Tuesday, March 27, 2007

REMAINS OF IGNORANCE: Shame & the TM Movement

I've written before that I left the Transcendental Meditation Movement three times before my final exit in 1995. It was a long slow process. Along the way I would see the occasional "red flag" that set off warning bells in my head. This column is about one such.

About 1988, I remember an incident from when I was active as a Governor in a local California TM center. I was invited for dinner at a "strong" meditating couple's home. They happened to be Citizen Sidhas.

I remember offering to help chop some vegetables or something. The woman was pleased and invited me into the kitchen. I happened to glance into the refrigerator as she was reaching for the food. I noticed a six-pack of Sierra Pale Ale. Just at that moment she caught my eye and saw that I had seen it.

She slammed the refrigerator door shut. Neither of us mentioned the beer. But I had the impression that she was embarrassed. At any rate she gave me the cold shoulder the rest of the evening.

Now she had no way of knowing that her having some beers in her fridge didn't concern me. You see, the prevalent mood of the Movement, as I experienced it, was one of judgement and concommittant shame. One had to always watch what one said or did -- or even felt. Make the wrong choice and you could be barred from a course -- or even from the TM Center.

My guess is this woman was thinking of me as a TM Governor first and a person, second. I just enjoyed her and her boyfriend's company. The decisions they made in their personal life didn't concern me. But most likely either she, or someone she knew, had had a bad experience with Center types and had learned that other TMers, particularly those in authority, weren't to be trusted.

What a shame! A beautiful evening ruined in a microsecond because I happened to glance in the wrong direction. So many beautiful lives ruined by shame or the fear of shame in our Movement.

I guess there's no room for real people in our "spiritual" Movement.

Does any part of this resonate for you? Do you find yourself making excuses for the judgmental behavior of Governors and Sidhas?

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!


REMAINS OF IGNORANCE is an occasional feature of quick hits on life after Transcendental Meditation. It's a reversal of the Maharishi's translation of lesh-avidya. He claimed this was a Vedantic concept: Even after enlightenment there remains some slight residue of ignorance without which one would "drop the body" or die.

I've found that even after I left the TM Org behind, there remain in my mind "alien artifacts," bits and pieces of TM-based myths that still affect me today. I represent my own experience only here. But I've learned from my years counseling TMers that a significant number of others have had similar experiences.

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