All Things Stewart Mineral Springs
Site updated November 29, 2020
Okay, so nothing to do with Springs, but couldn't resist... Leaving up 'til t-rex magically disappears.
note to readers:
Company hosting this site (Vistaprint), while saving me having to learn code or pay someone a fortune to build and maintain one, recently changed their platform on me. This old dog is having to learn new tricks now. Some pictures are now accompanied with ginormous blank spaces, and some updates might've gotten lost in the migration and have to be re-added. And some type needs re-sizing...prefer bigger and bolder for readers like me lacking eagle vision or simply liking bigger print.
Most important, as of 11-25, the eight pages listed below Review Rants & Raves on menu have yet to be re-formatted and migrated, so they can' t be accessed for a while. Internal links won't work either, so access pages of Rants & Raves and above directly from menu.
Over time, will hopefully learn how to fine-tune site and, as always, try to keep it relevant. (Still re-writing parts reflecting when bathhouse was just temporarily shut.) In meantime, please excuse any rough appearance, inaccessible pages, and inactive links.
Virus and Stewart Springs 'ownership's' plague of reprehensibly misguided intent: Now & Future
Quick take: bathhouse closed permanently (as far as present 'ownership' is concerned). Tubs and stalls reportedly have been torn out. [see Springs website notice]; lodging still operational as far as known (for whatever that's worth).
"There are years of magical energy, prayers and love that have been steeped into this place; now it feels like it is being erased."
-- Michele Feasby, Instagram post
"The new owners have changed the very fiber and culture of the space we have all loved for decades."
-- Anu H., Nevada City, Yelp review
"Apparently change of ownership can be a killer for sacred places..."
-- Vladimir V, San Bruno, CA Yelp review
"I'm writing to express deep sadness and profound disappointment at the Pneuma group for dismantling the bathhouse - the bathtubs and rooms have been removed, and the place renovated to be a 'retreat space'.
"The springs are a sacred place offering healing waters to people who came from around the world for decades... This is not a place 'owned' by anyone - it is meant to be stewarded by whoever manages the land. Now, the Pneuma group, a non-US organization in a quest for money [or at least total control to further own uses - Ed.], has taken out the baths and the bathhouse.
"There are no more springs for anyone to benefit from. Pneuma has violated a sacred trust and duty to preserve an ancient, unique resource and sacred site. Ironically, they now hold 'chakra and mantra' workshops in the space previously provided for people to explore the inner realms on their own.
"They are capitalizing on the destruction of a place they clearly don't understand and should not have been in control of. There are no words for the violation of their responsibility to steward this sacred place. Shame on you, Pneuma."
-- Benicia B., S.F., Yelp review 8-11-20
"The love seems missing from the place - it has a more clinical feel to it"
-- Leo H, Los Gatos, CA Yelp review
"We noticed a change in vibe as soon as we opened the door to the office. Gone were all the beautiful pictures of Shasta and crystals as well any ambiance at all."
-- Beth C., Oakland, CA Yelp review
" It is sad the new owners took a good thing and changed it so drastically ..."
-- Gretchen G., Mt. Shasta, CA Yelp review
"I'm happy it's no longer clothing optional.
That wouldn't be my thing..."
-- Karen R., San Jose Yelp review
What Happened to Stewart Springs??!!
See below - entire page, including op-ed and re-posted sweat lodge ban rants, followed by more semi-informed analysis and ranting
Furor over kicking out Sweat Lodge December 2017
see ways below
(click Rants and Raves from menu for now) (click & scroll 3/4 down)
Body Freedom Scrapped November 1, 2016 (temporarily unavailable)
First New Owners in 34 Years
January 19, 2016
Springs Ownership Intent: From Bad
Revised November 21, 2020
Enormous changes everywhere naturally have included Springs...
but before pandemic even hit, forcing initial, temporary closing of Stewart bathhouse, turnover in absentee 'owners' four years ago radically changed place after first nine months' 'grace period' ended, during which time things stayed pretty much the same, including clothing-optional and sweat lodge.
Then all hell broke loose.
Drastic changes -- first banning clothing-optional, then, a year later, kicking out the sacred sweat lodge -- made for serious disenchantment among place's countless fans and biggest supporters. Visitorship tanked overnight. Only reported sputtering of new visitors beyond outfit's own affiliated groups, family, and friends -- plus usual straggle of the often non-discriminating and/or uninformed -- seemed to ever replace them.
Place's revenue stream has been drying up ever since...all needlessly, leaving operation treading water or sinking for having own private designs on place that so misguidedly messed with successful operation formula. One that embraced mindful clothing-optional and weekly sweat ceremony, which together created rare synergy of place's enduring and endearing, multi-cultural, bohemian air of healing.
If it had been only minor changes, suiting owners' mindset values, exercising 'ownership' prerogative to make place their own'baby by putting little personal imprint on things, that'd be one thing.
But, no. Instead, they utterly destroyed decades of cultural evolution, obliterated the relaxed, open atmosphere crucial for any rural healing spa resort worth its salt.
Then came dread virus. And a few months later, on May 1, 2020, came online announcement of their "painful" decision to shut bathhouse...permanently.
While other regional rural spring resort spa compounds also had to close, they were relatively thriving before COVID-19 hit and will more likely bounce back when pandemic eventually fades away. (Some have already tenuously re-opened).
With Stewart's wobbling on the ropes long before virus showed, there's no telling what might now lie in its future under current "ownership", but cynics fear the worst.
Inexcusable re-purposing of bathhouse
Judging from website (and one recent visitor review near top of page), absentee stewards (God, what an oxymoron) appear dead serious on intent to re-purpose bathhouse into extra retreat space, for 'up to 13'...coincidentally the same number as there are/were tubs. Historic spa center will soon supposedly reincarnate as...Shambala House. Shameless Strangling of Popular Culture House might be more appropriate title.
see New Day Dawning
Not certain if repurposing plan was made before or after virus hit. If before, as writer suspects, it would indicate nothing less than the premeditated murder of a beloved, 145 year-old healing institution...and along with it the abiding universal spirit, grounds dedicated to serving the greater good of humanity.
If made after, the pandemic provided one incredibly convenient and quasi-plausible excuse for taking such a drastic action, one reflecting that of many other businesses that had close operations for good.
Anyone who has loved place over the years would agree it's a stupendously inappropriate, dumbfoundingly nutzoid, unspeakably shameful action.
No doubt it was dreamed up before huge reality check got delivered to their private banquet table in these radically changing times, with progressive values on the rise, quashing would-be authoritarian takeovers everywhere...which in due course might very well evaporate such a boldfaced, public-be-damned attempt to co-opt the public's treasured institution.
Posted sizzle of coming 2021 attractions might in time prove a dying fantasy of private-minded repurposing of the venerable bathhouse, one flying blindly in the face of reality...one that in recent decades had become a de facto rural community center for the wider region and rendezvous point and happening destination for travelers at large, both domestic and international.
Cynic in writer at first thought their 5-1-20 announcement of "permanent" closing of bathhouse was only latest ploy (banning c/o being the first, kicking out sweat lodge the second) to get the general public so disheartened and pissed off, they'll no longer care WHAT the hell they do with the place.
Then, at some future time, they would quietly re-open bathhouse spa...for OWN exclusive use -- hopefully at long last under radar of outraged public scrutiny that's been raining on their parade ever since c/o ban, and escalated since later sweat lodge eviction...putting one serious crimp on potential for any real enjoyment of 'their' legally stolen healing sanctuary. (Maybe they kept the two tiled tub stalls they fancied up intact...for high muckety mucks to indulge in a royal soak every now and then.)
But it appears they are dead serious on scrapping spa...in outrageous indifference to public-minded healing legacy of realm.
The fact that sale of property was a 'legal' transfer means precious little in realm of spiritual law and universal justice and divine compassion.
Rise of the control freaks
In the 2020 book Twilight of Democracy, The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism, by Pulitzer prize winner Anne Applebaum, it's argued by a behavioral economist that in any country, about a third of the population has a authoritarian disposition (vs. libertarian). It's a frame of mind that "wants to overthrow, bypass, or undermine existing institutions, to destroy what exists." Interestingly, it includes both the far right AND the far left. Such are discomforted by complexity and diversity (what Springs had), and find relief in uniform sameness and tight order (what's being pursued now).
So what's happening now is perhaps only a reflection of recent political trends...and the top political cartoon (by another Pulitzer prize winner, Tom Toles, who just retired) is maybe relevant after all.
Shocking magnitude of detour of place's function -- flying so rudely in face of claim reported by old manager that on purchasing they said they liked place pretty much just the way it was -- might well make one wonder how such an ignominious fate could have ever befallen such a beloved realm in the first place.
By examining the history of Springs, both recent and old, this site hopes to, among other things, shed light on why such a thing DID happen...and remind readers that such a tragic fate is NOT irreversible, NOT written in stone, that one shouldn't abandon all hope...that the way former fans choose to view it -- envisioning its future potential as community resource and healing center for all -- is crucial to saving place.
For right focus can serve, in time, to collectively manifest a positive new reincarnation...the place rescued by public-minded investors and supporters as an invaluable nonprofit human resource. One integrated at last with infectious, can-do spirit and grounded community involvement, like places such as hour-distant Jackson Wellsprings outside Ashland, Oregon.
Imagine the best possible future for the place and maybe it might be rescued. (Maybe not, but one can only try and keep faith in universal justice and compassion winning out eventually -- hopefully in our lifetimes.)
Recent bleak events leading
to current dire situation
Following Springs visit by new owners, from Los Angeles, Mexico, and South America in December 2017, place's operation suffered a final, deal-breaking sea change in the eyes of myriad longtime fans.
General manager Rowena P. was at last stepping down -- two years after sale -- having acted mostly by remote from hundreds of miles away during last two of controversial 12-year profit-driven run, while non-empowered on-site staff rubber-stamped strict marching orders from owners passed on through her.
Then new on-site management was brought on board...
From frying pan to fire
Within week, gazebo's prayer altar was emptied and 45-year sacred sweat lodge effectively kicked off land -- last straw for countless fans a year after new ownership had banned clothing-optional. Once-magical realm, now radioactive with lost heart, destroyed culture, and blinded vision, was suddenly being shunned by countless who had cherished and supported place for decades.
Shameless flasher website
A year later in 2019, coinciding with third year anniversary of wa-y-y absentee new ownership on January 19 (in mind-boggling synchronicity, the grand re-opening date three years earlier of Harbin Hot Springs), they replaced old creaky tiny-print website with new, streamlined one.
Loaded with eye-catching graphics, slick text bites and shameless flashers, site confirmed suspicions of many: when not enjoying their little shangri-la themselves, seemingly tone-deaf ownership has appeared out to attract -- at least for a while before possibly further privatizing -- a more upscale, urban, flirting-with-awakening visitor base...those less into grokking profound spa purification and rejuvenation than in throwing disposable income at promise of some vaguely pleasant, nominally healing, tightly packaged country resort escape...
...plus those maybe wanting to book spiritually-focused events, workshops, and retreats and who didn't seem to mind a bit how former treasured freedom to be one with nature -- in process experiencing profound, often instantaneous re-integration of body-mind-spirit through mindful, low-key nudity -- was verboten, as if suddenly deemed immoral.
Or that 45-year sacred Karuk sweat lodge, anchoring countless visitors in down-to-earth communion and celebration of life and grokking ancient ways of native cultures, was essentially kicked off the land. Or that the people's altar of love and gratitude offerings in old spring gazebo was torn down and initially replaced with cheery nearby sign warning:
No Trespassing - Violators Prosecuted
Shades of future signs eventually hoped to be posted on front gates, perhaps? Looks as if they tipped off their hard ass, public-be-damned, "it's our baby no and we'll do whatever the hell we want, so go jump in a lake, " intentions almost from the very get-go.
2020 vision &
2020 vision &
2020 started out so promising...number the very hallmark of clear vision...then dread virus struck and vision got blurry fast. Almost overnight, 'normal' life on planet vanished.
Coronavirus pandemic concerns soon preempted everything else. What was or wasn't happening at Stewart's was soon of little concern to most...with possible exception: startling 'owner' announcement of May 1st, 2020 of permanently closing bathhouse and, as indicated elsewhere on their site, ostensible plan of re-purposing building, gutting tubs and soak stalls, for more retreat and class space.
Decision to permanently shut bathhouse, if made after pandemic hit (which, again, writer doubts), might've been something along lines of:
If outbreak is long-lasting and such businesses are forced to keep operations shuttered until massive testing and tracing gear up to enable pivoting into some semblance of new 'normal' -- possibly needing to continue social spacing, masks, temperature testing, etc. -- potential Springs visitors would have become too cash-strapped, home-bodied, and wary of venturing on the road into the wild unknown...it suddenly having become TOO wild. Sweat in hot dark room with total strangers coming from God knows where? Soak in a tub last used by WHO? How could one enjoy it worrying about whether attendant fully sterilized tub between use?
No thank you very much.
That seemed to be the official time-line decision, that it was only AFTER pandemic that they decided to make a tough business decision to permanently abandon spa services, ever so regretfully.
But writer's fairly certain now they had bathhouse-begone plans in mind all along. Even before pandemic swept in. Writer seems to remember their site long ago talking up some mysterious Shambala House. It was baffling, as absolutely could not place any such structure on grounds beyond already mentioned A-frame, restaurant, and conference hall. Then they added pictures to the text...of the bathhouse.
To writer's knowledge, it's first time bathhouse has been shuttered since 1980s beyond a week for annual maintenance and long-ago winter closings, whicih ended in late 1999 when place went year-round.
Closing bathhouse might, again, ultimately prove unwieldy, exclusive-minded intentions of absentee stewards (again, talk about an oxymoron) getting too sketchy to ever pan out and be viably supported, grandiose dream of adapting legally-kidnapped Springs for own private-minded ends fading fast with advent of radically changing times, now gathering steam, insisting on a more just, fair, and sustainable world for everyone sharing the ride on this dear azure ball floating through space.
"Buying" a de facto historic, traditional public spa retreat treasure -- one revered far and wide -- absolutely does NOT entitle "owner" to do with whatever. Not without serious, ultimately self-defeating consequences. Resulting Mt. Everest of bad karma is such that one would think anyone truly conscious and respectful of healing land would've never even THOUGHT of pursuing such a senseless, selfish act.
While possibly they're waiting out the storm, hoping to get by renting lodgings, and event spaces afterwards, either for own quasi-new age circles and/or upscale general public, maybe in the back of their minds, as alternative plan, they're considering divesting of place if it indeed appeared their grand diversionary fantasy was terminally going bust and pockets not deep enough to keep subsidizing it.
For place has been hemorrhaging funds like crazy almost from the very get-go...ever since banning clothing-optional ten months in. So maybe even now absentee stewards are fitfully mulling over situation in far-away realms, making contingency plans on how, when, to who, and for how much to let place go for, if at last becoming resigned to abandoning foundering ship and staunch losses, recouping investment capital as best possible.
Regardless of pandemic's duration, places like Stewart's will gain critical new importance in time... perhaps not until new stewards and maybe years down the road and long after pandemic's faded away. (Who knows anything for sure these days except that love is real?)
Such places, nestled in clean simplicity of nature and offering natural medicine many seek, serve as much needed sanctuaries for healing, purifying, and rejuvenating of an awakening -- now much bent -- humanity.
Bathhouse, perhaps in new incarnation, could resurrect under new stewardship. That is, once society (hopefully) settles into some as-yet-unknowable new 'normal' once coming out other side of pandemic. One that lets people again feel comfortable being in close proximity with others without fear of catching the plague. Possibly it could happen with a brand-new bathing compound of inspired and practical design, after tearing down now apparently gutted one that, historic sentiment aside, never did have optimal spa layout for maximizing visitors gaining most blissful, non-distracted spa experience.
As of October 18, Siskiyou county had only one in 237 infected, while nearby Lassen county had one in 41. (Imperial county had 1 in 15). It would only take one superspreader visit from person from, say, infection hotbed of Los Angeles county -- claiming over a third of state's total Covid-19 fatalities and currently infecting one in 40 -- to change that in a heartbeat.
With time lag between getting infected and symptoms showing or remaining asymptomatic, it would be all too easy for someone to unknowingly infect others and possibly start deadly chain reaction contagion in our as-yet largely spared rural region.
Oil and water
Place obviously would've become like oil and water energetically if trying to re-open.
It was impossible imagining social distancing in sauna or on sundeck. Or other stringent protocols, like wearing masks. Such a scene might've hearkened back to earlier days of place in 1920s and 1930s, when it was more of a no-nonsense, clinical health sanitarium rather than informal springs resort and rural retreat modern visitors came to know it as.
But again, who knows what the future will bring? A new surge would only further compound planet's unfolding tragedy.
Spanish flu (now thought to have been a virus/influenza one-two punch) of century ago lasted two years. Its second wave, hitting half year after initial onset, was far deadlier. Overall the Spanish flu pandemic killed more Americans than all wars of twentieth century combined. Some refused to wear masks in public back then, too. World War One had just ended and people wanted to celebrate after hunkering down so long.
Late, gifted psychic Sylvia Browne predicted the current global pandemic in her 2008 book. (On encouraging note and for what's it's worth, she saw it disappearing as fast as it emerged...even if showing up again a decade later).
In light of all going on in these simultaneously tragic and extraordinary times, there's critical need -- and great opportunity -- to look at Stewart Springs in a radically new light.
Current crises are serving as grand wake-up call to shake humanity out of old outmoded ways. Such radical changes could well enable Springs to at long last get freed from its often-sketchy, dysfunctional, mindnumbingly inappropriate operation mindset and return to the way it began ages ago...as a vital, down-home, nonprofit-in-spirit healing and rejuvenation retreat affordably serving health-minded public.
Stewart Springs in name
If enough spa enthusiasts, especially those fond of Stewart's -- as it was before late 2016 (another lifetime now) -- try to grok buttoned-down mindset of current, absentee 'owners' of Springs -- and, more importantly, understand how and why place got so far off course in recent decades through motley succession of post-Stewart stewards, away from longtime, genuine, grounded-service purifying and healing spa -- then, again, it might energize a quantum shift and a new, public-minded enlightened stewardship...
...one fitting hand-in-glove by lights of all real spa enthusiasts, nature lovers, and spiritual-retreat fans of even the faintest bohemian leaning.
Original long ago altruistic blueprint of founder Henry Stewart -- dutifully followed by daughter and a select few other stewards since -- has faded so much over time that in a way current ownership perhaps can't be blamed too much for having made such an egregiously inappropriate detour from place's original operation.
For at best they were likely little more than even remotely aware of realm's extraordinarily singular, pure-minded public-service legacy...one that every true-blue spa-culture fan and awake or awakening newbie has seemed to intuit easily and contentedly resonate with while doing best to tune out any and all bothersome, profit- and control-minded energies..almost as if tuning into protective angelic presence covering grounds.
Perhaps takeover thinking was something along lines of: "It's a shame what's happened to this lovely place. So neglected, so disrespected...and so under-exploited! We'll rescue it, fix it up, do our thing here while keeping it open to public (at least for a while)...but, owner's prerogative, in a way more suitable to our own lifestyle, values and that of desired visitors. Heck, any spiritual focus at all is an improvement...(aside: even if done more to subsidize our own private gig than from any great love for the great unwashed.) People will support such a seeming laudable effort, won't they? Won't they? What could go wrong?"
Current interests' hope had, at least before plague hit, indeed seemed to be in attracting more upscale visitors and groups, those flirting with discovering more mindful ways of living (though still numbly embracing body alienation in public), having desire (and money) to sign up for touted quasi-new age, psychotherapy-adjunct training classes and workshops...not those already awakened and savvy to genuine rural spa culture -- suddenly summarily dismissed as kinky and undesirable clientele for embracing clothing-optional rather then being likewise shocked and appalled over such bizarre and shameless practices of public skinnydipping and nude sunbathing. (The very idea...)
Double whammy of kicking out sweat lodge ceremony and banning simple nudity put such a severe crimp in place's former spiritual mojo and quasi-liberated air that, for countless, place had suddenly become Stewart Springs in name only.
Sure, for a while you could still get in a decent soak and sauna, maybe even have a pleasant creekside locale for various special events and functions...but it was hard imagining anyone the least bit free-spirited fully enjoying the spa anymore...or any conscious group having anything remotely approaching a full-tilt, bedrock, soul-liberating happening.
To paraphrase classic song lyric, a whole lot of disconnectin' goin' on.
Nude became rude
Designed to entrance, their site is worlds more sizzle than substance. Zero info about ownership. No sense of community whatsoever. Little to no sense of community.
And Laughable statement about how new strict cover-up policy is for "more comfortable environment" makes one half-expect to read some reviewer gush how "I experienced such delightful wedgies in sauna and cold-plunge. Thank you!"
Concern for children and foreign-guest sensibilities aside, some might say such wording essentially translated to:
"Now nudity-free to ease worried minds of body-alienated everywhere, happy to resist ever learning to feel mindfully at ease publicly out of clothes in appropriate natural settings (the idea!), resenting like hell seeing others doing so, so blissfully, publicly free of clothes, making one feel uptight, painfully reminded of how much one's still buying into systemic personal body oppression."
Whether one availed themselves of clothing-optional or not, it was linchpin that enhanced free-spirited, healing air of entire grounds -- one enabling profound harmonizing with nature -- making place wildly popular in recent decades despite often-wonky, profit-driven management.
Take that away and the magic was gone...for legions of desolated fans plus potential newbies deprived of discovering and enjoying the blessings of nature in uber-relaxed, liberating, free-flowing atmosphere that open-minded (vs. clothes-minded), body-friendly policy naturally fosters.
Elsewhere on site, re-hashed vague mission statement and no-this-no-that policy page confirmed that new outfit was essentially copying former negative, non-transparent operation model -- but, critically, added own, fatal, bohemian-culture destroying twist...
...and even more critically, totally disregarding -- far worse than former ownership who at least let longtime-local management redeem something of place's original spirit -- altruistic legacy of pioneer founding Stewart family and its pure love-of-service, defacto nonprofit operation. One that made place globally popular, having such an unassuming blueprint in running healing refuge in forthright, affordable, down-home manner that people everywhere found operation a rare gift and blessing.
see Pneuma's new Spring site
Owners, who doubtless love the place too, if in their own covetous way, have appeared either ignorant of or indifferent to realm's singular non-commercial, service-minded legacy. Indeed it seemed to be catering to more bourgeois, conventional-minded visitors, those wanting to buy some tastefully bland, warm and fuzzy getaway in boonies, maybe tinker with purifying a bit or get whiff more enlightened in workshops...
...happily dropping cash while remaining contentedly shackled in textile chains at very place that until recently distinguished itself for being that rare oasis, like handful of sister springs on West Coast, that allowed visitors option of mindfully enjoying (most of) spa experience in the buff...
...thereby potentially enhancing overall comfort and healing benefit from special waters and transformational, energy-amplifying vortex. In process, visitors often experienced profound, life-changing body acceptance and liberation IF open-minded enough to give it a try and come out of nudist closet...for in heart of hearts, most everybody is a natural-born freebody*.
* With exception of, it's said, roughly one percent of population who are gymnophobics, having an abnormal fear of nudity -- their
own and that of others (vs. just a normal fear?)
Or they just let more, ideally bourgeois, traffic flow through for a while longer before advancing five-year plan to transform place into totally private -- it's ours, all ours! -- scene. And figured the pandemic provided perfect cover for disguising master plan from public until it's a fait accompli.
New ownership is part of a peripherally-spiritual organization called the Pneuma Institute.
Into transpersonal psychology, sometimes referred to as the psychology field's 'spiritual' branch, international outfit with apparent Romanian roots appears to explore, analyse, and promote peak experiences, altered consciousness, and enhanced awareness in general that transcends smaller self, which, combined with conscious breathwork, is worked into new tool for formal psychotherapy focusing on achieving transcendent mindstate of greater self.
Seems conventional Judaeo-Christian tenets are also thrown into the mix just for the heck of it. (Can almost imagine hearing some proclaim, "We are NOT 'spiritual'...but we ARE religious; so abandon all false gods, ye pagans and nonbelievers -- and cover your shame!")
Peculiar amalgam's purported central aim is to train therapists and everyday students how to promote reintegration of body, mind and spirit on "profoundly higher levels" of enhanced awareness, thus helping raise global consciousness.
From website: "We are certain that only through peace born in the depths of our hearts can humans inspire and transmit inner peace to their society and to the world."
No argument there. Sounds great. One not knowing any better reading that might think at long last an aware and conscious Springs stewardship was working to redeem the soul of the place, save it from decades of unapologetic commercial exploitation...
...that realm would finally become that reinvigorated, affordable sanctuary grounds promoting higher awareness and natural healing...turning nature-rich Springs into thriving, infectiously can-do, community-active oasis fans had long dreamed of, especially in face of such recent rank monetizing and privatizing...place finally joining wider region's other progressive-minded rural spring resorts.
ojala que; if only...
Current owners of what had for better part of 145 years been affordable, public-friendly, rejuvenating Stewart Springs have appeared bound and determined to drastically mess with it...to point of ruin. They'd go far beyond mere bold profit focus of former 34-year absentee ownership by insisting on impressing own conservative lifestyle on place, totally scrapping spa, and focus on own semi-private gig...seemingly suffering general public only to help pay the freight (and maybe just for a while, during transition period).
This in stark contrast to what more than a few spa idealists have always held transcendent vision of place becoming...or, rather, returning to: a NONPROFIT healing refuge embracing clean simplicity of nature and dedicated to genuine welfare of public at large, restoring founder Stewart's long-ago love-of-service operation. An enterprise that in 'civilized' variation at least faintly echoed timeless First Nations people's profound reverence of land and water and its healing medicine...medicine that possibly saved his life as young man and made him a true believer. see history
Soon-obvious aim by new 'stewards', again (not meaning to belabor point, but no doubt failing) was to conventionalize place to suit own conservative lifestyle and build more compatible clientele base to subsidize non-public operations while focusing on teaching/practicing/administering pet psychotherapy shtick...and, of course, from time to time letting affiliated groups, friends and family enjoy place as their own little shangri-la.
Former everyday visitors of more modest means and bohemian leaning appeared merely only tolerated (and then only so long as didn't even THINK about skinnydipping), as outfit apparently attempted cultivating more affluent -- or at least conventional-minded -- visitorship to cover operations and ownership costs. (Covering seemed main theme all around.)
Woefully misguided intent, as far as former large fan base was concerned, indeed seemed to be establishing some dubious lah-de-dah rustic resort for urban bourgeois-and-proud -- again, often those only flirting with decadent pleasure of mineral tub soak while enjoying quaint rustic atmosphere and touted amenity upgrades...those more affluent and indifferent to, or ignorant of, place's former historic dedication to offering simple, affordable, nature-friendly refuge in which one experienced profound, often life-altering, spa purification, healing and rejuvenation.
Countless already-awakened, growth-minded, spa-savvy visitors, those who value unassuming, healing culture that authentic rural mineral spring retreats so amply provide -- plus teaming sea of others primed to discover and embrace them like long lost friends -- have been effectively thrown out in the cold.
Unspoken message heard loud and clear: "Don't let the door hit you on the way out."
Skeptical? Away from Stewart Springs' official website place has long been referred to as Pneuma Retreat Center.
Cheshire at Work
Realm of Stewart Springs as countless have known it is being erased...not unlike guiding trail through dark woods in 'Alice in Wonderland', swept away by big bushy tail of mischievous Cheshire cat...or eroding U.S. democratic rights and protections under would-be strongman.
Mediocrity triumphing ingloriously.
Slowly and methodically re-branding and re-purposing place, if misguided plan ever succeeded longterm, former universal healing refuge would, if not close to public as some fear, be forever subordinated to public subsidizing outfit's clinical quasi-new-age shtick as workshop and event retreat for students, members, employees, plus perhaps like-minded groups willing to drink the Kool Aid.
Even this conceivably might've been at least semi-okay (think CA Big Sur's Esalan) IF in process they hadn't turned former quasi-bohemian, free-spirited climate upside down and inside out...which, of course, they did...in spades.
Intent all along has indeed appeared to be impressing own, distinctly non-northern-California lifestyle and buttoned-down mindset onto grounds in order to pursue own private-minded agenda.
Countless bereft fans know all too well how they first banned clothing-optional, then kicked out Karuk sacred sweat lodge and emptied gazebo's prayer/love offering altar. Also, upped bath rates -- twice -- took away free monthly employee bath perk (not even a token discount) and increased house take on gift shop consignments and masseuse services.
And locals day? Formerly, regional residents got nearly half off; recently only a few token dollars were shaved. "We love our visitors!" neglected old official Springs site still gushed, a year after abrupt changes clearly spoke otherwise, sentiment having become fossilized vestige of kinder times (albeit ever so tenuous).
"We respect all religions and spiritual traditions," outfit claimed dubiously on own Pneuma website. Would it were true, but actions belie noble sentiment. Or could it be they simply refused to acknowledge ancient earth religions, which predate -- and were ruthlessly co-opted by -- organized Judaeo-Christianity?
In any event, as things stand it it hardly makes for peak experience to any longtime aficionado unaware of devastating changes until arriving all psyched...whereupon shocked silly.
More of pit experience.
Such visitors -- before new ownership at last unfurled muted colors now snapping in breeze, striking sorrowful disbelief and righteous indignation in hearts of place's former fans -- had many of former transcendent experiences, thank you very much...
...along with altered-consciousness episodes by the truckload...and countless life-liberating, uplifted-awareness, reintegrated body-mind-spirit breakthroughs...all complements of inherent rare earth medicine as more fully experienced by having freedom to lose unneeded cover...no constrictive condom of cloth, as it were, dulling and crimping sensory wellbeing and body-mind-spirit integration process, thereby enabling experiencing sauna, coldplunge, and sunning deck's fullest palliative benefit.
Such formerly experienced positive mindstates are, of course, things ostensibly valued by Pneuma's transpersonal psychology mission statement.
Which naturally might lead one to ask...
What the #%#@! is wrong with this picture???
Rather than place being devoted to healing by becoming more one with nature in eternal present, beyond thought, in process often experiencing immediate and profound rejuvenation, new outfit clearly appears hell-bent on co-opting realm.
Cynics might view their efforts as putting God in a box and under a microscope, dissecting and over-intellectualizing transcendental mindstates in some formalized effort to roll out a super-structured enlightenment model for indoctrinating therapists new ways to aid psychotherapy clients with big bucks now festering away in distant bergs.
Again, effort itself might've seemed laudable enough, no doubt doing good for any affluent enough and so inclined to pursue such a formal therapeutic approach, good for what ails you.
But in bitter, mind-boggling irony, by largely re-shuffling Stewart's as place to teach and perpetuate innovative psycho-therapeutic approach -- while also serving as bureaucratic headquarters and courting more upscale visitors to help pay freight through conventionalized spa plus lodging for travelers largely ignorant of full-on spa culture -- it's worked overwhelmingly against ability of everyday trekkers with even a whisper of bohemian spirit and abiding appreciation of genuine spas to any longer enjoy affordable, uplifting reintegration of body-mind-spirit via soak-sauna-plunge...until recently, experienced directly, immediately, on the spot.
It's a bizarre situation too weird to fathom easily. For in attempting such focus re-purposing of Stewart's, with consequential severe cultural disruption , it only works to inhibit Pneuma's purported desire to uplift consciousness...
...except for those spiritual babes in the woods enrolling in academic classes, workshops and intensives. And "neon-Jesus-glowing-in-the-dark" (Dylan) assemblages of insider group events; general-public Stewart newbies, wowed by inherent magic and charm of place regardless of set-up...and, over time, aforementioned therapy patients now quietly freaking in distant neurosis-rich cities who are, essentially, willing to pay big bucks to have someone remind them to breathe deep.
Very mission statement shows a yawning chasm between ostensible goals and mindset thaty banned clothing optional:
"We are living a crucial moment in the history of humanity. New schools, institutes and universities are needed to teach an unbiased type of thinking that can generate a radical change. In turn, this can cause a permanent revolution inside the human being through Love [emphasis added]. Only in this way will it be possible to create a harmonious society."
Again, true enough words.
But if former open-minded clothing-optional policy, which implicitly recognized simple mindful nudity as a powerful expression of love and harmony, thereby allowing for far greater healing experience, wasn't generating positive radical change in hearts of visitors (when, that is, group energies held together despite total lack of management support), then writer doesn't know what else possibly could've a half as well or tenth as easily.
For mindful clothing-optional (c/o) has incredibly rich ability to open one to again embrace essential physical self as when wide-open infants and toddlers, easily fostering profound reintegration of body-mind-spirit.
Rejected option to pursue conscious freebody awareness has staggering potential -- in more normal times, at least -- to serve as invaluable tool in raising planetary consciousness.
Easily fostering positive radical change, it's light years cheaper and FASTER, in Springs's appropriate, nature-rich environment, than anything else imaginable.
But apparently in eyes of new ownership such an option made for too radical a change. Too uncontrollable. Too California. Too real. Made own shtick look tame, maybe even lame, in comparison to those embracing mindful body freedom and fast-tracking radical transformation.
In a nutshell: immediate affordable soul enrichment and body-mind healing -- once had by anyone entering realm with open mind and heart and willing to embrace nature's wisdom, overcoming exaggerated body self-consciousness -- was indifferently sacrificed, along, now, with bathhouse, to mindset promoting delayed, pricey kind led by professionals invested in super-structured, formalized, tell-me-I'm-not-crazy-Doc psychotherapy...
...all within new, buttoned-down environment reflecting new owners' conservative ways...
...and place's former time-honored, open-minded, unassuming ways be damned.
To any with skeptical turn of mind as far as 'real-world' situation goes, place's set-up surely seemed more concerned with perpetuating Institute first and foremost, with ostensible intent to raise planetary consciousness coming in a dismally distant second.
Outfit's therapeutic approach clearly seems aimed at those often with more dollars than sense, who think one must PAY to attain spiritual enlightenment and peace of mind...and pay more dearly for healing body, too.
It bears constant repeating:
Current owner focus and intent utterly straitjackets -- and, now, has utterly destroyed -- ability of any free-spirited, awakening or awakened beings to affordably enjoy unfettered beloved realm's powerful healing energies in open-minded atmosphere for immediate and profound benefit.
With wild healing spirit suddenly as good as banned, every visitor and event organizer was now effectively supporting and reinforcing oppressive scene by every cent dropped there.
Likewise any choosing to work there. They were either unwittingly or knowingly serving as accomplices, concern for making rent eclipsing certain knowledge that place's unassuming, down-home ways were tossed away like so much used tissue, or never having grokked public-service legacy in first place.
It's so depressing, writer needs a shrink. (Hey, they just might be on to something...)
One might suspect outfit was perhaps only flirting with spiritual awareness as mere adjunct to dry psycho-therapeutic approach, keeping it wrapped in frosty clinical mindset (and within confines of conventional religious doctrine to boot)...rather than letting everyman and everywoman -- that is, any would-be therapy patient -- plunge into enhanced well-being full-on, as Stewart Springs so long enabled in its own low-key way...affordably, easily, and effectively...allowing for often spontaneously gaining profound body-mind-spirit reintegration through relaxed clothing-optional spa regimen -- and thus having zero need for expensive, drawn-out psychotherapy in first place!
Perhaps one of best arguments for going nude more often is how exposing entire skin to healing rays of sun produces serious vitamin D, activating serotonin in the brain that magically lifts one's mood with release of feel-good endorphins. It's worlds better, easier, and faster than taking any anti-depressants or undergoing long drawn out, pricey therapy.
Nature obviously is the supreme healer.
Most cynical might view situation as no less than shrink industry trying to snap up Springs to sideline its service, co-opting super-natural therapy as enhanced by c/o, marginalizing it from serious competition in lucrative healing field in order to better push own intellectually top- heavy, super-structured, ultimately in time hopefully more lucrative gig.
(It's perhaps not too unlike status quo resisting legalization of medical cannabis as unfair rival to those pushing often useless, frequently harmful, mad-scientist laboratory-concocted snake oil remedies, euphemistically called pharmaceuticals...
...until staking out OWN budding-market lion's share, that is... protected through lobbied and bought legislators enacting corporate-friendly policies that in turn squeeze out or force to go outlaw countless small family growers hoping to earn livelihood in field so long respected and intimately understood.
Not to unduly demonize...
Again, it's not that outfit doesn't undoubtedly do good. Obviously, there are some problems spa treatments alone can't cure.
Pneuma's European-origin eclectic teaching model, rooted in 1960s' humanistic psychology branch, focuses on achieving positive wellbeing and transcendence rather than seeking neuroses under every rock. It no doubt works just fine -- but elsewhere, in more consciousness-starved regions, time-warped in old millennium and thriving on such professional specialties of dire necessity, providing healing tool for those affluent enough to divvy big bucks for long-term psychotherapy.
But not in Future State of California -- leastwise not in nature-loving, free-spirited, infinity-minded rural TOP of California, with natural spirit lifter of Mount Shasta...and most especially NOT at ancient mystic healing portal known today as Stewart Mineral Springs.
New wine takes new containers.
Is rare healing nectar of Stewart Springs realm to be forever watered down and blended for packaged, wine-in-a-box approach reflecting other regions' and mindsets' enlightenment and self-empowerment levels, just to accommodate outfit's bureaucratic needs, conservative mindset and own particular gig?
Those who've cherished sacred realm's fitfully-free, bohemian, sometimes holy-stoned, culture for decades -- despite last owner's profit focus -- hold that new ownership intent is absolutely NOT any alignment blessed by Universe.
More analysis and ranting, plus inside dope on former ownership-management directly leading to current abysmal situation, follows below sea of re-posts over controversial sweat lodge removal in December 2017
Livid Outrage Over Ending Sweat Lodge
and other deal-breakers
Removal of 45-year Karuk tribe sacred sweat lodge in mid December 2017 sparked firestorm from now-alienated, brokenhearted Springs visitors on Yelp, Google Review, and SMS Facebook sites -- most posts since deleted or buried.
The following flurry of excerpted reactions were posted online December 2017 thru January 2018. Gathered collection reflects perhaps strongest unified voice ever made of Springs devotees' love of sweat lodge and place as a whole...unfortunately coming only after losing first and now in danger of losing second.
Note: certain passages are emphasized by editor by italicizing and/or underlining, but any all-cap words are reviewers' own.
"You are dead in the water. How dare you ask the tribe to leave...this is OUTRAGEOUS and from someone who has been there, and paid, over 100 times, you will NEVER get my business, nor that of ANYONE I can tell. SHAME, SHAME, SHAME."
-- Nancy Neubauer, SMS Facebook review
"I am deeply saddened by the new administration...They have chosen to kick out the Native American lodge that has been there for 45 years! This is devastating. I will not come back...I pray for the land and the new owners..."
-- Carla C., Weed, CA revised Yelp review
"I am so amazed at brazen callous and disrespect of the new 'owners'. To kick first Nation people off of land they have utilized for thousands of years! Shame. I will never be back to the springs under current ownership or practices..."
-- Jessica Zern, SMS Facebook review
"...the new owners of Stewart Mineral Springs have disallowed the Native American sweat lodge from continuing
Late revered Karuk > medicine man Charlie Thom led sweat lodge at Springs for decades. His father, then boy, and grandfather were survivors of massacre of 1870s at and around tribe's longtime sacred healing land now known as Stewart Springs; they'd been camping further upstream where a bit cooler in hot summer weather
on their property. It seems as if all their new changes are geared so that they can have a high 'fallutin' retreat center for rich Bay Area folks. Maybe I am missing something and don't know all the facts, but I have heard that us locals will not be welcome there when their ultimate vision of high-end retreat center comes to pass..."
-- Alan Cooper, SMS Facebook
"...very sad to find out that the new management has taken away the sweat lodge, not caring one bit for the native people and what it represents to them and all of us. I feel you're taking something away that not only nourishes the community but also bonds, heals and strengthens the community... i refuse to support such blind and money hungry establishments."
-- Sigfredo Hernandez, Google review
"This USED TO BE MY MOST FAVORITE PLACE IN THE WORLD.....now I can sadly say I will not return until the current owners sell it to better care takers or have a serious 'come to Jesus ' about their HORRIBLE MANAGEMENT.
"I have been a regular devout client for 15 years... I have rented every building on the property and used to come weekly for a decade, I have hosted weekend workshops and many ceremonies and raised my child bringing him to the native sweat lodges.
"The new owners have changed the very fiber and culture of the space we have all loved for decades.
"They have changed their rules around 'clothing optional areas' to a puritan bathing suit only mentality. The clothing optional aspect is something that everyone I know that has frequented this healing springs has LOVED about the place.
"After 40+ years of tradition of honoring the Native Americans and providing a place for their Sweat Lodges they have banned this vital and deeply respected aspect of the community from carrying on their sacred ways on their ancestral lands.
"The employees did not seem happy. Their overall practices are a disgrace to the legacy of healing that these springs hold for many many many people. Their lack of care for the local community is shameful.
"The employees did not seem happy. Their overall practices are a disgrace to the legacy of healing that these springs hold for many many many people. Their lack of care for the local community is shameful.
"The current owners and management have sucked the beauty, joy, innocence and purity from this sacred place with their attempt to sanitize our sacred waters with their mal-intent. There is a deep sadness in my heart, I am praying for change. I deeply look forward to returning to my favorite place on earth...but not as it is now. I will stay positive that change will come."
-- Anu H., Nevada City, CA, two Yelp reviews combined
"To Stewart Mineral Springs: Where is the sweat lodge? Where will people go for Healing? ...I am dismayed. There is no honor in this."
-- Susan Shannon, findaspring.com
"I am deeply saddened as I write this review. This place has been the grounds for indigenous ceremonies providing healing and comfort for thousands of people for the last 45 years. New owners have decided to... change the clothing optional policy to clothing mandatory, and removed the people of this land.
"...This location was once a very sacred and safe space But it looks like all of that is changing now. The new owners of the land are obviously money driven and unaware of the sacredness of the sweat lodge ceremony that was offered here every Saturday of the year for 40 something years...
"Unfortunately the owners of this land will now learn about energy and not in the best way."
-- Shay W., Campbell, CA, Yelp review
"stewart mineral springs used to be a beautiful, wild and wonderful place. i felt very fortunate to live so close and went weekly.
"new owners took over last year and every change they've made has been awful. from nixing the clothing optional option and disallowing people to stretch in the sauna ["No yoga in sauna" sign slapped on door; no doubt result of one freebody down-dog too many - Ed.]... to removing some of the more blissful offerings from the lobby, the loveliness is gone.
"recently they put an end to the weekly sweat lodges led by local indigenous elders that have happened there for 45 years, on land that has been sacred to indigenous people for centuries. this is a huge blow to our local community.
"i will not return until this place changes ownership again. hopefully these folks won't totally destroy it before that happens. i encourage all...to discontinue any sort of support of this place.
"please share this far and wide...they remove access to the local indigenous people who have prayed here for eons... Please make sure people know about this. I am sure they have their excuses but I'm sorry, this is not right at all, regardless...
"This will be the third time I have written this review, and while Yelp claims business owners can't pay to have reviews removed, suspiciously this one has been removed twice, though it is a clear and honest review.
"I am a local and spent a lot of time at the springs over the years until the new owners took over. The surrounding land is gorgeous - the section of the PCT [Pacific Crest Trail] that runs nearby is a regular hiking favorite of mine. In fact, I often loved a morning hike to the Deadfall lakes, followed by a soak and sweat afterwards.
"One would suspect, unfortunately, that the new owners wish to privatize the springs entirely - most recently by telling the local Native Americans that they can no longer run the 45-year-long sweat lodges on the land, which were attended by a loving community and tourists alike...
"Many other beloved aspects of the springs are being done away with as well: clothing optional opportunities have been removed entirely (have fun in the cold plunge wrapped in a sheet!), and I find the "remodeling" that's currently happening (removing the wood from the tub rooms and replacing it with tile) to look sterile, like a hospital. Finally, they have raised the locals rate TWICE since taking ownership. This shows, definitely, a lack of concern and regard, for sure. Many people in our local community are seniors with limited income, artists and musicians, who sought out the springs weekly for healing until the rates became unaffordable for us.
"There are other, better options for the time being, at least until this place changes ownership once again - it has had many owners in the past, none of whom have treated the local community so poorly..."
-- Dori M, Mt. Shasta, CA, Yelp review + SMS Facebook
"In solidarity with the land, its natural state, and the local tribes... this business stewards nothing and does not give back. To continue to patronize this self-serving business is a vote against the common and the local indigenous people."
-- Karen El, SMS Facebook review
"This place used to be cool before the new and greedy owners took over. Raised rates, took away the native sweat lodge, and ended their clothing optional policy...They don't want you there if you're not rich. They don't care about locals. They raised rates yet don't seem to use any of it to update the place at all... Greed has taken over this great spot. I'm not giving them a penny ever again and I hope other locals choose to follow suit..."
-- Marty Glassley, SMS Facebook review
"I was shocked by the exorbitant $35 fee to sauna and soak in a tub of piped-in heated mineral water. I asked how such a unique natural resource came to be privately owned after thousands of years of indigenous usage, where one could imagine tribes laying weapons and differences aside to heal in the therapeutic waters.
"I was told a story of how the local band of Karuk people were massacred on the grounds years after healing the man that would eventually purchase the land from the government. (How the government can sell stolen land, I don't know, but we all know it's nothing new) The woman told me that as a result of such a bloody past, Karuk and other local indigenous tribe members have held weekly ceremonies there to help heal the land, descendants and soothe residual spiritual disturbances.
"I found this news hypocritical in light of the gigantic fake monument to colonialism all visitors must pass through in the form of the Army-style stockade gates and parapets reminiscent of the very institution responsible for the attempted genocide of the Native Peoples.
"Now, apparently under new ownership, there will be no more First Nations-led sweat lodges on Saturdays, in addition to the new ban on the nude human form and their outrageous regular fees and continual raising of the discounted fee for locals.
"The people who run this place are clearly happy to ignore the fact that this place is a resource for all people, stolen the [bloodied lands] of indigenous people in order to turn a profit. Their predatory business practices, disrespectful shunning of The Karuk People and homage to colonial military power signal a sad continuation of American history of oppression."
-- Drew S., Oakland, CA Yelp review
"Once it was a respite for locals and travelers alike. Matsuru Emoto even came to the property to speak about the purity of its water. It was a sacred place. Now, new owners have come in, kicked out the local tribe ... raised the prices and pretty much ruined the whole thing. So sad."
-- Wendy James, SMS Facebook review
"...this sacred space is one of first places I visited in the Mt Shasta area many years ago and a place I held near and dear to my heart. When I moved to Shasta as a new mom it was a great place to rejuvenate and I visited regularly. Since the new owners have taken over and policies have changed I have only been twice. Now, I am brought to tears as I hear the family that welcomed me with open arms into their Karuk Sacred Sweat lodge and have been asked to leave their sacred land.
"So much disrespect is being shown to this native indigenous tribe, who are honored in our community and deserve much respect, and lands that were here way before these owners came along. I myself and many others have had much healing and growth from those sweats. To the amazing Karuk tribe who have taken my family under your wings, give thanks for all you do and I am sorry for your great loss.
"I will not be going back to Stewart Mineral Springs. There are many amazing mineral springs close by, whose owners honor the sacred land and indigenous tribes, where I will choose to support."
-- Rosy Ware, SMS Facebook review
"It is with great sadness that I hear about the change in ownership at Stewart Springs. Raising the prices, kicking out the sweat lodge and changing its rustic nature and availability for locals to do ceremony will make it a place I will likely no longer choose to visit. So sad; this was a very sacred and special place."
-- Bonnie F., Castro Valley, CA Yelp review
"...the new owners...ripped the heart out of this place by kicking the local indigenous sweat lodge..."
-- Angel Cassidy Burst, SMS Facebook review
"I'm so dissatisfied with the new owners. First they took away clothing optional, then they cut the pay of their massage therapists, then took out the sacred items, and now the worst and most disrespectful action, they removed the Karuk Sweatlodge... This land is not really their land. It's sacred ground of the Karuk people. So much disrespect. Very rude. I will not be bringing any spiritual groups to this place until the sweatlodge has returned..."
-- Lauren Willow Anderson, SMS Facebook review
"A beautiful place where I have enjoyed going to bathe and do sweat lodges with the Indigenous locals. When I learned that the new owners are making big changes like raising the prices and trying to turn it into a high-end resort, I was devastated. It appears that instead of working with the locals, these new owners have shunned them, instead making them stop doing a decades old ceremony that brings lots of people to pray and sweat at the site as well as to take the baths. If these new owners believe they can make a go of it without working with the local people, including the Indigenous tribe(s) that were there long before they arrived, they are destined to fail.
"It's so sad to see Stewart go down this road. I won't be going back unless the sweats are reinstated..."
-- Hope I, El Sobrante, CA Yelp review
"Shame on you for breaking a 45 year sweat tradition...I see you losing a lot of local and regional support over this decision!"
-- Laurie Sweets, SMS Facebook review
"Too bad new owners don't get it."
-- Patty Speelman-Sherman, SMS Facebook
"What no more sweats?!...unseen energies will not be happy."
-- Shannon Wedgley, SMS Facebook review
"...[M]y personal experience with the sweatlodge was transformational. It was beautiful that they shared that sacredness in tradition and opened it to whoever wanted to attend...sad and truly disrespectful..."
-- Kat Mysers, SMS Facebook
"Really sad...the greed factor is such a turnoff. The spiritual community of Mount Shasta could boycott the place..."
-- Shananda Ann Kumara, SMS Facebook
"It never felt right there for me. I was always uncomfortable. The land looks dirty and used up and not taken care of... the energy of the land did not feel right to me..."
-- Kimberley Ann Montgomery, SMS Facebook
"...I refused to go starting last summer. Being on the inside as an employee I saw much I didn't agree with and it's by far much worse now. When I was there, I prayed for a cleansing of the land..."
-- Sequoia Therese, SMS Facebook
"I remember the first time going here and loving the peaceful atmosphere and the most amazing group of people were running a sweat lodge. It was a very profound healing for me and I was brought into a beautiful way to pray and the most amazing group of people who to this day I call family. I am devastated to learn the new owners have asked these amazing people to leave this place where they have been providing this service for 45 years.
"I always recommended this place to people but no longer can. I hope you know that you have hurt so many peoples' heart by doing this. As our beautiful teacher has taught us we will continue praying for you and the world because that is what we do."
-- Tina Wood, SMS Facebook review
"I'm very disappointed and saddened and upset that they have kicked out the Native sweat lodge. I think it is all about the money now. Who cares about the history and soul of this place? ... 45 years the sweat lodge has been here. Why are you ending this? Is it a liability issue excuse to run people out?..."
-- Carla Charraga, SMS Facebook
"I love this place with all my heart. I healed so much here and have grown so very much from my experiences here, but since the new owners have come in and instated new policies that inhibit the free expression on one's self... It went from full transparency to having to cover up. (Clothing optional was one of the most potent aspects of SMS healing qualities... also the magical feeling of free expression of beauty of its guests.) Yes these new rules have allowed shy newcomers to enter but at what cost?
"And now...the sweat lodges lead by local indigenous elders will be discontinued? Is this fulfillment of Hopi prophecy that at the end of days indigenous American ceremonies will cease? The world is on fire. Will we see the error of your ways with love and understanding? Or will we come to realize this only after economic failure? ..."
-- Elmer de Jesus Contreras, SMS Facebook
"The new owners...are disrespecting the Karuk & the local people."
-- Jeanne Baker, SMS Facebook
"Without the sweat lodge this place is not worth it. The sole fact that the Native people were kicked out gives me enough reason not to go. I cannot believe the new owners would ruin the most magical and sacred experience ever. Until the sweat lodge returns, I will not return."
-- Jenny N., Sacramento, CA
Things are bad, all right. But know that this too shall pass...eventually.
All who deeply love place envision a positive future for Springs... either with present new ownership hearts miraculously melting or, barring that seeming unlikelihood, with abject failure of oppressive regime in due course and eventual re-sale to future, appropriate ownership, one that can redeem spirit of place to wider benefit of all of humanity.
As mentioned, most of above re-posted Yelp reviews were soon deleted from site, ostensibly for "violating terms of service" -- owner furor over earnest visitor push-back being allowed to air at all, perhaps? And SMS Facebook first suspended its review site, then briefly -- oddly -- added rants back to main page, before in September 2018 deleting entire feedback page. Glad to have rescued so many above heartfelt writings in time to save them from oblivion.
Frustrating to speak your mind, only to have words deleted for being discounted as bad for business...regardless how sincere, insightful, and true words are.
What's that saying? In times of oppression, speaking truth is deemed a revolutionary act.
& in-depth scoping
What the #%! Happened to Stewart Springs??!
New owners erased popular culture to homogenize realm, support wonky quasi-new-age shtick
No nudes is good news;
Plan to close gates to public?
"Surprisingly [Stewart's] has not been bought out and turned into a high dollar 5-star resort spa. Interesting, that, because several times that has been looked at, but something seemed to intervene. Its almost like the amazing dual springs are meant to be for all the people, especially the ones drawn there for spiritual refuge and healing rejuvenation. "
-- James Tyberonn
"In the circle of life are the laws of nature. If you stay in that circle everything will be OK. Outside that circle are the laws of man. If you only follow those you are in trouble."
--Russell Beebe of Ojibway tribe
by Stu Ward
Longtime Springs volunteer; suspended all support 12-17 on lodge eviction
First posted late 2017; revised now and then. Arbitrarily split into 12 parts.
Simon Says: "Take one wrong-headed, giant step backwards."
Stewart Mineral Springs has long held a special place in the hearts of countless around the world.
Many of most ardent fans and supporters feel the clothing-optional ban two years ago marked a profoundly wrong-headed, giant step backwards. And words can barely register stunned shock and dumbfoundment over kicking out grounds' sweat lodge, ostensibly done to gain affordable fire/liability insurance coverage. And now, upping outrage into ionosphere, dismantling bathhouse for own, egregiously inappropriate, totally private-minded repurposing intentions.
Writer, local work-trade volunteer who'd long ago felt totally psyched to create and contentedly maintain bathhouses's cold plunge on informal work-trade basis for 16 years, had for last two nourished desperate hope that the outrageous misstep of banning mindful-nudity option would prove a mere de-facto breather...a chance to let dust of old management unsupported clothing-optional (c/o) scene settle before enlightened all-new management forged a new, more aware policy...
...one inclusive of place's diverse visitor base...one that would naturally attract management and staff as much motivated in fostering genuine healing as in covering rent or mortgage.
Thinking was that with at least tenuous openmindedness by new, way-y-y-absentee ownership, once gaining deeper understanding of place and druthers of once-substantial bohemian-leaning support base it would naturally reinstate clothing-optional, post-haste. (This, though learning that one member reportedly owns a popular mineral springs resort in Mexico, which is, most assuredly, NOT clothing-optional...Ayy carumba! No nudistas aqui, por favor!)
Realm would've then be brought back in alignment with time-honored tradition of every other popular rural mineral springs resort in northwest U.S., all of which allow some measure of mindful nudity to foster optimal purifying, healing, and rejuvenation...often triggering profound body-mind-spirit reintegration in process. Similarly, purported rate increase was seen by writer as done only to absorb covering paying workers better than the two bits over minimum wage long doled out by former, sometimes penny-pinching owner.
Nope. Naive me. Took further calamities of removing gazebo spring-house altar, slashing masseuse's and gift shop consignee's take and, coup de gras, kicking out sacred sweat lodge, to realize something was clearly rotten in the state of Denmark. Sadly detached from place, vowing never to set foot on grounds again as things now stand, same as countless other, dyed-in-the-wool, one-time devotees of cherished place.
And, as it turned out, while maybe management positions started getting more pay, any poor schmuck holding, say, grounds handyman position, a job certainly requiring valuable skills, was apparently still expected to sweat away at California minimum wage, poverty-level pittance of $10.50 an hour.
First new ownership in 34 years as of 1-19-2016 had seemed such a slam-dunk perfect time -- golden window of opportunity -- to forge a dramatic new start of realm... one infused with dedicated energy, bursting with fresh focus and positive grounded perspective, no longer clouded by chronic past profit-hungry preoccupation, with all its chaotic snafus and downers...
...at last gone an often-dire situation so abysmal, place seemed to be vying for Most Dysfunctional Management Award in some bizarro alternate universe.
So what happened? What kept grand re-set button from being pushed, restoring sacred place to natural peaceful state as the thriving, diverse, open-minded healing retreat spa it's always longed to be, vision locked into its very DNA?
Wanted: workers willing to work cheap
Why instead did place become horrible, jaw-dropping, slow-motion train wreck it is now? A cultural collision thundering around world, first by banning clothing-optional and reverting back to improbable retread pre-millennium mindset, rife with oppressive body shame and false modesty, rudely smacking of depressing mindless conventionality that so many came to Springs in good part to get welcome break from. Then removing gazebo altar of countless prayer and love offerings -- like tearing down a living church.
Absolute last straw, though, was telling Karuk medicine man Walking Eagle to leave after some 45 years, to cease weekly sweat lodge ceremony on ancestors' healing lands, lands held sacred by his and other regional tribes since time untold.
(Tearing out the tubs and stalls in the bathhouse only post-apocalyptic action, showing "owners'" true intent lest there still be any doubt.)
Whether one participated in sweat lodge or not, its loss is incalculable. It represented last cultural link to renaissance days of 1970's progressive Goodpasture family ownership. Lodge enabled keeping a modicum of bedrock diversity and bohemian-friendly spirit alive at Springs. More crucially, it served to help neutralize steep karma of place created by 1870's massacre of natives on and around very grounds. (see history)
Enter Dragon Lady, with Gilded Visions
& Marching Orders from
It's said the cause of anything is everything, and the cause of everything is anything.
It was perhaps predictable result of relentless pressure from former San Francisco absentee owner John Foggy to try to generate greater profits. It became her constant mantra, spoken reverently with glazed eyes as she and accomplice, late operations manager husband, Ted D., seemed perversely determined to turn former unpretentious healing place steeped in rustic, down-home charm -- simple dedicated spa with no-frills lodging -- into some improbable wannabe upscale resort (not unlike one we have now)...embracing shadowy Babylon world's bass-ackwards bourgeois control-freak mindset dressed up in smiley-face for non-discriminating mass consumption.
Fantasyland vision Afield in Schemes was fed by money-siren whisperings of "If you ban it, they will come". It being place's former unassuming spirit of bohemian-leaning, free-spirited -- sometimes holy-stoned -- culture, with tenuously abiding tolerance for lifestyle diversity, including weekly Native American sweat lodge, spiritual card readings...and mindful nudity in certain, suitably unsuitable, bathhouse and creek locations.
Again, clothing-optional policy gave people rare chance to shake free of lifetime of body suppression, shame, false modesty, and/or simple undue physical self-consciousness. Visitors were at last free to be real, undisguised selves again, as when newborns and toddlers. Policy fostered a worlds more relaxing, often life-changing, spa experience. (For some, though, only after getting beyond initial intense freak-out stage, before happily rediscovering un-self conscious freebody awareness.)
As it turned out, new owners seemed to like old-culture-destroying refinement idea just fine, thank you very much. Unspoken message, again, appeared to be something along the line of 'Cover your asses, shameless heathen, or go elsewhere.'
It came as no great surprise, as she herself brokered deal for ownership change, reportedly for 10% cut in what some might view as ultimate sell-out, having milked an extra quarter-million dollars off place, selling to ready-cash buyers with intentions at such grievous odds with original spirit of place...a spirit always hiding just below the surface, clamoring to re-emerge.
The popular Cafe Gratitude restaurant chain's founder was initially a co-owner, some thinking it a promising sign place was at last going to merrily turn around. But he soon sold his interest. (One perhaps doesn't haven't to wonder too much why.)
Maybe she did some big song and dance about lucrative untapped potential of place -- "The upside potential's enormous!" Or bought in as junior partner. Or is still on payroll as consultant. Or simply took the money and ran. Possibly she'd railed how "Everyone hates clothing-optional except a few low-spending, kinky locals; it's killing business, I tell ya..."
Then again, maybe she didn't have to say a word.
Rumors have long abounded as to what they're actually
Maui's Little Beach irregulars
up to. Again, one is they're determined to ratchet up bigger-spending, ostensibly more respectable (i.e. unabashedly bourgeois), visitorship, including sundry therapists and practicing psychologists who can afford Pneuma's pricey two-year course programs to gain credentials to use its transpersonal psychology approach in therapy practice and/or in turn teach others how to better tap into lucrative high-end of healing field.
To that end, for a while they appeared busy incubating wannabe tony resort: some witnessed the two new fancy tiled tub rooms, replete with shiny, ostentatiously fancy faucet fixtures. (So blindingly shiny, they reminded writer of a Marine Corps honor guard's steel helmet.) And bathhouse was no longer referred to as simply the bathhouse. It became "The Wellness Center." And the humble, homely A-frame? Upgraded to The Chalet.
Another rumor: that they were only homogenizing place by erasing countercultural imprint -- sweat lodge, mindful nudity, gazebo prayer and love offering altar, etc. -- in hopes of attracting everyday, less-discerning travelling mainstream hordes, who'll buy watered-down spa experience and relatively cheap out-of-town lodgings en masse and likewise better reflect own conventional mindset -- hoped to better support operations and fund Pneuma Institute and doings on grounds. (And, hearty souls, won't mind at all in cold weather if heating in lodgings is sketchy; that or they're too numbed to even think of demanding refund next morning in office...if office is even open before having to leave.)
Either way, time's revealed that the overarching, improbable intent is repurposing place to serve as world headquarters, retreat and teaching center for owners' Pneuma Institute -- again, peculiar amalgam of conventional Judaeo-Christianity, transpersonal psychology, and new-ageism incorporating mindful breath -- with perhaps everyday visitors and general-public workshops/retreats/events effectively subsidizing costs a bit.
Unwitting enablers have included several annual workshop retreat event organizers, who, it would seem, loved place more for being their own money generator. They appeared calloused to or unaware how restrictive and oppressive operation's seismic shift was to place's one-time myriad free-spirited aficionados who largely drove recent roaring success of operation.
And some visitors had gotten so hooked on place they were willing to suffer various and sundry new restrictions IF it meant getting another Springs fix. They're determined not to let new scene keep them from spending more time with a dear old friend. So they'll suffer new downside...or go into denial, driving from mind glaring fact that through continued patronage -- even if only once a year -- they're only helping regime tighten stranglehold on realm.
But some wonder how long the public might still be welcome at all at place, such as it is, especially with bathhouse gone...
...which brings up last dismal rumor: that some long-ran plan is afoot to eventually close gates to the public. Maybe only after years of suffering them to help finance changes -- and perhaps give time for public to get so royally disenchanted with place that they no longer care what the hell they do with it.
In this scenario, obviously, no one would have chance to even try to enjoy, let alone gripe about, dubious changes. Place would become exclusively for private use by owners, to enjoy for themselves while holding Pneuma workshop courses, retreats and intensives, plus host related international social gatherings, workshop classes and intensives...
...maybe keep allowing in a few select outside workshops that can stomach -- perhaps even embrace -- new rock-ribbed regime in order to help cover insurance, management, utilities, endless cords of firewood... and place's sky-high county property taxes (about $28,000/year... or over $500/week, $77 every single day).
It turns out a nonprofit like Pneuma is legally allowed to own a for-profit business under California law and then pay regular taxes on it. Perhaps they have no real incentive to work place any more, taking tax write-off somehow by legally juggling against some more profitable operation of one or more of owners, thereby enabling luxury of remaking place into own scene with little or no concern of making nut, as does any regular, sink-or-swim business operation...or even your on-the-ball nonprofit.
Regardless, in every scenario remedial first step is of course to purge place of undesirably free-minded riff-raff; exterminate freaky infestations of those leaning toward freedom-loving, status-quo scoffing, alternative-lifestyle-embracing ways...in other words, basically, anyone who likes to skinnydip or sunbathe and sauna nude...or thinks they might like to.
Such unacceptably unconventional (yet for countless, sensible and organic) ways -- rejecting anything rigidly over-structured, unduly profit-minded, and/or life-affirming challenged -- are deemed strange, distasteful, offensive, even dangerous for refusing to worship Mammon, to super-organized sensibilities of seemingly tight-wound ownership...along with would-be snooty patrons and/or convention-locked 'consumers' sought as patrons.
So it became absolute no-brainer to scrap popular longstanding clothing-optional policy, get rid of springhouse gazebo's prayer altar, and end longstanding weekly First Nations sacred sweat lodge ceremony.
Plus...chip away at longtime Locals Day deal so as to render price break meaningless; raise rates in general -- twice -- and up takes on massages and consigned gift shop items. (Again, bear in mind main outfit's a non-profit. How's that for irony? Proves intent is always bottom line, not profit or non-profit status alone.)
Stripping away place's former spiritually diverse and egalitarian vibe to be blandly remade by social-conservative owners seems sad name of game now. Adding further insult to injury, current workers -- those who don't quit in disgust second day out, that is -- trying to endure new oppressive regime to put food on table (or, again, those who never really got what place was about), no longer get free monthly mineral bath. It had been a thoughtful perk offered for decades as reward for dedicated efforts and helping keep workers in sync with spa's healing reason for being, otherwise often not affordable for low wages.
Invisible co-owners appear maddeningly indifferent to how ordered changes have erased former popular culture so lovingly built, nurtured, and supported over decades by myriad nature-loving Springs devotees and supporters, both near and far.
For again, it was former fans who largely funded place's upgrades -- place reported annual quarter-million dollar profit towards end of old ownership -- by enthusiastic repeat visits over decades and turning friends on to it.
Business is business
But, hey, business is business; it's our baby now and we'll do whatever the heck we want with it, so nyaah. Possession's nine-tenths of the law, ya know. (and perhaps under breath: ...and the sooner we turn you yahoos off to it, the sooner we can shut the gates and quit having to suffer your tiresome howls of protest, gritting our teeth trying to make nice in order to keep your dollars rolling in a while longer before we finally pull the plug. Then we can enjoy it all for ourselves, heh-heh, hah-hah, hee-hee, ho-ho...)
If rumor of plans to eventually slam gates to public is true and not unfounded imagining worst, at first blush it might appear myriad boycotting fans are screwed.
That is, if owners actually think they could actually close priceless public treasure and still enjoy it with even one shred of spiritual integrity after inevitable condemnation by global community for trying to bogart extraordinary realm that's provided 145 years of dedicated public-minded healing to world's people.
A Japanese-American acquaintance told writer he was shocked such a great natural treasure as Stewart Springs wasn't a protected public spa as is sometimes done in his old homeland with its own historic rural mineral springs.
Any suspecting this is what's happening might grumble, "Well, why not just shut the damn gates now and be done with it?" The fact they're not provides some hope it isn't true, one supposes...that extent of closely-guarded intent is only to try upscaling and/or sterilize place...
...that is, unless simply hoping to avoid riot; or, again, wanting to keep milking unwitting visitors who think everything's hunky-dory, plus veterans finding place borderline tolerable, to fund ultimate privatization goal...until one day imposing front fortress gates indeed swing shut and clueless, eager trekkers are greeted by signs growling:
Private Property - Keep Out - Violators Prosecuted
No Peak Experiences for You
Parapets Manned 24/7
Transcend Yur Sorry Naked Selves Elsewhere
Okay, so parapets probably wouldn't be manned all the time, but you get the drift.
Envisioning perfect future stewardship
Assuming last rumor isn't actual intent (and maybe even if it is)...if everyone who loves place boycotts it and raises awareness and spreads word how place's former beautiful, wild cultural spirit has been systematically suppressed to suit new ownership's conservative lifestyle, how new owners are re-working place to double as own Pneuma world headquarters, in process strangling it to death as lifestyle-diverse, healing refuge for open-minded, everyday people, flocking from everywhere...
...if enough now-estranged Stewart aficionados do this while at same time visualizing positive future stewardship, THEN current 'owners' might then never generate critical level of patronage needed to fund desired changes...or keep integrity intact even if they DO manage to build viable new visitor base.
Instead they'd rightly feel like do-do -- defeating overall ability of outfit to help people feel better deep down, in communion with planetary oversoul, such global consciousness-raising, after all, claiming to be overarching mission goal of the Institute.
If new customer base doesn't grow, they'll perhaps flounder in sea of red ink from lost patronage, regardless of whether intent's catering to mainstream, going all posh, and/or ultimately closing to general public for private use but for now depend on continued patronage to help offset operating costs and supply returns on millions tied up in place.
They'd indeed be dead in the water...unless having money to burn and couldn't care less if none of formerly dedicated fans come anymore, short of willingness to kowtow to new, severely dampened scene.
Former zenned-out mandala pattern of bathhouse floors, including sauna. Old boards were torn out about 2012 due to longstanding moisture rot. Management unwilling to take the time and effort to replicate longtime meditation-friendly touch that had helped make place so exceptional
Whatever the case -- and again, even IF succeeding in building new visitor base -- over time private-minded stewards would feel far-reaching popular wrath putting jinx on any such dreary dreams of tony, sterile makeover suiting own lifestyle and serving as would-be shrink-serving headquarters/retreat/
classrooms. In other words, widespread public disdain, perfectly reflecting mountain of squirrelly karma diverted scene built up, would in the grand scheme of things neutralize the effect of good works.
Staying away in droves alone might foil any such plans. Plagued operation might then never gain needed traction. Annual workshop and performance events that have gone on forever there -- like Zavada's and DeLong's -- would fade away as would-be participants and event bookers realize they've been drinking the Kool-aid, supporting inappropriate use of place by remaining hooked on it, oblivious or indifferent to how operation's former, fitfully unassuming and open-minded ways were pushed off a cliff.
Such workshop/retreat organizers would then, rather than further aid and abet cultural destruction of place, find new places for a while -- maybe Flowing Waters just down the hill -- until ownership changes again.
Their joining in unity with de facto boycott and spreading awareness of unacceptable scene -- along with positive visualization -- could hasten the day when universe manifests a new, non-profit operation, under service-dedicated steward(s), fans enabled to create an infectious, thriving cultural renaissance.
Too, would-be followers and supporters of Pneuma world might sour on connecting dots and realizing that its bureaucratic mucky-mucks essentially created no less than cultural genocide at place they'd hoped to re-purpose to pursue psychotherapeutic methodology with ostensible goal of helping heal the world.
Barring having miraculous change of heart, they could -- saving grace -- erase such gnarly karma by being mindful enough to re-sell at fair price to now-envisioning, perfect new stewardship...those who, again, would then transform place into legal nonprofit healing center (owners perhaps even taking loss as penance, or at the LEAST selling at cost, allowing for any improvement outlays).
International outfit, relocating to place happily unhindered by current controversy, would regain now-mortgaged integrity and credibility...and ultimately gain a powerful POSITIVE role in realm's age-old healing legacy and evolution. And still be free to enjoy it, like everybody else, once perhaps learning to better embrace inner bohemian...or at least no longer minding those who do.
If third rumor -- eventual privatization -- is the case, they'll soon realize, if they haven't already (again, assuming they are indeed planning on eventually slamming gates), that such action is NOT doable in the real world.
...not without disastrously self-defeating consequence.
For global wrath and disdain would all but guarantee inability to ever enjoy legally stolen place with one nano-particle of peace of mind. It'd leave them feeling like shallow-water pretenders, with zero credibility in trying to push shtick there to increase spiritual awareness and heart awakening after having coldly suppressed accustomed, spirit-attuned, open-heart diverse lifestyle of legions of place's biggest fans and supporters over long decades.
Stolen paradise is hell.
Foundations built on sandy grave of destroyed people's culture cannot support anything without reeking to high heaven.
Again, with such a grand reality check they'd know they'd be worlds better off, both karmically and practically, abandoning any such plans.
If indeed having bought place only to mold it to double as headquarters and specialized semi-private retreat and teaching center subsidized by general public, with no interest in ever running public-spirited purifying and healing spa and resort -- beyond watered-down version to help pay freight -- then, again, they'll throw in towel. Duly chagrined, they'll relocate, selling place at fair price to one who will honor realm's former affordable, free-spirited healing tradition for the whole world's open-minded, growth-oriented visitorship to enjoy and benefit by.
As said, old general manager finally stepped down late November 2017, only after two interminable years of surreally remote management post-sale from hundreds of miles away, during which time the largely unempowered on-grounds staff, rubber-stamped rigid changes as mandated through her from even more distant owners..most living THOUSANDS of miles away.
First remote owners, then remote manager, both out of sync with dedicated purifying, healing, and rejuvenating tradition of place. No great surprise, then, that lamentable situation often made for remote visitors.
Hard to imagine writer was alone in hopes that with owner change might come new, progressive-minded management... transforming climate with infusion of grounded, aware focus...as is cultivated by most every other popular rural spring resort in the wider region.
Surely we'd hit bottom and the only way was up.
Nope. Nowhere near bottom. Was Egyptian fish living in denial. Never suspected that new stewards had ZERO intention of ever returning place to its former glory of being a down-home healing retreat...or even the remotest facsimile thereof
Instead, they seemed jonesin' to strip it down and rebuild it to serve own semi-private-focused interests, subsidized by public...and maybe just for a while at that...
...a misguided use unapologetically divorced from historic roots of realm that has served for most of 145 years as an affordable, service-loving, nonprofit-in- spirit, purifying, healing, and rejuvenating retreat for the greater good...