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Bitter-Angry, Bitter-Sweet: Reflections on a Nine-Year Journey - After Zendik [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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Bitter-Angry, Bitter-Sweet: Reflections on a Nine-Year Journey [Jul. 15th, 2013|03:30 pm]
I started this blog in spring 2005, just a few months after leaving Zendik. At that time, I still cleaved to the Zendik mission. I wanted, more than anything, to mow down my “DeathKultur” fantasies so I could return to the Farm and commit for life. Instead, with a lot of help from many friends, I stumbled towards understanding Zendik as a mirage, a collective delusion. I could opt out, if I wished. In fall 2005, I did.

At that time – in late 2005 – Zendik was still going strong. There were thirty-plus Zendiks living on the Farm in West Virginia. I could imagine the disgust with which they would greet what they saw as my apostasy. I might have freed my mind, but I could still feel the power Zendik held over my body. Some days I lost myself: I plummeted into a trough of doubt, where I was wrong and they were right and unless I repented I could never be whole or fully human again. As I railed against Zendik, as I detailed its inner workings, as I sang “The Ballad of Zendik Farm” – I was fighting for my life. I was shoving a new story of Zendik into the world because I felt, if I didn’t, the old one might once again suck me under.

* * *

An ex-Zendik who left the Farm almost twenty years ago recently posted a dispassionate account of his Zendik experience. He included a link to my FAQ – “angry, bitter, mostly accurate,” he said. I agree with his description. I wrote the FAQ in 2008, when I’d been gone less than four years, in command of my mind for a mere two and a half. I was angry and bitter then – anger and bitterness were appropriate to that stage of my journey out of Zendik. Most of what I’ve said about the Farm in this blog was true for me during the early stages of that journey.

Now, I’m in a later stage. I’ve been gone from the Farm going on nine years; I’ve been freed in the mind for seven and a half. During those seven and a half years, I’ve written draft after draft of my Zendik memoir. Each draft has demanded deeper inquiry into what I wanted – and got, and didn’t get – from Zendik. It’s demanded that I cultivate compassion for my characters, that I ask what they wanted, and what made them who they were. Also during those seven and a half years, I’ve come to realize just how large a role collective delusion plays in most lives, just how deeply it pervades the stories of most cultures. I love (what Mary Oliver calls) “our only world”; I feel blessed to be in it. At the same time, I see groups like Zendik as weeds that flourish in response to deficiencies in our cultural soil: A fully healthy medium, roiling with unseeable life, would not need weeds like Zendik to spring up, to go wild, to incite a sticky, messy, ugly eruption of healing.

* * *

As I have healed, the word “cult” has become less important to me. Think of it as a cross, a bulb of garlic, shoved out in front of my chest to guard against retreat to that dark place where my choice was Zendik, or living death. I still think it’s accurate, but I don’t need the word, as protection. I don’t need you to use it; I don’t need you to agree with me.

* * *

We all travel in cycles, friends. Let us respect where each of us stands in her cycle.

If you never lived at Zendik, please do not dismiss those who did as blinded idiots. (If I have provided fodder for this view, please forgive me.) I have said before, and will say again, that Zendik harbored some of the smartest, boldest, kindest, imaginers and creators I have ever met. It gave me some of my best friends.

If you did live at Zendik, and still feel love for it, please do not dismiss me as your enemy. I simply moved through the angry-bitter stage of my cycle more publicly than most did. The public nature of my journey helped some, hurt others. It cost me – maybe for now, maybe for good – the friendship of some who are still dear to me. On balance, I believe it’s helped more people than it’s hurt. I hope so.

* * *

I haven’t written much here for quite a few years. I realized, around fall 2009, that it’s not possible for me to blog about Zendik-related developments and also cultivate the contemplative state I need to write my memoir. The memoir matters more; its potential to yield understanding runs deeper. I hope, when it comes out, that some of you will read it. When you do, you may not recognize the narrator. Why? Because writing is more than a practice of recording: it’s a process of discovery. Through writing, I’ve come to see my Zendik past as a deep well of insight. Every day, I draw from that well.

[User Picture]From: kerrickadrian
2013-07-17 06:05 am (UTC)
I really would like to read it. I only visited Zendik for three weeks (the outside Asheville iteration) and came away feeling terrible about myself because I "couldn't cut it" as a Zendik. It took some time before I was able to reflect on those experiences and see that some things were genuinely screwed up.
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From: (Anonymous)
2013-07-20 08:11 pm (UTC)
Veritable wowness, fine thinking and writing!

Fine evolving. Great post.

Thank you.
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From: (Anonymous)
2013-08-30 09:46 pm (UTC)
Hey Helen, this is Peiro :) ....what a wonderful piece you have written here....really well done! Hope you are well friend!
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From: (Anonymous)
2013-09-22 08:46 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting this. I was angry with you for a long time because I don't agree with much of what you have said over the years. Probably won't ever agree. But there is no rule that says we have to agree. Very well written and thought out post.
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From: (Anonymous)
2014-01-17 08:03 am (UTC)
It's good to see you still up and about.

My six months' experience living with the Zendiks in 1988 left a permanent impact on me. Even after all these years, after giving up trying to decide who was wrong or who was right about what, that experience still haunts me.

Zendik showed up in my dreams frequently for decades. This still occasionally happens. All the people, and the buildings, and the activities, especially indoors. This happens, I believe, to tell me something. As Zendik was trying to tell us something, even though we weren't always all that good at getting it.

The point was to try to attempt to open a door to something, and I do believe Arol and Wulf truly meant to do that. It's just so easy to wander off the path.

Kind regards,

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From: (Anonymous)
2014-01-17 08:15 am (UTC)
I think what was most striking for me about Zendik was that we were all, in our own different ways, so desperate to escape the absurd strictures of the culture, that we were willing to put up with a lot that we weren't comfortable with, if only we could have some kind of guarantee, no matter how fragile, that we could be part of an Other that was, for a change, Us, instead of Them.

That was the attraction for me. Right there.

This site is making me post anonymously but I'm Miep at mieprowan@gmail.com, should anyone want to contact me.

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From: (Anonymous)
2014-04-30 08:51 am (UTC)
Wow. I think you did great. Thanks for doing it in public. Thanks for leaving this up.
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From: (Anonymous)
2015-04-22 05:38 pm (UTC)

bugzy zendik

It was 1993 and I was 20 when I lived with the Zendiks, in Bastrop. I had a one year old baby and lived the winter and part of the spring with them.
When I began questioning practices or methods and criticizing certain people I was asked to leave. Of course its more complicated than that…but essentially,
they dropped me and my baby off in Austin with no money and no place to stay. I remember the constructs i had of society crumbling, the good, the bad and the ugly…I realized, after being taken in by a co-op house of college students, the optimism and relief; that most human beings are innately good and loving…that i would be okay as long as i stayed true to myself.
I did care and relate to so many people while I was there, so many wonderful, caring people…and, my heart reaches out to you…
I know how confused I was after I left, I was devastated and bitter as well; that a few individuals could taint and use their power in such a harmful way.

On the chance you may know the gentle Bugzy Zendik; he was very special to me during my time there and I would love to have contact with him again…thank you...
in spirit,
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[User Picture]From: emeraldimajia
2015-04-23 03:17 pm (UTC)

Re: bugzy zendik

Hania, please email me - madgelma[at]hotmail.com - and I'll see what I can do.
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