San Francisco 1975, Part I

I arrived in California to stay for three months. My cousin Johnny had been part of the 'Brain Drain' and, being a brilliant research scientist, had moved first to Philadelphia and then San Jose. I was invited to stay a while.

I had become an TEFL teacher in London but after a few years knew that I wanted to be carefree and travel again. To be free again. I was able to rent my flat in London for a year to a gay doctor and off I sped.

Johnny introduced me to his friend Jay who was a volunteer at EST, having done the training and he invited me to the Jack Tar hotel in San Francisco. I was open to anyone and everything but not an opportunist. I was not into making money but I had begun my soul searching Journey. I had begun to ask Life Questions. Who was I? What was my purpose in Life? I had no goals and no purpose. I was a nomadic drifter. I was also a parasite staying with people who would feed and give me a sense of security. I was only once ticked off in New York. So when Jay invited me to an introductory evening recruiting prospects for EST, I went knowing I would get into something different. Before the evening had ended I had paid a deposit for the two weekends intensive 60 hours training that was guaranteed to transform my life!

I didn't understand what waves Werner Erhard was making , calling everyone an asshole! Well I was!!! I knew nothing about anything!!! I certainly did not know who I was!! I had no idea that this was a trendy 60 hour training and that all Hollywood was there was taking part. Famous actors were discovering how to be authentic. I was just a little gal from Liverpool, out of her depths, thrown into the psychobabble deep end of the evolving personal development pool.

There were strict rules and you had to sign a disclaimer, hand in your watch and not take any notes. There were locked doors although this was denied and highly criticised. I recall a holocaust victim getting hysterical because she was not allowed to go to the toilet.

I recall lying on the carpeted hotel floor desperately trying to imagine the sea and palm trees 'listening' to the waves. I found I was no good at that kind of image work/meditation and got stressed because I did not 'get it'.

That was THE purpose of the whole Seminar, you had to GET IT. The inspiration for the Seminar begun when Werner had an epiphany crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in 1971, which was to "transform one's ability to experience living so that the situations one had been trying to change or had been putting up with, clear up just in the process of life itself".

The main thing I realised was that neither of my parents had ever told me they loved me!!! As a result I wrote to my parents on a blue folded aerogramme demanding a separate letter from my father who only wrote a couple of illegible lines at the end of my mother's letter and telling them just that - that they had never written or verbalised their love for me!!  Imagine how they must have felt when they received it with their suburban provincial middle class limited narrow minds!!!

I just recall the end summing up. There were 250 of us standing up. When we 'got it' we had to sit down after raising our hand. I WAS THE ONLY ONE STANDING. I bawled my head off  I didn't 'get' it. I had failed and wasted my money. But maybe I had and never realised it.  I learned from EST to live for the moment. To accept what is IS and what isn't ISN'T. The Zen Satori. Be fearless about living authentically. Yes, looking back, it was really 60 hours that transformed my life. I can proudly say I am an EST graduate.

In San Francisco I learned to look at people, not over their shoulder or away to avoid eye contact. I learned to SMILE and hug people. Difficult for a gauche English girl who was at that stage undeveloped and knew nothing about the hardships of Life. I had had it easy. A sheltered provincial life until 22 when I went to Italy and got into a lot of hot water. I was a dumb brunette not a blonde.

It was promised that an EST graduate could always do the course again for free forever. Went I got back to London, I carefully kept the programme, receipt and little book of wise quotations together in an envelope.

About 25 years later I met an older woman who was raving about how Landmark had changed her life. She invited me to come to a hotel for an introductory evening. I found out that EST had been sold to Landmark! They told me however that I would have to pay again. The promise was not kept! I did not want to pay again. Why should I?

I heard that in the 1991 Werner had moved abandoning America. Why? He had been in power for two decades. In the 70s there was The Esalen Institute at Big Sur, Fritz Perls and EST. Grinder and Bandler had just begun NLP in Santa Cruz, Rolfing was in (Ida Rolf was a graduate), TA, Eric Berne's book 'I'm OK you're OK, 'The games people play' and 'Feel the fear and do it anyway' by Erica Yong were THE books to buy. I had EST book and Biography on Fritz Perls. What more inspiration did I need?

And so after six wonderful months travelling around America and especially my three crazy months in California, I moved on to live another six months in Mexico to learn more about the new found ME and my Journey.

Written in Naxos July 2015.