Silicon Valley executives are paying thousands to fix a ‘crisis of the soul’ at a luxury retreat — here’s what they’re learning

Esalen InstitueEsalen Institue/Facebook

  • Silicon Valley executives are descending on a bohemian
    retreat center in California to come to terms with the
    technologies they created.
  • Workshops focus on things like tech addiction and
    fostering social good.
  • A weekend for two can costs upward of
    $2000 for organic meals and rustic

Facebook’s fake news problem
and talk of
smartphone addiction
 have caused some tech
workers to realize that the apps,
social networks,
and smart devices that made them successful
may have some serious downsides. 

So Silicon Valley executives are heading to the Esalen Institute,
a historic retreat center in Big Sur, California that once
attracted the hippie crowd to fix their
“crisis of the soul,”
as The New York Times puts it.

 “There’s a dawning consciousness emerging in Silicon
Valley as people recognize that their conventional success isn’t
necessarily making the world a better place,” Esalen executive
director Ben Tauber told the New
York Times.

Esalen has been hosting workshops on meditation, healing, and
yoga since 1962, but with Tauber at the helm, it’s reworking the
curriculum to cater to Silicon Valley’s executives with workshops
on everything from internet addiction to depression and tech.

In Tauber’s former life, he founded a celebrity-tracking tool
called JustSpotted
before joining Google in 2011. After a trip to Esalen, he
realized he wanted something more. In 2015 he joined Esalen’s
board and took over as director last year.

In November, Esalen
hosted a weekend session
called “Connect to Your
Inner-Net: Mindful Practices for Life and Work.” Attendees began
their days with dancing and chakra meditation before diving into
practices like mindful emailing and listening. It was led
by Gopi Kallayil, the leader of brand marketing at Google
Social and Mirabai Bush, a contributor to Google’s workplace
mindfulness initiatives.

A meal at Esalen’s


During a “Digital Raign Reality Summit” earlier this year,
entrepreneurs, filmmakers, artists and others descended on the
resort to explore positive uses for emerging technologies like
virtual reality and artificial intelligence. According to
Esalen’s website, this year’s program set out to explore

the depths of emerging technology, neuroscience,
and development of positive mind states in the digital

Another session called “Consciousness Hacking: Meditation +
Technology” took place in November. It was led by Mikey Siegel,
founder of an organization called Consciousness Hacking, and
Dustin DiPernia, an ancient meditation expert. The event was
described as a “technology-augmented meditation retreat” and
combined traditional meditation with a technology designed by the
duo that monitors heart rhythms and provides feedback. 

Like many activities involving the tech crowd, Esalen’s
weekend retreats don’t come cheap. A standard all-inclusive rooms
runs at $845, while a double costs $2310. Participants are fed
meals like roasted delicata squash, baked polenta, and spicy
marinated cauliflower. The rooms have heated floors, enhanced
sound, and of course, an internet connection.

The new programs are a departure from Esalen’s old ways, but it
seems like Silicon Valley is having an awakening, and just as it
did in for the hippies in the ’70s, Esalen is there to lead them
through it. 



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