Readers of this obscure blog are familiar with the power of cyber connections.
The history behind the popular TMFreeblog is one example of the internet’s power for good, rebirth that comes with claiming one’s voice, and using unusual history for constructive ends.
The International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) acknowledges that the majority of former cultists today find support, connection and recovery through online forums.
Cyber anonymity allows those who find difficulty expressing our alternative history to safely test the waters of communication about “taboo” topics.
For those raised in cults, especially, the alternative reality of cult life remains foundational to our being. “Dysfunctional” only begins to define our jumbled legacies. How to define such confusion to ourselves, let alone to others?
Even with my younger brother (now a successful executive, and respected member of mainstream LDS church) it was taboo to share childhood memories upon our father’s recent passing. When reminiscing, my dear brother responded, “Gina, I don’t want to discuss our past. I try really hard not to remember.” Repressing memories is common for cult survivors, or anyone with a degree of post-traumatic stress disorder. My beloved brother remains ever anxious in my presence; my presence reminds him of our history. Other cult-kids may find they are inexorably linked to the cult children that were closer to them than were their own preoccupied parents. After all, who else would understand except someone who also lived the insanity?
Finding courage to speak despite controversy is one, of many, developmental tasks that former cultists must accomplish to become autonomous adults.
For those seeking to converse about their history and connect with compassionate others, a number of online sources exist, in addition to the ‘comments’ sections on recovery blogs.
For a couple of decades after leaving Fairfield, Iowa, our family was ashamed to speak of cult upbringing and early adulthood, while actively constructing our non-cult life. The past was confusing, and I preferred to forget it and “move on already!” It was hard enough to connect to others because of the TM-based inner vocabulary and outlook.
After leaving Iowa’s TM community, we initially struggled to function outside cult community. My exhusband spent nearly a year unemployed while playing video games and giving devotion to two subsequent guru-gods, Sai Baba then Andy Rymer. After all, by following dictates of (whichever) guru, all wealth and happiness were to befall a devotee. In my emptiness I fell into the arms of a charismatic professor at the local community college, while I began higher education and worked. We lost everything; the marriage eventually ended (imagine that!). Such stories are not uncommon when cult “walkaways” navigate without support. Too bad we didn’t know about cult recovery resources at that time!
Parents who are empty, lost or seeking cannot appropriately support their offspring. No wonder we lacked words to explain our history and subsequent fall out! Our amazing children survived both the TM and post-TM-cult shambles. My exhusband and I have each since transitioned to professional respectability with separate stable homes. Our talented, educated now-adult children work and live with autonomous integrity despite being 3rd generation TMers. We are among the more fortunate post-TM families. Many, not all, stories are more painful than ours. I digress.
Repressing the past like Pandora’s box, I had feared alienating others if I dared to incorporate TMpast into our embryonic mainstream life. I became skilled at dodging questions about the past, or my late career start and related financial juggles.
Other adults who were raised in cults confirmed the same anxiety about revealing their past. One successful young man, raised in Iowa’s TM community, rolled his eyes while revealing, “I cannot tell professional associates that I was raised in a trailer park in Iowa. Or that the trailer park was named Utopia Park!”
Intelligent and compassionate new friends taught that my fears were unfounded. One physician friend suggested that perhaps those fears were vestigial cult-brainwashing?
Eventually, the repressed history burst through the seams. Support, education and validation was readily available through Rick Ross’s message board. “Toni” discussed my past. As a child, I’d wished my name was “Toni” – the childhood tree-climbing-girl.
“Martin” (Sudarsha on TMFree blog) and “Toni” (me) met on a section of Rick Ross’ forum which Martin founded. Feel free to click onto Mahesh and Money to read anecdotal stories, both funny and wrenching, about TM’s early daze.
Martin chose a different life path than I did, following our TM histories. Yet, we respect and share perspectives on TM, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and cult recovery.
Sending cyber tentacles, Martin took the leap to create Rick Ross’ subsection Mahesh and Money. He also threw strands of cyber silk to the most articulate TM-critics online: John Knapp, founder of the original trancenet, Joe Kellet of suggestibility.org, and Maharishi’s biographer Paul Mason, Joseppi found us on Rick Ross’ board.
Later, Martin suggested we converse with group emails. For two to three years, from the comfort of our desks across the globe, the group of us (and a few others) erratically discussed perspectives on the evolving Transcendental Meditation Movement, the after-effects of our history, concerns for TM-causalties, TM devotees in our lives, and related topics. Anyone familiar with us online knows we are fiercely individual in perspectives and communication. And, like any strong minded individuals, we’ve had differences of opinion.
What a relief – after cult foundations – to respect individual perspectives upon a common theme!
Like a spider spinning his global web, Martin forged friendships emphasizing individual strengths, connection and diversity. Isn’t that what we’d initially hoped for within the TM Movement?
Did not Maharishi claim ownership, as if the idea was his alone, of the axiom “Unity in Diversity”? Maharishi only played upon that idea. In reality, Maharishi valued only the appearance of diversity to promote his unified cult-ural conformity.
For his own healing, Martin spun his spider silk to create active communication with others based upon a common interest. Our unity lay in willingness to frankly discuss that which was deemed taboo.
With his cyber acumen, John Knapp then suggested a co-moderated blog to publicly share TM-recovery insights. After hesitation, and personal decisions about the use pseudonyms, TMFreeblog was born as a birthday gift to “honor” Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in January 2007 with John’s post TM-Free Blog: Happy Birthday, MMY, You Old Sod!.
TMFree blog formed, almost serendipitously, because Martin had reached across cyberspace, and John brought those connections to a public forum. No wonder Maharishi utilized Martin’s skills to create the foundations for Maharishi International University, now MUM! Martin’s ability to reach out and connect once again launched a global network based upon TM commonality!
For those seeking personal support to converse about confusing histories, please don’t hesitate to extend yourselves through online forums and blogs. It’s normal to feel anxious when reviewing confusing histories. Pushing through the anxiety, you may surprise yourself with growing strength, rebirth – and new friendships! You’ll be glad you did!
Many heartfelt thanks to Jeremy, Saul, Angelica, Martin, John, Rick Ross, ICSA, Cathleen, Joe, Paolo, Bjarne, Earl, Eve, Leslie, Priscilla, Robin, Deja’, Zhou, and all the rest – you know who you are!