A ‘gently grizzly” passed to eternal slumber last week. He wanted his story told.
"Whatever is unnamed, undepicted in images, whatever is omitted from biography, censored in collection of letters, whatever is misnamed as something else, made difficult-to-come-by, whatever is buried in in the memory by collapse of meaning under an inadequate or lying language- this will become,not merely unspoken, but unspeakable.”
-Adrienne Rich, On Lies, Secrets, and Silence
Electron webs of heavy-hearted global TM offspring buzz over another premature passing of a beloved peer. Like most TM-kids, “Dan” deeply loved his meditation and genetic family. Dan’s frighteningly strong arms will never again embrace anyone.
Many in TM’s global community care deeply for Dan and his kind family. Dan’s lifelong connections with the well-intentioned Transcendental Meditation community sustained him with compassionate love and commitment.
Raised with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s deemed enlightened peace plan through the global Transcendental Meditation Movement, Dan’s connections and love encompassed the world. Even as a youth, Dan lived by his recent favorite Facebook quote ~ “be true.”
Dan was one of the most kind, gentle and forgiving souls. He strove always to do right by himself and for others. Nearing age 40, Dan lived his last few years with his patient loving non-TM father. With support of his solidly stable father, family and far flung loved ones, Dan’s soul flowered peacefully through art, music, and his continued connections with global loved ones.
Dan joins one sister and his mother who passed before him.
In many conversations over the years, Dan wanted to share his story publicly. Dan wisely distinguished between abiding love for the people in his life, and the TM-community’s foundation of deluded ideals. His earlier frustration with lifelong judgements from TM’s narrow idealism evolved to compassion for manipulated devotees. Over the years, Dan and I had many conversations comparing similar dysfunctions between his background and my own upbringing and adulthood through TM's previous generation.
Dan wanted to interview for David Sieveking’s documentary, “David Wants to Fly”. Unable to return to Fairfield when David Sieveking was filming on site, Dan provided a video interview for the German filmmaker. Like others, this interview was omitted from the final film. Dan’s ongoing quiet activism supported efforts toward healing acceptance for all. Dan wanted me to publish his story several years ago. He approved a manuscript which included the tales to follow.
Oprah Winfrey : while promoting Transcendental Meditation, are you listening? Dan was disappointed by your recent endorsements of the meditation Movement that had defined much of his life.
Deemed enlightened and blessed by a karmically elevated birth, TM kids-now-adults are bonded through shared secrets of neglect and loss while their spiritually devoted parents sought enlightenment and world peace.
Like many idealized TM kids, Dan was raised alternately globe trotting between his mother’s advanced Teacher Training and other courses with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and family-values midwestern roots : Wisconsin, France, Holland, San Diego, Switzerland, Kansas, India, Iowa, Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts were equally home.
Dan’s mother, Susan, was one of my dearest friends. As such, Susan shared intimate details and doubts. Susan and I first became friends when Maharishi called together several thousand followers for his first “World Peace Assembly” in Amherst, MA, 1979. We both lived within the TM Movement at the time. She had already divorced Dan’s father for a deemed better-than-normal life with Maharishi’s noble directives.
Dan, as a young boy, wallpapered his mother’s home with me while we awaited the birth of his younger sister Lara. Years later in Fairfield Iowa, Dan played for hours with my young sons. Dan asked permission to call me his “Mamma Catena” after his own mother passed.
Susan’s magnanimity and gentility delighted all who knew her. She graciously embraced all with genuine affection. Like the rest of our community, Susan’s idealistic devotion to Maharishi guided indoctrination of her children with Maharishi’s teachings, as she believed to be in their best interest. As a TM Initiator and then Governor of the Age of Enlightenment, Susan’s family and our community were destined to bring heaven on earth.
“A gentle heart is tied with an easy thread.” George Herbert (1593-1633)
Susan and I consoled ourselves between bouts of dysentery from unsanitarily prepared food in New Delhi, India, 1980 when our hearts longed for our absent children. We were sucked into TM community’s next exciting global vortex, having joined another several thousand Maharishi devotees for his month-long “First International Vedic Science Course” in New Delhi India. On an overcrowded dirty bus amidst New Delhi’s diesel fumes, I vowed never again to leave my child(ren) for Maharishi’s dictates.
With encouragement from dear friends and myself, in 1983, Dan settled into Fairfield, Iowa with his divorced mother and his siblings for TM community deemed-support of peaceful enlightenment. As an adolescent, Dan integrated to MIU Prep, precursor to Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment (MSAE).
Dan later stayed with my ex-husband and myself for months at a time when Susan attended Maharishi’s advanced programs in the Netherlands. Caring for each other’s children in pursuit of enlightenment was accepted practice. These Dutch delft dishes were a ‘thank-you gift’ from Susan, upon her return from one such prolonged course with Maharishi in Holland.
When attending Maharishi’s middle school, Dan questioned Maharishi’s promises, earning him eviction from the enlightened MIU Prep. When transferred to Fairfield’s public schools’ in the mid-1980s, Dan was labeled a “Ru” (nickname, short for Guru, once used by Fairfield locals for the exotic meditating outsiders who invaded their town).
As a marginalized teen in Fairfield’s public schools, Dan sometimes landed at my family’s front door rather than attending Fairfield High School.
“What will I tell your mother about sheltering you as a truant?” I objected.
Dan responded : “She’d rather I’m here with you rather than getting stoned on the streets somewhere.” Thus earning admission to my family home, rather than school, on some days.
While other parents (my beloved “TM-family”) devotedly attended Maharishi’s twice daily “Program”, hours-long meditation and “flying” marathons in MIU’s gender-divided campus domes of enlightenment, Dan sometimes led a pack of truants baking chocolate chip cookies and playing with my preschoolers - dejected “enlightened” teens seeking a sense of normalcy.
Dan and other teens of the 1980s knew that I refused to attend hours’ daily Program, despite objections by my then-husband and community. I refused to neglect children as I’d been neglected by my own enlightenment-seeking TM parents.
Spiritual idealism called young adult Dan to visit ashrams and TM-childhood buddies the world over. Along with family members and friends, Dan visited my family in California several times after we had left TM. As with other cults, connections between TM defectors remain strong.
Dan’s lifelong quest for spirituality, living God’s goodness to the best of his abilities, sometimes clashed with harsher realities. Dan’s cognitive dissonance bought him repeated admissions to mental institutions. The understanding community of loved ones stood by his side through all.
As a young adult Dan had once bolted from Maharishi’s celibate men’s retreat center in upstate New York, seeking help for disturbing visions after months of hours-daily meditations. Unfortunately, TM teachers are not taught to screen for meditation-induced psychosis nor acknowledge a devotee's cognitive dissonance. Susan cried in my kitchen when describing her only son shivering in thin yoga clothes with bleeding bare feet, surrounded by snow and ice. Dan had called his mother collect from a phone booth two miles away from the enlightened retreat center. When Dan had sought help from Transcendental Meditation’s leadership, their trained responses were : “Something good is happening.” This is just “stress release” or “bad karma.” Advanced TM teachers encouraged him to meditate more, turn within to support deemed “experiences of higher states of consciousness.”
Dan’s adorable younger sister died suddenly a few years later in 1997, before completing MSAE’s high school. In our weekly conversations, Susan relayed how she was relieved to know that Lara had died painlessly, a smile upon her face, when her neck snapped as a passenger in a drug related auto accident.
Dr. Bevan Morris, with his honorary PhD in Maharishi's Science of Creative Intelligence from Maharishi European Research University, was then president of Maharishi schools. He refused to bring drug prevention and treatment programs to MSAE, despite concerned requests. Bevan once adamantly declared “There are no drugs at Maharishi school!” TM kids tell me that many deemed-enlightened youth continue to self-medicate through their school’s mandated meditations.
Fast forward only a few years. Dan stabilized in Fairfield on disability funds because psychotic bouts, exacerbated by meditation and unresponsive to Maharishi Ayurved’s unproven therapies, interfered with holding a job. One evening, Dan found his mother wandering aimlessly among the aisles of Fairfield’s meditator-owned natural food store and social hub, “EveryBody’s”. In a stupor amidst grocery aisles, Susan did not recognize her own son.
Dan promptly brought his mother to Fairfield’s Jefferson County Hospital, where she was airlifted to University of Iowa’s medical center to learn that advanced brain cancer squeezed her brain to one side within her skull cavity.
Rather than seeking medical treatment for years of debilitating headaches, along with her beloved community, Susan had been pursing years of costly Maharishi’s Ayurved herbal therapies, consultations with Maharishi’s astrologer jyotishis, ayurvedic physicians,yagyas to purify her karma, mystically prescribed gem stones, and more.
Susan once held an exalted status in Fairfield’s meditating community (1980s) because she generously donated to Maharishi’s never-to-be actualized programs, and supported various TM-Sidha local businesses to establish footholds in Fairfield Iowa. Like others, Susan believed Maharishi’s promises that “nature’s support” would repay her family with perfect health, prosperity and enlightenment. She depleted family trust funds to enrich the coiffures of Maharishi’s Shrivastava family.
Dan and his mother continued a cheerful abiding love for their family and community through all.
Impoverished Susan was ignored by the community at large after her wealth was gone. Her closest friends and children helped as best they could while she relied upon government assistance for brain cancer treatments.
When next I visited in June 2000, Susan’s lovely auburn hair flowed upon her left shoulder beneath a silk head scarf. Susan and Dan tearfully giggled when I removed her headscarf in Robin Lim’s Iowa dining room to kiss along the raised pink caterpillar adhered to the luminous bald right side of her scalp.
University of Iowa Medical Center’s excellent treatments were administered too late. Susan joined her daughter Lara, repeating her mantra to the end, surrounded by Dan and his remaining siblings.
In 2006, Dan encouraged me to publicly tell stories of TM damage at a conference for the International Cultic Studies Association. He repeatedly asked when I would publish his family story, as ensconced within my own memoir. Dan then supported me when I protested David Lynch Foundation’s 2006 attempt to enter my own children’s California public high school.
After several hellrides (Dan’s term for challenging bouts), Dan spent the last few years calmly settled with his father. Between managing his health and staying in touch with global loved ones, Dan’s creativity flowered through paintings and music. He especially reveled as a doting uncle.
In April, 2012, sweet Susan’s only son found eternal peace in the home he shared with his father. Dan passed away in his sleep, likely from a complication of recently diagnosed sleep apnea.
Dan’s remaining familiy and global peers remember Dan’s gentle giant heart, devotion, and sometimes confusion. We will miss Dan’s unbridled kindness and good intentions.
To Dan’s family : you are deeply loved and respected. You had more than your share of loss, related to circumstances beyond your control. May your lives move forward once again. Everyone holds you with tenderness beyond expression.
The little boy who grew into a sometimes-fearsome gentle giant, Dan encompassed Maharishi’s promise of “200% of life.” Dan’s inner and outer experiences were greater than most of us can imagine.
Donations in Dan’s memory can be made in support Bumi Sehat. Founder, Robin Lim, was a great support to Dan and his mother.
Dan, may your art, music and wonderful heart arise, freed at last.
We Love you, Dan. Peace. Be True.
A note to Oprah Winfrey - as you promote Transcendental Meditation with your influential network, please apply your former investigative reporting skills. Scratch beneath the surface of Transcendental Meditations’ supposed ideal society. Learn why the majority of graduates from Maharishi’s schools move away and only discreetly disclose their history to outsiders. Speaking truth risks rejection from loved ones. Learn why many in Fairfield are unable to hold jobs in Maharishi’s purported ideal society. Listen to the whispy script of so-called “space-cadets” who live on a subsistence stipend by the Settle grant which mandates them to meditate and “fly” for hours daily, whilst the few TM wealthy are lauded for their flow of donations and endorsements of Maharishi’s programs, such as secretive monastic Purusha and Mother Divine. You may need to look outside Fairfield itself for complete answers. Oprah, for Dan’s sake, and others like him, look deeper. There is more. “Be True.”