Monday, June 27, 2005

Growing up in "the community" - One view

by Anais Daly

[Note from the Blog Administrators--Although we are generally not accepting new contributions for the What Enlightenment??! blog at this time, we could not resist posting the following article from a former "sangha kid." It is written with exceptional honesty and vulnerability, and provides an aspect of the community experience we haven't heard here before.]

My name is Anais Daly, I am 25 now but spent the majority of my childhood living in community houses. I remember Andrew from before he was a teacher up until I moved out my senior year of high school. I am not here to condemn Andrew, but just tell my story for the sake of information and discussion. I do not have a confirmed opinion of Andrew or the community, there's too much involved to really know where to begin forming a black and white opinion. First off I was never physically or emotionally abused, perhaps confused and left to my own devices too much but I never felt the lack of love and care a child needs. I have lived with many of the people mentioned in these articles and comments and am extremely grateful to read their stories. It takes a lot of courage for people to tell their stories and for whatever reason they decided they needed to I greatly appreciated reading these statements. I along with a lot of other readers am learning a lot of things that I didn't know.

I remember Beenleigh and my mum spending a lot of time with a new group of people. Many of them parents of my friends. I remember Andrew being at the house and talking for hours with the group. He was warm and friendly. I remember he smiled a great deal. In the summer of I think ‘88 we came to Amherst, MA for a couple of months and lived in a huge house with many other people. I remember my mother being happier than she had ever been. The summer was truly amazing, beautiful weather, swimming in Puffer's pond, everybody seemed to be floating on air. Andrew sent the song "Don't Worry, Be Happy" to a party we were having.

In June of ‘89 we moved to Marin County. More people seemed to join all the time. We had kind of a pseudo kids group formed from all the kids who moved. I was kind of the young generation of kids at the time; there was my older sister and her group, and my brother and his group who seemed to hang out a lot. We lived in these big nice houses all together. Parents would usually live with other parents so we were often living with other kids. We moved house a lot.

In the beginning there were a lot of events for the families, days in the park and such but over time the kids stopped being invited to activities and my mum started getting busier and busier. In the evening there were discussion groups and meditations and teachings, videos and so on. Most of the parents were gone pretty much every night after awhile, so all the kids would hang out together. From time to time they would decide that we needed to participate a bit and there would be a "kids meeting" or they would ask if we wanted to meditate but there was not that much pressure. I remember Andrew's teachings all sounding the same, the words just seemed to be a part of daily conversation, everything sounded the same. There were a couple of us kids who really learned how to "speak Andrew" and could talk our way through everything, knew when to be quiet or buy flowers and such.

The last couple of years in Marin were interesting, mum was a senior student and we moved out of the houses with other kids and we started living with people like Michelle, Bob, Donna and Debbie. My brother and sister had already moved out and everyone left me alone completely. As long as the house was clean I pretty much did whatever I wanted. We lived in these beautiful houses, with hot tubs and fancy furniture. Andrew become less and less familiar and when he was around I would pretty much make myself scarce. I was always afraid we would move back to England or somewhere so mum could help lead some center. She said we were once but it never happened. I could see from where I was living a lot of the other community kids living in houses together with rules and house meetings and I was very happy not to be in them. Mum and I always got along really well and it worked out great.

Then mum "fell from grace" as everyone keeps putting it and we moved into this square little box and all she ever did was vacuum. She was so unhappy that I ended up moving in with my sister for a little while. I remember feeling really self-righteous, like she had done something really wrong and I couldn't live with her in this state. I visited with Andrew and Michelle and they told me how wrong and bad my mum had been. I never really knew what she had done but now that I look back I feel embarrassed that at such a young age I could have taken advantage of her vulnerabilities that way. Anyways I got a call while I was smoking cigarettes and hanging around the Depot from my tearful mother saying I could come home and she was shaving her head and they had let her back in. I acted all supportive and told her that was great when really I was just worried about my own freedoms to do what I pleased.

In ‘97 I went on a retreat in Switzerland. We spent two weeks on top of a mountain. I remember in the beginning I was stunned, it felt like the heavens had opened up just over this mountain and it was beautiful. I still have the journal I wrote while I was there and I was really in heaven for a little while. I finally found peace to meditate for long periods of time. I also finally felt disconnected from my mum and I was there for me not as a kid. And of course I got Andrew's rebuffs openly in the teaching tent when I asked a question and confidently stated I was fully ready to search for enlightenment. (I was a Californian 17 year old). But towards the end I seemed to lose interest and ended up having a small affair with an Israeli man and smoking too many cigarettes.

When we moved to Boston things seemed to get ugly. Not really with my mum but in the households I was living in. Mum was no longer in the inner circle and some of the other parents were very intense. I remember instances of the kids being turned against each other by new rules and hearing how arrogant a lot of the kids including myself had become. I remember one guy my age saying to a kid who was not in the community that they would never meet another group of kids like this and feeling sick to my stomach. I remember the amount of adults who were leaving and how badly everyone spoke of people who "last week" were just another "community face". I remember how traumatic it was for kids who had one parent who had left and one who was still in. It seemed the kids were always stuck in the middle.

At our teenage years we would find out more things about the community and I could also feel mum's doubt and indecision. My mum kept her head shaved for long periods of time and didn't speak for I think it was 6 months or close to that. For me there were also times in the community when I was really taken care of by other people. I got stuck out in Wendover, Nevada late one night, having been left behind by a greyhound bus, and when I couldn't reach my mother the first number in my head was that of the center. Through tears I explained my situation and they looked me up on the Internet and tried to find me a hotel for the night, stayed on the phone with me until they found my mum and finally called the police. Being in dire need of something I would never have hesitated to go to anyone within the community.

When my mum finally left after I was already in College I was not surprised or angry. My brother and sister seemed more upset but that is their story to tell. Ultimately I am not upset about growing up in the community; there were many loving and caring people. I was taught to respect all living creatures, aspire to open, honest relationships and care about the world in general. I have been angry over time at many aspects of the community, I feel that the community can tear families apart and instills a kind of "close mindedness" or "should be" about what you are supposed to be doing. It is not until years later that I finally let the idea go that one day I would join the community and that his teachings are the only way in life. I watched my mother go to the bottom and back during her departure which was difficult but I guess necessary (but that is her story). I have nothing to do with the community now only remnants from family members who are still with Andrew.

Last year my cousin passed away from cancer who was 23 years old. Both her parents and her sister are involved with community. When I went to the funeral I expected to see a large community presence but instead there was very little. The community's influence on her family has angered me over the last year and has appeared to come between the remaining family members in a harmful and hurtful way. But I will say this—I do not understand the Community's response or the fact that there was not more of a community presence at her funeral. I guess the revolution is more important than children, family, and individual pain but at the same time I want to say that I do not think that Andrew has the credentials to understand what it must be like to loose a child, or a sister. I know these are big things to say and that he will not agree with me but I remember him saying once at a teachings that he could not respond to a woman's question because he had not been through what she had (She was a Jew in Germany and had the number tattoo on her arm.)
I hope this was of some interest to some people and thank you again for your stories.



Blogger the Editors said...

A comment from Heather Braun

Thank you for posting this entry. I was touched by Anais' wisdom, compassion and understanding. She has pointed out something very important, and that is Andrew's inability to relate to women and children who are affected by his control over their lives. The lack of support and compassion for the family who lost their child to cancer is chilling to contemplate. What kind of enlightened evolution would allow for such aloofness and cold-heartedness?
Love to you Anais, and gratitude to those who provided your message to us via the What Enlightenment blog.
Heather Braun

Wednesday, 29 June, 2005  
Blogger the Editors said...

A comment from Jessica Chandler

Hi Anais, this is Jessica, it was great to read your very clear and honest post and that you took the time to do it.

I was also apart of Anais’ expereience and was considered part of the older kid generation that did much of the babysitting when parents were out every night.

I was at the bliss filled party in Amherst Anais describes & consider that summer to be an exhilarating and intense experience.

My mum did not become a high ranking student as did Anais’s mum. My mum, Jane, was a formal student during the early years but when things changed from mid Marin to Boston she became a lay student and was for along time till she left after some painful years. I also consider my years with Andrew and the community to be very precious, and in which I gained so much and still value and treasure the experiences and I certainly believe that I’m very privileged and lucky to have had these experiences at all.

This blog has also certainly opened my eyes to an area that was just never touched on before. Mainly Andrew, I have always considered the problems in the community to stem from the community itself.

When I read Stas Mavrides, Ernest’s, post it was shocking, because from my angle I looked at his desertion of his daughter Sophia as one of the biggest mistakes made by a Senior student of his own volition. The unbending commitments made on the senior students by Andrew and community seemed to me a choice they all readily throw themselves into. No children in the community were physically hurt or abused, but certain kids definitely suffered when parents gave all their spare time, attention first and foremost to the needs of Andrew and the community. When Anais talks about the freedom she had in the house in Marin it was always strange to me how a house full of Senior student parents who had risen to that status because of their seeming ability to live Andrew’s teachings, had, more than most parents abandoned their own parental responsibilities.

The way I see it, is that Andrew’s teaching is a very intellectual, rigorous and orthodox path for those saddhus’s and Irinie Tweedie’s out there who live in caves for 10 years to reach enlightenment. It’s hardly for everyone and only for the very serious. Andrew demands your every inch of attention and focus and openly discusses how his path needs to be first and foremost above family, lovers and friends, the parents who are not even close to being free, attempt to follow this with no idea of what it really means or whether it’s the right thing to do or not. Their interpretation of parenting with Andrew's teaching as an objective and unattached parent free of dependency of their kids became weird and kind of twisted, when they attempted to carry this out with no idea of how to be objective or unattached and independent themselves. Instead they try to bring Andrew's teaching into their discipline, without bringing the kids into their world with Andrew.

This is such a complex thing with so many areas of amazing parts to it that from one angle far outshine any wrongdoing and from another angle make me mad that they went on at all. It’s hard to unravel and this blog certainly makes it more confusing at the same time more eye opening and also closer to a sense of finding a ground to it all.

What really is the truth in all this? Is it that all is good and ok no matter who get’s hurt if it’s in the name of enlightenment, and nothing therefore can be criticized? Or are there delicate issues of ego and disillusionment all wrapped up in this?

I don’t know so much about what’s changed in the last 2 yrs, but I think the parents have to learn how to live with their full parental responsibility intact and to understand they are still beginners in an intense spiritual path that incorporates children, maybe the first of its kind. But far more attention, understanding, communication and vunerability needs to occur for mistakes not to be made. And there were alot of mistakes being made that didn't need to happen, if more care and vunerability were put into the delicacy of what they were trying to do. There are lots of pitfalls such as the (or was I should say) parental pride that occured in a bizarre spiritual selfish pride that wanted so bad for their kids to somehow magically understand all that Andrew’s doing and to make Andrew happy. And I think Andrew is very naïve that his path and his students are strong enough to handle being parents AND super enlightened students, because somewhere someone else is suffering.

I’m more confused than ever about who’s to blame for Sophia’s being shut out of her father’s life the way she was, and I dearly hope that things have changed for them both. I don’t know whether it was Andrew’s unthinking, without understanding and no limits demands that he set, or Ernest’s full choice, participation and almost inability to incorporate his child into his world with Andrew.

When Anais said kids were more and more excluded from events and being around Andrew, I can tell you it was mostly because of the pride in the parents that was afraid that their son/daughter might do or say something “inappropriate” to Andrew and annoy him with some unenlightened or disrespectful response. Only when the parents' pride was shut out and the kids met with Andrew directly, in the “kids meetings,” were there moments of some reality and actual relationships to Andrew were kindled.

I also want to add one thing more that is to do with the people in the community who leave, the “shadow” community. There is a reason it’s called this, because the people still in the community have always and I utterly can’t stand it, have always treated people who leave like lepers, who might as well be dead to them. I’ve seen very close friendships of 20 years break apart because one person is in the community and one is not, I’ve seen kids torn from any kind of real relationship with one parent because one is in and one’s not. There is such a fear, a scared uncaring cold fear in the community of the people who leave that makes me think what’s going on here??? Andrew’s path is for the very few, it’s very difficult and you have to really want it. If this community really knows and understands the ego, then they should be unafraid of the “shadow” community, they should be talking to them, listening, finding out what happened and why it did. It’s as if they are afraid they’ll catch whatever the person who left caught. They have no freedom in their ability to relate or understand the ego issues that surround them, they pretend it could never happen to them, that they would never ever be someone who leaves. Well Andrew’s path is not for everyone and if it was it would be a very different ball game, and whose to judge the path of someone else, or the right or wrong of them leaving? I think until the community can have a real respect and some humanity for people who leave then how can they be free? The fear they have, make’s me suspicious that they themselves are so fearful of their own potential to leave (that they never admit) which in turn incurs a great lose for both sides. Until there are some genuine improvements in this big, never discussed area, I don’t believe the community or Andrew will have achieved as much as they think they have.

Anais hope to see you soon.

Love everyone Jessica Chandler

Tuesday, 19 July, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, it was great to read Anais’s and Jessica’s letters. It is refreshing to hear from people that actually did not choose to be part of the community, but were brought there by fate. Hi Jessica, I like your point about the fact that Andrew and the community relate to people that chose to leave as if they have a contagious disease; after I had to leave Boston and moved to Toronto, I was wondering about it myself. I was thinking about all the passionate and talented people that have left the community, thinking what a waste. For a while I was in a limbo, on one hand knowing that I never want to go back and on the other hand I could not deny the facts that I have learned and changed tremendously during my years with Andrew. In the end I am happy that I was forced to choose and decided to leave. I am lucky to still be passionate about making a difference in the world and not having to hinder this by living in a swamp of “how am I doing”, giving and receiving feed back and all the rest of it. What I enjoy the most is coming out of the bubble of Andrew’s community and meeting many good people. No doubt coming out, discussing my views and feelings about the community with other people who are ex-students has been a freeing experience. Smadar (ex-student).

Monday, 26 December, 2005  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home