Saturday, June 12, 2010

Getting Out of the Mindset

As requested, this is a duplicate post from today's post on Gina's personal blog, Getting Out of the Mindset


A young adult (identity withheld on request) sent an email titled “Getting out of the mindset.” In an extensive self-revelatory and reflective message, this young adult explained having been born and raised in the TM community of Fairfield, Iowa, educated K-12 in Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment (MSAE) including some time at Maharishi University of Management (MUM).

While grateful for the deep connections of close friends in the precious home community, this person’s doubts about TM’s validity spurred personal searching into the background of TM and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. This person concluded that TM is not what the teachings portray. The young adult wrote of the ensuing personal liberation from a restrictive mindset, “ever since I have been skeptical of about every idea I have, realizing it may or may not be true. Once you embrace that idea you become more powerful, you have more control over your mind and your life, and I have become a happier, smarter, more understanding person because of it.”

This person sent an email because, “Since this first big anti-TM event I have still been unable to completely free myself of the TM doctrine... and still hold some concept that TM might be special.... Indoctrination is frightening, and letting go of world views you have had since you were old enough to understand them is a tough process.. I keep wanting to move out of Fairfield but the utopian style community the movement has established here is hard to escape. I have many, many friends who I love dearly here, and to leave them behind is a scary thought. What saddens me is that most of my friends are still in the TM mindset to some degree. None of them take it very seriously but it still remains in the back of their head that TM is special, jyotish can tell them what will happen in their lives, and that nature can "support" certain things they do. If you have any interesting stories or points to relate to me about my process of escape I would love to hear them! The topic interests me a lot.”

Name withheld by request
Full email not reproduced here at the writer’s request; only a few pertinent quotes included above.

Gina’s comment to readers of this blog: I am neither a professional exit counselor, nor therapist. I hold a deep respect for the potential of existential and psychological crisis when one questions all they have been raised to believe, and the community they love. Many from the TM Movement have been close to others’ psychotic breaks or suicide attempts when the duress of such personal crisis hits. Thus, I avoid acting in a therapeutic role and do not accept clients for cult recovery assistance. Professionals in the field of cult recovery are linked to the right on this blog. The young adult, above, already formed personal conclusions about involvement with the TM Movement. The writer, previously unknown to me, requested personal stories about leaving TM. My response follows.

Hello _____,

Thank you for your kind and heartfelt letter.  I sigh deeply.

You are intelligent and independent thinking.  Good for you!  Your compassionate self and social analysis will serve you well in life!

Your anguish is real.  It is hard to leave a utopian community and mindset.  Oh so hard. However, in a true utopia, you would not fear reprisal from expressing your own opinions. The outside world is not so scary, not tomasic, not full of rakshasas as you have been told.  However, you will never again find the "instant community" of enmeshed, almost extended family, to which you are accustomed in Fairfield. 

You CAN, with time, develop meaningful friendships and deep connections, with others outside of Fairfield.  You can meet others who are willing to question themselves, share discussions of same, and support one another in finding one's own path of integrity through life.  However, the bonds are not instant. Unlike cult life, healthy bonds are not instantaneous. True connection develops over time, sharing consistently with integrity, and with acceptance of differing opinions.

It is true -- you will never find the intensity of social closeness... e.g. enmeshment... that you experience in Fairfield, unless you join another cult!

Fairfield IS a special place, but it is not totally unique. Other cult based communities offer their version of the same social dynamics in which you were raised. There is a range of group-think within Fairfield, as you well know. This is also a common phenomenon in neighborhoods surrounding other cult communities throughout the world.

It is normal to be anxious about losing your loved ones and family from expressing your opinion in a cult setting. In a noncult setting, it is extremely abnormal to have such anxiety. you have normal responses to an abnormal situation. It can be frustrating to have circuitous thought-stopping conversations that return forever to TM, Ayurveda, and jyotish to solve everything. You probably don't want to hurt the feelings of those you love by directly saying "That's ridiculous!"

You are correct, in my opinion -- once you embrace the ability to question EVERYTHING -- you become more personally "powerful".. thus the name of my blog "Coming to Life."

I respect your desire for anonymity, as your social and professional connections remain TM and Fairfield based. Some of those whom I love in Fairfield are well aware of my online activism against the TMOrg and Maharishi’s leadership; others have ended our friendship over my outspokenness. You see, one is predicted to fail if they leave the deemed support of the deemed-utopia. Instead, others and myself have succeeded on the outside. What greater threat could there be?

You requested personal stories of “escape.” In that vein, I offer a bit of personal experience. You may find it helpful.

I, too, dearly love the Fairfield community. I was the first 'ru to graduate from Fairfield High School in 1975, before MIU prep began a middle school or high school. My daughter attended K-2nd grade at MIU Prep (MSAE's precursor). We will always miss the idealistic "loving" community that you call home.

Like avoiding social heroin, we could never again live in such a restrictive setting. And like a recovered heroin addict, we will always miss the addictive high of our former community’s enmeshment. Truly, there are many in Fairfield who I love deeply and forever. I will not name them. You and I must know many of the same people.

The only resources that I can offer you, are those linked on my blogsite. You can, of course, reach toward the "extended TM family” of the grown kids who left. They help one another throughout the world. In most major cities in the US there are small groups of young adults who come from Fairfield. They support one another.  I don't have a listing of such.  It's not my place to disclose who I'm in touch with.  You could ask around for contacts, perhaps older siblings of your friends.   As you know, there is a range of continued belief in TM and Maharishi. Many former TMers follow Amachi or other gurus.  Some joined born-again Christian groups or the Mormons to provide instant community.

I suggest that you apply to a non-TM university somewhere. You will sharpen your mind while developing relationships with other motivated young adults and university faculty based upon a commonality of interests, rather than based upon adoption of another’s dogma.

Obviously from my online voice, I've rejected most of the TMO official teachings and lifestyle.  My home even has a south facing entrance!  I still prefer natural fiber clothing and a healthy lifestyle. I still like Indian food! Unlike many TM kids, I've never been a rebellious party-animal.

After leaving Fairfield, my (now grown) children were raised with swim team, little league and the Boy Scouts in an upper middle class suburb.  We've made lifelong friends with amazing people who never heard of Maharishi, other than "Oh, the Beatles followed him briefly!".  We spent some time with Unity church, to give my children a respect for open spirituality.  No more church or spiritual labels, now that the kids are grown.  My grown children live honest lives of integrity; they do not attend church. Yes, it was immensely difficult for me to learn to connect with non-TMers, to consciously eliminate my TM-based vocabulary and worldview. But it is possible. If I could do it without cult recovery information and resources, and no other ex-TMers to assist, then you certainly can succeed! I suggest accessing professional cult-recovery resources; your adjustment will be much smoother with the information that is now readily available.

My father died last year in fantasy TM-think, after decades of needless pain while paying for costly TM cures through yagyas, ayurveda, jyotish, mystical talisman gemstones and other such. My aging mother continues the same vein while spouting Maharishi-isms.  I couldn't tell you how my adult-kids cope with the extremes cult-think or non-cult from their parents. My grown kids (3rd generation TMers) tease me as being part of the "ACC" (Anti-Cult Cult). I’ve told them to be careful because, “cult think / social enmeshment is our family illness.” Be wary of false flattery. Trust others’ behaviors over their words or kisses.

The International Cultic Studies Association runs workshops for those born or raised in cults - Second Generation Adults (SGAs), that’s you and me.  The ICSA workshop for SGAs could help you sort things out, without providing another dogma. My adult daughter found one SGA workshop helpful, even though she left Fairfield at the age of 10; she is really a 3rd generation.  For info on those workshops, click HERE. ICSA also has SGA mini-workshops associated with their annual international conferences, the next one will be in New York City this summer, for information on the NYC conference, click HERE.

Good for you - to access resources to help you reflect back onto your community.   Breaking free is a lonely process, compared to the seeming validation of group-think, but you will ultimately be stronger and more real. As Shakespeare wrote, “This above all: to thine ownself be true and it shall follow as the day the night - thou can’st not then be false to any man.” That’s the bottom line.

Coming to your own perspective on YOU, your community and your life is an important step in claiming your autonomous adulthood!  We must make difficult choices as we move forward into autonomous adulthood.  Sounds like you may be on the verge of such a step!

Let me know if you visit the Bay Area.  I'd be happy to take you out for lunch or coffee.

You are intelligent and determined - you will make it!

With admiration and respect.  

Gina :)


Sudarsha said...

Hi, Gina & un-names correspondent

I remember my first encounter with TM and what would become Maheshism as if it were today. I saw a paperback book with a picture of a guy with a beard. He was draped in white. This was, of course, "Science of Being". I instantly accepted that this was a legitimate avenue of exactly what I was looking for and never once had any doubt that "this is it".

That, of course, lasted through learning TM about 3 weeks later; becoming a TM teacher about 2 years later (by which time there were doubts battling it out with self-righteous conviction).

Doubts won, finally.

It is amazing, as I look back now, how we (especially "I") instantaneously leapt to a conclusion as adamentine as the unquestionable belief in one's own self-existent status. As unquestionable as the shining sun on a bright, cloudless day!

I have no idea how we teach or coach or guide others to perform that act of self-analysis, questioning those unquestionable (and possibly irrational) conclusions that seem to transform our lives.

I suspect that your kind and generous ability to talk with those who write to you, however, constitutes one of the most likely and most beneficial approaches to this very difficult area of life.

ed said...

"I remember my first encounter with TM and what would become Maheshism as if it were today. I saw a paperback book with a picture of a guy with a beard. He was draped in white...."

I recall a small poster with MMY in the window of a candy store in town. The store owners and children were deeply committed to TM. My first intro lecture was the result of this chance encounter with the poster ad.

You know what, no big deal.

Almost 40 years have past and i've attended many seminars, lectures and courses given by other Indian,
Japanese and Tibetan Traditions. Often interesting but
in the end told me FAR more about me and my expectations.

I have UNLEARNED alot since then.
Letting go takes no special skills or knowledge.
One of the important things to release is BLAMING others.
The chief one is blaming myself.
It's difficult for an uninformed person to make informed decisions.

My stupidity hasn't killed my yet and i still have the capacity to laugh at my many mistakes. Good thing since there will
be many more to come.

For me, i still read Alan Watts and listen to his lectures on
CD ( and DVD). This will cause the deeply academic or informed Eastern student to chuckle or maybe shake their head.

Somehow its the Teachers that are fully human that have the greatest appeal to me now.

Deborah1900 said...

It's so true that the community bonds in the TM world are one of the most compelling reasons for staying there. As humans, we are programmed to crave and respond to love and acceptance. It is a basic need and urge. And so the pressure to go along with group norms is very strong, because otherwise we risk being deprived of the bonds of protection and inclusion that the group offers.

Sudarsha said...

Mahesh micromanaged everything!

That said, I don't think he had had any idea that, all on our own, we'd come up with the type of loving community we did. We might not have been particularly kind about that community being challenged and were often very eager to expel anyone making waves, I guess. But we did create a loving if not very open community.

I'm not sure what this says about TM, Mahesh, Maheshism or us. Maybe all cults (and I don't use this term in a pejorative sense, entirely) do something like this. But my memories of the TM community (mostly when I was in Europe with the travelling circus of TTC's) certainly supports your observation, Deborah.

Tanemon said...

The attraction and/or comfort of a harmonious community is powerful and completely desirable.

The notion of "through the window of science we see the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment" is, I think, the element that clashes with it. Because science means not only hypotheses, research, proof, and theories - but also prediction power. I believe it's MMY's predictions, many or perhaps most of which did not pan out, that conflicted with the 'reality principle' in the psyches of many people.

TMer's psychological, physical, and social problems will gradually all vanish. TM will spread rapidly because people wion't be able to help noticing its value in the lives of its practitioners, and naturally will wish to learn it. TMers who learn the Sidhis will learn to hover, and eventually fly by mere intention. TM will stabilize society. TM will bring world peace, and the safe efficient use of natural resources.

Such have been the predictions. These must have not only bothered thoughtful, cautious non-initiates looking into what the TM world is about - they must have eventually have come to bother many of the people who'd become involved with the TMO, and maybe even some of those who moved to Fairfield.

ed said...

"...I believe it's MMY's predictions, many or perhaps most of which did not pan out, that conflicted with the 'reality principle' in the psyches of many people..."

Here is where i question whether meditation negatively affects our mind due to the experiences and feelings that arise from its practice.

I have no doubt that MMY lived a different reality from typical people and TMer's. His perceptions were probably changed due to the changes in his own mind and physiology
as a result of his own practices.

Here is my concern.

Was MMY capable of rationally evaluating the outcome of such practices and their effect on others mind/consciousness?

If, a person can change the manner in which they perceive
themselves, the world and others, is this CLARITY or a DISTORTION?

LSD, Peyote and magic mushrooms will change the way our perceptions operate and our thinking processes.
It can be DELIGHTFUL, fun, enjoyable and profound.
Can you still drive a car?
Operate equipment?
Cook a meal?
Maintain a relationship?
Make responsible decisions?

I am not convinced that changing one's consciousness is necessarily a GOOD or BENEFICIAL goal without careful consideration of how it could affect a person.

Using meditative techniques to alter ones perceptual processes and/or manner of consciousness MIGHT result
in a state of mind (being?) that makes sensible & rational living impossible.

Many teachers promote Enlightenment and meditation yet
look at all the SHIPWRECKS!

There is sufficient documentation showing how many notable Teachers had/have screwed up lives, hurt others and sometimes broke the law.

THIS is Enlightenment?

Sudarsha said...

Thank you, Tanemon, for this clear-eyed evaluation of the Maheshism/Reality discrepancy. While many would have intuited exactly what you have clarified, you are certainly the first I have read who has so clearly unmasked Mahesh's deviation from clarity in this respect.

Perhaps in large part thanks to Mahesh, I have developed a less that welcoming attitude towards most things that smack of new-agey spiritual. I wish I had learned to do this in grade school, but, for me, grade school was a relatively conservative Protestant religious school. [sigh]

While I don't recall "through the window of science we see the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment" as a specific statement of cult fact from my time with Mahesh (so much came after I bailed), it rings true, about as true as shampoo and face-cream commercials one puts up with on the TV.

It is difficult to chart Mahesh's progression of thought as so many of the old-timers from the early 60's just aren't available for us to compare the TM of the 60's with the jibberish of the 80's and 90's.

But thanks to Paul Mason and his excellent publications and web site, we can get some sense of how Mahesh thought, Beacon Light, and how he thought later MVED and so forth.

It seems clear to me, although I questions the validity of this, that the Mahesh of Beacon would not have approved of the shenanigans Mahesh of MVED. Yes, the early Mahesh would, I think, have approve whole-heartedly of the financial and apparent (although I suspect false) international success of the later Mahesh.

But the later Mahesh had had at least one if not two heart attacks (the stress and possible psychological damage cannot be estimated although I am sure it played some if not a significant role) and a minor (at least) head injury, possibly to the all important frontal region, in a helicopter rough landing!

So, a bright, industrious, narcissistic, micromanaging little git uses his (questionable) connection to a very significant Hindu spiritual leader to promote himself and, through a series of events which he milked for all they were worth (let's all say it together opportunistic bastard), he builds himself an empire of sycophants and the gullibly rich.

Well, I like to rant, especially against the sugar-coated ignorance our world seems so invested with. Thanks, Tanemon.

paulrio said...

I can appreciate the challenge of leaving Fairfield, especially after spending many many thousand$ on yagyas, jyotish, amrit kalash & simalar things, tm-sidhis, tm-rings, etc. I can imagine a person spending $30,000 or more on all the tm offerings. This could stop people from leaving Fairfield, especially the insecure types!

Sal44 said...

What's a tm-ring? this is new to me

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