Harbin Hot Springs is a nonprofit hot springs retreat and workshop center in Lake County in northern California, near the wine-producing Napa Valley region, about 2 hours northeast of the San Francisco Bay Area. Significantly influenced in its current form by the 1960s and 1970s, Robert Hartley (AKA Ishvara), its founder who still lives on property, bought the land in 1972 to be a Gestalt Center with hot springs. Sold to Heart Consciousness Church (HCC) in 1975, Harbin is also a kind of visionary, hippie commune where 150-180 residents live and operate the retreat center for visitors from all over the world. Harbin's New Age Church of Being (NACOB) was incorporated in 1996. Harold Dull and the Water Dance Family created and developed Watsu (water shiatsu) and Waterdance, two new forms of water dance movement therapy, at Harbin. Located on 1700 acres, much of which lies in a beautiful, remote valley, Harbin is a leading expression of the 'New Age,' and attracts an eclectic and colorful variety of visitors and residents. Harbin's clothing-optionalness, its pools, its milieu, and its natural beauty significantly influence remarkable aspects of the 'Harbin experience.'
Some relevant books vis-a-vis Harbin's history:
Dull, Harold, with the Water Family. 2008 (2004, 1997, 1993). Watsu: Freeing the Body in Water and with Tantsu on Land. 4th edition. Middletown, CA: Watsu Publishing.
Ishvara. 1996. Living the Future. Harbin pamphlet. Middletown, CA: Harbin Publishing.
Ishvara. 2002. Oneness in Living: Kundalini Yoga, the Spiritual Path, and the Intentional Community. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
Klages, Ellen. 1993 (1991). Harbin Hot Springs: Healing Waters, Sacred Land. Middletown, CA: Harbin Springs Publishing.
(See also "Symbols: Writing to the Infinite, Harbin Books, Ethnography" - scott-macleod.blogspot.com/2008/11/symbols-writing-to-infinite-harbin.html)
About Harbin's churches, HCC and NACOB, that Harbin created (from Harbin's web site):
Heart Consciousness Church owns and operates Harbin Hot Springs. It is not a church in the traditional sense of buildings, structure and congregation. It is an embodiment and a manifestation of the New Age: that common thread uniting the Human Potential Movement, the Holistic, Natural Movement, and Universal Spirituality.
We identify so completely with this point of view, we call it Heart Consciousness, which we resonate with most deeply, and try to manifest consciously. “Heart” is the inner place where Oneness and Love are experienced. Love of ourselves, of each other, and of the natural environment, is the everyday experience closest to complete identity with Oneness.
The purpose of the Church is to teach spiritual life and how it can be realized by individuals; and to spread wide the practice of Heart Consciousness. Further, our purpose is to provide opportunities for the practice of work and organizational skills, including the discipline and character development necessary not only for effective work, but also for spiritual practice.
The Church honors the spiritual dimension in everyone and each human being’s unique expression thereof. It accepts individual differences in interpreting the essential unity of the Human Potential Movement, The Holistic Natural Movement, and Universal Spirituality. We believe the New Age already exists in these three movements, and our work is to combine them, giving strength to the whole that they form, and then to reach out and to teach.
New Age Church of Being
One of the exciting aspects of New Age Religion is that it draws on the Human Potential Movement, Wholism, and Universal Spirituality, thus allowing its adherents to find inspiration in many different practices, traditions, symbols and metaphors. The bottom line is the miracle of existence itself and the magic that comes from cultivating a grateful awareness. All world views can find a home and an expression in it, including science and atheism. You need not give up your own religious traditions - it is inclusive.
Bodywork, Yoga, Trance Dance, Holistic Foods, Meditation, prayer circles, and quiet places are some of the expressions of New Age Religion to be found at Harbin. The New Age Church of Being, or NACOB, oversees those aspects more traditionally thought of as religion: Rituals, ceremonies, and rites of passage including New Moon and Full Moon ceremonies in the Warm Pool, weekly Kirtan (Hindu devotional chanting), Full Moon Pipe Ceremonies, Pagan rituals marking the Seasonal Cycles (especially May Day and Halloween), and monthly men’s and women’s traditional Sweats during the rainy season.
NACOB Ministers are trained through a six-month program open to residents. The meetings are generally once-a-week, with formal classes in philosophy, history, comparative religions, and traditions alternating with more informal classes for sharing, hands-on practice, and rituals. Many of these classes are taught by the students themselves (and indeed, each student is required to teach a class as well as conduct a ritual). For some, we invite experts.
What do students have when they graduate? Well, hopefully they find that the classes are interesting enough to be their own reward. Beyond that, graduates begin to be somewhat comfortable offering ceremonies, including weddings and other rites of passage. They understand symbolism and metaphor and are able to recognize and take responsibility for trance states induced by rituals. They are able to recognize and avoid dogma. And they have an increased understanding of the personal power and effectiveness to be gained by practicing integrity and presence.
The Minister Training Course is not absolutely necessary for ordination as a NACOB Minister and not a guarantee of acceptance. Nor is it necessary to be a NACOB Minister in order to do rituals and ceremonies at Harbin – that is open to everyone including guests, and is usually arranged through the Events person in the Workshops Department.
NACOB Ceremonies & Events
Some events are announced in advance on our Events Calendar page. For exact times and locations, check posted schedules upon your arrival.
Chanting -- (Every Sunday in the Temple)
Peter and the "Harbin Kirtan Band" offer chanting at Harbin not as religious "worship" but as an invocation of the energies represented in simple inspirational chants and by the various traditional Hindu deities. Chanting can induce a transcendent meditative state and achieve a state of pure yoga (union). The art of chanting was passed on to Peter by Kirtan master and former Harbin resident Bhagavan Das, who began chanting on Sundays at Harbin in the early '90's. Various Harbin residents and guests make up the band each week with instruments such as ektar, guitar, cello, bass, dilruba, sarod, harmonium, tabla and kartals. Attendees can make a joyful noise as "The Heart Consciousness Church Choir" singing simple English and Sanskrit call and response chants and are also welcome to dance, meditate, practice asana or just enjoy the vibration.
New Moon & Full Moon Ceremonies -- (Monthly in the Warm Pool)
The New Moon represents letting go of the old and bringing in the new. The Full Moon represents abundance and gratitude. We center ourselves in the universe by inviting each of the cardinal directions to join us, thus welcoming All of Life:
- East represents birth, the rising sun, Spring, mental energy, inspiration, and air.
- South represents earthly life, noon, Summer, spiritual energy, passion, and fire.
- West represents old age and death, the setting sun, Fall, emotional energy, compassion, and water.
- North represents the mystery time between death and birth, midnight, Winter, physical energy, the secret of manifestation, and earth.
- Above is generally considered male energy, Below is female energy.
The details of the ceremony are different each time, inspired perhaps by an astrological symbol or an urge to focus on a specific prayer. After our prayers and meditation, we raise a joyful energy, often howling at the full moon, then settle into a profound peace which we send out to all the world.
Sacred Pipe -- (In the garden at the full moon – times vary)
Offered by Harbin’s own pipe-carrying medicine woman, Lorindra Moonstar, the Sacred Pipe ceremony is based on Lakota, Cherokee, and other traditions. The cardinal directions are invoked (see above) and the stem of the pipe inserted into the bowl to represent male and female. Again, we are now centered in All of Creation. Prayers are placed into the herb mixture, which represents Earth, and then placed into the bowl. The element of Fire is used to light the herbs, the breath and smoke represent Air, and saliva is Water. The pipe is passed around the circle, each smoker touching the bowl to Earth and pointing the stem to Heaven as s/he meditates upon the prayers and blesses all with the smoke. The circle is opened, and songs are shared.
Sweat Lodge -- (Upper Meadow, various times during rainy season)
Amidst ritual, fire-tenders heat rocks to red-hot while participants enter a light-tight lodge made of willows and covered with blankets. The rocks are brought in and the heat in the lodge rises till intense sweating is produced. This is repeated for four rounds (representing the cardinal directions) as prayers, songs, sharing, silence, drums, and rattles help to transport the spirit in the searing heat. Visions and emotional releases often take place and are welcomed as part of the cleansing process.
Beltaine/Maypole -- (May Day celebrations)
This is the ancient sacred marriage in which the priestess anoints a king, often crowning him with stag’s antlers, and their love-making guarantees the fertility of the land. After ritual invoking the directions and the marriage ceremony, the joyous couple purifies for the job at hand by leaping over the Beltaine Fire. Drumming, fire-leaping, feasting and merry-making follow. As a separate event or incorporated, prayers are woven by dancers with brightly colored ribbons (representing the cardinal directions and All of Life) around a male pole inserted into the female ground.
Samhaine -- (Halloween)
This is the time between the years on the old Celtic calendar – “time out of time”. The veil between the worlds is thin and the dead are consulted and honored. There is often a passion play for the dying god, wearing stag’s antlers, who represents the stalks of grain which have spilled their seeds and lie fallow. However, though he dies and will now take a long journey through the underworld to meet his shadow, he has sown the seeds of his own magical resurrection in the Spring. Bountiful harvest, ancestors, the mystery of the shadow world, lamentation and prayers for successful resurrection are all themes for the Samhaine ritual (pronounced Sa-ween).
Minister Training and Degree Program
Ann Prehn, founder of the NACOB Minister Training Program, offers an ongoing correspondence course leading to minister ordination and as well as a Bachelor of Spiritual Arts, Master of Ministry, and Doctor of Divinity. This course guides you to develop your own unique ministry, and gives you valuable ministerial tools. Metaphorum Ministries has been a California non-profit since 1996.
Harbin's pools, its milieu and its natural beauty significantly influence remarkable aspects of the fabric of life there.
Into the pools soon . . .
(http://scott-macleod.blogspot.com/2008/11/bubbles-brief-history-harbin-hot.html - November 18, 2008)