Spiritual practice after surviving a cult???
Posted by: MynameisHeather ()
Date: October 07, 2019 09:20AM

Hello Good People,

37 years ago, I escaped the spiritual cult of James Swartz. Swartz called himself Rama (now he is Ramji). In the 70’s and 80’s and currently, Ramji created his cult based on his observations of presentations of authentic Hindu Swamis and Vedanta teachers in India.

See my full story on another thread, “James Swartz—my original written account”.

After decades of surviving his spiritual and sexual abuse, I am still faced with what feels like an existential crisis.

I wrote my account of his abuse starting in 2017. The effects of his undue influence have affected me all these years, until recently, when I truly integrated the trauma of his abuse.

For years I had a spiritual practice that I thought was my own. Only recently I have come to question IT ALL.

I’ve had a way of meditating and praying that was deeply tied to his “teachings”, and his spiritual and sexual abuse. I’ve been locked into a trauma-bond with this man. I had ideas about my personal karma that are untrue (he put those ideas in my head). While in meditation, I dissociated and “checked out” instead of checking in—I was doing the very opposite of mindful meditation (but I thought it was mindful). I had experiences of my trauma from his abuse that my system was offloading…and I believed I was having a spiritual experience. I saw his eyes around every corner. He still had control over me after all these long years.

Recently I've begun to seriously question my spiritual practice. How much of my practice is truly my own inquiry and devotion, and how much is the aftereffects of his abuse and control?

Is my spiritual experience an addictive, biochemical event in my brain--like a drug?

What would predispose me to this kind of influence and experience???

I got to wondering about what happens in the brain when one has a spiritual experience. I got to wondering what happens in the brain when one feels they’ve arrived at “the truth”.

I wondered how this man controlled me from the moment I met him.

I’m in the process of researching the biochemical processes of spiritual or religious experiences in humans.

I’m beginning to get an idea about how spiritual experiences can be like a drug. In some cases, when a person is in a spiritual state, the brain undergoes chemical changes like what happens when a heroin addict takes a hit, or an alcoholic takes a drink.

I remember when he hypnotized me, when he love-bombed me, when he traumatized me, and even after the assaults I came back for more.

I’m in the process of researching all this.

I want to put a shout out to anyone who has survived a spiritual cult. I want to know what it’s like for you now. Are you like me? Are you having (or have you been having) an existential crisis, wherein you are unable to know how to relate to God or Source?

Here is an interesting video:

[www.youtube.com]

Dr. Gabor Mate is an expert in addiction. He talks about spiritual seeking and addiction. In this video he mentions certain spiritual teachers he likes. I do not know who these teachers are, or if they have credibility. However, the conversation & information is valuable.

Gabor talks about possible addictive behaviour between a Guru and a Devotee. I think this is very interesting. Timestamp:18:35

I would very much like to know what other people are experiencing, after having survived a cult, then or now.

Please share your experiences and insights.

Thank you,

Heather

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: Spiritual practice after surviving a cult???
Posted by: MynameisHeather ()
Date: October 07, 2019 09:54AM

Here's some more interesting information on what happens biochemically in the brain of an addict (or...I purport, the person suffering in a cult, under a cult mindset).

When you hear Dr. Mate talk about the "addict", replace that label with "spiritual cult member"...see where it goes...

[www.youtube.com]

This may be interesting...Neurobiology of Spirituality:

[www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: Spiritual practice after surviving a cult???
Posted by: MynameisHeather ()
Date: October 07, 2019 10:38AM

As I said in my previous post:

Dr. Gabor Mate is an expert in addiction. He talks about spiritual seeking and addiction. In this video he mentions certain spiritual teachers he likes. I do not know who these teachers are, or if they have credibility. However, the conversation & information is valuable.

I would like to add a word of caution to all folks investigating the questions on my thread...be careful and be aware...

I found that one of the spiritual teachers Gabor Mate mentions is A H Almaas...I researched that guy and found that one of his influences was George Gurdjieff of the "Fourth Way"...I don't know much about the 4th way...but I found this link on CEI website:

[forum.culteducation.com]

To reiterate, I find the conversation about addiction and spirituality by Dr. Mate to be interesting and informative...however, be aware that he may have teachers and influences that I am not advocating here...I ask people to make this separation, and focus on the topic I've raised.

Thank you.

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: Spiritual practice after surviving a cult???
Posted by: zizlz ()
Date: October 08, 2019 12:50AM

Hi Heather,

>For years I had a spiritual practice that I thought was my own. Only recently I have come to question IT ALL.

My experience is similar. Reality reveals itself whenever you lift the veil of attachment/identification. At an early stage of spiritual development, a teacher may be helpful to point your attention in the right direction. But when you're beyond that stage, teachers have the opposite effect—they distract you from reality revealing itself.

Most spiritual teachers seem to try to keep their students around for longer than is in their best interest, likely for the teacher's narcissistic and monetary supply.

I don't have any spiritual practice anymore. I just observe the veiling effect of my attaching/identifying throughout the day. Not as a practice; my attention just goes there naturally. As a consequence, the process of waking up from ego continues. No spiritual practice needed, no spiritual teacher needed, no spiritual teachings needed, no spiritual community needed.

I stay far away from "spiritual people." My blue collar colleagues are much more free from ego than the people I've seen in satsangs.

So that's my current perspective. Tomorrow my perspective may be different, who knows.

The Gabor Mate video seems interesting, will watch it, thanks! I can see how spirituality could be an addiction. I've often seen (in myself and others) spirituality being used in an escapist way. A way of avoiding painful psychological truths and finding compensatory comfort. In that sense it's no different from many other behavioral addictions.

But much more than with behavioral addictions like gambling, shoplifting, etc., spirituality also gets used (by me and others) as a basis for compensatory self-esteem. Beliefs like "I'm more spiritually evolved than most people," or "I'm more free from ego than most people." It's hilariously cringeworthy actually, those beliefs.

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: Spiritual practice after surviving a cult???
Posted by: MynameisHeather ()
Date: October 08, 2019 09:59AM

Hello zizlz,

No spiritual practice needed, no spiritual teacher needed, no spiritual teachings needed, no spiritual community needed.

Yes, yes, yes.

I stay far away from "spiritual people." My blue collar colleagues are much more free from ego than the people I've seen in satsangs.

I'm laughing with joy inside at this perfect statement. You are exactly right. From my experience, there is more authentic spiritual interaction and truth amongst ordinary humans...people just living their lives, than what can be found in trendy spiritual circles. Some spiritual teachers, one in particular I'm thinking of, commodify information from a tradition or lineage, and use it for their own benefit. Unfortunately, this leads to cost to the student or disciple.

I can see how spirituality could be an addiction. I've often seen (in myself and others) spirituality being used in an escapist way. A way of avoiding painful psychological truths and finding compensatory comfort. In that sense it's no different from many other behavioral addictions.

Unfortunately, this is true for many people...me...you...many.

If you watch the Gabor Mate video in detail, what becomes evident is people who are susceptible to drug addiction, or spiritual-cult addiction, have a deficit in their neurochemistry. During developmental years, if a person doesn't get all the required nurturing from caregivers, this leaves a person with a deficit. Wow...how many people in the world suffer with such a deficit? A lot.

People like me who had an adverse upbringing are more susceptible to cults (or drugs...or another type of addiction).

I was vulnerable. I didn't have a family that worked. My guru (bad guru) made promises. He love-bombed me. He presented what I thought was pure, ancient knowledge. He presented as a father figure. Even as things changed, and what was originally promised had turned into an opposite reality...even then, I stayed with him. Only much later did I recognize the scam and saw how he took advantage of me.

I've suffered decades after his abuse.

...spirituality also gets used (by me and others) as a basis for compensatory self-esteem. Beliefs like "I'm more spiritually evolved than most people," or "I'm more free from ego than most people." It's hilariously cringeworthy actually, those beliefs.

Margaret Singer talks about this. It's called spiritual elitism. I too suffered from this when I was with my (bad) guru. Only we, the people on the inner circle, the people closest to him, had the "knowledge". We were all trying to attain purity...freedom (he calls it Moksha now...but back then he called it liberation.)

That's part of the problem I'm faced with today. I've been meditating with this distorted concept for years!!! It is insidious. It's there, but awareness of it is not. I had this spiritual elitism for a long time, and I didn't know it.

This is a manipulation tactic by my former guru. What better way to keep me hooked into the program, then to make me believe I was above others? That through me, my practice, the world would be better. Hmmmmph!!!

After all these long years of suffering the effects of his abuse...I believe I am ready to join the human race.

I'm thinking about what my spiritual practice is at this point.

For now...and I think I'm actually making the perfect choice...I will stay with my Yin yoga practice.

Yin yoga is a meditative movement practice. The practitioner mindfully sets up the body into postures. Then, the practitioner stays in the postures for a given time (usually many minutes). The focus is on breath, and noticing whatever arises in the mind, body, emotions. There is no judgement, only observing with breath. In this practice, the meridian lines are compressed, deeply into the fascial network of the body. Naturally, meridian channels are energized, and blockages have a chance to be released. Yin yoga is simple, it's for everybody--no elitism. The concepts are straightforward with no mumbo jumbo gobbledeegloop from a bad guru.

I feel safe with this practice. It is restorative.

Anyway...I am very grateful you've responded zizlz.

I hope others will come forward with their own ideas about how to have a spiritual practice after surviving a cult. Maybe people find it necessary--maybe not.

All viewpoints are appreciated :)



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/08/2019 10:01AM by MynameisHeather.

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: Spiritual practice after surviving a cult???
Posted by: MynameisHeather ()
Date: October 09, 2019 01:21AM

Paulie Zink is a Kung Fu master who founded and developed the original Yin Yoga practice:

[www.youtube.com]

He is a real master...ethical, generous, compassionate.

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: Spiritual practice after surviving a cult???
Posted by: Trueperson ()
Date: October 09, 2019 09:20AM

Hi Heather,

I truly can relate to your questions. Its a time of growth. It is very good to question everything and throw it all away to get your head clear and back to yourself. Then you can look at each thing individually (if YOU choose to) at your own pace and decide for your self which ones are relevant and if they have any benefit to you and if you even like them and then you make them your own and be creative with them making your own practices and creating your own rituals - like an artist. Then you can master your own spirituality without anyone else. This is love, love for yourself including your spirit and self acceptance and freedom from enslavement.

x

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: Spiritual practice after surviving a cult???
Posted by: MynameisHeather ()
Date: October 10, 2019 03:53AM

Hi Trueperson,

I like what you've said and I agree. Good to take it slowly and decide what's good and useful...and what goes in the garbage bin.

I like the idea of being creative and creating my own rituals. A lot of artists use ritual in a very positive way.

Anna Halprin is a beautiful example of such an artist:

Planetary Dance

[www.youtube.com]

Breath Made Visible

[www.youtube.com]

...ritual is an important aspect of art making I think...

That being said, I personally need to remain cognizant of the fact that my brain had been inculcated and influenced in a harmful way. Therefore, I need to truly stay present and not allow myself to go back to the cult mindset, which can insidiously present in different forms!...my habitual way of meditating, praying, or anything that involves repetition or ritual is potentially dangerous.

There were times in my life when even napping had unwanted effects, as I would slip into dissociative states.

Ritual can produce trance states, which are not inherently harmful, and some can be helpful. It's important for me to be really clear on the difference between what's harmful or helpful in anything I do.

It's important to know that my ritual isn't what guru so-and-so had told me to do...

Also, I have to be careful in group activities. Many benign groups can have cultish aspects which is like poison to me.

Options: ReplyQuote


Sorry, only registered users may post in this forum.
This forum powered by Phorum.