Tuesday, March 15, 2011

EST Children's Training

In the 1970s, Werner Erhard's est Training was the hip thing to do to find enlightenment and lead a better life. It was all about "getting it" and dealing with your own stuff without playing the victim. Instead of complaining about the traffic jam, or fighting the traffic jam, or being the victim of a traffic jam, the trick was to "make space" for the traffic jam and let it just be a traffic jam and avoid it. Then you could go a step further, and take responsibility for that traffic jam and fix it.

My parents took the est training, and then signed my sister and I up for the children's training, which was a special new est training for children. I think it was in San Jose or Palo Alto, and we were all video taped as it was one of the first.

We learned how to get rid of a headache by asking questions about the headache, alternated an occasional "do you still have a headache" in there. Questions like, "if it could hold water, how much water could it hold?" and "what color is it?"

There were some roll-reversal songs, where the girls all sang a song about being a big tough cowboy, and the boys all sang a song about having pretty little fingers and ten little toes.
"Hey there broken nose, why don't you play me a song on that there pian'er. I don't have a broken nose. Pow! Now you do!"

I'm pretty sure none of the kids really wanted to be there, and the trainers definitely had to overcome that with a lighter version of the hard-core est of lore. I remember them asking if anyone wanted to leave, and at least one little boy raised his hand and was escorted out -- the rest of us shut up after that.

I suppose the children's training was supposed to get us to take more responsibility for our own lives, and not play the victim. I don't remember anything in particular about that sort of messaging, and I'm pretty sure that I wasn't "Getting It" while doing the training. However! I am fairly enlightened, so perhaps some if it did sink in somehow in an unconscious manner?

I am surprised to find that the est training has survived the 1970s, and is still alive and well renamed as Landmark Forum.

1 comment:

  1. Stumbled upon this years after, but I too did the est training as a child. I was eleven, in Houston. My whole life the absurdity of the situation has stayed with me - a bunch of adults telling children (arguably the most restricted, disempowered group of people) to take responsibility for their own lives. Priceless. However, the experience did have two good lessons: 1) I could tell that these adults didn't know any more than I did, and 2) I became inoculated against the influence of cults for the rest of my life (so far). I hope to find more who went through est as children and hear their stories!