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Werner Erhard didn’t get the last laugh

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Posted: Saturday, July 16, 2011 3:58 pm

Back in 1978, it was a whole new world for me.  I was out on my own and in my first real adult (I thought) relationship.  Think about 1978.  Think about the fashion, the music and the culture.  Our Hippie leaders were no longer relevent and as a generation we were left to our own devices.  Most of us turned to drugs at one point or another to expand our minds but all that really did was expand our troubles.  And because nature abhors a vacuum, something new came along.  Self-awareness and self-discovery were becoming big business and there was money to be made from sheep like me: People who wanted to squeeze every drop out of life.

My (then) Mother-In-Law had taken a cutting-edge program called Erhard Seminars Training or EST.  She seemed in constant search for something, anything, so I didn't think much about it until she began hounding my (then) husband and I to follow suit.  At nearly $600 each, and remember this is 1978, it was too high a price to pay to simply appease her.  Eventually, she offered to pay so we caved.

The structure of the training is to attend a pre-seminar, 2 full weekends and then a post seminar.  They also had follow-up courses on a variety of subjects designed to keep the momentum, and the money I assume, flowing.  A single "Trainer" conducted the seminar with a group of facilitators who did not acknowledge your existence except to direct you to your seats.  (They were the Buckingham Palace Guards of this shindig and I'll admit mugging to get a reaction.  This did not further my cause nor education but, at times, put me squarely in the Trainer's spotlight, the one place I did not want to be)  The weekends began at 7am and could go on until 1 or 2 in the morning depending upon where the attendees were "heading" in their progress.  I was perpetually confused about where we were heading so I simply listened and sat...and sat...and sat.  At times I was alternately entertained and mind-numbingly bored.  "Push through the boredom" was a frequent and feveroant call from the facilitators who had discovered a sleeping attendee.  Why?  There's just more boredom on the other side.

EST contained a whole new vernacular.  "Ride the horse in the direction its going".  "Be here now".  "Own the moment".  "Realize you are part of the machine".  These are phrases I recall from the tedious hours of one guy talking to 500 people.  When it was all over, I took away a lot of paper, some catchy esoteric phraseology and a $1200 debt to my MIL.  I'd been had and Werner Erhard was most likely having a good laugh and some top grade scotch on me.

But that was 1978.  When I look back from 2011, I recogize some of the principles of EST are still with me and are commonplace in today's social structure.  The concepts about personal responsibility, accountability, truth and honesty are a part of my personal fabric.  Staying in the moment comes easily to me and therefore I believe I experience life more fully.  The realization that I alone have the power to change any given situation, or how I respond to it, is second nature.  These are tools I use each day.

In the end the debt was paid, I took ownership of the EST experience and dare I say...I'm a better person for it.  Take that Werner!