How Integral Transformative Practice Began
Integral Transformative Practice has deep roots. You might say its creation became inevitable on a magical night in February 1965 when award-winning journalist and author George Leonard and Esalen Institute co-founder Michael Murphy met for the first time at a small dinner party in San Francisco.
Michael Murphy's Esalen had opened three years earlier under the banner “Human Potentialities.” Leonard was just completing a five-month-long journey of discovery for a major magazine article, crisscrossing the U.S. interviewing brain researchers, psychologists, psychiatrists, biologists, philosophers and theologians on that same subject. The 37 experts he interviewed agreed that most of us rarely use more than a tiny fraction of our potential.
The other dinner guests seemed to fade away as Murphy and Leonard started a conversation that has never really ended. After the party was over and all the other guests had left, the two of them drifted over to Leonard's house on California Street. Sometime around three a.m., the two of them pledged to work together for the rest of their lives toward helping people realize more of their potential.
While carrying on his research and producing bestselling books, DVDs and CDs, Leonard became deeply involved in Esalen, first as vice president, then president of this frontier institute on the edge of the Pacific. In 1970, as suggested by Murphy, he took up the practice of aikido, generally known as the most graceful of the martial arts as well as the most difficult to learn. This would lead to a fifth-degree black belt and the co-founding of an internationally known aikido school, Aikido of Tamalpais.
Leonard studied not only aikido as a martial art but also what his first teacher, Robert Nadeau, called “energy awareness.” He began giving workshops in this non-strenuous version of the art in 1972, developing it into Leonard Energy Training (LET) in 1974. He went on to present this work to groups comprising some 50,000 people in the U.S. and Europe, often in partnership with his wife Annie Styron Leonard (shown left), also an LET teacher and aikido black belt.
Meanwhile, Michael Murphy continued developing Esalen, the groundbreaking institute he had founded with Richard Price in 1962. Prior to that, he had spent 18 months at the Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, India, where he had deepened his long-term meditation practice and his study of the human potential.
In 1976, with four assistants, Murphy began collecting material concerning extraordinary human functioning for a project that would occupy 15 years, eventually resulting in more than 11,000 documents. Out of this would come a book of nearly 800 pages: The Future of the Body: Explorations into the Further Evolution of Human Nature.
Murphy’s magnum opus was published early in 1992, shortly after the publication of Leonard’s latest book, Mastery: The Keys to Long-Term Success and Fulfillment. It was at this point that the two of them decided to start an experimental class in what they would call Integral Transformative Practice.