My name is Paul">
My name is Paul, and I formally left Siddha Yoga in February, 1998.  By "formally", I mean that  I called a devotee who served on the steering committee of the local SY center and told him I no longer wished to be associated with Siddha Yoga.  That was the end of a long painful process of disengagement and the beginning of a wonderful period of personal growth and self-discovery.  It is now May, 1999, and I would like to tell you who have found this site about my experience with Siddha Yoga with the intention that in reading it you will feel empowered to do the same.

I graduated from college in 1986.  At that time, I was would you would call a "lost soul".  I had no clue who I was, what I wanted from life, what my gifts were, or how to use them.  I was fairly convinced there was no place for me in the world.  I returned to the city I grew up in on the East Coast.  A friend from high school who was familiar with Siddha Yoga saw my angst-filled state, and took me to the local center for spiritual regeneration.  On my first visit, a New Year's Eve chanting saptah, I walked into a hall filled with devotees joyfully chanting.  I fell in love with the sound immediately.  I loved the drumming, the cymbals, the sound of the voices singing in unison, the look of rapture on the people's faces.   I knew I would return for that.  And return I did, off and on for two years.

In July of 1988, I decided I should take the Meditation Intensive and find out why everyone at the center was so focussed on this woman Gurumayi.  It was called the Prayers and Blessings Intensive.  I thought I would go get shaktipat, find the love I was so sorely missing in my life, maybe even become a swami myself after my quick rebirth into an enlightened state.  Well, I hated the intensive:  there was too many people and too much commotion when we weren't in the hall, my knees were killing me after two days sitting on the floor in the best posture for meditation I could muster, the intensive seemed to be too staged.  I remember being stunned when one of the swamis retold a story by Tolstoy called "Master and Man" without acknowledging the source.  My only peaceful moments were late in the morning on Sunday when I decided to sit quietly on the Amrit porch rather than go back into the hall.  By the end of the intensive, I felt worse than ever because I wasn't feeling the love that everyone seemed to be experiencing.  I figured that there was something wrong with me, and that I would just have to go through life feeling the heaviness in my heart,  a burden that I had been staggering under for many years.  I couldn't wait to get out of there, get home, and be with my cat who I knew loved me and whom I loved.

A week later I had an experience of great love and bliss which I guess is shaktipat.   The short story is I felt energy start coursing through my body, it was almost too much to bear.  I felt streams of gratitude pouring from my heart, cleansing me of all the dirt that had accumulated over the years.  I felt a palpable energy connection between my heart and the hearts of other people around me.  When I walked I felt like the earth was carrying me, it was so effortless.  All of nature seemed to be rejoicing in MY being.  It didn't seem like something new, but rather that I was remembering something about myself that I had forgotten long long ago.    I was amazed.  But there is a flip side.  Later that day, something took place that made me angry, and as great as the bliss was earlier, the rage that started coming up, years of suppressed rage, overwhelmed me, and I felt ashamed.  And I was alone with all of this stuff, because I wasn't in the South Fallsburg ashram.

A year passed and it was time for Gurumayi's return to South Fallsburg. I went up for the birthday program, and when Gurumayi entered the hall, tears of gratitude and relief that I had found my Master began pouring out of me.  My whole body was shaking.  I was home at last.  I decided I would follow Gurumayi and her teachings and practices so that I could become established in that state of love and bliss.

I got involved in the local center back home.  After about another year,a devotee living in South Fallsburg visited our center, he  was looking for sevites for the Security Department.  Well, I was a young man, I hadn't started a  family, I didn't have much in the way of a career, no home to sell, no reason not to move to South Fallsburg basically.  So off I went to live in the ashram.  I was so excited.   I would be able to offer full-time seva, devote myself to the practices, and reach what was trumpeted as the goal of life, to know the Self.  I had it made.

I lived in the ashram in South Fallsburg from late 1990 until May of 1992 if I recall correctly, as a security sevite.  I don't know why I stayed after my initial month living in the ashram.  People were generally not very friendly or welcoming, and as a security sevite I felt particularly unwanted.  The ashram youth were horrible to me, taunting me because I represented an authority figure they could rebel against.  But I had nothing to return to, and I was sure it would change once Gurumayi returned from the tour.  All the stuff I was experiencing was the Shakti, all knowing and powerful, creating what I needed to become purified.

Gurumayi returned from the Far East and Australia in May of 1991 or thereabouts. (I may have my years mixed up, it's hard to recall now.)  I remember her helicopter circling over the ashram and then landing in the field across the road from the ashram.  As a security sevite, I was stationed along the path by the landing pad.  (For those of you who came into Siddha Yoga after this, the landing pad was removed and there is now the Silent Path going through there.)  I felt so privileged. Shortly after her return, the security and switchboard departments had a private darshan with Gurumayi.  We all introduced ourselves.  After I said my piece, Gurumayi said to her staff, "He looks like he should stay here a long time.  Try to keep him here."  My peers were agog over that!  How fortunate I was, what good karma I had.  And so the summer descended like the storm it can be.  I felt increasing sadness and depression as I watched devotees with real jobs and income coming and going as they pleased, taking their fill of courses and intensives, purchasing the beautiful and appealing items in the bookstore.  I felt lucky if I could afford new clothes.   Every time Gurumayi came by Atma Nidhi where I did security, after she left, I would experience a wave of depression and sadness overtake me, and I would take to my bed and curl up in the good ole fetal position.  I figured it was the Shakti doing its thing again, purging the last remnants of the seeds of grief that lay in my soul.

And so it went, stuff happened along the way, and I don't want to go into every detail.   Suffice it to say by May of 1992 I didn't want to be in the ashram and endure another summer of waves of devotees arriving at the ashram.  A friend of mine from the ashram who had married and moved back to our hometown called me one day to inform me she had decided on a career and was applying to the appropriate schools.  I was real envious.  I had been delaying coming up with the answer of what I was supposed to do for a living.  She made this particular field sound very appealing.  And so, with little investigation into the matter, acting out of fear that it was getting too late in life and I had better get going if I wanted a career and money to spend freely at the ashram on courses and intensives and goodies from the bookstore, I decided to do the same thing.  Surely if i offered up my work as service, I would like it no matter what.   And besides, I would be returning to the local center where I knew people loved me.   I told Gurumayi at the next darshan I had with her about my plans, and she just laughed.  I don't know what that meant.

That was in 1992, and the seeds of my disillusionment would see be planted.  There was one particular devotee at the center who gave me lots of trouble and heartache as it turned out.  This could be a very long story, but the short version is for at least two  years we butted heads again and again. We were both in the music department, as I played harmonium and she the drum, and she was the only drummer at the center at this time.  And my experience was that she was very unpleasant to play with because of her deep-seated need to control and dominate others.   I don't know to this day what she found so threatening about me, but she never let an opportunity slip by to publicly humiliate me, put me down, and let everyone know how adharmic I was.  I repeatedly sought help to create some real communication from center leaders to no avail.  Well, one time I was told that she and I and one of the leaders would get together to try and create communication and understanding, in a few weeks time, on a Sunday, after the Guru Gita.  Well, I waited and waited on the appointed day, and then finally she came downstairs to where I was waiting.  I said to her, "I thought we were going to meet today and work this out."  Without even a glance in my direction, she raised her hand up in a "talk to the hand" sort of gesture and said, "It's been taken care of."  I can't tell you how infuriating and demeaning this was.   I just didn't understand at all.  The saddest thing is that the other devotees had the attitude that it was all just the play of the shakti.  There seemed to be no compassion for the obvious pain and suffering I was in over this whole affair.  So much for taking refuge in the community of devotees.

Well, the only good thing that came out of this twisted relationship was that I decided i had better learn to play the drum myself.  And I am not merely flattering myself when I say that I became quite a good drummer, much better than she was.  I loved to play the drums for satsang, I loved the feeling that I was merely a channel for the shakti.   I had the knack for allowing the chant to develop naturally, out of the synergy of all the musicians and chanters, and of course the Shakti.  I didn't have to force my will onto the chant.  For quite a time it was the only thing in my life I thought I was any good at, and it sustained me through periods of bleakness, despair, and depression.  So who knows, maybe, the Shakti is guiding everything after all!  I only have one limited perspective.

Then the New Yorker article came out.  I heard about it from one of my classmates in the graduate program I had enrolled in.  She said she read it and that it wasn't very flattering.  I had to know what it said, so I got the New Yorker and read the article.  Not once, not twice, but several times.  The thing about Gurumayi's brother was not news to me, I had already learned about that while living in the ashram.  But other stuff was, and I found it disturbing AND I felt the need to rationalize it away, but at the same time I wanted to believe it and get out of Siddha Yoga.  But I didn't know what would carry me through this world in its place. I needed Siddha Yoga, perhaps the way an addict needs his fix.  In fact, I am convinced that that there are very strong parallels between the process of addiction and the process of receiving Shaktipat and the ensuing pursuit of that pure Shakti high.  The practices, which initially sent me soaring and filled me with peace, by this time were needed to get me out of a state of depression and back to feeling normal.  I was dependent on Gurumayi and Siddha Yoga.  I was no longer a free man.

Physical addictions that I thought I had licked came back to haunt me: smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol chiefly.  A few times I went to the center and played the drums after drinking a couple of beers!  I had gotten a job in the field I had studied for and found to my dismay that it was not a good match for me.  I don't think I could have chosen something less appealing to me!  I tried repeating the mantra, seeing God in everyone, offering my work as seva, all that.  The fact was, I was in the wrong career and no amount of spiritual practice could make this square peg  of a man fit into that round whole of a career.  My despair was increasing.  Oh, maybe I should just end it all, I thought. This just isn't a good incarnation for me.  I have the Guru's grace and still I have messed everything up.  A therapist at the center, aware of my depression and suicidal thoughts, quoted Gurumayi as saying to a devotee once, "How can you be depressed when you have a Guru?"  Gee, could this person have made me feel more ashamed about my state?  I'm sure that was not her intent, but that was the effect.

What happened finally was that a friend of mine suggested taking a training that had helped him out.  I reluctantly agreed to do the same training, although I felt like I was being "spiritually promiscuous" which is frowned on in Siddha Yoga.   The short story (once again) is that this training helped me to take back the power that I had handed over to Gurumayi and Siddha Yoga years before.  I found a community that had the integrity to accept ALL of me, that which serves my mission in the world, as well as that which hampers my mission.  Once I felt safe in this community, I called the local center leader and told him I was out of Siddha Yoga.  It was the scariest and the most exciting thing i had done in a long time.  And the best thing too.   I have really begun to enjoy life once again, and to value and see the gifts I have.  It feels great not to be totally focussed on Gurumayi.  I couldn't care less where she is or what she is doing or what she has said or what hairstyle she has.   Instead of offering all my time and energy to the local center or South Fallsburg (I had NO boundaries!), I do things that are fun and pleasing to me.  I feel like a free man now.  This man is the master of himself.

I hope you find withn yourself the courage and wisdom to see the truth.

May 99