Great Oaks School was intentionally named a "school" of health partially to deflect the attentions of the AMA. It is, after all, entirely legal to teach about how to maintain health, about how to prevent illness, and how to go about making yourself well once you were sick. Education could not be called "practicing medicine without a license." Great Oaks was also structured as a school because I wanted to both learn and teach. Toward this end we started putting out a holistic health newsletter and offering classes and seminars to the public on various aspects of holistic health. From the early 1970s through the early 1980s I invited a succession of holistic specialists to reside at GOSH, or to teach at Great Oaks while living elsewhere. These teachers not only provided a service to the community, but they all became my teachers as well. I apprenticed myself to each one in turn.
There came and went a steady parade of alternative practitioners of the healing arts and assorted forms of metapsychology: acupuncturists, acupressurists, reflexologists, polarity therapists, massage therapists, postural integrationists, Rolfers, Feldenkries therapists, neurolinguistic programmers, biokinesiologists, iridologists, psychic healers, laying on of handsers, past life readers, crystal therapists, toning therapists in the person of Patricia Sun, color therapy with lamps and different colored lenses a la Stanley Bourroughs, Bach Flower therapists, aroma therapists, herbalists, homeopaths, Tai Chi classes, yoga classes, Arica classes, Guergieff and Ouspensky fourth-way study groups, EST workshops, Zen Meditation classes. Refugee Lamas from Tibet gave lectures on The Book of the Dead and led meditation and chanting sessions, and we held communication classes using Scientology techniques. There were anatomy and physiology classes, classes on nutrition and the orthomolecular approach to treating mental disorders (given by me of course); there were chiropractors teaching adjustment techniques, even first aid classes. And we even had a few medical doctors of the alternative ilk who were interested in life style changes as an approach to maintaining health.
Classes were also offered on colon health including herbs, clays, enemas, and colonics. So many of my client at Great Oaks were demanding colonics in conjunction with their cleansing programs, that I took time out to go to Indio, Calif. to take a course in colon therapy from a chiropractor, and purchase a state of the art colonic machine featuring all the gauges, electric water solenoids and stainless steel knobs one could ask for.
During this period almost all alternative therapists and their specialties were very interesting to me, but I found that most of the approaches they advocated did not suit my personality. For example, I think that acupuncture is a very useful tool, but I personally did not want to use needles. Similarly I thought that Rolfing was a very effective tool but I did not enjoy administering that much pain, although a significant number of the clients really wanted pain. Some of the techniques appealed to me in the beginning, and I used them frequently with good results but over time I decided to abandon them, mostly because of a desire to simplify and lighten up my bag of tricks.
Because of my enthusiasm and successes Great Oaks kept on growing. Originally the estate served as both the offices of the Holt Adoption Agency and the Holt family mansion. The Holt family had consisted of Harry and Bertha Holt, six of their biological children, and eight adopted Korean orphans. For this reason the ten thousand square foot two story house had large common rooms, and lots and lots of bedrooms. It was ideal for housing spa clients and my own family. The adjoining Holt Adoption Agency office building was also very large with a multitude of rooms. It became living space for those helpers and hangers-on we came to refer to as "community members." My first husband added even more to the physical plant constructing a large, rustic gym and workshop.
Many "alternative" people visited and then begged to stay on with room and board provided in exchange for their work. A few of these people made a significant contribution such as cooking, child care, gardening, tending the ever-ravenous wood-fired boiler we used to keep the huge concrete mansion heated, or doing general cleaning. But the majority of the ‘work exchangers' did not really understand what work really was, or didn't have sufficient ethical presence to uphold the principle of fair exchange, which is basically giving something of equal value for getting something of value and, perhaps more importantly, giving in exchange what is needed and asked for.
I also found that community members, once in residence, were very difficult to dislodge. My healing services were supporting far too much dead wood. This was basically my own fault, my own poor management.
Still, I learned a great deal from all of this waste. First of all it is not a genuine service to another human being to give them something for nothing. If a fair exchange is expected and received, positive ethical behavior is strengthened, allowing the individual to maintain their self-respect. I also came to realize what an important factor conducting one's life ethically is in the individual healing process. Those patients who were out exchange in their relationships with others in one or more areas of their life frequently did not get well until they changed these behaviors.
Toward the end of 1982, after providing a decade of services to a great many clients, many of these in critical condition, I reached to point where I was physically, mentally, and spiritually drained. I needed a vacation desperately but no one, including my first husband, could run Great Oaks in my absence much less cover the heavy mortgage. So I decided to sell it. This decision stunned the community members and shocked the clientele who had become dependent on my services. I also got a divorce at this time. In fact I went through quite a dramatic life change in many areas--true to pattern, a classic mid-life crisis. All I kept from these years was my two daughters, my life experiences, and far too many books from the enormous Great Oaks library.
These changes were however, necessary for my survival. Any person who works with, yes, lives on a day-to-day basis with sick people and who is constantly giving or outflowing must take time out to refill their vessel so that they can give again. Failure to do this can result in a serious loss of health, or death. Most healers are empathic people who feel other peoples' pains and stresses and sometimes have difficulty determining exactly what is their own personal ‘baggage' and what belongs to the clients. This is especially difficult when the therapy involves a lot of 'hands on' techniques.
After leaving Great Oaks it took me a couple of years to rest up enough to want to resume practicing again. This time, instead of creating a substantial institution, Steve, my second husband and my best friend, built a tiny office next to our family home. I had a guest room that I would use for occasional residential patients. Usually these were people I had known from Great Oaks days or were people I particularly liked and wanted to help through a life crisis.