep knowing of a geographical place
• Timed with the seasons, sun and moon cycles, or some other natural rhythm

Usually pilgrimage is never just one of these things, but a constellation of many things and experiences woven together to create the pilgrimage. With this background knowledge it is now important that we drop our ideas about what pilgrimage is or might be as we step on the path of pilgrimage. In each step we have the opportunity to discover what pilgrimage is.

With heartfelt gratitude for our shared time on the path,

P.S. Here is a link to Meg's sitting group in Bolinas: Mountain Source Sangha
Here is a link to a dharma talk by Meg: Dharma talk

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Belonging to Earth: Finding Our Place In Nature

Pointing the way on the path of the wild...
For more photos of our group click here: Belonging to Earth
To view photos that Ann took click here: Ann's Photos
To view photos that Fred took click here: Fred's Photos
Here is a youtube video Steve W posted: Big Sur Water Sprites
Carol sent this link to photos & slideshow: Carol's Photos
Here is a link to: Leroy's Photos
In every moment of our lives we are supported by natural systems both seen and unseen. Yet, in our culture, many of us are cut off from the natural world. We have little contact with wild nature, little idea of where we live, and little notion of what directly sustains our daily life. Esalen, surrounded and sustained by wild natural systems, is an ideal place to learn more about our sense of place, of nature, and of belonging to this earth.
This week was personally powerful for me. To be able to share in more depth the place I care for so deeply with all of you that showed up so fully is special. Coming together to understand our belonging to earth we found belonging in self and community as well. Our journey into the burned area is still vivid in my body and mind. The smell of burnt plants and soil, the color and texture of the abundant charcoal skeletons, the green sprouts emerging everywhere, all live with me. Spending my birthday deep in Big Creek in the waters on a sunny clear day is a present I will remember.

May each of you journey well in you "other" lives and worlds. And as David Whyte encourages us, "What urgency calls you to your one love? What shape waits in the seed of you to grow and spread its branches against a future sky?"


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Simply Wild

Simply Wild at Julia Pfeiffer-Burns State Park
For more photos of the group click here: Simply Wild

Every year
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this:
the fires and the black river of loss
whose other side is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.

To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:

To love what is mortal;
to hold it against your bones
knowing your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

from part of Mary Oliver's "In Black Water Woods"
How wonder to be back in the wilds of Big Sur with a group... and in places that did not burn. How deeply I appreciated the aliveness of these mountains and sea, and of our time together. Thanks to each one of you for a wonderful weekend!

P.S. I read the Mary Oliver Poems, The Summer Day, In Blackwater Woods, and Sleeping in the Forest. All of these poem can be found in her book New and Selected Works: Volume One which won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Big Sur Fire

The view of the fire out our front door

Thanks to you all for your thoughts, concerns, and prayers during the fire. It has been a long four weeks filled with concern, action, gratefulness, sadness, friendship, frustration, helping, being helped, writing, interviews, phone calls, laying fire hose, sending "special" things away, dinners, story telling, uncomfortable sleep, smoke, wonder, focus, beauty, loss, love, appreciations and more... Some friends lost homes and belonging, no one was seriously injured.

I will post more when I can. For now know that your care and support is felt. If you want to know more, visit my website to link to personal photos of the fire and other links that tell parts of the story: Big Sur Fire

Two workshop were canceled (one at Esalen and one at Tassajara). All the rest of my 2008 workshops will go forward. Many parts of Big Sur have burned in the fire. Many of the places you might have hiked with me look very different. Many of my favorite places to hike did not burn. Many of the areas that did burn will recover fast. The threat to Big Sur has passed. Highway 1 is open in both directions. Esalen is open and offering up workshops. The beauty of Big Sur remains.

Once again, thanks to you all for you support and care during this time.
Gratefully and with love,

Monday, June 09, 2008

Wild Mind, Zen Mind: Tassajara Zen Mountain Center

For more photos of our time together: Wild Mind, Zen Mind

Every time I journey to Tassajara — by foot or by car — I am taken by how deeply Tassajara is nestled in the folds of the wildly rugged mountains. The encouragement to "show up" through meditation, along with the wholesome food, natural hot springs, and sharing time on the trails all come together to inspire. I breathe easier as I cross the mountains and return home to all the "things" of my life.

I hope we are able to walk into our daily lives with a bit of "wild mind" as we go about the stuff of our lives.

Gratefully and with a deep bow,
Steven (and Leslie)

For paintings of our friend that recently passed click here: Michael Sawyer
For more photo of Tassajara Zen Center click here: Tassajara

Art of Pilgrimage: Green Gulch May 31, 2008

For more photos click here: Art of Pilgrimage

Here's the Zen story from the "Book of Serenity" the Owl told the group:
Zen Teacher Earth Treasury asked the monk Dharma Eye as he was leaving the monastery, "Where are you going?"
Dharma Eye said, "I'm going on pilgrimage."
Earth Treasury asked, "What is the purpose of pilgrimage?"
Dharma Eye said, "I don't know."
Earth Treasury said, "Not knowing is most intimate."
Dharma Eye was greatly awakened at these words.

Thanks to each of you that showed up to walk the trails on Coyote Ridge and the Coast Trail. I hope the time we share on the path and in the wilds bring aliveness to you and all those your life touches.


For more photos of Green Gulch Farm Zen Center click here: Green Gulch

Friday, May 23, 2008

Walk on the Wild Side 2008

Click here to see more photos: Walk on the Wild Side
"Every body needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul." ~John Muir
To all you that dared to walk on the wild side. May Nature continue to heal you... cheer you (we sure laughed a lot)... and give strength to body and soul. I finish the week filled with gratitude and appreciation for how diverse people can come together and support each other so beautifully along the path.

I hope that each of you carry a bit of the aliveness of the wilds back with you into your daily lives. As the poet David Whyte asks, "What shape waits in the seed of you to grow and spread its branches against a future sky?" May that seed grow strong and touch others with aliveness.

Wildly, Steven

P.S. Check out these sites for more photos of our group:
Richard photos
Where is Hello Kitty... look for the Esalen/Big Sur posts

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Way of Nature

The Way of Nature... here is a video (a first) taken with my camera from our walk in Big Creek. For photos and a group shot of our time in the wilds click here: The Way of Nature

What a great weekend. Thank you all for participating so fully.
Here is a Rumi poem:
The clear pool at the center changes everything.
There are no edges to my loving now.

I've heard it said there's a window that opens
from one mind to another,

but if there's no wall, there's no need
for fitting the window, or the latch.

Open Secret Versions of Rumi by John Moyne & Coleman Barks
May the Way of Nature be with you...

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Big Sur Wilderness Experience April 2008

BSWE on the path into the wilds of Big Sur

It never ceases to amaze me how each and every group comes together to form its own characteristics and distinct personality. Each an every individual brings some critical thread to the fabric of our group. This last week our group wove some beautiful fabric.

The start of my 2008 Esalen workshop "season" began with Big Sur Wilderness Experience Description and the group came together in a heartfelt and adventurous way. Spring is in full gear here and it is said that, "Big Sur in not so much a place as a state of mind." We entered "Big Sur Mind" and sprang forth into the trails of the inner and outer wilds.

For more photos of our group click here: Big Sur Wilderness Experience Photos

Here are the first lines of he David Whyte poem I read on our last day...
What to Remember When Waking
In that first
hardly noticed
to which you wake,
coming back
to this life
from the other
more secret,
and frighteningly
honest world
where everything
there is a small
into the new day
which closes
the moment
you begin
your plans.

What you can plan
is too small
for you to live.

What you can live
will make plans
for the vitality
hidden in your sleep.
Thanks to each and every one of you... may your transitions into your daily life be full of the aliveness and vitality of our week.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Earth Day... everyday

Point Lobos State Reserve

Earth Day is approaching April 22nd. Of course once a year is not enough, though it is a good time for all of us to consider again how we personally want to live our lives and reflect on our relationship with this third rock from the sun we call—earth. Here are some links to sites that I have found inspiring and have encouraged me to make more informed, sustainable, and healthy choices in my life.
Earthday Network
We Can Solve It
The Story of Stuff
11th Hour Action

Most of this information is for the head... so equally important, I hope you will take some time to "feed" your body and heart. Get out in wild nature. Simply listen, let your self settle, and be touch by the beauty of this world.

Wishing us all a wild Earth Day,

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Unusual Behavior in the Wild Flamingos of Big Sur

Originally uploaded by surharper
The elusive wild flamingos of Big Sur (Phoenicopterus surianus) are rarely seen in their natural habitat. This photo is one of the few known sightings clearly illustrating the unusual habit of flamingo day-sleeping, otherwise known as Avian Diurnal Narcolepsy. While not completely understood by scientist studying the phenomenon, multiple theories have been put forth. Avian Diurnal Narcolepsy (ADN) is sometimes seen in individual birds, but as far as what has been observed in the field, Big Sur flamingos may be the only bird species to demonstrate flock ADN. The leading theory for the cause of this phenomenon is linked to petrol-chemical polymer structures in the Big Sur flock seen here. This photo was taken using a remote motionless sensor cam at one of the few closely guarded locations where the birds can be found. The story about these elusive birds is unbelievable.

Wishing you a happy first of April!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Celebrating the Equinox

Celebrating the day of equal day and night.

For those of us in the northern hemisphere it is the time of the return of green. The time when seeds that have weathered the winter begin to stir... feeling the pull of gravity to set roots, and the call of the sun to move towards the light...

Here in Big Sur the land is shouting out "green, green, green"


All this time
The sun never says to the earth,
“You owe Me.”

What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

2008 Workshop Schedule

photo by Janna Fournier

My 2008 Workshop Schedule is complete (although I might still be adding one of two). I invite you to join me for one of the workshops I am offering this year at Esalen, Tassajara, and Green Gulch. Please visit my website or contact me for more information. I look forward to seeing you in the wilds soon. For complete descriptions click here to go directly to the: Workshop Schedule

• April 27-May 2 • Big Sur Wilderness Experience
• May 9-11 • The Way of Nature
• May 18-23 • Walk on the Wild Side
• May 31 • The Art of Pilgrimage
• June 5-8 • Wild Mind, Zen Mind
• June15-20 • Mountains and Waves
• June 20-22 • Nature and Contemplation
• July 3-6 • The Nature of Zen
• July 6-11 • Big Sur Wilderness Experience
• August 22-24 • Simply Wild
• August 24-29 • Belonging to Earth
• September 26-28 • Nature and Contemplation
• October 17-19 • Conscious Embodiment
• Check website for additional programs & dates

Thanks to all of you who have attended workshops with me over the last years. I hope to this message finds you happy and peaceful.


Click here to go to my homepage:

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Google: The Art of Pilgrimage

Google retreat at Green Gulch Zen Center

This Saturday I led a retreat, The Art of Pilgrimage, for a group from Google. I was invited to offer this program to Google employees that are part of ongoing meditation groups and trainings. The experience was very rich. The international mix, depth of knowledge, diversity of backgrounds, and sincerity of commitment to exploring inner/outer reaches of the wilds was both meaningful and inspiring to me. For more photos of the group click here: Google Pilgrimage
And for even more photos of the day click on Ario's collection: More Art of Pilgrimage

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

2008 Website and Workshop Schedule

Notley's Landing and Hurricane Point, Big Sur
I have recently rebuilt my website: and updated the 2008 workshop schedule. There are many new features added so I hope you will take a look around. I am always wanting to learn, so if you have any feedback I would appreciate hearing about what you like, don't like, possible additions, etc.
My friend Lisa Goettel built the site with my collaboration. I highly recommend her if you are looking to collaborate in creating a website. You can contact her here: Birdwing Designs
From the Wilds,