Legacy of the Williamson’s Sandstone Retreat

sandstone retreat legacyOnce NASA was testing a deep space radio array that could reach satellites around the dim outer planets of our solar system. What message did they choose to beam into the vastness of space? It was the Beatles’ song, “Across the Universe”. Among the lyrics were the words:

Sounds of laughter, shades of life are ringing through my open ears
Inciting and inviting me
Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns
It calls me on and on, across the universe

In his press release, the usually staid NASA reporter said, “With nothing to stop it, this song will go on across the universe. It has achieved a form of immortality.”

That’s a very romantic image, and I’m as much a Beatles fan as anyone else of my generation, but chances are the signal will be too weak and distorted to appeal to teenagers on some distant inhabited planet. Sandstone, on the other hand, put a ripple in our social fabric that does indeed change lives. John was indeed a limitless undying love that shone around me like a million suns, and he does call me on and on across the universe.

I remember one evening at Sandstone when a successful gentlemen approached me to say thank you for an unforgettable weekend. “It was like falling down the rabbit hole from Alice in Wonderland,” he laughed. “Exciting, crazy, a kaleidoscope of wild emotions, a thrill ride I will always remember.” He took my hand and brought it to his lips, kissing it softly. “Thank you, Miss Barbara, for the most magical unforgettable weekend of my life.”

So let that be Sandstone’s legacy—a magical Camelot for one brief and shining moment, too exciting and beautiful to ever be forgotten.


Spiritual FreedomMy good friend and Anthropologist, the late Sally Binford, declared that the human race has been a failed experiment. She stated that human’s shortfall was linked to a failed social consciousness and lack of understanding one’s self. Hopefully, we will prove her wrong. Her words “man is not longed for in this world” still echo in my mind. I view this issue as being non-accepting of our sexuality.

Why did we bury, deep in our consciousness, the fact that we are hyper-sexual beings? Author Christopher Ryan, in his book, SEX at DAWN, compared us to the Bonobo monkeys. The females would enjoy sex throughout the day, with different partners, while they went about their chores. Sex in some cultures is simply a part of their daily routine that is as common as eating or brushing teeth. Most of our culture still follows the path of centuries old repression surrendering to puritanical slavery, as their old reactive and automatic programming dictates.
Sexuality is an integrating force of such scope and magnitude that our culture has overlooked. Sexuality, if accepted, is socially stabilizing to our culture.

Without owning our sexuality we can never be whole people; just fragments here and there. We subject ourselves to easily be controlled by other people and corporations seeking power to manipulate us for their own purposes.

Our Sandstone experience convinced each and every one of us to embrace the liberation and exuberance we felt; from the opportunity to walk around nude in a beautiful natural setting away from the chatter of artificiality. We loved our bodies and enjoyed the light breeze blowing on bare skin. Add the freedom of open sexuality and the past centuries of sexual repression goes away like a puff of smoke.

The conclusion of the story is while we were enjoying our new sexual freedom, we became strong individuals with newly developed principals and related to our peers with equality and interdependence. Dependencies in the way we had known them simply disappeared.

Embracing an Alternate Lifestyle

The Alternative Lifestyle

As a single and successful farm girl of 24, I managed to survive and thrive in the male dominated world of sales. I loved a challenge and took a position with a major corporation where I soon was a major player. Needless to say, my rise to prominence put a lot of men’s noses out of joint, and they made not-so-subtle suggestions to me that I should stay home and raise kids. I told them it was a great idea, and I could hardly wait to ignore it!

Yet even after establishing a stellar sales record and winning many awards, the so-called “American Dream” was looking more like a nightmare. I was working harder and living less. I found being cooped up in an office, no matter how spacious, was intolerable, so I would drive to see my clients. That presented another problem: suffering through the congestion on L.A. freeways at least three hours a day. Yes, I was independent and owned my business and could buy what I wanted, but this was not my idea of freedom or happiness.

When the pain of schlepping through this sterile, cold, dog eat dog environment began wearing me thinner than a one-sided dime, I knew I had to find a way out. This job was turning me into a robot, and I didn’t fight to leave one sort of zombie existence just to find another. I began to dream of a new and better way of life. I had the spunk and the motivation…all I needed was the method.

A short time thereafter I was on a sales appointment and met that mystical person, that sense of completion, in a man named John Williamson. I call him a man…he was more like an idea, a movement, a category of one. I came to sell him an insurance policy and he sold me a great destiny.
We found that we wanted the same things in life. So, with John’s engineering and problem solving background, we agreed to design and create an alternate lifestyle. We knew there would be controversy and our new ideas wouldn’t fly in the face of established religious beliefs and old cultural conditioning.

For me personally, I must embrace change and re-evaluate my principals. I was hesitant towards an alternate life style but, at the same time, I was seeing grand rewards. Towards a New Psychology of Being by Abraham Maslow provided us the knowledge that humans actually had a hierarchy of basic needs to be filled. Sex was near the top of the list.

So John and I created Sandstone Retreat. It was a dream for me that had come true. When I awoke, I found myself in a “back to nature setting”, a love community like the one described in Robert Heinlein’s book, Stranger in a Strange Land. We were all nude and practiced open sexuality without guilt or shame, and we were free from jealousy and possessiveness after shedding some raw emotion. Honesty, openness, and mutual respect were our garments, so we had little need for the curtain of privacy. Love is the most powerful emotion on the planet. It begins with learning to love ourselves, and it naturally follows that the love with us attracts the love of others. The rest takes care of itself.

An alternate lifestyle was attractive to our Sandstone membership. All shared in living a happier and healthier life with the opportunity to better understand ourselves. We learned how to be our true self (rather than a false ego personality) and grow into an inter-dependent person, and the best part was that we were sexually liberated.

Sexually Repressed in the Midwest: Growing up in Middle America

Nothing changes in Nature’s beauty – it is always beautiful!  Imagine the view of vibrant green rolling hills, populated with massive fields of varying crops, wheat, corn, hay and more.  Additionally, clear water streams satisfied any appetite of a fly fisherman. It was a hunter’s paradise.  The Midwest produced an incredible number of commodity crops that were distributed around the world to feed the hungry.

Contrary to what the New Yorker’s had to say about us; “there simply was nothing between N. Y. and Los Angeles.”  In fact, the truth; the Midwest has always been a stabilizing force for the USA.  We were proud to feed America and provide sanity for city folks retreat.  Remarks such as these were further damaging to my own self-worth.

Being a young farm girl and growing into a teenager, time passed ever so slow, filled with frustration, misery and pain. It felt like wearing a straight jacket, and I dreamed of having wings to move on to a happier and freer lifestyle.   All the pent up emotions and feelings from being restrained would later need to be undone for me to be happy and live a rewarding life. Family support was minimal, and few other children to play with.  Rag doll, orphan Annie was my trusted companion.  I loved her and my other best friend was a little dog named boots, who loved to escort me through the fields on the way to catch fish. She and boots went everywhere with me.  Our favorite country song had lyrics that said” somehow we will get by.”  Our song to inspire us! The second song lyrics to keep us going; “love makes the world go around”.  What eluded me was the feeling of love.  I was starved for touch, pleasure and play!

Positive for me, I was born before Dr. Spock recommended all babies should be bottle fed.  Years later the dangers of bottle feeding became known, it hindered bonding between mother and infant, further destabilizing childhood development.

It was a hard life being a farmer.  Always concerned about whether the crops would grow to maturity or be wiped out by drought, freezing or heavy rains. There were many chores to be done on the farm and my dad needed a boy and mom needed a girl so I filled in for both of them.

So much suffering and misery existed because everyone was sexually repressed!  The subject of sex was taboo!  Even hugs were off limits—it may lead to something??? Everyone was deprived of love and could not discover the remedy.  Under my breath I said someday I will work to diminish sexual repression and a few years later in 1969 I led the sexual revolution from Sandstone Retreat in Topanga Ca.. I am proud of this accomplishment!

Nudity vs. Nakedness

“What is dirt?” goes the old quip. The punch line is, “soil that goes where it’s not wanted.” Nakedness is an adverse reaction to nudity. Nakedness is the shame people feel when who they are and what they are stand side by side.

It is somewhat easy to deal with external nakedness—the reactions of others. Dealing with internal nakedness—the panic and shame we feel when our curtain is drawn and the sunlight falls unchecked upon our human heritage—is somewhat harder to deal with.

The body and spirit were partners to the ancient Egyptians. In their afterlife, the worthy live again when their soul is reunited with a body cured of mortality. Centuries later a belief arose among another great civilization—the Ancient Greeks—in which two great gods strove for control of the universe. One represented darkness and matter, the other light and spirit. To these people, body shame was a wise counsel of the God of Light that all flesh is mortal, corrupting, and distracting.

At Sandstone, we believed the mind and spirit worked independently as appropriate and at the same time interconnected in a dance of harmony, a state of synergy, a mutually beneficial symbiosis.

Each reflect the other and also have their independent input. The body has its own awareness and you can listen to its knowing provided through feelings; it doesn’t have the agenda of ego so in its own way is wiser.

One belief we held at Sandstone was that our body performs incredible tasks and must be cherished.  Our spiritual responsibility is to care for our body with respect, kindness and compassion. We believed that man is basically good and saw nothing shameful about our humanity.

Nude exposure of our bodies, when in appropriate settings, keeps us enlightened, honest and truthful.  A nude person finds it impossible to lie to themselves and others. A clothed person finds it easy to lie thinking their clothing will cover up the lie. Also Nudity eliminates aggressive and abusive behavior.

Sexual repression continues a black cloud over nudity, love and sexuality. Being in the nude does not advertise come have sex with me.  Love does not exist because we have sex.  Linking together, Love, Nudity and sex just makes for a lot of chaos, confusion, and a faulty premise.

In the early 70’s we at Sandstone were placed in the position of having to defend our first amendment rights.  The citation issued was for three or more persons, not family members, exposing our nude bodies to one another.  The court ruled; it was our First Amendment right and dismissed the case.

Through the act of appearing Nude, say at a Nudist Park or a designated beach we can become more aware of our body and will be motivated to change how we appear to ourselves. When we have (common) body shame or a tendency to eat so much and not be sensitive towards our bodily appearance, nudity acts as a great neutralizer and guides us to overcome such negative attacks on ourselves.

A Tale of Two Kitties

The people of Ramesses’ Egypt were very much in touch with the “nature” in “human nature”. They had no quarrel with nature, and they even held such acts as the yearly flood of the Nile as sacramental mileposts that measured out their lives and renewed the land. They liked their wine and music, they sang the praises of love and laughter, and they looked for any excuse to celebrate.

These Egyptians idolized their cats, seeing in their quiet dignity mixed inextricably with a lust for life a model of a life well lived. The death of the family cat was nothing less than the loss of a child. The lifeless body was taken to the embalmers for mummification as the spirit was bid a swift and pleasant journey to Mother Bast where all wounds are healed and all tears wiped away.

Bronze Saite era art of an Egyptian cat in the Gulbenkian Museum

Come forward a few centuries and a few thousand miles to the people of Victoria’s England. These people were at war with nature. Their proper deportment was as people who never urinated, never defecated, never farted, and never ever had sex. Except, of course, that they did it strictly off the record.

There were mostly black cats in Victorian England, but nearly all had at least a small white patch of fur somewhere on their body. It was just out of living memory that the gene pool of all-black cats had been wiped out in an epidemic of witch hysteria. No longer reviled as familiars, cats were still regarded as the epitome of insatiable lust. The joie de vivre that touched Egyptian fancy horrified the Victorian mindset. The unquestioning loyalty and dependence of the dog had a place in the rigid class-conscious society while the cat’s contribution to popular culture was naming the “cathouse”, a place where men paid to do things men never did…except when they did it off the record.

During our Sandstone days we made our peace with the cat. Like the Egyptians of the Two Kingdoms, we embraced the nature in human nature, removed the masks that hid our instinctual heritage, and encouraged one another to claim their rights and uphold their responsibilities in unleashing the inner tiger.  Sex is a socially integrating force of great scope and magnitude, completely overlooked by our popular culture. Repressing our sexuality only stalls the process of enlightenment and makes the problem worse. Your heritage is powerful; run if you like, but it will follow you wherever you go.  You cannot defeat it as the Victorians sought, but you can embrace it and sail on its wings as the Egyptians did.

Some members of our society have turned into themselves and asked the hard questions relative to “how can I contribute” to a better and more productive lifestyle?  Thus, realize that our sexuality has far greater benefits than only procreation.  It is imperative that we stop repressing our sexuality and open ourselves to kinesthetic communication.  This mode involves touch, body contact, and most importantly, sex, which fills our need for intimacy.

It has been over 40 years since the Sexual Revolution happened and we are falling far short of owning our sexuality and progressing towards a new psychology of being, blessed to be a free thinking and independent soul.

But far too many members of society carry on with business as usual on automatic pilot with their focus on Procreation, which continues us down that destructive path of population explosion and ultimately ends in human extinction.  We can do better.

Healthy Living in Alternative Lifestyles

There is a greater humanity than the individual can achieve. We were designed to network and cooperate. Our emotional needs would seem the primary cause, yet the real culprit is our species’ greatest strength–diversity. Each of us is a piece of a puzzle, ideally suited to provide a unique contribution to the social fabric of greater humanity. While we are fulfilling that role, we become more than a person. While we shrink from that role, we become less than a person.

Back in 1971, while appearing on the Dick Cavett’s television show I made what was even for him an uncommonly frank statement. From my perspective as a Sandstone alumnus, living in a sexually free community was a banquet that fully satisfied one’s Maslovian needs while most poor souls were starving to death.  The audience responded with disturbing disapproval.  John and I struggled against our society’s reluctance to put the nature back in human nature. For some entrenched and absurd reason, our culture substitutes competition for intimacy, driving a wedge between loving hearts.  Why do we continue in this futile hamster wheel to make a living which at the end of the day is not a life?

Our relationships with one another have been built on false assumptions throughout history, a built-in limit to our potential as social beings.  Traditional relationships are possessive, a quality that makes all secondary relationships competitive, secretive, and discrediting.

Naturally, if secondary relationships are relegated to “cheating,” we are forced to lie to our primary relationship, loving in the shadows and feeling riddled with guilt. End result, scandal, separation, and divorce.  Even if the relationship is not broken, it forever loses its wellspring of renewal—mutual trust and respect.

Look how many high profile people have been swept up in scandals, their lives ultimately destroyed because they were bound to one person who failed to meet their full needs and dared to chafe at the restrictions society demands.

It is human nature to encounter desirable and attractive people throughout our lives.  Christopher Ryan, PHD and author and researcher of “Sex at Dawn” says that humans are hypersexual beings, likening us to the Bonobo monkeys and their communal emotional and sexual relationships.  In looking at how far we have diverged, we see the level of our sexual repression in a mirror crafted by unprejudiced hands…those of Mother Nature.

A positive alternative approach to rectifying this sorry state would be to engage in honest, mature, respectful and open dialogue with your primary bond about how to build your lives together, including new people in the relationship without jeopardizing what you already have.  It is important to show respect towards our partners and protect the relationship rather than risk wasting it on some unknown situation.   Building trust and loving relationships with others delivers each of us real power. Relationships cannot be bought with money!

A Sandstone Kaleidoscope

liberator 2

As I sit here typing in the nightly silence of Nevada desert, my mind is whisked away on the magic carpet of memory to Sandstone retreat. There the sun is shining and couples are laughing in the courtyard. I feel a hand rest on my shoulder…John’s hand…and I look around half expecting to see him standing behind me, his unruly blond hair spilling around his smiling face like a lion’s mane. I look around and see nothing but the office hat rack standing in the shadows.

Don’t feel sorry for me. I can take these mental journeys without regret, having come to the conclusion that Sandstone was more of a state of mind than a place. Once you have had the Sandstone experience, it never truly ends. John is still over my shoulder, though we’ve had to be together in a different way since the funeral.

You too can have the Sandstone experience, but don’t search for it with a map. It starts deep inside, in the person that hides behind the mask society and self-doubt forces one to wear. Let me tell you how we found it, and perhaps it will help you venture out toward new horizons.

There were unspoken dynamics inherent to the Sandstone lifestyle. As a social change organization, it encouraged personal growth through embracing positive change, openness, and flexibility. It was the quest to reach one’s potential that energized and structured the community. The serenade from the song birds started each day and set the tone for what followed. The rest of the day was a blank canvas waiting for the creative and playful impulses of the residents to fill in. What followed was spontaneous, but it was never anarchy. There is a deeply suppressed roadmap in human nature that draws us toward a very different order and pattern from the limits our so-called “civilization” puts on our humanity.

We gave interested couples an overview of what it was like to live in the community and what would be expected of them. It was imperative that all family members contributed to our common goal; to support and maintain all functions of the retreat.
Generally prospective members would first join the club to get a feel for the (lay of the land so to speak) and assess the flow of energies and activities of what to expect. If they were comfortable with the energies and felt they may want to be a part of the alternate life style inner community, next was to determine the skills they brought, their flexibility and above all possess a positive outlook on life. Next question was “how did they see themselves” and what could they offer the community.

It was a 15 acre estate that required continual maintenance from cleaning of the Olympic sized swimming pool, to scrubbing the drive ways to washing Eucalyptus acorns off the pavement that stabbed us in the bare feet while running from the main building to the pool house. Whatever needed to be done it was imperative someone be there to rise to fill that need. Examples: I was responsible for the club operations and John dealt with all media matters.

Visiting day members were there to enjoy the peaceful and calm retreat while sunbathing in the nude to soak up some delightful sunshine, relax and swim in the heated pool with temps set at 93 to 94 degrees.

Night time at Sandstone Retreat we hosted parties a couple (couples only) nights weekly. Sometimes more often! Everyone showed up dressed but quickly ditched their clothes to get into the swing of things. Dinner was enjoyed in the nude with much good conversation in the living room about Alternate living. After dinner many retired to the Ballroom to engage in sex, some in dancing under the twirling disco ball with a projector of wild colorful patterns on nude bodies. We loved our bodies and struggle to be whole beings. It was a cherished time in our pleasure palace. Nothing had ever been available like Sandstone Retreat, therefore, no one ever forgot their experiences at Sandstone Retreat as it was a one and only of its kind.

I Led The Sexual Revolution

You couldn’t imagine a more unlikely candidate to lead a sexual revolution!  In the days before the stork had a GPS, a baby girl intended for Malibu, Honolulu, or Paris ended up delivered to a small farm in Missouri. Yes, Missouri…we call it God’s Country because nobody else would build there.

Even as a little girl among the corn stalks, I knew I didn’t fit in.  Problem was, the world was a giant jigsaw puzzle, and places where I didn’t fit were a dime a dozen.  I was restless, a salmon who wanted to head back to the headwaters of a stream where I belonged but had never swum before.  I went into the business world…got a lot of chops and busted a lot of moves. I had what it took to succeed as a woman in a man’s world, and yet I was miserable.   I had the aching certainty I would know what I liked when I saw it, but had no clue where to begin.

At last I found that mystical place, that sense of completion, in a man named John Williamson. I call him a man…he was more like an idea, a movement, a category of one. I came to sell him an insurance policy, and he sold me a great destiny.

taisau / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

John was a pied piper and he played a tune that was strange and wild, yet beautiful. I followed it and didn’t look back. What was most wonderful about that haunting melody was that he admitted to me in bits and pieces that I was the one that inspired it. We were complimentary…two halves of a perfect relationship. It was to capture some semblance of that relationship in permanent form that led me to wrestle with marriage.  Wrestle I did, like Jacob wrestling with the angel.  Like Jacob I was seeking a blessing. When I found what I was looking for, I was possessed with a drive to tell other little girls in Missouri that they too have a homeland where their spirits can roam free.  If I help even one, that would be a fitting tribute to John and wellspring of satisfaction to me.

Life with John at Sandstone was a dream for me that had come true.  When I awoke I found myself in a “back to nature setting”, a love community like the one described in Robert Heinlein’s book, Stranger in a Strange Land.  We were all nude and practiced open sexually without guilt or shame, from jealousy and possessiveness.  Honesty, openness and mutual respect were our garments, so we had little need for privacy.  Love is the most powerful emotion on the planet.  It begins with learning to love ourselves, and it naturally follows that the love with us attracts the love of others. The rest takes care of itself.

Many revolutions throughout the history of mankind have ended in revenge, repression, and disappointment. This revolution ended with the healing magic of touch. On that hopeful note I end my first post!