Episode 29: Personal Growth Workshops Part 1 with Chip August
“I felt loved, appreciated, accepted. I felt like it was OK for me to be loving and appreciative of the people around me without it being misunderstood . . . and for me it was like ‘I’m home!’” -- Chip August, personal life coach and Human Awareness Institute workshop leader
In these two podcasts, Taste of Sex host Beth Crittenden introduce us to Chip August, who for over fifteen years has been a personal life-coach and affiliate of Human Awareness Institute with a principle focus on issues surrounding sex, love and intimacy.
In Episode 29 Chip discusses some of the core issues addressed by personal growth workshops. He briefly addresses what life situations and institutional strengths best enable strangers to work together fearlessly in these workshops to support each other’s increasing awareness and growth. He then delves into practical methods for replacing an overly critical internal voice with an internal voice that actively notes and values your true worth and beauty.
To learn more about Chip August, please see listings under his name on personallifemedia.com and on HAI.org
Beth Crittenden: Hello, and welcome to A Taste of Sex: Guest Speaker Interviews. I’m your host, Beth Crittenden, coming to you from One Taste Urban Retreat Center in San Francisco, where we are weaving orgasm into the world conversation one body, one person, one message at a time.
Chip August: You’re looking at me.
Beth Crittenden: Chip August is here with us today on Personal Life Media. We are two hosts joining forces, here. Chip is here on One Taste to educate on his particular brand of sex-love and intimacy, and tonight we’re going to talk even more about that, and especially about how to keep the passion in your relationship through sex and some good practices around that. You may ask, “How does Chip know this information?” He’s actually been a facilitator for seventeen years for the Human Awareness Institute in San Mateo, and we’ll talk more about that wonderful place a little later in the show. He’s also a personal growth coach, and he works with individuals and couples and families on a really wide variety of issues. He sees individual clients and he also leads workshops on such things as teambuilding, active listening, and even parenting. Chip kind of covers it all, and we’re really glad to have him here on A Taste of Sex: Guest Speaker Interviews.
Chip August: So I went and, for a weekend, and the dream that I had when I was fifteen or sixteen, I was living. In that room, nobody asked me what I did for a living, nobody asked me how much money I made. Nobody cared. I didn’t feel like I was competing with other people in the room. I felt loved, appreciated, accepted. I felt like it was okay for me to be loving and appreciative of the people around me without it being misinterpreted or misunderstood. It was an environment that valued hugs. It was an environment that valued looking into other people’s eyes and saying what you were actually feeling. For me it was like, “I’m home!”
Beth Crittenden: How did you get into this whole sex business, you crazy man?
Chip August: Well, how I got into sex and how I got into the sex business are two different things, but how I got into sex is I’m a human being, so mostly I hit puberty hard and it hit back. I was born in 1953, so puberty was right around 1965, 1966, which was sort of the sexual revolution, and so I sort of grew up with free love.
Beth Crittenden: Where were you living then?
Chip August: I was born and raised in the metropolitan New York area, and dreamed of living in San Francisco with flowers in my hair. This all actually relates to the question. I did have a picture. I grew up as a teen with this picture of sort of this utopian worldview that somehow what we were evolving to was a planet of free love and passion and the arts. I went to college in the seventies, and I got out of college, and there aren’t very many jobs for hippies. I wound up working in advertising. For fifteen years I worked in marketing and advertising. The first five years of that I really loved it. It was great. I’ve always been a really good speaker, I’ve always been really good at being the center of attention. It was great. I got hired by ad agencies to go sell commercials and things, and I liked it. I didn’t really like business, and I didn’t really like that I was working so hard for things that I didn’t really care about or didn’t really believe in.
Beth Crittenden: What was your sex life like at that time?
Chip August: The truth is, my sex life wasn’t so good. I was working long hours, and what I didn’t know, and I didn’t even know I didn’t know, was I didn’t know how to ask for what I want, I didn’t know how to talk about my needs, I didn’t know how to ask my partner what she wanted or not. You know, it’s the fortieth anniversary of the release of the movie The Graduate, and I was that guy. We all were. Sort of stumbling into these sexual situations without really knowing what I was doing and without knowing how to create what I wanted.
Beth Crittenden: How did you learn?
Chip August: One day, way down the road, here, I’m in my thirties already, I’m on my second marriage. It’s not going so well. Our dentist goes to a workshop that’s called “What is love, what is sex, what is intimacy?” And while I’m getting my teeth checked, he’s telling me about this workshop. So while I’m [gurgling noises], he’s all, “Wow! It was amazing! It was the best thing I ever did!” [gurgling noises] And my wife and I, we went to the same dentist and we used to make our appointments back-to-back, so basically he talked her into it and while I was in the chair—I didn’t know this—she went and booked us into this workshop. And the workshop was Stan Dale. It was the Human Awareness Institute. At that time he called the workshop “What is sex, what is love, what is intimacy?” It was a weekend at Harban Hot Springs. They told us a few things about it, but not much. Really not much. My wife had spoken to Stan’s wife, Helen, for a long time on the phone, and Helen had just convinced her, “Don’t worry, your husband will like it.” So she just signed us up. She just spent the money. I went not really knowing what to expect. I’d never been to Harban. Harban Hot Springs, where the workshops are still held, is a really beautiful, meditative hot springs resort, kind of a clothing-optional hot springs resort. It was the kind of thing that you move to California to do, and I’d never been, so that all sounded exciting. The only workshop I’d ever been to was one here in San Francisco called “Actualizations.” It was really head, it was really thought stuff. This felt much more like it was going to be about my heart. Anything about sex sounded good. So I went and, for a weekend, and the dream that I had when I was fifteen or sixteen, I was living. In that room, nobody asked me what I did for a living, nobody asked me how much money I made. Nobody cared. I didn’t feel like I was competing with other people in the room. I felt loved, appreciated, accepted. I felt like it was okay for me to be loving and appreciative of the people around me without it being misinterpreted or misunderstood. It was an environment that valued hugs. It was an environment that valued looking into other people’s eyes and saying what you were actually feeling. For me it was like, “I’m home!” I didn’t want to leave the room. I didn’t want to go home after that. A little funny side note: a woman that I was supervising at my ad agency was also on the weekend that weekend, and when we saw each other on Friday night, it was like, “Uh oh. Is this going to be a problem? Can I do this? I don’t know.” And we agreed that we were just going to decide that whatever happened on our weekend was separate from the office and we’d just never talk about it in the office and it would be okay. By Sunday, the thought that we were both going to go back to the office and be able to hug each other, and be able to talk to each other, and be able to somehow keep this alive. It was one more piece of just the universe working perfectly.
Beth Crittenden: What is it that happens that makes that type of environment possible, especially when strangers are coming together? What makes the change?
Chip August: You know, I do it now. I create it, and I still don’t really know. I think, first, I have a pretty lovely view of what human beings are capable of. In our workshop, we sit and we talk about the conditions that we need to create trust. We really need to know that what we do here is confidential, we need to know that people aren’t going to be ridiculed or made fun of. That we really need our best intention to see others as angels, messengers of love. And all that groundwork is laid very early in the workshop. We talk very, very early on. This weekend’s going to be about choice. We’re going to give you things to do, but say no if you mean no. Say yes and then say no afterwards. Don’t, in any way, convince yourself that you must do something that you don’t want to do. Instead, notice that maybe the reason you don’t want to do it is just because you’re just afraid, and we encourage you to feel fear, but don’t let fear stop you.
Beth Crittenden: What are some fears that people usually need to get over in order to sign up for it to begin with? Like, once they’re in the room, that’s great, you can have that discussion. There’s so many people who seem to want this, but what do they need to get over to have it?
Chip August: Well, let’s start with the name. People have workshops, they call them Nexus or Plexus or the Forum, right? They’ve got these wonderfully nebulous names. What are our names? Love, Intimacy, and Sexuality. The names alone. I’m going to spend the weekend talking about big subjects! So that’s the first thing, is people really are afraid just of the magnitude. If you’ve been hurt in love, if your love life just hasn’t worked out the way you thought it was going to, it’s very hard to believe that a weekend can make a difference. It’s just very hard. And if, in your life, you’ve watched intimacy and sexuality keep getting collapsed in some way, where every time you want to have a hug you actually wind up having intercourse with somebody. Seeing those names in a workshop title in very, very confrontive. The first stuff we confront, always, is just the magnitude of the subjects. I have two sisters and two brothers. I’ve tried, I’ve invited them, I’ve talked to them, I’ve said, “Please, come do this work. You’ll really love this work.” All of them, it’s like, “Yeah, yeah! That’s a good idea. Maybe. Someday.” You know? So right away, you’ve got to get over that. Who comes, usually, are people that are actually in those questions. Maybe their relationship just broke up, or they haven’t had the relationship that they really want, or they had the relationship from Heaven, and then Heaven went away. We get a lot where those subjects are really up for people.
Beth Crittenden: What do you tell people who are interested in more of an internal self-exploration? How do you communicate the value of the connection and the intimacy to them?
Chip August: I think whether an experience is internal or external isn’t the circumstances of the experience, it’s the person who’s having the experience. That, for some people, they come for a weekend what it is, is it’s a weekend meditation on love. For them, it isn’t about lectures or what we tell them. It’s a weekend experience of, “Wow, I’m having this experience. Let me just be present with this experience instead of letting it just rush by.” For some, it’s behaviorism. “Try this behavior that you’d never do in your life. Notice, ‘Wow, I get something different than I’ve ever gotten in my life.’” Well, all right, maybe that teaches you something. I think what makes a workshop a workshop is that each person brings their own way of absorbing it, their own way of bringing it in. I think one of the things that we teach and we live out in the workshops that we present, I have a going-in assumption that there’s nothing wrong with any of the participants there. There’s nothing I need to fix. There’s nothing they need to fix. In fact, often, the thing I spend the weekend helping the person to see is just how magnificent they are. Just exactly the way they are. That if nothing else changed and they just saw how beautiful they are, how beautiful their body is, how beautiful their mind is, how wonderful it is to feel their love and to have my love received by them. If they could just get that, that’s a weekend. So you tell me. Is that an internal meditative experience or an external? Well, it’s what you bring to it.
Beth Crittenden: For the person who’s right on the edge, they’re probably going to do it but they’re not quite there yet, is there anything they can do at home? Let’s say they’re listening right now. What’s a way they could start this work, even if they’re by themselves?
Chip August: There are so many places to begin. I’m pretty direct. Now you get into personal style. I am a person who sees a problem, and then looks—what are steps I can take to make that problem no longer me a problem? And I just don’t have much patience for sitting with something until it moves. I can meditate, and I do meditate, and I like meditation, but I don’t think of myself as a meditator. I’m much more behaviorist. One of the things that I notice that we don’t do, ever, we don’t ever really spend time looking at ourselves in a mirror. We don’t. I look at myself in a mirror to shave, I look to fix my hair, you look to do your makeup or you take a quick look to see is your clothing right before you leave the house. But I mean like you and I are looking at each other right now. When was the last time you just sat and just were with yourself in the mirror? And my experience is it’s very challenging for most people. For most people, the minute they’re looking in the mirror, the voice they hear in their head is not a very friendly voice. And so, a great first step to open to love is to hearing that not-friendly voice in your head, and then doing something about it. So what do you do about it? What I used to think is somehow I’d get enlightened enough and that voice would just go away. I do my work, and I learn to just make that voice go away.
Beth Crittenden: You do it right.
Chip August: I do it right. And, of course, that’s just an imitation for that voice. This is pretty graphic. I hope this doesn’t offend anybody. I have a name for my voice. I call it K-FUCK. It’s like a radio station. I think of it as, like, all criticism all the time, twenty-four-seven. K-FUCK. Just blasting in my head. “No, you didn’t do that right. You don’t look good.” And I have done everything in my power to try to take K-FUCK off the air. What I learned is, and I learned it at HAI, I learned it first taking these workshops and then leading these workshops: what if I just developed a different radio station? I notice when I’m in the car, and I’m listening to a radio station, and I don’t like the song that comes on, I do not immediately think, “I’ve got to blow up that radio station!” I don’t immediately start hitting my car radio with a hammer. What do you do? You just change the channel. If you don’t like that thing, what do you do? You just push a button and change the channel. So I developed a different station. And this is the thing I invite people to do at home. You want to develop K-LOVE. So what does that look like? No matter how loud the thought is in your head while you’re looking at this person in the mirror, that they’re awful, they’re terrible. No matter how loud that negative thought is, that K-FUCK thought is, say to yourself, “I really love you.” And your own name. I’ll tell you right now, it’ll be a lie at first. It’s a lie. You’re saying the words, and you’re just doing it because Chip August said you should do it, ‘cause you heard some podcast or you saw some video and somebody said you should do it. I get that. I’m not much of a yoga person, but my wife does yoga, and so I took a yoga class with her. As near as I can understand yoga, you put your body in these really uncomfortable positions where you’re really off-balance, you’re sweating like a pig, and you’re supposed to attain unity. My experience was, I couldn’t attain unity. It was all I could do not to fall over. But I get that if you do these positions over and over and over and over again, at some point you’re not focusing on how to do the position. At some point the position feels natural to you, and as you empty your mind of chatter and thought, there is a harmony. Yoga means “yoking,” it means “union.” It becomes the yoking of your soul to your body. It’s a very beautiful experience. But it’s not the experience you have on the first day. I think of this as “I love you” yoga. Yeah, the position feels really awkward and you feel really stupid and you think you’re going to fall over. You have to keep doing it. And if you keep doing it, what you begin to notice is your own heart starts to open to you. And a heart that’s open to yourself, that’s a heart that’s a heart that’s open to the world.
Beth Crittenden: Thank you. Chip August, we’re going to take a break now to support our sponsors. If people want to find out about the HAI workshops, what’s the best website to use?
Chip August: The best place to come is hai.org. That’s the home website for the Human Awareness Institute. All the information you need about workshops and who to contact and all that stuff is right there. Hai.org. Thanks for asking.
Beth Crittenden: Great. You’re welcome. And when we come back, we’ll be talking with Chip more about the intersection of spirituality and the sex, love, and intimacy, and also what people can do in their relationships to keep the spark alive. This is A Taste of Sex: Guest Speaker Interviews. I’m your host, Beth Crittenden, from One Taste San Francisco. Our website is onetastesf.com, and we’ll be back with you shortly. This has been A Taste of Sex: Guest Speaker Interviews, from One Taste Urban Retreat Center in San Francisco. We’ve been speaking with Chip August, who is presenting here tonight. Should be a great workshop. And if you would like to send us your stories about your five minutes of rekindling, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, if you visit the Personal Life Media website that Chip just said, you can find texts and transcripts of this show and others. We have a reality audio show on life in an orgasm-based community on One Taste, and we also have our erotic open-mic readings on another show. So check out the suite of A Taste of Sex shows, and thanks a lot for joining us.