Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Musings on the process of getting caught up in a cult and breaking free

I learned TM in 1968. Mahesh had just been dumped by the Beatles, something I didn’t know at the time; he  hadn’t yet started showing the world just who could out-perform some of the greatest performers of his time. TM was, at that time, just a nice thing, twice a day, and meeting with other meditators once in a while and hearing a talk by Mahesh was also nice (even though looking back I knew full well that he didn’t always say things I could understand). No, it probably wasn’t a nice thing, but it seemed like that at the superficial level.

Two years later, I quit a perfectly good, well-paying job to become a TM teacher and the year after that, Mahesh asked me to stay on as a member of his “international staff”! This lasted 3 years, until one day I got a call: Maharishi wants you to go and teach. And that was the end of my sojourn with his travelling psychotic circus. The year after that, I quit TM.

So, here’s what I am thinking: I noticed when I moved house, recently, that it was very hard to remember to do little things, small matters of daily routine previously established. I’d forget to floss or I’d forget to put something away, forget where I had put something that used to have a “special” place; I’d reach out to put my hand on something, but it wasn’t there any more. Alas, the “old ways” have ceased to function.

I had created patterns, pathways of behaviour that were dependent upon the relatively stable objects in my environment (where furniture was, what set of behaviours to follow after watching TV in the evening, for example) I had previously been prompted by a routine that had become dependent upon the objects in my environment and now those prompts were gone but the behaviours remained, the tendencies remained, the patterns remained - but didnt exactly work! This is obvious to almost all of us the first time we come home and find that the furniture has been re-arranged! We keep stumbling over the furniture as well as the routines set up by the old arrangements.

No, this isn’t news.

But what might come as something of a surprise is when we put this exact same thing into the TM-Maheshism context: we established patterns of behaviour based on the relatively fixed or stable things in our environment. For example: we are prompted to do and think specific things dependent upon either the objects or people who remind us of what comes next. So, it’s easy to get set into patterns we have created in order to easily navigate our environment, whether or not that environment is physical, mental, or, in another sense, emotional. Because TM-Maheshism is based on very subtle suggestion, subtle prompts established during our highly susceptible moods generated by TM, our patterns are deep-set, almost ingrained, deeper than “superficiality”.

We depend on our environment to remind us what to do after we do this or that. Otherwise, almost every activity would be new learning, take a lot of time and we’d become very frustrated and stressed; our productivity would decrease and our quality of life would be less skilfully managed.

People who travel constantly (salesmen, military personnel, etc.) spend a lot of time reminding themselves of routines because there are no external prompts or because external prompts are constantly changing. It’s somewhat of a tiring life! It’s a lot like living in the constantly changing rooms of the fun-house at the amusement park – but not very amusing on a long-term basis.

So what point am I making

First, I want to be very clear that I am in no way seeking to perpetuate the all too familiar defence mechanism followed religiously by the Maheshites! I am not seeking to blame the victim here. BUT, we all have to, at one time or another, recognize that we were “victimized” by Mahesh. We were beguiled by his charms and built up patterns of behaviour in order to find our way around his various teachings and attempts to control our lives. Really, simple as that.

So, here’s the point: if we built patterns, we can change the patterns we built. It doesn’t matter why we built the patterns. The patterns, in and of themselves, are neither addictive nor demanding nor powerful. They are just patterns, means to save time and thought. They do not have meaning inherent in their being. They only have the meaning we attribute to them, the meaning we let them have. Same for the mantra, by the way, and Mahesh, and the beliefs he led us into about all the stuff he made up and convinced us was real, important, vital and necessary to the survival of the whole world (actually meaning his organization and meal ticket).

I am not an exit counsellor, not a professional psychotherapist, so please do not simply take my word for this. YOU have to weigh and consider, seek your own information, do some introspection, do some work. Sorry. I know that following the leader is so much simpler – that’s what the Germans were doing before WWII ! It didn’t turn out so well. I have difficulty seeing that following Mahesh/Maheshism has turned out well.

What patterns are you following? What pathways have you created (based on TM-Maheshism) that you are letting manage your activities, your mental and emotional behaviour? Can you look at them, see their context, move your mental and environmental furniture so that new pathways can be created?

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