“Mad Men” is over, but fans may be curious to find out if they can achieve the same state of zen that Don Draper (Jon Hamm) reaches at the end of the AMC series’ finale. Well, luckily the spiritual retreat where Don has his Coke ad-inspiring meditation sessions actually exists! After serving as the inspiration for the acclaimed show’s final scenes, the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, will certainly be a bucket list destination for any diehard “Mad Men” fan.
The Esalen Institute, more commonly referred to as simply “Esalen,” is a retreat center founded in the early 1960s in the California coast city. The center offers various workshops and classes to foster better emotional health for its visitors and great harmony with the world around them via therapy, organic food, massage, yoga and meditation. The mission statement on Esalen’s website reads, “Esalen is a leading center for exploring and realizing human potential through experience, education, and research. We work toward the realization of a more humane and all-embracing world.”
Workshops, such as those catering to couples’ communication and family mindfulness range in price from about $400 to almost $2000 and can last one weekend or as long as a week. There are also various opportunities to live, work or teach at the center.
Watch the Esalen Institute’s promo video below:
In the “Mad Men” series finale, Don ends up at an Esalen-like center – it is never mentioned by name – after showing up at Stephanie Draper’s (Caity Lotz) house drunk. She takes him to the California retreat where Don takes part in group therapy sessions while on the verge of an anxiety attack. After an emotional scene where Don breaks down listening to a man describe the loneliness of his life, Don has a realization and is peacefully meditating in the show’s last scene.
Watch the final scene of “Mad Men” below:
Esalen also provided a unique production challenge for “Mad Men,” while filming the show’s final scenes. According to a New York Times interview with Hamm, “Mad Men” usually filmed telephone call scenes with the off-screen actor on set to actually talk to the actor on camera. However, when Hamm was filming his telephone call scene with Peggy (Elizabeth Moss) on the Northern Califirnia coast, Moss was back in Los Angeles. After some initial struggle, producer Matthew Weiner eventually just had Hamm literally call Moss while filming the scene.
Esalen will be forever ingrained in the memories of “Mad Men” fans. Now viewers can kill two birds with one stone: visit the inspiration for one of their favorite shows' endings and, perhaps, find some inner peace of their own.