So, um...I might have been in a cult
This post has nothing to with Drupal. And it’s really fucking embarrassing for me to write.
For the last three months I have been going to Body & Brain Yoga in Cambridge, MA. I did it because I wanted to start doing tai-chi and they were the first result on Google. So the first lesson here is don’t get involved with anything that is the first result on Google.
It turns out that Body & Brain is Dahn Yoga by another name, which is something people have heard of because it has come under fire for being kind of cult-y. My personal experience with them is not nearly as extensive as some folks’, but I totally failed to do any research before forking over $360 for a three-month membership.
That membership is now expired, and I’m nuking the bridge, because I was never entirely at ease when I was at class (2–4 times a week, on average) or at the workshops (I did three, I think), and I want to share my experience with the world, even though it’s embarrassing as shit. I really thought I was smarter than this. But I am a credulous, fairly New Agey individual with mushy critical thinking skills, but strong intuition and (apparently, thankfully) a working bullshit detector.
So, in no real order, I give you my reasons for severing all contact with Body & Brain, based on my three months of membership:
- Right from the get-go, the word “cult” had rattled around inside my mind. And I totally ignored that intuitive hit because I am generous with my time and money and I don’t like to reject things out of hand (unless, of course, it’s a completely reasonable engineering request :). So, when I was mildly pitched into securing a membership, I figured three months couldn’t hurt. The point is, I ignored my intuition in the name of open-mindedness.
- The staff, while certainly sincere and nice enough, projected a kind of shiny-happy Stepford wife-ish vibe at all times that I found very jarring and a little creepy. All that happy huggyness is not emotionally honest, and I am very, very good at detecting emotional artifice. Honestly…the only other time I’ve encountered anything like it (and then, in a more subdued form) is at the Apple store.
- I don’t like being hugged a lot by people who, let’s face it, don’t fucking know me. It put me on the defensive while there, and I would generally stay very quiet. It is only when I’m being loud and annoying that you know I’m comfortable around you.
- I learned very little from them that I could not have learned (and in fact, already had learned) by reading Eckhart Tolle or Neale Donald Walsch. Everything they told me was old-hat, and I probably could have explained it to you better.
- Ilchi Lee was fucking everywhere. Just about every single piece of material was attributed to him in some way. Quotes of his were to be found all over the center. There was a small but heroic-looking painting of him hanging on the wall. Every book my center sold was by Ilchi Lee (and according to my subsequent research, they are all self-published). That struck me as heavily suspicious.
- There was a mushy lack of cohesion to the teachings. It was vague and hand-wavy, even by New Age standards — again, nothing you couldn’t learn better from Eckhart Tolle. I am an intuitive thinker, and the gaps in the teachings made me uncomfortable on that level.
- There was a lot of completely unsubstantiated pseudo-science being thrown around (“your gut is a second brain,” plus a bazillion other interesting claims), which was just fucking offensive to me. I’m credulous, but I also worship Carl Sagan, and it grinds my gears when New Agers wear science like a fashion accessory. To wit…
- In a workshop, they actually showed this video about the quantum double-slit experiment (which I had seen before), I guess as a way of illustrating the point that your expectations create your reality. I hate it when New Agers use layperson understandings of quantum mechanics to make points, because it’s exploitative and disrespectful and it leads not-indirectly to “you can manifest riches into your life just by envisioning it”, which is manifestly a pile of rancid goddamn bullshit that serves only to cheapen insights that might have some value.
- They played Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” during a workshop. That’s like shattering your credibility with liquid nitrogen and a sledgehammer.
- The production values were frankly slapdash. A lot of the materials looked like they’d been assembled by amateurs using Microsoft products.
- I didn’t get a whole hell of a lot out of the actual trainings. Feeling the magnetic energy sensations between my hands was neat, but that is hardly incontrovertible proof of my energy body and my chakras and shit. And I actually believe in this stuff.
- I completed a twelve-hour workshop and got flowers and congratulations and hugs and shit. What exactly had I achieved? I paid $100 to sit in the center for an entire sunny Sunday. This is not an achievement. Again…that is some cult shit.
- I wrote down a substantial amount of personal stuff, which the staff took and…filed away forever, I guess? Self-disclosure is not one of my problems, but I’m not sure how much I like the fact that they have these things and I have no idea how, or if, they’re going to be used.
- Before each workshop I did, I signed a waiver that ended with “I understand that by signing this, I am giving up substantial legal rights”. You bet I read the fucking fine print. It was nothing especially frightening, but still — that language only reinforces the cult vibe.
That’s all I can think of at the moment. So to summarize, what we have here is:
- Unsubstantiated pseudo-science, or misuse of real science
- Creepy Ilchi Lee-worship
- Artificial smiley happy huggyness
- Nothing terribly innovative
- Low production values
- Celine fucking Dion
Is it a cult? You decide. I think the word “cult” is a little too strong, personally, but Body & Brain/Dahn was definitely cult-ish, and if you get creeped out, trust your fucking intuition and run for the hills.
❤, phenaproximatags: Life Lessons - Cult - Idiocy - Critical Thinking