Living the Deeper Yes, by Anna Huckabee Tull – The Essence Level

Today’s post is a weaving together of endorsing, Living the Deeper Yes, and highlighting why I feel this book is such a wonderful resource for ex-cult members, and, in particular, “school’s” “disgruntled ex-students”.

Since leaving the cult in 2011, I have used this blog to glean meaning and understanding from what happened to me, rail against cults, and all forms of gaslighting & victim blame.

Thanks to my “schooling”, the post-“school” me is more savvy, more guarded, and less afraid of confrontation. I like the tougher me, frankly; it was born of being played a fool, but — thanks to “school” — I now have a finely-tuned antenna for bullshit. The pre-school me felt like a magnet for manipulators and swindlers. Plenty of them graced my life before the ultimate con. Since my graduation (cough) grifters no longer drift to me. That feels good. It tells me that recruiters and cons no longer see me as a viable candidate — better move on to the next one.

But that protective presentation does come at some cost to the kinder, more loving, more compassionate and perhaps naive parts of myself. The part of me who constantly felt raw and vulnerable and who –once upon a time– met a “new friend” and a new community. She wanted desperately to believe that she’d found a safe haven, full of mentors, and kindred spirits, when in truth she’d been led into a Ponzi scheme.

That’s a tough lesson and to some extent I’ve packed her away as a protective mechanism. This part of me had to retreat and let a more angry & assertive, self take the wheel; it’s hard to remain a Gentle Soul in a world that feels increasingly meaner and colder. Given the current state of the union, I was starting to wonder if that Gentle Soul had been killed off — ironic, yes?

But recently, a car accident made clear that the pre-“school” me — the Gentle Soul, whose well-intended, but confused, meanderings, once made her the ideal cult recruit — is still in there. Though, not physically hurt, I am freaked out. The accident brought out a vulnerability I haven’t felt since right before I departed “school”, when my tenure was really at it’s worst. Life is fragile. We are all fragile.

This gentler part feels vulnerable all the time. It has been much easier to pack her away — to tell her, “You go retreat. I’ve got this.” I have a feeling that many ex-members can relate to that. But packing her away completely, as in denying her voice, does require a kind of death of the soul.

That brings me to, Living the Deeper Yes. For once, this is NOT a book about cults– instead it is a book that offers the esoteric ideas, concepts and strivings that attracts Gentle Souls who are struggling to navigate this world. Author Anna Huckabee Tull takes the same concepts and ideas that cults claim in order to abuse, and reframes them into the healing context. It is clear that her true intent comes from desire to empower, to affirm and to love. She offers them as guide posts for the gentler parts of us to follow when feeling over exposed – tools that embrace the very vulnerabilities that can be exploited by those so inclined.

These tender parts of us need protection, but self protection can go too far. Your gentleness gets cast aside. That makes us less human, less decent, less loving, less kind. And God knows, we need more decency, kindness and love, not less. The good news: you don’t have to pack your tenderness away. In fact, if you’re anything like me (and if you’re an ex-member, I guessing we share some common tendencies) those inner characters will find a way to get your attention. For example, consuming your mind so completely that you end up in a car wreck.

The good news is that you don’t have to lose your essence. You only need to assemble your personal inner tool box of protective ideas, practices, safety nets, compassion for those parts and for others. Over the last few days, I’ve turned to this book. I highly, highly recommend it.

Particular to “school”, Ms. Tull reframes the Essence concept. “School” trotted out an origin story about essence, upon which everything else relied: we all began as “an essence” in the starry world. Each essence has a fatal flaw. They choose parents and are born into this world, planet earth, to resolve this flaw, but once born, forgets; falls asleep to essence: “What does it mean to remember yourself?” “School” would pontificate. Of course, it is nearly impossible to “remember yourself.” And NOT possible without the “Help”, exclusively available from “school” for a mere $350/month. Of course, claims of exclusive knowledge is cult common. Readers from other cults probably recognize that tactic.

In direct contradiction and stark contrast, Ms. Tull says that we traverse two levels of existence: logistical and essential. Both are available to mere mortals at all times; in order to avail yourself of the essence level,  give yourself permission to stop and listen. Take pause, open eyes and ears and hearts. You can find the essence level everywhere and in all things. Right now I am trying to find it in this event, called The Car Accident. Ugh.

My favorite thing about Ms. Tull is that she’s not presenting as a guru with the answers. Instead she shares her humanity and imperfect meanderings — poignant,  funny & magical experiences at times when her vulnerabilities felt exposed to the hilt. In stumbling through those events, she comes to the knowledge shared in the book. A marriage ends. Her life, and her plans, crash and burn. At the age of 30 she packs her car and drives from Texas to Ohio, back to her parents. When she gets there she stops. She shelters in place, surrounded by two people who love her. She cries a lot — letting herself feel it fully; allowing that vulnerability just to be. Then one day, she packs herself and her stuff back into the car and points her wheels due West, destination unknown.

Each day of this adventure, she practiced consulting her internal compass, her essence, and allowed it to lead her back out in the world, exposed. Some times her essence said, take a left here, go right there. Or go ask this question to that seemingly random stranger …

“…I was tapping into some strange kind of courage, some irrefutable rising inner momentum. And I was using it to step right into someone’s existence. I was asking to be seen, asking others to open toward me, if even just for a moment. Sometimes people assumed I was trying to sell them a Bible, or corral them into taking a marketing poll. But most of the time, to my delight, people, when I asked them for input, just piped out variations of, ‘Okay, sure. What’s on your mind?’ ”

” ‘I don’t know. I’m hurting I guess,’ I would say to the woman in the parking lot, or the hotel clerk … the old man waiting outside the hotdog stand … ” I had (the marriage/the job/the business, etc) … now I don’t have anything … It feels kind of worse, on the surface. But it feels kind of better, somewhere deeper down. I can’t quite make sense of it.’ ”

‘Do the thing that feels good,’ the pet shop worker on break would tell me … (etc)

“I was beginning to hear the deeper, more essence-level, reverberations of messages everywhere. Each one felt tailor-made for me, for exactly what I was ready to hear, right then. The student was ready, and the teachers appeared all around — in the flowers, in the wind, in the faces and chances, all along the highways and gas stations and toll booths and back roads of state after state. And I was hungry for their ready wisdom.

Folks, fellow “disgruntled ex-students”, fellow “essence friends”, fellow ex-cult members, and current members if you’re “breaking rules” and reading this “evil” missive (Blog Monitor???) isn’t it freeing, and wonderful, to embrace that ESSENCE is always available?! You don’t have to rely on “the source”. The REAL SOURCE is everywhere: inside, outside, in others and in other things. Inhale, exhale.

This is the Gentle Souls version of If You See the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him. You don’t have to kill anyone, actually. You just have to embrace the messy truth — no one person, or group, has “the proverbial answers”.  Kind of a simple how to avoid cults rule of thumb. Walk away from those who make such a claim, gently consulting your inner compass, your essence.

When I’ve trust my essential self –feeling my way through — it has never steered me wrong. When I’m making decisions out of fear, or clinging to a dependency, the results are never good. So, thank God, I didn’t kill her off.  I’m pretty sure that she’s been giving me marching orders ever since a sunrise walk in late July of 2011, when I looked at the previous five years and thought to myself: “If I’m going to fuck up my life, I’d prefer to do it on my own terms.Thanks.”

I’ve been following the inner compass ever since — most of the time. When I veer off course, well, I risk a 3-car accident.

Here’s to your inner compass! More to come on Living the Deeper Yes soon.


More on Snapping

Dear Readers,

I hope that you’re having a good weekend. I’m posting to, again, sing the praises of Snapping.

This book continues to be my favorite. Published in 1977, the authors researched something prominent in our culture today: the weaponization of information, the communication of disinformation, so prominent in today’s social media, that Russian Trolls, attacked and took control of our presidential election. Now Trump Trolls across the country parrot Russian propaganda. It’s astounding.

Back in ’77, decades before the World Wide Web, Conway and Siegleman wrote the following about the elements of Snapping (slightly tweaked for blog): “… the intense physical experiences of religious ritual … dancing, drumming, chanting, prayer and meditation, along with physiological stresses … exhaustion, poor diet, isolation … not even all of these components in concert set off the moment of snapping… the sudden drastic alteration of an individual’s entire personality requires an altogether different kind of information.”

“It consists of the potent rhetorical ploys, individual & group techniques, mass-marketing strategies that make up America’s technology of experience; everything from fervid lecturing and earnest personal confrontation to slickly packaged appeals, from casual conversation to active role playing and guided fantasy.”

“This set of instruments may be systematically orchestrated to engage the individual’s communication capacities … This all encompassing verbal and nonverbal assault, charged with challenging new beliefs, suggestions and commands, may build up profound and often conflicting feelings  … which prompt the person to seek release from a troubled past or immediate problems.”

“Then, often in a a sensuous, seductive, or totally foreign environment, or surrounded by an atmosphere of love, warmth, acceptance, openness, honesty and community the person might yield to some call … to surrender, to let go, to stop questioning, to relinquish all will.”

“It is this act of capitulation that sets off the explosion we call snapping. In that moment, something quite remarkable may happen. With that flick of a switch, that change of heart and mind, an individuals personality may come apart. From our perspective, this phenomenon can now be identified as an overpowering holographic crisis in the brain.”

I admit that this except loses something without the context supplied in the previous chapters, but perhaps there’s enough in it that will compel anyone who needs to understand a cultic experience to pick up a copy and read the entire thing. Have I told you that I recommend it?

Okay, off to do laundry.

Recovery Thoughts: BREAK “rules”

Need to recover from a cultic experience?
Whatever the cult demanded, do the opposite. Break “rules”.

  • Cults isolate:connect to authentic relationships/communities.
  • Cults require secrecy:refuse to safeguard and carry burdensome secrets.
  • Cults silence:claim and use your voice and share your story with whomever you choose.
  • Cults numb:claim your emotional/feeling self by acknowledging, allowing and expressing ALL the feelings: grief at losses; anger at abuses; cynicism about the hypocrisy; joy at your reclamation and ownership of self and life going forward.
  • Cults deny individual rights:claim your rights and attend to your needs; guard yourself and those you love, fiercely.
  • Cults employ and require deception of self and others:seek and speak truth.
  • Cults commit identity theft, emptying participants of soul/authentic self:claim your authentic self through all of the above practices.

I have experienced recovery as reclamation. Cultic dynamics devour members, mind, body, heart and spirit, in psychological webs of tangled confusion. You have the power to untangle those memes, clear out the twisted ideology, and deceptive narrative – you can return to emotional and cognitive clarity and heal relationships damaged by the group. You have the power to return to yourself, and your life, by breaking “rules”.

Reclaim your humanity. Believe it or not, this difficult healing process can lead you to joy and laughter … sometimes lots of laughter.

My opinion, for what it’s worth.

Cult Confessions Endorsement: Snapping

I’ve read a lot of cult books since 2011, when I left the little mom & pop cult formerly known as “school”. I think this book might be my favorite, so far… imagine that, having a favorite cult book.

Here’s a quote from the first paragraph in chapter 6, Black Lightening: “In all the world, there is nothing quite so impenetrable as a human mind snapped shut with bliss. No call to reason, no emotional appeal, can get through its armor of self-proclaimed joy…  we talked with dozens … after a while, it seemed very much like dancing to a broken record. We would ask a question and the individual would spin round and round in a circle of dogma. If we tried to interrupt, he or she would simply pick right up again or go back to the beginning and start over.”

I’m grateful that my mind has been “bliss”-free for several years now. Yep, folks, it’s possible. Happy 2018!

The Marjoe Documentary: expose on Evangelical scammers

Hi Everyone – in my obsessive post-cult research, I found a book called Snapping, copywriter, 1978.  Authors Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman dig into “America’s Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change”, citing weird phenomenons like the Moonies, EST, Patty Hearst, Hare Krishnas and analyzing the mind altering techniques shared.

They interview a guy named Marjoe Gortner, “… the first Evangelical preacher to blow the whistle on his profession.” Apparently, Marjoe’s parents groomed him from childhood to be a boy preacher and the boy preacher caused quite a ruckus – doing faith healings, officiating weddings, leading revivals and, most importantly, racking in the cash. When he hit his mid-teens he refused to continue. Then he returned to the profession in his twenties, recruited a film crew, and made the documentary, to essentially, blow the whistle on himself, and other holy rollers: Marjoe, faith healer/false teacher.  I immediately went to YouTube and low and behold … there it was:


I found it disturbing & informative. It shed some light on today’s End-Days Trumpists, for whom no amount of fact, logic, principle,  or lack of morals shakes their faith in the predator-in-chief. Curious to know what you think — though, be forewarned, it’s not for the faint of heart.


The Heaven’s Gate Podcast …

Hey Everyone – This is a great podcast that tells the story of Heaven’s Gate, an end-days cult that culminated in a mass suicide in 1997. Those of us who traversed the Hollow Halls for any length of time will, most likely,  draw parallels. For example, the two leaders referred to themselves as Si & Do. La, la, la … The host, Glynn Washington, grew up in an end-days cult. I recommend giving it a listen: Heaven’s Gate. 

That’s all for now… hope you’re having a good weekend! GSR


About “school” dreams …

Fairly recently, a commenter, who traversed the hollow halls in the 80s, provided some “school” information that was new to me. I plan on elevating her comments to blog prominence in the near future — so folks can glean as much illustrious context as possible.

Today, I wanted to address her mention of “school” dreams: “I still have these memories that just fly into my head, sometimes dreams haunted by Sharon or Bob, or where I’m trying to attend a meeting without making a commitment.”

I’ve heard others talk about “school” dreams: sinister, or anxiety-ladden, accounts of nightmares in which they are back in the group and trying to escape. I’ve had a few myself, over the years. It seems poignant that “school” haunts ex-members in their sleep for years after departure.

Some of you might appreciate my most recent “school” dream; it was — if you can believe it — satisfying! I was back in the “classroom” listening to Robert ream out & humiliate a fellow student. I witnessed quietly until he kicked her out. At which point, I stood up, announced that I would also be taking my leave and then turned, looked straight at him, and said, “Fuck you.”

Ahhhhh, that was sooooo cathartic! Maybe I was dreaming about the courage that I wish I’d had.  Even so, dream, or reality, it felt great! And I guess it’s not too late. Blog Monitor, if you’re out there, feel free to pass on the message. Send Bobert a link to this particular post.

More importantly, lately, I’ve also been hearing from ex-members of different cults. I started wonder if all ex-cult members have such dreams. I’d like to know if this phenomenon is a shared experience. I’d love to hear from you, whether an ex-“school” mate, or experienced another cult.

Thanks for reading and happy Cult-free holidays!

Gratitude: Freedom and Simplicity

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

First, let me thank those who made it out to Club Passim last night! We had lots of fun!

Secondly, an ode to the holidays: this is my 6th “school”-free Christmas season. For 5 years, I allowed “school” to hijack my holidays. My first post-school November-January felt strange, but wonderfully free. I was constantly comparing and contrasting the pre and post. Each realization, that I wouldn’t be scamming Christmas trees for the big Christmas Party, or lying to friends and family about why I was so unavailable, or I was not going to go through the season sleep-deprived and stressed out about the “fineness” of the party … etc. etc. etc. … brought on more and more gratitude.

I’m happy to report that every year that followed, I compared and contrasted less. This year, I thought so little about the “school” party, that it only occurred to me to acknowledge it today. So far, Thanksgiving, 2017 has consisted of walking the Feaster Five, a 5k in Andover, with a dear friend. And cleaning out my closets. Tomorrow, I’ll eat T-Day dinner with my husband, stepson and his girlfriend. We’re simplifying and minimizing stress and that’s fine by me, great in fact!

Yep, life does go on without “school”. I have NEVER regretted leaving “the source”. If anything, I now have ever-growing gratitude to have my freedom, energy, focus, self and – yes – holidays, back.

So, Happy Thanksgiving, All and cheers to your “school” free holiday season!