Friday, December 25, 2009

Celebrating the Season

Looking north to the Big Sur River mouth and headlands

What better way to celebrate the day than a good hike along the Big Sur River out to the Pacific Ocean. Connecting and reconnecting to that which is beyond words.

Sending a little encouragement and nudge to get out in wild nature somewhere sometime soon — alone and/or with friends and family. Let your self touch and be touched.

Wishing everyone a Happy Holiday Season.


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Search for the Center

Once a year a group of long-time heartfelt friends and I get together to spend the weekend. We take a day long hike somewhere in the Big Sur. Our friendships go back more than 30 years and includes the full range of life's experiences. Simply being in wilderness, having the shared experience each year in the raw beauty of wild nature deepens our relationships.

Who is it you might want to share a hike with? Nature is calling... your friends and family may be calling... and as John Muir said, "The mountains are calling, and I must go."


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Esalen Office Goes Wild!

Esalen Office Gets Wild in Big Sur

Once a year I get the office crew from Esalen out of the office and into rarely visited parts of Big Sur.

Thanks to the Esalen office staff for all that you do!


Monday, October 26, 2009

The Way of Nature: Esalen 2009

The Way of Nature (click on photo to enlarge)

The last Esalen workshop of the year! ...and what a way to finish the year. A weekend of high adventure and immersion (literally in the creek).

To experience the photos (click on thumbnails to enlarge): Way of Nature Photos
To experience as slide show: Way of Nature Slideshow

To experience the 350! performance art: 350! on YouTube

Gratefulness to each of you and to the group as a whole for making our timeless time together so rich.



Monday, October 19, 2009

Belonging to Earth: Esalen 2009

Cone Peak, 5155 feet high (click on photo to enlarge)

Diversity... this is the word that comes to mind as I reflect on our rich time together. From the Pacific Ocean to the top of Cone Peak; from Redwood forests of all sizes to the rare Santa Lucia Firs; from varied life experiences, physical abilities, and ages to the shared awe in the beauty of nature as it unfolds. I so appreciated how easily we came together and held space for each person in our group.

To view photo of our group: Belonging to Earth Photos
To veiw as a slide show: Belonging to Earth Slideshow

And, just for fun... to watch a YouTube video I made with some friends about the Pygmy Redwood Forest click here: Journey Into the Wilds (click on the HQ icon to watch with better resolution)

We packed a lot into our week. I hope that the richness of our experience lives on in your heart of hearts. You now know the Big Sur in ways that many long-time residents do not... I hope we all deepen our belonging to ourselves and this earth.

With love,

P.S. Here is a link to an experiment I spoke about our last evening at Meditation House. Both George (from our group) and I are often “there” in the mornings.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Art of Pilgrimage: Green Gulch Zen Center 2009

Art of Pilgrimage at Pirates Cove

Here is a version of the Zen story that Jeremy told from the "Book of Serenity"

Zen Teacher Earth Treasury asked the monk Dharma Eye as he was leaving the monastery, "Where are you going?"
Dharma Eye said, "I am going on pilgrimage."
Earth Treasury said, "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.

Here are links:
Photos of our day
Slideshow of our day
Retreat Description
Green Gulch Zen Center

Thanks for coming together at this auspicious time near or on the new moon, fall equinox, Rosh Hashanah, EID, and of course... International Talk Like a Pirate Day.


Here are a few of the quotes that we drew from the bag...

Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old,
Seek what they sought. ~Basho

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. ~Lao Tsu

As I make my slow pilgrimage through the world, a certain sense of beautiful mystery seems to gather and grow. ~ Arthur C Benson

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Simply Wild: Esalen 2009 to stroll through the fields

"I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done."
~Mary Oliver

I appreciate how the thick fog keeps the coast mysterious... at times hiding the view and keeping our visual attention close... and at other times partially revealing the steep mountains meeting the sea letting our sight roam farther in the distance. This weekend the we dance in and out of the fog — getting above it, in it, and under it. Tell me... what else should we have done?

View: Photos
View as: Slideshow


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Big Sur Wilderness Experience: Esalen 2009

Part of our group on Boranda Ridge high above the fog

Show Up: Choose to be present...

A simple enough sounding thing to do, a challenge in daily practice... yet deeply fulfilling when we can. Here is a poem that I shared one evening...

by David Wagoner

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
Not trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

Here is a link to photos: Big Sur Wilderness Experience Photos
Or view as: Slide Show

I hope your the "seeds" of our experience are finding roots and being nurtured towards growth.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sitting with Fire: Tassajara 2009

Coulter Pine seedling near Tassajara

What a remarkable journey this fire from last year has led us on. I continue to be amazed, in awe, and inspired by the variety and resilience of nature.

We went out hunting for Coulter Pine seedlings. On first look none of us were seeing any. Once we saw one, we suddenly saw many... How often do I not see that which is in front of me because of my own habits of attention? How enlivening when I do perceive something new and out of my habitual range!

To see a slide show of our group: Slideshow
To see the photos of our group: Photos

Friday, July 10, 2009

Nature & Contemplation: Esalen 2009

Nature & Contemplation at Esalen

"Nature is never spent: there lives the dearest freshness deep down things," writes the mystic poet Gerard Manley Hopkins.

One word: Gratefulness

Gratefulness for the many opportunities to touch the dearest freshness deep down things.

Gratefulness for Brother David, everyone in our group, Big Creek Reserve, Esalen, Partington Cove, Slates Hot Springs, good food, perfect weather, mountain lion scat, condor feathers, deep pools of clean fresh water, waves, poems, redwoods, The Hermitage, silence, a fuller breath, soft eyes, the more and ever more, Gravity, belonging, the sponge, dialogue, wholeheartedness, fearlessness, and to doing the next right thing...

"When we re- move the world from our shoulders we notice:
It doesn't drop. Where is the responsibility ? "
~ John Cage


Nature & Contemplation Photo Collection or as Slideshow
Steven K Harper
New Camaldoli Hermitage

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Mountains and Waves: Esalen 2009

Mountains and Waves... on the edge

For more photos: Mountains and Waves Or as a Slide Show

What words can come close to touching upon what we touched. I find myself in awe of the courage to step out of the known and into the mystery of the unexplored. I will be integrating the experience of the week for weeks to come.

"Such richness flowing
through the branches of summer and into

the body, carried inward on the five
rivers! Disorder and astonishment

rattle your thoughts and your heart
cries for rest but don’t

succumb, there’s nothing
so sensible as sensual inundation. Joy

is a taste before
it’s anything else, and the body

can lounge for hours devouring
the important moments. Listen,

the only way
to tempt happiness into your mind is by taking it

into our body first, like small
wild plums."

Mary Oliver “The Plum Trees” American Primitive

With Hearfelt Gratitude...

P.S. Wishing us well in planting and tending of the essential seeds we are growing in our lives... may they benefit all our relations.

Fathers and Sons: Celebrating Father's Day in the Tradition of the Old Ways at Esalen 2009

Fathers and Sons on Father's Day 2009

It is a wise child that knows his own father.
It is a wise father that knows his own child.
-William Shakespeare

I have led many weekend workshops in my years at Esalen. This coming together of fathers and sons was among the most potent of them all and much more profound than I had expected. I continue to be moved by our collective and family time together. I am deeply grateful for this gathering of fathers and sons and our time spent on the path in the wilds.

For more photos of our group: Fathers & Sons Or as a Slide Show

With Love,
Steven (and for Kes, Kai, and Kenneth)

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Walk on the Wild Side: Esalen 2009

Walk on the Wild Side on the Big House Beach

"The sun shines not on us but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us, thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing."
~John Muir

My first words go out to Michael and his family wishing them peace. My next words go out to Stacy for how wonderfully she showed up for all of us. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to all of our group for being here.

Even after all these years I continue to be amazed how simply spending time on the path together in wilderness can create connection and depth with one another.

For more photos of our group: Walk on the Wild Side
You can view them individually or as a slide show.

"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


Monday, May 11, 2009

Wild Mind, Zen Mind at Tassajara May 2009

Wind Caves

For more photo of our group: Wild Mind, Zen Mind

Spectacular wildflowers and the awe in the amazing ability of nature to regenerate after fire... I have never seen such a display of wildflowers around Tassajara as this year in both quantity and diversity.

It was a joy to share this with others as we walked along the paths, sat in meditation, and let our curiosity wonder in discussions at meals, on the trail, and in the Kaisando. Gratitude to all of you for so generously participating in our time together.

"The secret of Soto Zen is just two words: not always so."
Shunryu Suzuki-roshi


P.S. Those of you that are interested in the online Meditation House (which is part of can visit by clicking here: You can sign in by typing "here" and check-out the meditation timer, candle site, meditation instructions, and more all in the right hand sidebar.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Big Sur Wilderness Experience: Springtime 2009

Tip toe through the lupines...

High in the mountains of Big Sur

Here is a link photos of our hikes: BSWE Photos
Here is a link photos of our hikes as a slideshow: BSWE Slideshow

"There are two ways to live your life.
One is though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle.

The most beautiful and most profound emotion
we can experience is the sensation of the mystical.
It is the sower of all true science.
In this emotion you dwell in wonder
and stand rapt in awe."
-Albert Einstein

Thank you all for your "Showing Up... and choosing to be present."


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Workshop Schedule for 2009

Big Sur

I finally have all the date for 2009. This is one of the most exciting schedules I've had. Hopefully you can join me for a worshop this year.

• April 12-17, 2009: Big Sur Wilderness Experience: Springtime at Esalen Institute with Steven Harper and Michael Newman

• May 2, 2009: The Art of Pilgrimage: Walking the Wild Path at Green Gulch Zen Center with Steven Harper and Meg Levie

• May 7-10, 2009: Zen Mind, Wild Mind at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center with Steven Harper and Leslie James or Kokyo Henkel

• May 24-29, 2009: Walk on the Wild Side: Hiking the Big Sur Country at Esalen Institute with Steven Harper and Michael Newman

• June 19-21, 2009: Fathers and Sons: Celebrating Father’s Day in the Tradition of the Old Ways at Esalen Institute with Steven Harper, Kenneth Harper, Kai Harper, and Kes Harper

• June 21-26, 2009: Mountains and Waves: Wilderness and Continuum at Esalen Institute with Steven Harper and Susan Harper

• July 5-10, 2009: Nature and Contemplation at Esalen Institute with Steven Harper and Brother David Steindl-Rast

• August 7-9, 2009: Sitting with Fire: Walking with Change at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center with Steven Harper and Myogen Steve St├╝cky

• August 16-21, 2009: Big Sur Wilderness Experience at Esalen Institute with Steven Harper and Michael Newman

• September 2-6, 2009: Art of Pilgrimage at Hollyhock at Cortes Island, British Columbia, Canada with Steven Harper

• September 19, 2009: The Art of Pilgrimage: Walking the Wild Path at Green Gulch Zen Center with Steven Harper and Meg Levie

• October 4-9, 2009: Belonging to the Earth: Finding Our Place in Nature at Esalen Institute with Steven Harper and Michael Newman

• October 23-25, 2009: The Way of Nature at Esalen Institute with Steven Harper

For more details visit: Steven Harper


Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Mountains are Calling

Yosemite Valley at Sunset Feb. 19th, 2009

" The mountains are calling, and I must go."
~ John Muir

This winter has been a busy one. So many different things calling to be done— to be attended to. I was so completely caught up in my list of things to do, that I was to the point where I was considering canceling our annual trip up to Yosemite during the school break. I had every reason not to go... then these words slipped into a crack of my reasoning.

"The mountains are calling and I must go," I could hear Muir whisper inside. Even though it was a shorter trip than previous years, I fell in love with Yosemite once again. I fell in love with the deep beauty of the wild and let the worries of the world go for a couple of days.

I return with sore muscles, full of good fun with my family, and a re-alignment of what is truly important in my life.

May beauty touch us all,

P.S. After this post I posted a video to youtube that includes part of this trip: Ski Yosemite 09

Monday, January 12, 2009

Four Winds Council

Four Winds Council at Esalen: January 2009

The Four Winds Council is cooperative association of four retreat centers located in or near the Ventana Wilderness and the Los Padres Forest in Monterey County, California. Members includes New Camaldoli Catholic Hermitage, Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, the Native American Esselen tribe's "Window to the West", and Esalen Institute. The council is formed to develop cooperative initiatives among the four centers and to promote a deeper understanding and respect for the paths of personal and social transformation that each center represents.

After years of individually developing and maintaining working relationships with Tassajara, the Hermitage, and Little Bear/Fred Nason Sr., I decided to convene a meeting of representatives of each centers to see what if anything we wanted to be or do together. I facilitated the first meeting and recorded on flip charts the work, discussion, and brainstorming. In spring of 1993 we unofficially named and previously unnamed peak, “Four Winds Peak”. We offered a workshop at Esalen in 1994 that I convened and acted as facilitator for the program. We met four times a year at each place. I reduced my involvement sometime in 1995 or 96 although I have continued a relationship with each of the places. The Council has continued to meet over the years.

This January I was invited to attend a meeting at Esalen. How exciting it was for me to see many old and new friends from Tassajara, the Esselen Tribe, the Hermitage, and Esalen all in one place. It makes me happy to see the "tradition" continue.