Site updated April 6, 2020
"There are years of magical energy, prayers and love that have been steeped into this place; now it feels like it is being erased."
-- Michele Feasby, Instagram post
"The new owners have changed the very fiber and culture of the space we have all loved for decades."
-- Anu H., Nevada City, Yelp review
"Apparently change of ownership can be a killer for sacred places..."
-- Vladimir V., San Bruno, CA Yelp review
"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
"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
What Happened to Stewart Springs??!!
See below -- entire page -- including op-ed, re-posted sweat lodge ban rants followed by more ranting and semi-informed analysis
Furor over kicking out Sweat Lodge Dec. 2017
see ways below
(click & scroll 3/4 down)
(click & scroll 3/4 down)
Springs Stewardship Intent:
From Bad to Worse?
Revised March 2020
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 eyes of myriad longtime fans.
General manager Rowena P. was at last stepping down -- two years after sale -- after 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 through her.
Then new on-site management was brought on board...
From frying pan to fire
Within 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 clothing-optional. Once-magical realm, suddenly radioactive with lost heart, destroyed culture, and blinded vision, is now being shunned by countless who have 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 (which, in mind-boggling irony, was also grand re-opening date in 2019 of Harbin Hot Springs) -- they finally replaced creaky old tiny-print website with new, streamlined one. Loaded with eye-catching graphics, slick text bites, and shameless flashers, new site confirmed suspicions of many: when not enjoying new little shagri-la themselves, seemingly tone-deaf ownership appear out to attract upscale, urban, flirting-with-awakening visitors...those less into grokking profound spa purification and rejuvenation than in throwing disposable income at promise of some vaguely pleasant, nominally healing, tightly packaged country resort escape...
...plus those maybe wanting to book spiritually-focused events, workshops, and retreats and who don't seem to mind how former treasured freedom to be one with nature and experience profound, often instantaneous, re-integration of body-mind-spirit through simple mindful nudity was suddenly outlawed, or that 45-year sacred sweat lodge was in essence kicked off land.
2020 vision &
Long awaited year 2020 started out so promising, then virus hit and all hell broke loose.
Coronavirus pandemic concern is, obviously, pre-empting most everything else under the sun now. If outbreak proves long term one, with everyone sheltering-in-place and non-essential businesses shuttering operations until flattening the curve, then what's happening -- or not happening -- at Stewart's will likely be of little concern to most.
Regardless of duration, place's like Stewart's will gain extra importance as crucial place of healing and rejuvenation, after so many being stressed and under lock-down. Visiting Stewart's might then seem like going to heaven, even under current lamentable scene. (Bathhouse is closed until further notice, though place apparently still open for lodging.)
Meanwhile, trying to understand mindset of latest absentee owners and analyzing how and why place got so far off course in recent decades from being any more of genuine spa might prove helpful in energizing changing place's stewardship to far more appropriate one.
Stewart Springs in name only now
Their hope to attract such more spa-unsavvy groups seems odd indeed. For kicking out sweat lodge ceremony and banning simple nudity in appropriate areas put such a severe crimp in place's former spiritual mojo that, for countless fans, place is now Stewart Springs mostly in name only.
Sure, you can still get in a decent soak and sauna, maybe even have a pleasant creekside locale for functions...but it's hard imagining anyone the least bit free-spirited actually really enjoying spa now or any conscious group having anything remotely approaching a full-tilt, bedrock, soul-liberating happening there.
To paraphrase song lyric, whole lot of disconnectin' goin' on.
Nude becomes rude
Designed to entrance, site has worlds more sizzle than substance. Zero info about ownership. Little to no sense of community.
And laughable statement about how new strict cover-up policy is for "more comfortable environment" makes one half-expect to read some reviewer gush, "I experienced such delightful wedgies in sauna and cold-plunge -- thank you!"
Concern for children and foreign-guest sensibilities aside, such sentiment basically translates to:
"Now nudity-free to ease worried minds of body-alienated everywhere, happy to resist ever learning to feel mindfully at ease publicly out of clothes in appropriate natural settings (the very idea!), resenting like hell seeing others doing so, making one feel uptight and painfully reminded how much still buying into false modesty, exaggerated physical self-consciousness, and systemic body oppression."
Whether one availed themselves of clothing-optional or not, it was linchpin that enhanced free-spirited, healing air of entire Springs -- one enabling profound harmonizing with nature -- that made place so wildly popular in recent decades, despite often-wonky management.
Take that away and the magic is gone...for legions of desolated fans plus potential newbies now deprived of discovering and enjoying the blessings of nature in uber-relaxed, liberating, free-flowing atmosphere open-minded body-friendly policy naturally fosters.
Elsewhere on site, re-hashed vague mission statement and no-this-no-that policy page confirm that new outfit's essentially copying former negative, non-transparent operation model -- but now, critically, adding own, fatal, bohemian-culture destroying twist...
...and, more critically, totally disregarding -- much like former ownership -- altruistic legacy of pioneer founding Stewart family's pure love-of-service, non-profit-in-spirit operation...one that made place so deeply popular, having set such an unassuming blueprint, running healing refuge in such a forthright, affordable, down-home manner, that people everywhere found operation a rare gift and blessing.
Owners, who doubtless love place too in their own way, but appear either ignorant of -- or indifferent to -- realm's singular non-commercial legacy, now indeed seem to be going after the bucks in catering to more bourgeois, conventional-minded visitors wanting to buy some tastefully bland, warm and fuzzy getaway in boonies, maybe tinker with purifying a bit or get whiff more enlightened in workshops... ...happily dropping cash while remaining contentedly shackled in textile chains at very place that, until recently, distinguished itself for being rare oasis, like handful of sister springs on West Coast, that allowed visitors option of enjoying (most of) spa experience in the buff, if availing selves of option ...
...thereby potentially enhancing overall comfort and healing benefit from special waters and transformational, energy-amplifying vortex...in process often experiencing profound, life-changing body acceptance and liberation IF open-minded enough to give it a try and come out of nudist closet (for in heart of hearts, most everybody is a natural-born freebody*).
* With exception of, it's said, roughly one percent of population who are gymnophobics, having an abnormal fear of nudity -- their own and that of others (vs. normal fear?)
New ownership is part of a peripherally-spiritual organization called the Pneuma Institute.
Into transpersonal psychology, which is sometimes referred to as field's 'spiritual' psychology branch, international outfit with apparent Romanian roots appears to explore, analyse, and promote peak experiences, altered consciousness, and enhanced awareness in general that transcends smaller self, which, combined with conscious breathwork, is worked into new tool for formal psychotherapy that focuses on achieving transcendent mindstate of greater self.
Seems conventional Judaeo-Christian tenets are also thrown into the mix just for the heck of it. (Can almost imagine hearing some proclaim, "We are NOT 'spiritual'...but we ARE religious; so abandon false gods, ye pagans and nonbelievers -- and cover your shame!")
Peculiar amalgam's purported central aim is to train therapists and everyday students to better promote reintegration of body, mind and spirit on "profoundly higher levels" of enhanced awareness and thus help raise global consciousness.
From website: "We are certain that only through peace born in the depths of our hearts can humans inspire and transmit inner peace to their society and to the world."
No argument there; sounds valid. One not knowing any better reading that might think that at long last an aware and conscious Springs stewardship is working to redeem soul of place, save it from decades of bald-faced commercial exploitation...that realm will finally become that reinvigorated, affordable sanctuary grounds, promoting higher awareness and natural healing, turning nature-rich Springs into thriving, infectiously can-do, community-active oasis that fans have so long dreamed of in face of such rank monetizing...place finally joining wider region's other progressive-minded rural spring resorts.
ojala que; if only...
Current owners of what has for better part of 145 years been affordable, public-friendly, rejuvenating Stewart Springs appear bound and determined to mess with it to point of ruin... going beyond mere bold profit focus of former 34-year absentee ownership.
This, in stark contrast to what some believers in realm have always held transcendent vision of place becoming...or, rather, returning to: a NON-PROFIT healing refuge dedicated to genuine welfare of public, at last restoring founder Stewart's humble, long-ago love-of-service, non-profit-in-spirit operation...which, in turn, echoed timeless First Nations people's deep reverence of land and powerful healing medicine.
Now-obvious aim: 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, watering down therapeutic experience, diverting spa energies to instead teach/practice/administer pet psychotherapy shtick...and from time to time, of course, enjoy place for themselves.
Former everyday visitors of more modest means and bohemian leaning now appear barely tolerated (and then only so long as one doesn't even think about skinnydipping or nude sunbathing or freebody sauna-ing), as outfit attempts cultivating more affluent visitorship to cover operational and owning costs. (Covering seems main theme all around.) Woefully misguided intent, as former fan base sees it, is establishing 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 any touted amenity upgrades...those more affluent, indifferent to or ignorant of operation's former down-home dedication to providing simple, affordable, people-friendly spa retreat fostering 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 primed to discover and embrace them like long lost friends -- have been effectively thrown out in the cold.
Unspoken message heard loud and clear: "Don't let the door hit you on the way out."
Skeptical? Think it's still pretty much same old Stewart Mineral Springs, just now with new ownership and management and a few changes? Here's a clue it's something more: away from Stewart Springs' official website place is referred to as Pneuma Retreat Center.
Cheshire at Work
Realm of Stewart Springs as countless have known it is being erased...not unlike guiding trail through dark woods in 'Alice in Wonderland' being swept away by bushy tail of mischievous Cheshire cat...or erosion of U.S. democracy and the American Dream by would-be strongman.
Mediocrity is triumphing ingloriously.
Slowly and methodically re-branding and re-purposing place, if misguided plan ever succeeded longterm, former universal healing refuge would, if not close to public as some fear, be forever subordinated to public subsidizing outfit's clinical quasi-new-age shtick as workshop and event retreat for students, members, employees, plus perhaps any like-minded groups willing to drink the Kool Aid.
Even this conceivably might've been at least semi-okay (think CA Big Sur's Esalan) IF they hadn't turned former quasi-bohemian, free-spirited climate upside down and inside out in process...which, of course, they did...in spades.
Intent indeed appears to be impressing own, distinctly non-northern-California lifestyle and buttoned-down mindset onto grounds to suit selves and attract more 'refined' (i.e. upscale and convention-bound) customer base.
Countless bereft fans know all too well by now how they banned clothing-optional, kicked out Karuk sacred sweat lodge, and emptied gazebo's prayer/love offering altar. Also, upped bath rates -- twice -- took away free monthly employee bath perk and increased house take on gift shop consignments and masseuse services.
And locals day? Formerly, regional residents got nearly half off; now only a few token dollars are shaved. "We love our locals!" neglected old official Springs site still gushed an entire year after abrupt changes clearly spoke otherwise, sentiment having become fossilized vestige of kinder times (albeit ever so tenuous).
"We respect all religions and spiritual traditions," outfit claims dubiously on its Pneuma website. Would it were true but actions belie noble sentiment. Or can it be they simply refuse to acknowledge ancient earth religions that predate -- and were ruthlessly co-opted by -- organized Judaeo-Christianity?
In any event, as things stand it it hardly makes 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, striking sorrowful disbelief and righteous indignation in hearts of place's legion once-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 inherent rare earth medicine as more fully experienced by becoming one with nature through being nude...no constrictive condom of cloth, as it were, dulling and crimping sensory wellbeing and body-mind-spirit integration process, enabling experiencing spa, coldplunge, and sunning deck's fullest palliative potential.
Such formerly experienced, positive mindstates are, of course, things ostensibly valued by Pneuma's transpersonal psychology mission statement.
Which naturally leads one to ask...
What the #%@! is
wrong with this picture???
Rather than place being devoted to healing by getting one with nature, in eternal present, beyond thought, in process often experiencing immediate and profound rejuvenation, new outfit appears to be co-opting realm, putting God in a box and under 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 festering in distant bergs.
Again, effort 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 innovative psycho-therapeutic approach while also serving as bureaucratic headquarters, courting more upscale visitors to help pay freight through now-conventionalized spa, plus lodging for travelers, most not really into full-on spa culture at all, it works overwhelmingly against ability of everyday trekkers with even a whisper of bohemian spirit and abiding appreciation of genuine spas to longer enjoy affordable, uplifting reintegration of body-mind-spirit via soak-sauna-plunge...until recently experienced directly, immediately, on the spot.
It's a bizarre situation too weird to fathom easily. For in attempting such focus re-purposing of Stewart's, with consequential severe cultural disruption and dampening of spa experience and overnight stays for countless, it only works to inhibit Pneuma's purported desire to uplift consciousness... ...except 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 now quietly freaking in distant neurosis-rich cities, basically willing to pay big bucks to have someone remind them to breathe deep.
Very mission-statement spiel shows 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 sounding words.
But if former open-minded clothing-optional policy that implicitly recognized simple mindful nudity as powerful expression of love and trust and harmony, allowing for far greater healing potential, wasn't generating positive radical change in hearts of visitors at Springs (when group energies held together despite lack of management support, that is), writer doesn't know what can...half as well or a tenth as easily.
For mindful clothing-optional (c/o) has incredibly rich ability to open one to again embrace essential physical self and those of others, as when vulnerable infants and toddlers, enabling profound reintegration of body-mind-spirit on higher levels.
Rejected option to pursue conscious freebody awareness has staggering potential to serve as tool in raising planetary consciousness.
Easily fostering positive radical change, it's perhaps light years cheaper and FASTER, in Springs's appropriate, nature-rich environment, than anything else imaginable.
But apparently, in eyes of new ownership, such an option made for too radical a change. Too uncontrollable. Too California. Too real. Made own shtick look tame, maybe even lame, in comparison to those embracing mindful body freedom and fast-tracking radical transformation.
In a nutshell: immediate affordable soul enrichment and body-mind healing -- once had by anyone entering realm with open mind and heart and willing to embrace nature's wisdom, overcoming exaggerated body self-consciousness -- is being 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...
...and place's former time-honored, open-minded, down-home ways be damned.
To any with skeptical turn of mind as far as real-world situation goes, place's current set-up surely seems more concerned with perpetuating Institute first and foremost, with ostensible intent to raise planetary consciousness coming in a dismally distant second.
And outfit's therapeutic approach might seem aimed at those often with more dollars than sense, who think one must PAY to attain spiritual enlightenment and peace of mind...and pay more dearly for healing body, too.
It bears constant repeating:
Current owner focus and intent straitjackets 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 (semi) progressive-minded retreat, every visitor and event organizer now effectively supports and reinforces current oppressive scene by every cent dropped there.
Likewise any choosing to work there are either unwittingly or knowingly serving as accomplices, concern for making rent eclipsing certain knowledge place's unassuming, down-home ways have been tossed off like used tissue or never having grokked public-service legacy in first place.
It's so depressing, writer needs a shrink. (Hey, they might be on to something...)
One might suspect outfit is 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 has so long enabled in its own low-key way...affordably, easily, and effectively...allowing for often spontaneously gaining profound body-mind-spirit reintegration through relaxed clothing-optional spa regimen -- and thus having zero need for expensive, drawn-out psychotherapy in first place!
Sunshine on my shoulder...
Perhaps greatest argument for mindful nudity is how (judicious) exposing of entire skin to healing rays of sun produces serious vitamin D, activating serotonin in brain that magically lifts one's mood with release of feel-good endorphins.
It's worlds easier and faster than popping any anti-depressants and undergoing long, drawn-out therapy.
Nature, obviously, is supreme healer.
More cynical might view situation as no less than shrink industry trying to snap up Springs to sideline spa service, co-opting its super-natural therapy when enhanced by c/o, marginalizing it from serious competition in thriving healing field the better to push own intellectually top- heavy, super-structured, more lucrative gig.
It might be seen as perhaps not too unlike status quo resisting legalization of medical cannabis as unfair rival to those pushing often useless, frequently harmful, mad-scientist, laboratory-concocted snake oil remedies euphemistically called pharmaceuticals...
...until staking out OWN budding-market lion's share, that is... protected through lobbied and bought legislators enacting corporate-friendly policies that in turn squeeze out or force to go outlaw countless small family growers hoping to earn livelihood in field so long respected and intimately understood.
Not to unduly demonize...
Again, it's not that outfit doesn't undoubtedly do good. Obviously, there are problems spa treatments alone can't cure.
Pneuma's European-origin eclectic teaching model, rooted in 1960s' humanistic psychology branch, again, focuses on achieving positive wellbeing and transcendence rather than seeking neuroses under every rock. It no doubt works just fine -- but elsewhere, in more consciousness-starved regions, time-warped in old millennium and thriving on such professional specialties of dire necessity, providing healing tool for those affluent enough to divvy big bucks for long-term psychotherapy.
But not in Future State of California...leastwise not in nature-loving, free-spirited, infinity-minded rural TOP of California with natural spirit lifter of majestic Mt. Shasta...and most especially NOT at ancient mystic healing portal that is Stewart Mineral Springs.
New wine takes new containers. Is 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 professional shtick?
Those who have 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 new ownership intent is absolutely NOT an alignment blessed by Universe.
More analysis and inside dope, including former ownership-management mindset leading to current abysmal situation, follows sea of review re-posts over controversial sweat lodge removal 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 devastated and thunderstruck Springs fans on Yelp, Google Review, and SMS Facebook sites -- most posts long since deleted or buried.
Following flurry of reactions were all excerpted from online posts written December 2017 thru 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.
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 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 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 know that this too shall pass...eventually.
Let all who cherish place envision a positive future for Springs... either with present ownership's hearts miraculously melting, or, barring that seeming unlikelihood, realization current diversion is egregiously inappropriate and that they'd be FAR happier elsewhere, selling to appropriate ownership that can redeem place.
Never doubt that enough collective vision and concerted effort through meditation, prayer and visualization by unorganized, de facto Save Stewart Springs group can work wonders.
As mentioned, most of above re-posted Yelp reviews were soon deleted from site...or stashed in its site basement at bottom of page in "not currently recommended' linked box, ostensibly for "violating terms of service" -- owner furor over earnest visitor push-back being allowed to air, perhaps? And SMS Facebook first suspended its review site, then briefly -- oddly -- added rants back to main page briefly, before in September 2018 deleting visitor feedback page entirely.
Writer's glad to have rescued writings in time and saved them from oblivion. It's frustrating to speak your mind only to have message deleted, being discounted for touching that third rail -- i.e. critically slamming a business's operational approach -- no matter how sincere, insightful...and justified.
What's that saying? In times of oppression, telling the truth is deemed a revolutionary act?
& in-depth scoping
What the #%! happened to stewart springs??!
New owners erasing popular culture to homogenize realm, support wonky quasi-new-age shtick
No nudes is good news;
Plans 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 boycotting since 12-2017.
First posted late 2017; revised often; now 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 two years ago marked a profoundly wrong-headed, giant step backwards. And words could barely register thunderstruck shock and dumbfoundment over 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 hopes banning mindful-nudity would prove a mere de-facto breather...chance to let dust of old management-unsupported clothing-optional (c/o) scene settle before enlightened all-new management forged a new, more aware policy...
...one inclusive of place's diverse visitor base...one that would naturally attract management and staff as much motivated 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. (Even though learning one member reportedly owns a popular mineral springs resort in Mexico, which is most assuredly not clothing-optional...Ayy carumba! No nudistas aqui, por favor!) Realm would then be brought back in alignment with time-honored tradition of every other popular rural mineral springs resort in northwest U.S., all of which allow some measure of mindful nudity, making for profoundly deeper relaxation by experiencing full contact with elements, enabling greater purifying, healing, and rejuvenation...
...and, again, oftentimes triggering life-changing body-mind-spirit reintegration in process.
Similarly, rate increase was seen as done to absorb cost of reportedly starting to pay workers more than the two bits over minimum wage so long doled out by former sometimes penny-pinching owner.
Nope. Naive me. Took further calamities of removing gazebo spring-house altar, slashing masseuse's and gift shop consignee's take and, coup de gras, kicking out sacred sweat lodge, to realize something was rottener than ever in the state of Denmark. Sadly detached from place, vowing never to set foot on grounds again, as things now stand, same as countless others dyed-in-the-wool, one-time devotees of place.
And, as it turned out, while maybe management positions started getting more pay, any poor schmuck holding, say, a grounds handyman position, job certainly requiring valuable skills, was apparently 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 such a slam-dunk perfect time -- golden window of opportunity -- to forge a dramatic new start of realm... one infused with dedicated energy, bursting with fresh focus and positive grounded perspective, no longer clouded by chronic past profit-hungry preoccupation with all its chaotic snafus and downers...
...at last gone often-dire situation so abysmal, place seemed to be vying for Most Dysfunctional Management Award in some bizarro alternate universe.
So what happened? What kept grand re-set button from being pushed, restoring sacred place to natural peaceful state as the thriving, diverse, open-minded healing retreat spa it's always longed to be?
Wanted: workers willing to work cheap
Why, instead, did place become horrible, jaw-dropping slow-motion train wreck it is now in eyes of so many? 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 much needed break from. Then removing gazebo altar of countless prayer and love offerings -- like tearing down a living church.
Absolute last straw, though, was telling Karuk medicine man Walking Eagle to walk away after some 45 years of tribe's regular sweat lodge ceremony on ancestors' healing lands, lands held sacred by regional tribes since time untold.
Whether one participated in sweat lodge or not, its loss is incalculable. It represented last cultural link to renaissance days of 1970's progressive Goodpasture family ownership. Lodge enabled keeping a modicum of bedrock diversity and bohemian-friendly spirit alive at Springs. More crucially, it served to help neutralize steep karma of place created by 1870's massacre of natives on and around very grounds. (see history)
Enter Dragon Lady with Gilded Visions
& Marching Orders from All-Business Boss
It's said the cause of anything is everything and the cause of everything is anything.
Without going 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 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 try to generate greater profits. It became her constant mantra, spoken reverently with glazed eyes as she and accomplice, late operations manager husband, Ted D., seemed perversely determined to turn former unpretentious healing place steeped in rustic, down-home charm -- simple dedicated spa with no-frills lodging -- into some improbable wannabe upscale resort (not unlike one we have now)...embracing shadowy Babylon world's bass-ackwards bourgeois control-freak mindset dressed up in smiley-face for non-discriminating mass consumption.
Fantasyland vision Afield in Schemes was fed by money-siren whisperings of "If you ban it, they will come". It being place's former unassuming spirit of bohemian-leaning, free-spirited -- sometimes holy-stoned -- culture, with tenuously abiding tolerance for lifestyle diversity, including weekly Native American sweat lodge, spiritual card readings...and mindful nudity in certain, suitably unsuitable, bathhouse and creek locations.
Again, clothing-optional policy gave people rare chance to shake free of lifetime of body suppression, shame, false modesty, and/or simple undue physical self-consciousness. Visitors were at last free to be real, undisguised selves again, as when newborns and toddlers. Policy fostered a worlds more relaxing, often life-changing, spa experience. (For some, though, only after getting beyond initial intense freak-out stage, before happily rediscovering un-self conscious freebody awareness.)
As it turned out, new owners seemed to like old-culture-destroying refinement idea just fine, thank you very much. Unspoken message, again, appeared to be something along the line of 'Cover your asses, shameless heathen, or go elsewhere.'
It came as no great surprise, as she herself brokered deal for ownership change, reportedly for 10% cut in what some might view as ultimate sell-out, having milked an extra quarter-million dollars off place, selling to ready-cash buyers with intentions at such grievous odds with original spirit of place...a spirit always hiding just below the surface, clamoring to re-emerge.
The popular Cafe Gratitude restaurant chain's founder was initially a co-owner, extremely promising sign that place was at last going to turn around. But he soon sold interest. (One perhaps doesn't haven't to wonder too much why now.)
Maybe she did some big song and dance about lucrative untapped potential of place -- "The upside potential's enormous!" Or bought in as junior partner. Or is still on payroll as consultant. Or simply took the money and ran. Possibly she'd railed how "Everyone hates clothing-optional except a few low-spending, kinky locals; it's killing business, I tell ya..."
Then again, maybe she didn't have to say a word.
Rumors abound as to what they're actually up
Maui's Little > Beach irregulars
to. Again, one is that they're determined to ratchet up bigger-spending, ostensibly more respectable (i.e. unabashedly bourgeois), visitorship, including sundry therapists and practicing psychologists who can afford Pneuma's 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, again, they appear busy incubating some wannabe tony resort: witness two new 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 is no longer referred to as simply the bathhouse. Now it's..."The Wellness Center." And once-humble, homey A-frame? Upgraded to the Chalet.
Another rumor is that they're only homogenizing place by erasing countercultural imprint -- sweat lodge, mindful nudity, gazebo prayer and love offering altar, etc. -- in hopes of attracting everyday, less-discerning travelling mainstream hordes, who'll buy watered-down spa experience and relatively cheap out-of-town lodgings en masse and likewise better reflect own conventional mindset -- hoped to better support operations and fund Pneuma Institute and doings on grounds. (And, hearty souls, won't mind at all in cold weather if heating in lodgings is sketchy; that or they're too numbed to even think of demanding refund next morning in office...if office is even open before having to leave.)
Either way, overarching, improbable intent appears, for now, to be repurposing place to double as world headquarters, retreat and teaching center for owners' Pneuma Institute -- again, peculiar amalgam of conventional Judaeo-Christianity, transpersonal psychology, and new-ageism incorporating mindful breath -- with everyday visitors and general-public workshops/retreats/events effectively subsidizing costs.
Unwitting enablers have included several annual workshop retreat event organizers who, it would seem, might love place more for being own money generator. They appear calloused to or unaware how restrictive and oppressive operation's seismic shift is to place's one-time myriad free-spirited aficionados who largely drove recent roaring success of operation.
And some visitors, it seems, have gotten so hooked on place they're willing to suffer various and sundry new restrictions IF it can mean getting another Springs fix. They're determined not to let new scene keep them from spending more time with a dear old friend. So they'll suffer new downside...or go into denial, driving from mind glaring fact that through continued patronage -- even if only once a year -- they're helping regime tighten stranglehold on realm.
But some wonder how long public might still be welcome at all at place, even such as it is...
...which brings up last dismal rumor: that some secret long-range plan is afoot to eventually close gates to public...maybe only after years of suffering them to help finance changes -- and perhaps give time for public to get so disenchanted with place, they no longer care what the hell new owners do with it.
In this scenario, obviously no one would have chance to even try to enjoy, let alone gripe about, dubious changes. Place would become exclusively for private use by owners to enjoy for themselves while holding Pneuma workshop courses, retreats and intensives, plus host related international social gatherings, workshop classes and intensives...
...maybe keep allowing in a few select outside workshops that can stomach -- perhaps even embrace -- new rock-ribbed regime in order to help cover insurance, management, utilities, endless cords of firewood... and place's sky-high county property taxes (about $28,000/year... or over $500/week, $77 every single day).
Bohemian lifestyle suspect
It turns out a non-profit like Pneuma is legally allowed to own a for-profit business under California law and then pays regular taxes on it. Perhaps they have no real incentive to work place any more, taking tax write-off somehow by legally juggling against some more profitable operation of one or more of owners, thereby enabling luxury of remaking place into own scene with little or no concern of making nut, as does any regular, sink-or-swim business operation...or even your on-the-ball non-profit.
Regardless, in every scenario remedial first step is, of course, to purge place of undesirably free-minded riff-raff; exterminate the freaky infestation of those leaning toward freedom-loving, status-quo scoffing, alternative-lifestyle-embracing ways...in other words, basically, anyone who likes to skinnydip or sunbathe and sauna nude...or thinks they might like to.
Such unacceptably unconventional (yet for countless, sensible and organic) ways -- rejecting anything rigidly over-structured, unduly profit-minded, and/or life-affirming challenged -- are deemed strange, distasteful, offensive, even dangerous for refusing to worship Mammon, to super-organized sensibilities of seemingly tight-wound ownership...along with would-be snooty patrons and/or convention-locked 'consumers' sought as patrons.
So it became absolute no-brainer to scrap popular longstanding clothing-optional policy. And get rid of funky springhouse gazebo's prayer altar. And end disruptive weekly First Nations sacred sweat lodge ceremony.
Plus...chip away at longtime Locals Day deal so as to render price break meaningless; raise rates in general -- twice -- and up takes on massages and consigned gift shop items. (Again, bear in mind main outfit's a non-profit. How's that for irony? Proves intent is always bottom line, not profit or non-profit status alone.)
Stripping away place's former lifestyle diverse, universal spirit and quasi-egalitarian vibe to be blandly remade to reflect socially-conservative ownership seems sad name of game now.
Adding further insult to injury, current workers -- those who don't quit in shock and utter dismay second day out, that is -- while trying to endure new regime to put food on table (or, again, those who never really got place), no longer receive free monthly mineral bath, last heard. It was thoughtful perk offered for decades as reward for dedicated efforts and helping keep workers in sync with spa's reason for being, otherwise often not affordable with pittance of a wage.
Invisible co-owners appear maddeningly indifferent to how ordered changes have erased former popular culture so lovingly built, nurtured, and supported over decades by myriad nature-loving Springs devotees and supporters, both near and far.
For again, it was former fans who largely funded place's upgrades -- place reported annual quarter-million dollar profit towards end of old ownership -- by enthusiastic repeat visits over decades and turning friends on to it.
Business is business
But, hey, business is business; it's our baby now and we'll do whatever the heck we want with it, so nyaah. Possession's nine-tenths of the law, ya know. (and perhaps under breath: ...and the sooner we turn you yahoos off to it, the sooner we can shut the gates and quit having to suffer your tiresome howls of protest, gritting our teeth in trying to make nice in order to keep your dollars rolling in a while longer before we finally pull the plug. Then we can enjoy it all for ourselves, heh-heh, hah-hah, hee-hee, ho-ho...).
If rumor of intention to eventually slam gates to public is true and not simply some unfounded imagining the worst, at first blush it might appear fans are screwed.
That is, if owners actually think they could actually close priceless public treasure and still enjoy it with even one shred of spiritual integrity after inevitable condemnation by global community for trying to bogart extraordinary realm that's provided 145 years of dedicated public-minded healing to world's people.
A Japanese-American acquaintance told writer he was shocked such a great natural treasure as Stewart Springs wasn't a protected and affordable public spa, as is sometimes done in old homeland with its similar historic rural mineral springs.
Any suspecting this is what's happening might grumble, "Well, why not just shut the damn gates now and be done with it?" The fact they're not provides some hope it isn't true, one supposes...that extent of closely-guarded intent is only to try upscaling and/or sterilize place...
...that is, unless simply hoping to avoid riot; or, again, wanting to keep milking unwitting visitors who think everything's hunky-dory, plus veterans finding place borderline tolerable, to fund ultimate privatization goal...until one day imposing front fortress gates indeed swing shut and clueless, eager trekkers are greeted by signs growling:
Private Property - Keep Out - Violators Prosecuted
No Peak Experiences for You
Parapets Manned 24/7
Transcend Yur Sorry Naked Selves Elsewhere
Okay, so parapets probably wouldn't be manned all the time, but you get the drift.
Envisioning perfect future owner
Assuming last rumor isn't actual intent, and maybe even if it is, 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 are re-working 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 from everywhere... ...if enough now-estranged Stewart aficionados do this while at same time visualizing positive future stewardship, THEN current 'owners' might then never generate critical level of patronage needed to fund desired changes...or keep integrity intact even if they DO manage to build viable new visitor base.
Instead they'd rightly feel like do-do -- defeating overall ability of outfit to help people feel better deep down, in communion with planetary oversoul, such global consciousness-raising, after all, claiming to be overarching mission goal of Institute.
If new customer base doesn't grow, they'll perhaps flounder in sea of red ink from lost patronage, regardless of whether intent's catering to mainstream, going all posh, and/or ultimately closing to general public for private use but for now depend on continued patronage to help offset operating costs and supply returns on millions tied up in investment on place.
They'd indeed be dead in the water...unless having money to burn and couldn't care less if none of formerly dedicated fans come anymore short of willingness to kowtow to new dampened scene.
Former zenned-out mandala pattern of bathhouse floors, including sauna. Old boards were torn out about 2012 due to longstanding moisture rot. Management was unwilling to take time and effort to replicate longtime meditation-friendly touch that helped make place so exceptional
Whatever the case -- and again, even IF succeeding in building new visitor base -- over time private-minded stewards would feel far-reaching popular wrath putting jinx on any such dreary dreams of tony, sterile makeover suiting own lifestyle and serving as would-be shrink-serving headquarters/retreat/classrooms. In other words, widespread public disdain, perfectly reflecting mountain of squirrelly karma diverted scene built up, would, in the grand scheme of things, neutralize effect any and all good works.
Staying away in droves alone might foil plans. Plagued operation might never gain needed traction. Annual workshop and performance events that have gone on forever there -- like Zavada's and DeLong's -- would fade away as would-be participants and event bookers realize they've been drinking the Kool-aid, supporting inappropriate use of place by remaining hooked on it, oblivious or indifferent to how operation's former, fitfully unassuming and open-minded ways were pushed off the cliff.
Such workshop/retreat organizers would then, rather than further aid and abet cultural destruction of place, find new places for a while -- maybe Flowing Waters, just down the hill -- until ownership changes again.
Their joining in unity with de facto boycott and spreading awareness of unacceptable scene could hasten the day when universe manifests a new, non-profit operation under service-dedicated steward(s), fans enabled to create an infectious, thriving cultural renaissance.
Too, would-be followers and supporters of Pneuma world might sour on connecting dots and realizing its
bureaucratic mucky-mucks essentially created no less than cultural genocide at place they'd hoped to re-purpose to pursue psychotherapeutic methodology with ostensible goal of helping heal the world.
Barring having miraculous change of heart, they could -- saving grace -- erase such gnarly karma by being mindful enough to re-sell at fair price to now-envisioning, perfect new stewardship...who, again, would then transform place into legal non-profit healing center (owners perhaps even taking loss as penance, or at the LEAST selling at cost, allowing for any improvement outlays).
International outfit, relocating to place happily unhindered by current controversy, would regain now-mortgaged integrity and credibility...and ultimately gain a powerful POSITIVE role in realm's age-old healing legacy and evolution. And still be free to enjoy it, like everybody else, once perhaps learning to better embrace inner bohemian...or at least no longer minding those who do.
If third rumor -- eventual privatization -- is 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 one nano-particle of peace of mind. It'd leave them feeling like shallow-water pretenders, with zero credibility in trying to push shtick there to increase spiritual awareness and heart awakening after having coldly suppressed accustomed, spirit-attuned, open-heart diverse lifestyle of legions of place's biggest fans and supporters over long decades.
Stolen paradise is hell.
Foundations built on sandy grave of destroyed people's culture cannot support such things without reeking to high heaven.
Again, with such a grand reality check they'd know they'd be worlds better off, both karmically and practically, abandoning any such plans.
If indeed having bought place only to mold it to double as headquarters and specialized semi-private retreat and teaching center subsidized by general public, with no interest in ever running public-spirited purifying and healing spa and resort -- beyond watered-down version to help pay freight -- then, again, they'll throw in towel. Duly chagrined, they'll relocate, selling place at fair price to one who will honor realm's former affordable, free-spirited healing tradition for the whole world's open-minded, growth-oriented visitorship to enjoy and benefit by.
As said, old general manager finally stepped down late November 2017 only after two interminable years of surreally remote management, post-sale, from hundreds of miles away, during which time largely unempowered on-grounds staff rubber-stamped rigid changes as mandated through her from distant owners...most living THOUSANDS of miles away.
First remote owners, then remote manager, both out of sync with dedicated purifying, healing, and rejuvenating tradition of place. No great surprise, then, that lamentable situation has often made for remote visitors.
Hard to imagine writer was alone in hopes that with owner change would come new, progressive-minded management... transforming climate with infusion of grounded, aware focus as is cultivated by most every other popular rural spring resort in 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 ever returning place to former glory of down-home healing retreat...or remotest facsimile thereof. Instead, they seemed jonesin' to strip it down and rebuild it to serve own semi-private-focused interests -- subsidized by public...and maybe just for a while at that...a misguided use unapologetically divorced from historic roots of realm that served for 145 years as affordable, service-loving, non-profit-in- spirit, purifying, healing, and rejuvenating retreat for general public...
...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 advised she, er, perhaps wasn't the most gracious welcomer, depending on mood unless in rare public mellow space, she'd either 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, in twinkling of eye biting head off latest unsuspecting arrival for no apparent 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 it seemed he'd rather be sucking up to refined big spenders and having their money-to-burn lifestyle rub off on him. (Or, moreover, have more time alone to deal with terminal illness, resenting like hell having to deal with public so much, but suffering situation as the price to pay for gaining ready access to 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 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? Doesn't compute.
Even allowing for sometimes pronounced wayward inclinations of old regime in recent decades, now, more than ever, things simply don't add up...to point long-time devoted fans drove down hill stunned, devastated at dismal sea change, in jaw-dropping disbelief, as if wanting to wake up from a 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, keeping things flowing along on positive current with rock-solid minimum of snafus. Oregon's Breitenbush Springs, among others, has proven that one admirably.
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 rare, down-home, service-loving rejuvenation retreat dedicated to public welfare.
There's apparently no longer much there there. Place often seems running on fumes of natural-setting, charming quaint structures and bygone reputation -- and new synthetic fuel of more bourgeois-minded, looking to slum a bit at rural spa getaway, plus any members of old base willing to turn blind eye to get another fix, blocking out cold reality of in so doing supporting egregious new scene.
Rather than provide genuine service, as place often did, with quiet integrity, hospitality and universal spirit (last time full-tilt in 1970's), new owners continue milking it, only now seemingly to support semi-private-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 formal, super-structured, intellectualized approach...and practicing professional therapists drowning in old over-analytical, negative approach, often becoming hopelessly depressed themselves in process, desperate to incorporate some more positive approach into cushy practices. (Fact: recent study revealed that over 40% of long-term psychotherapy cases didn't improve patient's condition at all, and sometimes actually worsened it.) Part 6
While banning c/o under handy excuse of wanting place to be more family-friendly, to countless its overarching intent is, instead, wanting to be 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 genuine healing mineral springs and spa culture, happy to dabble with something different and trendy in nice setting, okay with threadbare, under-heated lodgings and puritan-minded c/o ban, clueless and energetically 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...we don't care what other places 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 aren't at all encouraging. There appears no way they can redeem themselves now... except by becoming aware how egregious their intentions are on karmic level and, duly chagrined, re-locate...and, saving grace, salvage now-tattered integrity by taking care to find right person(s) to sell it to at fair price...person or group with appropriate mindset to share sacred land on non-profit, service-minded basis with any and all seeking affordable, down-to-earth purification, healing and rejuvenation, as had been for better part of almost a century and half place's forthright tradition.
(Towards that end, any so-inclined Springs devotees might tap possible connections and work to find ideal future owner(s), and ways to turn Springs into legal non-profit healing center, thereby helping build momentum and focused energy.)
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 down-home 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 four years.
Last known, there was not even one peep of direct, relevant communication to place's legion, once-faithful visitors through websites or posting in office. Only after two years did they matter-of-factly announce intent to make over place to double as Pneuma's world headquarters and retreat centre...on their own site...and then had 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 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 vibe at Stewarts has set it apart in a sad way. As result, former opaque, locked-down Batmobile management under old ownership now continues its un-merry way, new owners invisibler than 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's well hidden behind curtain...has the gold and makes the rules...issues thunderous God-like pronouncements of new oppressive policies to fit own worldview and lifestyle and need to control scene.
No doubt they feel they've earned the right after shelling out some $2.6 million. But time and market response might well prove such an assumption wrong -- again, if privatization isn't ultimate goal, and maybe even if it is.
Most any other business, sure. But not such a historic sacred healing ground...one with generations-old public-minded tradition of serving as non-profit in spirit, a peaceful purifying and rejuvenating retreat on dedicated, if low-key, mission to help heal all who find place.
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/rural realities, and still-dominant oppressive energies yet troubling God's green earth.
And, crucially, one in which there is 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 for private-minded gigs. 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, putting 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 loved working there and turning others onto it more than paltry paycheck.
All who genuinely treasured realm now play Toto, pulling back curtain, revealing misguided attempt to alter treasured realm.
Otherwise, if successful and enough uninformed continue supporting it -- and workers, more concerned over scrambling for rent than honoring place's spirit, continue working/contracting there -- owners might actually establish long-term beachhead.
Dead man walking;
making springs unbareable
There's another, more dire, issue complicating operations from recent past, which residual energies continue affecting present... until at last banished.
Late co-managing husband Ted Duncan, as mentioned, had been diagnosed with late-stage liver disease. What many maybe don't realize is that it happened about same exact time couple secured their 10-year managing contract 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 hysterectomy) energies were even further diverted from ever running place with more dedicated focus and lighthearted spirit, as so befits any genuine healing spa.
In a way, 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 simple goodness, patrons taking simple delight in mini-vacation from overdressed world in healing arms of nature while amping up palliative benefit of spa regimen -- wasn't something one freaking over looming medical death sentence would get too enthused about.
It's a pity former owner John Foggy didn't realize they perhaps 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 to him.
In any event, one was left to wonder why they didn't simply 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 can be incredibly demanding operation, even in best of health, and healthy, more progressive-minded management found. (Early Paul Simon lyric came to mind: "...and all your wealth can't buy you health.")
Maybe he was over-hopeful waters would more than slow inevitable, effecting some miraculous full recovery conventional drastic medicine couldn't. Or at least keep inevitable at bay. And so he clung to co-manager position like his life depended on it, place doubling as his hospice. 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 purifying waters became worlds more important than any modest joint salaries and free lodging that gig provided.
(see review posted by Ted -- T.D. -- for Springs, second one down, wherein he 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 no doubt reported to new owners how place had become some hotbed of moral degradation 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...
...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 full-well how needless body covering can all too easily interfere with optimal relaxation, enjoyment, and palliative benefit...and so is allowed to be clothing-optional.
True, some of place's fans had been overseas visitor groups, 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 off by nudity, with its inherent power to distract, arouse, and/or disgust, plus confuse kids' body-shame and false-modesty programming, making dutiful 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 does one go to accommodate what many are convinced is in fact over-influential minority at expense of significant, now-alienated fan base, which deeply values open-minded Euro style option, or is at least okay with it, given people behave?
Again, one might cynically view change as reflecting determination of both old and new managements to purge place of bohemian-friendly visitors.
Many had been dismissed, stereotyped, even vilified, as low-spending wild hippies, mostly locals, hurting business by scaring off more respectable, deeper-pocketed, perma-dressed visitors 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 lifestyle values are becoming more and more ingrained in 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 overwhelming patronage of Springs, allowing place to become thriving success it was, treasured as 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, could well prove fatal, futile, self-defeating missteps...ones having generated such a sea of ill will it will doom whatever re-purposing plans are afoot from ever succeeding (or, again, even if 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 now-alienated patrons think beyond any bad press they might generate. And so obtuse, clueless, and, apparently, numbed by wealth, they can enjoy 'owning' their little paradise, convinced they're helping make the world better place by 'saving' place from heathen rabble for more respectable people to enjoy and benefit from, whilst at same time they pursue their own pet psychology shtick.
They possibly wondered (or not) why, right after c/o ban took affect visitor volume fell off the cliff, place's former thriving locals day becoming desolated ghost town overnight. With Sweat lodge removal and word of other misguided actions circling globe, visitorship was continuing to nosedive when last seen by writer, leaving place empty vestige of former self as beloved sanctuary of thriving public.
Obviously it's no mystery. With unfolding misguided plans, suddenly disenfranchised were legion of place's long-supporting devotees -- open-minded visitors of diverse lifestyles and income levels, a thoroughly diverse sub-group, making shambles of simplistic, inaccurate stereotype of how low-spending, wild locals with kinky penchant for running around nekkid were ruining place for more respectable, properly body-alienated, deeper-pocketed visitors to enjoy.
They were, in fact, a rich variety of visitors, ones for whom option of experiencing exhilarating freedom and enhanced comfort simple mindful nudity affords in course of spa purification played a crucial role in nurturing a more profoundly integrated, awakened, holistic way of living...
...people from all walks of life, some coming together in sacred sweat lodge to cleanse and heal and grok spiritual essence of America's prehistoric roots, gaining profound new spiritual awareness.
Obviously, more and more are awakening to all-inclusive, diverse lifestyle mingling as consciousness of planet rises to dramatic new level, in which all ways find common ground and become one beyond age-old illusion of separateness.
Meanwhile, those yet asleep and bent on garnering ever-greater material riches, while flirting with doing good works to try to fill gaping spiritual void in lives, seem intent on making life on earth as miserable as possible for others no longer part of soul-less culture of mass consumption and asleep-at-the-wheel living.
Can new owners be so determined (and deep-pocketed) as to weather overall drop in business, so lacking in compassion they don't care how they devastated once-vibrant, mindful, aware culture of genuine spa fans in course of unfolding misguided plans to divert place from time-honored focus?
Peace on earth -
what a concept
What such catering is obviously blind to is age old vision many of place's
< Longtime spontaneous spring gazebo altar,
now sterile and forlorn
awakened hold dear: 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. Such age-old envisioning, now closer than ever to manifesting, 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 ownership claims 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's 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 under Goodpastures) -- never obsessing over bottom line, or even THINKING of repurposing to detriment of healing potential of greater public and simple, forthright public-service mission of place.
Both spiritual and material prosperity naturally thrive when doing the right thing and putting horse in FRONT of cart in genuine, unassuming service.
As said, neither former owner nor managers ever really resonated with time-honored regimen of genuine healing mineral springs resorts, allowing 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). 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 modest bit of body freedom, so shockingly distasteful... (Along with, it becomes apparent now, 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 pathetic 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 a popular, unassuming, sacred healing spa retreat...beyond hollow lip service, that is. As result, increasingly attracted were overnight visitors with little or no appreciation of deeper historic and prehistoric focus and purifying and healing spirit of place -- including, it appears now clearly evident, latest ownership, any such appreciation taking back seat to desire of having place double for non-public-minded interests locked into conservative mindset.
Let's commodify everything!
Healthful spa experience, original reason for operation ages ago, nowadays is all but relegated to being extra feature, quaint novelty, decadent indulgence. With visitors no better in tune with process, soaking becomes little more than superficial, largely-ineffectual flirtation with purifying and healing, sometimes Instagram-bragging to enviable friends stuck at home how they're venturing into relative wilds and blissfully "taking the waters" ala European royalty of old.
Former management no doubt fumed overtime, 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.
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 appeared to be great for business and likely knew he was earning serious points in some quarters for being so de facto alternative-culture friendly.
One didn't mess with success if wanting to keep in good graces of boss. So, indifferent-to-hostile management gritted their teeth, grimly endured c/o situation, and dreamed of glorious day that would at last end shocking 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 profound sense of mission-accomplished: "Thought you'd be able to go nude there forever, did you? Think again, my pretties...hee-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 healing 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 simple fact at their peril...and so now reap thorn-choked harvest.
Big Duh Elephant in Room
Mountains of business goodwill built over generations have 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 who appear either clueless or unconcerned how much restrictive sea change in operation cramped potential for experiencing any more profound, enjoyable, transformative visits.
Such thinking is oblivious to fact that those 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 will 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 will not stand karmically no matter how well place might fare financially.
Meanwhile, dreary unbridled focus of former money-hungry, power-jonesin', fly-by-seat-of-pants ownership/management seems to be continuing in new variation now, under banner of ostensibly healing-minded, non-profit organization locked into new twist on clinical psychotherapy.
Though maybe not meaning to, it oppresses what clamors to be a positive light-healing realm, one unfettered by any private concerns of putting own 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 attendant spirit-crushing vibe.
By new ownership imposing its conservative lifestyle values and repurposing of place, it, once again, loses sight of Stewart's historic dedication to gladly serve and affordably heal all, not just more affluent, too often locked into conventional ways.
Universal spirituality outshines religion -- especially organized quasi-religion -- any 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 always proves, trying to co-opt sacred land to make a buck and/or co-opt for diversionary use -- effectively shutting out everyday people seeking relaxed healing, enjoyment, and purification by such meddling -- always ends badly.
Again, 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...
...that owners would then naturally give 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, is now continuing under depressing new variation: non-profit 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 spa and lodging.
Meanwhile, though having lost serious momentum, place straggles on, fitfully thriving by some reports, but essentially still coasting on historic reputation. It knows it's a sellers market and so blindly goes 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
Former late co-manager Ted D.'s slowly dying over ten year period, again, 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 continues to affect present operation, so long as new operation coasts on former opaque, control-freak, money-money-money, shallow-courtesy management approach... rather than break out in fresh, can-do cooperative, non-profit spirit of healing and working hand-in-hand with visitors in joy-of-service way as would so befit one of nature's sacred 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 kind stewardship, far too often such wistful hopes were dashed to hell and gone on arrival. Countless fond dreams shattered over time -- with no doubt countless more yet to come under current regime...
What obviously escaped former management's notice while so preoccupied upgrading material side of place in hopes of attracting more upscale or wider-public traffic is 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-comfort level.
Back to the Future
As shunning Stewart Springs gains momentum through word of mouth, social media, and spiritually-oriented groups cancelling workshops, and with visitor volume plummeting and/or hopefully owner awareness building, current and would-be supporters of Pneuma will in time realize the sad karma Foundation members created for themselves. "Operation Refine and Homogenize Culture to Support Shtick" might then never gain critical traction needed for place to pay for itself in long run.
...especially if depending on high visitor volume and booked group retreats/events/workshops to cover place's ongoing costs. (As mentioned, operation must clear some $77. every day of year just to cover county property taxes as a for-profit.)
Owners, finally tiring of hemorrhaging investment capital and/or any possible tax write-off exceeding point of being worthwhile, will throw in towel, conceding they were clueless how to steward such a 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 mere shoveling a pile of cash entitled them to ever steal place away from the people
...operation so drastically at odds with former budding, universal open-circuit energies of realm that were at last re-activating founder's original public-service mission of long ago and sacred native use before that.
Seeing the light, again, they'll relocate to more suitable headquarters, selling Springs land at reasonable price to new, appropriate ownership who gets it in their sleep...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 crucial importance of making place a legal non-profit to constantly provide affordable, healing atmosphere, they'd promptly re-instate clothing-optional policy on new, more mindful level...and invite Karuk sweat lodge to return (if they're so inclined), with can-do determination to create more fire-safe location on grounds (say, in secluded big clearing directly by creek)...
...one who, after in-depth research, with help of legal-minded friends of Springs, would file paperwork to set aside place in perpetuity as affordable, non-profit, purifying, healing and rejuvenation refuge for well-being and enlightenment of public at large. (As reportedly Oregon's Jackson Wellsprings did ages ago.)
Envision such a good-karma future owner. 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 create such a miracle.
Envision perfect thriving Springs...under enlightened new non-profit ownership...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 would, again, go on fact-finding tours to other regional c/o spring resorts, experiencing and witnessing firsthand their integrated c/o scenes and spa layouts...
...picking brains of management to discover how they work to keep high-octane energies that public nudity can sometimes release on more 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, 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 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, around 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 when visiting each others' places. Stewart, locked forever into feeling like an orphan, couldn't appreciate significance of the offer to join sisterhood of regional spring resorts. Stewart management never even responded.
Future ownership and management will intuitively appreciate how the human body can be seen either as either sacred or profane, depending on level of awareness. Mindfulness of management, following lead of ownership 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...once becoming simple mindful c/o sanctuary normalizes 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 sudden demise! The mind boggled at impossible paradox.
Cherished healing realm is now, again, essentially imprisoned in outdated, oppressive, guilt-based morality and false modesty.
Bourgeois mediocrity is having a field day.
Place is held hostage by forces not understanding -- perhaps not even caring -- how mandatory clothing (and removal of sacred sweat lodge) defeats deepest purpose of realm, severely crimping place as genuine and profoundly healing center for ALL people, one 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 fostering enlightened body acceptance crucial to place's deepest ability to purify, transform and rejuvenate, reintegrating body-mind-spirit on new levels.
Can genie be put
back in bottle?
No way. Not with conscious body freedom in appropriate places being accepted and embraced by more and more people all the time (everyone, after all, being a natural-born freebody before inhibitive social conditioning takes its toll). Only in some impossible alternate universe can genie ever 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, regretfully joined groundswell of Stewart Springs devotees shunning place, duly shocked, infuriated, and brokenhearted over drastic policy changes.
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...failing in misguided effort to wrest sacred healing realm from the public, but being aware and conscious enough that, duly chagrined, they work to find appropriate ownership to transfer land to and thus redeem now-tattered honor... ultimately gaining positive legacy in realm's ongoing story.
Recap on possible intents
Writer now out of loop is pretty much as in dark as everyone else on exact intent (assuming they actually have one and aren't just playing it by ear, as in "Let's try this awhile and see how it flies..."). Can only analyze situation and report on things as filtered through Pneuma's website, intimate knowledge of place's operation in recent decades and, for what it's worth, own intuition.
Again, the two main contenders of new owners' long-range intent are:
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 by 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, 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; yet dependent in symbiotic union with (hopefully more affluent) visitorship to defray not-insubstantial operational and ownership costs.
If latter's case, casting laser on how de facto hostile takeover disenfranchised and disrupted conscious lifestyle of myriad of place's biggest longtime supporters -- and prevents sea of would-be newcomers from turning on to it, as did tens of thousands over decades past -- will put crimp in place ever taking off with any degree of honor.
viva la causa
Second possibility, though depressing enough, naturally holds most encouragement. Operation, barring amazing change of heart by owners, would fail in due course from growing de facto boycott by critical mass of global fanbase and accompanying social-media condemnation jinxing hopes of ever gaining viable traction and, more important, community acceptance.
If so, again, eventually they'd 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 handicapping gheir efforts to do good according to own lights.
They'll take deep collective sigh, chalk it up to experience and move on, land (and operation) put back on market for 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 by mission to make place at long last non-profit healing center.
Assuming this is case, every devotee of place can work, as many already have, on manifesting new appropriate ownership through boycotting...and, crucially, visualizing positive future for place.
Given enough Springs defenders, it's simply matter of concentrating enough group-focused energy, bending time to manifest desired future. See it as already here, in glorious fine-tuned detail, hovering overhead, ready to descend and activate at perfect moment.
Place will 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 will 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 can make truly bold new start...one with free-flowing, dyed-in-the-wool, super-grounded, can-do spirit place inspires in conscious managers and aware visitors...making place paradise for both locals and legions of travelers worldwide.
First baby step, again, is imagining future ownership, manage-ment, staff and visitors in harmony with healing realm, with body freedom returning on mindful, non-profit level...along with venerable Karuk sweat lodge (if members open to it) -- once again honoring and celebrating universal spirit of revered place, helping purify, heal, and rejuvenate todo el mundo.
Imagine...as current unorganized de facto boycott gains traction, combined energies of myriad fans can ultimately save Stewart Mineral Springs and liberate it for benefit of teaming sea of genuine rural mineral spring resort aficionados everywhere.
Envision a miracle.
Me? No mover and shaker per se, just recluse living in woodlands with age-old dream of global transformation and rescuing place after having dedicated 20 years hoping to resurrect founder's lost dream.
Haven't smartphone or any networking skills to speak of -- including Facebook, though tried many times. (Anyone into Facebook who'd really like to see Springs turn around could maybe start one.) Only this dedicated site, kind encouragement of others to tell it like it is, and long-abiding feeling Stewart Springs is meant to play continuing role in world transformation if enough conscious beings who likewise treasure place insist on it.
Time's upon us. Once again, if owners, rather than intent on privatizing place or seriously upscaling or conventionalizing operation, are instead simply clueless yet remain dependent on visitorship to cover bills, they'll possibly eventually throw in towel for lack of business.
After realizing they've made egregious miscalculation (again, whether place becomes successful as diversion or not), they will be duly chagrined and relocate to more suitable place, seeking new appropriate ownership to redeem operation -- and their honor, for letting go and having consciously sought out new, hand-in-glove stewardship.
Waiting for Godot? Ghost dancing? Dreaming the impossible dream? Maybe...maybe not...
...it's whatever enough conscious beings want and focus on manifesting.
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 indeed. This one appears well be on track to becoming the third. see history
Property legally changed hands during Mercury retrograde. According to time-proven astrological influence, on subtle plane this can bode potential chaos, confusion, and great uncertainty for any new ownership of existing operation IF at time of change owner energies are un-centered and not in fullest integrity -- which, according to insider eyewitness report, they 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 more 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 divvy up spoils...seemingly oblivious to how such 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 serve us well. In time it could cinch abject failure of current diversionary effort. Since intent vibration at start of any new enterprise stays with it throughout, seeds of ultimate self-destruction are already planted.
Meanwhile envision PERFECT future ownership manifesting at PERFECT moment -- 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 and hit the ground running.
Same is true if intent is only to lah-de-dah and repurpose place, general public essentially subsidizing quasi-new-age shtick, continuing to price-out and lifestyle-out myriad once-dedicated fans, place's former lifeblood, who recognized and honored sacred realm and unassuming reason place's namesake started operation some 145 years ago: to affordably enable all people interested in purifying, healing, and enjoying glad tidings of nature...
...not for place 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 is ultimate goal, then, after spreading word and appealing to higher natures of all concerned, one can only trust in just and merciful universe to show absentee owners the utter folly and unconscionable selfishness if thinking they can ever shut priceless treasure beloved by countless; how nothing meaningful or honorable would ever come from such action -- one bereft of mindful integrity and thus 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 of 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, affordable healing retreat, rather than effectively divert 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 grave controversy hampering efforts to do real good.
Enough need only visualize it happening... Vibe in progressive, far-minded philanthropic person or group earnestly looking to plow bit of embarrassment of riches into good-karma, culture-rich, non-profit operation like Stewart's has such plentiful potential to be once backed by right energies.
A place that will blossom with full-tilt community involvement and enlightened management, realm liberated from clutches of oppressively conventional, profit-minded forces, free to fully focus on purifying, healing, and rejuvenating in joy of service, amid glad tidings of nature.
Again, any legal-beagle Springs fans might bone up on how to go about setting up Stewart's as legal non-profit, charitable enterprise and maybe be able to help new stewardship guide intricate legal process.
Others who might in time be interested in helping catalyze enlightened management could in meantime go on fact-finding tours of wider region's Harbin, Jackson Wellsprings, Wilbur, Orr, Sierra, and Brightenbush spring resorts, gaining invaluable ideas and inspiration.
Remember, contained within Chinese character for 'crisis' is 'opportunity'.
Have people treasured place enough to INSIST it fulfill its higher destiny as purifying, healing and rejuvenating ground, one everybody can enjoy, freely and affordably?
Boycott. Spread word. Discourage anyone from even thinking about working there (and quitting if already there) or booking place for group event until things turn around.
Bestir imagination. Envision a thriving, affordable healing refuge for all growth-minded people under future in-sync, conscious, non-profit stewardship.
Many believe the 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 14 years. He's published books on body acceptance and body freedom, inspired by own experience at Stewart's.
More on current issues 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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