Journeys: Janet Schwartz

Date: October 7, 2000

I started reading about yoga when i was 17, did acid the summer out of high school in 1970, and wanted a way to go further without drugs, once i opened my mind. A friend twisted my arm to get a TM mantra in 1972, and between the hatha yoga and the meditation, I kind of lost interest in my college classes. I dropped out to avoid flunking out, and hung around my college town, without a real aim, for another couple of months, until my mom wanted me back in New York . I kept doing TM, but had zero sense of community or fellowship with it. Then I had one frightening experience in meditation that no one cared about, and I stopped at once, aggravated that they didn't have any help for me.

About three months later I had a fight with my mother over her drinking, and she told me to get out of the house and not to come back until i was happy (!)

I had an appointment in NYC, so I took the train in, finished the appt, and then was at a loss what I was to do next. I was a sitting duck for the elevator operator, who asked me if I wanted to go to satsang that night in Greenwich Village, when he got off work at 5pm. Sure, why not? I can't go home. What the hell.

Rennie Davis of the Chicago 7 was the star speaker that night. I was wowed. Rennie looked blasted. His eyes shone like diamonds, and he was just awash in peace and visionary rhapsodies. If Rennie had checked it out, it had to be real, right? No charlatan guru could fool a member of the radical yippie Chicago 7! 'course not.

So I didn't go home. I went to Harlem with the elevator guy overnight (chaste sleeping - him in his bed, me on the livingroom floor) and in the morning, we packed small knapsacks and took the train to Philadelphia, to await being picked to receive the Knowledge techniques (light, sound, breath and nectar - the tongue fold-back). For two weeks we caravaned around PA in a VW bus with other kids he knew, from the very buildng he worked in, where I'd had my appointment, and they lived -- and finally, after getting the full satsang brainwashing treatment, for 2 weeks, 24-7, I reached the target state of utter blank readiness they were waiting for.

I was initiated on may 15, 1973, by one of Guru Maharaji's mahatmas. Had a stunning experience with the sound.

Went along for the next week until the whole vanload had been picked and initiated, then we all went home to New York. My mother was baffled when I came home. She had ordered me out, three weeks ago, and I hadn't come home till now.

And I was happy. I'd done what she had said, didn't i? I cleaned the cat litter box with supreme serenity. I smiled thru her alcoholic rages. I sat with her watching tv and did yogic breathing, which she thought I was doing to mock her smoking. Felt all my chakras open in succession while watching 'Kung Fu" with her one night.

Then she got word of a house she wanted to go housesit in Santa Barbara, and she packed up and left me there to sublet the apt for her. She had been waiting 13 years for a way to go back to California. So i showed the apt and found a renter, and I was now free and clear to take off into New York City, and become a true wandering renunciate in service to my Lord.

I lived by the ashram schedule and vows, but i never actually entered the ashram officially. I think somehow I felt that I was even more holy for not going in. I seem to recall that I saw the ashram as terribly flawed, with all the ego trips and the abusive humiliating and pushing people around, so I kept myself apart from it to be 'even purer' than that.

It was fun for the first year or 2 or 3. I was a gonzo devotee, with no aim in life but to tell people about maharaji and bring peace on earth in my lifetime. I slept on floors rolled in a blanket. I meditated constantly. I wore earplugs so I could only hear the inner music, and I read people's souls while I watched their lips move. We opened a vegetarian restaurant in NYC, dead center of midtown, to show the world what heaven on earth would be like when maharaji had shown everybody what he'd shown us. I went to the (ridiculous) millennium festival at the astrodome, and back to new york. Almost hit samadhi the next morning in meditation -- but the housemother threw the door open and announced breakfast, just as i was rocketing toward the infinite. I didn't get up, but everyone else did, -- and stampeded for the kitchen, destroying the stillness and my almost perfect experience!

Things gradually lowered by degrees from then on. They sent me out to the boonies to a godforsaken outpost, and I found a way to get back into the city. They tried making me a cook for these two ancient women in Queens, but I returned to the city again. then we heard maharaji was getting married in Denver, and i called my mother, now in caifornia, and she sent me plane tickets to fly west to see her.

I stopped in Denver and didn't get the plane on to L A. I lived in the Denver community the rest of that year, going from the ashram for aspirants, to a premie house, to another, to destitute homeless squatting, in a vacated, abandoned premie house with several others like myself. We begged at the back doors of homes for any food they had they didn't want. We picked straggly veggies in the garden. I once hid out overnight in the free clothes pile in the basement of the mahatmas ashram, and slept there because it had heat, and our empty house didn't.

By Thanksgiving, the utilities had been shut off and the landlord came round, to see where his tenants had gone. He found us, took pity, and let us stay until we could find other places to go. I finally called my mother on Christmas of 74 and finished my flight out to Los Angeles to see her again.

Her drinking was the same old tired nightmare. When she shattered a glass beer stein on the kitchen counter edge on New Year's Eve, and menaced me with it, I knew it was time to head back to premieland. I walked out to the highway to a pay phone, and called the nearest premies. While i was waiting for them to come get me, a cop stopped to ask if I was alright, and to my huge secret amusement, his badge said "L. Foote". My ride came and took me up to Los Angeles, and I became part of the L A community for awhile.

Destitution was now the norm for me and my buddies. The same people I had been squatting with -- first met them in NYC -- and before in Denver, now rejoined me in LA. We found yet another empty premie house, and did the same thing again. Ate off the trees. Dumpster foraged. 'Gleaned'. Never missed a meditation or going to satsang, despite.

By spring I was offered a ride east, and I took it. Went back thru Denver, got the application papers for entering the ashram, and, for some inexplicable reason, bolted, just before my interview. Got back in the car and went on to Boston instead.

Lived in that comunity till summer. My father came to town on business and he came to dinner at the premie house. I remember being apalled that he wouldn't take off his shoes at the door. He wanted me to come see him at his house after, and when i went, i got stranded out in the middle of nowhere in PA for 6 interminable weeks, while he tried to make me conform to his values. What finally saved me was his wife's relatives, coming to visit, and my packing my bags and slipping out with them, when they went to drive back to NYC. I got back into midtown and went straight to the restaurant. Then to satsang, and had a place in a premie apt by nightfall.

Didn't last. I found myself homeless again in a couple of months, and the neighbors two doors over took me in. I did manage to get a ride to Miami, that fall, to our Hans Jayanti festival, where I met up with the Denver premies I knew, and got a ride back to Denver with them. But things still went downhill. My roommate pushed me out. She wanted to be alone. A non-premie man heard the scene and promptly offered me a job as his housekeeper, in the basement apt. I really didn't want to go, but it was that or the streets, so I went. He was honorable. Didn't try anything gross. He was a foodstamps tech, and he got me on foodstamps for the first time in my destitute life.

I was miserable living there, but there were premies living upstairs in three other apts, and my former roomate used to come down to the basement to bake bread in our oven, since we had a full kitchen (painted a lovely battleship gray with exposed pipes). Looking back, i could have made that place much nicer with a can of paint, but I just wanted outta there.

I got my chance on my birthday. An aspirant I'd met at satsang brought his car around and said he was leaving his apt and I could have it, so we moved me over, on the spot.

He left for Las Vegas a week later, and right behind him, in came my former roommate. the same one who had kicked me out at the other building. But she got SSI checks, and I had no income, so I let her move in and pay the rent.

We lived there like that from summer 76 to spring 77. Maharaji called a program in Montreal in April and I caravaned there with a family I knew. We got separated at the hotel, and I didn't get my ride back to Denver, and I ended up homeless again . So I fell in with a motley crew of international leftover premies in this bare apt. in Montreal for 6 weeks, subsisting on bread and milk. Thru all this, I never missed satsang or doing my meditation.

I hitchiked to Ottawa next, and was a guest in their comunity for a number of months, on into June and July of 77. Another ride took me to Toronto for a week or so, and then maharaji called a festival in Miami in July for Guru Puja. I got a ride down the east coast with this crazy brother who floored the accelerator to 95mph on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and froze the engine. We left skid marks for 300 feet before coming to a stop, and everyone bailed out in wrath at him. I hitched the rest of the way south, down the east coast and made it into Miami at dawn. Got stranded again at festival's end, and became destitute again, with another leftover premie I'd seen in Ottawa.

I got a letter from my Denver roommate at summer's end, telling me to come back or I was gonna lose all my stuff. So I walked out to the road and stuck out my thumb, and was back in denver in 4 days, at her door. She had moved to a new, tiny place so small we had to stand the couch on end at night, to lie down and go to sleep on the floor.

At this point, I got word that my mother had left me an inheritance of 10,000 dollars, but my family promptly seized it to keep me from 'giving it all to the guru'. What they didnt know was, i would never have done that. I wanted to buy land and live on it," whole earth catalog" style, but they wouldnt listen, and wouldnt believe me, so i couldnt touch it. A friend who had been watching my strange behavior, ever since my mother's death, took me aside in the fall of 77 and said he could get me on SSI. I let him take me thru the motions, and was surprised when the checks started coming at New Year's.

And suddenly, all doors closed in my face. Now that I had an income, no premie house would take me! I found a crappy apt, got robbed while overnight at a brothers' house (and got pregnant that same night, btw) came back, and moved to a still worse apt, and underwent the crushing decision as to whether or not to go thru with the pregnancy. The father didn't want me to. My family didn't want me to.

But I came to realize I just couldn't do an abortion or an adoption. So I resolved I'd have it, and it proved to be the single most revealing decision I ever made.

People, premies, I had thought all these years were my friends, showed their true colors. They all ran off to see maharaji, while I struggled along, trying to prepare my world for motherhood. The father resented me and the coming child. He betrayed us, again and again, spending the rent on planefare, to go to see maharaji and losing us our home. He dragged me around the country, all the year I was gestating. I finally asserted my needs, and returned to Denver one month before my due date, regardless of him. He went to one more program before rejoining me, and getting us a decent place. The baby came on oct 6th 1978. and four weeks later, he committed us to go to Hans Jayanti again, this time to sleep out in a tent with 20,000 other premies, next to Disneyworld. He left me with the baby, there on the land, in a mud rain, to find my own way back to Denver, while he got a ride for himself.

I couldn't get back to denver.

One kind brother took me to his house in DC for 6 weeks, then north again to New Haven, CT, where the father's parents lived. There I begged planefare from his father, to get me and the baby back to Denver, to our apt, and when I got home, 8 weeks after the campground, dad acted like we'd gone to the 7-11 for diapers.

I overturned his drafting table on him for that. Incredibly, he did it to us again in April of 79, when maharaji called Holi in Miami. He spent the rent to fly us there, and we lost the apt. We got stuck in miami for two years, moving in together and apart, over and over, but at least the festivals were a walk up the street, now. maharaji was having the slave labor premies refit a boeing 707 for him to fly, and dad wanted in on that service. As always, he provided for himself nicely, and left the baby and me to rot in fleabag surroundings. He slugged me in the liver once, for yelling at him about it. Back money came in for the baby's SSI, and the day I went to buy the tickets to take baby and me back to Denver, I was purse-snatched in broad daylight. They got 800 dollars. I got my wallet back, but was re-trapped in miami.

When the father tried to choke me for yelling at him, I snapped, and left him for the last time. I went to Gainesville and tried to make a life for baby and me. Each place I rented, reneged on me, right after we moved in, and in utter desparation, I called my father, and asked him to come and get us in his company's jet.

It was a bad move.

He kept me out in the boonies again, like last time, only this time he foiled my escape. He intercepted our leaving on the child's 3rd birthday and instead diverted me into houston, where he succeeded in having psychiatrists lock me up for a year, while he got legal custody of my son. The hospital miraculously pronounced me cured on the day my insurance ended.

I crawled back to Denver to mend myself, and for ten years, refused to be budged out of the apt I got myself. I couldn't visit my son.

And maharaji had become a complete hypocrite. The ashrams had been closed during my hospitalization. Satsang was disbanded, and there were nothing but videos held. The community as we had known it, dissolved. We weren't allowed to discuss knowledge with new people anymore. I had four premie friends, but we never much mentioned maharaji. I went thru therapy. I joined a 12 step group for adult children of alcoholics. I worked for the mayor. I got lettters published in the papers. I went thru a domestic violence arrest wth the man I dated for 6 years, spent 4 days in jail and a year probation for it.

I went to metaphysics classes with premies in them, taught by non premies. I learned channelling, chakras, auras, crystals, other meditation techniques, but still went to see maharaji when he came to town. Still meditated, but it was not like before. I felt like I was crying in the wilderness. I felt that he was making a terrible mistake in the direction he was taking the whole thing.

As the 80's came to a close, I had reached irrevocable fallings-out with 3 of my four premie friendships. Two ended in court. One ended in cold rejection, over being used.

In the beginning of the 90's, I met a shaman man who had fantastic experiences to share. Then life brought me a young man, age 20 who wanted to learn what I knew. He moved in with me as his mentor.We had angelic visitations, astral traveled together, the Doors between the worlds opened, and we moved back and forth between the dead and the living at will.

It was this last that finally moved us to uproot and move to Los Angeles in 1993. We had divine orders from the angels and other celestial personages to go there and do what we would be shown to, Los Angeles was a phantasmagoria. The grand hope failed. He left me for a street girl. I had a nervous breakdown and put myself back in the psych hospital. The 12 steps gave me back my stability to check out and go home again. I got into another relationship with a strange and dramatic man, almost married him, and that too ended in a domestic violence arrest -- he at knifepoint, wreaking havoc to our home. My original friend came back, left again, returned, but moved in with his street buddies in a drug soaked haze.

Meanwhile my son has been found to have schizophrenia in his first week at college. had gone to psych lockdown and been taken off the class register. His father in CT, at my request, had gone and retrieved him and tried for three months to take him in and handle him, but the grandparents couldn't take any more of it. so they packed him up and send him back to me, after keeping him to themselves for 16 years. And I had to hit the ground running, to rope him in, find us a home before the boyfriend came back from jail, get him care, and somehow absorb the events of my life.

I went to see maharaji up until april 25th of last year. I snapped at that program.

I couldn't stand the falsity, the airs, the egos I saw and felt and heard at those programs. These were people, faces I had known since I was 20, who now looked right thru me, and didn't know me! My genuine greetings went unanswered. I may as well have been invisible. It was surreal, insulting and very cold.

Those who did speak to me were pompous asses, full of themselves and repugnant.

I went there alone and I came home alone, and I was so glad to see my neighbors: real people, without Knowledge, who were my friends, who knew me, who understood me.

I finally declared myself an Ex in october of last fall. Went on the forum and have been there ever since.

It isn't perfect, but it's real. I can say what I never could in the cult. I can arrive at my own answers. I don't have to hide anymore. My family still hasn't made up for what they did, to my son and me, to my money (it all got spent on the damned hospital and jail bail), but maharaji is gonna pay for what he did. I am so glad I made the decision to Ex before my son could ask for knowledge.... I would much rather he studied true yoga.

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