est part 6: Day Two
Date: Wednesday, 17 May 2006, at 4:58 p.m.
In Response To: est part 5: More from the 1st day (Joseph)
I woke up at the Holiday Inn at Newport Beach to glance at the alarm clock and see what time it was 7:30am! “Son-of-a-bitch!”, I thought. “It worked!”.
A few hours before, when releasing us from day 1 of the est training, our trainer Lon, had instructed us to tell ourselves to wake up at a specific time, and then set the alarm clock two minutes later.
I didn’t know if I was happy or sad that this had worked. I still had some skepticism left, and thought that it could just be a coincidence. It kind of creeped me out, and made me wonder if I was actually being brainwashed. In only one day, I had stopped smoking, and developed this alarm clock in my head. What would be next?
I arrived at the training room, and took the front-most, center-most seat. As I sat in the chair, it felt like my ass had bruises from the day before. I was very sore and uncomfortable. I couldn’t even imagine how I was going to make I through another marathon day at est.
Lon walked up to the platform, smiling, looking relaxed and tanned as ever. He had this metal thermos type mug in his hand that hand. It was very space age looking, kind of brushed chrome, with a lid that he could take off. He took a sip of whatever liquid was inside, drank it, looked at all of us and smiled like he had just tasted the best thing in the world.
Lon: Who wants to share?
My hand shot up. What the hell was I doing? I hated this kind of thing. Even though I was already a professional Actor, I really avoided talking in large groups. In some ways I wrote it off to being a pro, and if I was going to get up and entertain a group of people, I should get paid for it. I had plenty of face time in front of groups, so when I was on my own time, I mainly just kept my mouth shut. I couldn’t believe my hand was up. Maybe Lon wouldn’t call on me.
Lon: Joseph? Stand up. Take the microphone.
Joseph: I told myself to wake up at 7:30, and set the alarm clock for 7:32. This morning, I woke up and peeked at the clock. It said 7:30 exactly.
I waited to see what was going to happen next. Would Lon yell, “ASSHOLE”?. Would he tell me that I fucked it up, thus illustrating that I had a miserable life that did not work? What???
Lon: Beautiful. Sit down.
“Fuck me”, I thought. “Beautiful?”. “Beautiful what?”. What did he mean. That I did something right? Was he just blowing me off? Was I still an asshole? WHAT????
As I mind-fucked the experience away, Lon went on to the next person. That was the one and only time I shared during the training.
During this day, there was a lot of sharing. People got up and told some of the most heart breaking stories I ever heard. I was only 21 years old, and had just moved away from home. I didn’t have a lot of life experience to draw from. But, one thing I began to realize was that whatever problems I had, they were nothing compared to some of these people. People who were raped. People who had done terrible things to others. Just gut wrenching terrible stuff that nobody would guess from looking at this group.
Lon: We all have problems, and we should be happy about that. A person without problems is a person who is dead. If you are alive, you have problems. Assholes know this at some level and never solve the problems, because they are afraid that if they solve them, they will die! Good news, assholes, the nature of problems is that as soon as you solve one, another one comes along. It ends with your life. In this training, you will get that you can solve your problems without fear. Things that you have been putting up with, or trying to change, will clear up, just in the process of life itself.
That sounded familiar…it was right out of the est brochure that the seminar leader had drilled into us.
During this part of the training, I really got how lucky I was in life. Nobody had ever raped me, or left me for dead. My parents had remained married. I had a job, and my own place. Things had turned out pretty well for me by comparison to others in this room who had really suffered in their lives.
I had come to a point where I didn’t really care anymore when or if we had breaks. They came and went. I remained uncomfortable and just got that I was going to be that way. I no longer felt that I had come to the training to find a way to make Barbara wrong. I accepted the idea that I was there to work on me. I took responsibility for putting myself in the training, and gave up the idea that it had anything to do with anything or anyone else.
On this day, we took our one meal break a bit earlier, at around 9:00pm. I went to dinner with an Oriental lady I had been sitting next to. She asked me where I lived, and I told her in the San Fernando Valley. She asked if I had driven home the last night, and I told her about the hotel room. She said that next weekend I should stay at her place, she had a guest room. I thought this was so nice of her, and accepted, making a mental note to call the Holiday Inn and cancel my reservation.
When we returned to the room, it was different. The seats were in different places, and the platform had changed. Not only that, but there was a team of new est robots sitting in the back of the room. These people were seriously hypnotized. They looked like they were not even on the same planet as us, or even the other trainees. I thought they looked like some kind of firing squad. It was very disturbing.
Lon told us that we were about to start “The Danger Process”. Lon told us that we were assholes because we would do anything to avoid being with people, and that in this process we were going to experience being with another person, perhaps for the first time in our lives.
Lon told us that we would be brought up on the platform, one row at a time. Then he stood center on the platform. He pointed out tape marks on the platform that made little sections. We were to stand in our section with our hands at our sides and pick someone in the seats to “be with”. Lon illustrated this by making eye contact with someone in the seats.
Lon: This is simple, but most of you will not be able to do it. What will come up is your resistance to simply being with people. I will ask you to show us your self, but you will show us your act. Your act is that bullshit you give your family and your friends. You don’t call me on my shit, and I won’t call you on yours. Well, tonight, I’m calling you on your shit and you are going to have to get off it. You will be on this platform until you get off it. I don’t care if it takes the rest of your life.
Lon then told the first row to come up. About twenty people filed up on the platform and stood between the tape marks. A group of other assistants I hadn’t seen before stood behind them just off the platform.
Lon: This looks like a hanging!
I muffled a laugh, because it really did.
Lon: Imagine these poor assholes with a rope around each neck. Would any of them look any less alive? GET OFF IT! (Lon would cup his hands over his wireless microphone so it sounded like the voice of God) GET OFF IT!!!
Some people just stood there. Some shook. Some cried quietly. All looked at least somewhat nervous. A person suddenly collapsed. One of the people sanding behind the platform jumped forward and fell with the person, following him to the floor protecting his head. “Hmmm…”, I thought, “Invasion of the body catchers”.
Then the super zombie people at the back of the room, the ones from another planet stood up as if on cue, all in unison and literally marched to the front of the room. No expression, and just creepy because we had not seen even one of them before. They stopped, evenly spaced at the platform, then stepped up, each taking a person and standing nose to nose.
Lon: Some specially trained people have come to the front of the room to be with you. Just be with these people!
At this point, some people on the platform really lost it. Some cried out loud. Lon would yell from time to time, “GET OFF IT!”.
Soon enough, it was my row’s turn to get up. We went up on the platform.
Lon went down the line and made personal observations about various people. The way they were dressed, or the way they were standing. Every observation was to point out what we were doing to avoid being with other people.
Then, up came the zombies. A woman with short hair stepped up in my face. As an Actor, I had been through this kind of thing many times in concentration exercises. The idea is to concentrate and not break character. The thing I worried most about was bursting out laughing. What if I started to laugh, and made the zombie woman laugh? What would Lon do to her then? I just stood there and stared back into her eyes until she stepped away and went to the next person.
After we all had our turn, we were told to “take space”, which meant, pick up your chair and put it in some area of the room where you have a little space around yourself.
It seemed great to not have someone to the left, right, front and back for a change.
Lon told us to close our eyes, and go into our space. Then he led us through a process where we were to imagine that we were afraid of the person next to us. This caused a few people to make noises like they were crying. I just thought it was kind of stupid.
Then, we were told to imagine we were afraid of the ten closest people to us. Louder reactions in the group. Next, we were afraid of everyone in the room. Lots of yelling started. Then we were to pretend we were afraid of everyone in the world. This started to sound like some kind of mass killing was going on. I thought about Jonestown, and wondered if I really was in some kind of cult. I peaked out and saw a girl about 10’ away from me sobbing uncontrollably with a rope of snot going from her nose to the floor. I saw one of the robot people, who raked her fingers down across her eyes as if to tell me to shut my eyes. I was happy to do so.
Then, Lon began to reverse the idea. The person next to us was afraid of us. Then the ten people around us were afraid of us. Then everyone in the room/world was afraid of us.
Some people in the room started to laugh like this was the funniest thing they ever heard in their life. I just sat there thinking it was stupid.
Lon then said, if we didn’t get the joke, sometime this week we were going to be walking down the street and get it, and then we would laugh our asses off.
I got it, I just didn’t think it was that funny. But, I did think that those zombie people were the coolest thing I had ever seen, and wondered If I could one day, become one of them.
We finished the night at about 2:00am. I got in my Luv truck and headed back to the San Fernando Valley, and my job the next morning at Paradice Decorating in Burbank