Self-Help Advice est by Werner Erhand Part 1

About the self-help plan est devised by Werner Erhard., history and advice from his program.


est (1971) (To date Werner Erhard has not authored a book on est, but many books on the subject are available. Among those endorsed by Erhard are est: 60 Hours That Transform Your Life (1976) by Adelaide Bry and The Book of est (1976) by Luke Rhinehart.)

The Head Man: Werner Erhard is a modern version of the self-made man--down to his name. Born Jack Rosenburg in 1935, he was on a plane fleeing his first wife and four children when, to avoid being traced, he chose a new name--Werner (for German physicist Werner Heisenberg) and Erhard (for German statesman Ludwig Erhard). To his credit, he later contacted his first family (although he now has a second wife and several children), put them through est, and maintains good relationships with them.

Before starting est, he was a car salesman (under the name Jack Frost), a vice-president in charge of training executives for Parents' Magazine. He also worked for the Grolier Society, and was involved with Mind Dynamics.

In 1971 he was driving along California Highway 101 (or sitting in a parked car on a San Francisco hill, depending on the source you read) when he had an enlightenment experience, during which he got the message "What is, is" and "You can't put it together. It's already together and what you have to do is experience it being together." Shortly after that, he started est, an incredibly successful operation that has made him rich. He lives in a Victorian town house in San Francisco and drives a Mercedes with the license plate SO WUT. Among the more than 100,000 people who have gone through est are Cher, Cloris Leachman, Buzz Aldrin, Marion Javits, Valerie Harper, four members of the Fifth Dimension, and John Dean. Marcia Seligson, whose article for New Times magazine in 1974 increased Erhard's fame, has described him as "a slick, slightly oily salesman type, too good-looking and funny, a man who reminded me of the arrogant Jewish princes I went to high school with . . . ." She is on est's advisory board, along with several physicians, businessmen, and scientists.

Werner Erhard, probably the most controversial figure in the self-help business, has been accused of creating a fascist empire in his est training and business hierarchy (he becomes upset by dead light bulbs and writes 15-page security memos). His arrogance has turned off many, but has attracted more; Bill Thaw, a former associate, quotes him as saying: "How do I know I am not the reincarnation of Jesus Christ?" His present plans: to train 40,000 est leaders and to set up a program to eliminate world hunger.

Overview: According to Erhard: "est is a 60-hour experience which opens an additional dimension of living to your awareness." And: "It blows the mind." The est experience takes place over two weekends in a group of about 250 people led by an est trainer, at a cost of $250 per person (a total of over $60,000 a group). It leads the trainee to "getting it," finding out what life is, and "really letting it work." Rules prohibit smoking, eating, reading, note taking, and gum chewing during sessions. Bathroom breaks occur every four hours (it used to be every seven hours, but too many people peed in their pants). The atmosphere ranges from intimidation ("You're all assholes," the expressionless trainer often says) to guided fantasy (e.g., climbing a 60-ft. daisy). Trainees must raise their hands if they want to talk, and are applauded when they do so. The experience culminates in a lecture on the anatomy of the mind: It is "a linear arrangement of multisensory total records of successive moments of now," and trainees are "machines."

est comes from a multitude of sources: Mind Dynamics, Scientology, Hinduism, Zen Buddhism, Gestalt psychology, yoga, and hypnosis.

Help-Yourself Advice: According to est, one must pay one's $250 and undergo group training to know what it's all about, because the experience cannot be understood otherwise. Some ideas gleaned from est:

1. Begin to break free from identification with mind and body; see that "you are not the Play."

2. Choose your experience. "Say yes to life. Choose what you get . . . when you get it. Accept what is."

3. Realize that you are the source of all your experiences and totally responsible for them. "Who did it?" You did. "Every time you turn off your experience and don't take responsibility for it, you sacrifice your aliveness. You get a repeat performance."

4. Before you sleep, set a mental alarm clock. Prepare to wake up feeling alive and alert.

5. Go with your ego. (You can't get rid of it.)

6. Remember, "You are perfect the way you are."

7. "Resistance leads to persistence." Let things be. Observe something that bothers you (e.g., a physical pain). Make no effort to change it; stay in touch with it; get "into" it.

8. Remember, "In life, understanding is the booby prize."

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