As we move toward the most evolved goal of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs—self actualization—what we each do for a living plays a huge role in achieving our full potential, especially creatively. That is one reason I would heartily recommend a career in wellness, especially at a time like this. After a year of rolling lockdowns, a tripling of depression rates among adults in the U.S., and ongoing social unrest, the need for wellness has been brought into sharp focus like never before. As the Global Wellness Summit Trends report released at the end of January underscores, the industry is leading fast- moving trends, rapid innovation, and an ever-widening marketplace. Choosing a career from a wide range of wellness industry verticals is actually a positive way to contribute to a world in dire need of healing.
In the spa industry in particular, which is an industry built around touch, spas have been closed more than they’ve been open this past year, and many therapists are deciding to leave their practices, so much so in fact, that many spas are experiencing a staff shortage.
Let’s face it, the past year has given people plenty of time to think. There is a real desire from many for truly meaningful work. Wellness seekers realize the global need for connection, community, human contact, and healing, and many of them want to be part of the solution. Business owners have also had a chance to think about consciously evolving and are looking for ways to improve their businesses so more opportunities in the wellness field should be available.
Because so many small businesses have had to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people who have lost their long-time livelihoods and are now rethinking what they really want to do for a living. Now is the perfect opportunity for them to look for smart ways to be retrained.
I’ve always thought that the once nascent and now explosive wellness industry was made up of a disproportionate amount of entrepreneurially minded individuals. I heartily agree with what Mind Body founder, Rick Stollmeyer, says in his new book, Building a Wellness Business that Lasts: How to Make a Good Living Doing What You Love. “Entrepreneurs should never run from a crisis, rather they should develop solutions that will leave them in a stronger position than before the crisis started.”
Taking it a step further, parallel to opportunities for business leaders are responsibilities. I believe that leaders in the wellness space should take the lead in helping equip and expand the horizons of wellness practitioners for now and the future. In a world plagued with distrust—of science, politics, and opportunities for racial equity—a greater accountability and integrity from our leadership can be the antidote to employee and guest distrust. We will be required to walk our talk in a world that is more transparent, more accessible, and more perceptive than ever before.
In fact, one of the reasons I was hired to develop Esalen Healing Arts as a subsidiary of the original Institute was so that Esalen could use its legacy to provide training options for wellness practitioners around the world. Part of our mission is to provide programs that offer personal, spiritual, and social transformation. We firmly believe that our legacy behooves us to take advantage of changing technology to put healing modalities in the palms of the hands of curious, compassionate wellness seekers and practitioners in order to help their communities, especially at a time like this.
What we try to do with every practitioner who is exposed to the Esalen training is to help clients move past the “you fixed me” mentality and restore the agency for self-healing. We teach them to own their own body and its wellbeing, looking in, not out, for solutions. Our signature technique uses a pacing that de-stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, and neuroscience is now proving what we’ve been doing all along works.
But just as importantly, part of our mantra at Esalen is to focus on the wellbeing of therapists. We teach our therapists to be presence-based and self-regulating in order to help preserve the precious instruments that are their own bodies. We also look for ways to train them in other modalities, including alternatives to hands-on work.
This January was a turning point for Esalen. After training more than 50,000 people to meditate over the past five decades, we partnered with Radiance Sutras to launch our first ever online meditation course. The 200-hour online, interactive training and certification course runs from January 29 through June 19, 2021. Unlike dealing with the physical limitations of our physical location, anyone with an internet connection is invited to sign up for the class.
We plan to offer a number of other courses over the coming months as well, starting with exploring our relationship to optimal living through our relationship to death and dying. The course will be led by professionals who are not only grounded philosophers but also active in the field of supporting those in transition and their communities. This is particularly timely since the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in nearly 500,000 deaths in the U.S. alone. This course will be one way to do our part in helping people learn ways to cope during such an unprecedented time.
Our approach to course creation has been inspired by the values of Esalen Massage, which weaves in a defining consideration to receptivity, being 100 percent present and adjusting the typical authoritarian approach to learning and instead looking at it through each student’s relationships to wellness.
It appears we are just at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the future of virtual wellness. One aspect that I feel we need to embrace is the power of nature and the impact of our surroundings. I believe there will be an emphasis of virtual experience that either takes place in raw and rugged outdoor settings or in a simulated environment that stimulates the five basic senses in profound ways.
As more avenues open up to train wellness practitioners, communities everywhere will benefit by having more access to professionals who can help guide them to restored emotional and physical health. And if more and more of us learn how to proactively take responsibility for our own wellbeing— and share it with others—how can it not help but contribute to helping society overall?