Monday, February 12, 2007

Remains of Ignorance: Asking for Help

I'm starting a new feature: quick hits on life after TM. I'm calling it "Remains of Ignorance" after the Maharishi's translation of the Vedantic concept lesh-avidya. For those who don't remember, the idea is that even after enlightenment, there remains some slight residue of ignorance in an individual, without which he or she would simply "drop the body" or die.

But I'd like to turn this concept on its head -- not meaning any disrespect for Vedanta. Only for the Maharishi's perversions of it. At any rate, I've found that even after I left the TM Org and the self-styled Maharishi Mahesh Yogi behind way back in 1995, there remain in my mind "alien artifacts," bits and pieces of Transcedental Meditation-based myths that still affect me today.

This post is about just one.

I don't know about you, but asking others for help was extremely difficult for me while I was in the TM Org. And for a long time afterwards. I always interpreted it as saying there was something wrong with me. After all, I had internalized the idea that I was "perfect," "enlightened." To admit something was wrong questioned my very identity.

And asking for professional help was especially taboo. After all, I might be banned from a course! Long after I no longer attended courses, the taboo remained for me. It kept me from reaching to friends, family, or professionals -- even when I was desperately in need of help to reassemble my shattered life.

It went even further for me: If someone expressed sympathy or offered caring concern, I would have a strong stress reaction. I felt shame. I felt embarrassment. I think once again it questioned my identity as a "perfect" individual.

I still have some irritability when offered help. But it's much better than it once was.

I am much better about recognizing and accepting caring concern.

A question for our readers: Does any of this resonate for you? Do you have this or similar "Remains of Ignorance"?

Please consider posting your thoughts in the comments below. Just click on "Comments" and type away. Please feel free to remain anonymous. You may help another former TMer with your insights!


Anonymous said...

well, you obviously weren't "perfect," you arrogant son of a bitch

Brady said...

The great thing about being anonymous is that it gives the poster the ability to say whatever he or she wishes without any accountability for their remarks. It's also the sad thing about being anonymous.

I choose to post using a name.

John, far from being "arrogant," your remarks struck me as coming from a humble place and I'm guessing that it took great courage to express them.

I, too, had and continue to have difficulty in asking for help. And although I have not paused to research a connection to my past TM life, I will now do so based upon what you have written. Thank you for that.

I do recall those days of feeling like I was far superior to the great unwashed non-meditators and that the things in life that plagued the rest of the world could not touch me because I meditated. Thankfully, reality set in and after a few years, I did finally shake off that delusion.

Thanks for sharing this and I hope others will as well.

--- Brady

Sue said...

Where is the arrogance?

Anonymous said...

Well, I think this culture started when they would ask you, in the beginning, when you started meditation, that you be 'stable' and not have any mental problems, drug abuse, etc.
I'm not sure of all of the reasons for this, other than, there was always this 'holier than thou', aspect to the culture, exemplified by Bevan, and others...
This turned a lot of people off in the Fairfield community, beginning maybe in the mid-eighties...
I guess there was always the attitude that Maharishi had concerning leaving the Himilayas and descending to the 'land of the mud'.
And I guess he wanted to stay out of the mud, as much as possible; especially after having been burn't by the Beatle's negative publicity; I think he became a little put off by the 'hippies', and so on...

Anonymous said...

John and Brady, can readers infer that before you became involved with TM, you had no difficulty asking for help when you needed it?

I ask because I know quite a few people who have never had anything to do with TM who are constitutionally unable to ask anyone for help. It seems to me to have something to do with self-image: if I need help, it's because of some lack in myself.

I just did a quick Web search on the phrase "inability to ask for help" and got two pages of hits about this inability in a wide variety of contexts, so it would appear it's a fairly common problem.

Judy Stein

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...


Fair question.

I don't remember an inability to ask for help being a problem before my involvement with TM.

Like all anecdotal reportage, my post risks the kind of potential error you indicate. That's why I asked if it resonated with others. Without rigorous research, there is no way to be certain that it is more prevalent in the TM, or cult, population than in the public at large.

However, what precedes good research is a good question. I've raised a question. Readers can examine themselves for its pertinence. And with any luck, it could form the seed for future research on the question.

I have other questions of a similar nature to raise. They, too, don't offer proof. But they may be the particle of sand that bring about the pearl of substantive research.

Or so I hope.


Brady said...

It is a fair question and one for which I do not have an answer. As I expressed in my comment above,

"And although I have not paused to research a connection to my past TM life, I will now do so based upon what you have written."

I do not want to leave the impression that I am necessarily blaming my past involvement with TM for this, but do plan to look into it to hopefully rule it out or in.

--- Brady

Sue said...

i think it is a genetic trait. In my case it was both in my father, and in my maternal uncle. Both had major problems asking for help. I think it's something beyond pride; I think it's a body chemistry. In John's case, something changed in mind or body to cause that, due to an altered identity during TM life. Something fundamental changed for him. I always had trouble asking for help, before and after TM

Anonymous said...

Unlike some who it appears had no self-identity before doing TM and in their thirst to belong, ate it up hook line and sinker, believing themselves to be perfect and enlightened, I suffered no such delusions, though I continue to do TM. It says far more about the practitioner, thinking of themselves as perfect, unable to ask for help, than it does about the effects of the simple and effective technique of TM.

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