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The experience of presence in Esalen relaxation massage

There’s a lot of talk these days about being present, being in the moment. Schools are teaching children to be mindful and present. The military is using mindfulness techniques to train soldiers to be more effective. One of the things that differentiates Esalen relaxation massage from other massage modalities is that the practitioner is grounded in presence, and helps the client to be more present.

What does it mean, to be present?

Ordinarily, our minds are working all the time, and often at very high speed, to process the constant bombardment of information from our environment, including our devices, televisions, and the many people around us in New York City. This is a survival mechanism, and we need to function this way a lot of the time. But the brain is a thought-factory, and it continually produces thoughts, images, memories, and so on, whether or not we need to be thinking. Being present means being aware of more than the thought factory, and even learning to disengage from the stream of thoughts for brief periods of time. It means opening to a bigger awareness within which the mental functioning is occurring. You can do that right now as you are reading this.

What more is there to be aware of? There is our physical sensations, emotions, and a deeper level of experience that many spiritual traditions call the soul. It is possible to develop our awareness of this more subtle level of experience, which is a source of mystery and delight. As a long-time practitioner of the Diamond Approach, I have learned to develop subtle awareness, and I communicate this to my client on the massage table through my presence.

How does Esalen relaxation massage cultivate awareness?

This type of experience is hard to describe because it is a non-verbal type of awareness that doesn’t use the ordinary mind. The doorway to presence is through physical sensation. Through the relaxation that occurs during a massage, my clients focus on the pleasurable physical sensations in their body, allowing the thought stream to quieten for periods of time. Once this happens, the subtle awareness can open up.

Some clients notice energy moving through their body, or experience magical color. Sometimes the music might begin to move through the body like a flowing river. Each client and each day is unique, so the particular experience of presence is different in every session. But what is common to all my clients is that the after-effect of a session is a feeling of relaxation, peace, and ease that lasts for hours and even days. This is the gift of presence, and we can all learn to experience it more of the time.

It’s amazing how something as simple as quieting our thoughts can bring us in touch with a feeling of fresh possibility, mystery, magic, and meaning.

Feel like a Sultan with Esalen relaxation massage

Gift from Saudi Arabia to the United Nations, New York

Esalen relaxation massage takes you to a deep state of relaxation, which brings you in touch with delightful aspects of your true nature. These are parts of yourself that are always there, but you may not have time to notice when your attention is focused on work and the busy demands of your day.

When you take the time to step outside of everyday rush, into the relaxing oasis of a massage session, the possibility for deeper awareness of yourself emerges. One aspect that might arise is to feel the royalty and dignity of your innermost being. This might be expressed as a king or prince. Since it is the sybaritic pleasure of the massage that is awakening this state, I like to think of it as feeling your inner sultan, pampered at the oasis, blessed with riches and beauty.

I invite you to enter the oasis and feel your inner sultan. Strength, authority, rulership, and power, exercised through a supreme confidence in one’s natural, eternal dignity.

Photograph of Oasis diorama – gift of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations, New York City

Reiki in Esalen relaxation massage

Esalen Relaxation Massage NYC New York - Reiki Forest Pathway

Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. This healing technique is based on the principle that the masseuse can channel energy into your body by means of touch, to activate the natural healing processes of the your body and restore physical and emotional well-being.

I have been a Reiki practitioner since 2004, and find that the healing power of Reiki flows through my hands spontaneously when I touch my clients. This gives the Esalen relaxation massage an extra boost of positive energy, and could be one of the reasons my clients feel so energized and blissful for days after receiving an Esalen relaxation massage.

If you have a particular injury that you would like me to help heal, let me know. We can spend a little time giving the positive healing energy of Reiki to the injury, and let your body accelerate the healing process.

Relaxation in stressful times

Pebble in a Pond - Blog - Esalen Relaxation Massage NYC New York

I have been hearing from my clients, friends, and fellow New Yorkers that the level of stress in the city is very high right now. The uncertainty of political events both in the US and globally is creating a lot of anxiety for people, and people are looking for better ways to deal with it.

Don’t forget about the basics:
  • Eat healthy, get some exercise.
  • Hug your loved ones.
  • Feel your feet on the ground.
  • Meditate if you can sit still long enough!
  • Don’t watch or read upsetting news right before bed.
These things will help you get to sleep, and feel more grounded as you go about your day.

And of course, nothing is better than Esalen relaxation massage for a time-out from the crazy, with 90 minutes or more in a quiet oasis away from the world. In this time just for you, your only care is whether you prefer scented or unscented oil, and whether you want a light touch or a deeper stroke. There has never been a time when massage could be more beneficial than right now. It is amazing what a difference a few hours away from your everyday life can make.

You will return refreshed, with a new perspective, more energy, and a feeling of well-being that will carry over into all parts of your life, and even impact the people around you.

Be the pebble in the pond that helps everyone you know feel a little more able to deal with these troubled times.

“Waiting for Spring” invitation – 10% off

Esalen Sunset - Spring Special

Spring is in the air, though it’s only February. With the temperature rising in New York City, I’d like to invite you to come experience the bliss of Esalen relaxation massage. Shake off the winter blues, and be my guest while I take you to the surging Big Sur coastline. I offer you an introductory special of 10% off the regular massage fee for the massage session of your choice.

This offer extends until the first day of Spring, March 20. Contact me today to arrange one of the best experiences of a lifetime—Esalen relaxation massage!

Year of the Rooster

Esalen Relaxation Massage NYC New York - Blog - Year of RoosterHappy New Year to all my clients, past, present, and future. Today it is the Lunar New Year, the start of the Year of the Rooster! If your plumage is feeling a little bedraggled, now would be the perfect time to come for a rejuvenating Esalen Relaxation Massage. I look forward to getting my hands on you!

Back in the New York Groove


Dear friends,

As some of you know, I have been away traveling for a few months. I had a fantastic time visiting some exotic destinations in Canada, including:

  • Calgary, Alberta, for the Stampede. Yeehaw! Ask to see my boots and cowboy hat!
  • The Cariboo, BC – home of the famous gold rush that began in the 1860s
  • Montreal, Quebec – for some winter chills of -9 F, with gorgeous snow and ice! And some pretty cool statues.
Now I am back in New York and accepting bookings once more. I look forward to seeing you on the massage table soon.

Warmly, Karen

Esalen relaxation massage with sensation play

Sensation Play - Blog - Esalen Relaxation Massage NYC New York

People often ask me what makes Esalen relaxation massage so special. Of course the signature long stroke is one of the unique aspects of Esalen massage that gives my clients a feeling of pleasure, wholeness, and well-being. And the long-form of sessions that I practice gives me a chance to pamper every part of your body, gently loosening all your joints and relaxing every muscle.

But it’s the element of surprise that comes with new and unexpected sensations that adds that little extra something for my clients. Esalen relaxation massage is non-scripted, meaning that each session is a unique interplay between me and my client. And this allows room for spontaneity and exploration of different sensations.

Some of my clients like me to tickle or spank them. And I recently read about an awesome masseusse who really knows about sensation play. She bites her clients’ backs! So this has opened up my mind to new possibilities for a massage session. I will be curious to see what happens in my next session!

I think the artwork above expresses this element of playfulness and fun so beautifully. An invitation I extend to you…

Mad Men at Esalen

Mad Men at Esalen

Spoiler Alert! If you haven’t seen the series Mad Men yet, and particularly the series finale, stop reading immediately. Go and watch all 92 episodes (it will probably take you about 4 months) and then get back to me.

If you have seen the finale, you may not have realized that the retreat center that Don/Dick went to with his free-spirited semi-niece Stephanie is Esalen. That’s right, the same Esalen that gave birth to Esalen massage.

I loved the show, and thought the ending was the most perfect ending imaginable. (Even better than the weepy future-deaths finale of Six Feet Under and the ordinary-family-life ending of The Sopranos.) Of course it makes perfect sense that Don Draper would go to Esalen, deal with his issues (people really do that in the encounter groups there—I’ve seen it, I’ve done it), and then find peace meditating on the grass. A creative peace that leads to mid-meditation inspiration and the greatest commercial of all time—Coke’s “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.” Of course he came out of retirement, right?

I too have had amazing creative inspiration while on meditation retreats in California, though in my case, it was my entire master’s thesis on green funerals. Not quite as catchy as the Coke commercial.

So, to my Esalen massage clients, I just wanted to let you know that I’m still thinking of you from the road, and that the final episode is realistic—this kind of thing happens at Esalen all the time! And it happens to people on my massage table too.

I’m working on creative projects while away, and just did this tribute to Mad Men as part of my Another New York Love Affair video series. Check it out! Save

Esalen relaxation and renewal

Big Sur coastline at Esalen
I’ve been at Esalen in Big Sur this past week, catching up with friends in the Esalen community, giving and receiving amazing Esalen massages, learning some new techniques, and taking in the beauty and freedom of this wild, outrageously stunning place.

I’ll be back in Manhattan, New York City next week to share the vibe and some new strokes with you! See you soon. Warmly, Karen