est: Part 12: The Beat Goes On
Date: Friday, 2 June 2006, at 6:08 p.m.
My Experience with est: Part 12: The Beat Goes On
It seemed like est was the source of miracles in my life. Even though the trainer told us that we were God in our own universe, it felt like I wouldn’t know how to be God if they weren’t there to show me how.
The way to stay transformed and enlightened in est was to participate in never ending Graduate programs. There were the $50 one night a week seminars that most people participated in.
“Be Here Now” was the seminar people usually took right after they completed the training. It was about learning to “be here now” with nothing added. The concept was that the source of our upsets are those stacks of past experiences. If we are upset about something, it normally has to do with something that happened before. We are remembering the past, rather than experiencing the future. If we could just learn to not allow our past (our mind) to control us, most of the challenges in live become easier to deal with. If the frying pan catches on fire, rather than reliving the time I was burned at the age of six, I could simply put the fire out and not run around screaming and freaking out.
“What’s So”, was mostly a workshop about how to set and achieve goals. They gave us a notebook and we were supposed to write down several things that we wanted to achieve. I liked this seminar, because by the end of it, I achieved almost everything on the list. I got that the other things on the list, I just wasn’t that interested in getting.
“About Sex” had to do with… sex. I remember three things from this seminar. One was when they showed us a film of nothing but close-ups of male and female genitals.
One night Barbara, who had moved back to the Valley to be in Roadshow Players, got up and shared in “About Sex”. She was crying and shaking and told the seminar that she had been brutally raped by her former boyfriend. Of course, I was aware of this, but most of our friends who were taking the seminar with us were not. The next day at work, Ray asked me about it. He had mistakenly thought that she was talking about me, and that I had raped Barbara. Of course, I explained to him that I had been Barbara’s brief transitional boyfriend between William and Bruce, and it was William who had raped her.
At one of the “About Sex” seminars, we were told to break into groups, and to choose a partner that we did not know. I ended up with a young woman about my age. The seminar leader told us to share with our partner something we had done sexually that we were embarrassed about. I took a deep breath and told about how I had ended up in bed with the bride from a wedding I had been the best man for.
My partner leaned in and told me that she had a three-way sex experience that included her brother and his friend. I tried not to look shocked out of my mind. Then she went on to tell me the details of how that came about. It was completely voluntary, and they had done it after becoming adults. At the end she said, “I’m so afraid my Mom will find out!”. I said, “If you or your brother don’t tell her, then how would she ever find out?”. Then she pointed to a woman about 20’ away and said, “My Mom is sitting right there!”.
We also had special guest seminars where a trainer would lead the seminar, and it would usually be in a large hotel ballroom like the training itself. One time I brought some friends to a guest seminar that was lead by my first weekend trainer, Lon.
At one point, Lon asked if anyone had any questions, or would like to share. A man who was a guest took the microphone and started into a story about how is girlfriend took est and now their relationship was horrible because that’s all she could ever talk about. Then he verbally attacked Lon. “You are a smiling ass”, the man said to Lon. I was sitting there thinking that if Lon wanted to he could handle this guy’s case. Lon just said, “I got it! Thank you for sharing!”. Later that night, the man signed up for the training.
There were also occasional functions where Werner himself would appear and give a talk about some heavy topic. One such night was held at the Pasadena Convention Center, very close to my home. What I remember most about this night was that R. Buckminster Fuller was in the audience. Apparently, “Bucky”, as Werner called him, was some kind of supporter of est. I don’t believe that Fuller ever actually took the training, but Werner loved to show off the rich and famous est influenced. I began to think that if a bona fide genius like Buckminster Fuller saw the value in est, then there must actually be value.
For graduates of est, participating was about bringing guests. No matter what the seminar topic, they probably spent a quarter of each session telling us that next week we had to bring guests so we could share the training. If we had lost “it”, then the only way to get “it” back was to share the training. When we brought guests to a graduate seminar, they were taken away after a brief introduction to be in a guest seminar to be hard sold. I hated that when I was Barbara’s guest. I usually didn’t bring people to the seminars because of that, preferring to simply sign them up myself, or take them to a Special Guest Seminar (SGS) where they could stay with me the entire time.
I was on the Presenters team around this time. The Presenters were the team of people who would sit in the back of the room when the trainees came back from dinner break. We were the ones that would walk up on the platform and stand nose to nose with trainees and look them straight in the eye.
Training to be a presenter was not all that hard. I arrived at the center the afternoon of the Danger Process, and we did some exercises looking into the eyes of our fellow presenters. It was explained to us that the Presenters weren’t supposed to be zombies. We were to simply “give space” in the training. We had to be there with no story whatsoever.
Some of the mysteries surrounding Presenting fell away during that training session. I wondered how they knew when to get up in unison to go to the platform, and how they would pick people to present to. In my training, these folks were precise and on purpose.
Sitting in the back of the room, we were to observe the first row that went to the platform. The presenter on the farthest left seat, would take the first three trainees on the left side facing the platform. The next presenter would take the next three. The number of presenters and the number of spots on the platform were planned so each of us had exactly three people that we were responsible for.
Once the first row was up, the Training Supervisor would tap three times on the microphone. This was our cue to stand up and walk to the platform. It was up to us which of the three people we would present to first. The important thing was to know before we got up exactly where we were going, so it would all look perfect. No confusion. If you looked at the row, and your three included somebody you knew outside the training, you were supposed to lean over to the presenter next to you and say “switch”. This happened to me only once that I recall when a former girlfriend showed up in my three.
We were to arrive at the platform, in front of our first trainee to be presented to, and then when all of us were in place, we were to step onto the platform at the same time, looking down at the floor. Then we were to lift our heads and look at the trainee. The presenter was then to pick one eye to look at. We were not allowed to dart back and forth between eyes. I always took the eyeball to my right. Once we made eye contact we were to maintain it until we experienced that the trainee had gotten off it, and simply been with us without anything added.
Once we felt that the first trainee had “been with” us, we were to look down at the floor, then step one step over to the next of our three, and repeat the process.
During all of this the Trainer and Training Supervisor would be yelling at the trainees to “get off it”. “Just BE with that person in front of you!”. “Give them your SELF, not your ACT”. If a trainer tapped you on the back, you were to step aside. When this happened, it was usually because the trainer thought the person was not getting off it, so they would either yell at the person, or present to the person.
Once each of us were done with our three, we would march back to our seats, and wait for the next row.
I can’t remember how many times I Presented at the training. I did most if not all of the trainings in the San Fernando Valley during a period of about two years. I loved presenting.
Usually when you showed up in front of somebody, they were very uncomfortable at first. Then they would do something out of nervousness. Sometimes they would laugh, sometimes they would cry, sometimes they just wouldn’t lock eyes. I just stood there until they seemed to relax and not have an issue with me being right in their face.
Once night, I was presenting to a young woman. She appeared to be very nervous, and it was like she was looking at me with hatred in her eyes. I just kept looking back. She then became very rigid, and started to tremble. This didn’t look like fear, it looked like anger. Then, right out of the blue she began to SCREAM in my face! I’m not talking about screaming as loud as she possibly could, over and over again!
I would like to say that I just stuck with her and gave her space, but in reality, I was so frightened, I had no reaction at all. I was scared stiff! It looked to everyone else like I was doing a masterful job.
The trainer walked up on the platform next to me and looked out to the crowd and yelled, “Isn’t this the greatest entertainment you’ve ever had? All this guy (me) is doing is being with her. Her response? To scream her head off right in his face! All she has to do is be with him, and he will go away!”.
She kept yelling in my face. Then I noticed some movement in her shoulders. I started to wonder if she was going to punch me in the face, and I couldn’t look away from her eyes to see if her fist was clinched, I was sure it was, since her whole body seemed to be rigid. Next I felt a tap on the back. I lowered my eyes to the floor and stepped off the platform to make room for the trainer to take my place.
At the end of the night, we had a clearing meeting, and the trainer asked me if I was okay. I said, “Sure!”. But, the truth was, I was completely freaked out by it.
On the enrollment side of things, I was still signing people up like crazy. One afternoon my phone rang, and it was my cousin Pam from Texas. She was lamenting to me about how terrible her life was. She couldn’t get off drugs, nothing was working. I flipped open one of my est pamphlets, and told her to take down the number of the est center in Houston. “Call this number and tell them you want to sign up for the next training. It costs $350.00, it takes two weekends, and during that time, you will transform the quality of your life. I quit smoking cold turkey, and I’m not even thinking about drugs and alcohol. This works. Call them, sign up, and call me back with the dates of your training so I can book a flight to be there when you graduate”.
She called me back with dates, and I flew out to attend her graduation. Her mother, my aunt Doris picked me up at Hobby Airport and drove me to where Pam’s training was being held. I was telling her about all the miracles in my life, and she asked about Jane and the kids. I told her that Gretchen was having seizures. She said back, “Oh, Honey, that baby may not live”. I had never considered that being a possibility.
I went into the training room in Houston, it was the same as every other room that I had helped sign up. Blank faced assistants giving space. I realized I could walk into one of these rooms anyplace in the world and be at home. I yelled out with the Houstonian Estonians, “When you’re HOT you’re HOT, and when you’re NOT you’re NOT” to grads, and the training ended. I went and gave Pam a hug, and congratulated her, thinking about how nice it would have been if anybody had come to my graduation.
Pam and I went out to a café and she told me about her training. Apparently, she had been the star. Later on, Pam would be in a serious relationship with the famous late comedian Bill Hicks. In Hick’s biography “American Scream”, Pam is described as a “Blanche Dubois” type. She confessed to me that during one of her fits of dramatics in the training, her trainer had simply replied, “You are a vindictive white bitch.” She looked at me waiting for a response. I just looked back, and said, “That sounds fairly accurate.” We both laughed about it.
Pam went on to take the training several more times. I never could figure out why somebody would do that. I’m not sure how many times over the years Pam retook the basic training. She also continued to struggle with addiction until she died of cancer in her early 40’s.
After a lot of hard work, my brother Jimmy finally took the training. I remember going to his graduation. Afterward, we went out to an all night diner to talk about his experience. He told me that he thought that I had some fantastic secret to the universe, and he couldn’t believe that after all that, what I really had was nothing. Jimmy got the joke. The very next day, he broke up with a girlfriend who he was in a dead end relationship with. He had also ditched school for an entire year, so he went back and enrolled in continuation school. He really liked school in that format, which was designed for students who didn’t do well in a regular school environment.
Jimmy and I were six years apart, so growing up we never were really buddies. Now we had something in common. We were both est graduates, and he seemed to be turning his life around.
Then, in the wee hours of a December morning in 1982, about two months after his 18th birthday, the phone rang. I woke up and answered it. It was my Mother. Took a deep breath, and while choking back her tears, she said, “Jimmy’s dead”.