At Esalen, Chadwick was stunned as he and Spino walked across the lawn. The institute sits on a plateau in the side of a large hill overlooking the Pacific. It was a clear, bright day. The sky was light blue, the ocean was a shade darker, and Chadwick could hear the surf pounding against the black, rocky coast below. Esalen may be the prettiest place in the world, a remarkable combination of peace and power. But that was not what Chadwick first noticed, for lying around the pool and here and there on the surrounding grass was a group of people, none of them wearing anything but beatific smiles. Chadwick was blown away by his inhibitions.
After registering at the front desk—where his American Express credit card was gladly accepted—Chadwick walked around the building to the dining hall to get a cup of coffee and to sort out where his feelings were coming from. Then he scurried outside to take his luggage up to his room, trying to keep his eyes straight ahead. He wished he were wearing his mirrored sunglasses.
At Esalen students are put into dorms with roommates sharing similar interests. Thus someone studying Energy and Awareness does not wind up with someone from the Getting Your Act Together class. In the room, which he thought of as Early Motel, Chadwick changed into his running gear. One of his jogging roommates came in and introduced himself as Larry, and Chadwick asked Larry if he would like to join Spino and him on an afternoon run. But Larry said he was on his way to the baths, an area of hot tubs located several hundred yards down the hill from the main building. "It's where I get it together," said Larry.
The tubs, as Chadwick would discover, are one of the big attractions at Esalen. They are filled with steaming sulfurous water from natural springs above the bathhouse. People sit in the tubs for hours, their skin reddening like giant lobsters boiling, contemplating the vast Pacific before them. No one wears any clothes there, either, said Larry.
Then Larry asked if Chadwick had heard what type of drills the group would encounter during the seminar. "I don't want to go anaerobic," he said.
At the heart of Spino's training program is the notion that most runners are working out incorrectly, dutifully doing their miles at the same pace on a flat, monotonous surface such as that found at local high school tracks. He advocates training on hills, running different distances at alternating paces and doing occasional short speed work, as well as utilizing certain "mind games" he teaches his students.
"I experience more when I run," he had told Chadwick. "I know myself when I run. I've found the way to prepare myself, to have a more meaningful experience. I give people the opportunity for a spiritual experience. That's a kind of power, power in the Carlos Castaneda sense. Imagine being an athletic sorcerer. What if Carlos Castaneda could run the marathon?"
Before leaving the room to join Spino, Chadwick checked his running shoes to make sure they were dirty enough. He did not want to appear to be a novice. It reminded him of his early 20s when he would buy a pair of jeans, then bleach and wash them for hours, artfully snip little holes in the fabric and rub on some dirt. It was hard being a quasi-hippie who worked.
That had been a contradiction, but then much of what Chadwick did now was a contradiction. During his pseudohippie stint, he had belonged to a country club in Cincinnati, where an outraged member once spit on a long-haired youth who had the temerity to enter the locker room, and where another member once accused Chadwick of not believing in the American Dream. Chadwick was more a realist than an idealist. An idealist would have resigned from the country club. A realist stayed because he liked to play golf.
Later that evening, as he walked into the meeting room for the first session of Inner Jogging, Chadwick was feeling mellow. His run had been satisfactory, and after returning from the workout he had gone down to the baths. It had been almost sunset, with the air as cool as mint and the sky beginning to go jagged with vivid shards of purple and orange. He had slipped into a tub already occupied by a girl. Chadwick didn't feel like introducing himself. He found it hard enough introducing himself to people who had their clothes on.