Last night I watched two movies.
Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard.
This is quite a fun trip down memory lane for anybody who took est (or, in my case, Lifespring — basically the same thing).
I did all the trainings they offered in 1980. Basic, IPE, and TC 12, in Seattle. At the time, it was so different from normal education that many of my friends and family members thought I was in a cult or new religion. ABC’s 20/20 did an exposÃ© accusing Lifespring of being a cult. (I think they actually shot footage of the training I was in). My mother talked with a psychiatrist about how to get me deprogrammed. She wanted me to talk to him, which I did, from a pay phone in Seattle. est and Lifespring were his special interests. He told me I was in a cult.
Now, thirty years later, I can honestly say what hundreds of thousands of other graduates have said: it made a profound difference in the quality of my life, and I’ve lived my life differently as a result.
And it’s not a cult. Or a religion. It’s an educational course. In fact, I audited the Basic Training twice again, years later, and received renewal credit toward my teacher’s license.
The most interesting thing about revisiting this material now is to see how mainstream this kind of education has become in the time since then.
Experiential learning has been around forever. But formalized experiential education was a little radical then.
Dr. Phil and Oprah use a similar approach with their guests every day. Countless books and DVD’s help people gain similar awareness.
Phrases like “getting it,” “experiencing a breakthrough,” “thinking outside the box,” “coming from” a certain “place,” “what you resist, persists,” (est), “what you resist is what you become,” (Lifespring), “thanks for sharing,” and “making a difference” were strange jargon from the training then. Schools and businesses use these terms regularly now.
In 1980, the concept of “accountability” — a primary tenet of Lifespring — was something new and weird and different to many people. Since the 90’s, that’s been the big push in public education — although I would suggest that it’s only the same word but applied very differently.
LGATs (large group awareness trainings) take a stand that’s really simple: Every person is important. People can make difference in other people’s lives. The world can be a better place in which to live. It’s possible to spend structured time with other people, with a facilitator, and put this vision into action.
Crazy back then. Normal now.
The other movie I saw was Julie & Julia, which was thoroughly enjoyable. I saw it right after a Thanksgiving feast and got hungry again!