In 1990, five years before I left the Transcendental Meditation Org, I briefly dated a ravishing TM Governor.
She was radiant. Within as well as without. Bright. Creative. Open. Frighteningly articulate. I was insane for her.
Real moth-and-flame stuff.
She had led a challenging life, enduring abuses before and during her career as an insider in the TM Org.
One day, bubbling up out of no where, she shared with me she had had an affair with a married man. He had set her up in an apartment, covered her expenses.
"I was a prostitute," she said simply. And looked me straight in the eye.
I really lucked out. I didn't argue with her. I didn't dismiss or diminish her feelings. Even though I wouldn't characterize what she described as prostitution. Or shameful.
In one of those rare moments of grace we experience from time to time, I sat quietly for some moments.
Our silence was soft as a breeze, soothing.
Then I heard someone say softly:
Whatever you have done, whatever you have suffered, it's part of who you are today. And today—I love you.
Her face relaxed. She smiled.
It was my voice we had heard.
I learned something precious that day. I began the long journey to forgiving myself.
I had stumbled on a truth.
Knowing her past didn't change who she was in my heart.
Not one bit.
Like many of us spiritual-abuse veterans, I found it surprisingly easy—in time—to forgive the Maharishi as my guru, the leaders of his movement, and my fellow TM teachers.
Learning to forgive myself? Staggering.
Even knowing it was all a con, I was wracked with guilt, feelings of disloyalty. Above all, the fear that they were right. The only reason I abandoned the TM Org and Heaven on Earth was there was something monstrously wrong with me.
Without our conversation on a gentle early-spring afternoon 20 years ago next month, I'm not sure I could have ever achieved self-forgiveness.
It's my hope that every veteran of Spiritual or Cultic Abuse will have such a moment of clear, glimmering, dumbfounding revelation.
And will begin forgiving themselves in that moment.
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