Neverland, Transcendent Nipples and Bitches I Didn’t Punch

Saturday afternoon we three merry travelers piled in the car for a weekend adventure to the colorful and many-angled Bilbao. It was my first time in Spain! And that very night we cheered as Barcelona triumphed over Manchester United in the Champions League. Sharing a pitcher of sangria, lots of pinxtos, and keeping in “good company” (by which I mean of course fans of Barcelona) is lentil soup for the cult-Leavers soul!

The evening continued with raucous celebrations in the street (the locals are Athletics fans, enemies of Barcelona but they sure weren’t rooting for England…!), which seemed all the more magical after watching the torturously beautiful Pep Guardiola lead his myrmidons to glorious victory. More wine, more pinxtos (“I can do whatever I want now that I’m not going to Teacher Training! I can enjoy myself on an evening out without feeling guilty or spiritually bankrupt! I make my own choices and there’s no magic man who knows my every move and will judge me unworthy if I enjoy some wine with my friends.”–sample of my internal monologue)

–and more *gorgeous* Spanish men. Wow.

[On a side note, I like Spain. A lot. ]

Eventually my wandering eye couldn’t stop returning to a stunningly beautiful curly-mopped spanish fellow and my sister more or less mocked me into boldly walking right up to him and asking, “Do you speak any English?” to which he responded, “a little bit!” and so the adventure continued. Our band of three became a band of six, including my beautiful “I’m a singer in a Basque band” Eneko and his shorter (more interesting but less pretty) friend/guitarist Pedro and their creepy fascist friend from Austria. He and my sister spent a good part of the evening arguing in Spanish; I spent a good part of the evening flirting in English. We were having fun.

At 3 AM or so all the bars were closing, so our new friends led us to one of the only places left open–a disco. A very loud, crowded awful smelly noisy cheesy sweaty awful no good very bad disco.

(it’s in these small moments you know your love was never meant to be).

It seems that life conspires to bring me back to the “club-scene” once every three to four years so that I can retreat to my ivory tower comfortable in the knowledge that what the young people do for fun has not in any way improved. I hate clubs. But I love adventures! So we stayed for a round of drinking and moving-ever-so-slightly-from-side-to-side-to-painfully-loud-American-music. We were all pretty drunk. My sister and I mixed parts of our Malibu Pineapple and Rum Lemonades for a kickier flavor to the shock and consternation of our suddenly conservative hosts (again, it was never meant to be) and we all smiled and laughed and

and then suddenly I felt someone touching me. I felt in a sea of people in total chaos I felt someone I felt something and it felt wrong and invasive and

I slammed my hand down on the hand of a young woman trying to get into my handbag. I clasped her fingers in mine, I raised her hand up off my purse and looked her dead in the eye. I cocked my head to the side in a classic baboon challenge and I squeezed her hand, hard. No words would come to my mouth. She looked surprised, but she certainly didn’t try to deny anything or feign innocence. She and her friend slowly drifted away through the pulsating crowd, looking for another likely rube.

Elated and proud I realized that something in me has changed. One year ago, I would have gotten home and discovered my camera was missing.

I’ve spent my life as a perfect mark; credulous, naive and more invested in finding good in the world than in watching my own back. I have been scammed, pickpocketted, lied to, manipulated, conned, and boondoggled. I’m not stupid, but I’m almost willfully ignorant of just how many people out there are ready to take me for a ride. One time at the canadian ashram someone stole my Ipod out of my coat pocket during one of Sri Sri’s visits. One time at the german ashram an ayurvedic doctor sexually assaulted me. And I still believed I was safer there than anywhere in the world; I believed it because it was my guru’s home and anything bad that happened was just my perfect guru taking my bad karma– I should be grateful, it probably would have been worse if it happened Out There.

I’ve believed men when they said they loved me more than they’ve ever loved a woman and that’s why they didn’t treat me well. I’ve believed the woman in the street who told me their abusive husband is beating her, the shelters are full and she just needs 20 dollars to get a hostel bed (I’ve believed that woman like 3 times). I’ve believed an international cult leader and spiritual “teacher” when he told me we were part of a world-changing movement bringing spirituality and a smile to every corner of the globe for an ever-so-modest-fee which is really a charitable donation to lots of good causes. I believed my Swamiji when he told me my purpose in life was “bringing human values to the children of america” and I believed that my guru knew what was best for me even if it might mean giving up my lifelong dreams and passions to serve Him because I was one of the lucky few who could see him for what he was and would be– a light-bringer, a master, a saint.

Why did I believe these things?

Simply because I wanted to, and the world was a scary place without a glorified parent-god-guru figure watching my every move, protecting me, knowing loving guiding me–but never quite letting me grow up, graduate, pack my things and move out of the womb. (“A Womb with a View”, as Joseph Campbell has it!)

No one graduates from Art of Living. This is not because it’s a perfect path with everything you need for the rest of your life, and it isn’t because the knowledge is so deep and transcendent; it’s because it’s neverland, a place where all us orphans run away to hide from the scary grown up world of death and taxes. Being a savvy adult is unwelcome there, and so there’s no threat of ever being forced to grow up; what is best is innocent credulity, obedience and absolute faith in Peter Pan.

“I won’t grow up, I will never even try,
I will do what Peter tells me, and I’ll never ask him why.

I won’t grow up, no I promise that I won’t,
I will stay a boy forever!
And be banished if I don’t.”

In Leaving Art of Living, I have left Neverland. When I was little I never understood how Wendy and the boys could have ever made that decision; now I see it’s inevitable, and good and beautiful to live, to age, to ripen and to die. I accept the world’s imperfections; I accept the thieves the treachers the liars the drunkards the villains the knaves, and I accept that in venturing forth I am daring them to try their luck. I’m ready to hold my own out there, to leave the Great Womb and find out what I really believe in, what really makes this life feel profoundly worth it. I wasn’t ready before, and so like a spiritual marsupial I crawled into Sri Sri’s pouch, instinctively found his transcendent avataric Nipple Of Light, and suckled my way to a nascent adulthood. The womb is good, and even Art of Living has its uses– just don’t stay there forever.

I’m out now. This is my life. My body. My choice. My desire. My truth. My faith. My soul.

My camera in my purse.

Bitches, beware. Next time I will so totally punch you for that.

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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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12 Responses to Neverland, Transcendent Nipples and Bitches I Didn’t Punch

  1. Prairie Princess says:

    Good job!That b…. needed a good beat down.

  2. Peaceful Warrior says:

    Ah – the sweet sweet smell of freedom. To know you are totally, utterly, completely – the master of your own world – there is nothing quite like it.

    On a related note – you might like reading this essay : http://www.english.upenn.edu/~mgamer/Etexts/kant.html

    • Ok I tried reading the essay right away, and I was really into it and it would have been a quick read and then I got to the sentence, “The guardians who have so benevolently taken over the supervision of men have carefully seen to it that the far greatest part of them (including the entire fair sex) regard taking the step to maturity as very dangerous, not to mention difficult.”

      and then I stopped and had to punch the air some more. *sigh*

      I’ll ignore the fact that he considered all women afraid of maturity, and recognize that his condescending patriarchal tone is simply a reflection of his time and upbringing, and have another go at it…

      I love the ideas. It’s just that there’s an arrogance in Enlightenment thinking that I find hard to stomach– as if they were telling us how stupid we all are to have believed what everyone else has always said, instead of what they’re saying right now. It’s the same reason I have a hard time reading Dawkins…

      Ok, cup of tea to dull the pain. Trying again. 🙂

      xx

      boadicea

      • Peaceful Warrior says:

        Haha – not to mention his dense prose. You have to dig to through the dirt to find the gems. Some of these ideas are rooted in the times they were written in – enlightenment came after dark ages – no wonder they had contempt for humanity. Any philosopher does – anyone who touches life that deeply will have that streak in him, and also a streak of utter humility.

  3. The Doctor says:

    I can’t believe you went to a nightclub. That it so low prana and tamasic and rajasic energy at the same time. You made yourself impure by doing going there.

    I hope that when you went home afterwards you washed yourself thoroughly, said Om Nama Shivaya 1008 times, and then did 3 rounds of kriya to purify yourself again.

    I dread to think what Guruji would say if he knew what you had been up to?

  4. The Doctor says:

    On a more serious note … nah, I wouldn’t call it serious, just a little more straight I guess, your post reminded me of a time when I felt this similar special kind of protection as if Sri Sri aka God himself was always looking out for me, watching my back, guiding me in my every move, and making sure I was always looked after. Was anyone else ever told “Hasn’t the Divine always looked after you until now?” nudge nudge wink wink, indicating in the direction of a certain messianic looking bearded man with long flowing hair?

    It also reminded me of how I used to impose limitations on my life because of my association with AoL, and how when I left I started breaking free of a lot of these and am feeling so much more liberated now than I ever was when I was in AoL.

    Makes you wonder about all this BS about “transcending personal limitations” and getting out of your comfort zone, when in actual fact AoL is one big comfort zone where you gradually become more and more trapped and hence more and more limited as you progress along “the path”.

    I’m sorry, but if I had an evil genius hat and I happened to be wearing it right now, I would have to say that I am very impressed indeed with the AoL machinery, it’s pretty damn clever.

    As an aside, I wonder if it was designed that way or if it somehow evolved to be like this over time.

  5. My mother has told me stories of when she was in her guru group, how she and others would drunkenly dance in the streets and play in traffic, in her heart believing her guru was protecting her– and she wasn’t alone! This kind of literal thinking is obviously very, very dangerous. People in Art of Living have a mystical belief that no harm can come to them as long as they’re in RS’s presence in a similar way. Again, it’s the inability to think metaphorically that kills the sense in most scripture I think.

    In a very short amount of time I came to think and believe that Guruji was always looking out for me. Indeed I sometimes felt he knew everything I was thinking. It’s the kind of confusion that occurs when the metaphor of the guru as the gate becomes confused with a literal idea of Him as Godhead— which Sri Sri encourages constantly. If he didn’t, I would have been more than happy to take the blame myself for getting carried away with magical thinking and would have worked hard to discipline myself into remembering the myth as metaphor not as literal Truth– but when I realized just how completely central to that myth-making he was, I couldn’t pretend it was my fault anymore.

    The more I read up on cults the more shocking it is to me how little the content matters at all. I’m reading Alex Stein’s book now, “Inside Out” — her story of getting sucked into and breaking out of a political cult in the midwest, and if you substituted “revolution” for “enlightenment”, and “cadre” for “seeker” it’s basically all the same stuff!

    Cults in general evolve over time into the same formula, because it’s the same ingredients going into the same oven. I honestly believe that most gurus start out as mostly genuine, hoping to help others and also enjoying the attention. But the likely sociopaths among them start believing their own hype, believing in themselves AS The Attainment, The Godman, IT– and slowly the cult mentality grabs hold of them as deeply as their followers.

    I feel sorry for cult leaders. it might seem like they lead the high life but can you imagine never being able to be completely honest with anyone, even yourself? Having to perpetually perform, to receive mindless adulation and call it love, to remove yourself from all real intimacy and crown yourself king of your deluded band and call that eternal glory?

    I feel sorry for him, I truly do. I see pictures of him when he first started out and my heart still leaps into my throat– I still think he was astonishingly beautiful. Maybe that’s just his charisma, I don’t know– but maybe he had something precious and delicate, and maybe it died when people first called him “master”.

  6. anonymous says:

    Good to see that you’re having fun.
    Spain is the BEST place in the world to do that in!
    I still do my practices and feel like i got a lot out of AOL, but am also not involved in the organization. Keep living! Spain is the perfect place to do that. Eventually you may find a place where you can approach the knowledge and practices from a different perspective, one where they enhance life, but don’t take it over. But if not, that’s cool too!

    • Cool!

      I definitely am getting to a place where I want some form of meditation to be part of my life again– maybe even padma sadhana and sahaj samadhi as I learned them from my time in the ashram. I am wary, though, of bringing the hyperventilation back into my daily routine– since I stopped kriya 3 months ago, my short term memory has started to improve and I like that!

      I definitely think that eastern philosophy, merged with my western heritage, will be a part of my life no matter what. It’s just really good to get away from the toxic totalism of the art of living movement.

      thanks for reading and thanks for your support! Soon I’ll be writing reflections on more philosophical matters and I would love for you to join in the conversation with me 🙂

      glad you’re in such a good place. Hope to hear more about your journey!
      best,
      boadicea

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