Not only had my father been diagnosed with breast cancer and had the tumor removed about two years earlier, but now my mom had been diagnosed with the terrible disease too. I was was fortunate to be back home and have the chance to be there for her - for them. I sat up in my bed at night in my old room and wondered. I wondered what was going to happen when "Helter Skelter" was released in April. I wondered what my old friend and band-mate Chas was up to in Europe, but mostly I thought about my mom. I could always talk to her about anything and she would listen without judgement to all the crazy things I was going through and I hope I didn't worry her too much. But we would really talk things out and I felt understood and loved. She was the best! Now I felt it was my turn to listen to her. I think I did "good".
There was a general sadness and malaise around the house. My brother had just turned twenty and was going to school at UC Irvine and living on campus and my sister was hard at work as usual working for David Sheehan, who was the first movie/television show reviewer/interviewer on a daily local newscast. They would drop by once in a while and Susan I'm sure called every day, maybe Robbie every other day. Dad was moping around the house trying to put on a brave face, trying not to come off looking worried. It wasn't working. I was walking on eggshells hoping not to get in his way.
One day after mom had been talking to a friend, probably Tina, she had convinced all of us to go through EST together. This is not Eastern Standard time but Erhard Seminar Training founded by Werner Erhard in 1971. If not for the fact that Helyn was so insistent, thinking it would be a great way to deal with her upcoming surgery and all the fears she had about cancer, we would have never been talked into it, especially not all three of us at once.
EST was one of the more successful entrants into the human potential movement. Erhard and EST were known for training people to get "It", a concept taken from author, teacher and expert communicator, Alan Watts. At the time Erhard arrived in the Bay Area, Watts was teaching his version of Zen to small groups on his houseboat in Sausalito. Erhard, like Watts, would teach people to "Get It." Watts, however, did most of his teaching through books. His seminars were small. Erhard and his trainers would not teach through books, but in large hotel ballrooms and auditoriums to hundreds at a time.
I'm not sure what I "got" other than learning a little bit about how I go about things - the hard way. There was a process in the training showing what it was like to be a salmon swimming upstream. It is better to go with the current, especially for us humans. It pointed out in very graphic ways what it was like to go through life against the grain and how it "works" when you go with the current. I guess back then I was a salmon, I still can be at times.
Another process they included was the one where you lie down on your back and imagine your body being filled up with a warm orange fluid. Then as the fluid reaches its capacity you picture all of your body parts releasing the fluid through little valves. You can start at the head and work your way down to the feet. It is really based on Zen and meditation to relax and quiet the body and the mind. But hey, it works.
Bernie Glassman says in his one of his books, row, row, row your boat gently down the stream. I can see that now but it is hard to apply it to daily life with all the stuff that happens. It does take practice and a lot of discipline. It is funny how life can get in the way of itself and we forget our purpose - our core self. I used to get mad at myself for forgetting these things but now I am a little easier on old me. Don't get me wrong I still have major blow ups and the rage monster finds its way into my psyche, the only difference is now it doesn't last as long when I remember and put to use the tools of the trade.
I look back at that time now with mixed emotions. Sure I was upset and depressed about my own life, with problems that seemed insurmountable at the time. My mom and dad both had cancer, I was experiencing my first death of a friend and coworker and the death of a would-be love, my band had broken up and I was feeling alone and abandoned. The important thing to remember is, I was with my parents at a crucial time in our lives, and I hope I contributed in a positive way to our relationships. I hope they knew what they meant to me and what they meant to all that were close to me, and my undying love for them. Being a father now of three wonderful and amazing boys, I can see now how they must have felt about me. I am so fortunate we had that time to really connect as adults, as friends, as parent to son and son to parent. Time is a fleeting thing but love that remains strong and true can outlast the test of it. If there was anything to "GET" I think that was "IT".