An Interview with Evan Root

Evan Root moved to Boston in the mid 1960s to help the Kushis establish the Macrobiotic movement.  With them he opened the Erewhon food store, followed by a restaurant.  He then lived in Japan for several years, studying and working before returning to Boston and posts at the businesses he had helped to start.

In 1981, a shift in consciousness augured a new focus for his life.  Since then he has held many courses and classes introducing and exploring simple awareness and the inherent openings, realizations, and possibilities that follow from that perspective.

In 1993, he founded an educational initiative, Kindling Point, to foster awareness of the non-separate nature of life and support the unfolding of human potential.

 

Some people will remember you from your workshops at Concord Institute over a decade ago, but for the more recent participants can you tell us a bit about Evan Root the person, where you come from and your family background?

Well, my personal self is at least somewhat washed off at this point in my life. I don’t know that there is much point in detailing it. We each have a personal self, of course, and certainly from time to time I bring examples from my life in teaching/learning moments when it seems that it may be helpful for a fellow traveller on his or her path.

What was the food culture that you were brought up in?

I grew up with the standard diet of most middleclass US American families, including meat, poultry and fish. I was raised in the countryside though, and my father was an avid gardener. So the vegetables were fresh, or home canned and stored in the cellar for winter use.

Who were your mother and father to you? What qualities or lessons did you learn from them?

My mother and father were both in professional theatre, my mother as an actress and my father as a set designer. I’d say I got my sense of order and design from my father and my spiritual nurturance from my mother.

Were you brought up in any particular school of thought or religion? And what was it that drove you to seek enlightenment, whatever that may be?

Shortly after I was born, my parents moved the family to the countryside in the state of Pennsylvania. This area had been settled by William Penn, a Quaker, and almost every town in our vicinity had it’s own Quaker meeting. They joined the local meeting and I attended a Quaker elementary school.

I cannot specifically say what was the origin of my quest. As a young boy I thought of God as my partner. It seemed that I loved and was loved by everyone.

This ‘grace period’ lasted until the confusions of puberty. Still underneath and within the turmoil of the teen years, life’s more fundamental questions, what is life, what is my calling, worked their way. This topic is taken up in my article A Macrobiotic Quest which is available to read on the Concord’s website, at the end of the Being Here, Present Now course description.

Who were the major influential figures (teachers, writers, leaders, artists) in your teens?

Hmmm. The one’s that come right to mind are:

Thornton Wilder

Jack Kerouac

Hermann Hesse

Alan Ginsberg

I think that you came across macrobiotics in your early twenties and saw it as a path to expand consciousness. What difference did eating macrobiotically make to your state of consciousness and also your experience of your physical health?

I cannot discern any difference to my state of consciousness that I can directly attribute to eating macrobiotically. Moods, yes, but not ‘state of consciousness’.

Eating more yang, I felt more testy, uptight. Eating more yin, I’d feel less focused, spacey. I did not have any serious health concerns at least, of which I was aware.

Am I correct in thinking that you took part in one or more transformational workshops with Werner Erhard’s organisation? How did you come to enrol in your first workshop and what impact did it have on you?

It was 1973 and I had recently returned from Japan. By then I had been thoroughly involved in Macrobiotics for almost a decade and had not ventured outside that circumscribed frame of reference. A woman arrived in the community from California where she had been very involved with EST (Erhard Seminars Training). She took an interest in me and before long I became very uncomfortable as she could see through my defences and was frequently pointing out my ‘racket’, to use the EST jargon. I enrolled in the training in self-defence.

By the completion, I was surprised at how refreshed and freed up I felt being with ‘what is’. I recommended it to all my fellow macros who would listen. In fact, Greg Johnson enrolled after a long late night conversation. I’d say it helped me out of the conceptual box that I and many other macros had gotten ourselves into. My experience with EST yielded significant ah-has and opened up new avenues of inquiry for me. Still, after about two years involvement, my interest waned.

I understand that you spent time training and working with a transformational organisation. What did that training give you?

In 1981, I took an opportunity to participate in an in-development training called The Next Step that was aimed at transformation at the level of group. It was through engaging with the processes of this training that led to the recognition of ‘I and the Infinite as One’, and a new life.

Shortly thereafter, I was asked to join the staff. I picked up the way of facilitating quickly as though I was born for it, and not long after that I was hired as director of that training. My work had found me and it finds me still, from that awakening to this day.

Did you carry on eating macrobiotically continuously through these different stages of your life and did it continue to yield benefits?

I would say that, in a broad sense, I have been eating a more or less macrobiotically oriented diet throughout, though I don’t think about it very much. I have cooked and eaten this way for so long that it even encompasses my ‘nostalgia food’. As to benefits? I‘m living, and I consider that a benefit.

What moved you to start your own group under the name Kindling Point?

After about two years, the educational organisation that I was working for decided to reorient to become a business consultancy. Admittedly, that’s where the money is. However I did not care to work within the parameters that would have entailed at the time.

I began to offer classes at conferences and hold small workshops that led to longer courses. My first several long summer courses were entitled, ‘A Kindling of the Spirit’. After moving out of Boston to a home with a back room large enough for some gatherings of people, I felt we needed a name that the work could be known by that was not my name – a name that could be owned in spirit by all who chose to participate and had a meaning that reflected the work. I was cleaning chimneys and repairing fireplaces for a living at the time. So the kindling point was a phenomenon that I often discussed with homeowners in regard to safety clearances around fire burning appliances. One day as I was walking around outside, all of a sudden the name just landed, Kindling Point, eureka!. “The auto-ignition temperature of a substance: the lowest temperature at which it spontaneously ignites …without an external source of ignition.” * I was gifted with a fitting name and metaphor for our educational initiative, familiar from my daily duties.

*Wiki dictionary

I recall that you have a passion for music. What was behind that passion and what is music for you now?

I wouldn’t say that I have an especial passion for music more than most. I do, of course, love music as many people do, and many musicians have participated in the courses I have held and have spread the word amongst musician friends. Some have said that much of my way of working is reminiscent of jazz improvisation or back porch pickin’. I understand that to mean that everyone is part of the process and everyone is playing his or her instrument (their beingness and body) and sharing in the ensemble.  From the beginning, I have incorporated music at specific places and at the closing of courses.

We are living in strange times where human beings in some parts of the world appear to be evolving and in other parts appear to be going backwards. How can we hold this and/or take positive actions, or is everything out of our hands and the unfolding of self will take place at its own pace?

This is a very deep question and must be answered with one’s life. Creation, maintenance and destruction are ever-present aspects of the material world. Einstein stated in 1946, ‘The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.’ Certainly the ante appears to be upped. Yet the pain and uncertainty of crisis can act as a gateway.

The predominant mentality of the world knows itself almost entirely through the sensory and relative fields of consciousness – In/out, up/down, pain/pleasure, right/wrong, like/hate, I/you, etc. This cannot be denied in this life. We have incarnated into relative reality. Yet when a deep recognition of the fundamental non-separate nature of being is realised, one can see one’s Self in All. Surely it is less likely that one would cut off one’s own hand or head. At least such self-infliction would be reserved for extreme cases required for the survival of the organism.

The journey of Self-realisation is inevitable. The Truth of Who I Am stands as an Isness above the fray. It is always here, available for recognition when resistance melts and heart is open. This is the One that is All. Peace, love, and understanding are its quale

Do you have any pre-course recommendations for those who will be taking part in your “Being Here, Present Now” workshop in May?

Yes. I have written a letter, which will be given to each participant about two weeks before we begin. It contains some logistical details for which there is no need to go over here. One thing that I would like to underline in advance is in regard to the days immediately afterward. Do plan for a couple of non-busy days for yourself, at the very least, one full day. These days can be as valuable or more as days on the course.  So, unless it is truly not possible, I recommend taking time to be with yourself and then gradually integrating into your more outwardly oriented life.