As the AIDS epidemic took hold in the early 1980s, self-help guru Louise Hay created a space for healing called the Hayride. Drawing hundreds of gay men confronting a deadly pandemic, Louise promised that self-love would help them overcome AIDS.
Louise Hay: Love is the most powerful healing force there is
and the pathway to love is through forgiveness.
Forgive yourself first
so that you can forgive others.
You deserve to be well.
You deserve to heal.
You deserve love.
Narrator: I was 24 years old and I went to Los Angeles to audition for pilot season.
I didn't know a soul.
I was walking down Melrose Avenue and I physically ran into this friend that I had gone to school with. He smiled at me and he said, “Hey, what are you doing Wednesday night? ” And I thought he was inviting me to church. Truth be told I had an enormous crush on him. I got to this thing called the Hayride
started by Louise Hay. I was raised in a very fundamentalist Christian background. I associated the word church with -- with shame. There, there was literally no shame.
Louise Hay: We don't you know, I don't heal anybody. That's not what I do. I just provide a space where we can uncover how absolutely wonderful we are. And many people find that they are able to heal themselves. And this is very heartwarming to all of us. I started out in January of this year with six men with
AIDS in my living room, and look where we are today. You're perfect as you are right now. And yes, --
Narrator: I begin to understand what it meant that you cultivate your own family. I was... I was hooked.
Louise Hay: Just because your father may have been a big macho man and wouldn't ask anybody for help. Doesn't mean that you have to be that way. None of us are capable of doing it all by ourselves all the time. Stop scaring yourself. How often do you choose to think thoughts that literally terrify you?
Follower #1: This is actually very empowering. Because if I could actually give myself AIDS, well take it one step further then I can take it away. I absolutely feel that I am overcoming this disease. And every day that I am here shows me and shows the world that I am overcoming AIDS.
Louise Hay: You know, we're not limited by the medical opinion. It depends whether we choose to do that or not. I think it's a terrible shame that at the moment the medical community is telling everybody that they have to die because it's just not true. We know that that's not true. There are plenty of boys
that are doing very well. You know we can either buy into the fear or we can not buy into the fear.
Narrator: Louise was classified as a new age guru.
Louise Hay: How is your body reacting to the things you said you were willing to release? What will you have to change? What will you have to choose to believe? In order to let these old limitations go? Are you willing? how willing, I cannot tell you exactly what your future will be like. But I know
that if you choose to be negative and resentful, and fearful and guilty, you are going to have an uncomfortable life before you. And perhaps illness too.
Narrator: Her signature thing was mirror work.
Louise Hay: Let's use the mirror to check our resistance level, look into your eyes and say, I am willing to change. I am willing to change. Are you hesitating? Do you feel that it's not true? What is the belief that's in the way? Remember, it's only a thought and a thought can be changed.
Narrator: I was studying and watching her, lift people out of an unprecedented despair, a pandemic, a violation of humanity.
Louise Hay: ...for yourself, it's an act of loving yourself.
I know a lot of people here are looking for a savior. The place to look is right here in the mirror. Right here, honey. This is the Savior that you're looking for. What do you want to say to him?
Follower #2: I've looked at you so many times. And I've... I've even....I've even told you, even told you......that I wanted you to hurry up and die, rather than.....rather than admit it, I just wanted to... I got too much pride or something.
Louise Hay: Sounds like your daddy.
Follower #2: To just ask. Just ask to hold your -- somebody's hand. I dont want you to die. And I don't want you to live so uncomfortable all by yourself.
Narrator: I worked with some friends to do the technical part of the Hayrides. Then they said Louise really wants music to go along with the message. An opening act. In this group Alliance, we would laugh and say that we were the first New Age boy band.
Alliance Band (singing): Everybody wake up Into the morning into happiness Hello world It's like a different way of living now Thank you world We always knew that we'd be free somehow --
Narrator: I would ride next to Louise in the van when we would go to places.
Alliance Band (singing): It's such a change For us to live so independently --
Narrator: She was like my mom. I didn't have to hide any feelings that I was having.
I never had that kind of parental love before. When the book you can heal your life came out. things really started exploding beyond the gay community.
Phil Donahue: I love you. (Laughter) Let me see you do it.
Audience Member: I love you. (Laughter)
Oprah: A lot of people in Los Angeles have been exposed to you and so your name is sort of on the grapevine and for at least a year, I've had various people come to me who've been to your sessions and say that they have been healed.
Louise Hay: You know I'm not a healer. I don't heal anyone but I run a support group for people with AIDS.
Narrator: There was a New York Times reporter that said, if it wasn't because of AIDS, Louise might be just another woman teaching workshops on how to love yourself. And that you're not going to cure the AIDS epidemic with self love. That anger is necessary to bring our activism out.
Oprah Audience Member: I read your book, and I have it, I enjoyed it. Now, I think that somewhere down the line, it's not just your inner healing, it's not your concentration only. There's other factors than just from within yourself. I think that there are layers, a lot of factors out there, that
Louise Hay: Are you saying you on't know I think it can be cured. Oprah Audience Member: Oh no I think it can be cured bu I dont think just by meditatio or just -- Louise Hay: No, just No, that's no guarantee at all. If you come to our group, and we're now runn ng almost 600 people every ednesday night, you will feel b tter about yourself. Definitel . We're going to play little music and do a special v sualization. Get comfortable, c ose your eyes, and really relax Begin to visualize yoursel as a little child of fiv or six, and look deeply into this little child.
We're going to play little music and do a special v sualization. Get comfortable, c ose your eyes, and really relax Begin to visualize yoursel as a little child of fiv or six, and look deeply into this little child. Narrator: I think people with trauma, find and seek each other out.
Louise Hay: My early childhood gave me many opportunities to create self loathing. When I was 18 months, my parents divorced and I was put into a series of foster homes. And when I was five, I was raped by a neighbor. And then my mother remarried, and my stepfather both battered and abused me.
Narrator: That trauma, that sadness, that violation, it weaves itself into your soul. Self love is the only thing that saved her and me.
Louise Hay: About seven or eight years ago, I was diagnosed as having cancer myself, and I realized that I was being given a chance to do some work on myself. Because I knew that cancer comes from a mental pattern of having a lot of resentment about the past, and also having a lot of feelings of
not being good enough.
Narrator: That diagnosis is the thing that moved her into this spiritual boot camp. She started looking at everything that was unloving. And she believed that worked because the cancer was gone.
Louise Hay: Love is the big healer when we can really get down to loving who we are, our life changes and it's amazing the diseases we don't need.
Narrator: People were dying and I watched that crowd grow, not necessarily out of inspiration, but out of desperation. The funeral and the memorial service one after another after another after... I mean Alliance, we must have sang in 70 memorials in one year's time. I watched how this...this subset of
society was clawing and grabbing at her to to fix it.
Follower #1: A person comes along like... like Louise or a group like this group, who say....who support you and say yes, I know you can get well yes, I know you can survive this, overcome this, and even achieve greater health than you've ever known before.
Louise Hay: And people that are getting well are the ones who are really taking responsibility for their health.
Narrator: When you're in the middle of a storm like that. People want to be fixed. People want it to go away. We all miscalculate. We do it because we want some kind of hope. When people didn't get fixed, when people died, I think it could produce shame. Some people felt her approach was harmful. All I
know is that there was a pure intent there.
Louise Hay: Good evening. Hello. I'm Louise Hay. And welcome to another hayride.
Oprah: I think it's important to emphasize too because a lot of people think that that's what's wrong with our country's everybody's loving themselves too much. There is a difference between loving yourself and being selfish, that there's absolutely the opposite.
Nassaney: Exactly. I'm certainly not arrogant. I love who I am exactly who I am. And I've created a wonderful base around me and people who have surrounded myself as a very totally loving group,
Doc: That I'm not powerless in the world, that I'm not a victim of any disease that might come along, that I have some say in this and some power and that I'm not alone.
Narrator: I loved her. I loved her deeply.
Narrator: I loved her. I loved her deeply. Alliance Band (singing): Theres nothing to rearrange,
Alliance Band (singing): Theres nothing to rearrange,
Narrator: I can see that there's a difference between curing and healing.
Alliance Band (singing): Im capable of being the best me I can --
Narrator: We were looking for hope. And Louise, helped other people in their own despair. That was healing.
Louise Hay: Wake up to your own potential. Realize how divine and magnificent you are. And realize you have the power to make changes. You are not stuck. You can begin to make changes by changing the way you think. And above all, go to the mirror and look in your eyes and say I love you. I really, really love you.
It'll work miracles.