By Russ Jones
Historians have a fetish about origin stories. Here’s mine:
While re-awakening in the early parts of this century, I met and fell in love with Mara. I was teaching history at Eastern Michigan University when we met. I was struggling to find a place in modern scholarship in a field over-populated with scholars. Teaching is a fine profession and it paid my bills, and sometimes it can even be spiritually fulfilling.
Mara and I had done some spiritual and relationship workshops together as participants and her immersion in her master’s program in transpersonal psychology propelled her into more disciplined areas of practice. One of these areas was in the work of Ken Wilber which led us to participate in the 2011 Integral Spiritual Experience (ISE) held that year in Monterey. That was a profoundly altering experience. While Mara re-affirmed her commitment towards aiding the transformative work that we all should be engaged in, I came away more committed to aiding Mara in her work. Particularly inspiring at ISE were the workshops with Barbara Marx Hubbard who inspired so many us with the belief that it was not only possible but imperative to re-form our institutions. While before ISE I may not have had any lifelong ambition to create a learning institution, afterwards, it has become part of my life and relationship with Mara to build such a thing.
We started in 2012 down this road with an organization known as New Myth Works within which we were intending to develop programming for helping people transform their lives and world. Our biggest event soon became a New Earth Day celebration annually on the Winter Solstice. Remember, in 2012 the world was supposed to come to an end with the end of the Aztec calendar and there were global events and interconnected programming (through the www), and our New Earth Day was part of that celebration.
By 2016, I had settled into a “holding pattern” in academia. My university-level teaching experience wasn’t all that I had dreamed it would be. As novices (in anything), we see but one or two sides of a life, but when we become immersed in it we experience all the angles—social, political, economic, and so on—that make up any career. So, perhaps I was burned out. I study history mainly for the research—I was and am a thorough and meticulous researcher—which I loved—and that carried me in the history profession for about twenty-five years (seventeen of which I spent teaching at EMU).
Mara and I felt that the time was right for creating a formal institution, something solid in which NMW and other transformative organizations could do their work. We looked at some properties, developed some plans, but nothing really clicked or showed us all the “green lights” we were looking for. The universe, at such points in time, often gives people a shove. This shove came in the form of Jeanne’s scramble to find a new salon.
We had always envisioned that the Center would have retail space. But we always thought that the retail space would be secondary or supportive of the transformative work being done inside the Center. And that idea remains central to the long-term goals of Evenstar’s Chalice—the store exists to support people in their everyday spiritual practices and their transformations.
Oh, yes, and I have done the historical research on the building known as the Occidental Hotel (pictured here as it was in 1905) -- but I'll cover that in a later post.