Ends Begin, Leavings Arrive

It is hard to write about the decision to leave Art of Living because I still don’t really how it happened. I don’t know why I woke up one morning this week and wrote in my journal , “it is clear to me now that this break from Art of Living is not a break. I am not going back.” And yet I have come to this point,  a strange foggy landscape with jagged edges emerging violently from a blurry mist. Clarity and confusion embrace and merge with the fury of parting lovers, consuming each other on the periphery of my cognition, leaving me entirely unable to discern where one began and another seemed to end. Clarity and confusion– indeed which has begun, and which has ended?

I have become helpless, a child. That was my unchosen choice 4 years ago. I cannot really remember who I was before Art of Living, because to be honest I don’t think I was a truly whole person yet. That’s why it was so attractive. A sheaf of ready answers, a set of glorious and shiny substitutions for experience, wisdom, self-reflection and rigorous self-study. At 21, just on the brink of an actual adulthood, I renegged. I tried to get a refund. The secret deal was this: I willingly trade discrimination for devotion, a rational world for magical thinking, a life of seeking answers to a life of self-inflicted infantilization and believing what I’m told, my rational capacity for an overwhelming array of addictive emotions– and a life of my own for a life of Belonging to You.

There are so many threads, like a fraying circular tapestry– all of them tangled and worn yet seemingly deeply woven into to the fading image at the center. And whose is that fragmenting face? Is that Ravi Shankar Himself grinning at me, or maybe my beloved Swamiji whom I will miss more than anyone or anything? Or are those the infinite eyes of of my own soul peering back at me behind the mask of the guru, a mask which Love itself has worn for four long years?

There’s so much to untangle, so much to sort through. But ends must begin somehow, so I’ll try to find at least one thread to unravel and start from there.


About theartofleaving

Former devotee and member of The Art of Living organization reflecting on the process of joining and leaving cults, abusive relationships, and sundry obsessions. Trying to draw the line by connecting the dots.
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8 Responses to Ends Begin, Leavings Arrive

  1. Observer Jr. says:

    It’s good you realized this. Just know that you are not alone. Many of us have similar experiences of confusion. I myself had inner conflict with AOL for many years, until finally, the duality died once I realized it was what it was – not the ideal spiritual organization I once believed it to be. Just accept it’s not all black and white. There many good things AOL teaches, no doubt. But there are many potentially damaging parts of it too, and it’s not for everyone. You are making the right decision, but you can still keep whatever parts of the organization you find help you. No need to throw it all away. Even Scientology has good teachings. Nothing is all good or all bad.

    If it’s of any encouragement, I should tell you that my health has dramatically improved since I quit AoL and stopped doing the breathing practices. I wish you luck in your recovery. I think you’ll find like most of us that left, we really enjoyed being “ourselves” again. 😉

    Best of luck to you, and you have a support group.

    • Hello and thank you for dropping by! It means so much to me to hear what you’re saying. AoL was at the center of my inner world and social life for such a long time, it’s very easy to suddenly feel totally alone and lost and full of self-doubt. What, me, disagree with all those millions of people? Maybe I’m wrong…etc, etc.
      Thank you so much for your support and for sharing your insight. I stopped doing kriya 3 weeks ago and my short term memory has really suffered lately, but I read that that wears off so I’m hoping things like this blog will help me redevelop my verbal skills and memory.

      In Janja Lalich’s book a woman talks about starting to ask herself, “Now where does this fall on the grey scale?” when she isn’t sure how she feels about something. It’s so important to remind oneself that the world is not black/white, either/or, us/them, spiritual/material.

      again thanks for dropping by and i hope to hear more from you in the future 🙂 best, bw

  2. Peaceful Warrior says:

    Congratulations on taking this bold step. This is the beginning of a wonderful new phase, and I wish you all the best. Life has a way of sorting itself out – it throws away what is toxic, and retains what is nurturing. The fruit of your sincere sadhana will always be with you – all the rest of the stuff will gradually fade away.

    Lots of love and good wishes for a wonderful life ahead.

    • Gosh I never knew that *leaving* a cult could also include love bombing! 😀

      Thank you very much for the warm welcome and encouragement. Finding this online community was such a turning point for me. I’m hoping I’ll be a thoughtful and sincere contributor to an alternative message that helped pull me out before it was too late.

      One of the things I am most grateful for is that despite years of training in NOT making my own decisions and NOT trusting my own perceptions, something in me said NO just in time and I heard it and here I am!

      Lots of love back. And thank you again.

  3. Oh boy. I’m really not sure I’m tech savvy enough for this…

  4. ex-cultie says:

    Hi there, congratulations on your bold decision to leave the organization. Believe me, there are thousands who have gone through the same experience and have come out of AOL, and I am one of them. I completely understand the pain and difficulty you’re going through now, as I had very recently. I was a very active AOL member, volunteer and publicist since 2000-2001, and was very deeply involved in the organization for a long time, deluded by my own denial about the truth behind my new “family”, the people and my lord and master Ravi Shankar.

    I’ve actively alienated my own real family over this decade, but they have forgiven me and have embraced me back into reality. Use the support of your close circle of friends and family at this point, you will be surprised how easily they will accept you and take you back, folks are basically decent and caring.

    The future may look murky, lacking an anchor now, but trust me, after a while things will start to settle down and you’ll see things far more clearly than you did before now that you’ve dropped your excess baggage and are no longer trapped in a stifling belief system and a cult of personality.

    Congrats again on this new and most real phase of your life now that you are out of the delusion.

    • I just wanted to say thank you again for all the support, encouragement and personal experience. I’m only 3 weeks out but I’m already feeling like I’m getting my sea legs. Or rather like my sea legs from years of perpetual adjustments to my center of gravity are starting to wear off!

      It really means so much to have this blogosphere community of those who have gone Beyond. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by. x

  5. Observer Jr. says:

    The first month can be hard. I felt so many things when I finally realized I needed to leave. I felt so liberated and no longer confused about this part of life, yet also scared about how I would deal with my friends that are still involved. I was also somewhat disoriented and felt betrayed by AOL and was even a little bitter towards them. I was also sad knowing I would not attend another satsang for music in AOL.

    My body became increasingly stronger since I stopped doing SK. It was amazing, yet horrifying to me that I realized this practice was harming my health. After 3 days of no kriya, I could feel my body being stronger and I was already less tired during the day. Months have gone by and I continue to feel healthier and more sharp, alert, energetic and in much better mood.

    I was also extremely sensitive to everything when I was doing the breathing. I couldn’t handle caffeine or alcohol well. I was also overly sensitive to everything around me too. People think that becoming ultra sensitive is a good thing, but I learned that it can also become adverse if it goes too far. Now I can enjoy my caffeinated beverage and the occasional brew like I did before AOL with no negative side effects.

    Who would have thought a blog could save lives and also have lawsuits against it? It’s amazing the power of one internet blog, isn’t it? The power of interactive net free speech.

    I hope your path to normal life is as good as mine has been. It’s not easy, but it gets better in time.

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