Whole, Human, Healing

The process right now seems to be one of reclaiming all those ever-so-human parts of myself that Art of Living subtly urged me to deny, purge, or breathe away. Most prominent in the last couple of weeks, once the morbidity and bleak terror of nothingness seemed to wane a bit, has been anger. I’ve been getting angry at the silliest things and part of me is kind of enjoying it.  Sometimes there isn’t any identifiable reason; I just prowl through the world with a fire in my belly wanting anyone to do anything to deserve a punch in the face.

I hardly recognize myself when I think of the joyful bouncy loving girl most people think of me as– but it’s still me! And dammit, I like having my rage back. I even like having my doubts, depressions, anxieties and insecurities back. I prefer owning these things about myself and my life to writing them on a scrap of paper, throwing them in a basket, and trusting to that fellow in the doti to sort it all out for me and make me perfect like Him.

In Art of Living I was encouraged to surrender all worries and fears to the divine. Great. I was also told, many times, “just be happy. Celebrate.”– OK, that will require some unpacking, but we’ll go with it. But 6 months after my experience of sexual abuse in an art of living ashram, when I told my Swamiji how angry I still was, he told me, “I know– but you cannot be angry.”

What I am sure he meant was that for my own good, it was best to let go of anger and live in the present, not dwelling on what had happened and not letting anger poison my heart. In this way, he was spot on. But what part of me heard was that anger wasn’t Okay, and that to advance on this path, anger has to go. So I became completely alienated from my own feelings of anger, even when there was a good reason for it. Feeling that expressions of “negative emotions” were unenlightened and would betray all of my hideous flaws, I distanced myself from any expressions of anger, rage, frustration. Instead, those emotions got turned inward.

Is this Swamiji’s fault? No, of course not– but the Art of Living dogma encourages us to “just be happy” all the time, to practice joy and celebration because these are spiritual ways of approaching life, and other things are just “emotional storms”. We look to Sri Sri as an example of a Perfect Person, someone who is never angry. Remember this? “A Master is never angry, even though He might show anger.” (anyone smell a rat?)

Well, anger can be a healthy response to a bad situation. It can be a sign that something needs to change in your life, a way of setting solid boundaries and limits, or it can be unhealthy and abusive– but just because it isn’t pretty doesn’t mean we can just meditate it away, or even that we should. I wanted to be the perfect little devi for my Swamiji and not be angry, but I couldn’t.

Is it AoL’s fault that I wanted to eradicate my “negative” emotions in order to be more deserving of love? Of course not. But the AoL philosophy is dangerous because it erodes confidence in one’s own natural emotional responses. I want my anger to be there when I need it. I want to be  open to the whole spectrum of my emotions so that I can listen to what they are trying to tell me. I don’t want to breathe them away, get giddy from an excess of oxygen, and then try to pretend that everything is hunky-dory.

Now my anger is reintegrating itself into my psyche as the iron curtain between the parts of myself I accepted and the ones I thought weren’t spiritual enough drops. So, just like I rolled with being depressed and didn’t kill myself, I’ll roll with being irrationally furious and I won’t punch people in the face. Promise.

Unless they really, really deserve it.

Part of me kinda hopes someone will…


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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9 Responses to Whole, Human, Healing

  1. Blossom says:

    Good to see you fighting fit, Boadicea! Sorry, got your name wrong in the last post.

    • Thanks for reading and for all the kind words! And the kick-ass attitude. I love having you around, and promise i’ll be writing more thoughtfully and less AAGGNASDMDFAFAF–ully soon 🙂 Once these rumblings are quieter i’ll have more time to really examine some things about art of living that make the subtle difference between a spiritual path worth giving yourself to, and a path that will lead most into misery over a lifetime.

      And no worries about the name, I like Beatrice too! The face that stunned Dante into a spiritual revelation, a fascination of amore that transcended the body and made him meditate on divine glory—

      OR, of course, Benedick’s Beatrice, whom I adore for saying things like this:

      “He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man: and he that is more than a youth is not for me, and he that is less than a man, I am not for him: therefore, I will even take sixpence in earnest of the bear-ward, and lead his apes into hell.”

      and, to her uncle’s hopes that she should find a husband,
      “Not till God make men of some other metal than earth. Would it not grieve a woman to be overmastered with a pierce of valiant dust? to make an account of her life to a clod of wayward marl? No, uncle, I’ll none: Adam’s sons are my brethren; and, truly, I hold it a sin to match in my kindred.”

      There’s a lot to be said for Beatrice too! 😀


  2. Kalki Sharma says:


    Thank you for making your experience public.It’s very unfortunate that some cults have picked up breadcrumbs and sell these half-baked “bliss” packages to youth across the world.The disillusionment is bound to happen sooner or later.

    The fact that you showed withdrawal symptoms even after spending 4 years with these guys attests that whatever they taught you was not yoga for sure.It was indoctrination in the name of yoga.Being an indian, it pains my heart no end that some charlatans have used and abused this highly rational and effective philosophy for their own material gains at the cost of gullible seekers

    I suspect you were never taught patanjalai yoga sutras or samkhya philosophy during these 4 years. Correct me if i am wrong.

    here’s my two cents :
    1) If you love the world and all the +ves and negatives that come with it, how wise is it for you to search for spirituality in the first place?
    2) Only those who realize(read “feel” if you must) that the world outside does not define, satisfy or answer their existence are fit candidates to take up the spiritual path
    3) The world and individuality are not easy things to do away with – think twice before you tread this “irreversible” path
    4) if you somehow realize(err.feel) that spirituality is the only way forward for you..do your own research [ seek free gurus on youtube who have been there and seen all -of course this takes time but it is time well spent , to give you a glimpse of what amazing stuff you can stumble upon : find peterpandoer on youtube 🙂 ]
    5) You are what you seek and that’s why any extraneous effort to seek yourself will eventually fail.anybody who teaches otherwise is not teaching indian spirituality at all

    Om tat Sat

  3. You am I says:

    Didn’t have the courage to entertain my post ? …but then it’s your blog and my mistake .

    I leave with an impression that your story against AOL is more your story than AOL’s …not that i hold AOL in any high regard ..anyways peace!

    • Hi!

      I’m very sorry that my negligence led you to believe you had been snubbed. You see, my cousin was married yesterday and I am in Vienna celebrating with the family. For the most part, I have had better things to do than spend my time on the computer!

      I really don’t mind what you say here, so long as it isn’t abusive or obscene. Of course I reserve the right to edit out material that is inappropriate, or spam etc. but so far that has never been an issue, and I have approved every comment that has been submitted. Yours was one of three that i had overlooked in the madness of 10 hour workdays leading up to a 5 am trip to vienna, so I apologise for depriving you of the joy of seeing your words in print on my website for the last 4 days.

      Beyond that, I feel I ought to say that my story is not “for aol” or “against aol”, it is simply my story. I’m not here to propagandize. I have other things in mind which are more interesting to me.

      Finally, your earlier comment has certainly raised questions i have wanted to address and I would be pleased to continue the conversation along the queries you raised, so long as you haven’t been too offended by my negligence.


  4. You am I says:

    “I apologise for depriving you of the joy of seeing your words in print on my website for the last 4 days”

    Thank god for small mercies!

    but i insist : delete my posts as i understand the futility of the same.To be printed on a blog post with 10 visitor posts in toto would sure make me rich ..ainnit?

    • If it’s all the same I’ll keep your posts. I thought they were interesting.

      You seem very intelligent and opinionated, although maybe a little ready to pick a fight. What’s your story?

  5. Zeff says:

    Good Post. It is important to just be, than squeeze yourself into “what should be”

    Anger and discontent are some of the most powerful human experiences, they have propelled great deal of progress when used with skill. Without these there wouldn’t be democracy, social justice and whole lot of science. And you can be angry as well as joyful at the same time. Because that is what our world is. A mixed bag of experiences.To pretend or impose one or the other on yourself and others is quite a misery.

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