In today’s guest post, “Brenda” shares a wrenching personal story with an increasingly happy ending. I feel very grateful to have been a healing resource for Brenda, as with others who have left various cults. At the end, I’ll pop back with a few comments. Now the spotlight belongs to this exceptionally courageous soul.
In high school I watched a documentary about a cult. People put on orange and worshiped a man who didn’t deserve it. I shook my head.
Then I spent 8 years of my life chasing Enlightenment in a different cult.
I joined because I liked their answers to my life-long questions about meaning, suffering and compassion. I also found what I was looking for just out of high school and on my own, a community to belong to, practices to do, a place to go, and a higher calling.
I did not find meaning or compassion, or at least not any more than I found in any random stranger.
As I focused more and more on my next life, this one became harder and harder — suicide hard, truth to tell. It turns out a steady diet of rules and answers weren’t good for this particular human being.
It wasn’t obvious to me that the group was the cause of my trouble! If you look online, they are not usually mentioned among the annals of cults to stay away from. We didn’t wear orange. There were no overt consequences of leaving. There was no proselytizing.
But it was one. It was one in the sheer time the practices took, in the special vocabulary, and in the one man who had the answers. It took me a really long time to see that all of it was causing my problems, not solving them. It took me even longer to leave.
Why did I finally leave? The main thing that did it was reaching that inner circle.
I learned the full extent of the lies they tell new people. They don’t do this on purpose. They believe what they teach, but I could not.
The main one was that once in, you are special, selected, better. I had to justify a lot to myself over the years, but I could not justify that. I spoke to my instructors about my despair and they said “You’re almost there, meditate more.”
I laugh now. Laughter helps.
I would like to thank Rose for her articles on the subject. I was reading her blog because of her information on empaths, but stumbled across an article about her own journey out of TM.
It shocked me. I dismissed the parallels I saw to my own life and finally contacted her about the empathy thing, as if that was what was wrong. If only I could stop picking up other peoples misery and concentrate!
She was professional and tactful. She told me the truth but did not ask me to believe it. I did not mean for this to turn into an endorsement of Rose, although I do endorse her sessions! It’s just that if I’d only heard the cult telling me to do more of the same, I probably would now be naming myself a failure for dropping out and gone back. Likewise, if I’d heard someone saying, “You’re in a cult, get out now,” I would have probably gone back even faster.
Over about six months, while I continued to practice and teach, I began researching cults. After hours and hours online, and at the library I had to drive 2 hours each way to find, I could no longer lie to myself.
I lived within the rules and answers I was given and ignored everything else. Instead of joy and peace, I’d found misery. I stopped practicing. I stopped teaching. I started leaving.
That was one year ago. I was living at a retreat center, so leaving meant abandoning everything. My job, my home, my friends, my community, my beliefs, my answers.
It was the hardest thing I have ever done. There are times I feel like a teenager trying things out for the first time, and there are times it’s hard to get out of bed.
I’m still grieving everything I have lost, but most especially the years.
There are also days when it looks really attractive to go back to my friends and my answers, but I’m stubborn and I know better. Meditation is not the answer to all of life’s difficulties; for me, it was a really slow way to die.
No one is coming after me, but I still have used neither my name nor the name of the cult. I am not quite at the place where I can proudly proclaim recovery and stand up with those who left before me for those who will do so after me.
For now, it is enough just to be alive. Most of the time, I am happy. Most of the time, I believe that these were not wasted years. These were vital for the life I am building for myself.
Sometimes I have to remember how to cry and be angry without judging my tears or meditating them away.
Sometimes I forget all about the whole thing in my rush to get to work or go out with my (new) friends.
All of the time I am grateful. I don’t know if life will continue to get better or easier or not. I’m sure there will be more hard times and more despair, but I will never ignore any part of my life again and call that “Enlightenment.”
This blog is definitely not anti-meditation, just anti-cult
A few words from the official blog person follow (as if anything could really follow Brenda’s eloquent Guest Post). Yes, this is Rose, and I want to make it very clear that I am not anti-meditation, nor am I labelling this whole world of sweet and beautiful practices as “cults.”
Meditation practices vary, just like any self-improvement practices, religions, houses of worship, etc. They aren’t necessarily cults at all.
Energetic literacy skills can help us a lot to tell the difference. Including the important chance to research different chakra databanks on teachers and healers. By reading your own aura once every six month, you can gauge the long-term consequences of any chosen path.
Sometimes a practice or lifestyle that sounds like a sure road to Enlightenment really does bring evolution of a rather different kind. Blog-Buddies, I hope you appreciate Brenda’s courage in sharing her story as much as I do.
On a personal level…
Yes, Brenda, your Guest Post did move me to tears. What honesty and eloquence!
Thank you for the kind words about how I was able to help you. I love all the quirky specialties that I have developed as a healer. Like any therapist or energy healer, you can read this practitioner’s life journey in the list of her specialties. (Ask me some time what they are, anyone, and I’ll list ’em; I’m not shy in that particular way.)
Mostly, though, I want to respond as a person who has been through a similar kind of experience to yours. Brenda, I believe that not a minute was wasted. Not for you. Not for me. Not for anyone who has lived for God through a cult and then exited from that used-up, completed bit of spiritual evolution.
To the extent that your practice worked, it gave you qualities of purity and insight that will help you forever after. To the extent that your practice slowed down your life, you’ll pick it up again, with interest.
One example that might cheer you is how I became pregnant for the first time at 43. Actually, I became pregnant for the first time on the very first occasion in my life when I did The Act without using contraceptives (preparing myself for when I might want to become pregnant in the future). At the time, I was so worldly-foolish, I hadn’t heard there might be fertility problems. And the kid who so easily came into the life of this silly, slightly older mother has been a huge delight to both his parents.
All the personal sacrifices I made (that were considered requirements, not sacrifices at all, while in my cult) — everything, and I do mean everything — that I put off until later — all that and more has been given to me. Within a few years, I am sure you will find something similar.
Being a fool for love, or for God or Enlightenment or for your greatest ideals whatever they may be — Dear Heart, I would do it all again if I had to, in order to learn what I know now and to serve as I can now serve. Aren’t all of us fools for something?