Werner Erhard and Victor Gioscia, Ph.D.
From The Journal of Current Psychiatric Therapies, 1978
FORMAT OF THE EST STANDARD TRAINING
The est Standard Training is approximately 60 hours long and is usually
presented on two successive weekends: two Saturdays and two Sundays.
beginning at 9 A.M. and ending after midnight, when the trainer observes that
the results for that day have been reached. "Breaks" are usually taken every
four hours and there is usually one meal break during the day. People eat
breakfast before and some have a snack after the training day. Included in the tuition are pre, mid, and post-training seminars. These are each about
3.5 hours in duration, and take place on three weekday evenings--one before,
one between, and one after the training weekends.
Approximately 250 people take the training together at one time, seated in a
hotel ballroom. Chairs are arranged theatre style, facing a low platform on
which a chair, a lectern, and two chalkboards are placed. Everyone wears a
nametag printed in letters large enough to be read from the platform.
In accord with the Presidential Introduction to this issue, these annual volumes
will include. whenever appropriate. one or more chapters on popularly accepted
movements of psychiatric interest. The following is an account of est not
previously available in the Psychiatric literature, written by the founder of est
and an est research consultant. It has been edited to conform to Current
Psychiatric Therapies standards.
CONTENT OF THE TRAINING
In est there are four principal topics addressed in the training-belief.
experience, reality, and self. Trainees have the opportunity to examine their
Experience of each of these topics in three ways: (1) lectures by the trainer,
(2) "processes" (guided experiences, usually with eyes closed, and (3)
sharing-communications from individual trainees to the trainer and/or to the
The following chart presents these schematically:
Trainees realize early in the training that the trainer is not actually
"lecturing"-i.e., presenting conceptual information-but presenting the trainees
with a chance to "look and see what is so for you in your own experience"
about the topics discussed. Similarly, trainees soon realize that "processes" are
opportunities to examine the records of previous experiences in the privacy and
safety of their own experience (or "space") and that, as they wish, they may
or may not share what is so for them.
On day 1, after an assistant has read the ground rules to the trainees, the
participants spend the remainder of the day observing the role of belief in
defining their experience of living. The purpose of the est training, which is
carefully read and examined in detail, is the transformation of one's ability to
experience living so that problem situations clear up just in the process of life
The trainer's "attitude" seems to trainees to be one of uncommon certainty--as
if to say, "This training works. I say only and exactly what I mean. Pay
attention if you want your money's worth. See if what I say is true for you.
Don't believe me. Look in your own experience. It's up to you."
The trainer says unusual things, each designed to present trainees with an
opportunity to examine whether the statement is true for the trainee. Examples
"Anything truly experienced will disappear."
"What you resist will persist."
"The truth believed is a lie."
"Understanding is very low on the scale of experience-creating your own
experience is very high."
It becomes clear to most trainees very early that they are in the presence of
an individual who is engaged in an astonishingly candid confrontation of the full
range of human experience, in a way that does not fit easily-if at all-into the
trainees' preconceptions. This style of confrontation itself becomes a
demonstration of the topic under discussion. The trainer seems completely
beyond "point-of view," able to speak as easily from one trainee's viewpoint as
another's without seeming to have one of his or her own. In addition, where
the trainer seems completely able to re-create each and every trainee's
sharing. an individual trainee seems stuck only with his or her own point of
view. This inability to speak except from within one's point of view, at least
from some point of view, is belief, the trainer says.
The discussion of belief lasts several hours. Trainees begin to wonder. Is it
possible to speak from no point of view?
The trainer then describes what a "process" is and assists trainees to prepare
to "do" one. Trainees are informed they will be asked to close their eyes and
"take what comes up for you" as the trainer asks them, for example. "Locate a
sensation in your right foot. . . . Fine. Now locate a sensation in your right
calf. . . . Good. - and so on through the body.
The trainer explains that there is no right or wrong way to do a process.
Whatever the trainee becomes aware of is fine. To observe what one is aware
of in one's body, a person engages in the process of "observing." or noticing,
not only what one senses, but also that these "senses" are amenable to
A short "process" is done, locating body sensation. It lasts for 15 or 20
minutes, after which trainees "share." They are asked to stand after being
recognized by the trainer and to use a microphone and to say whatever they
would like to say. They may relate an experience, or comment on some aspect
of the process, or ask a question. These are addressed to the trainer or to the
class, but not to the sharing of other trainees. In this way trainees are
encouraged to focus on their own experience and are reminded that the
training takes place in the privacy of one's own "space." not in interchanges
with the group.
Before they leave for the night, participants are asked to locate in their lives a
"persistent unwanted condition" and to return with a phrase describing it in the
morning, when they will "observe" it during the "truth process." The trainer
points out that by "persistent unwanted conditions" are meant such things as
(1) minor headaches, (2) uncomfortable feelings or emotions, and/or (3)
considerations or evaluations of others' experience. The trainer notes that the
truth process will assist them to uncover the role of belief in these conditions.
After some opening sharing, the trainer outlines the "anatomy of an experience"
and discusses the fact that inherent in the nature of most experiences are
sensations, perceptions, thoughts, feelings and emotions, attitudes, points of
view, mental states, considerations. evaluations, judgments, and images from
the past. Trainees discuss their persistent conditions (or "items") with the
trainer, who reminds them that "a completely experienced item will disappear."
Then for approximately 90 minutes, the trainer asks trainees simply to
"observe" what they become aware of as he instructs them to "look at" what
sensations are associated with their item, then what perceptions, then what
thoughts, and so on through images from the past.
After this process most trainees share that their item has disappeared-that
their belief in the condition is the cause of its persistence, without which the
"condition" vanishes. In short, trainees find they have begun to "observe"-i.e.,
to transcend belief. The shift from conceptual to experiential reality has begun.
During the evening of day 2, there is a long two-part process called the
"danger process" during which trainees are given the chance to '.observe" the
fear or acute embarrassment most people feel when really being with another
or others. This process reveals the pretenses or systems of personality people
usually hide behind or confuse with who they genuinely are. As before, trainees
become increasingly aware that anything completely experienced disappears.
Most depart from the session elated and joyous, experiencing what they
believed could not be experienced-an open, undefended, expanded experience
of their natural ability to experience living.
On day 3 the trainees begin to observe what is real in their lives. In a profound
"dialogue" with the trainees, which lasts some 6 or 7 hours (with a break), the
trainer conducts a conversation with trainees-pressing them to look, to
observe, really to examine the criteria they use to determine what is real in life
and to note which issues they allow to define and determine the course of
their lives. To their astonishment. and frequent dismay, trainees discover that
they tend to regard things as real and themselves (their selves) and their
experience as unreal!
The trainer points out that the source of this self-unreality, and of the
unreality of their own experience, lies in the trainees' commitment to (belief in)
an epistemology which defines things (matter/energy in space/time) as
fundamentally real and constitutive of reality-which therefore, defines
experience, communication, relationship, love, and ultimately self as unreal,
imaginary, and of questionable value.
In the two extended processes which comprise the remainder of day 3, the
feasibility of a shift in trainees' fundamental orientation to reality is presented.
In a series of enjoyable experiential exercises, trainees are assisted to
"experience completely" this persistent unwanted epistemology that defines
things as real and experience as unreal.
The trainer announces on day 4 that the real training will now begin. starting
with a 6-hour "eyes-open" process called the "anatomy of the mind." Carefully,
thoroughly, completely, with an irrefutable and inescapable logic, trainees
create an experience for themselves that propels them first into and then
irrevocably beyond the way they have contextualized (experienced) all prior
experience. At the end of this process, in a part of the training called "getting
it." trainees experience a transformation-a shift in the nature of
experiencing-from thinking that things (the contents of experience) determine
and define what one experiences (mind) to experiencing self as the context. or
source, of the way they experience.
Suddenly, they become aware of their power to experience life not as a victim,
but as a whole, responsible being.
Suddenly, they get the point. They are who they are! They are what they
seek-whole, complete, and entire, lacking no thing, perfectly what they are.
And the world? Suddenly, it glistens with a fresh and open luster. filled with
opportunities for participation, perfectly what it is. The search is over. I am. I
am the context of my being me. I am the cause of my experience.
At this point in the training the trainer and the trainees share an especial
intimacy in that they are now "in on" the same reality, the transformed reality
of selves awakened to their formerly unawakened selfhood. Their now common
domain is so unspeakably simple, so obvious, so unchanged, so light filled and
real-it is hard for them to contain their enthusiasm for simply being who they
Still-the trainer counsels-there is "more." Now that trainees are willing to
experience transcendent to the once binding automaticity of their former
content-determined "points of view," it is possible to examine "the autonomy of
"After a break," the trainer says, "We'll talk about self as the source of the
experiences of responsibility and satisfaction-the willingness to experience
one's self as the cause of what one causes. Then we'll talk about sex, love,
and relationships. - The "space" of the room is now one of delight and
celebration. The "secret" of est has been revealed: What is, is, and what isn't,
isn't! It is an amazingly freeing realization, which restores to trainees their
natural ability to be spontaneously and naturally what they naturally and
spontaneously are. Trainees no longer hope to be. They are. And now they
To summarize what happens in the est training, then, we might quote the
It is a transformation - a contextual shift from a state in which the content in
your life is organized around the attempt to get satisfied or to survive-to
obtain satisfaction or to protect or hold on to what you have got - to an
experience of being satisfied, right now, and organizing the content of your life
as an expression, manifestation, and sharing of the experience of being
satisfied, of being whole and complete, Now. One is aware of that "part" of
one's Self which experiences satisfaction - the self itself, whole, complete, and
The natural state of the self is satisfaction. You do not have to get there.
You cannot get there. You have only to realize yourself and as you do you are
satisfied. Then it is natural and spontaneous to express that in life and share
the opportunity with others.'
CONTEXT OF COMPASSION
The very obviousness and the context of the est experience are what make it
so difficult to talk about est with those who have not had the experience.
After all, it seems obvious that what is, is, and what isn't, isn't. So, why have
185,000 people paid all that money to find that out? And why do they continue
to recommend est to their friends? More specifically, how can so simple a
contextual shift in context be experienced by so many professional
psychotherapists - across all the "schools" of therapy - as empowering and
enabling themselves and their patients to experience lives in which complete
health, happiness, love, and self-expression are ordinary and routine? Do
educators, physicians, clergy, attorneys and other professionals experience an
The set of all epistemologies is not itself an epistemology and the context of
all points of view is not itself a point of view. The implications of this fact are
extraordinarily far reaching, especially with regard to what might be called the
Theory of the Self. On this fact rests the nature of the training and the est
trainer's ability to transcend belief about the nature of the self.
It lies at the heart of the est trainer's ability temporarily to adopt any point of
view since the context from which the trainers speak is not itself a point of
The distinction between context and viewpoint enables the trainers to talk to
trainees who know they are not who they think they are. The trainers'
awareness that self is context - not content - enables them to experience
trainees so intimately that trainees are moved by how fundamentally they are
"known," even while they are baffled and initially frightened by the trainers'
ability to comprehend them so completely.
Contextual awareness enables and empowers (1) the trainer to present the
training as if he/she were both trainer and trainee and (2) the trainee to "get
it." We call this contextual awareness a "context of compassion.
In short, the trainer and-at some point during or soon after the training-the
trainee have actually shifted the very context of self experience from one in
which (1) any self is a thing, limited and defined by a specific configuration of
matter/energy in space/time to (2) a context in which self is not a thing, but a
context of contexts, an awareness of awareness, or as the trainers say, an
Thus, the apparently paradoxical ability of the trainer to experience the
trainee's experience more completely than the trainee derives from the trainer's
awareness of his/her ability to experience any experience-since no one
experience can threaten a context which enables and empowers every
The trainee no longer believes him/herself to be one (or more) of the contents
of experience traditionally associated with "self" - i.e., sensations, perceptions,
thoughts, feelings, emotions, attitudes, points of view, mental state,
considerations, evaluations, judgments, images from the past, and so on.
Thus, the trainer is able to experience whatever the trainee regards as the
trainee's "self'-in a context of compassion-that is, in a way which re-creates
the trainee's own experience of him/herself and transcends the trainee's own
The trainer and the training thus come from an awareness that true self is not
a position in the universe and not an identity assembled out of bits and pieces
of prior experiences." It is a way of experiencing the universe, a context not a
This same "contextuality" also accounts for the nature of the benefits
psychotherapists and their patients report after taking the est training.
Therapists and patients report an enhanced ability to see similar to the change
in view one would have if one shifted from a car to an airplane. The contents
do not change; the perspective (that by which we see) is clarified. Trainers
admire therapists' ability to unravel the intricacies of patients' often tangled
lives, while therapist graduates admire trainers' ability to "know about knowing"
and to engage in compassionate communication which holds all differences as
essential, hence none preferable.
The purpose of the est training is the transformation of the ability to
experience living, so that the situations one is trying to change or is putting up
with clear up just in the process of life itself. Transformation is a shift in the
experience of "I am" from seeing yourself as content of experience to seeing
yourself as the context of your contextual experience.
Graduates of the est training - whether they are therapists, patients, educators,
physicians, attorneys, or people from other walks of life - regularly report that
their ability to be, to be with themselves and with others, and to engage with
others in a full participation in the opportunities of life have been transformed;
i.e., shifted from a thing-determined to a self-determined context. This shift
enables and empowers therapists and patients who have taken the est training
to experience themselves as the source of their ability to experience each
other with absolute compassion.
1. Werner Erhard - Gioscia V: est standard training. Biosciences Communications 3:104-122. 1977
Est: Communication In A Context of Compassion
Werner Erhard and Victor Gioscia