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Neuroscience Learns What Buddhism Has Known For Ages: Mindfulness

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Mindfulness is defined as an attention training which can benefit health and general well-being. There is a lot scientific research confirming it. In this article we will present the other type of attention training called Open Focus. We believe, combining these two approaches may help to understand attention training better and to experience its benefits faster.

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What Is Mindfulness?

In its most basic form, Mindfulness means to pay attention to what’s happening, on purpose, in the present moment, and to do so without judgement. Originally from Buddhist roots, it was introduced into the West by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zin and the University of Massachusetts. Since its appearance in the West around twenty years ago, many people have participated in the Mindfulness based stress reduction course and similar programs. Research shows that participants may experience profound benefits such as reduced stress, a greater sense of well-being, increased clarity and focus, and improved sleeping patterns.

According to Dr. Kabat-Zin, by paying attention in a certain way, we can switch off our so-called autopilot mode, in which we often go through life unaware of what’s happening within and around us. Living on autopilot not only means that we miss out on a lot of the richness of life, but we are also more likely to be stressed. Stress and autopilot are linked because when we are on autopilot, we are much more likely to act out unhelpful or even damaging patterns of behaviour. In other words, we react instead of respond to challenging experiences in our life. Mindfulness helps us to become aware of these habitual patterns and gives us a choice to change how we relate to challenging experiences. It’s not about taking stress away or hoping to live a life without any stress, but rather fundamentally changing how we relate to the things we experience.

On the other hand, many of us spend much of our time living in our heads. We live in a kind of virtual reality consisting of thoughts and inner dialogue, and thoughts tend to relate either to the past or to the future. Mindfulness helps us to learn how to return to the present and to what’s actually happening rather than our perceptions of what’s happening, which are often inaccurate. We practice it by cultivating greater somatic awareness — that is, awareness of the body, because the body is always in the present moment.

Ultimately, the more we practice Mindfulness and observe the changing nature of experience, the more we may begin to sense that what we previously thought of as being tangible and solid, such as our sense of self, is actually quite transitory and ephemeral. We may begin to understand what lies beyond objects arising in awareness such as sensations, thoughts, and emotions. We may begin to experience awareness itself. This is an extremely significant moment in practice and in life, when we start to experience ourselves as something greater than what we observe and our sense of being the observer.

In Mindfulness, attention generaly focuses on one object (such as the breath, sensations in the body, thoughts, or emotions), exploring it with a sense of curiosity and interest. Another way Mindfulness can be practiced is through Open Monitoring or Open Awareness, where no particular object of experience is selected and there is an openness to all that is unfolding within awareness. Here too, however, as various objects pass through awareness, attention is often paid to each object in a narrowly focused wa

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What Is Open Focus?

Open Focus is the name of an attention training program created by Dr. Lester Fehmi, a neuroscientist and psychologist from Princeton University. Dr. Fehmi found that once our whole brain activity becomes more synchronous in alpha frequency, our mental and physical health improves. He created a series of mind exercises that help to cultivate this brainwave pattern, and he designed a neurofeedback EEG machine that can detect it.

On the basis of his findings, Dr. Fehmi developed The Four Attention Styles theory, which describes four different ways we can pay attention, and relates these styles to brain physiology.

According to Dr Fehmi, pain, stress, anxiety, and other challenges make our attention narrow and objective. It is natural to narrow our attention (focus) on pain or a problem in order to deal with it efficiently, but most people overuse this style in everyday life. They are unaware that it keeps them in continuous ‘fight or flight’ mode (see this post). Moreover, habitual focusing creates an impression that the reality consists of separated objects, since we can focus on only one thing at a time, leaving the rest outside of our focus. It can make us feel distant, alienated, and lonely.

Dr. Fehmi says we can begin relating to what’s difficult in a more balanced, accepting way by diffusing our attention. Diffusing allows us to see the big picture and connect (immerse) with its elements. It helps to realign with the world and to create healthy relationships. This style is linked to the ‘rest and digest’ part of our physiology and makes the whole brain activity more synchronous in alpha frequency, which can be confirmed by Dr. Fehmi’s machine (see graph below).

Untitled 2

Dr. Fehmi suggests everyone’s attention should be flexible, meaning that you can alternate between ‘narrow and objective’ and ‘diffused and immersed’ styles of attention or balance all at the same time. Dr. Fehmi says that the way we pay attention is directly linked to our well-being. Once you are able to balance your attention, you can positively influence your mind and body.

During Open Focus training, we practice diffusing by becoming simultaneously aware of many objects. The object can be everything you can focus on, like a physical object, a sound, a taste, a thought, a feeling, a sensation from the body, etc. Then you can progress to awareness of the space between objects, like the space between physical objects, the silence between sounds, or the breaks between thoughts, etc. Finally, you become aware of space between and inside objects which, according to Dr. Fehmi, helps us achieve diffused and immersed style. In this style of attending, all objects (including yourself) dissolve in space and you immerse with reality, becoming fully connected.

Are Mindfulness and Open Focus Complementary?

Open Focus and Mindfulness are not distinct and competing practices but rather highly complementary.

Mindfulness helps us to learn to pay attention to our experience and to notice how we are relating to it. Open Focus then builds upon the benefits and skills of Mindfulness by training us not just to pay attention, but to be more aware of how we are paying attention and to be more flexible in our attention styles.

We then have the benefits of two complementary practices available to us: learning to pay attention and being flexible in how we pay attention. We could say that Mindfulness is an excellent foundation for Open Focus training and that Open Focus helps us to get the most from Mindfulness training.

What Can Open Focus Offer Mindfulness?

As mentioned, much Mindfulness practice is based on a narrow way of paying attention (that is, we are focused on one object). Although it is useful in helping us to be more aware of what is happening in the moment, overusing this style may lead to tightness and overexertion in unexperienced practitioners, since many people think they have a choice of staying watchful (mindful) of what is happening, or they slip into daydreaming. They keep trying harder and it makes them exhausted and it sometimes leads to frustration and disappointment.

We therefore propose that Open Focus can bring to Mindfulness the idea of paying attention in the diffused style and the concept of attention flexibility.

Mindfulness practitioners who learn how to diffuse their attention may find that it helps them to progress. There are several reason for this.

The diffused attention style tends to quickly quiet internal chatter. For example, it is sometimes enough to become aware of sensations coming from both hands and at the same time to sense peace and calmness of the mind. It is because synchronous alpha brain waves play a top-down inhibitory role in the brain network. The quiet mind makes observing without judgment much easier.

In diffused attention style, you do not redirect your attention from one object to another, but  rather redistribute it between many objects, which are attended at the same time. The only way to do it is to attend objects in a very soft (less rigid, relaxed) way. This skill can then be used in everyday life. For example, you can stay continuously aware of breathing while listening to someone talking to you and there is no struggle between competing objects in your awareness. It helps to continuously sense the present moment and it has very practical applications (see this post).

It is important to note that in this style, one of the objects you pay attention to could be your daydreaming. Including daydreaming into the diffused attention helps to reduce struggle with it during practice. It is possible (and quite easy) to accept daydreaming as one of many objects you pay attention to (see this post). It can be easily extended to everyday life and it helps to stay present.

In order to become fully aware of the world, it can be helpful to cultivate a more diffused than focused attention style. Focused attention requires one to cut off a lot of what is really happening around us and it restricts experience to a narrow stream of sensations. In the diffused attention style, you are aware of the object and its background (see this post). This may broaden the perspective, helping to put things into context. It may also help to disable an autopilot and develop one’s ability to respond as opposite to reacting.

 As mentioned previously, Open Focus exercises cultivate an awareness of space around and inside objects. Once a practitioner is aware of space inside the object, it may become softer, lighter, and easier to be with and observe (for example when we attend an unwanted emotion). By switching to a diffused attention style, the difficulty may be diluted by a broader spectrum of attention. This could be likened to putting a teaspoon of salt in an egg cup filled with water and tasting it — the water would taste very salty. If the same teaspoon of salt were put in a swimming pool, it would be difficult to taste the salt. Mindfulness enables us to be aware that there is salt in the water, but Open Focus allows us to experience the salt in the context of the swimming pool rather than the egg cup!

The diffused and immersed attention style helps to dissolve objects like pain or unwanted feelings. Mindfulness practitioners are sometimes encouraged to bring attention to an ache in the back and to observe how this ache feels, exploring how it would be to allow the ache to be there. In Open Focus, they might feel the ache but at the same time feel the space around and in the ache together with the space in the room. In addition, they might imagine that we are part of the ache itself, allowing themselves to become immersed in the ache. This sometimes makes the pain or feeling softer, blurred with its background, and then it may naturally and effortlessly dissolve. The dissolving pain and unwanted feelings process is well documented in Dr Fehmi’s book.

Conclusion

Mindfulness teaches us to pay attention to our experiences so that we can interrupt habitual patterns of relating to ourselves and the world that may not be helpful for us. Open Focus enhances Mindfulness practice by teaching us not just to pay attention, but to bring more awareness to how we are paying attention.

As this article has demonstrated, these are two highly complementary and mutually reinforcing practices. Ultimately, with both we can learn to be present and be flexible in how we are present, after which we may uncover an unlimited sense of peace and love that lies beneath the ‘noise’ that we are usually confronted with and try to suppress.

In scientific terms, this may be regarded as homeostasis; in more spiritual language, this may be regarded as revealing our true nature or higher self. These practices may lead us to fulfil our personal and evolutionary potential and to live lives with grace and ease.

How You Can Try Mindfulness and Open Focus

We could write a lot but more about Mindfulness and Open Focus, but the best way to know them is to feel them!

You can try some good Mindfulness exercises here: Breathing Into Being, Taking In The Good, Self Compassion.

There is a choice of Open Focus exercises on Dr Fehmi’s and Tomasz’s website (the main difference is that most of Tomasz’s exercises are shorter and they are designed to introduce diffusing and to bring a quick and noticeable experience).

 MOF

This article was written with Mrs. Sarah Gulland a Mindfulness teacher who works from London, Guildford and Sussex.

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Marianne Williamson Admits “The System Is More Corrupt Than I Knew”

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Marianne Williamson stated in an interview on Fox and Friends that she did not realize the political system was as corrupt as it is.

  • Reflect On:

    This is an important revelation of how leaders often don't quite see the full truth of our system at hand. Through them and their experience, we can learn a lot about what is truly going on. Is it time to let go of the systems we have?

About a week ago Marianne Williamson told the New Yorker, I know this sounds naïve, but I didn’t think the left was so mean. I didn’t think the left lied like this.” In a segment I did on CETV, I discussed the fact that Williamson is doing a great job of bringing a bit more of a conscious conversation into the mix here, which is very important, but seems to not quite understand what politics is really about and how things function in our world.

In my article about this statement I stated:

Some have suggested that Marianne already knows these truths, and she may, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she is only uncovering these things now. I say this as I belong to a group that communicates regularly that contains many high profile conscious industry leaders like Williamson and other big authors, speakers etc. Many of them are great with spirituality but seem to struggle to see how politics truly functions. I have witnessed this first hand and this is why I’m so passionate about what I do as I feel bringing together both personal transformation and hard truth is imperative.

Some felt that my analysis was off and that Williamson is just ‘playing naive,’ but to me, this did not feel true nor did it seem to be the case. While some might view this as an unimportant detail, it’s very important as for society to truly begin to shift we must not only personally transform but also realize the true nature of the world we live in.

As outlined in the CE Protocol, the formula I built to help awaken and shift the masses, the very first step is Breaking The Illusion about our programmed reality and understand what’s truly going on. From there, personal transformation becomes key.

Williamson Admits She Was Unaware

Here we are a week later and Williamson has stated what I observed in my previous segment, she did not quite realize how corrupt our political system truly is. In an interview on Fox and Friends Williamson stated:

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“I would say that I feel that I’ve learned that the system is even more corrupt than I knew and people are even more wonderful than I hoped,

I want to state this isn’t about picking on anyone as much as it is about understanding the importance behind seeing the full picture of the change that needs to take place here. For 10 years now I have built CE to include both personal transformation and truth seeking for the reason that either one of those topics on their own doesn’t create the change we all know is possible in our hearts.

I’ve seen many ‘spiritual leaders’ still deeply support the dysfunctional nature of our systems because they believe there is truth to them when in reality they belong to a consciousness we are shifting away from.

Our political system is built and exists within a system designed for a very limited state of consciousness, some call this 3D consciousness. The goal isn’t to shift our political system, it’s to let it go. Collectively we are shifting and the new state of consciousness emerging doesn’t support the political system at hand. Hence why the chaos around it is increasing, because it’s acting as a mirror for us to see how it doesn’t resonate with our emerging consciousness.

It’s like trying to install Windows on a Mac or vice versa, the systems aren’t designed for the operating system. Humanity is faced with a challenge of ‘letting go of the old,’ not trying to fix the old.

In a brand new segment of The CE Show I did on YouTube and CETV, I discuss Marianne’s latest comments and what I feel we all must realize as we move forward in this journey of shifting ourselves and our world.

The CE Show airs multiple times per week on CETV. Membership proceeds from CETV go towards supporting our journalism and future broadcasts. You can start a free 7 day trial here.

The Takeaway

I feel that we have become addicted to the systems of a state of consciousness that we are moving away from. The choice is up to us, we stop resisting and holding onto things of the old, move through the process of watching these old systems fall away, or we continue to fight tooth and nail under the belief that we must hold up the old systems, and suffer along the way.

Ask yourself within, do you truly feel that this is about changing our current political system to be more open and evolved? Or is it about letting go of the rigidity of our current systems and creating new ones that are birthed from a  new state of consciousness, not one that is centuries old…

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Consciousness

Full Moon In Pisces: Navigating Ideals

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We are having a Full Moon in Pisces which will be exact at 4:33am Universal Time on September 14th 2019. It will appear the fullest on the night of the 13th for most of the world and on the night of the 14th for the Far East, Australia, and New Zealand.

This is the peak of the Lunar cycle which began two weeks prior with a New Moon in Virgo. The energies of it build up as the Moon increases its light and are strongest in the days before and after. However, it will still be a part of the backdrop over the following two weeks.

Full Moon’s are a period in which we feel a push-pull between two opposing signs, in this case being the Moon in Pisces and Sun in Virgo. It can reflect either a conflict or integration of both signs. We can feel this opposition happening individually within us and/or we can also experience it play out around us with some people (or circumstances) expressing the Virgo side and others expressing the Pisces side.

Pisces is associated with sensitivity, compassion, creativity, and oneness. It is spiritually conductive, mystical, energy oriented, dreamy, flowy, imaginative, idealistic, and empathic. Negatively, it can be delusional, lazy, intoxicated, deceptive, confused/confusing, elusive, flaky, and lack critical thinking. Pisces energy is the least compatible with the mundane world and is associated with escapism in its many forms.

Virgo is about productivity, duties, service, physical health, cleanliness, and purity. It is organized, conscientious, skillful, diligent, efficient, analytical, detailed, and practical. Negatively, Virgo energy can also be overly critical, too cautious, fault-finding, irritable, discriminating, and overly perfectionist.

Full Moon Aligned with Neptune in T-Square with Jupiter and Mars

This Full Moon is close to Neptune which has many of the same qualities of Pisces that were mentioned above. It is viewed as a modern ruler of that sign and it amplifies its energies even more so during this period. Neptune is also associated with glamour, romance, and addiction. It has a dissolving, flooding, and watery energy that doesn’t comprehend boundaries.

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Neptune is completing its last of three squares with Jupiter in Sagittarius which will be exact on September 21st and will be strong into the following week. It began last January and peaked again this past June. At best, this can be an expansive period in a spiritual, creative, or compassionate way.

However, it can also be a time of confusion or lack of discernment around beliefs, ideologies, education, and teachers. It can also be a time in which we become aware of us being like that previously. We can be more excessive when it comes to how we express Piscean/Neptunian energies mentioned above.

At the time of the Full Moon, Mars in Virgo is also involved in this configuration along with the opposition of the Sun and Moon, forming a T-square aspect. This can be good for asserting ourselves towards our ideals or with a different Jupiter-Neptune approach (mentioned above). However this can also make our actions scattered, less assertive/direct, and make it harder to apply ourselves with practicality.

Full Moon Sextile Pluto Near Saturn and South Node, Saturn Going Direct

This Full Moon is in a tight sextile with Pluto which is near Saturn and the South Node. This could trigger some of the themes of the previous Lunar Eclipse (that is still reflecting this period) in a more harmonious way. Purging aspects of our past that are getting in the way of us moving forward. This can help to facilitate empowerment through some sort of release or transformation.

Saturn will be finishing its retrograde on September 18th and will move towards its final conjunction with the South Node which will peak at the end of the month and early October. This energy was also strong in mid Spring and part of it in early Summer.

Saturnian themes get amplified and we can be dealing with limitations, obstacles, restrictions, or perhaps issues around boundaries. We may feel a need to make changes around responsibilities, commitments, career, and structures in our lives. Similarly to the last Lunar Eclipse, there can be a sort of ending playing out around how an area of our lives is being expressed.

Full Moon Opposing Mercury and Venus Conjunction As They Change Signs

At the time of this Full Moon, Mercury and Venus are in a conjunction at the very end of Virgo, (Mercury’s sign). They will then be moving into Libra (Venus’ sign) in the hours following with the Full Moon triggering after it begins to wane.

This can be a time of heightened interactions, catching up with friends and other relationships. While it is in Virgo it could lean more towards its themes connected to work, service, fault finding, etc. For some people there can be a feeling of some sort of urgency.

After this conjunction moves into Libra, especially a day after the Full Moon,  it becomes more pleasant, social, and creative. Our interactions can be more harmonious, diplomatic, and less critical. We can more easily see both sides to something, find balance, and a great time to discuss relationship matters.

As a result of both of these planets transitioning near the same time, some people may experience some sort of significant shift in other areas of their lives within a few days following the Full Moon.

Things To Consider During This Period

How can you better balance the mundane aspects of life with your ideals, creativity, or spirituality? How have your beliefs been impacted this year and what is the conclusion to your experiences? Is it possible that you may have been confused about some aspects of newly or previously acquired perspectives?

What themes are coming up for you now that have been playing out since last April? What do you need to release? What changes do you need to make when it comes to your work, responsibilities, commitments, structures, or boundaries?
These are just some examples of what could come up during this period; however, there may be other variations of this energy playing out. If you wish to do any sort of intentional release connected to what has come up at this Full Moon, it is best to do so anytime after the peak of the Full Moon when it begins to wane until the next New Moon in two weeks. The exact moment of this Full Moon is on September 14th at 4:33am Universal Time. You can click here to see what that is in your time zone.

Follow me on INSTAGRAM, FACEBOOK, and YOUTUBE for more astrology related content.

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Looking for astrological insight into what is going on in your life? Or perhaps looking to better understand your life and its potentials? Get a personalized astrology reading with Carmen (author of this article) specific to you based on your exact birth date, time, and location. Click here for more information or to order. 

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Consciousness

Marie Palmer Recounts Her Escape From The ‘Children Of God’ Sex Cult In New Book

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Marie Palmer recounts her escape from the 'Children of God' cult and the long journey of healing she went through afterwards in her book 'The Gift of Will.'

  • Reflect On:

    Can we see that one of the keys to our own liberation from the past is forgiveness?

Marie Palmer did not choose to be part of the ‘Children of God’ cult that was founded in California in 1968 by a former Christian pastor named David Brant Berg. She was born into it. And as such, her entire worldview was founded on the inexorable indoctrination and brainwashing that was used. In itself this is even more tragic than the plight of those hippies like her father that had joined the movement as adults, and who believed, ironically, that they had found a path of greater liberation and truth.

Marie was brought up as a child in an environment that on the one hand promoted an unhealthy lack of boundaries, but in other ways was dangerously restrictive. The toxic and twisted principles that emerged from the mind of founder David Berg were laced with enough pseudo-validation from Christian scripture to convince many lost and downtrodden souls that they were actually on the right path to God and salvation–in fact the ONLY true path, for many of its devotees.

What has emerged over time, marked by the testimony of ex-members like actress Rose McGowan and the tragic murder-suicide of Ricky Rodriguez, whom Berg dubbed ‘Davidito’ and was grooming as the heir-apparent to his throne, is that the psychological and emotional disorientation and trauma brought upon children born into this cult was so extreme that it was difficult or impossible for many of them to survive in the world, let alone establish a normal life.

Marie Palmer has written a book entitled ‘The Gift of Will,’ which explores the impact of the brainwashing of the ‘Children of God’ cult on her personally, her escape from the cult, and the long and difficult journey she has been on to overcome the trauma and confusion she had been beset with. It was after reading this book that I felt it would be worthwhile for CE to go down to Oregon to talk to Marie in person so that we could provide a full 4-part interview of her story for our members on CETV. You can watch it when you sign up for a free 7-day trial HERE.

The ‘Children Of God’ Cult

Marie was able to escape from the cult as a teen, out of an intense and very real fear of getting pregnant, and an inner rebelliousness that she didn’t really understand or get a handle on until much later. Having now been out of the cult for decades, Marie has been able to see in retrospect how the emergence and rapid popularity of the cult was likely a product of the times founded on some positive intentions, at least initially:

“Maybe it started as a sincere desire to help the lost hippie generation. Maybe it was his obsession with the Bible and his evangelical background that gave him a platform from which to easily build upon. Maybe it was timing. He believed he could create a new type of hippie culture that still held itself true to the ideals of freedom and free love but in the context of following the representation of Jesus in the Bible. He wanted the security of knowing his ideas were based on something real and true. Free love for the sake of free love was fun but flighty. Free love in the name of Jesus Christ–there was everlasting power in that.”

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“I can see how that era created opportunity for its youth to find peace and solace in the form of spirituality. I can see how being considered an outcast could be enticing, especially one that had purpose, was following the creator. They could be dropouts and still feel a sense of comradery, family, have a place to call home. Mo provided a way for these lonely youth to be crazy, wild and revolutionary, to burn their old ideas along with their bras, to be free from drugs and street life but hold true to their inner rebel against what they called “the system” and he created this utopia in the name of Jesus.”–The Gift of Will, pp 56–57

However, it seems clear that the basic principles that the ‘Children of God’ cult was founded on morphed over time to accommodate greater control and the sexual predispositions of founder David Berg and his inner circle. One particularly effective vehicle for indoctrination was the famed ‘Mo letters,’ (‘Mo’ being short for Berg’s moniker ‘Moses David’) which often used vivid cartoon graphics portraying sexuality to draw one’s attention and drive the message home.

The way in which sexuality was portrayed certainly had a lot of appeal to adult members of the hippie movement who were convinced that their freedom in relation to sexuality was bringing them closer to God and to their community. In the early years, the technique of ‘Flirty Fishing,’ where women would go out and recruit men into the organization through openly inviting them to have sex, was highly successful, bringing hundreds of thousands of men into them movement. The justification for this, as seen in the Mo Letter illustration below, was that the ends justified the means, and the end was supposedly to bring more people in to experience the ‘Love of God.’

Fear And Wrath

Ultimately, though, power is the name of the game, and David Berg’s personal motivations were far from ‘unselfish, pure sacrificial love.’ As the cult grew, more and more emphasis was put on the need for people to stay in the cult, and that meant using fear and the wrath of God to dissuade people from considering leaving the organization, with quotations cherry-picked from the Bible to garner legitimacy.

One method of control was the systematic suppression of worldly knowledge. In fact, a general tenet of the cult was that anything ‘worldly’ was evil. In this clip from our interview, Marie Palmer explains how as a child she really got no formal education, and had no idea about how the outer world worked. She was only ‘schooled’ in the cult’s indoctrination, which preached that children should trust and obey their elders and not ask questions:

Watch the full 4-part interview of Marie’s story on CETV by starting a free 7 day trial HERE.

As she mentions, young girls in the cult were expected to share themselves with older men who pursued them, as well as providing for those ‘in need’ of intimacy and comfort, under the guise that the whole community was ‘in this together’ and sex should have no boundaries. It wasn’t as though they were violently forced to have sex within the cult, but the psychological pressures, amid efforts to normalize sex between children and adults, led to countless sexual encounters that were undoubtedly traumatic and a source of complete disorientation for the young members:

I know that kids experiment with their sexuality when they are young, usually it’s with kids their own age. There are no words to explain how confusing it is when you are a child that’s expected to experiment sexually with adults. They are your role models. They have all the power. The power to shame you. To discipline you. To give you grace. To provide for you. To give you direction. Every child has the innate desire to please those who rule over them. Disappointing our parents and guardians is a hard thing to face. This makes children ideal victims for abusers.” —The Gift of Will, (p. 65)

Perhaps David Berg did not initially set out to create an organization that actively and openly practiced pedophilia. But the reactions of young members such as Davidito stand as a sobering testament to the volatile and damaging impact of such practices. Davidito had a burning rage against the nannies who were both his guardians and his sexual partners, a rage that was immortalized in this confessional video he made just before his murder/suicide that lays bare his deep resentment and hopelessness.

If there is any debate remaining as to whether it is healthy for children to have any kind of sexual relationships with adults, which some powerful forces have slowly tried to normalize in society, it is laid to rest with the testimony of brave survivors who were brought up in the ‘Children of God’ cult like Marie Palmer.

Healing

What is remarkable and also most important about Marie Palmer’s story is that she has found a way to heal herself from her past. Going through a long stretch after escaping from the cult in which she had absolutely no sense of self or understanding about how to deal with the rage, confusion, depression or sorrow that followed her around constantly, she eventually developed a great hunger for knowledge and for learning. What was especially exciting for her was to learn about spirituality and the Divine in ways that were liberating rather than restrictive. In this way, she could come to grips with the flaws in the Berg philosophy and let go of its influence. Further, she learned forgiveness as the only true way to reconcile the past:

Many religions, especially patriarchal ones, teach that we are either good or evil. And, they teach us further that if we aren’t submissive to this strand of teaching – the cross, the blood, and outside source bringing redemption – we are fatally flawed, crippled from the cradle to the grave.

By understanding and practicing Buddhism, I’ve been able to detach myself from the concept of good versus evil. I’ve been able to study the mechanisms that make my soul tick. I’ve been able to accept that as a human being, I experience light and shadow and it’s all OK.

Sometimes the light may blind me. Sometimes the shadow may darken my horizon. Regardless I am comprised of both; we all are. So, for me, there is no redemption by blood. There is no sense of retaliation or shame projected onto us by any God. Just as there is no need for retaliation for my experiences as a child. I was a victim of the shadows. But, I was graced with the ability to find and choose the light. —The Gift of Will, (p. 142)

The Takeaway

Marie’s journey reminds all of us that only through forgiveness is there liberation from the past. What she has accomplished is inspiring, because she has so much more to forgive than most of us. And she sees that once we are willing to forgive those who had the most power over us, those who caused us the most suffering, something opens up that can change our overall perception forever.

Once I decided to forgive my parents, I could see clearly to forgive just about everyone in the world. I began to see the world through the eyes of compassion, mercy, and Grace. I was also able to forgive myself for not being a better sister to my brother, and all the other naïve and ignorant things I have done to others and myself. I was able to begin the journey of loving myself. To have the upmost compassion for myself and respect for my own identity.” —The Gift of Will, (pp. 155-156)

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