Esalen Institute (esalen.org) is a retreat center and intentional community founded in 1962 by Michael Murphy and Richard Price at Murphy’s family’s beautiful hot springs resort on the bluffs of the Big Sur coast. It has offered workshops and programs focusing on humanistic alternative education and played a key role in birthing the human potential movement through innovative encounter groups, a focus on mind-body connections, and ongoing experimentation in personal awareness. It also sponsored major research and service projects including US-Soviet “Track II” citizen diplomacy and original meta-research documenting the proven effects of meditation, as well as and hosting catalytic invitation-only meetings. It is now reimagining its role and, with its expertise in convening conversations that matter, I expect it may be hosting many of the conversations I see emerging in the time ahead.
Omega Institute (eomega.org) is a non-profit educational retreat center in Rhinebeck, New York that was founded in 1977 by Elizabeth Lesser and Stephan Rechtschaffen, inspired by Sufi teacher Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan. It now offers classes to over 25,000 people a year. Its mission is to “provide hope and healing for individuals and society” through “innovative educational experiences that awaken the best in the human spirit”. Omega’s workshops, conferences, and retreats aim to create dialogues that connect science, spirituality, and creativity; integrate modern medicine and natural healing; and build the groundwork for new traditions and lifestyles.
The Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health (kripalu.org) was founded by Amrit Desai in 1974 and dedicated to his teacher Kripalu. It operates a health and yoga retreat in Stockbridge, MA in a large facility, a former Jesuit seminary it acquired in 1983. It can accommodate over 650 overnight guests, and may be the largest residential facility for holistic health and education in America. It is dedicated to empowering people and communities to realize their full potential through the transformative wisdom and practice of yoga.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center (spiritrock.org), located in rural western Marin County north of San Francisco, offers many programs ranging from weekly meditation events to drop-in classes to silent residential retreats lasting from a few days to a year or more. Although emphasizing profoundly transformative silent Buddhist vipassana practice and retreats [like its sister center, the Insight Meditation Society of Barre, MA (dharma.org) Spirit Rock’s approach is ecumenical, with presentations and programs offered by spiritual leaders of many traditions. In addition to explicitly spiritual themes, programs are offered in such areas as relationships and family, community, movement and music, and the natural world. Online classes are also offered.
1440 Multiversity (1440.org) opened in May 2017, offering weekend and 5-day workshops and trainings at its state-of-the-art 75-acre campus, nestled in the redwoods of Scotts Valley, California, between Santa Cruz and San Jose. Named by founders Scott and Joanie Kriens for the number of minutes in a day, it is designed to be a beautiful and nurturing physical location where people of all walks of life can come together in community—to explore, learn, reflect, connect, and reenergize. It supports integration of the emotional, relational, and spiritual dimensions of people’s lives to assist in better connecting people to themselves and others.
The Institute of Noetic Sciences (noetic.org) was founded by astronaut Edgar Mitchell to support individual and collective transformation through consciousness research, transformative learning, and engaging a global community in the realization of human potential. It conducts, advances, and broadens the science of the wholeness that connects human beings, reaching new understandings about the nature of reality and our extended capacities. It also creates real-world tools that empower people to apply conscious awareness in their personal lives, and in healthcare, education, and business. At its Petaluma, CA campus, and its annual conferences, it hosts a community of explorers and change agents who are working together to make a difference in the world. Its goal is to create a shift in consciousness worldwide—where people recognize that they are all part of an interconnected whole and are inspired to take action to help humanity and the planet thrive.
Wisdom 2.0 (wisdom2conference.com) is an events company founded by Soren Gordhamer, also the author of a book by the same name. It addresses the great challenge of not only living connected to one another through technology, but to do so in ways that are beneficial to our own well-being, effective in our work, and useful to the world. Its flagship event attracts very well-known C-level executives from Silicon Valley’s leading firms as well as scientists and meditation teachers. It is held in February every year in the SF Bay Area and brings together over 2,500 people from 24 countries, and it also holds smaller meet ups, gatherings, and retreats.
The Science and Nonduality Conference (or SAND, scienceandnonduality.org) is an annual conference where leading scientists, philosophers, and spiritual teachers gather to explore a new understanding, rooted in radical wholeness, of who human beings really are, both as individuals and a society. It holds annual conferences that attract hundreds of leading-edge thinkers and practitioners both in the San Francisco Bay Area and Europe, and it also sponsors smaller events.
Integral Transformative Practice International (itp-international.org), founded by George Leonard and Michael Murphy, serves as a hub for communications, education, and research relating to integral practices involving body, mind, and spirit—and creating a society that advances love, deep feeling, and creativity. Ongoing programs and classes are held in California and various US cities.
The Mind and Life Institute (mindandlife.org) has since 1987 convened a series of dialogues between the Dalai Lama and various western scientists on the nature of mind, mindfulness and the nature of reality, spawning a great body of influential research integrating science with contemplative practice. The institute has given birth to numerous programs and continues to sponsor dialogues, conferences and symposia.
The Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom (wisebrain.org/wellspring-institute) is a nonprofit organization offering skillful means for changing the brain that contribute to individual and global transformation. It utilizes discoveries and methods found where psychology, neurology, and contemplative practice intersect. (full disclosure: I serve on the board.) It addresses a wide range of needs and provides a spectrum of programs and services. It publishes The Wise Brain Bulletin six times a year.