Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Not Breathing In Bellevue

If you're not caught up on my blog, this will make more sense if you read this and then this first.

Well, here in my second day of the Art of Living Foundation's First Course, I cut out. Just took off. They'd been blaring the loudspeakers and I had a horrendous earache (a congenital ear problem renders me unable to tolerate sustained loud noise in an enclosed space), so I tried explaining to them, but I'm not certain they understood fully; they insisted I remain, but didn't turn down the loudspeakers to any noticeable degree.

The leaders were adamant that I stay. So I started out on one of the breathing processes, which they insist is the most important one, and my ear was throbbing wildly. We embarked upon a type of controlled hyperventilation at an escalating pace until I couldn't keep up. Something came over me, and I didn't think at all. I just got up, packed up my yoga mat and walked out.

I think I wanted to escape.

I feel like I'm free.

We were admonished not to open our eyes no matter what happened, no matter if we heard crying or screaming or laughter. No matter if it was our buddy (we each have an assigned buddy for the course duration) or someone we came with..."No matter what happened" was emphasized again and again. No matter how scared we got. Our eyes were to remain closed. Closed. And if we felt numb or started to shake or began to have odd things happen to our bodies WE WERE NOT TO OPEN OUR EYES!

Oh yeah, one more thing. About 10 of us 160 people didn't do their homework. I was one of them. It was more breathing exercises in our hotel rooms or homes. I didn't do it because the only way I could stand knowing I was going tonight is forgetting about breathing for a while. Plus it's my tough luck if I don't get everything I could out of this, and I'm willing to accept that responsibility. Sure, I could have lied, and possibly some people did (who would know if you did your breathing exercises or not, after all?) but that's not me.

So the high-level highly respected teacher told us that if anyone didn't do their homework tonight and tomorrow, our buddies would be punished. Really. He really said that! I checked with my buddy to make sure I understood (I only get about a quarter of what's said there because of the accents).

That stuff triggered my cult past too much. Been there, done that. Before the exercise I was willing to submit to their wishes and give it a try even with a throbbing ear. It was important, they said. Life-changing. The most important evening of the course. And I'd paid good money to learn the breathing techniques. And God knows, I want to overcome my problems with depression. But after I fell behind in the controlled hyperventilation I'd felt I'd done my duty. I felt totally compelled to leave. It was kind of a compulsive fleeing thing.

It was the eyes shut instruction that enabled me to leave without anyone trying to stop me. Their eyes were all closed. But I kind of felt like if they had seen me they might have tried even harder to stop me, you know? Probably it's just my cult background talking, and they are most likely just nice people who want me to have this wonderful transformational experience of the Art of Living.

But I'm still glad I left. I'm the type of girl who always follows the rules, but in this case I am so relieved. I feel blessed and grateful tonight.

And free.

~Photo by Spluch via Cute Overload


Angela said...

Excuse me, but wasn't your buddy male? How the heck were you supposed to go to the bathroom with him??? I don't know, O, it sounds a little weird to me. I'm glad you followed your intuition. Are you going back?

thailandchani said...

My BS alarm is screeching. There's nothing in any of their techniques that sounds healthy to me. They sound like petty tyrants. I would have left, too. The whole thing sounds a bit too much like EST.

Kate said...


Good for you that you left. The whole thing sounded creepy to me. I am glad you followed your gut and left.


Patti said...

Yes I agree, VERY weird! When I learned meditation and breathing it was with a kindly, caring, nurturing Yoga instructor who encouraged us to follow our intuition when practicing. The only rule was that we needed to do it for an hour, to try and stay with it. But heavens, we were allowed to leave or open our eyes!

Your hopes to get back into Yoga and learn breathing techniques is a good thing, you just need the right teacher. Yoga is about relaxation and wellness - loud speakers! Unbelievable!!

'When the student is ready the teacher will appear....'

GreenishLady said...

I'm so glad you left. That sounds horrible. Horrible! Good for you deciding to follow your gut. That says you are recognising for yourself what's good for you... and that's good, right? Well done.

Kate I said...

I've had a couple of experiences like this where I just knew it wasn't right for me and either left or just didn't come back the next day. I'm really glad you listened to your intuition and trusted it.

The right teacher will come and you'll know absolutely, that it feels right.

Rick Hamrick said...

O, you know better than anyone what constitutes a violation of your own sovereignty.

In this case, the techniques are so classically that of breaking down the individual to allow assimilation that I'm amazed you went back the second evening.

Good for you to take the hint delivered to you by your own body--the discomfort and clear warning that it was time to escape.

For me, perfect closure would be to write a polite letter to the group which sponsored the event, asking for your fees to be refunded.

Any group which has true belief in their own integrity and the value of what they offer instantly comes through with a refund in such a case.

I'll bet you a quarter that this group won't do so. Just an intuitive feeling, let's say.

Mostly, I'm glad you are okay and out of there. I hope you are able, should you decide to do so, to enjoy one more day of retreat time with your study materials in your hotel room. Or, breeze on home and relish the space which is yours and yours alone!

Jane said...

My personal feeling is that NO MATTER WHAT, if someone is compromising my personal space and integrity, I need to leave. I'm so glad you followed your gut intuition and left. That group sounds a bit over-the-top with control.

Olivia said...


That was one rule I never considered following. At 51, I'm not going to the bathroom with a twenty year old boy unless I'm hospitalized and he's my nurse.

I am not going back :)

Thank you Angela for commenting and for your support,

Peace, O xxoo

Olivia said...


You've got a great BS alarm! Mine needs batteries apparently. Or I need a hearing aid. I loved est (really...but I was 23 years old) but this was bizarro. Thanks Chani, for your frank opinion and great support which made me laugh and gave me courage,

Rest and calming,



Olivia said...

Dear Kate,

Creepy---YES! Thanks for your support. Man, I needed to hear you guys come behind me on this...

Continued growth,



Olivia said...


I was just SO in the wrong place. It didn't feel safe or warm at all and I can't really let go with my breathing in that type of environment. Your setting seemed appropriate.

You've reminded me that I don't need to force and strive to recover from depression, but to allow, and I will heal and get well.

Thank you Patti, as always,

Peace and joy,


Olivia said...


Yes, indeed I'm learning :) and this is big for me, so that's a wonderful point!

Blessings and joy,


Olivia said...


Yes, I'm a bit disappointed now that it took me so long to figure this out. But I did, you're right, so it was good.

My definite weakness is knowing when someone is violating my sovreignty but it's a lesson that I apparently needed to learn...again. Cults and abusive relationships have not taught me to react quickly...yet.

My body had to cry out. It always comes to my aid. But I would like to be more caring and protective of it.

I put my payment on a credit card :) Yesterday I pursued winding things up and I'll blog about that today. I'm betting that they will resist as well. When I sent my email to them notifying them of my situation, their response was to bombard me with emails and calls telling me to go last night...more on that in my post.

Thank you for caring, Rick :)

Peace and blessing and love,



Olivia said...


Yes...and I guess I needed to learn this, right? I now have a new boundary for myself that will serve me in the future. And I got out with relatively little harm.

Joy and blessings, Jane,



kikipotamus said...

For me it boils down to what you just said: "I have a new boundary for myself that will serve me in the future." That is also how I see a lot of what I've done in life. I learnt the hard way, the ONLY way what things are not right for me.

Olivia said...

It is encouraging to me, Kelly, that you learned things the hard way, because I see you as a very wise woman at a young age. Thank you and love, O