A young adult (identity withheld on request) sent an email titled “Getting out of the mindset.” In an extensive self-revelatory and reflective message, this young adult explained having been born and raised in the TM community of Fairfield, Iowa, educated K-12 in Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment (MSAE) including some time at Maharishi University of Management (MUM).
While grateful for the deep connections of close friends in the precious home community, this person’s doubts about TM’s validity spurred personal searching into the background of TM and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. This person concluded that TM is not what the teachings portray. The young adult wrote of the ensuing personal liberation from a restrictive mindset, “ever since I have been skeptical of about every idea I have, realizing it may or may not be true. Once you embrace that idea you become more powerful, you have more control over your mind and your life, and I have become a happier, smarter, more understanding person because of it.”
This person sent an email because, “Since this first big anti-TM event I have still been unable to completely free myself of the TM doctrine… and still hold some concept that TM might be special…. Indoctrination is frightening, and letting go of world views you have had since you were old enough to understand them is a tough process.. I keep wanting to move out of Fairfield but the utopian style community the movement has established here is hard to escape. I have many, many friends who I love dearly here, and to leave them behind is a scary thought. What saddens me is that most of my friends are still in the TM mindset to some degree. None of them take it very seriously but it still remains in the back of their head that TM is special, jyotish can tell them what will happen in their lives, and that nature can “support” certain things they do. If you have any interesting stories or points to relate to me about my process of escape I would love to hear them! The topic interests me a lot.”
Name withheld by request
Full email not reproduced here at the writer’s request; only a few pertinent quotes included above.
Gina’s comment to readers of this blog: I am neither a professional exit counselor, nor therapist. I hold a deep respect for the potential of existential and psychological crisis when one questions all they have been raised to believe, and the community they love. Many from the TM Movement have been close to others’ psychotic breaks or suicide attempts when the duress of such personal crisis hits. Thus, I avoid acting in a therapeutic role and do not accept clients for cult recovery assistance. Professionals in the field of cult recovery are linked to the right on this blog. The young adult, above, already formed personal conclusions about involvement with the TM Movement. The writer, previously unknown to me, requested personal stories about leaving TM. My response follows.
Thank you for your kind and heartfelt letter. I sigh deeply.
You are intelligent and independent thinking. Good for you! Your compassionate self and social analysis will serve you well in life!
Your anguish is real. It is hard to leave a utopian community and mindset. Oh so hard. However, in a true utopia, you would not fear reprisal from expressing your own opinions. The outside world is not so scary, not tomasic, not full of rakshasas as you have been told. However, you will never again find the “instant community” of enmeshed, almost extended family, to which you are accustomed in Fairfield.
You CAN, with time, develop meaningful friendships and deep connections, with others outside of Fairfield. You can meet others who are willing to question themselves, share discussions of same, and support one another in finding one’s own path of integrity through life. However, the bonds are not instant. Unlike cult life, healthy bonds are not instantaneous. True connection develops over time, sharing consistently with integrity, and with acceptance of differing opinions.
It is true — you will never find the intensity of social closeness… e.g. enmeshment… that you experience in Fairfield, unless you join another cult!
Fairfield IS a special place, but it is not totally unique. Other cult based communities offer their version of the same social dynamics in which you were raised. There is a range of group-think within Fairfield, as you well know. This is also a common phenomenon in neighborhoods surrounding other cult communities throughout the world.
It is normal to be anxious about losing your loved ones and family from expressing your opinion in a cult setting. In a noncult setting, it is extremely abnormal to have such anxiety. You have normal responses to an abnormal situation. It can be frustrating to have circuitous thought-stopping conversations that return forever to TM, Ayurveda, and jyotish to solve everything. You probably don’t want to hurt the feelings of those you love by directly saying “That’s ridiculous!”
You are correct, in my opinion — once you embrace the ability to question EVERYTHING — you become more personally “powerful”.. thus the name of my blog “Coming to Life.”
I respect your desire for anonymity, as your social and professional connections remain TM and Fairfield based. Some of those whom I love in Fairfield are well aware of my online activism against the TMOrg and Maharishi’s leadership; others have ended our friendship over my outspokenness. You see, one is predicted to fail if they leave the deemed support of the deemed-utopia. Instead, others and myself have succeeded on the outside. What greater threat could there be?
You requested personal stories of “escape.” In that vein, I offer a bit of personal experience. You may find it helpful.
I, too, dearly love the Fairfield community. I was the first ‘ru to graduate from Fairfield High School in 1975, before MIU prep began a middle school or high school. My daughter attended K-2nd grade at MIU Prep (MSAE’s precursor). We will always miss the idealistic “loving” community that you call home.
Like avoiding social heroin, we could never again live in such a restrictive setting. And like a recovered heroin addict, we will always miss the addictive high of our former community’s enmeshment. Truly, there are many in Fairfield who I love deeply and forever. I will not name them. You and I must know many of the same people.
The only resources that I can offer you, are those linked on my blogsite. You can, of course, reach toward the “extended TM family” of the grown kids who left. They help one another throughout the world. In most major cities in the US there are small groups of young adults who come from Fairfield. They support one another. I don’t have a listing of such. It’s not my place to disclose who I’m in touch with. You could ask around for contacts, perhaps older siblings of your friends. As you know, there is a range of continued belief in TM and Maharishi. Many former TMers follow Amachi or other gurus. Some joined born-again Christian groups or the Mormons to provide instant community.
I suggest that you apply to a non-TM university somewhere. You will sharpen your mind while developing relationships with other motivated young adults and university faculty based upon a commonality of interests, rather than based upon adoption of another’s dogma.
Obviously from my online voice, I’ve rejected most of the TMO official teachings and lifestyle. My home even has a south facing entrance! I still prefer natural fiber clothing and a healthy lifestyle. I still like Indian food! Unlike many TM kids, I’ve never been a rebellious party-animal.
After leaving Fairfield, my (now grown) children were raised with swim team, little league and the Boy Scouts in an upper middle class suburb. We’ve made lifelong friends with amazing people who never heard of Maharishi, other than “Oh, the Beatles followed him briefly!”. We spent some time with Unity church, to give my children a respect for open spirituality. No more church or spiritual labels, now that the kids are grown. My grown children live honest lives of integrity; they do not attend church. Yes, it was immensely difficult for me to learn to connect with non-TMers, to consciously eliminate my TM-based vocabulary and worldview. But it is possible. If I could do it without cult recovery information and resources, and no other ex-TMers to assist, then you certainly can succeed! I suggest accessing professional cult-recovery resources; your adjustment will be much smoother with information that is now readily available.
My father died last year in fantasy TM-think, after decades of needless pain while paying for costly TM cures through yagyas, ayurveda, jyotish, mystical talisman gemstones and other such. My aging mother continues the same vein while spouting Maharishi-isms. I couldn’t tell you how my adult-kids cope with the extremes cult-think or non-cult from their parents. My grown kids (3rd generation TMers) tease me as being part of the “ACC” (Anti-Cult Cult). I’ve told them to be careful because, “cult think / social enmeshment is our family illness.” Be wary of false flattery. Trust others’ behaviors over their words or kisses.
The International Cultic Studies Association runs workshops for those born or raised in cults – Second Generation Adults (SGAs), that’s you and me. The ICSA workshop for SGAs could help you sort things out, without providing another dogma. My adult daughter found one SGA workshop helpful, even though she left Fairfield at the age of 10; she is really a 3rd generation. For info on those workshops, click HERE. ICSA also has SGA mini-workshops associated with their annual international conferences, the next one will be in New York City this summer, for information on the NYC conference, click HERE.
Good for you – to access resources to help you reflect back onto your community. Breaking free is a lonely process, compared to the seeming validation of group-think, but you will ultimately be stronger and more real. As Shakespeare wrote, “This above all: to thine ownself be true and it shall follow as the day the night – thou can’st not then be false to any man.” That’s the bottom line.
Coming to your own perspective on YOU, your community and your life is an important step in claiming your autonomous adulthood! We must make difficult choices as we move forward into autonomous adulthood. Sounds like you may be on the verge of such a step!
Let me know if you visit the Bay Area. I’d be happy to take you out for lunch or coffee.
You are intelligent and determined – you will make it!
With admiration and respect.