It is the place to check out what's new and weird today--and what could become part of your life style tomorrow.
The Whole Life Expo, billed officially as "America's leading showcase for health, success and positive living," is perhaps better known among its devotees as a consciousness circus, a festive self-improvement extravaganza featuring products and services for use from birth to death--and beyond.
Where else can you find cassette tapes of "positive lullabies" (to ease children to sleep with "beautiful thoughts") and information on where to get a dead body mummified (then entombed in the side of a Utah mountain)?
Where else do you encounter practitioners of aromatherapy (in which the essences of herbs and flowers are taken into the body through the sense of smell) and purveyors of tofu pups (the vegetarian's answer to hot dogs)?
All of which may sound strange and esoteric now, but as regular attendees of this annual fair like to point out, what is considered flaky and bizarre one moment is often mainstream fare before you know it.
They note that acupuncture, which was not legalized for California practitioners until 1981, is now acceptable enough for the sore behind of a Super Bowl hero. Or they observe that "inversion exercisers"--those devices in which gravity defiers hang upside down--are now sold at Sears. They say it wasn't that long ago that something as standard as whole-wheat bread was considered an alien substance consumed only by "health food nuts." And they remind passers-by that vibrating chairs equipped with rollers to massage the spine are now retailed at Neiman-Marcus.
Many such alternatives were first introduced to the public at fairs such as the Whole Life Expo, the latest version of which was held recently at the Pasadena Convention Center.
But as is to be expected, those holistic health practitioners who have moved stress reduction classes into corporations and taken mental conditioning to Olympic athletes have new wares to offer.
If you can judge by what was on display at the Expo, these enthusiasts are now teaching such techniques as self-hypnosis through tape recordings of music laced with subliminal suggestions (several Expo vendors offered a large number of tapes that sound like music but actually contain positive statements on anything from weight control to arthritis relief).
Or they're experimenting with the "healing power of crystals," as in natural quartz crystals that are thought to be amplifiers and transmitters of human energy much in the same way that crystals amplify and transmit electronic energy through radios. (One of the Expo's most popular panel discussions was on the use of crystals; a lecture and three-hour seminar on the subject were also well attended.)
Or the pioneers are now demonstrating increasingly comfortable ways to meditate and relax. (Perhaps one of the most unique presentations at the Expo occurred in the "stress reduction center" where, along with a number of body therapies, the "Embodi-Cloud" was sampled. This set of 17 pillows, designed by Santa Monica movement specialist Grant Ramey, is reputed to provide a support system for the body that encourages a maximum flow of physical energy. It also appeared to induce great pleasure in Expo-goers who tried it, judging from the looks of relief and near-ecstasy on their faces.)
But along with the new and unusual products and services displayed at the Whole Life Expo, there was also surprising input from more established quarters. A large number of medical doctors served on panels offered throughout the weekend-long exposition.
Just some of those who served on panels included Dr. Andrew Weil (discussing the immune system), Dr. Lendon Smith (on nutrition), Dr. Virginia Livingston-Wheeler (on whole-body approaches to cancer), Dr. Hyla Cass (on women's health care), Dr. Joe D. Goldstrich (on healing from within) and Dr. James Kwako (on treatment of pain).
In addition, two-time Nobel Prize-winner Linus Pauling was on hand, discussing Vitamin C research, and author Dr. Robert Mendelsohn offered further "Confessions of a Medical Heretic."
According to Brian Duggan, director of the Expo for Los Angeles (the event is also offered in numerous cities throughout the country), this year's Expo attracted between 16,000 and 17,000 visitors. And, he said, it was intentionally designed to be free of "a certain psychic fringe element."
So, for instance, there were no psychic advisers or tarot card readers at this year's Expo, though there have been in the past. (The Whole Life Expo began in 1982 with its first Los Angeles presentation in 1983.)