What exactly is safe to do now?
Posted by: allalong ()
Date: December 19, 2019 09:11AM

I was in two "light cults/cultish groups--one for 3 years and one for 5 years. I lost who I was. I became a robot to their teachings. I could get into it more, but I'm trying to focus on the recovery aspect.

It's been 2 years since I've been part of these groups. I've been working on getting my self back, physically and mentally.

What confuses me is this: What's safe to do? Nothing? Or things in moderation?

1) YOGA - in my recent experience I am learning that yoga is not what it was 20 years ago. I've tried out chanting, kundalini, and one breath work workshop that against the facilitator's wishes I walked out of. These parts of the yoga community were not in my best interest. Too cultish. Also, the popular yoga studios around me seem rather cultish, too. Too much yoga philosophy thrown in, chakras, crystals--just stuff I don't want to be a part of.

2) MEDITATION - I am concerned I'll get too obsessive about it. Should I just avoid it all together, or limit myself? Should I just stick with western teachers like JKZ, or are eastern teachers/apps/podcasts safe?

3) FITNESS - But even that can be cultish. I want to stay away from Cross Fit type groups

4) PEOPLE- I want to get a job where I won't have co-workers trying to bring me to Landmark (saved by Rick Ross's website 15 years ago), Kabbalah, or other cult like groups masquerading as spiritual, religious, self-improvement, personal development, etc.

5) SPIRITUALITY - Is this even possible to do safely, or should I know better and avoid it entirely? Are there any safe authors to read or follow, or do I just donate my books? I see now how ET, BK, and many others are not safe to read and follow. But what about The Dahli Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodron, Brene Brown, etc.

6) MINDFULNESS - Can I do this safely without it being cult-like?

7) AROMATHERAPY - Can I just put lavender on my pulse points without buying into all the craziness with the MLM schemes?

I want to stay simple and grounded with whatever self-care practices I do. But I'm scared. I don't which ones are safe, which ones to avoid all together, and with the safe ones, how to do them in moderation?

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Re: What exactly is safe to do now?
Posted by: facet ()
Date: February 07, 2020 06:07AM

Hi allalong,

I note the date on your posts were a while ago and wonder how you’re getting along with this? Did you work something out in the end?

It is not the same for everyone, though for me I had to drop nearly everything. I used how things felt as a guide and gradually worked through things.

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Re: What exactly is safe to do now?
Posted by: allalong ()
Date: February 23, 2020 12:14AM

facet Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Hi allalong,
>
> I note the date on your posts were a while ago and
> wonder how you’re getting along with this? Did you
> work something out in the end?
>
> It is not the same for everyone, though for me I
> had to drop nearly everything. I used how things
> felt as a guide and gradually worked through
> things.


Hi farcet,

Thank you for your reply. It's very kind of you to check in. I apologize in advance if my tone sound curt--it's not my intention. I'm just feeling frustrated, confused, lost. I didn't work out anything. I don't know how to. I'm still stuck with what to do. I'm not doing any of these things anymore for fear I'll get caught in something unsafe again.

I am utterly confused, because these things are supposed to help my anxiety and depression.

I do appreciate your suggestion to see how things feel as a guide and gradually work through them. Can you give me an example? I could do this by trying out a new yoga class. However, it's the exact design of these sort of practices that make you not check in with your gut, no? In the middle of chanting a mantra, how do you check in with your gut, for example? I'm sorry for the confusion but I think I need clarification--maybe I'm just overthinking here I don't know.

Are there any things you have found to replace these things?

Thank you again.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/23/2020 12:17AM by allalong.

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Re: What exactly is safe to do now?
Posted by: facet ()
Date: February 23, 2020 04:51AM

Hi allalong,

Thank you for posting, especially when not feeling so great. I really appreciate that you’ve checked back.

It’s not easy at all is it? I hope that you’re taking good care of yourself through how you’ve been feeling. Everything you describe is completely relatable.

It may not work for everyone, but For me, I made sure that I was my very best friend despite all of the various emotion and feeling states that arose.

I did not replace anything straight away as such, I just quit entirely and did some gradual self reflection on what my healthier sense of self (identity, who you are, etc) consisted of before all of this sort of stuff. I even looked at what I enjoyed doing as a child.

So, it was to do choose from and do these things that I used to like to do, eat, wear, buy, even if it goes against the programming from any sort of lineage or teachings etc.

Whatever you may have been a fan of beforehand, music, art, a hobby, learning (languages, or something like that), filling your space and focus on those things could be extremely helpful.

Whilst I would not like to give off that we humans are any sort of machine (because we’re not) I’d say that it is a bit like re - installing yourself, though you’ve got the most up to date security system going, meaning no more invasion of others agendas - aka cults.

If the yoga (or anything else) does not feel right to you, you have to listen to yourself definitely, do you think you might give it a go?

From what I have now learned, the mantra chanting or japa is getting self into a hypnotic state, so you’re spot on !

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Re: What exactly is safe to do now?
Posted by: Resilient ()
Date: March 10, 2020 11:16PM

Allalong, this is a great question that I wish more people would ask themselves. I have gone down more than a few rabbit holes searching for practices and techniques that make sense, delivered by trustworthy people. it's not easy to navigate those waters when you're searching for connection, healing, understanding, etc. I have a few ideas to consider.

Ask yourself what need you are looking to meet and be very honest and clear on it. For instance, you can do yoga on your own or in a class setting. If you feel you need the particular format of yoga to maintain health, then even a simple set of sun salutations and basic hatha asana is often enough. Follow your natural breath.

If you're looking for a social atmosphere, or if you need to follow a teacher, do your research and find the right teacher for you. Yoga is just one way. You can always organize your own walking/hiking group and do some stretches together.

Regarding meditation, there are many types of meditation and you need to ask and know what the purpose is/what the effect is and don't take the teacher's word for it. The most basic mindfulness meditation from the Buddha's satipatthana sutta is very stratightforward, and is close to what's taught in JKZs workshops. There is no mantra or transcendence, and it helps you learn to understand and trust the wisdom of your body. I was fortunate to find a great teacher who laid everything out in context and with the fundamental technique.

Once you start doing guided meditations, you're introduced to alot of "extra" and the instruction is often problematic. Don't do any practice that causes you to dissociate or trance. Unwanted physical and mental effects are always a risk.

Regarding essential oils - just enjoy a few fragrances as add-ons, much like you would use incense. Aromatherapy is a specific sensory method that can help you stay in the present (embodied) and comfort you when emotions and anxiety get distracting. Tuning into immediate environmental sounds is another method. Music works wonders. Working with senses - It's all mindfulness.

Spirituality is the sticky one, right? You mentioned a list of spiritual mentors, but Pema Chodron is also from a lineage of abuse and debauchery. I have ceased hitching my wagon to any lineage, but that's a personal choice. I do my best to cultivate universal virtues of honesty, kindness, equanimity, patience, etc, but it's not easy. We all get fed up, angry and selfish sometimes. It's part of our humanness. Keeping things simple has been my practice. I try to not take myself too seriously and focus on being of service to my family and a benefit to society.

I place a lot of trust in natural cycles and whenever I feel overwhelmed or bored by a practice I just give it a break. It is good to drop everything once in awhile, rest and feel how you are in the natural (especially if you're experiencing uncertainty or not feeling well). You can pick up your practice again any time.

Change is good, and you're free to do what you want or do nothing! It is always a good idea to consult a trusted professional for talk therapy, manual therapy or whatever you find helpful and supportive. Do your best to trust yourself to make the right choices - nobody has all the answers for you, you might make mistakes, and you'll figure it out as you go. Don't be afraid to try new things and change direction as you please. It's okay to go against the popular stream. Enjoy your life!

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Re: What exactly is safe to do now?
Posted by: allalong ()
Date: March 11, 2020 10:34PM

Resilient Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Allalong, this is a great question that I wish
> more people would ask themselves. I have gone down
> more than a few rabbit holes searching for
> practices and techniques that make sense,
> delivered by trustworthy people. it's not easy to
> navigate those waters when you're searching for
> connection, healing, understanding, etc. I have a
> few ideas to consider.

Resilient, thank you very much for your reply. It helps to hear I'm not the only one who has gone down those rabbit holes.
>
> Ask yourself what need you are looking to meet and
> be very honest and clear on it. For instance, you
> can do yoga on your own or in a class setting. If
> you feel you need the particular format of yoga to
> maintain health, then even a simple set of sun
> salutations and basic hatha asana is often enough.
> Follow your natural breath.

That is a great question. I enjoyed the peaceful energy you get being in a yoga studio. But I see what you're saying--I can also experience that at home just doing basic asanas myself.
>
> If you're looking for a social atmosphere, or if
> you need to follow a teacher, do your research and
> find the right teacher for you. Yoga is just one
> way. You can always organize your own
> walking/hiking group and do some stretches
> together.

I do enjoy the social aspects of it, too. I could always take a class or two at different studios to see what feels right. A walking group is a great idea.
>
> Regarding meditation, there are many types of
> meditation and you need to ask and know what the
> purpose is/what the effect is and don't take the
> teacher's word for it. The most basic mindfulness
> meditation from the Buddha's satipatthana sutta is
> very stratightforward, and is close to what's
> taught in JKZs workshops. There is no mantra or
> transcendence, and it helps you learn to
> understand and trust the wisdom of your body. I
> was fortunate to find a great teacher who laid
> everything out in context and with the fundamental
> technique.

This sounds perfect for me. May I ask how you found a teacher?
>
> Once you start doing guided meditations, you're
> introduced to alot of "extra" and the instruction
> is often problematic. Don't do any practice that
> causes you to dissociate or trance. Unwanted
> physical and mental effects are always a risk.

This is exactly what I need to avoid, because it is like a false sense of "calm". This is why I haven't gone back into meditation. Do you have suggestions for what type of practices to avoid--how to know if a certain practice will cause you to dissociate or trance? Even at a yoga studio I used to go to, I found that just the few short minutes of chanting would be trance-like. I enjoyed it, and I thought it was making me peaceful, but I realize it was not a good state to be in.
>
> Regarding essential oils - just enjoy a few
> fragrances as add-ons, much like you would use
> incense. Aromatherapy is a specific sensory method
> that can help you stay in the present (embodied)
> and comfort you when emotions and anxiety get
> distracting. Tuning into immediate environmental
> sounds is another method. Music works wonders.
> Working with senses - It's all mindfulness.

I didn't realize the connection with oils and staying present. But I did find that focusing on my sense of smell just seemed calming. I do often listen to relaxing music on youtube and that is very soothing. I remember reading something about using all of your senses for mindfulness.
>
> Spirituality is the sticky one, right? You
> mentioned a list of spiritual mentors, but Pema
> Chodron is also from a lineage of abuse and
> debauchery. I have ceased hitching my wagon to any
> lineage, but that's a personal choice. I do my
> best to cultivate universal virtues of honesty,
> kindness, equanimity, patience, etc, but it's not
> easy. We all get fed up, angry and selfish
> sometimes. It's part of our humanness. Keeping
> things simple has been my practice. I try to not
> take myself too seriously and focus on being of
> service to my family and a benefit to society.

Yes, spirituality is definitely where I still get tripped up, in that I'm not sure which practices to do. I didn't know Pema is from a lineage of abuse--thank you for letting me know this. I don't want to follow one particular guru, but I did want to have some sort of list of "safe" people to learn from. However, I think after reading your post, I see more clearly that I can just follow mindfulness techniques, and not spiritual techniques. I also like your point about character traits you try to work on. The spiritual group I was in taught me a lot about those which I'm grateful for. But I'm putting my own spin on it now that's best for me which includes allowing myself to have healthy boundaries, inner strength, and assertiveness now too.

You bring up a very important point about "humanness". I think these groups take away our humanness and makes us see it as a bad thing, but it's not. What makes us human is part of the life experience. But we can be better humans just by being more self-aware. And we don't need to follow spiritual groups to do that.

Coincidentally, I am also working more on just keeping things simple. That's helped me better than any group or guru. All it took was my therapist to say the words "simplify your life" and I started to read more on how to do that. I also realized whatever it is that I do to simplify my life, it's up to me to not obsessive about it. Just like what you said about doing some basic yoga asanas. If yoga helps me to stretch and relax, I can keep that practice simple.

> I place a lot of trust in natural cycles and
> whenever I feel overwhelmed or bored by a practice
> I just give it a break. It is good to drop
> everything once in awhile, rest and feel how you
> are in the natural (especially if you're
> experiencing uncertainty or not feeling well). You
> can pick up your practice again any time.

I never thought of this. I fell into the trap of, if this is good, more is better. I truly love this idea of just letting your body and mind be, and then checking in internally to see what practice feels right to do.

> Change is good, and you're free to do what you
> want or do nothing! It is always a good idea to
> consult a trusted professional for talk therapy,
> manual therapy or whatever you find helpful and
> supportive. Do your best to trust yourself to make
> the right choices - nobody has all the answers for
> you, you might make mistakes, and you'll figure it
> out as you go. Don't be afraid to try new things
> and change direction as you please. It's okay to
> go against the popular stream. Enjoy your life!

Ironically, I've known since I was young that I have a strong intuition and gut. It was other people who didn't want me to trust myself. But going back to trusting myself, versus the soft cults that told me not to do this, is definitely key to healing. And to give myself permission to not be perfect with this, but to make mistakes and continue on, is what I need to do.

I will try new things. I have a few things I've wanted to try again, that made me feel good but GROUNDED.

I've never been one to care about if I went against the popular stream, although there were times in my life I was better at this than others.

Your last sentence reminds me of something a now deceased relative wrote to me.

Thank you for an extremely helpful reply. You've helped me make so much more sense out of how to continue to move forward from here.

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Re: What exactly is safe to do now?
Posted by: Resilient ()
Date: March 20, 2020 06:42AM

allalong, I am glad my experience is able to support you in some way. I'll address a couple of the questions you asked.


Regarding meditation, there are many types of
> meditation and you need to ask and know what the
> purpose is/what the effect is and don't take the
> teacher's word for it. The most basic mindfulness
> meditation from the Buddha's satipatthana sutta is
> very stratightforward, and is close to what's
> taught in JKZs workshops. There is no mantra or
> transcendence, and it helps you learn to
> understand and trust the wisdom of your body. I
> was fortunate to find a great teacher who laid
> everything out in context and with the fundamental
> technique.

Q: This sounds perfect for me. May I ask how you found a teacher?

A: I had heard about a teacher who was a young, male, charismatic zen buddhist/yoga teacher many years ago from a friend. It was not what I was looking for that at the time. Many years, like, 8 years later, this teacher "showed up" again (more mature in his practice) many months after exiting my cult when I had abandoned all practices and on the advice of a trusted friend not "jumping into anything new" right away. I decided to do his pre-recorded, online introductory course into Buddhist Mindfulness, and it was so refreshing to not have to "do" so much during meditation and make it a body-based, natural experience without any agenda or expected results. After a few more months I discovered he was teaching an intensive class to healthcare professionals (of which I am one) and we learned how to deliver mindfulness in clinical practice. His education and background in mental health and meditation was impressive and practical, and he taught with a clearly established code of ethics and practice. It gave me a firm background in the traditional foundations of mindfulness with a contemporary and clinical context, which was exactly what I needed. No love-bombing, new-age sentiments or big promises. So, I teach mindfulness in small groups in my clinic the way he taught me to, and the practice is very uncomplicated. Sadly, he passed a couple of years ago, so I lost that mentor. I think it's good to work with a live teacher. Traditional Buddhist zen or vipassana teachers are who I recommend. Listen to Tara Brach, Jack Kornfield, Michael Stone guided meditations on the Insight App, maybe. You would have to feel it out for yourself. I am never surprised anymore to be disappointed by teachers - they are human and their values might not always align with ours. Also, there is drama in many lineages. There are so many people teaching their own version of mindfulness online that I have come across and it is clear from their guidance and instruction that they don't understand what the practice is. I am sure that there are people who read a few books then say they are teaching mindfulness and they haven't even established a practice themselves. There is also a trend in some circles to mix psychedelic drug (microdosing, etc) into their practice, which I disagree with. It's not a mindfulness practice and it's problematic, just like pranayama and chanting. I hope that helps.I'm not an expert.




>
> Once you start doing guided meditations, you're
> introduced to alot of "extra" and the instruction
> is often problematic. Don't do any practice that
> causes you to dissociate or trance. Unwanted
> physical and mental effects are always a risk.

Q: This is exactly what I need to avoid, because it is like a false sense of "calm". This is why I haven't gone back into meditation. Do you have suggestions for what type of practices to avoid--how to know if a certain practice will cause you to dissociate or trance? Even at a yoga studio I used to go to, I found that just the few short minutes of chanting would be trance-like. I enjoyed it, and I thought it was making me peaceful, but I realize it was not a good state to be in.

A: A Buddhist Teacher, I think Ajahn Buddhadhasa, said something like "don't do any practice that takes you away from your body". This basically means that your natural breath patterns and bodily sensations are going to be the objects of your meditation, because that's what's going on when you're sitting in meditation. Mindfulness never uses mantra or a sculpted breath or breath holding. Technically, you are creating a wedge between reality and "trance" every time you let your thinking brain be and return to your breathing body. You do this 1000 times in a 30 minute meditation, and that's mindfulness.

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