Fulfilling Life’s Needs After Age 60: My Time With a Cult

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Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com

Author’s Note: Out of respect for the good people who are still affiliated with the organization I call a cult, I have disguised its identity. I’ll call it by a fictional name, Euroamer (combining European and America).

When I turned age 60 (two decades ago), I declared to friends that I intended to make my senior years healthy and happy. To enjoy a wonderful and long old age, I considered the personal needs I’d have to satisfy: Health, security, self-knowing, love, self-esteem, connection and spirituality.

After I retired at age 58 from a career in university bureaucracies, I relished my freedom to do exciting freelance consulting, and enjoy continual and amazing life adventures. However, two years later at age 60, my senior life plan had the wall, as I:

  • Faced health challenges getting several of my parents’ ailments.
  • Lacked solid self-identity and self-esteem – without a respected affiliation and title.
  • Longed to belong to a loving community – which also fostered spiritual growth.

While these three conditions upset me, they drove me to look for a range of solutions. So, from age 62 to 67, I learned to heal and advance my life in major ways – by becoming enmeshed in Euroamer – a European-run holistic wellness organizationin America. Oh, also it was a cult, which I only realized as I climbed the hierarchy – through the levels I call retail (studio), wholesale (district), and producer (headquarters).

Why did I regard Euroamer as a cult? From a longer list of warning signs by the Cult Education Institute (www.culteducation.com), here’s what I believe applied to it:

  • Authoritarianism without accountability.
  • Little tolerance for criticism or questions.
  • Former followers are wrong for leaving.
  • Unreasonable pressure on members, especially financial.
  • The leader is always right; he is the only source of the truth.

But I rationalized that Euroamer was a good cult – having attracted many fine multinational people working creatively and tirelessly, guided by a brilliant leader, and devoted to better the world’s health, education and peace. And, deep in my age 60+ heart, I felt I needed Euroamer’s congenial structure so I could truly fulfill my personal needs!

Becoming Happily Involved

My initial attraction to joining Euroamer was to fix a months-long health crisis. As a management consultant based in the Washington/DC-Maryland area, I had gone to Beijing, China to conduct a management workshop. There I came down with an intestinal problem, which plagued me for months after returning to the U.S. I went to Western medical and Eastern healing practitioners; but whatever they advised me to do, I hardly got better.

Then I hit the jackpot: I discovered a Euroamer holistic exercise studio not far from my home in the Washington/DC-Maryland area. After its European manager had me do various physical exercises, she concluded that my symptoms were due to prolonged stress, which I had regarded as an aspect of my personality. As she put it, this pattern had weakened my immune system and body’s health, undermined my emotional stability, and pointed out my f spiritual deficit. If I failed to remedy this situation, my overall health would further deteriorate.

Finally, I knew my problem and solution. So, I signed up for a six-day-a-week strengthening program at this studio. It consisted of exercise classes, private energy-healing sessions, and inspirational holistic-health workshops. To my amazement, after three months of this routine I was healthier, happier and calmer than I had been prior to the Beijing trip.

I could have stopped then, but being in my 60s, I wanted to learn more from this studio to increase my total wellness, assure my positive mindset, socialize with fellow holistic-health seekers, and explore my spiritual connection. Liking the European cultural and trusting the new-age energies of Euroamer studio, I expanded my involvement. This place soon became my new home, and its staff and members my new community.

As I looking around at my original family and non-Euroamer friends, most of them seniors, I observed most of them fading – from diseases and injuries, confusion and depression, isolation and loneliness, and little passion and purpose driving their life. Having started my career as an educator, now I could see: What I was learning at Euroamer could make me a credible wellness teacher – to my friends, clients and even my entire Boomer generation!

Gradually, I was drawn into Euroamer’s knowledge and practice system, business organization, multicultural community, global movement, and cultish ways (although then I didn’t use this label). At the studio over time, I began as a member, then volunteered as an associate, and finally apprenticed as a teacher. From being many hours a day at the studio, most of my friends and social network were part of this nurturing community.

Euroamer valued and appreciated me for: My gray-hair image, PhD (in Marketing) title and Dr. prefix, marketing-selling know-how, engaging personality, rising dedication level, surprising liveliness for my age, ample time availability, eagerness for learning, and deep pockets to afford its programs. After a year in the organization, my personal life had become almost unthinkable outside of it.

On the Internet, I found dark information about the organization, its business, and its leader. But I overlooked all this because I trusted my positive personal experience. Euroamer won me over by helping me satisfy most of my needs!

Diving in Deeply

After taking several workshops at Euroamer’s large retreat center in the New England countryside, I realized I wanted to live and work there. I was feeling too much stress and wasting time and energy in long commutes and living in an intense metropolis. I felt enchanted with New England’s slower-paced rural life, amid the richness of Nature at the retreat center. I imagined if I worked there, I could be of service to its corporate headquarters. I would participate in the highest-level health and spiritual programs – led by the Leader and the best teachers. I imagined myself on the fast track to Enlightenment!

So, I asked Euroamer upper management for a job in Public Relations. In response, I was offered a position at the resort-like New England retreat center! I felt elated. I arrived to work and live in a beautiful place. I joined in wellness and spiritual trainings with Euroamer’s top teachers, and assisted in workshops for members from around the world. Every time I entered the retreat center’s crowded dining hall at mealtime, I felt just like I was at a wedding or bar mitzvah reception – with heartful hugs and stimulating conversations with dear friends. I was in Shangri La!

My PR work for Euroamer’s retreat center involved advising its business team in workshop development and communication approaches – customized for the American market. At the predominantly European-staffed retreat center, I took on the role of ambassador to the business, government and religious organizations in nearby, small-town America.

When local VIPs visited the retreat center, I dazzled them with my show and tell. And they left impressed with the land, facilities, people, spiritual education and European healthy-gourmet cuisine! When Americans asked me if the retreat center was actually a cult, I smiled and clarified why it was not technically speaking – which I had by now convinced myself.

Suddenly, I was promoted to Corporate Communication Advisor on the Spiritual Leader’s headquarters staff. I was thrilled! I’d now be able to make a greater strategic contribution to the organization’s American and international activities. I called my consulting approach illuminated marketing – the synergy of business, cultural and spiritual perspectives. Everyone loved it; I loved it.

I cherished being close to the leader – his inner-circle meetings, staff hikes, lectures on philosophy and initiatives, and hosted intimate meals. I learned his ambitious views and goals, and observed his powerful behavior and charismatic style. I replied articulately when he asked for my opinion, and shared ideas no other staff could.

I was amused when the non-English-native-speaking Europeans nicknamed me the Magician of Words. I anticipated with joy how my role would be instrumental in advancing the organization’s business, spiritual and world-peace agenda. I was becoming both humble and proud! My colleagues were my friends. I was infused with Cosmic Love. No longer was I in Shangri La; this was Heaven on Earth!

Knowing I Wanted Out

I was proud of my high-level commitment to generate enlightened messages to American holistic health seekers, mass media, and key influencers. But, alas, Euroamer’s formula was not catching fire. It became clear to me that rather than gaining traction, we were losing ground in changing America and the world.

I detected several reasons for Euroamer’s stumbling: Disharmony between its business and spiritual sides of the organization, the European leadership’s resistance to adopt American norms, and the dismissal of negative complaints and legal suits by members and American local managers (which were settled out of court, rather than treated as constructive and wake-up feedback). The top management preferred its European beliefs and habits, rather than achieving success in America.

Along with other Americans working near the top of the organization’s pyramid, I was feeling disbelief, frustration and sadness. For this organization, we had made career, communal and spiritual commitments. Indeed, our self-identity and self-esteem were entwined with Euroamer and its mission. Around me, disillusioned American managers and staff began jumping ship.

Then came my turn. Having often stated Euroamer was not a cult. I finally admitted to myself: This organization qualifies, using my terms, as a soft cult (exerting belief conformity and financial pressure), in contrast to a hard cult (controlling its members’ freedom and principal life decisions. For six years, I had allowed this cult to distort my thinking.

It was time for me to walk away. So, I met with my European supervisor (the same person who did my intake session at the Maryland studio) to inform her of my decision to resign. For a grueling two hours, she tried to convince me to stay. With all her charm, she said, “We value your unique contribution!” “You can and must help us change!” and “If you leave, other Americans will lose faith in us!” Finding her words lacking in credibility, I was impervious to her appeals. Two weeks later, I left. I was free at last!

My Adventurous Aging Path

When writing this article, it is over a decade since exiting Euroamer. Reflecting on how the experienced affected me, I can see the positives. I am grateful for what I learned about holistic wellness, community living, and spiritual practices. I have affection for the diverse people with whom I collaborated for a shared vision and mission. And I feel sadness remembering how our dream of contributing to a healthy, conscious and peaceful world was thwarted by human limits organization of the organization and society – and my neediness.

Although my six years of belonging to a cult soured in the end, in hindsight it provided valuable life lessons for empowering and enhancing my life, and prepared me to serve others. My post-cult period has led me to my life’s best years yet. Several evolutionary spurts have happened.

First, while living in Sedona, Arizona, I turned my joy of singing and three-years of voice lessons into a new life mission: Edutaining (fusing life-wisdom educating and creative entertaining). I launched The Larry Show, which has produced four one-person musical shows based on my multi-dimensional life journey, and been performed worldwide. Among the shows’ major messages are:

  • It’s never too late to reimagine and revitalize one’s life path.
  • Life goes better with loving people and connecting to Higher Power.
  • Holistic wellness and consciousness expansion enhance advanced aging.

Second, a growth shift occurred when moving to the Miami, Florida area – especially with its huge senior population. I had applied my wellness know-how learned at Euroamer, to heal holistically my own cancer, and acknowledged my ability as a life coach based on working with thousands of clients worldwide during my career. These experiences have birthed another life mission: Adventurous Aging Coaching. It aims to empower seniors to grow younger in spirit as the best way to grow older. They can expand their life – rather than regard old age as a contraction. And thrive with optimal wellness and vitality, passion and purpose, love and joy, happiness and peace.

Learn more about Adventurous Aging at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100082105301582. You can contact Larry at larryros@gmail.com and 1.928.202.0010 (USA, Eastern Time).

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