Site updated October 20, 2020
Virus and Stewart Springs: Now & Future
Quick take: bathhouse supposedly closed permanently. [see Springs website notice]; lodging still operational
"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
"Very disappointed about the clothing-optional ban...now they didn't survive the virus. A longstanding, respected and beloved space destroyed."
-- Laurie L., Middletown, CA, Yelp review
"Apparently change of ownership can be a killer for sacred places..."
-- Vladimir V., San Bruno, CA Yelp review
"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
"One of the most magical places I have ever been to."
--Dr. Alexina M., Vancouver, Canada Yelp review
"...like another dimension, beyond words."
---Kelly Lynn Anderson, Twitter
"The grounds are really lovely; maybe someday this will be a destination that calls to me again, but not in its current form."
--Emily M., S.F., CA Yelp review
"This place used to be a jewel for everyone...Don't be fooled by the website. The spring has become very corrupt. Hopefully soon this area will be sacred again and the natives will return."
--Anders D., Mt. Shasta, CA Yelp review
What Happened to Stewart Springs??!
See below -- entire page -- including op-ed, re-posted sweat lodge ban rants and more ranting and semi-informed analysis by former deep insider
Furor over kicking out Sweat Lodge Dec. 2017
see ways below, about 1/3 down
(click & scroll about 3/4 down)
(click & scroll 3/4 down)
Springs Stewardship Intent:
From Bad to Worse
...and then came the virus
Updated October 2020
by Stu Ward, longtime SMS volunteer, withdrew support December 2017
Enormous changes everywhere naturally included Springs.
But even before pandemic hit, forcing initially temporary closing of Stewart bathhouse, turnover in absentee 'owners' four years ago had radically changed place, after first nine months' 'grace period',when things pretty much stayed the same, including clothing-optional and sweat lodge.
Eventual drastic changes made for serious disenchantment among place's countless fans and biggest supporters and visitorship tanked overnight. Only a reported sputtering of new visitors beyond outfit's own affiliated groups, family, and friends -- the usual straggle of non-discriminating newcomers -- seemed to replace them.
Place's revenue stream has been drying up ever since, all needlessly, leaving operation treading water or sinking for having so misguidedly messed with successful operation formula. One that embraced clothing-optional and weekly sweat ceremony, which together had created an enduring and endearing multi-cultural bohemian air.
Changes were seemingly made just to suit owners' lifestyle preferences and mindset values, and to exercise 'ownership' prerogative of making place feel like their 'own' baby by putting their own, personal imprint on things...even if in process it destroyed decades of cultural evolution that fostered the relaxed, open atmosphere appropriate for any rural healing spa resort worth its salt.
Then came dread virus, and on May 1, 2020 came online announcement of "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 if and when pandemic fades away. (Some have already tenuously re-opened).
With Stewart's wobbling on the ropes long before virus shutdown, there's no telling what might now lie in its future.
Crazy fantasy of re-purposing bathhouse,
or just another shameless ruse?
Judging from website, it appears present owners are, or were, seemingly intent on re-purposing shut bathhouse into some extra retreat space for 'up to 13'...coincidentally (?) the same number as there are tubs. Convert stalls into monastic sleeping pods, perhaps? In any event, historic spa center would supposedly reincarnate as...Shambala House. (Shameless Reshuffling of Strangled Popular Culture House might be more appropriate title.) see New Day Dawning Not fully certain if supposed repurposing plan was made before or after virus hit. If before (as writer suspects), it would indicate nothing less than -- so sad to say -- the premeditated murder of the longtime peoples' healing spa...along with universal spirit and dedicated purpose of grounds as public-minded refuge and rejuvenation center.
If made after, then pandemic provided incredibly convenient and plausible excuse for taking such drastic action. Whether actually in earnest or yet another wily dodge to try shaking off public interest and attachment to the place, it might in time prove only wishful thinking. It was dreamed up before huge reality check was delivered to their private banquet table of radically changing world conditions...which might well evaporate any such bold, essentially public-be-damned co-opting of public's longtime treasured realm.
So posted sizzle of coming 2021 attractions, if true, might prove no more than reflection of a dying fantasy of private-minded, exclusive repurposing of venerable old bathhouse... one which had in recent decades become a de facto rural community center for wider region plus special rendezvous point for travelers at large, domestic and international.
Cynic in writer tends to think announcement of "permanent" closing of bathhouse is perhaps indeed only latest ploy (banning c/o being the first, kicking out sweat lodge the second). Plan: get the general public so disheartened and pissed, they'll no longer care WHAT the hell they do with the place. Then, at some future time they can quietly re-open bathhouse spa...for their OWN exclusive use -- at long last under radar of outraged public scrutiny that's been raining on their parade ever since c/o ban, and especially since later sweat lodge eviction, putting serious crimp in their enjoyment of the legally stolen healing sanctuary.
Shocking magnitude of current owners' detour of place's function despite claim reported by old manager that on purchasing they said they liked place pretty much just the way it was, if true (rather than creative fiction by manager to throw people off til safely out of the picture) a claim time soon proved blatantly false, might make one wonder how such an ignominious fate could have ever befallen the rarefied realm in the first place.
By examining history of Springs both recent and old, this site hopes to shed some light on why such a thing DID happen...and to remind Springs fans such a sad fate is not irreversible, NOT written in stone, that one shouldn't abandon all hope...that the way former fans choose to view it and its powerful future potential as community resource and healing center could actually serve to in time collectively manifest a positive new reincarnation...being rescued by public-minded investors and supporters as a nonprofit, a public-minded resource, integrated at last with infectious, can-do spirit and grounded community involvement, like places such as hour-distant Jackson Wellsprings.
Imagine the best possible future for the place and maybe together it can be rescued yet again. (Maybe not; we can only try and keep faith in universal justice and compassion winning out.)
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 as passed on through her.
Then new on-site management was brought on board...
From frying pan to fire
Within a week came main seismic shift: gazebo's prayer altar was emptied of years of love offerings and 45-year sacred sweat lodge was effectively kicked off land -- last straw for countless fans a year after new owners created initial shockwaves by banning long-embraced clothing-optional. Once-magical realm, suddenly radioactive with lost heart, destroyed culture, and blinded vision, was instantly shunned by countless who had long cherished and supported place.
Shameless flasher website
A year later in 2019, coinciding with third year anniversary on January 19 of wa-y-y absentee new ownership (in supreme irony, also grand re-opening date in 2019 of free-body friendly Harbin Hot Springs), they replaced creaky old tiny-print website with a new streamlined one. Loaded with eye-catching graphics, slick text bites and shameless flashers, new site confirmed suspicions of many: when not enjoying little shangri-la themselves, seemingly tone-deaf ownership appeared out to attract -- at least for a while before possibly 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 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 suddenly verboten...as if now deemed perverted and immoral.
Or that 45-year sacred Karuk sweat lodge, anchoring countless visitors in down-to-earth communion and celebration of life, was essentially kicked off the land. Or that the people's altar of love and gratitude offerings in old spring gazebo was torn down, initially replaced with a nearby sign warning:
No Trespassing - Violators Prosecuted
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 one possible exception: startling owner announcement of May 1st, 2020 to permanently close bathhouse and, as indicated elsewhere on their site, ostensible plan to re-purpose building 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 permanently abandon spa services and supposedly convert bathhouse over to more retreat and class workshop space.
But writer's fairly certain they had bathhouse-begone plans (to public, anyhow) in mind all the while, long before pandemic swept in. Writer seems to remember their site long ago talking up some Shambala House. It had baffled writer, as absolutely could not place any such structure on grounds beyond already mentioned A-frame, restaurant, and conference hall. Then recently 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 that ended in late 1999, when place went year-round.
Closing bathhouse might, again, ultimately prove unwieldy, exclusive-minded intentions of absentee stewards (talk about your oxymoron) getting too sketchy to ever pan out, grandiose dream of adapting legally-kidnapped Springs for own private-minded ends fading away with advent of radically changing times now gathering steam insisting on a more just, fair, and sustainable world for everyone sharing a ride on this azure ball floating through space.
"Buying" a de facto traditional public spa treasure absolutely does NOT entitle one to do whatever one wants with it. Not without serious and ultimately self-defeating consequence. Resulting Mt. Everest of bad karma is such that you'd think anyone truly conscious would've bent over backwards to avoid ever creating such a drastic alienation of longtime supportive fan base.
While possibly they're waiting out the storm and hoping to get by renting lodgings and event spaces afterwards, either for largely own, quasi-new age circles and/or upscale general public, maybe in the back of their minds they're now also considering divesting of place.
For it's been hemorrhaging funds like crazy almost from the very get-go...ever since banning clothing-optional. Maybe even now absentee stewards are fitfully scrambling in far-away realms, trying to decide how, when, to who, and for how much to let place go for, resigned to trying to staunch losses and recoup investment capital.
Todo El Mundo
Or will be soon, as private-minded fantasies go bust with planet bringing them -- along with everyone else -- a grand reality check, people rising up to insist it's only fair and just that powers that be come up with equatable ways of running planet for EVERYone's benefit.
Had they only let clothing-optional be rather than killing the goose that laid the golden eggs, they'd be happy campers now (if they quit feeling scandalized by a bit of low-key body freedom and work pro-actively to establish a positive handle on it).
For clothing-optional had in many ways served as very linchpin of former bohemian atmosphere many came to treasure. But they appeared clueless, unable to appreciate how critically important such freedom was to so many...and how much the sacred sweat lodge was a revered institution and powerful magnet for visits as well, similar guarantor for keeping grounds culturally diverse, open-minded, and free-flowing.
Place revalued in time
Regardless of pandemic's duration, places like Stewart's will naturally gain critical new importance in time... perhaps not until new stewards and maybe years down the road and 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 so many seek, serve as much needed sanctuaries for healing, purifying, and rejuvenating an awakening -- if now much bent -- humanity.
Bathhouse could yet 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.
A future when vestiges of deadly virus no longer stalks globe, capable of flaring up at any time and place...not like now, tragic period making for what's called most dire situation world's faced since World War 2 and worst economic downturn since 1930's Great Depression...and now, making it a triple whammy, the far-reaching racial-injustice protest movement, Time Up on centuries-old global sin and historic reckoning at hand.
What else might be heaped on our plate in these extraordinary times? Add forest fires and record heat waves into the mix. How about another huge stock market crash? Polar shift, anyone?
As of October 18, Siskiyou county had only one in 237 infected, none fatal, while nearby Lassen county had one in 41. (Imperial county had 1 in 15!) And it would only take one superspreader visit from person from, say, infection hotbed of Los Angeles county -- claiming half 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 asymtomatic, along with lack of ease in getting tested and fast results, it would be all too easy for someone to unknowingly infect others and possibly start a deadly chain-reaction contagion in as-yet largely spared rural region.
Oil and water
Place 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 that modern visitors have come to know it as.
But again, who knows what the future will bring? A new surge this fall might only further compound still unfolding historic tragedy.
Spanish flu (now thought to have been a virus/influenza one-two punch) of century ago lasted all of two years. Its second wave, hitting half year after initial onset, was 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.
Without meaning to sound too cavalier about it, one might say that we're living in those interesting times alluded to so cryptically in classic Chinese saying (curse, actually).
Late, gifted psychic Sylvia Browne had predicted current global pandemic in 2020 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 then showing up again a decade later).
In light of all going on in these simultaneously tragic and extraordinary times, there's critical need -- and grand opportunity -- to look at Stewart Springs in a radically new light.
Current crises are serving as a grand wake-up call to shake humanity out of its old outmoded ways. Such radical changes could enable Springs to at long last get freed from often-sketchy, dysfunctional, inappropriate operation and return to the way it began ages ago...as a vital, downhome, nonprofit-in-spirit healing and rejuvenation retreat, affordably serving a health-minded public's greater good.
Stewart Springs now mostly in name only
If enough spa enthusiasts, especially those truly fond of Stewart's as it was before late 2016 (another lifetime now), try to grasp 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 a motley succession of post-Stewart stewards from longtime, genuine, grounded-service purifying and healing spa, modestly renowned around the world -- 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 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 newbie seemed to intuit easily and contentedly resonate with, while doing best to tune out any bothersome profit- and control-minded energies.
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 way more suitable to our own lifestyle, values and that of desired visitorship. 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 laudable effort, won't they? What could go wrong?"
Current interests' hope has 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 spa culture -- now summarily dismissed as kinky and undesirable clientele for embracing clothing-optional policy 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 become Stewart Springs in name only.
Sure, 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 song lyric, a whole lot of disconnectin' goin' on.
Nude becomes rude
Designed to entrance, site had worlds more sizzle than substance. Zero info about ownership beyond vague PR sizzle. Little to no sense of community.
And lame public statement about how new strict cover-your-bod policy was for "more comfortable environment" made the impressionable perhaps half-expect to read some reviewer gush how, "I experienced such delightful wedgies in sauna and cold-plunge -- thank you for mandatory cover-up and bringing back family values!"
Concern for children's impressionable minds and foreign-guest sensibilities aside, such sentiment basically 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 while in safe, appropriate natural and healing-minded settings, resenting like hell seeing others doing so, making one feel uptight, painfully reminded both of comfort restriction unnecessary clothes create and how much still buying into false modesty of exaggerated physical self-consciousness, tragic result of age-old systemic compulsory/compulsive public dress."
Again, whether or not one availed themselves of clothing-optional, it was the vital linchpin that fostered free-spirited, healing air of grounds -- enabling profound harmonizing with nature -- making place so 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 suddenly 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 so readily foster.
Elsewhere on site, re-hashed vague mission statement and no-this-no-that policy page revealed that new outfit was essentially copying former negative, non-transparent operation model -- but, critically, then adding their own fatal, bohemian-culture destroying twist to the mix...
...and, even more dispiriting, disregarding altruistic legacy of pioneer founding Stewart family and their pure love-of-service, de facto nonprofit healing operation -- worlds more than former owner ever did. Latter, though boldly profit-jonesin', was at least cool enough to let longtime-local management redeem something of place's original spirit, just so long as the bucks kept rolling in. It made place so popular -- having an unassuming dedication to running healing spa and retreat in forthright, affordable, down-home manner -- that people visiting from all over found it a precious gift and powerful blessing in their lives.
Owners, who doubtless love place too in their own way, but appear either ignorant of or indifferent to realm's singular service-minded legacy, indeed seem to be chasing the bucks too. But now more to cover the rent while doing their own thing by catering to more conventional-minded visitors wanting to buy tastefully bland, warm and fuzzy getaway in boonies, maybe tinker with purifying a bit or get whiff more enlightened in workshops while enjoying nature's tranquil balm... ...happily dropping cash while remaining dully shackled in textile chains beyond private tub at very place that until late 2016 distinguished itself for being rare oasis like handful of sister springs on West Coast that allowed visitors option of experiencing spa experience in the buff...
...thereby potentially enhancing overall comfort and healing benefit. In process, visitors often experienced profound, life-changing body acceptance and liberation, triggering dramatic mind-body-spirit re-integration...IF open-minded enough to give c/o a try and come out of nudist closet, as it were. For in their heart of hearts, practically everyone is a natural-born freebody*.
* With possible exception of estimated one percent of population who, it's said, are gymnophobiacs, having abnormal fear of nudity -- their own and that of others (vs. just 'normal' fear?)
New ownership is part of a peripherally-spiritual organization called the Pneuma Institute.
Into transpersonal psychology, sometimes referred to as field's 'spiritual' branch, international outfit with apparent Romanian roots explores, analyses, and promotes peak experiences, altered consciousness, and enhanced awareness in general that transcend 'smaller self', which, combined with conscious breathwork, is then worked into new tool for formal psychotherapy focused on achieving transcendent mindstate of 'greater self' (rather than seeking neuroses under every rock).
Seems conventional Judaeo-Christian tenets are also thrown into the mix just for the heck of it. (Could 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 asses!")
Peculiar amalgam's purported overarching aim: train therapists and everyday students to better promote reintegration of body, mind and spirit on "profoundly higher levels" of enhanced awareness, thereby helping raise global consciousness and bringing greater peace on earth.
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; truer words never spoke. Pre-virus, one not knowing any better might've thought that at long last some awakened Springs stewardship was FINALLY working to redeem heart and soul of place...save it from decades of bald-faced commercial exploitation...that realm would finally become reinvigorated, affordable sanctuary grounds promoting higher awareness and natural healing of general public...transforming nature-rich Springs away from rank monetizing business model, begun a half century ago and sullying realm's original pure-minded intent, into thriving, infectiously can-do, community-active oasis thoughtful fans have always envisioned...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 appeared bound and determined to drastically mess with it...to point of ruin. They'd gone far beyond mere bold profit focus of former 34-year absentee ownership by insisting on impressing own conservative lifestyle on place and watering down spa experience while focusing 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 a transcendent vision of place becoming...or, essentially, returning to: a NONPROFIT healing refuge, one embracing clean simplicity of nature and dedicated to genuine welfare of public at large, thus restoring founder Stewart's long-ago love-of-service operation. An enterprise that in 'civilized' variation 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...in process marginalizing former full-tilt spa-healing focus and watering down therapeutic experience 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 bent soon seemed barely tolerated -- and then only so long as not even thinking about barring -- absolutely no skinnydipping, sunbathing au natural or freebody sauna-ing -- as outfit attempted cultivating a more affluent, perma-dressed visitorship to cover their essential "renting" of place. (Covering seemed main theme all around.) Woefully misguided intent as former fan core saw it was to establish some dubious lah-de-dah rustic resort for urban bourgeois-and-proud -- again, those often just 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 operation's former modest, down-home dedication to providing simple, affordable, people-friendly spa retreat that quietly fostered often-profound purification, healing, and rejuvenation. Countless already-awakened, growth-minded, spa-savvy visitors who treasure genuine, down-to-earth rural mineral springs culture -- plus teaming sea of others who in normal times would be primed to discover and embrace them like long lost friends -- were effectively thrown out into the cold.
Unspoken message heard loud and clear: "Don't let the door hit you on the way out."
Skeptical? Think place is still pretty much same old Stewart Mineral Springs, just with new ownership and management and a few minor policy changes? Here's a clue it's something more: away from Stewart Springs' official website, place years ago suddenly began being referred to as Pneuma Retreat Centre.
Cheshire at Work
Realm of Stewart Springs as countless have known is being erased...not unlike guiding trail through dark woods in 'Alice in Wonderland' being swept away by bushy tail of mischievous Cheshire cat. (Or erosion of U.S. democracy by would-be strongman treating presidency like latest reality-show role.)
Mediocrity had triumphed 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, at best be forever subordinated to the public subsidizing outfit's clinical quasi-new-age shtick as workshop, class, and event retreat for its students, members, employees...plus perhaps any like-minded groups willing to drink the Kool Aid.
Even this conceivably might've been at least semi-okay 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 indeed appeared to be impressing own distinctly non-northern-California lifestyle and buttoned-down mindset onto grounds, both to suit selves and to attract more 'refined' and simpatico (i.e. upscale and convention-bound, yet flirting with higher consciousness) customer base.
Countless bereft fans remember all too well how they first banned clothing-optional, then kicked out Karuk sacred sweat lodge and emptied gazebo's prayer/love offering altar. They upped bath rates -- twice -- took away free monthly employee bath perk (or even discount) and increased house take on gift shop consignments and masseuse services.
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 time-warped, fossilized vestige of kinder times.
"We respect all religions and spiritual traditions," outfit claimed dubiously on its own Pneuma website. Would it were true but actions belied any such noble sentiment. Or could it be that they simply refused to acknowledge ancient earth religions that predate -- and were ruthlessly co-opted by -- organized Judaeo-Christianity?
Truckloads of altered consciousness
In any event, as things stood it it hardly made for a peak experience for any longtime aficionado unaware of devastating changes until arriving all psyched...whereupon shocked silly.
More of a pit experience.
Such visitors -- before new ownership at last unfurled muted colors now snapping in breeze and striking sorrowful disbelief and righteous indignation in hearts of former devoted 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 place's inherent rare elemental medicine, enhanced through freedom to shuck unneeded cover...no constrictive condom of cloth as it were, dulling and crimping sensory wellbeing and body-mind-spirit integration, thus enabling experiencing sauna, coldplunge, and sunning deck's fullest palliative benefits, along with private -- presumably nude -- mineral water tub soak.
Such formerly experienced positive mindstates were, of course, things ostensibly valued by Pneuma's transpersonal psychology mission statement.
Which naturally led one to ask...
What the #%@! was
wrong with this picture???
Rather than place being devoted to healing, becoming one with nature in eternal present, beyond thought, in process often experiencing immediate and profound rejuvenation, new outfit appeared somehow to be co-opting realm to put God in a box and under a microscope, dissecting and over-intellectualizing transcendental mindstates in formalized effort to roll out super-structured enlightenment model for indoctrinating therapists and students to aid psychotherapy clients now festering in distant bergs.
Again, approach itself might seem 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 it -- while serving as bureaucratic headquarters and group hang-out, courting more upscale visitors to help pay the freight through conventionalized spa and bare-bones lodging -- it worked overwhelmingly against ability of everyday trekkers with even a whisper of bohemian spirit and appreciation of genuine spas to any longer enjoy an affordable and uplifting reintegration of body-mind-spirit via freebody soak, sauna and plunge...until recently experienced directly, immediately, on the spot.
It was a bizarre situation too weird to fathom readily. For in attempting such focus shifting and re-purposing of Stewart's, with consequential severe cultural disruption and dampening of spa experience and enjoyment of overnight stays, it only worked to inhibit Pneuma's purported overarching desire to uplift planetary consciousness... ...except perhaps for spiritual babes in the woods enrolling in academic classes, workshops and intensives; "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 quietly freaking in distant, neurosis-rich cities, essentially willing to pay big bucks to have someone remind them to breathe deep.
Very mission statement showed yawning chasm between ostensible goals and mindset that 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 recognizes that simple mindful nudity, beyond simply fostering greater relaxation and healing, is in itself a powerful expression of love and harmony, wasn't generating positive radical change in hearts of visitors (when group energies held together, that is, despite lack of management support), then writer doesn't know what could've...half as effectively or even a tenth as easily.
For mindful clothing-optional (c/o) has incredibly rich potential to open one to again embrace essential physical self as when wide-open infants and toddlers, triggering profound reintegration of being on holistic level.
Easily fostering positive radical change, c/o was light years cheaper and FASTER than anything imaginable in Springs's appropriately nurturing, nature-rich environment.
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, perhaps 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 and overcome any socially-programmed exaggerated body self-consciousness -- had been indifferently sacrificed 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, of course...
...and place's former time-honored, open-minded, down-home ways of nonprofit-in-spirit service be damned.
To any with skeptical turn of mind as far as 'real-world' situation goes, place's set-up 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 appears aimed at those often with more dollars than sense, those who think one must PAY to attain spiritual enlightenment and peace of mind...and pay dearly for healing body, too.
It bears constant repeating:
present ownership mindset has straitjacketed ability of any free-spirited, awakening and awakened beings (our number is legion) to affordably enjoy, unfettered, beloved realm's powerful healing energies in free-flowing atmosphere for immediate and profound benefit.
With wild healing spirit so depressingly dampened in woe-begotten effort to overhaul once quasi progressive-minded retreat, every visitor and event organizer had been 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 ways were being tossed away like so much used tissue...or never having grokked its extraordinary public-service healing legacy in the first place.
It's was so depressing, writer needed a shrink. (Hey, they might be on to something...)
Cynics might think 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 long enabled in its own low-key way...affordably, easily, and effectively...allowing for spontaneously gaining profound body-mind-spirit reintegration through relaxed, clothing-optional spa regimen...and thus having zero need for expensive, drawn-out psychotherapy in the first place!
Sunshine on my shoulder...
Perhaps the greatest argument for mindful nudity is how judicious exposure of entire skin to healing rays of sun (early morning and evening optimal times) produces vitamin D, activating serotonin in brain that magically lifts one's mood through release of feel-good endorphins.
It's worlds easier and faster than popping anti-depressants or undergoing pricey, drawn-out therapy.
Nature, obviously, is supreme healer.
More cynical might've viewed situation as no less than shrink industry snapping up Springs to sideline spa service, co-opting super-natural therapy as enhanced by mindful c/o, marginalizing it from serious competition in thriving healing field the better to push own intellectually top- heavy, super-structured, more lucrative psychotherapy gig.
It might've been seen as perhaps not too unlike status quo resisting legalization of medical cannabis as unfair rival to those pushing often all-but-useless, side affects-worse-than-problem, frequently harmful, mad-scientist, laboratory-concocted snake oil remedies so 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 livelihoods in field 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 is rooted in 1960s' humanistic psychology branch that 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 more 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 such 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 and meditative-state catalyst of majestic Mt. Shasta...and, most especially, NOT at ancient mystic healing portal known as Stewart Mineral Springs!
New wine takes new containers. Was rare healing nectar of Stewart Springs realm to be 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 professional shtick?
Those who cherished sacred realm's fitfully-free, bohemian, sometimes holy-stoned, culture for decades despite (perhaps indirectly because of?) last owner's strong profit focus, hold that present ownership intent has absolutely NOT been an alignment blessed by a loving universe.
More analysis and inside dope, including former ownership-management mindsets leading to recent abysmal situation, follows below sea of review re-posts over controversial sweat lodge removal in December 2017
Livid Outrage Over Ending
and other deal-breakers
Removal of 45-year Karuk tribe sacred sweat lodge in mid-December 2017 sparked a firestorm of protest from shocked and devastated Springs fans on Yelp, Google Review, and SMS Facebook sites -- most posts long since deleted or buried.
The following flurry of reactions were all excerpted from online posts written December 2017 through January 2018. Gathered collection reflects perhaps strongest unified voice ever made of Springs devotees' love of sweat lodge and place as whole...unfortunately coming only after losing first and now in danger of losing second if not activating group vision to transform place to the way it's meant to be to serve greatest good.
Note: certain passages are emphasized by editor with italics and 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[ness] 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 on
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 cooler in hot summer weather
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 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 was 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
"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
"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
Things are bad, all right. But this too shall pass...eventually.
Let all who cherish place envision a positive future for Springs post-virus... either with present ownership's hearts miraculously melting or, barring that seeming unlikelihood, their realizing that current diversion is egregiously inappropriate and that they'd be FAR happier elsewhere, selling place to appropriate ownership who might then redeem scene.
Never doubt that enough collective vision and concerted effort through meditation, prayer and visualization by unorganized, de facto Save Stewart Springs group might work wonders.
As mentioned, most of above re-posted Yelp reviews were soon deleted from site...or stashed in its site basement, accessed at bottom of page through "not currently recommended' linked box, 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 -- and oddly -- added rants back to main page briefly before in September 2018 deleting visitor feedback page entirely.
Writer's glad to have rescued writings, saving them from oblivion. It's frustrating to speak your mind only to have message deleted, being discarded for touching that verboten third rail -- critically slamming a business's operational approach...no matter how sincere, insightful and justified the comments.
What's that saying? In times of oppression, speaking the truth is deemed a revolutionary act?
& in-depth analysis
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 support and visits 12-2017.
First posted late 2017; revised now and then. Note that writing's arbitrarily split into twelve parts
Stewart Mineral Springs has long held a special place in the hearts of countless around the world.
Many of its most ardent fans and supporters felt that clothing-optional ban of late 2016 marked a profoundly wrong-headed, giant step backwards. And words could barely register thunderstruck shock and dumbfoundment over later kicking out grounds' sweat lodge, ostensibly done to gain affordable fire/liability insurance coverage.
Writer, longtime local and work-trade volunteer psyched to create and maintain bathhouses's cold plunge on informal work-trade basis for 16 years, had for nearly two interminable years nourished dwindling hopes that banning mindful nudity would prove a mere de-facto breather...chance to let dust of old management-unsupported clothing-optional scene settle before enlightened all-new management forged new, more together policy...
...one inclusive of place's diverse visitor base and reflecting growing insistence on exercising basic personal freedom rights ...one that would naturally attract management and staff as much motivated to 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 then-substantial bohemian-leaning support base, it would naturally reinstate clothing-optional post-haste. (Despite having learned that one member reportedly owns a popular mineral springs resort in Mexico that is, most assuredly, not clothing-optional...Ay carumba! No nudistas aqui, por favor!) Realm would then be brought back in alignment with the time-honored tradition of every other popular rural mineral springs resort in northwest U.S., all of which allow some measure of mindful nudity, making for profoundly deeper relaxation by experiencing full contact with elements, not just patchy exposure, thereby enabling FAR greater purifying, healing, and rejuvenation...
...and again, oftentimes triggering profound life-changing body-mind-spirit reintegration in process.
Similarly, rate increase was seen as done to absorb cost of reportedly paying workers more than the two bits over minimum wage long doled out by former, sometimes penny-pinching, owner.
Obviously, I was in denial.
It 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 rottener than ever in the state of Denmark. Sadly, detached from place, newly radicalized, vowing never to set foot on grounds again as things stood, the same as countless other longtime, dyed-in-the-wool, now-former devotees of unique realm.
And, as it turned out, while maybe management positions started getting more pay, any poor schmuck holding, say, a grounds handyman position, a job certainly requiring valuable skills, was reportedly still expected to sweat away at CA minimum wage, poverty-level pittance of $10.50 an hour.
First new ownership in 34 years as of 1-19-2016 had seemed a slam-dunk perfect time -- a golden window of opportunity -- to forge a dramatic new start for place... 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, disconnects, and other sundry 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 merrily being pushed, restoring sacred place to natural peaceful state as thriving, diverse, open-minded healing retreat spa that's in its DNA, needing only to be reactivated?
Wanted: workers willing to work cheap
Why, instead, did place become horrible, jaw-dropping, slow-motion train wreck in eyes of countless fans? A cultural collision thundering around world, first by banning clothing-optional, reverting back to improbable retread pre-millennium mindset rife with body shame and false modesty, smacking of depressing mindless conventionality so many came to Springs in part to get break from. Then removing gazebo altar of countless prayer and love offerings -- like tearing down a living church.
Absolute last straw was telling Karuk medicine man Walking Eagle to walk away after 45 years of tribe's regular sweat lodge ceremony on ancestors' healing grounds.
Whether one participated in sweat lodge or not or even appreciated its medicine wheel energy, its loss was incalculable. For it represented the last cultural link to renaissance days of 1970's progressive Goodpasture family ownership. The lodge enabled keeping a modicum of bedrock diversity and bohemian-friendly spirit alive at Springs. And, critically, served to help dissolve seriously bad 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 Profit-minded Boss
It's said the cause of anything is everything and the cause of everything is anything.
Without going any deeper here into historic cause and affect that made Springs the way it is (explored in History and latter part of part 4 in More Rants & Raves), what happened more recently was former 12-year general manager Rowena P. and long-nurtured vision of "Refining the Culture."
It was perhaps predictable result of relentless pressure from former San Francisco absentee owner John Foggy to constantly generate ever-greater profits. It became her mantra -- "refine the culture, refine the culture" -- spoken reverently with glazed eyes as she and accomplice, late operations manager and husband, Ted D., seemed mulishly 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 currently witnessing.
One embracing shadowy Babylon world's bass-ackwards bourgeois control-freak mindset all dressed up in smiley-face for non-discriminating mass consumption by those flirting with raising consciousness and dabbling in new-agey lifestyle ways like yoga and conscious breathing, eager to throw disposable income at pricey, tightly-controlled workshop retreats in the woods.
Fantasyland vision Afield in Schemes had been 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. One with tenuously abiding tolerance for lifestyle diversity, including weekly Native American sweat lodge, universal love and prayer altar, spiritual card readings...and mindful simple nudity in suitably unsuitable locations within bathhouse compound.
Again, clothing-optional policy gave people a rare chance to (further) shake free of lifetime of body suppression, shame, false modesty, and/or simple, undue physical self-consciousness, while unwinding and purifying in spa.
Visitors were at last free to be real, undisguised selves again as when newborns and toddlers. Policy fostered worlds more relaxing, often life-changing, spa experience. (For some, only after getting beyond initial intense freak-out stage before rediscovering more 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 was basically, 'Cover your asses, shameless heathen...or go elsewhere.'
It perhaps came as no great surprise, as she herself brokered the deal for ownership change, reportedly for 10% cut in what some might view as ultimate sell-out, having thereby milked an extra quarter-million dollars off place...selling to ready-cash buyers with initially well-hidden intent at grievous odds with original spirit of place whose DNA was (and remains) always hiding just below the surface, clamoring to re-emerge under right stewardship.
Popular Cafe Gratitude restaurant chain's founder Mathew Engelhart was initially a co-owner, promising sign indeed that place was at last going to turn around under more enlightened 'owners'. But he soon sold interest. One perhaps doesn't haven't to wonder too much why now.
Maybe she did a 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 abounded on what they were actually up
Maui's Little Beach irregulars
to. Again, one was that they were determined to ratchet up bigger-spending, ostensibly more respectable (i.e. unabashedly bourgeois), visitorship, including sundry therapists and practicing psychologists, who could afford Pneuma's two-year course programs to gain credentials to use transpersonal psychology approach in therapy practice and/or in turn teach others how to better tap into high-end healing field.
Towards that goal they appeared busy incubating some wannabe tony resort. Regulars no doubt witnessed the two redone, fancy-tiled tub rooms replete with shiny, ostentatiously fancy faucet fixtures. (So blindingly shiny, reminded writer of steel helmet of Marine Corps honor guard. "Blinded by the light...") And bathhouse was no longer referred to as the bathhouse. No, it had suddenly become..."The Wellness Center." And once-humble, homey A-frame? Upgraded to the Chalet.
Another rumor was that they were only homogenizing place by erasing countercultural imprint -- sweat lodge, clothing-optional, gazebo prayer and love offering altar, etc. -- in hopes of attracting more everyday, less-discerning travelling mainstream hordes. Visitors who'd buy watered-down spa experience and relatively cheap out-of-town lodgings en masse and likewise better reflect own conventional mindset while better supporting operations and funding Pneuma Institute and its doings on grounds. (And, hearty souls, wouldn't mind a bit if heating in lodgings was chillingly sketchy in cold weather; that, or they'd be too numbed to even think of demanding a refund the next morning in office...if office was even open before needing to hit the road.)
Either way, overarching, improbable intent -- up til virus outbreak, anyhow -- appeared to be repurposing place to double as world headquarters, retreat, and teaching center for owners' Pneuma Institute -- again, a peculiar amalgam of conventional Judaeo-Christianity, transpersonal psychology, and new-ageism incorporating mindful breath -- with everyday visitors and general-public workshops/retreats/events effectively subsidizing costs of diversionary, exclusive-minded focus.
Unwitting enablers included several annual workshop retreat event organizers who, it would seem, might've loved place more for being their own money generator. For they appeared calloused to or unaware how restrictive and oppressive operation's seismic shift was to place's one-time myriad free-spirited aficionados...the very ones most responsible for the roaring success of operation in more recent (now light-years-gone) times.
And some visitors, it seems, had gotten so hooked on place that they were willing to suffer sundry new restrictions IF it meant getting yet another accustomed Springs fix. They were determined not to let new scene keep them from spending more time with such a dear old friend. So they suffered new downside...or went into denial, driving from mind fact that through continued patronage -- even if only once a year -- they were effectively helping new regime tighten its deadly stranglehold over former public-minded refuge.
But, given eventual return to some new normal post-virus, one might still wonder if public will still be welcome at place then, even such as it is now...
...which brings up last dismal rumor: that hidden long-range plan is in pipeline to eventually close gates to public...maybe after years of suffering it to help finance changes, and perhaps give time for people to get so disenchanted with place (especially after supposedly closing bathhouse for good), that they no longer care what the hell they do with it.
In this scenario, obviously no one would have a chance to even try to accept, let alone gripe about, changes. Place would become exclusively for private use by owners to enjoy, holding Pneuma workshop courses, retreats and intensives, plus hosting related international social gatherings, workshop classes and intensives...
...maybe allowing in a few select outside workshops that could stomach -- perhaps even embrace -- new rock-ribbed regime in order to defray huge costs of insurance, management, electricity, propane, endless cords of firewood... and place's sky-high county property taxes...about $28,000/year... or over $500/week; that's $77. every day of the year.
Bohemian lifestyle suddenly becomes suspect
It turns out that under California law a nonprofit like Pneuma is legally allowed to own a for-profit business, then pays regular taxes on it. Perhaps they had 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 co-owners, thereby enabling luxury of remaking place into own scene with little or no concern of ever making nut, as with any regular, sink-or-swim business operation...or even your on-the-ball nonprofit.
Regardless, in every scenario the remedial first step was to purge place of undesirably free-minded riff-raff; exterminate the freaky infestations of those leaning toward freedom-loving, status-quo scoffing, alternative-lifestyle embracing ways...or, in other words, basically anyone who likes to skinnydip, nude sunbathe, and sauna in the buff -- or thinks they might like to given a suitably chill scene.
Such unacceptably unconventional (yet for countless, sensible and organic) ways -- rejecting anything rigidly over-structured, unduly profit-minded, and/or life-affirming challenged -- seemed to be deemed strange, distasteful, offensive, even dangerous, for refusing to worship Mammon to super-organized sensibilities of seemingly tight-wound ownership...along with would-be lah-de-dah and/or convention-locked 'consumers' apparently sought for time being.
So it became no-brainer to scrap popular longstanding clothing-optional policy. And get rid of funky springhouse gazebo's prayer altar. And banish disruptive weekly First Nations sacred sweat lodge ceremony, pleading liability issues.
Plus...chip away at longtime Locals Day deal so as to render price break essentially meaningless; raise rates in general -- twice -- and up takes on massages and consigned gift shop items. (Again, bear in mind main outfit is a nonprofit. How's that for irony? Proves intent is always bottom line, not profit or nonprofit status alone.)
Seems sad name of game was to strip away place's former bohemian-friendly, universal spirit and quasi egalitarian vibe to be blandly remade to reflect ways of new, socially-conservative, wayyy-absentee 'ownership'.
Adding further insult to injury, current and recent workers -- those who didn't quit in shock and utter dismay the second day out, that is, trying to endure new regime to put food on the table (or again, those who never really got place) -- no longer received a free monthly mineral bath. It was a thoughtful perk offered for decades as extra reward for dedicated efforts and helped keep workers in sync with spa's reason for being, an indulgence otherwise not easily affordable on pittance of a wage.
Invisible co-owners appeared maddeningly indifferent to how ordered changes utterly erased former popular culture that was so lovingly built, nurtured, and supported over decades by myriad nature-loving Springs devotees.
For, again, it was now-estranged fans who had largely funded place's upgrades -- place reported an annual quarter-million dollar profit towards end of old ownership -- by enthusiastic repeat visits over decades while turning friends and family onto it.
Business is business
But, hey, business is business; it's our baby now, and we'll do what we damn well please 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 grit our teeth and suffer your tiresome howls of protest, trying to make nice just to keep dollars rolling in a while longer before finally pulling the plug. Then we can enjoy it all for ourselves, heh-heh, hah-hah, hee-hee, ho-ho...).
If rumor of intention to eventually slam gates to public is true and not simply some unfounded imagining the worst -- and, of course, pandemic doesn't kill plans -- at first blush it might appear fans are screwed.
That is, if owners actually think they could actually close such a priceless public treasure and still enjoy it with even one shred of spiritual integrity after blanket condemnation by global community for wanting 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 natural treasure wasn't a protected and affordable public spa, as is sometimes done in old homeland with similar historic rural mineral springs.
Any suspecting this was what was happening might've grumbled, "Well, why not just shut the damn gates now and be done with it?" The fact they hadn't perhaps provides some hope it isn't true, one supposes...that extent of closely-guarded intent was only to try upscaling and/or sterilize place...
...that is, unless, again, simply wanting to keep milking unwitting visitors who thought everything hunky-dory, plus veterans finding place borderline tolerable, to help fund ultimate privatization goal...until one day imposing front fortress gates indeed swing shut and clueless trekkers zipping up the hill are greeted by signs growling:
Private Property - Keep Out - Violators Prosecuted
No Peak Experiences for You
Parapets Manned 24/7
Transcend Yur Sorry Naked Butts Elsewhere
Okay, so parapets probably wouldn't be manned all the time, but you get the drift.
Envisioning perfect future owner
Assuming last rumor isn't, or wasn't, ultimate intent (and maybe even if it is), and pandemic hasn't caused any such plans to be abandoned...if everyone who loves place boycotts it and raises awareness by spreading word how place's former beautiful, wild cultural spirit was junked to suit new ownership's conservative lifestyle and that of desired clientele, how new owners re-worked place to double as Pneuma world headquarters, in process strangling to death place as former lifestyle-diverse healing refuge for open-minded, everyday people, flocking in from everywhere... ...if enough Stewart Springs aficionados do this while at same time visualizing positive future stewardship, THEN current 'owners' might never generate critical level of patronage needed.
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 at a place historically dedicated to public healing...such global consciousness-raising, after all, claiming to be overarching mission goal of Institute.
If new customer base never pans out, they'll flounder in sea of red ink from lost patronage, aided and abetted by drying up of travel with pandemic (as currently appears to be case, especially with supposed permanent shutdown of bathhouse that will even further disincline travelers from visiting)...regardless of whether intent was catering to mainstream, going all posh, and/or ultimately wanting to close to general public for private use but remain dependent on continued patronage to offset operating costs and supply a few paltry returns on millions tied up in place...plus, perhaps, give people time to get over having lost a treasured healing realm.
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 scene that's now lodging only. Or step up privatization plans if having the bucks.
Former zenned-out mandala pattern of bathhouse floors, including sauna's. Old boards were torn out about 2012 due to longstanding moisture rot of underside of boards. Management was unwilling to take 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, trey unlikely now -- over time private-minded 'stewards' would feel far-reaching popular wrath putting jinx on any 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 has built up, would in the grand scheme of things totally neutralize the effect of any ostensible good works undertaken there.
Staying away in droves alone might foil any such plans. Plagued operation seems to have never gained a much needed traction. Annual workshop and performance events that had gone on forever there -- like Zavada's and DeLong's -- might well have faded away, even pre-virus, as would-be participants and event bookers realized they'd drunk the Kool-aid by supporting inappropriate use of place, remaining hooked on it and oblivious or indifferent to how operation's former, fitfully unassuming and open-minded ways had been ruthlessly pushed off a cliff.
Such workshop/retreat organizers have, hopefully, rather than further aid and abet cultural destruction of place, found temporary new places -- 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 might well hasten the day when universe manifests a new, nonprofit operation under service-dedicated steward(s), places' fans freshly inspired to plug in and help manifest a thriving cultural renaissance amid blessings of nature.
Too, would-be followers and supporters of Pneuma world might've soured once connecting dots and realizing its bureaucratic
mucky-mucks essentially enacted no less than cultural genocide at place they'd hoped to re-purpose to pursue psychotherapeutic methodology with ostensible main goal of helping heal the world.
Barring having miraculous change of heart, co-owners could -- saving grace -- erase such gnarly karma by being mindful enough to re-sell at fair price to now-envisioning new stewardship...those who, again, might transform place into legal nonprofit healing center (owners perhaps even taking a loss as penance, or at the LEAST selling at cost, allowing for improvement outlays).
International outfit, in relocating to place happily unhindered by current boiling controversy, would regain now-mortgaged integrity and credibility...and thereby 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 learning to better embrace their own inner bohemian...or at least no longer mind that others do.
If third rumor -- eventual privatization -- is indeed case, they'll soon realize if they haven't already (again, assuming they are indeed planning on slamming gates shut), that such an action is not doable in the real world...
...not without disastrous consequence.
For global wrath and disdain would all but guarantee inability to ever enjoy legally stolen place with even 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 so coldly suppressed accustomed, spirit-attuned, open-heart diverse lifestyle of legions of place's biggest fans and supporters.
Stolen paradise is hell.
Foundations built on sandy grave of destroyed people's culture cannot support anything without reeking to high heaven.
With such a grand reality check, they'd know they'd be worlds better off, both karmically and practically, to abandon 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 the freight, they'll surely throw in the towel in due course. Chagrined, they'll relocate, selling place at fair price, once again, ideally to one(s) who will honor realm's former affordable, free-spirited healing tradition for the whole world's open-minded, growth-oriented, bohemian-friendly visitorship to benefit by.
As told, 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 a largely non-empowered on-grounds staff rubber-stamped rigid changes as mandated through her from distant owners...most living THOUSANDS of miles away in other countries.
First remote owners, then remote manager...both out of sync with dedicated purifying, healing, and rejuvenating tradition of place. No great surprise that such an untenable situation soon 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 cultivated by most every other popular rural spring resort in 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 new stewards had zero intention of returning place to former glory of down-home healing retreat...or even remotest facsimile thereof. Instead they seemed jonesin' to strip it down and build it back to serve own semi-private-focused interests subsidized by public...a misguided use unapologetically divorced from historic roots of realm that served for 145 years as an affordable, service-loving, nonprofit-in- spirit, purifying retreat for benefit of public at large...
...a place untold thousands have cherished as one of nature's extraordinary mystical healing realms.
Last, longtime head manager set sterling example of such desired refinement...not. On days she was in front office before being advised she, er, perhaps wasn't most gracious welcomer, then, depending on mood, unless in rare public mellow space, she'd offer stony indifference; best forever-put-upon, how-dare-you-invade-my space-and-make-me-have-to-deal-with-you scowl; or, if really pissed, unleash patented fire dragon outburst and in twinkling of eye biting head off latest unsuspecting arrival for no real reason at all.
Late co-managing husband, in turn, would display frosty, all-business cordiality...as if perhaps practicing for serving richer clientele. He'd almost grudgingly (but even so, quickly) take one's money, appearing resentful for having to wait on such low-brow traffic when he'd rather be sucking up to refined big spenders and have their money-to-burn lifestyle rub off on him. (Or, moreover, have more time alone to deal with terminal illness, resenting having to deal with public so much, but suffering situation as the price that had to be paid for gaining constant access to powerful purifying waters to postpone catastrophic liver failure.) Living sacrifice
Former little known fact: at beginning of tenure his partner sought purchase of live chicken down the road to make a sacrifice in hopes of auguring success and prosperity for new management. Sounds a tad self-defeating, no? Violently ending life as means of helping operation ostensibly dedicated to healing and perpetuating life? Didn't compute.
Even allowing for sometimes pronounced wayward inclinations of old regime in recent decades, now more than ever things simply didn't add up...to point long-time devoted fans drove down hill stunned, in jaw-dropping disbelief, devastated at dismal sea change....as if wanting to wake up from some horrible nightmare.
Bland leading the bland
Of course, constantly working with teeming public can be a bear even under best of circumstances. But with right-intentioned stewardship at helm, then rather than chaotically wiping-out -- spilling blood out the gate for luck and ratcheting up graceless, hostile, siege mentality -- one learns to surf energy waves, not futilely try to control or resist them...embracing even monster waves, working in can-do team spirit, and so keeping things flowing along on positive current with rock-solid minimum of snafus. Oregon's Breitenbush Springs, among others, has proven this is doable.
But such basic hospitality-biz wisdom 101 is naturally (un-naturally?) ignored now beyond superficial level, in seeming willful indifference to and/or lamentable ignorance of place's former glory as a rare, down-home, service-loving rejuvenation retreat dedicated to lifting up greater public's wellbeing.
There's apparently no longer much there there. Place reportedly often seems running on fumes of natural-setting, charming quaint structures, and bygone reputation -- and perhaps new synthetic fuel of more bourgeois-minded looking to slum a bit at rural spa getaway, plus any stray members of old fan base, willing to turn blind eye to get another fix, if now only for lodging.
Rather than provide genuine service, as place so often did, with quiet integrity, hospitality and universal spirit (last time full-tilt in 1970's), new owners continued milking it, if apparently only to support exclusive-minded ends.
Not much hope for transcendent experiences in that...except for spiritually aware newbies and general-public students with money to burn, wowed by grounds and appreciating Pneuma's formal, super-structured, intellectualized approach...and practicing professional therapists drowning in old over-analytical ways, often becoming hopelessly depressed themselves in process, desperate to incorporate more positive approaches into cushy practices. (Fact: recent study revealed that over 40% of long-term psychotherapy cases didn't improve patient's condition one bit, and sometimes actually worsened it.) Part 6
While banning clothing-optional under handy excuse of wanting place to be more family-friendly, to countless, especially those with more cynical take on things, its overarching intent was, rather, wanting to become more bourgeois-friendly -- a peoples'-culture-alienated, commonplace clip-joint for people with more dollars than sense, a lost in space, keep-the-riff-raff-out, man-the-parapets, highfalutin' hideaway for haughty hosers of humble, high-minded hordes...
...that, or a similarly profit-focused operation, catering to undiscriminating masses...non-connoisseurs of healing mineral springs and spa culture happy to dabble with something different and trendy in nice setting, who seemed okay with threadbare, under-heated lodgings and puritan-minded c/o ban, fairly clueless and disconnected...zipping in, dropping money, and herded out in one fell swoop -- next? Sorry, but it'll cost ya extra to sauna after check-out time...well, we don't really care what other places might allow...
...or intent on swinging gates shut, following suit of St. Germain compound north of Dunsmuir, for ages also open-to-general-public as equally historic Shasta Springs, now strictly a private-use, depressingly walled-off, gated compound but for token one day a year, last known.
Writer would love to be proven wrong. But developments haven't proven bit encouraging. There appears no way they can possibly redeem themselves now... except by becoming aware how egregious their intentions have been on karmic level and, duly chagrined, re-locate...and, saving grace, salvage tattered integrity by taking care to find right person(s) to sell it to at a fair price...person or group with appropriate mindset to share sacred land on nonprofit, service-minded basis with any and all seeking affordable, down-to-earth purification, healing and rejuvenation, as had been place's simple forthright tradition for better part of almost a century and half. Glory days
On community level of having plenty of there there, a veritable energetic cornucopia, place has sadly devolved from 40 years ago when 1970's Goodpasture stewards actually lived on grounds and served as engaging, just-folks hosts. Now it's one in which no one besides opaque management and possibly nondisclosure-signing staff knows who exactly new, stewarding-by-remote owners actually are, even after nearly five years.
Until May 1, 2020, there was not even one peep of direct, relevant communication to place's legion once-faithful visitors through websites or posting inside office. And only after two years did they dare to matter-of-factly announce intent to make over place to double as Pneuma's world headquarters and retreat centre...on their own site...and had the temerity to refer to Stewart's as Pneuma Retreat Center.
No outreach to former myriad faithful. What could they have said at that point, anyhow? One brief site statement, essentially saying "Sorry we changed Springs as you knew it, but we hope you can still enjoy it", rang a bit hollow.
Unlike some regional sister springs, transparent in operation and upfront in communication and intent with both staff and visitors, decades of nontransparent owner operation at Stewarts had set it apart in a sad way. As result, former opaque, locked-down Batmobile management under old ownership continued its un-merry way, new owners invisibler than a cloaked Klingon warship ready to strike, keeping all in dark except those who need to know...
...and, clearly, those who love(d) Springs most -- as culturally-diverse, unassuming, freebody-friendly, open-minded and once affordable rural healing retreat -- didn't need to know diddly-squat.
Wizard was well hidden behind curtain...had the gold and made the rules...issuing thunderous God-like pronouncements of new oppressive policies fitting own worldview and lifestyle and need to be in absolute control of once beautiful, wild and free-spirited place.
No doubt they felt they'd earned the right after shelling out some $2.6 million. But time and market response might well prove such an assumption dead wrong.
Most any other business, sure. But not a historic sacred healing ground...one with generations-old public-minded tradition of serving as nonprofit in spirit, a peaceful purifying and rejuvenating retreat on dedicated, low-key, mission to help out any and all who sought its healing waters.
Such places are obviously needed now more than ever by myriad awake and awakening travelers seeking respite from rigors of road, often discombobulating urban, suburban, even rural, realities, and still-dominant oppressive energies yet troubling God's green earth.
And, crucially, one in which there's crucial need to continue erasing karma of horrific massacre on and around land in 1870's (history) by keeping focused on healing service rather than bent on exploiting nature's gifts for unseemly gain and/or diverting intent for private-minded purposes. While modest price increases for visitors and decreased take for gift-shop consignees and contracted masseuse staff might've been understandable IF only to cover more decent worker wages and new, steep county property taxes, beyond a certain point it simply becomes too uncool and dispiriting. It puts an even deeper pall over place. Bigger staff at better pay (or is it?) to enforce oppressive changes and drive up overhead, while former faithful visitors vanish in droves? Not good. Better a former skeleton staff working for peanuts, there because they love working there and turning others onto it more than any paltry paycheck.
All who genuinely treasured realm soon learned to play Toto, pulling back curtain, revealing misguided attempt to alter treasured realm.
Otherwise, if successful and enough uninformed continue supporting it after some new normal emerges in world -- and workers, more concerned scrambling for rent than honoring place's spirit, keep working/contracting there -- owners might actually establish long-term beachhead.
And wouldn't that be just too peachy keen?
Dead man walking;
making springs unbareable
There was another, more dire issue complicating operations, one from the recent past, which residual energies has continued to affect overall operation.
Late co-managing husband Ted Duncan, as mentioned, was diagnosed with late-stage liver disease. What many maybe never realized is that it happened about same exact same time as couple secured their 10-year managing contract way back in 2006.
Aside from profit-maxing mandate and petit-bourgeoisie lifestyle druthers, both at jarring odds with cooperative down-home tradition of place, with both he and senior-managing wife dealing with critical health issues (she herself underwent a hysterectomy) energies were even further diverted from ever running place with the dedicated focus and lighthearted spirit as befits any genuine healing spa.
In a way the place became his own semi-private hospice.
Naturally one can't be on the ball and at ease helping others relax and keep staff mellow when one and/or spouse is majorly dis-eased.
Facilitating spa-ing nude -- free-spirited practice perhaps more than anything epitomizing full-tilt embrace of life's goodness, patrons taking simple delight in mini-vacations from clothes in healing arms of nature while amping up palliative benefit of spa regimen -- wasn't something one freaking out over looming medical death sentence could get too excited about.
It's a pity former owner John Foggy didn't realize they weren't best managerial fit given circumstances. Possibly dire condition wasn't yet diagnosed at hiring, or was kept secret after diagnosis, whether made before or after hiring, for fear of losing/not gaining position if known.
In any event, one was left to wonder why they didn't claim medical hardship at some point and get out of 10-year contract so he could enjoy remaining time without needless aggravation of running what at times could be an incredibly demanding operation, even in best of health, and more progressive-minded management found. (Early Paul Simon lyric came to mind: "...and all your wealth won't buy you health.")
Maybe he was over-hopeful waters would, more than slow the inevitable, actually effect some miraculous full recovery that conventional medicine couldn't. Or at least keep inevitable at bay. So he clung to co-manager position like his life literally depended on it. Perhaps he hoped to die working in saddle to cover soaring health insurance premiums and leave partner better provided for. One can only wonder if he indeed secured position after diagnosis, and so suddenly having 24-hour access to renowned purifying waters became worlds more important than modest joint salaries and free lodging gig provided.
(see review posted by Ted -- T.D. -- for Springs, second one down, wherein posed as visitor to enable posting personal testimony of healing waters) Project Cover-up:
Let's Make Place Unbareable!
Again, affecting shock over supposed deck incident, former manager possibly reported to soon to be new owners how place had become a veritable hotbed of moral degradation. One she was hard-pressed to ever get handle on, despite most valiant efforts: "We've got Trouble! Right here in River City! With a capital 'T', that rhymes with 'B', that stands for Bare!"
It was surely hurting business, repelling droves of more respectable, family-value visitors -- that is, better heeled, refined, conventional-thinking travelers and vacationers, seekers of charming, quaint rural resorts...clothes-minded dabblers of therapeutic mineral springs and perhaps various new age disciplines gaining a degree of mainstream interest...
...deeper-pocketed visitors who -- while no doubt loving grounds and maybe thrilling to prospect of indulging in time-honored, royal, decadent delight of "taking the waters" -- had precious little understanding or appreciation how any real, down-to-earth springs resort worth its salt (or silica) dedicates itself to deep cleansing and purification and rejuvenation, realizing that needless body covering can all too easily interfere with optimal relaxation, enjoyment, and palliative benefit...and so allows clothing-optional.
True, some of place's fans had been overseas visitor groups who seemed uncomfortable around mixed nudity. Some no doubt hadn't visited more or at all because of it. And even some state-siders, both local and traveling, were also put out by nudity, with its inherent power to distract, arouse, and/or disgust...plus confuse kids' body-shame and false-modesty programming, making dutiful dress-conformist parents uncomfortable -- alas, fully understandable for the way c/o scene was essentially left in free-fall, unsupported by management, leaving place wide open for potentially abusive behavior to crop up at will. (For egregious, mind-boggling example, see Famous Last Words - scroll to item headlined "......" in third posting) But how far did one go to accommodate what many were convinced was in fact an over-influential minority at expense of significant, now-alienated fan base that deeply valued open-minded Euro style option, or was at least okay with it given people behaved?
Again, one might cynically view change as simply reflecting a determination of both old and new managements to purge place of bohemian-friendly visitors to clear way for bigger, more convention-minded spenders.
Many were dismissed, stereotyped, even vilified, as low-spending wild hippies, mostly locals, hurting business by scaring off more respectable, deeper-pocketed, perma-dressed visitors who were unable or unwilling to cope with seeing essential human form in everyday life...being painfully reminded of lifelong-programmed body alienation...visitors who like contented spies seemed content staying undercover, thank you very much...and wished to hell everyone else did, too.
Fifty years ago that might've indeed been the case. No more. With each passing day alternate culture's once-dismissed as out-there lifestyle values are becoming more and more ingrained in the growing, life-affirming segment of global mainstream culture.
Over time, radical body freedom -- along with yoga, conscious diet, cannabis and hemp healing, transcendental meditation, recycling and pre-cycling, alternate energy, tiny homes, appropriate lifestyle and livelihood -- has spread FAR past former lunatic fringe of mainstream awareness. Those enthused by such things or open to learning about them had formed the overwhelming patronage of Springs, allowing place to become the thriving success it was, treasured as a nominally bohemian healing and rejuvenating refuge well-ensconced in nature yet incredibly easy to reach.
^ Nude anti-war protest statement, San Francisco's Ocean Beach, 2003
Gone with the wind
Banning simple nudity along with emptying love and prayer offerings altar in spring source gazebo and ending time-honored sacred sweat lodge might've proved the fatal, futile, self-defeating missteps...having generated such a sea of ill will, it doomed whatever re-purposing plans afoot from ever succeeding, having seeds of its own ultimate self-destruction baked in...
...that is, short of having millions more to float it without being dependent on operation's former quarter-million/year net -- again, sum largely garnered from former loyal repeat visitors now gone with the wind, new 'stewardship' perhaps not giving a flying leap what the legion of suddenly alienated patrons thought...beyond any bad press they might generate, that is. And so obtuse, clueless, and, apparently, numbed by wealth, that they can enjoy 'owning' their little paradise, perhaps convinced they're helping make the world a better place by saving place from heathen rabble for more respectable people to enjoy and benefit from, while pursuing their own little psychology shtick.
They possibly wondered (or not) why, right after c/o ban took affect, visitor volume fell off a cliff. Place's former thriving locals day became a desolate ghost town overnight. With sweat lodge removal and word of other misguided actions circling globe, visitorship was nosediving when last seen by writer years ago, leaving place empty vestige of former self as beloved sanctuary of an aware and grateful public nurturing well being.
Obviously it was no mystery. With unfolding misguided plans, suddenly disenfranchised were droves of place's long-supporting devotees -- open-minded visitors of diverse lifestyles and income levels, a thoroughly diverse sub-group making a shambles of simplistic, inaccurate stereotype of how some low-spending, wild locals with kinky penchant for shamelessly running around in birthday suits were ruining place for more respectable, body-alienated, deeper-pocketed visitors.
They were, in fact, a rich variety of visitors, ones for whom option of experiencing exhilarating freedom and enhanced comfort simple mindful nudity afforded in course of spa purification played a crucial role in nurturing a more integrated, awakened, holistic lifestyle...
...people from all walks of life, some coming together in sacred sweat lodge to cleanse and heal and attune to spiritual essence of America's prehistoric roots, gaining profound new spiritual awareness in process.
Obviously, more and more are waking up to more all-inclusive, diverse lifestyles commingling, consciousness of planet rising to new level in which all ways find common ground and get beyond illusion of separateness.
Meanwhile, those yet asleep and bent on garnering ever-greater wealth, flirting with doing good works to perhaps try filling gaping spiritual void in lives, seemed intent on making life on earth as miserable as possible for others no longer part of alienated culture.
Could new owners yet be so determined (and deep-pocketed) as to weather overall drop in business, so lacking in compassion they just don't care how deeply they devastated once-vibrant, aware culture of genuine spa fans in course of unfolding their plans to divert place from time-honored focus? Not very likely at this point. A springs resort without its spa is like...name own analogy.
Peace on earth -
what a concept
What such catering was blind to was age-old vision many of place's awakened have always held dear:
< Longtime spontaneous spring gazebo altar,
now sterile and forlorn
mankind (that part of it not going off the deep end) is at last fitfully but surely learning to live in harmony with nature and one another (perhaps pandemic ultimately offering an assist). Such age-old envisioning holds that providing appropriate rural places like Stewart's, at which to purify, heal, experience radical feel-good physical liberation and discover and honor spiritual medicine of First Nations people, are CRUCIAL in hastening positive global transformation that current absentee stewards claim to be all for.
Whether one has bucks or not, or is or isn't into any organized thing, isn't important. Spirit's a free gift from universe.
What IS important is nurturing places of full-tilt dedication to profound healing, fostering universal spiritual awakening, of body-mind-spirit rejuvenation -- like Stewart's was (again, last time full-tilt in 1970's) -- never obsessing over bottom line or even THINKING of repurposing place to detriment of healing potential of greater public and simple, forthright public-service mission.
Both spiritual and material prosperity naturally thrive when doing the right thing, daring to actually put the blame horse in FRONT of cart, offering genuine service.
As said, neither former owner nor managers ever really resonated with time-honored regimen of genuine healing mineral springs resorts, which allow people option of appropriate simple nudity...though old owner finally did permit it during last 16 years (and no doubt weathered tiresome jabs about running some kind of weird hippie nudist camp), if perhaps only because it seemed great for business. And because last managers were side-tracked by serious health issues on top of ceaseless pressure to maximize profits, Stewart's c/o scene, six years old at their start, never achieved more than faintest semblance of integrity, with relaxed and safe atmosphere, as mindfully and low-keyly nurtured at every other popular rural c/o springs in wider region. Instead, former managers coasted, gritting teeth, suffering place's bit of body freedom, so shockingly distasteful... (And along with, it became apparent, the sweat lodge. Writer remembers around 2001 old manager Mary H. saying Foggy told her he'd sometimes would've liked to have seen it gone.) So they let c/o scene erode through lackluster, reactionary ("No yoga in sauna" sign), at times glaringly out-to-lunch operation.
Such a quaint
Since lodging bookings could bring in more money than spa's limited water supply and bathhouse hours allowed, place was touted more as charming resort nestled in nature than any unassuming, sacred healing spa retreat...beyond hollow lip service, that is, with come-on to "Indulge your soul." As result, increasingly attracted were overnight visitors with little or no appreciation of deeper historic and prehistoric focus and healing spirit of place -- including, it became shockingly evident, latest ownership...any such appreciation taking back seat to desire of having place double for non-public-minded interests, locked into conservative mindset that soon permeated entire grounds, buying time while working place to fund ultimate private-minded diversion.
Let's commodify everything!
Healthful spa experience, original reason for starting up operation ages ago, had eventually been all but relegated to being an extra feature, a quaint novelty, decadent indulgence. With visitors no better in tune with spa purpose, soaking became little more than superficial, largely-ineffectual flirtation with purifying and healing, sometimes Instagram-bragging to enviable friends stuck at home how they were venturing into relative wilds and blissfully "taking the waters", ala European royalty of old, at a fabulous rural resort.
Former management fumed, hands tied to scrap clothing-optional policy any sooner. For it had long been part and parcel of earlier ambitious progressive management changes under late Mary H. (assisted by writer) that at turn of millennium helped spur visitor volume through the roof, and in a good way.
This was bottom line for business owner, who, redeeming virtue, was from liberal-minded San Francisco and became okay with simple nudity (town having its own c/o beach within city limits, for gosh sakes). He realized it seemed to be great for business and likely knew he was earning points in some quarters for becoming de facto alternative-culture tolerant.
One didn't mess with success if wanting to keep in good graces of boss. So, indifferent-to-hostile management gritted their teeth and grimly endured awkward c/o situation while dreaming of glorious day that would at last end shocking nude scourge ruining enjoyment of place by more respectable, perma-dressed people.
Though management only achieved it on way out, by working with incoming new owners, policy change must've provided some bent sense of Mission Accomplished: "Thought you'd be able to be nude there forever, did you? Think again, my pretties...hee-hee-hee-hee!"
Trying to co-opt sacred realm for gain or private use always ends badly
If new ownership wanted place to evolve and thrive as exceptional, all-inclusive, culturally diverse and spiritually-focused resort,
it behooved them to become sensitive to place's far-flung, once-loyal visitor base and how deeply it embraced progressive c/o policy, old gazebo's love-offering altar, and venerable weekly sweat lodge ceremonies.
They ignored this at their peril...and soon reaped thorn-choked harvest.
Big duh elephant in room
Mountains of business goodwill built over generations had been destroyed along with place's treasured natural wild and free spirit. All because those owning and managing didn't get Big Duh. Or found it irrelevant due to private-minded re-purposing intent with, again, place's operation cost supported by visitors clueless or unconcerned how much restrictive sea change in operation cramped potential for experiencing any more profound, enjoyable, and transformative visits. It was like "Enjoy yourself, but not too much."
Obviously such thinking was oblivious to fact that those who are naturally into alternative-culture and open-minded, bohemian-friendly ways are ALWAYS attracted to natural mineral springs retreats dedicated to natural, alternative healing.
Former aware visitorship was so large and longstanding, disenfranchising them practically seems to all but guarantee misguided, inappropriate efforts would fail in long run...either from loss of business and endless bad publicity and condemnation by spring lovers everywhere (not to mention increased stress on Gaia), and/or finally realizing that what they're doing would not stand karmically, no matter how well place might've fared financially.
Meanwhile, dreary unbridled focus of former money-hungry, power-jonesin', fly-by-seat-of-pants ownership/management seemed to be continuing in new tired variation...under banner of ostensibly healing-minded, non-profit organization locked into new twist on clinical psychotherapy.
Though maybe not meaning to, it oppressed what has always clamored to be a positive light-healing realm, one unfettered by any private concerns putting specialized agenda ahead of genuine public welfare...
...at tragic cost of place losing its wild and free beauty of spirit and profound ability to heal by working intimately with nature...instead, separating selves from it with needless mandatory cover-up and sweat lodge eviction and attendant spirit-crushing vibe.
By new ownership imposing conservative lifestyle values and repurposing of place, it had clearly lost sight of Stewart's historic dedication to serve and affordably heal all, not just more affluent and/or conventional-minded.
Universal spirituality outshines religion -- at least watered-down quasi-religion, yet dominant though fading fast -- every day of the week.
Springs founder's daughter, Katy Stewart Lloyd, in late 1940s refused to sell place to old moneybags Vanderbuilt because she knew he'd shut place to public (in his case without even veneer of benevolent intent, but in order to turn place into exclusive playground for rich and famous). see history
As time has proven in spades, trying to co-opt sacred land to make a buck and/or co-opt for diversionary use -- in process shutting out everyday people seeking relaxed healing, enjoyment, and purification by such meddling -- always ends badly.
As keep saying, now-abandoned hope of writer was that they'd become aware of mindful nudity's amazingly easy and effective ability to amp both place's healing power and visitor volume -- obviously a win-win situation if profit-mindedness outweighed any more public-minded motive...
...that owners would then naturally have given green light to re-activate clothing-optional on new, well thought-out and maintained level once trading notes with region's successful c/o rural resort managements...establishing free-minded climate any open-minded visitor would appreciate and respect...and one ownership and management could be fully comfortable with.
Dream on, McDuff.
Tragically, years of what myriad now estranged fans of place are certain was inappropriate profit preoccupation by former owner, having set rigid focus with management doing bidding, was now tragically continuing under depressing new variation: nonprofit parent group essentially turning place upside down to serve as retreat and bureaucratic world headquarters for private gig in lucrative shrink field...while hoping to lure more affluent traffic to subsidize Pneuma headquarters operation and ownership costs through conventionaized spa and lodging.
Meanwhile, though having lost serious momentum, place straggled on, fitfully thriving, by some reports, until virus upended everything, but was essentially still coasting on historic reputation. It knew it was a sellers market and so blindly went for catering to more affluent -- ones often ignorant of or indifferent to genuine healing spa culture -- to support narrow specialized place intent and watered-down spa approach...rather than continuing offering affordable, quality retreat for spa-savvy, growth-minded beings on life-affirming paths -- people who automatically gravitate to nature's special healing realms like flowers to sunshine.
Past is present
As mentioned, former late co-manager Ted D.'s slowly dying over ten year period greatly exacerbated situation, derailing chance to evolve any more gracious, clear-thinking and free-flowing operation -- even had owner and rest of senior management been open to it...which, obviously, they weren't.
Former inertia of place continued to affect present operation so long as new operation coasted on former opaque, control-freak, money-money-money, shallow-courtesy management approach... rather than break out in fresh, can-do cooperative, nonprofit spirit of healing and working hand-in-hand with visitors in joy-of-service way...as naturally befits one of nature's special healing realms.
Making what grounds improvements past management did, while laudable, could never make up for lack of heart and spirit. Instead, ceaseless pressure to increase profits, plus medical freak-out and resulting intolerant authoritarian stances to cope with both, made more than a few visitors feel like they were imposing on them...even as they forked over their hard-earned cash!
After having heard such wonderful things about place and anticipating relaxing healing visit in tranquil solitude of nature under unassuming stewardship, far too often visitor's wistful hopes were dashed to hell and gone on arrival. Countless fond dreams were thus shattered over time...
What obviously escaped former management's notice while preoccupied upgrading material side of place in hopes of attracting more upscale or wider-public traffic, was how on-the-ball, genuinely gracious, can-do management energies, or lack thereof, always make or break even the most remotely spiritually conscious visitor's experience...regardless of state of amenities beyond basic creature-comforts.
Back to the Future
As shunning of Stewart Springs gained momentum through word of mouth and social media and spiritually-oriented groups cancelled workshops, board members and would-be supporters of Pneuma will -- if haven't already, with assist from pandemic prompting decision to shut bathhouse permanently -- realize the sad karma that Foundation members created for themselves. "Operation Refine and Homogenize Culture to Support Shrink Shtick" would almost certainly never gain critical traction needed for place to pay for itself. Owners, finally tiring of hemorrhaging investment capital and/or any possible tax write-off exceeding point of being worthwhile, will then throw in towel, conceding they were essentially clueless how to steward the unique northern California healing spa operation...perhaps having been fatally misled by example of past owner and management's profit-jonesin' preoccupation...and in fantasyland for thinking the mere shoveling of pile of cash entitled them to steal place away from the people by upending accustomed low-key, free-spirited atmosphere...creating an operation so drastically at odds with former budding, universal, open-circuit energies of realm...which were finally, if fitfully, re-activating founder's original public-service mission of long ago, and spirit of sacred native use before that.
Once more, seeing the light, they'll relocate to more suitable headquarters, ideally selling Springs land at reasonable price to new, appropriate ownership who gets it in their sleep...thus redeeming themselves for enabling bringing cornucopia of joy and enriched spirit and purpose back to super-natural realm...
With person(s) at helm who instinctively realize importance of making place a legal nonprofit and provide affordable, healing atmosphere (once new 'normal' emerges), they'll promptly re-instate clothing-optional policy on new, more mindful level...and invite Karuk sweat lodge to return, if so inclined, with can-do determination to create more fire-safe location on grounds...
...one who, after in-depth research, with help of any legal-minded friends of Springs, would file paperwork to set in motion lengthy process of setting aside place in perpetuity as nonprofit: a purifying, healing and rejuvenation refuge for well-being and enlightenment of public at large. (Reportedly Oregon's Jackson Wellsprings did precisely this ages ago.)
Envision such a good-karma future stewardship. Thousands of empowered creator beings -- who we are, or are on the road to becoming -- focusing on such a special common goal with laser intensity can indeed manifest such a reality.
Envision a perfect thriving Springs...under enlightened nonprofit stewardship...even now hovering over current lamentable diversion, ready to descend and hit the ground running.
place in the sun,
mon, to sun me buns
To help hammer out new viable c/o policy, future managers and/or staff of future ownership might, as suggested, go on fact-finding tours to, once re-opened, other regional c/o spring resorts, experiencing and witnessing firsthand integrated c/o scenes and spa layouts...
...picking brains of management to discover how they work to keep high-octane energies public nudity can sometimes release more on chill, respectable side; how they balance policy with concerns of visiting families. (Southern Oregon's Jackson Hot Springs, for instance, allows c/o only after nightfall, and for adults only, rest of time minimal cover-up required, thus accommodating both families, everyday mineral spring goers, and freebody enthusiasts who've resigned selves to daytime limits and not able to lose tan lines.)
In time Stewart then might at long last join sisterhood of wider region's progressive mineral spring resorts.*
* During Foggy sisters management days, about 2006 management of historic Wilbur Hot Springs, some 200 miles away, reached out to Stewart's with invitation to join existing reciprocal free-pass trade arrangement between staffs of Wilbur, Orr and Harbin Springs while visiting each others' places. Stewart, locked forever into feeling like an orphan, couldn't appreciate significance of the offer to at last join the sisterhood of regional spring resorts. To writer's knowledge, Stewartmanagement never even responded.
Future ownership and management will intuitively realize the human body can be seen as sacred or profane, depending on state of consciousness, false modesty, and buy-in to various morality mindsets.
Mindfulness of management, following lead of stewardship setting tone, makes all the difference between tawdry, edge-city scene that Springs at worst became, and one that's respectable, genuinely healing, and life-transforming, a simple mindful c/o sanctuary that normalizes everyday sight of essential human body.
Of free spirit
or Old dreams die hard
As disastrous actions mounted, shattering hopes of all who wished only good things for place with change in stewardship, banning c/o shocked countless on unspeakably deep level, almost akin to a death in the family.
Mandatory cover-up policy left suggestible writer's first view of newly dutifully wrapped bathhouse visitors in late 2016 with surreal, bleak impression that patrons had donned mourning apparel in bereavement over option to spa nude having met a sudden tragic demise. The mind boggled at the paradox.
Cherished healing realm was, again, essentially imprisoned in outdated, oppressive, guilt-based morality and false modesty.
Bourgeois mediocrity having its last hurrah.
Place has been held hostage by forces not understanding -- perhaps not even caring -- how mandatory clothing (and removal of sacred sweat lodge) defeated deepest purpose of realm, severely crimping place as genuine and profoundly healing center for ALL people, cherished for generations.
It might as well have been mourning clothes indeed, for way simple-nudity ban essentially mandated body shame and false modesty...spelling death of effort to foster enlightened body acceptance and freedom, crucial to place's deep-most ability to purify, transform and rejuvenate, reintegrating body-mind-spirit.
Can genie be put
back in bottle?
No way. Not with conscious body freedom in appropriate places being accepted and embraced by more people all the time. (Everyone, after all, being a natural-born freebody, before social conditioning inevitably took its toll.) Only in some impossible alternate universe can the genie be put back in bottle without Springs losing an incalculable measure of magical transformative potential.
Writer, after long holding out hopes of new stewards finally coming around, joined groundswell of Stewart Springs devotees shunning place...shocked, brokenhearted, and ultimately radicalized over drastic policy change and sweat lodge removal.
Droves of people refuse to aid and abet current self-interested, quasi public-minded forces, trusting they will in time see the light and connect the dots of misguided effort to wrest sacred healing realm from the public, and being aware and conscious enough that they'll work to find appropriate ownership to transfer land to and thus redeem now-tattered honor... perhaps thus ultimately gaining a positive legacy in realm's ongoing story.
Recap on possible intents
Writer, now long out of loop, has been pretty much as in dark as others on exact intent (assuming they actually had one and weren't just playing it by ear, as in "Let's try this awhile and see how it flies..."). Could only analyze situation and report on things as filtered through Pneuma's website, intimate knowledge of place's operation in recent times and, for what it's worth, intuition.
Again, the two main contenders of new owners' long-range intent are (if it even matters anymore):
1. Privatize place for own Pneuma group's exclusive use, general public no longer welcome. Gates slam shut; new signs growl Keep Out.
(If true, lotsa luck finding one shred of peace of mind for having enacted such community-insensitive cultural destruction, believing end can justify means, creating veritable Mount Everest of bad karma for alienating legion of place's former, biggest supporters around the world.)
2. Keep open to public to subsidize costs while shifting focus of place to primarily serve as Pneuma retreat center and world headquarters, playground for groups' affiliated friends and family, pushing own shtick with workshops and retreats advancing academic/training agenda, leaving little to no room for former free-spirited, culturally diverse, enlightened freebody enjoyment of facilities by general public; yet dependent in symbiotic union with (hopefully more affluent) visitorship to defray not-insubstantial operational and ownership costs.
One might suspect that a third possibility is a combination of the above: some 5-year plan, keeping place open to public for lodging only now, providing outrageously slipshod service and thus discouraging bookings, until finally completing transitioning to privatization of place in 2021.
viva la causa
Second possibility, though depressing enough, naturally held most encouragement. Operation, barring amazing change of heart by owners, would fail in due course due to not only dire repercussions of present virus crisis, but also de facto boycott by critical mass of global fanbase jinxing hopes of ever gaining viable traction or community acceptance.
Then they'd eventually give up, realizing they'd be worlds happier and productive somewhere else, no sea of people painting them villains for stealing people's treasured retreat to handicap efforts to do good according to their lights.
They'll take deep collective sigh, chalk it up to experience and move on, land (and operation) put back on market for ideal hand-in-glove benefactor to redeem, along with re-activated volunteer and work-trade help of community at large helping take place over top again, inspired more than ever to make place at long last a nonprofit healing center.
Again, given enough Springs defenders, it's possibly simple matter of concentrating enough group-focused energy bending time to manifest such a desired future. See it as already here, in glorious fine-tuned detail, hovering overhead, ready to descend and activate at perfect moment.
Place would then finally join Breitenbush, Orr, Wilbur, Sierra, Jackson Wellsprings, and now-resurrecting Harbin as thriving West Coast mineral spring resort sanctuaries, welcome light-years away from Babylon's lingering, now-intensifying, darkness. Stewart Mineral Springs would then, four decades after last relatively mellow, down-home owner operation by Goodpastures in 1970's (see History), shake off its wayward, terminally dysfunctional past. It would make truly bold new start...one with free-flowing, dyed-in-the-wool, super-grounded, can-do spirit that place inspires in conscious managers and aware visitors...making place paradise for both locals and legions of travelers worldwide.
First baby step is imagining future ownership, manage-ment, staff and visitors in harmony with healing realm, with body freedom returning on mindful level...along with venerable Karuk sweat lodge (if members open to it) -- once again honoring and celebrating universal spirit of revered place that can help purify, heal, and rejuvenate todo el mundo.
Imagine combined energies of myriad fans ultimately saving Stewart Mineral Springs, liberating it for benefit of teaming sea of genuine rural mineral spring resort aficionados everywhere.
Why not envision such a reality? Better than utterly giving up, detaching from place, and leaving it to sorry-ass fate.
Me? I'm no mover and shaker per se, just an old recluse living in woodlands with age-old dream of global transformation and wanting to rescue a beloved realm that's been so fulfilling to have been part of over long years.
Haven't smartphone or any networking skills to speak of -- including Facebook, though tried many times. Only this dedicated site, kind encouragement of others to tell it like it is, and long-abiding feeling that Stewart Springs is possibly meant to play continuing role in world transformation if enough conscious beings who likewise treasure place insist on it.
Time's upon us, more than ever. On off chance that owners, rather than intent on eventually privatizing place or seriously upscaling or conventionalizing operation, have been instead simply clueless, yet remain dependent on visitorship to cover bills, then they'll eventually throw in towel for lack of business, virus prompting permanent shutting of bathhouse becoming last straw, unable to attract enough visitors with twin heart and soul of place -- bathhouse and sweat lodge -- now history.
After realizing they've made egregious miscalculation, they will, with perhaps grace enough to feel duly chagrined, relocate to more suitable place, seeking new appropriate ownership to redeem operation -- and their honor for consciously seeking out new, hand-in-glove stewardship.
Waiting for Godot? Ghost dancing? Dreaming the impossible dream? Magical thinking? Maybe...maybe not...
...it's whatever enough conscious beings want and focus on manifesting for place.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Mercury retrograde is our friend
Even though last owner held place for 34 years, two of six previous post-Stewart family ownerships only lasted a short time. This one appears well be on track to becoming the third. see history
For property legally changed hands during Mercury retrograde. According to time-proven astrological influence, on subtle plane this can bode chaos, confusion, and great uncertainty for any new ownership of existing operation IF at time of change owner energies un-centered and not in fullest integrity -- which, according to insider eyewitness report, they surely didn't seem to be.
When they got together at grounds restaurant to celebrate sealing the steal -- er, deal -- vibe reportedly appeared to be one of mad scrambling discord...not unlike corporate raiders after pulling bold hostile takeover, drunk on audaciousness of act and enormity of haul, squabbling over how to best divvy up spoils...seemingly oblivious, or simply indifferent, to how privatizing schemes would trigger enormous lifestyle disruption and devastating heartbreak in lives of thousands of Stewart Springs fans around the world.
So this periodic apparent backward-motion influence in heavens might ultimately serve us very well indeed. It could cinch abject failure of current misguided, diversionary effort. Since intent vibration at start of any new enterprise stays with it throughout, seeds of ultimate self-destruction were already planted from get-go. The pandemic, economic meltdown, racial injustice time of reckoning, with its related power to the people re-awakening, have only accelerated things to warp speed.
Meanwhile, envision PERFECT future ownership manifesting at PERFECT moment -- again, maybe even see it as already here, hovering over realm...place at long last being redeemed by enlightened benefactor(s)...see it in fine-tuned, people-friendly detail, ready to descend.
For place was never meant to become some bland, quasi-prestigious resort, visitors having only vaguest notions of -- sometimes, even remotest interest in -- spa's time-honored dedication to radical cleansing of body, mind and spirit -- like any genuine mineral springs spa.
IF dread privatization was ultimate goal after all and by some miracle they can still turn things around after having lost so much business, crucial to support any viable operation...then, after spreading word and appealing to higher natures of all concerned, one can only trust in just and merciful universal father to show absentee owners the utter folly and unconscionable selfishness to think they could shut priceless treasure beloved by countless and enjoy with any real peace of mind; how nothing meaningful or honorable would ever come from such action -- one bereft of integrity and ultimately self-defeating if, as mission statement implies, really wanting to work towards greatest good for greatest number in healing and uplifting planet.
Whatever actual intent of present owners is, unless they melt hearts on fuller realization how they hold sacred trust to safeguard Springs for sake of ALL humanity -- rich and poor, sick and well, young and old, bohemian and straight, local and world traveler -- and keep realm open-circuit, progressive-minded, and affordable healing retreat, rather than effectively diverting into public-supported semi-private shtick...
...then they owe it to all -- especially themselves -- to redeem now-frayed integrity by transfering legal stewardship, at reasonable price, to parties that WILL, relocating to more appropriate headquarters, one blissfully free of such controversy -- and, now, virus repurcussions -- hampering efforts to do any real good.
Enough need only visualize this happening... Vibe in progressive, far-minded philanthropic person or group, earnestly looking to plow bit of embarrassment of riches into good-karma, culture-rich, nonprofit operation like Stewart's has such plentiful potential to be once supported by right energies.
A place that can blossom with full-tilt community involvement and enlightened management, realm liberated from clutches of conventional profit-minded forces and/or private, specialized-gig, diversionary intent, free to fully focus on low-key purifying, healing, and rejuvenating in quiet joy of service amid glad tidings of nature.
Again, any legal-beagle Springs fans might consider boning up on how to set up Stewart's as legal nonprofit charitable enterprise and help jump-start intricate legal process.
Others who might in time be interested in helping catalyze enlightened management could -- again, once they've reopened -- go on fact-finding tour of wider region's Harbin, Jackson Wellsprings, Wilbur, Orr, Sierra, and Brightenbush spring resorts, gaining fresh ideas and creative inspiration.
Remember, contained within Chinese character for 'crisis' is 'opportunity'.
Have people treasured place enough to INSIST it fulfill its higher destiny as a purifying, healing and rejuvenating ground, one everybody can enjoy freely and affordably?
Bestir imagination. Envision thriving, affordable healing refuge for all growth-minded people, under future, in-sync, conscious, nonprofit stewardship.
More than a few believe place deserves no less.
Writer Ward served as SMS work-trade assistant manager 2000-2002 under Mary H. and built and maintained bathhouse cold plunge for 14 years. He's published books on body acceptance and body freedom, inspired by own experiences at Stewart's.
More on recent issues (pre-virus) here (op ed) and here(rants & raves cont'd; scroll towards end for historic/metaphysical overview; also sidebar in history)
All Things Stewart Springs
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