Esalen Big Sur

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

My STEP project took place from May 15 to July 31 as a yoga meditation practice with one week spent in Big Sur, California at Esalen Institute (retreat dates ran from June 16-21). In Big Sur, seven other Ohio State girls and I attended yoga classes each day and had time to ourselves outside of the class for self-reflection. After returning from Big Sur, each of us practiced yoga in our own time and wrote about our growth, whether it be physical strength with poses or more mental by giving mindfulness.

 

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

Looking back, Esalen gave me a new outlook on life and the way I choose to live it. I love keeping myself busy and feeling productive, but Esalen really got me thinking why I choose to do that. I was able to “slow down” mentally and realized just how much pressure I put on myself to get everything done well. I am pretty competitive as well, but there is no competition in something like yoga. It’s all about connecting your mind and soul to the poses and taking control of your thoughts, and I really think that happened for me during the trip.

 

Most of the other individuals at Esalen were a bit older than us, but they were all so friendly and excited for us to be having such an amazing experience at a young age. Having conversations with some of them was so eye-opening to me, as they had more of a realistic mindset about serious topics, like racism or sexism, than many other adults I have spoken to outside of the retreat. It gave me hope for the future generations in a way, as they seemed to get where I was coming from. They really made me change my beliefs about older generations’ views on pressing issues in our world today.

 

  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

One of the most clarifying moments of my life happened on the ride to Esalen from San Francisco. I had been reading the book “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga” by Deepak Chopra in the days prior to flying out to California. However, I went back to reread a chapter that had stuck with me for reasons I couldn’t comprehend at the time. In that chapter, Chopra wrote about being uncomfortable and vulnerable – he said to take a deep breath in, and then to hold it for as long as you possibly can. He said to notice how uncomfortable you felt, and how it was all you could focus on. Take note of the wave of relief you felt once you let go of your breath. Chopra said we can compare that to so many things in our life that we have been holding onto for too long – grudges, physical objects, the past, etc. It resonated with me as I had been looking for a sign to cut ties with someone for a long time but was worried how they would view me afterwards. It had caused so much pain and anxiety that it wasn’t worth it to me anymore but reading that one page got me to do it. That alone gave me so much peace during the week at the retreat; I felt free from my thoughts and anxieties much like I usually do during yoga.

 

Regarding interactions, so many of the people I met at the retreat (other than the other girls who were on the trip with me) made me feel more confident in my abilities and focus on the present and what I can do in the current moment. I am taking a different career path than I had originally planned, and being a senior in college it was too late to change my major entirely. One man in particular told me his personal success stories as well as some of his failures in his field, and I didn’t feel so lost. They reiterated that I have so much time to figure out what I want to do and who I want to be both for myself and others. On another note, hearing their insight on sensitive issues was so encouraging to me. Knowing that there are other people besides the younger generations who still fight for equality despite growing up in different times is amazing. These people didn’t see color, age, gender, salary – you name it, they accepted you. It was refreshing as we grow up in a culture where everyone seems to be offended rather easily and are very money-oriented.

 

The other Ohio State girls on the retreat were what made it so special for me. I truly don’t know if I would do a retreat like Esalen alone, but I’m glad I didn’t have to. By the end of the week, other attendees were joking about how we should make a sorority or club for just us girls as we fit together so well. Though that was funny in and of itself, it was cool that other people saw how strong our bond had become. We had all gone through change during the trip, and talking about these with the other girls outside of yoga classes was great.

 

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

This entire trip left me feeling more mature and very excited for the future. I’m graduating in December, and I’m now more confident in my abilities – especially my interpersonal skills. It also changed my thought processes and how I view mindfulness. Before the trip, I had been holding onto ideas or people that I wanted to let go of but wasn’t sure how to do so. I wanted to change my major and overall career path, and after speaking with some retreat attendees I am confident in my ability to take charge and start making moves in the direction I’d like to go in.

I’ve always a very anxious and restless person, but Esalen made me feel a sense of peace that I have never felt. I was in a beautiful place with amazing, understanding individuals and the timing was perfect for a big transformation. Letting go of so much emotional turmoil during the week, both in and out of the yoga classes and meditations, was so uplifting. I continued with my yoga practice at home after the retreat, and am happy that my outlook has remained the same since leaving Esalen. I felt a lot of personal and mental growth during the entire project, something I strived to obtain for a while.

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