HAI & Harbin: Deep in the Pools Together for 34 Years
By Chas August
Have you ever noticed those people coming up from the Conference Center to the Harbin pools, happily talking and laughing and hugging each other? Wonder what’s making them so joyful? Those are HAI workshoppers enjoying the unique beauty, serenity, healing waters, historic grounds, and spirit-centered experience of Harbin.
A Bit of History
Way back in mid-August of 1968, (before some of you were born, not as old as some of my neckties) a 39-year-old Chicago-area radio pro named Stan Dale noticed that his callers wanted to talk about sex and intimacy, but his bosses at the radio wouldn’t let him talk about those taboo topics on the air. Stan took the huge step to invite his listeners to join him for a weekend of informative, heart-opening, sex-positive celebration that he called “The Sex Workshop.” Part lecture, part exercises, part sharing, Stan created an event to help people explore, experience and talk about this very human, yet very hidden activity – SEX.
Stan used to say it was as if he had found a big beautiful gem lying on the path in front of him and he picked it up and began to polish it. That gem was HAI, and we’ve been polishing it for 45 years.
In 1972, after being pushed out of his radio show in Chicago for being too supportive of the anti-war movement, Stan picked up and moved to Santa Rosa, California. He brought his radio show to KIOI, then KSFO, and ultimately KGO. And he began looking for a home for his workshops. He needed someplace special — a place that would be open to clothing-optional workshops, conducive to deep personal exploration, with room to grow along with Stan’s expansive vision of “creating a world where everyone wins.” After a couple of years at Orr Hot Springs, Stan found Harbin Hot Springs and Harbin embraced Stan and HAI.
HAI, Harbin and Stonefront
“The Sex Workshop” came to Harbin’s Stonefront Building in 1979. From the beginning, Harbin staff graciously worked with Stan, and his wives Helen and Janet, to create a space for the workshops. Harbin knocked down walls and laid some carpet, enlarging the library area for the exercises and sleeping space for the participants and made small bedroom for Stan, Helen and Janet Dale and the team to sleep in and meet in.
Having a “team” to support the work was a relatively new development for the workshops. Stan had been concerned that having a team would take his attention away from the participants. When HAI came to Harbin there were only 6 Interns (volunteer team members). Along with HAI’s new home, the Intern “experiment” expanded to 12 volunteers, 6 Master Interns and 6 Interns, helping support the 20 or so participants at each of 12 workshops per year.
Stonefront was homey and welcoming, but had its limitations. In 1979, Stonefront had only one bathroom available to the workshop, so everyone got pretty creative around biological functions. Workshoppers, team and participants became one big, happy family taking turns in shower and sharing the sink. In 1980, Harbin added a downstairs shower and toilet, but the space was still quite “cozy.”
Saturday nights of the workshop were (and still are) a time for everyone to entertain each other, then have a short dance party. If you’ve been in the Stonefront Building, picture the stairway landing (by the kitchen) as the “stage” with the audience sitting below.
The Stan Dale Conference Center
Harbin was the perfect home for the workshops and HAI and the workshops thrived, quickly outgrowing the space available in Stonefront. In 1982 Ishvarra offered Stan the opportunity to hold The Sex Workshops in the then brand new and much larger conference center (recently named the “Stan Dale Conference Center”). Harbin and HAI helped each other to grow, and benefitted from each others’ growth.
Stan Dale was a man of boundless confidence and limitless good cheer, a man who loved life and loved everyone he met. According to his wife Janet, in his entire life he only had one nightmare. The night before the first workshop in the conference center Stan dreamt he was standing in that big room and there were no participants. Fortunately, it was not a premonition.
HAI has grown from twelve workshops a year at Harbin to 30 or more per year, and more than seventy a year worldwide. The workshops have served countless Harbin residents and guests, and have brought thousands of people to experience Harbin. Harbin and HAI have continued to grow, and grow together.
Stan died in 2007, but his legacy lives on, as does HAI’s special relationship with Harbin. In 2008 Harbin erected a plaque naming the Conference Center “The Stan Dale Conference Center” in recognition of the man who brought so many people to this amazing place and brought so much love and growth and fulfillment to the people who have experienced HAI.
Not Just A Weekend, A Community
There are now nine levels of HAI “Love, Intimacy and Sexuality” workshops. As we have added new levels and new leaders, the HAI community has grown from a couple dozen curious people in a ballroom in Chicago, to tens of thousands of HAI grads that have shared a weekend with us at the Harbin Stan Dale Conference Center, to thousands more who have attended a HAI workshop at one of our other locations around the world. HAI communities put on events for HAI workshop graduates to continue to share the experience that many of them first had at the Harbin Stan Dale Conference Center.
If you haven’t experienced the love and connection of our HAI workshops, or if it’s been awhile since you were in our “room of love”, please join us for our “Love is a Miracle” weekend workshop at Harbin. You can find a schedule of our workshops on the Harbin website or at hai.org.
About the Author
Chas August has been involved with the Human Awareness Institute since his first visit to Harbin and HAI in 1989. He has volunteered with and worked for HAI in various capacities and is currently Director Of Marketing for HAI, NorCal. Chas is also a personal growth coach and counselor, helping people experience personal growth and change in the areas of intimacy and sexuality, discover passion, heal anger, and improve communication skills. chasaugust.com firstname.lastname@example.org