Thursday, June 03, 2010

Two New Workshops by Jana Lalich & Colleen Russell

I received an email from one of my personal heroes this AM. Janja Lalich is one of the best-known scholars in cultic studies. I once worked with her and know her to be smart, compassionate, and an animated speaker. 

Any one lucky enough to check out these workshops will not be disappointed!

A Workshop for Former Members and Adult Children of Cults or High-Demand Groups and an On-Going Family Support Group for those with a loved one currently in a cult will be held in Mill Valley, CA, 10 miles north of San Francisco. They will be co-facilitated by Janja Lalich, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology, CSU Chico, author of Take Back Your Life  and Bounded Choice, and Colleen Russell, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, and Certified Group Psychotherapist.

The Family Support Group will be held on the 4th Saturday of the month, beginning June 26th, from 1:00 - 3:00 PM, in Mill Valley, CA. Group fee is $45.00 for individuals; $70.00 for a couple.

The  Workshop for Former Members and Adult Children of Cults or High-Demand Groups will be held Sunday, June 27th, 2010, from 1:00–5:00 p.m. in Mill Valley, CA .  Fee is $75.00; ($60.00 if received by June 1st).  Reduced fees available based on individual need.

If interested, please contact: Colleen Russell, email: or phone: 415-383-7721; or Janja Lalich, email: or phone: 530-514-3993.


eptfnj said...

I admire people that care enough about others to become involved in their lives for the purpose of assisting personal growth.

Having said that, i have doubt that workshops and seminars work when it comes to personal issues.

I can hear the cage doors being unlocked for the hounds of hell while this comment is written.

People that are committed to change, who understand the necessity to move beyond a viewpoint or attitude will begin to change on their own. Maybe a push or guiding hand can help - maybe. Often, a serious event, a personal loss or health issue will accelerate the desire for change.

Too many decades of going to seminars & courses have shown me that it is the person alone that must initiate the change, sustain the change and understand what is being changed.

This is probably obvious to many on this forum but generally isn't accepted overall.

Any person with a sincere and intense desire to understand themselves, what we call the world and life can simply sit down and without any other prompting or guidance begin the difficult, arduous and possibly rewarding process of self inquiry and self discovery.

The only caveat is that the process has NO guarantee of results or living happily ever after.

For me it is a matter of being lost alone or lost within a group. At least while alone, you might be vigilant and aware enough to not walk over the cliff. Chances are that in a group everyone will simply follow each other over the edge.

Sudarsha said...

I can hear the cage doors being unlocked for the hounds of hell while this comment is written.

Not from where I sit!

While I place little hope in the workshop setting itself accomplishing anything, for those who attend, we need to look, not at the workshop, but at what motivated them to attend.

So, there's no quarrel from me with what you have written, eptfnj.

My own experience has demonstrated (to me at least), that some workshops and similar settings have suggested to me that there is something I can do. Obviously, I cannot claim that "workshops"whatever they are, by whom they are led, etc. are in and of themselves effective. Such a claim misses a very important point which I think you have been at great pains to clarify, which I very much appreciate.

Recently, I came across a really great quotable quote. Maybe it accounts for the kind of closed mind we associate with cults, fanatical beliefs and fundamentalist mind-sets that appear to plague an otherwise open, joyful world: No man is happy without his delusion of some kind. Delusions are as necessary to our happiness as reality is.

It is very difficult for us, being social animals, to understand the value you place on "lost alone". But it makes sense and, perhaps, a few who, for whatever reason, have attend some workshop, conference or whatever, moaned to a friend, bitched to a therapist, the whatevers are well represented, perhaps a few of those few will see through the illusion of group security and undertake the rigorous challenge of making their own decisions for which they feel comfortable being not only in charge but responsible.

Thanks, eptfnj, it's always informative and pleasurable to read your considered view.

eptfnj said...

"No man is happy without his delusion of some kind. Delusions are as necessary to our happiness as reality is."


Why is a distorted idea, misunderstood concept, emotional prejudice or being plain misinformed a cause for or a reason for happiness?

Your contribution of this quote sets off a string of questions regarding happiness. Thanks.

I recall an old tale told about people that carry wood up a mountain for fuel. The bundles on their backs are huge, difficult to balance and seem ready to crush them.
Yet, somehow these people carry on. Slow at first but in time making some progress. Mile after mile passes by in sometimes silent pain. The toll on their bodies is real.
In what feels like an eternity, the journey is over and the bundle is dropped. COMPLETE RELIEF. It is a happiness that arises from DROPPING a burden. You could say it is a negative cause - a loss. A loss of a burden you CHOSE to carry and which over time you probably forgotten that you did so willingly.

Is this what you mean by Delusion?

Delusion could be compared to a bundle of ideas, concepts
and memories that are simply a big load of "stuff".
It pushes you down and tears you apart physically and mentally. In this case, everyone has delusions and ridding one self DOES lead to happiness.

I would ask you to consider this difference between happiness and bliss.

Happiness is when someone gains something they want.
Bliss is when you realize there is nothing you really need*.

*(I might even say that food, shelter and even breathing may be more of the bodies programmed responses then true

There are many stories about Zen Teachers asking their students "Why do you want Enlightenment?" and
"What is this Enlightenment you are seeking?"

People assume that there is something called Mukti or
Moshka that is real and actual and of benefit once attained.
How does anyoneknow this? Isn't wanting this also a delusion?

I am very biased with regard to the intentions of what is commonly called the Spiritual Seach (Mumukshutva etc...).

Isn't it funny that people think there is some uncertain time in the future when they will finally be happy and all their problems will be solved. In this pursuit, they miss NOW and the present opportunities to be fully alive.

My uneasiness is connected to the idea (delusion?) that one must engage in certain techniques and disciplines to be fully aware of who and what we are right now?

Is is a delusion to embrace the thought that we are imperfect and need something to be something other than what we are?

Maybe, our decision process itself accounts for our misery.
We make choices using incorrect premises and project ridiculous outcomes.

Sudarsha said...

I am going to start off asking you what you mean by spiritual search.


But why do we need our delusions? what is happy about stupidity? AND, less we omit to inquire, what is this thing we call "happiness", anyway. Is it something we actually need?

You ask excellent questions, eptfnj. While I do not necessarily agree with the author of the quote I submitted, I think he touched on what makes/lets cults work.

But, if we were to decide at this moment to live in the existential horror of unrelenting, crushing, all-consuming reality, it might prove a challenge of no small irksomeness! Even scientists who labour at cataloguing those realities that enable to universe to operate as it appears to operate have their leisures, their diversions and, probably, their delusions (such as money will make me happy or I need to write a book or I must become famous).

In the context of this Blog and our endeavour to let others know that they don't have to take Mahesh's word as the only avenue to ultimate truth (whatever that is), I personally see "delusion" as mistaking the rope for the snake, mistaking the finger pointing the way for the way itself! These two "illustrations" of what delusion is come, as you may well know, from the Hindu/Brahmanical tradition and, in themselves contradict everything that Mahesh did.

You said (very brilliantly) Happiness is when someone gains something they want.
Bliss is when you realize there is nothing you really need*.

*(I might even say that food, shelter and even breathing may be more of the bodies programmed responses then true

Mahesh presented the concept of "bliss" as a something. Delusion Number One. You

Sudarsha said...

What a delicious response! There are so many levels of meaning in your writing that I suspect we could all explore each and take many, many days to work through this feast. Or, we can enjoy it as it is.

The spiritual search, many a detour and wrong turn, has brought some of us here, sometimes in despair over the choices we made and lacking the confidence to decide what to do that will not make it worse.

But, eptfnj, you have, in my opinion, clearly outlined exactly what the spiritual search is when you said, above:

Happiness is when someone gains something they want.
Bliss is when you realize there is nothing you really need.

Obviously, the body and mind work together and don't particularly appreciate unhappiness and search for happiness. AND, of course, this is where all manner of religions step in bargaining to fulfil your quest for happiness at their particularly modest price. So, we remain in constant search mode because happiness doesn't last. Heisenberg noted this with his uncertainty principle. As soon as you observe/get/acquire/want something that changes it and it's no longer what you want. Heisenberg wasn't the first to notice this on the common and mundane level, but, well, it's science.

So, what is the spiritual search? Well, it can't be for bliss, because that's just another dead end. Again and again, Mahesh demonstrated that people will pay any price to get something for nothing. Bliss, in TM terms, seems to be something temporary.

But, eptfnj, you took the next step, and, at least to me, hit the jackpot. Bliss, as you define it is not the absence of happiness, but real happiness, "bliss" as you define it, is the recognition that there is nothing that you really need.

And, thus, the journey ends. Along the way, as so many of us have discovered, there are pitfalls as well, when we are fortunate, perspicacious, persistent, some teachers who can actually point the way without letting us get stuck (as Mahesh so cunningly did) on the person pointing the way.

Is bliss, therefore, unhappyness? No. As you define it, bliss is the ultimate happiness because it is the recognition, the understanding, the insight that we do not need things to be happy. Happiness is. Things get in the way, teachers get in the way, methods and ideas get in the way.

Yes, some teaching, some method, some ideas are necessary on the way. But when we want those teachings, methods, ideas, they turn into just more stuff that fails to deliver.

I'm preaching to the choir. Apologies.

Thank you for your contributions to TM-Free, eptfnj. For me, you have helped to further my personal quest to put Mahesh in context, to see that he is not what he pretends, to see how he got away with the delusional teachings he sold like tasty and calorie rich junk-food devoid of nutritional quality.

Tanemon said...

eptfnj, you wrote: "I noticed over time that there was no correlation between the proper practice of TM and my life activities changing for the better. There were definite positive subjective feelings but no greater skill in action. In fact,
i often felt inclined to simply do nothing at all. Over time,
i saw this as a progressive deadening of my senses. Even after many checking and residence courses."

My experience was a variant of this - slightly different, but closely related.

Initially, I got initiated only because I wanted to experience "transcendental consciousness". I did experience it, and I liked it. I found my meditations refreshing and centering. This in itself (not the idea, but the experience & its influence) seemed to help me feel better during my day, which did help a little with self-confidence, positivity, and extra energy. So I became more interested in, and open to, MMY's assertions that TM can help us in everyday life.

However, that effect levelled off. I had done some residence courses, and increased my daily meditations to half-hour each. But over time, this seemed to develop in me a propensity to dissociation (in the face of anything too challenging in everyday life)... and even slowed me down, made me more clumsy, and - hence - detracted from my effectiveness in action.

You say over time you noticed "no correlation between the proper practice of TM and my life activities changing for the better." I would say that it was not so much my life activities that did not change for the better, but my life circumstances. I mean, I do credit TM practice with keeping me from becoming habituated to alcohol or legal or illegal drugs (which habituations have become prevalent in our society). But there did seem to be a ceiling on a) the degree to which ordinary people could accept me (this sort of "bliss ninny"), and b) my level of accomplishments in the world. And I feel the two were related.

Our form of society isolates individuals and nuclear families, so it is important that we each be capable, active, skilled, and socially acceptable in the workplace.

Ironically, I'm still glad I learned to do TM, because it is one more skill in life. (I can do it if I want, just as I can do zazen if I want.) I kinda wish I'd stopped doing TM 10 years sooner than I did, and learned and become connected with some of the things I've learned and become connected with since then.

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