Archive for the ‘The est Training’ Category

Gonneke Spits

Gonneke Spits, one of the founding staff members of est discusses the original est Training in this video on the Werner Erhard Video site.

Gonneke Spits

The Werner Erhard Foundation

The Werner Erhard Foundation website was developed on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of people whose lives were touched by the Werner Erhard Foundation – those who organized not for recognition, but for the love of humanity. From theoretical physics to tackling world hunger, over two decades of work, beginning in 1973, fostered breakthroughs in human thinking, growth and development that are still present in the world today.

Why share this with you now? Because there is no better time to illustrate, no matter what the decade, no matter who you are, no matter what you do, we all have the ability to foster great thinking, expand our own and other’s level of achievement and make a lasting difference. The world is waiting.

“We can choose to be audacious enough to take responsibility for the entire human family. We can choose to make our love for the world what our lives are really about. Each of us has the opportunity, the privilege, to make a difference in creating a world that works for all of us. It will require courage, audacity and heart. It is much more radical than a revolution – it is the beginning of a transformation in the quality of life on our planet. What we create together is a relationship in which our work can show up as making a difference in people’s lives. I welcome the unprecedented opportunity for us to work globally on that which concerns us all as human beings.

If not you, who?
If not now, when?
If not here, where?”
Werner Erhard

Werner Erhard’s life is best understood through his ideas and their application to people’s lives

Werner Erhard is the originator of unique models of transformational learning that has helped shaped human consciousness in the last quarter of the 20th century. One of the great thinkers of the modern era, he has impacted, for decades, the areas of individual and organizational effectiveness throughout the world.  The website “Werner Erhard Information” has gathered extensive links to where Werner Erhard’s work has impacted people’s lives.  Ranging from scholarly publications at Harvard University to his contributions in the field of coaching and humanitarian projects created, his work continues to affect the trajectory of human history.

The New York Times

“For several years before his latest professional reincarnation, Mr. Erhard consulted for businesses and government agencies like the Russian adult-education program the Znaniye Society and a nonprofit organization supporting clergy in Ireland.

Enter the Harvard economist Michael Jensen. Dr. Jensen, who is famous in financial circles for championing the concepts of shareholder value and executive stock options, had taken a Landmark course in Boston at the suggestion of his daughter, who mended a rocky relationship with Dr. Jensen after taking the course herself.

“I became convinced we should work to get this kind of transformational material into the academies,” he said, adding that he considers Mr. Erhard “one of the great intellectuals of the century.”

Interview in The New York Times, November 29, 2015: “He had traveled with his Dutch-born third wife, Gonneke Spits, from Toronto to see friends, do a little business and visit his favorite chiropractor and tailor. He was also in the city to meet with a reporter — virtually the only press he has done in more than two decades.”


What There is To Do Today


From PAGES: Essays by Werner Erhard for the est training staff, January 1, 1981

The only thing you are going to do today is: what you do today.  Therefore, the only thing there is to do today is: what you do today.  That’s all there was to do when you started no matter what you thought or think.


Most people go around thinking that what there is to do today is all that stuff that there is to do, that is to say, everything that isn’t done.  This is a lie.  This lie leads to stupidity.  This stupidity leads to ineffectiveness.  The ineffectiveness leads to fewer results being produced, leaving, apparently, more to be done.  And there you have the downward spiral which is unworkability.

The only thing there is to do today is: what you actually do today!  There is nothing else to do today!  You get it?  There isn’t anything to do today except what you actually do.  That’s all there is to do today.  Do you get it?  If you do actually get it, you should feel the muscles in your body begin to relax.  A sense of freedom and power begins to well up within you.  Read more…

Roy Scheider

The star of The French Connection, Jaws, and All that Jazz, Roy Scheider talked about his est training: “You come to understand that within each of us is a tremendous beauty, passion, joy, and love for life; you realize that everyone is you… I’ve never had a better time in my life. I never laughed so much, I never cried so much. I was actually dazzled. I couldn’t believe that degree of intimacy could be achieved in a hotel room with 300 people… And I was one of the actors in the show. It was sensational.”

You Can’t ‘Apply’ The Training

Article from a 1978 Graduate Review, “Viewpoint: You Can’t ‘Apply’ The est Training.

…When I became a department chairman, shortly after taking the est training, I knew that what I had learned in the training could be applied to academic administration. Every time I tried to apply something however, it didn’t work. I would make a policy of open communication, for example. No good. At the same time, I noticed that whenever I simply did what seemed appropriate – just having open communication, say, without the policy – it worked beautifully. I was enjoying the job and being acknowledged as a good administrator.
Eventually it dawned on me that perhaps Werner had meant it when he said that the experience of the training wasn’t about “things.” It was about context and the experience of Self. I noticed that I had been trying to convert my experience of the training into things of substance: techniques, ideas, beliefs, philosophies, etc…  read more at


“We can discover another possibility: living in a way, now, moment to moment, that makes a difference to life. We discover that as human beings we can live in a possibility instead of in what we have inherited, that instead of just being a human being because we were born that way, we can declare the possibility of being for human beings. This is the work of transformation: bringing forth a breakthrough in the possibility of being human.

“We could say that what happens is a shift in what orients your life.  Ordinarily, what orients our lives is the attempt to reach satisfaction. It might be at a very low level an attempt to get food or water.  At a little bit higher level it might be an attempt to be safe.  But, at any rate, we could say that what orients our lives is the attempt to get satisfied, to be satisfied.  What happens in the est training is that that gets turned 180 degrees around and your life is no longer about attempting to gain satisfaction.  It’s no longer about attempting to prove that you’re all right.  It’s no longer an attempt to prove that you’re satisfied.  What happens in the training is that there’s a 180-degree shift to the experience of being satisfied, and now life, instead of being an expression of the struggle to get satisfied, is an expression of satisfaction experienced.  You now begin to have what you do orienting around the expression of satisfaction instead of the attempt to get satisfied.  And we could say that’s what transformation was.” Werner Erhard 1982 

The est Training

“The way est happened was very simple.  I had this transformational experience.  I had a transformation.  Whoever I had been up until that point, I no longer was.  And it was on my way to work, and I happened to be – not anything significant about being on the Golden Gate Bridge – but I happened to be there, and that’s when I had the realization that what my life was about was really meaningless.  It was empty.  And this realization that the things that I thought were so significant, like looking good and winning – just the normal things that I guess most people think are important – that they really had no importance, that it was all empty and meaningless.  When I broke through the sadness, broke through the sense of despair at having wasted my life, I all of a sudden realized, “My God, I’m free.”  What – free – what does that mean to be free?   Free to choose, free to create a life that was worth living.  So I took a day with my staff – shared with them the best I could something that would allow them to create for themselves the kind of transformational experience that I had had.  And we all decided, okay, we’ll do this.  Instead of selling books, we’ll do this.” –Werner Erhard, 2005, from Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard

Werner Erhard: You Don’t Alter What You Know You Alter The Way You Know It

JOHN: What I’m trying to get at is your view of whether or not what people get from the training is somehow equivalent to what in Zen, for instance, would be called enlightenment.

WERNER: You’re not going to trap me into saying that, because that’s nonsense. It’s the same kind of nonsense that keeps people from realizing that they’re already enlightened.

(excerpted from

Here’s an observation that I know will parallel what you’ve seen. People are willing to give up anything to get enlightened. You and I both know people who’ve given up wealth, given up jobs, families, their health people will give up anything to get enlightened. Give up talking, give up sex, give up you name it, they will give it up. There’s only one thing people will not give up to get enlightened. They will do everything they know to hold on to this thing that they will not give up no matter what. The one thing people will not give up to get enlightened is the idea that they’re not enlightened. That’s the big holdout, not anything else.

JOHN: In the traditions there’s a lot of warning about thinking that you’re enlightened, that that’s one of the greatest dangers of them all.

WERNER: Yes, it is. Yes.

JOHN: It’s equivalent. You could get that in two weekends?

WERNER: Yes, it is equivalent, and no, you can’t get it in two weekends. If it takes two weekends, you didn’t get enlightened. Enlightenment does not take two weekends. Enlightenment takes no time. The two weekends are a waste of time. If we could eliminate those, and just have the enlightenment we would do that. By the way, I know that lots of people are infuriated by the suggestion that enlightenment is possible without long practice and great struggle. I consider the notion of the necessity of practice and struggle to be nothing more than a notion. It may be a notion borne out by lots of experience, but so was the notion that the earth is flat.

JOHN: Well, the Buddhists, for example, would say that your true nature is enlightened already, but nonetheless, you still have to practice because there’s a long path to realization. We can act as though we’re enlightened, but there’s still some kind of realization that has to happen, over a long period. You can even have enlightenment experiences, but they’re not particularly trusted.

WERNER: I agree with everything you’ve said, and I’m not simply being nice about it. What you said actually reflects my own experience and my own observations. At the same time, I know it’s possible to put the end of the process at the beginning, and then do the process.

JOHN: So, just to get it on the record, you are saying that the training does the same thing as the spiritual traditions

WERNER: Discussing enlightenment or thinking about enlightenment is not enlightenment. In fact, we don’t talk about enlightenment in the training very much at all. We do talk about it, but not much.

JOHN: I’m wondering why you’re avoiding the question of whether this is the same kind of enlightenment that’s talked about in the spiritual traditions.

WERNER: Because those who know don’t tell, and those who tell don’t know.

DICK ANTHONY: I’d always heard that the training does seem to claim that it provides something that is the equivalent of enlightenment, and is just as serious an experience, just as serious or valuable a state as is provided in Zen or Hindu traditions, and I thought that that was implausible, that it must be some kind of exaggeration.

WERNER: Well, I have never said that, nor would I say it.

DICK: But when I went through the training-

WERNER: Nor would I say the opposite was true.

DICK: When I went through the training, the trainer did in fact seem to be saying that. I don’t know if that was an eccentric trainer, but in fact, that was my understanding, and it was the understanding of the other people in the training that I talked to, that this man was telling us that what was happening to us was enlightenment, and was just as genuine an enlightenment as happened in any Zen monastery or up in the Himalayas, and that there were no degrees of enlightenment; it was enlightenment. Now, that seems like an outrageous claim to me; much of what goes on in that training seems outrageous to me. Now, if I understand that to be what the claim is, then I don’t think that I agree with it.

WERNER: As far as I know, that claim is not made. I appreciate that you were there and I wasn’t. I still don’t think it was made. The reason I don’t think so is that I’ve listened to many hours of trainers doing the training, and they don’t make that claim. At the same time, I do understand how you could come to that conclusion.

But none of that is the point. The point is this: I think that discussions about enlightenment are useless, and I think making enlightenment sacred is even more futile. My question is, what’s all this conversation about?

What I’m trying to get across is that the structure of your questions and our conversation doesn’t allow for enlightenment. We’re not really talking about anything. I don’t know how else to respond to you. You can’t ask, “Is this enlightenment like that enlightenment?” That’s counting enlightenments. That’s nuts! That’s truly nuts!

JOHN: Would the training then be a substitute for any other spiritual practice?

WERNER: No! That’s craziness, that one thing substitutes for another. In the realm of enlightenment, there aren’t substitutions. That kind of mentality can’t hold enlightenment.

JOHN: Would there by any value, for example, in meditating and practicing

WERNER: One of our trainers is a Zen Buddhist. He goes away and spends long times sitting, meditating and practicing.

JOHN: Why would he do that if he’s done the training?

WERNER: He would do that because he’s done the training. Look, can’t you hear what you’re saying? You keep saying that one thing substitutes for another thing; your notions about enlightenment are all tied up with exclusivity and ideas about “one path” and “if this, then why that?” and ideas that there’s someplace to get to. None of that is the way enlightenment works. You need to go back to whomever is talking to you about enlightenment and get them to talk to you about it some more. You’re talking about it inaccurately. I’m not kidding. In Suzuki Roshi’s book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, he said if you are enlightened, then you’re out doing what enlightens people. Enlightenment is not a stage you reach, and your statements seem to come from the idea that enlightenment is a place you reach. There’s no such thing as enlightenment to get to.