Category Archives: Cult and Cult Recovery

Happy New Year – Life’s Third Act by Jane Fonda

The New Year is ever a time of new beginnings.

As the days lengthen and we clean after wonderful and exhausting holidays, many begin the new year with resolutions.

Yet, any day is a new beginning.

As a species, we live decades longer than only two generations ago. It’s as if we’ve been given another whole life.

In the video below Jane Fonda speaks eloquently about life’s third act. We can begin afresh at any time!

Wishing a new year and life of health, growth, and creativity to all – whether you’re entering life’s “third act” or embarking upon early adulthood.

Juliana’s Ride for Safe Passage

Juliana Buhring has nearly completed her trip around the world by bicycle!

She will reach her goal as the fastest women to pedal around the world – 18,000 miles / 29,000 kilometers in 140 days. Yesterday she crossed the Italian border to re-enter her chosen home country.

Since July, 2012 Juliana pedals to raise awareness and funds to help children adapt to mainstream society after an upbringing in high demand groups or cults.

Juliana co-authored “Not Without My Sister” with her sisters, Celeste Jones and Kristina Jones about their childhood within the Bible-based organization “The Children of God” or “The Family”. Their book was a best seller in the UK and Australia with graphic stories of pedophilia and flirty fishing to seduce potential recruits.

Read more about “Not Without My Sister” by clicking here.

Juliana accomplishes the extraordinary once again. She began her journey in July 2012 from her current home in Bell’Italia, across Europe, North America, Asia, the Middle East and now is on the final legs to her home.

To learn more about her journey and sponsor Juliana’s efforts, please view her website here.
You may also follow the Facebook page for her ride here.

Tax deductible donations to support Juliana’s ride and her cause can be made directly to Safe Passage Foundation here. Safe Passage foundation advocates for human rights of children raised in high demands organizations and provides support and resources for those who leave the controlling groups of their upbringing. Please specify that your donation is a sponsorship toward Juliana Buhring’s bike ride.

To learn more about human rights issues for children raised in cults, please read Safe Passage Foundation’s website by clicking here.

Auguri e Buon Viaggio to Juliana!

Selling Sizzle, not the Steak

This “Africa for Norway” video exemplifies feel-good sizzle to successfully fundraise without substance. Many charities use feel-good promotions and exploitative stories without real plans, directions or accountability.

Read more about this creative team highlighting racism and charity abuse here.

The fairy tales “The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing”, “The Pied Piper” and ancient Greece’s myth of Persephone’s seduction by Hades also warn about this eternal issue.

Cults, bogus charities and many many others, masterfully apply unethical marketing methods. Here is today’s TM-specific sister post on TM-Free Blog.

For safety, financial responsibility and mental health, Please learn about the steak behind any campaign’s sizzle. Don’t just donate or buy something based upon feel-good advertising. Always question celebrity-studded good intentions.

Evaluate the merit of any campaign, whether self-help, a health craze, charity, politics, sleek new car, or a fabulous online dating profile. Sizzle is often short on ethics. Ethical programs provide detailed plans, measurable results, credentials and financial statements. Do your homework and don’t be duped!

Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. Thankful for independent thought, lifelong learning, the loss of naiveté and so much more.

Robin Lim Accepts Birthkeeper Award

Robin Lim, CPM and 2011 CNN Hero of the Year, accepts the first Jeannine Parvati Memorial Birthkeeper award from the Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health, in San Francisco on November 16, 2012.

Robin Lim is an outspoken advocate for accessible and gentle maternity care. With unstoppable dedication, she authored over 20 books and speaks around the world, trains midwives and physicians to provide respectful competent maternity care. Robin founded Bumi Sehat, a nonprofit organization which provides perinatal care, birth services, a host of ancillary services such as literacy education and geriatric yoga groups in Nyuh Kuning Village outside of Ubud Bali, Indonesia. Bumi Sehat was among the first responders to provide health care services in Aceh, Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami devastation. She works exhaustingly to run her organization and promote accessible and gentle maternity care.

Conference attendees clamored for photo opportunities with CNN’s midwife hero. Yet, there was a notable absence of journalists for Robin’s scheduled press conference. Robin used the time to speak extemporaneously with a group of admirers. She discussed her work in Bali and the e-votes which created a consumer landslide for her 2011 CNN Hero of the Year award. As always, Robin encouraged health advocates to continue working for accessible health care, health maintenance and preventative programs. She told birth stories and discussed challenges of working cooperatively with Indonesia’s health care system.

As birth guru to those who promote healthy and respectful childbirth, especially home birth. Robin Lim and Ina May Gaskin are living embodiments of the women’s self-care revolution that began in the 1960s and 1970s.

Robin spoke of the importance of love, sparking a personal cord in the hearts of her listeners. She said birth advocates should love adversarial physicians and legislators, rather than speak against them, to build bridges for midwifery practice. Some of Robin’s admirers openly criticized and validated one another’s remarks such as, “Hospitals take the baby away,” “Hospitals don’t treat women as people,” “There is no privacy,” rather than seeking common ground from which to build rapport between health care providers.

Stemming my own frustration at a destructive us vs. them mentality, but honoring Robin’s authority, I contributed only, “There are respectful providers within the hospital system also.”

Robin’s admirers’ awe reminded me of ancient Birth Cults. While good can be wrought from inspirational movements, one should never relinquish critical thinking.

Robin and I have a deep and abiding friendship, commitment to each other’s families, and are passionate about our work. Like many close friends, we don’t always agree.

Our long complex history began in 1974 at Goleta’s Dos Pueblos High School near Santa Barbara. Robin was the young campus political activist while I was the teenage ideal respresentataive for Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. We were in awe and intimidated by one another. Robin’s mother would not allow her to visit my home because she feared the cult of Transcendental Meditation. I lived with my mother at Maharishi International University’s makeshift campus in a rented stucco apartment building in nearby Isla Vista.

In time, Robin and I both spent time on the fringes of Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation (TM) Movement where our lives crossed every few years. We were teenage destitute mothers who divorced abusive meditators. We both coincidently became midwives who practiced midwifery in Fairfield Iowa’s TM community (at different times). Thanks to Robin’s support, she allowed me to conduct medical anthropology research in 1997 (over 20 years after we met), documenting indigenous birthing practices in Bali for my graduate thesis through the University of California, San Francisco.

One of Robin’s favorite topics is Lotus Birth. “Lotus birth” means never cutting a newborn’s umbilical cord at birth. Robin speaks of lifelong attachment trauma from severing the cord. Robin advocates keeping the placenta attached to a newborn baby until the cord and attached placenta fall off, possibly a week after birth. At the minimum, Robin suggests to delay cutting the cord for several hours after birth. Robin referred to, in her view, needlessly “violent” images of scissors cutting an umbilical cord in otherwise lovely photos of gentle births.

Robin promises a peaceful future from the practice of Lotus Birth. This makes no sense! The placenta is an organ to support life inside the womb only. Every mammal cuts or eats the umbilical cord and placenta at birth. It is a far stretch to imagine lifelong trauma from cutting an umbilical cord.

Lotus birth is not scientifically valid, nor is a delay of several hours after birth before cutting an umbilical cord. For all of Robin’s fabulous work, it’s a shame that she avidly promotes this. The extreme practice of leaving a dead placenta attached to a baby can be hazardous. There is a very real risk of causing coagulopathy (dangerous clots or bleeding) by keeping a newborn attached to a dead useless placenta for a prolonged period. “Lotus birth” is a modern new-age ritual that lacks scientific basis. Promoting such radical practices can undermine the credibility of any well-intentioned health care provider, and can prove risky for babes.

Research and logic value delaying cutting the umbilical cord until it ceases pulsing oxygen and blood into a newborn (the number of minutes varies with each birth). Placental function keeps a newborn brain oxygenated while the lungs adjust to extrauterine life. Placental blood is baby’s blood; it maximizes newborn iron stores. But dead meat, e.g. a nonfunctional placenta for a mythical “Lotus Birth”, creates a needless risk.

Last evening, Robin invited me to join her for dinner with other home-birth goddesses : Nan Koehler, Robbie-Davis Floyd, and the adult children of late luminaries Jeannine Parvati Baker and Mary Kroeger.

Robin laughed with the group over dinner, “Of course I vote from Iowa, it’s a swing state. Every vote counts.”

Robin still lists the Transcendental Meditation community of Fairfield, Iowa as her American address, voting from Indonesia via absentee ballot. Earlier this week, Fairfield Iowa’s mayor declared November 13 as “Robin Lim Day”.

Robin then reached across the table, holding my hand. She smiled “Gina, can you imagine? I spoke about orgasmic birth, women’s health, sperm and contraception to Maharishi School and in Fairfield High School’s packed gymnasium. I thought of you all those years ago, as the first ‘Ru to attend high school there when you were the only TM teenager.”

“Something good is happening” I responded, quoting Maharishi. We laughed, raising our beer and hot sake to toast for divine retribution over grilled Ahi. Others at the table would never imagine our family’s shared victories over twisted cult histories.

Only last week, Robin spoke at several events in our former home-town, the home to Transcendental Meditation’s Maharishi University of Management (MUM). Robin is an inspirational, funny and charismatic speaker. Her heart warms to share her passion with a community that was integral to her family. Decades ago, the TM community valued celibacy and families were marginalized. She is (as am I ) gratified to see Fairfield’s meditation community acknowledge the importance of women and children’s issues. After our battles for children’s issues years ago, maybe there is hope. Our beloved community is awakening. Robin plans to actively maintain connection with her Fairfield supporters.

In the early 1980s, the TM community marginalized Robin, a few others, and me for our outspoken advocacy on behalf of children. Our concerns conflicted with Maharishi’s instructions to abandon children for hours daily to attend group Program (meditation) and Maharishi based meetings, atop necessary employment. Robin’s home, others’, and mine became de-facto orphanages for many TM neglected youth. Many young adults who were raised in Fairfield during those years developed very real problems.

Ironically Maharishi University of Management’s website now highlights Robin’s recent Fairfield honor, as can be seen here. MUM capitalizes on any local notoriety.

In her public talks in Iowa, Robin decried that her Fairfield honor is in a state where the practice of (non-nurse) midwifery can be tried as a felony, for practicing medicine without a license. Whereas, Certified Nurse-Midwives, like myself, are legally recognized in Iowa. A side note, Ina May Gaskin, the original advocate for home birth through her influential hippy-era book, Spiritual Midwifery, is an Iowa native.

Robin’s husband, Wil, and I stood behind Robin’s adoring crowds during the AAPPPH conference events. We caught up on family news while Robin met with other friends and adoring fans.

“That sport coat looks great on you!” I complimented Wil on his elegant jacket of raw silk.

“I picked it up at Fairfield’s Bargain Box for four dollars.” He said. We laughed with shared memories of a favorite thrift shop, where penny conscious shoppers purchase the pre-owned cast offs of Maharishi’s wealthy followers.

“That makes sense. That’s a used Raja jacket.” Bowing with my hands in prayer position over my heart, “Raja Wil. You are beaming today.” I teased him as a lofty Raja, a title with gold crown bestowed upon those who paid one million dollars for several months of prolonged meditation with Maharishi.

Will shrugged, “No one here knows that.” Fortunately, Wil never learned Transcendental Meditation.

“Hey, You can’t beat four dollars for a tailored silk jacket. That’s even less than it originally cost for custom tailoring in India.”

Old friends are the best!

For those in the Bay Area — On Sunday evening November 18, 2012, a fundraiser to support Bumi Sehat’s work, will be held in Santa Rosa, California. For information about this event, please look here.

Donations to Robin Lim’s Bumi Sehat foundation can be made here.

“The Master” film impression

“What are you going to see?” the middle-aged woman scooping my popcorn at the local cinema snack counter asked.

“The Master” I responded “Have you seen it yet?”

“Not yet. But everyone looks really disturbed when they exit the theater.” Her eyes crinkled with her smile as she reached across the counter with the red and white striped popcorn bag and water bottle that would accompany me for the film.

“Thanks for the warning!” I said, accepting my snack.

I wondered if I would find the film disturbing as I entered the dark movie theater alone, having chosen to avoid explaining (again!) about cult dynamics to my present social world.

Rather than being disturbed, I watched a compassionate and compelling portrayal of the early development of a destructive cult, even if the movie exaggerated the character of Freddie.

“The Master” by writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson, brilliantly portrays cult vulnerability, seduction, exploitation and confusion through the character of an alcoholic WWII veteran with a family mental health history named Freddie, brilliantly played by Juaquin Phoenix. Freddie falls for the charismatic and authoritative Lancaster Dodd, founder of a group called The Cause, convincingly played by Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Set in post-WWII, Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the leader of a cult-like group based upon the early days of L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology who presents himself as a caring author, scientist and philosopher gathering wealthy adherents to promote his work. Beginning with intimate gatherings in the homes of wealthy supporters, Lancaster Dodd promotes his teachings and provides personal support to a growing flock. By the end of the film, The Cause has grown to global proportions with real estate, a private school for uniformed youth and other programs.

Juaquin Phoenix’s Freddie is the film’s disturbed central character who struggles with alcoholism and identity as he follows The Master Dodd. The film shows the majority of the The Cause’s followers as functional, well dressed professionals united by a common purpose to spread their Master’s teachings. In much the same way as my own parents and their friends began hosting Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s closest acolytes as guests in their homes in the 1960’s, with expansion to rented halls and eventually global real estate holdings. Many exploitative groups begin exactly the same way.

According to Joe Szimhart, “The film captured early L Ron Hubbard quite well in Hoffman’s character and exposes several TRs or “Training Rundowns” that Scientology uses even today in their expensive ‘pre-Clear’ sessions. Also, it shows the son as merely going along–that son co-produced a book exposing his dad later called “Messiah or Madman?” Content for the film was extracted from this book, I believe.”

For those familiar with cult dynamics, I found the film to be an excellent depiction of a once-familiar family and social dynamic. For those who are not acquainted with cult dynamics, the film may be confusing.

Paul Thomas-Anderson’s script and camera angles are the best depiction that I’ve seen yet of a variation of my own skewed upbringing. Thank you, Paul!

Transcendental Life

This 2007 article is as appropriate now as it was then.
This is reposted from the “Transcendental Meditation archives” of website for cult expert, Rick Ross. (Forgive me, having trouble inserting links today.)

Background to the essay : A San Francisco newspaper contacted me for this essay when the David Lynch Foundation” was trying to bring TM to Bay Area schools. However, the paper’s executive reviewers decided the article was inappropriate. This also commonly happens to essays about Scientology.


Transcendental Life

“John Lennon was shot because he began recording music again, despite Maharishi’s instructions to maintain a private life.” Randy explained on the morning of December 9, 1980, following Lennon’s murder, while I aligned spiritual necklaces of brown rudraksha beads, coral and gemstones in our store’s golden display case. Randy’s devotion to Maharishi made him a reliable source of “higher knowledge.” Bizarre as that sounds to me now, in 1980 divine retribution for ignoring Maharishi’s vision seemed perfectly plausible.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, giggling guru to the Beatles was my parents’ spiritual Master. He and his Transcendental Meditation (TM) Movement influenced my family through three generations over four decades.

Secret initiation ceremonies honor Maharishi’s Master, Guru Dev, with chants of obeisance to a holy tradition mythically originating in Northern India. A new “Initiate” carries an offering of fruit, a white handkerchief, and fresh flowers for ritualized placement upon an altar during private meditation instruction. When teaching this “non religious method for rest and release of stress,” my parents explained, “Maharishi teaches this spiritual practice in scientific terms because we live in a scientific age. People will accept it that way. Through TM we connect with God inside ourselves in pursuit of Cosmic Consciousness.”

Devotees meditate together for four to eight hours daily inside Maharishi Enlightenment Centers around the globe and in Iowa’s hallowed Golden Domes, practicing secretive techniques for levitation, invincibility, and friendliness. Maharishi inspires personal enlightenment and world peace for all time, beginning with today’s introductory fee of $2500.00.

In padded white rooms devotees sit cross-legged upon sheets of high-density foam, provided for protection when falling earthward after failed levitation attempts. When pressed down, the special foam rebounds upward.

Maharishi always favored the wealthiest amongst us for their contributions. The Beatles, Beach Boys, Donovan, Gore Family (of Gore-TexR), Deepak Chopra, Zimmermans, Kaplans, Settles, and other wealthy devotees generated global enlightenment partially through financing real estate for Maharishi Universities, Peace Palaces, herbal products and Peace Assemblies with thousands of meditators.

TM instructors are “Governors” or “Ministers” of the Age of Enlightenment, because “they govern in the real of consciousness.” Lofty golden-crowned Rajas are spiritually responsible for large geographic regions, having paid one million dollars for their “raja training.” TM’s spiritual communities exchange the “Raam” as legal tender for purchased goods, to avoiding the use of tainted currency from the outside “world of ignorance.” They claim not to be a cult.

Believing with my well-intentioned loved ones, I watched devotees donate entire trust funds, become psychotic, and decline needed medical treatment in favor of Maharishi Ayur-Ved (R) medicinals. A few committed suicide. Our leaders taught us that hardships were brought upon ourselves. No one blamed over indulgence in trance-like meditation or a circuitous theology. After all, no one drank Kool-Aid(R).

“The world is as you visualize it. Meditate to perform spontaneous right action. You will do less and accomplish more until eventually you do nothing and accomplish everything from the source of unbounded pure awareness within.”

In 1988 my children and I left our mediation community to enter the real world, where parents are held accountable for child negligence and suicide motives are questioned. In the real world, no supreme authority holds the key to the universe.

Young adults raised in the TM Movement continue to arrive to my San Rafael home as they struggle to function outside their controlled Ayur-Vedic lifestyle. We alternately laugh and cry over shared histories, incomprehensible to outsiders.

One recent October evening in San Rafael, my heart raced with a quiet rapt audience in the auditorium, listening to a sophisticated presentation for a pilot stress reduction program. The David Lynch Foundation selected Terra Linda High School to grant $175,000 for a Transcendental Meditation(TM) club. I wished they had chosen a school elsewhere, so I would not have to come forth. My only thought was, “They cannot have these kids.”

Onstage before me, my former cult community unfolded in promotional film clips of Iowa’s TM community. I gasped to watch my old friend teaching at the Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment. Marilyn is my son’s godmother; I was her maid of honor. Marilyn’s Maharishi teaching job offers no medical benefits; she cannot survive on their stipend. She had confided fears about speaking her mind, lest her beloved community ostracize her. Her son had only recently spent a weekend with me, preparing to enter the outside world. He had previously learned to fear outsiders who “live in ignorance.” Not surprisingly, San Francisco’s warm accepting folks shocked him.

At the high school presentation, David Lynch foundation presenters failed to mention that twenty-minutes-twice-per-day may create an addictive state, leading to dependence upon prolonged meditation, or that increased group involvement may potentially become a suffocating group dynamic. They explained, “Transcendental Meditation(TM) is not a religion.”

Did the secretive initiation ceremony, higher teachings of God Consciousness, or mantras derived from Hindu deities cause the New Jersey Circuit Court of appeals to declare TM a religion in 1979? After educated objections, legal threats and my letter to the school board, the Lynch Foundation withdrew from my children’s high school.

Now David Lynch promotes his book, “Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity,” explaining that creative ideas come during his daily TM sessions. The famed producer fails to mention proper Transcendental Meditation(TM) instruction, “Pay no heed to arising thoughts. Gently return attention to the mantra, allowing the thoughts to leave. You will transcend beyond thought to pure Being, the source of all thought and creativity.” Since Lynch heeds thoughts in meditation, he practices TM improperly. Does he quietly brainstorm twice daily, while receiving spiritual accolades for large donations to spread Maharishi’s teachings?

I cannot help but wonder, between creative film endeavors, if Lynch experienced the lifestyle of those committed to the method he promotes.

Copyright © 2007 Gina Catena.

Gina Catena is an early “Child of the Age of Enlightenment,” raised in the Transcendental Meditation organization. She and her children left the Transcendental Meditation Movement twenty years ago and quietly recreated their lives in San Rafael, California.

More “Madman” by Kahil Gibran

Contributed by Bjarne, in honor of a recently departed loved one who died too soon :

Defeat, my Defeat, my solitude and my aloofness;
You are dearer to me than a thousand triumphs,
And sweeter to my heart than all worldglory.

Defeat, my Defeat, my self-knowledge and my defiance,
Through you I know that I am yet young and swift of foot
And not to be trapped by withering laurels.
And in you I have found aloneness
And the joy of being shunned and scorned.

Defeat, my Defeat, my shining sword and shield,
In your eyes I have read
That to be enthroned is to be enslaved,
And to be understood is to be levelled down,
And to be grasped is but to reach one’s fullness
And like a ripe fruit to fall and be consumed.

Defeat, my Defeat, my bold companion,
You shall hear my songs and my cries and my silences,
And none but you shall speak to me of the beating of wings,
And urging of seas,
And of mountains that burn in the night,
And you alone shall climb my steep and rocky soul.

Defeat, my Defeat, my deathless courage,
You and I shall laugh together with the storm,
And together we shall dig graves for all that die in us,
And we shall stand in the sun with a will,
And we shall be dangerous.

Kahlil Gibran Madman