Saturday, February 21, 2009

More Thoughts from the Reviewing Reader Posted Above

February 20, 2009

Dear Marta,

First of all, congratulations. I’ve been hoping since I first read your blog last January that a publisher would find you. As the offspring of two writers I can appreciate, if not exactly relate from direct memoir-writing experience, the sheer will and perseverance it must have taken to compose something of this scope. Clearly you needed to write this story and clearly it needed to be read.

Second, I’ve written and re-written you several times in my head, wished I could call and invite you to coffee and share what your story has meant to me. Haven’t been able to capture what I want to say in writing – it is an ongoing conversation, it evolves – but decided to finally take an initial crack at today so here goes:

After reading your story I went back and wrote my own (though just one chapter!) about my early experiences in SY, circa 1989-1993, and may someday send it your way as a thank you, as proof of how reading about your experience inspired me to look back at my own with sober detachment.

In the past, almost everything I’d ever read about SY that was “critical” (mainly the magazine articles in the 90s) seemed tinged with a nastiness that felt personal and led me to question the motives of the authors.

Your book was the opposite. I suppose had I encountered it, say, ten years ago – when I was that much closer in time to and need of GM, and that much more submerged in the “shakti” – it might have devastated me. But the volume on SY began to slowly turn down several years ago, and your book came at a time when I could really hear it.

Your story (and the comments “heaped upon it” by your other readers) helped me look back and finally reconcile the disparity that was always present between my own personal experience (overwhelmingly positive) and the things about SY the “organization” that continued to gnaw in my gut.

Although for a time a dear friend became one of GM’s personal assistants, I understood, even as someone on the outside, the unspoken rule that information about such a relationship was "sacred"/off limits. Because I never lived in an ashram, never wanted to, and remained far removed from the inner workings – the dark side of SY was something I was chose to overlook as “not part of my experience.” Of course now I can look back and see all the subtle and not so subtle ways I was supported in that choice.

Your book helped me see with such clarity how within dysfunctional relationships there are rationales on both sides for everything; how what you deeply want to beleive, what you hope is true, and what you're too afraid to admit or let go of can keep you enslaved. It's the old "They beat me, but I stay, because this is what I know."

Though I have no regrets about my particpation in SY, and am grateful for what the experience taught me (and since reading your book, is as it turns out, still teaching me) I realize that if I encountered SY today – especially as it was marketed to me in 1989 – I wouldn’t go anywhere near it.

With the above realization came countless others about how much I, the world, even SY have changed.

After finishing your book, I went back and read the New Yorker article again. In 1994, it made me sick to my stomach; this time around it had no charge, even seemed a bit long-winded and dull. So much of what was in there just didn't matter anymore. The revelation for me now was that I could have read something so scalding about SY – and still stayed involved. Wow. No, I never lived in an ashram, never "served" GM, but clearly, in my own way, I was completely committed. If shaktipat had come with a side-effects warning label it might have read: "Caution: Repeated doses may blunt critical thinking."

In hindsight, SY was my salvation at a crisis point in my life where, under different circumstances, I might have just gone to my Dr. and gotten a prescription for Ativan. Ultimately I’m glad I chose the former option but glad I now know I don’t need it, evo lved/am evolving out of it, can’t/won’t use it anymore.

Your book helped make this new direction easier for me.

Baba once said “The practices of Siddha Yoga belong to you” and I always felt that was right – in spite of all the hoopla, insanity, dysfunction and corruption, it has been important for me to remember that things like Om Namah Shivaya predate degrees in marketing, trademarks, PR campaigns, satellite programming, and perhaps, even sexual abuse.

Thankfully, as it turns out, the practices of Siddha Yoga don’t belong to SYDA. Now that truly would have been tragic.

Thank you for inspiring the look back. I doubt I would have ever done it had I not found your book. Thank you, thank you.

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