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The Brainwashing 'Cult' of Meditation

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Not everyone loves meditation, but most people generally see the benefit of quieting the mind. I was surprised when a yoga student in a workshop I was leading told me very passionately that she thought meditation was part of a brainwashing cult. As she launched into a tirade about the experience of being brainwashed at a meditation retreat, a light bulb clicked on in my head. I had to interrupt her, because I suddenly realized she was right. The whole spiritual path is a brainwashing. And a deep, thorough brainwashing is exactly what we need. Our thoughts are dirty. We need to wash and clean our thoughts and run them through the tumble dryer to make sure all the stains, dirt and lint are removed.

Think about how many negative thoughts go through your mind on a daily basis. Your mind may be sullied with low self-confidence, anger, frustration, lack of empathy, impatience, anxiety or depression. There are also the repetitive negative thoughts that surface when you least expect them to. These are all stains on the fabric of consciousness, and these thoughts need to be washed out. The alternative is to just let the negative thoughts pile on day after day, year after year, lifetime after lifetime until we are drowning in the onslaught of our own misery. I would rather be brainwashed than that any day. In fact, when I look back at the type of thought patterns that used to run through my mind on a regular basis before I started to practice yoga and meditation, I am thankful that those thoughts have been scrubbed out of my consciousness. And ultimately, it was me who did most of the scrubbing. My teachers gave me the tools, the cleaning supplies, an open room, and the methodology of the practice. I sat with my legged crossed and washed and scrubbed my thoughts until they were nearly squeaky clean.

I understand the resistance to the spiritual brainwashing that meditation courses ask students to go through. In the intensive Vipassana Meditation Courses (http://www.dhamma.org/) that I have done, everything from when you eat, sleep, rest and meditate is controlled. Even what you think about is controlled. The difference between a cult and a true path of spiritual evolution is sometimes hard to see form the outside. But when I washed my brain with the tools of meditation I didn't see it like a cult, I saw it more like going to the army for boot camp. Many trainees resist the intensity of army boot camp as well. I wanted to train my mind to be strong, brave, peaceful and free, and I was willing to do the work. My greatest motivation for undergoing the brainwashing of the spiritual path was to see just how dirty my thoughts were. If you think your thoughts are not dirty, I would ask you to dig deeper. Going to a therapist along with some honest self-inquiry will help you see the truth about your deepest, darkest thoughts.

Whenever something is repetitive and constant it becomes the status quo, even if it is a destructive thought pattern. Human beings are attached to homeostasis, and they will automatically protect what they know to be reality. When you resist the type of spiritual brainwashing that allows you to let go the suffering of the past, you cling to the negative cycle that created the pain in the first place. Once you realize how destructive your thoughts can be to yourself and to those around you, submitting yourself to the spin cycle through the spiritual washer and dryer is an easy choice. You will notice when you need a deep cleaning and you will volunteer yourself to go on retreats, intensives and anything that promises a full and complete brainwashing.

My daily meditation practice is the one thing that keeps me sane. I have done three 10-day meditation retreats and each one was like a powerful detox of destructive thoughts that I was carrying in my mind. During these retreats the teachers all say that a sign of progress along the inner journey often shows up as happier, friendlier thoughts. In other words, you think cleaner, more pure thoughts. The very evidence of brainwashing is the evidence of progress along the spiritual path. These courses are donation-based and held all over the world. The only thing they ask for is your commitment to stay and follow their rules for the full 10 days. Sadly, the student who so enthusiastically disregarded these meditation retreats as part of a brainwashing cult told me she left about halfway through the course. She left before her thoughts were fully washed clean. That would be like a dirty pair of jeans jumping out of the washer the moment they got wet. The stains look worse when they start to spread and the jeans are heavy and full of water. The jeans will look ruined, and the washer will seem to have malfunctioned when in truth there is nothing wrong with the jeans or the washer. The washing cycle just needs to run its full course. It is dangerous to quit on something in the middle of an intense procedure. When what is being worked on is your mind, that risk is even greater.

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