CAL­I­FOR­NIA DREAM­ING: Med­i­tat­ing on Mon­terey, Napa Val­ley’s del­i­cate bal­ance, Savour­ing Sonoma, Berke­ley Bo­hemi­ans

DINE and Destinations - - CONTENTS - By Adam Wax­man

There’s no rush here. None. If not for that en­vi­able laid-back Cal­i­for­nia vibe where the pace of life and con­ver­sa­tion moves like a sip or two of wine while waves roll up on a quiet shore, then it’s the road that forces us to slow down and Cali-for­ni­cate with that awesome majesty of the golden coast. On the drive along High­way 1 from Carmel to Big Sur, the road weaves and un­du­lates like the whip of a rhyth­mic gym­nas­tics rib­bon. Awed by the “prophet on the burn­ing shore” of which the Grate­ful Dead sings, around each bend lies an­other panorama that I can’t stretch my eyes wide enough to see. An end­less sea of sap­phire pours out from the hori­zon and laps the high rocky coves as I veer off the road and into the sto­ry­book of Esalen.

Cleaved out of the steep slope is the fer­tile oa­sis of the Esalen In­sti­tute; a com­mu­nity of only a few hun­dred peo­ple at a time ex­plor­ing their own in­di­vid­ual in­tel­lec­tual and spir­i­tual pos­si­bil­i­ties. Work­shops at var­i­ous lo­ca­tions along the nar­row stretch of land in­clude arts, move­ment, yoga and med­i­ta­tion. You can’t just drop in. It’s not a refuge, and yet it is a re­treat pro­vid­ing space and time to be present for self-ex­plo­ration and dis­cov­ery. It’s not about hav­ing a feel-good time or even re­lax­ing—al­though that may be in­evitable. Rooted in Gestalt the­ory, the aim is to pro­vide all the or­ganic com­po­nents to free one­self for deep per­sonal growth and hu­man un­der­stand­ing.

Break­fast is a cor­nu­copia of clean en­ergy in­gre­di­ents har­vested on site in the gar­den. Sip­ping a sooth­ing in­fu­sion, I gaze out at mi­grat­ing whales. Morn­ing yoga fol­lowed by med­i­ta­tion en­ables my in­ter­nal shift to be­gin from the full tilt traf­fic blitz tem­per­a­ment of my daily grind to a spir­i­tual qui­etude. Esalen is also renowned for its Esalen® Mas­sage in­spired and in­flu­enced by the rhythm of the ocean waves. Slow, long, deep strokes in­duce my sleep al­most im­me­di­ately. Pas­sive stretch­ing and gen­tle joint ma­nip­u­la­tion slows the ner­vous sys­tem and sup­ports the lym­phatic sys­tem. An added ab­dom­i­nal mas­sage tech­nique called Chi Nei Tsang blends Chi­nese and Thai mas­sage as well as med­i­ta­tion to detox­ify and en­er­gize me. Com­pletely se­dated, I’m out for the count. Awak­en­ing to the ocean breeze and the dis­tant crash­ing of waves, I stretch out and plunk down into the adjacent out­door hot springs. Th­ese heal­ing wa­ters lit­er­ally on the edge of the cliff over­look the ocean for a mag­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence. The co-ed and cloth­ing-op­tional as­pect of th­ese show­ers and baths evoke an or­ganic Eden-esque qual­ity that is nat­u­rally lib­er­at­ing. At night, cos­mic splen­dor dances above as shoot­ing stars stream out of the sparkling and neb­u­lous infinity.

Day­break in Mon­terey is met with a ca­coph­ony of bark­ing sea li­ons. The best way to see this har­bour is to be in it. Can­nery Row, im­mor­tal­ized by John Stein­beck, is the launch­ing point for our Fast Raft Marine Eco-tours. As we mo­tor out, dol­phins and whales promenade across Mon­terey Bay in awesome fash­ion. We can only stare in amaze­ment. It’s an­other world.

In­land the hyp­notic beauty of Pin­na­cles Na­tional Park beck­ons. Vol­canic ves­tiges draped in wilder­ness ap­pear as spires shoot­ing up like pet-

“The West is the best. Get here, and we’ll do the rest”

– THE DOORS

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