I can't stop smiling while enjoying dinner at an Austin restaurant on a Saturday night.
After 15 years of force fitting my personality into a process that I was told would lead me to God, I ended up in the darkest, dankest pit imaginable: My “gurus” were frauds and child molesters.
Shortly after I moved out of my one room in a group home in the ashram, I had a chiropractic appointment. I’d been seeing the chiropractor for five years and we’d had a few discussions over the years, usually about how I needed to relax more (perhaps take a vacation) and get more sleep to help cure the raging migraines that had taken over my life.
After adjusting my neck, he looked at me with genuine delight on his face and said, “Wow. You have really changed.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You’re a different person.”
“Really? In what way.” I was thrilled at his unexpected declaration, and curious to know exactly what he meant.
“You’re smiling, your bubbly, your glowing. You used to be so quiet and withdrawn, and you never really smiled. It’s like you’ve come alive. I’m blown away.”
“Wow!” I said, smiling. I was blown away too by his glowing commentary.
“I have only seen such a dramatic transformation one other time: When a drug addict kicked his habit.”
Recognizing My Transformation
I left my chiropractor’s office floating on air. I knew that I felt better since leaving my oppressive cult: I truly felt reborn. But to have someone else recognize my transformation made me extra joyful.
While his reaction buoyed me even higher than I was already at being free of the cult, it also reminded me of how far I’d come from being that perpetually sad spiritual seeker.
But then, what other outcome is there for a person who joins an unnatural, closed community that takes away their individuality, eliminates their freedom of speech, and rules their lives like an overbearing psychotic parent? There is only one outcome possible in this environment: A deconstruction of yourself and your identity, a diminishment of your self worth, and an infantilization of your personality. This was exactly the result of the rigid, dogmatic belief system I lived within for 15 years.
The Freedom to Transform
Whether it’s called God realization, self-realization, or whatever, people on a spiritual search are ultimately looking to be transformed. However, any rigid structure of any religion, or spiritual path, or ideology boxes us in and diminishes us, instead of doing the one thing it needs to do: Free us to truly transform.
My transformation came only after my body, mind, and soul were outside of the gates of my former guru’s ashram. As I drove away from his gated hell for the last time, I rolled down the windows in my car, turned up the radio, and sang loudly all the way to my new home. This was something I never would have done while living there, because I never was happy.
Once out, my transformation continued in various stages, including three months of debilitating grief. But even the grief was a necessary step in getting over and moving beyond my negative experienced. In fact, the four years it took me to get completely over getting conned by fake spiritual leaders were the most profoundly transformative period of my entire life.
Now I understood where everything I ever wanted existed: Within myself.