Monday, April 30, 2007

I cum in peace

In case you were wondering what you can do to protest war in Iraq, check out Masturbate for Peace.

This takes make love, not war to a whole new level.

Bumper stickers include:

Hairy palms, not cluster bombs
War's not kind, beat yourself blind
Cream your khakis, not Iraqis.
Peace is spiffy, stroke your stiffy
Don't send the fleet, just beat your meat
War is shit, rub your clit
Side with France, reach down your pants
Peace is the issue. Use a tissue.
War is Crappy, Slap Your Pappy
War's for squares, play downstairs
When you jerk tonight, keep peace in sight.
Down with war, stroke some more
Get peace fever, rub your beaver!
War is heinous, thumb your anus
You Can't Beat Off with Nuclear Arms
War is Mean, Flick Your Bean
War is wrong, whack your schlong.
I'm going blind for Mankind
War is silly, whack your willy

Ten Commandments of the Ethical Athiest

Other than utilizing sexist language, I dig the Ten Commandments of the Ethical Athiest, and the witty commentary by fellow blogger, Oh Kermie.

The Future of the Public Intellectual

The Nation facilitated a panel discussion on the future of the public intellectual, although I doubt anyone other than a public intellectual is familiar with the term. I suspect this contributes to its decline.

The article had valid points, but I found that it was borderline verbal ejaculation. Perhaps generational changes demand a different language of intellectualism in order to keep the dialogue alive.

I would like to touch on two points the forum raised:

“Scholarship seems to start with an autobiographical or confessional orientation. The notion that every question has a noble answer or that there are reliable structures of ideology to believe in wholeheartedly has become, at best, quaint.”

The idea that there is one answer is very theory-of-forms: there is an absolute truth and it is knowable. I would say trashing the Plato nostalgia is more intellectual than anything else.

“When we’re looking around for who should get the blame for the declining complexity of public debate, we tend to round up the usual suspects. Politicians usually get attacked, and the media…But I want to lift up two other candidates here…The first is this triumph of the therapeutic culture, with its celebration of the self that views the world solely through the prism of the self…”

Interesting: self healing and inner discovery are hording reflection that might otherwise be engaged in public intellectualism. I suppose this summons a philosophic debate of whether one can truly engage in the outside without first conquering the inside. Who knows. But I do believe in therapy and mental health. This is sort of a question of the individual versus common good. Is it better to help yourself, or challenge the machine? Maybe it does not have to be one or the other.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Self Criticism: The Sexual Manifesto and its Implications in the LGBT Movement

Current sexual vocabulary and categorization of sexuality rely on cultural notions of sexuality in and of itself. The way in which the western world looks at sexuality is socially relevant and culturally constructed—and therefore biased and unsophisticated. Additionally, categorizations of sexuality (namely homo-, hetero-, and bi-sexual) are limiting, and more importantly, fail to communicate the complexity of sexuality and object choice. Current usage of the labels “homosexual” and “bisexual” are loaded, carry a history of judgment, and promote notions of deviation and therefore abnormality. Consequently, the use of faulty language is counter-productive to healthy sexual understandings and should be seriously revised, or not used at all. Until more profound language and perspectives are readily available, I move that we label ourselves simply "sexual."

If this is all true--and it is--then what of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) movement? How could a movement for LGBT rights exist if the very terminology of its existence is abandoned out of principal? To be fair, I will re-examine my initial claim in relation to the LGBT movement without considering the “T”—trans does not imply a sexual preference, only an affinity for a particular gender performance. Therefore, it does not fit neatly in a discussion of sexual labels, even though gender and sexual oppression are linked. Accordingly, I will now cite the LGB movement to determine its future in absence of sexual categories. I will now break the Sexual Manifesto into pieces and examine its truth, its implications, and what’s missing:

Not all sex is acceptable: In her work, Thinking Sex, Gayle Rubin uses the imagery of “the charmed circle” to demonstrate what type of sex is socially acceptable in the western world. The charmed circle contains good, normal and natural sexuality, and includes the following characteristics: heterosexual, married, monogamous, procreative, non-commercial, in pairs, in a relationship, same generation, in private, no pornography and bodies only. The “outer limits” of the circle depict bad, abnormal, unnatural and damned sexuality. Such characteristics include: homosexual, unmarried, promiscuous, non-procreative, commercial, alone or in groups, casual, cross-generational, in public, pornographic, or with manufactured objects (p 13). Therefore, sex is not simply sex—and depending on how and with whom, such practices are acceptable or condoned. Acceptable sex necessitates the inclusion of one male and one female, and this understanding has infiltrated not only culture, but the medical community as well. Sexology, or the study of sex, focuses on frequency of coitus, orgasm, masturbation, age at first sexual intercourse, number of sexual partners and beyond through heterosexual experience, (Nagel p 49). Information available about sexuality is consequently discriminatory and largely inconclusive because it fails to utilize a wide enough vantage point, and is based on cultural and religious assumptions of what is natural. These hetero-centric assumptions posit periphery sexualities as the “other” and in opposition to normal and natural practices.

Not all sex is natural: Western acceptance of sexuality relies on understandings of the biological. However, history has shown that such arguments often operate backwards—science is used to “prove” an already existing hypothesis. As skull size served as natural proof of female and African inferiority, what is “natural sex” is also considered after-the-fact. Gayle Rubin articulates that, while hunger is biological, what constitutes food is culturally determined and obtained. Likewise, while reproductive urges are biological, what is considered sex is culturally determined and obtained. Following this analogy, in no way does the basic human need of food account for the complexity of cuisine, diet, and taste—nor does it account for the fact that, across peoples and environments, these choices change dramatically. Additionally, the biological need to consume for energy does not explain fantasies of chocolate cake or buttered popcorn. Likewise, reproduction in no way explains the complexity of sexuality and the differences among peoples across time and spaces, (Rubin, p 10). Reproduction does not account for childhood masturbation, post-menopausal sex drives, or sex lives of the elderly.

Similar to the analogy of sexuality to hunger, both "natural," David Halperin, in his work One-Hundred Years of Homosexuality, comments, "It never occurred to pre-modern cultures to ascribe a person's sexual tastes to some positive, structural, or constitutive feature of his or her personality...human beings are not individuated at the level of dietary preference... [but] share the same fundamental set of alimentary appetites, and hence the same dieticity," (p 27). Halperin points out the way that our cultural perspective on sexuality creates assumptions (and judgments) of those we view. Additionally, his analytical approach calls to question the ways in which categorization creates essential differences in circumstances regardless of similarity. What is more, these differences in categorization impede the ability to understand sex construction and (lack of) categorization in other cultures. Misunderstanding of other sexual constructs reinforces the illusion of Western sexual stratification as the correct and “civilized” model.

Sex is loaded: Sexual labels are particularly problematic because they connote more than genital preference. “Individuals do not have the choice not to have a sexual orientation and identity. One is presumed to be “gay” or “straight,” if not in deed, then surely in identity,” (Nagel, p 50).

Sex is cultural: Historical accounts of sexuality underscore the notion that perceptions of sex-relations are socially and often times religiously specific. The term “homosexuality” was introduced into the English language in 1892 by Charles Gilbert Chaddock. Previously, “sexual inversion” existed to describe same-sex relations. A far different concept, inversion referred to a process wherein individuals “inverted their proper sex roles by adopting masculine or feminine style at variance with what was deemed natural and appropriate to their anatomical sex.” In essence, through the logic of inversion, a male trapped in a female body could account for lesbianism. The transition from sexual inversion to homosexuality marks the impermanence of sexual perspectives in a given culture. Homosexuality, on the other hand, considers desired partners independently of gender performance, based solely on who has had sex with whom, and indifferent to cultural and environmental factors. (Halperin, p 15-17).

Through the works of Plato, readers are exposed to a Grecian perspective of sex four-hundred years before the Common Era. In The Symposium, same-sex relations are acceptable and accounted for in the mythology of human beings, soul mates, and sex. At a dinner party, Aristophanes begins his story:

Long ago, our nature was not the same as it is now but quite different. For one thing, there were three human genders, not just the present two, male and female. There was also a third one, a combination of these two…Then “androgynous” was a distinct gender as well as a name…now nothing is left but the name, which is used as an insult (p 26).

Right in his introduction, Aristophanes describes to his audience how gender performance is a human-construct, varying through time, and based on custom instead of nature. He explains that the parent of the male gender was from the sun, that of the female gender the earth, that of the androgynous from the moon. He goes on to describe how human beings also did not look the same then—they were round bodies, with a face on either side, and four hands and four legs, with two sets of genitals. One day, the humans tried to climb up to heaven and attack the gods. As punishment, Zeus split them in half. However, devastated from the separation, the halves threw their arms around each other, and died of hunger, as they would not separate regardless of the cost. Zeus had sympathy toward the humans, so he moved their genitals to the front of their bodies, and the site of sexual reproduction was changed from on the earth onto their bodies.

The aim of this was that, if a man met with a woman and entwined himself with her, they would reproduce and the human race would be continued. Also, if two males came together, they would at least have the satisfaction of sexual intercourse, and then relax, turn to their work, and think about the other things in their life…Those men who are cut from the combined gender (the androgynous, as it was called then) are attracted to women…those women who are cut from the female gender are not at all interested in men, but are drawn much more towards women (p 29-30).

In the eyes of Aristophanes, humans originally coupled, not for the purpose of reproduction, but to achieve an original state of wholeness. Understandings of intercourse and reproduction resulted in Zeus’ intervention, and even then, sex was an avenue to alleviate the anxiety of separation. The myth of Aristophanes showcases a perspective of sexuality that does not position one preference against the other, and consequently, “we all share the same ‘sexuality’—which is to say that, despite differences in our personal preferences or tastes, we are not individuated at the level of our sexual being,” (Halperin, p 20). Additionally, sexuality was not a marker of individual character; sexual access to men was considered an indicator of high-status. Men of power had access to slaves, women and men. Partners were considered “active” or “passive” as opposed to distinction based on genitals. (Halperin, p 35-37)

Unlike ancient Greece, the history of homosexuality within the United States since its introduction into the English language has been grim. Those engaging in different orientations have been historically ostracized, discriminated against, and considered pathological. In the 1950’s, a period of sex panic filtered anxieties about sexuality through images of the “homosexual menace” and the “sex offender.” Although “sex offender” was used to describe rapists and molesters, it came to include homosexuality as well. “In its bureaucratic, medical, and popular versions, the sex offender discourse tended to blur distinctions between violent sexual assault and illegal but consensual acts such as sodomy,” (Rubin, p 5). From the 1940’s until the 1960’s, homosexuals and communists were subjected to intense investigation and persecution. Senator Joseph McCarthy was fixated on eliminating communists, and developed an interest in homosexuals because their lifestyle made them “vulnerable to blackmail” and their “moral character made them susceptible to communist influence,” (Nagel, p 164). Non-heterosexual orientations, homosexuality in particular, have been historically oppressed and marginalized in the United States, and despite progressive movement, the Land of the Free largely maintains institutionalized homophobia. By use of terminology that has served a long-standing pejorative and punitive function, specific mindsets of homosexuality are allowed to continue. Vocabulary that serves to recognize the “deviant” and the “abnormal” continuously infer and underscore what is “normal” and “biological”

If not all sex is acceptable, can be considered unnatural, is loaded, and finally, is cultural, then periphery sexualities face persecution and oppression. What then is the ideal way for non-heterosexual identities to create a space for themselves? Can words and labels really be re-owned by oppressed groups? This sociological phenomenon has taken place, but it is unclear whether or not such movements have been successful within non-group members. In other words, “queer” or “nigger” may have been re-owned within their respective communities, but hegemonic order has not cleansed its outlook. Therefore, it is inconclusive whether operating within a system of oppressive classification in order to gain freedom is a sound strategy. Yet despite doubts in the process, progress has been made in sexual understanding and acceptance.

Progress: Despite oppressive and binary views of natural orientation, this century has seen public uproar in response to new views and ways of thinking. Freud was brilliant in that he forced a more critical eye on the development and state of sexuality, regardless of the sexism in his work, (specifically penis envy). He asserted that all actions are, in some facet, part of a sexual energy—more or less making sex everywhere. Additionally, Freud's asserts that infants attempt to replicate their first pleasure (breastfeeding) for the rest of their lives—and that parents and siblings actually teach sexuality to a growing mind and body. He also cites direct correlation between pleasure, pain and sexuality. Like any other theory, Freudian thought certainly has flaws—but is also has critical observations and perceptions of sex unfitting to the time period in which he lived—and rooted in a deeper thinking of sexuality. Freud unveiled a revolution in psychology and child development because he exposed the fact that sex was not as easy or explicable as heterosexual penetration—and certainly, there is more to it than hetero-, homo-, and bi-. According to Freud, we are all polymorphously perverse, but “mental dams against sexual excesses—shame, disgust and morality—” shape the hetero-normative socialization process.

Freud also positions heterosexuality equally as restrictive as homosexuality. Picking up where Freud left off, Alfred Kinsey develops the Kinsey scale to depict what lies in between. In fact, what Kinsey has to offer is more diverse than “same,” “different,” or “both.” Rated zero through six, zero signifies exclusively heterosexual, and six signifies exclusively homosexual. One is noted as predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual; two as predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual; three as equally heterosexual and homosexual; four as predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual, and five as predominantly homosexual and only incidentally heterosexual. Kinsey’s work offended the public propriety of his day, revealing a singular and rigid scope of sex.

Changes in understandings of sex have occurred not only psychologically, but socially and politically as well. In the 1960s, the gay movement challenged hostility and discrimination faced gay communities. “By 1973, there were almost eight hundred gay and lesbian organizations in the United States; by 1990, the number was several thousand. By 1970, 5,000 gay men and lesbians marched in New York City to commemorate the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots; in October 1987, over 600,000 marched in Washington, to demand equality.”

Additionally, religions such as Unitarianism and Reformed and Reconstructionist Judaism embrace gay and lesbian ministers and rabbis. Organizations such as GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Association Against Defamation) celebrate accurate representation of LGBT individuals in the media, and even hold prestigious award ceremonies.

The Sexual Manifesto did not address the fact that progress has been made using current sexual vocabulary, and instead only zeroed in on the fact that much more is necessary. The LGB movement is slow and stigmatized, and it is inconclusive whether or not using faulty language has impeded the fight. However, there are currently no widely available alternatives to the LGB movement outside of using the terms lesbian, gay and bisexual. Therefore, protesting the vocabulary and carrying on the movement are at odds. So what now?

While LGB remains the dominant terminology steering the sexual civil rights movement, one college campus uses an alternative. Randolph-Macon features an Organization for Sexual Minorities and Allies (OSMA). Free of loaded terminology, this group shares the purpose of the LGB movement without forcing socio-political identities that throw sexual minorities into specific and limiting type casts. Yet this is one organization in one college. Although hopeful, alternatively named organizations are not accessible, and therefore not a feasible option to supplement the Sexual Manifesto.

Lastly, the Sexual Manifesto does not offer commentary on the role of allies, who serve a parallel role as men in feminism and whites during the civil rights movement. Yet it seems for allies, their sexual orientation is always on the table as well. There must always be an explanation—why do you care? Or there must be a clarification—oh no, I am an ally, not LGB.

As a dedicated member of the LGB(T) movement, I find myself insulted by the loaded questioning as to why I involve myself in this movement, (I would like to highlight the difference between curiosity/conversation and interrogation). At hand are four issues: the assumption of heterosexuality, then the prerequisite of needing an LGB(T) identity to justify involvement, the need to justify oneself as an ally and not LGB, and lastly, the fact that members of the movement need to be one or the other. This affirms that the LGB(T) movement is really just that—an issue only for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender identities—and is not considered a civil rights violation. Although “allies” are now taking a part in the movement in the interest of ending prejudice, this outlook has still not been adapted by society at large. What initially began in the Sexual Manifesto as a protest of faulty language to promote better understandings of sexuality is now refined as a protest of faulty language to stretch the LGB(T) movement from an LGB(T) issue to a civil rights issue.

The Sexual Manifesto certainly has holes—but I still stand by it. As with any type of socio-political grouping (Republicanism, Feminism, Environmentalism), individuals forego personal identity and are thrown into a bigger category, and all the baggage that goes along with it. And no one ever fits into a box; we are all different. But what of the LGB movement and the Sexual Manifesto? The relationship is technically problematic; however, I believe advocates of the manifesto must continue in the LGB movement while or until other names/organizations/alternatives are available. Additionally, it is unnecessary for allies to have to reveal their orientation, or specify what they are not. Bottom line: people may have whatever identity they choose within the movement, call it what they want, or not call it what they want—but no one should be forced to claim a label, and that is what the Sexual Manifesto is all about.

Are all cults bad?

How does a destructive cult differ from other cults?

Established in 1993, Fight Against Coercive Tactics Network (F.A.C.T.) provides victim support and legal services. It also features a wealth of information explaining unethical coercion and mindcontrol:

Characteristics of a destructive cult

The cult is authoritarian in its power structure. The leader is regarded as the supreme authority. He or she may delegate certain power to a few subordinates for the purpose of seeing that members adhere to the leader's wishes and roles. There is no appeal outside of his or her system to greater systems of justice.

The cult's leaders tend to be charismatic, determined, anddomineering. They persuade followers to drop their families, jobs, careers, and friends to follow them. They (not the individual) then take over control of their followers' possessions, money, lives.

The cult's leaders are self-appointed, messianic persons who claim to have a special mission in life. For example, the flying saucer cult leaders claim that people from outer space have commissioned them to lead people to special places to await a space ship.

The cult's leaders center the veneration of members upon themselves. Priests, rabbis, ministers, democratic leaders, and leaders of genuinely altruistic movements keep the veneration of adherents focused on God, abstract principles, and group purposes. Cult leaders, in contrast, keep the focus of love, devotion, and allegiance on themselves.

The cult tends to be totalitarian in its control of the behavior of its members. Cults are likely to dictate in great detail what members wear, eat, when and where they work, sleep, and bathe-as well as what to believe, think, and say.

The cult tends to have a double set of ethics. Members are urged to be open and honest within the group, and confess all to the leaders. On the other hand, they are encouraged to deceive and manipulate outsiders or nonmembers. Established religions teach members to be honest and truthful to all, and to abide by one set of ethics.

The cult has basically only two purposes, recruiting new members and fund-raising. Established religions and altruistic movements may also recruit and raise funds. However, their sole purpose is not to grow larger; such groups have the goals to better the lives of their membersand mankind in general. The cults may claim to make socialcontributions, but in actuality these remain mere claims, or gestures. Their focus is always dominated by recruiting new members and fund-raising.

The cult appears to be innovative and exclusive. The leader claims to be breaking with tradition, offering something novel, and instituting the only viable system for change that will solve life's problems or the world's ills. While claiming this, the cult then surreptitiously uses systems of psychological coercion on its members to inhibit theirability to examine the actual validity of the claims of the leader and the cult.

Destructive cults implement mind control to influence and sustain memebers.


Increase suggestibility and "soften up" the individual through specific hypnotic or other suggestibility-increasing techniques such as:Extended audio, visual, verbal, or tactile fixation drills, Excessive exact repetition of routine activities, Sleep restriction and/or Nutritional restriction.


Establish control over the person's social environment, time and sources of social support by a system of often-excessive rewards and punishments. Social isolation is promoted. Contact with family and friends is abridged, as is contact with persons who do not share group-approved attitudes. Economic and other dependence on the group is fostered.


Prohibit disconfirming information and non supporting opinions in group communication. Rules exist about permissible topics to discuss with outsiders. Communication is highly controlled. An "in-group" language is usually constructed.


Make the person re-evaluate the most central aspects of his or her experience of self and prior conduct in negative ways. Efforts are designed to destabilize and undermine the subject's basic consciousness, reality awareness, world view, emotional control and defense mechanisms. The subject is guided to reinterpret his or her life's history and adopt a new version of causality.


Create a sense of powerlessness by subjecting the person to intense and frequent actions and situations which undermine the person's confidence in himself and his judgment.


Create strong aversive emotional arousals in the subject by use of nonphysical punishments such as intense humiliation, loss of privilege, social isolation, social status changes, intense guilt, anxiety, manipulation and other techniques.


Intimidate the person with the force of group-sanctioned secular psychological threats. For example, it may be suggested or implied that failure to adopt the approved attitude, belief or consequent behavior will lead to severe punishment or dire consequences such as physical or mental illness, the reappearance of a prior physical illness, drug dependence, economic collapse, social failure, divorce, disintegration, failure to find a mate, etc.

In culmination, these tactics use severe stress and anxiety to create fear, dependence and insecurity in members. In this way, destructive cults are able to make decisions for members, robbing members of their basic human rights.

And now the big question: Are all cults inherently bad? No--only when a cult becomes destructive is it harmful for members are their families.

Steven Hassan, world renown exit-counselor, distinguishes between the two in his FAQs about cults:

A destructive cult is a pyramid-shaped authoritarian regime with a person or group of people that have dictatorial control. It uses deception in recruiting new members (e.g. people are NOT told up front what the group is, what the group actually believes and what will be expected of them if they become members). It also uses mind control techniques to keep people dependent and obedient. The BITE mind control model is my way of understanding the phenomenon. Dr. Robert Jay Lifton has his Eight Criteria for Thought Reform. Dr. Margaret Singer has her Six Conditions for understanding Destructive cults typically seek to "clone" recruits in the image of the cult leader, rather than respect and encourage their individuality, creativity and self-will.

Benign cult groups are any group of people who have a set of beliefs and rituals that are non-mainstream. As long as people are freely able to choose to join with full disclosure of the group's doctrine and practices and can choose to disaffiliate without fear or harassment, then it doesn't fall under the behavioral/ psychological destructive cult category. Of course, there are destructive groups that are clearly anti-social teach hate and encourage criminal activity. A case by case evaluation must be made to determine if a particular group is using elements of the BITE model to recruit and control.

If someone you know is suffering in a destructive cult, you can find help here.

If you need help, resources are available here.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Alternative Lifestyle or Korean Cult?

As I continue my exploration of Dahn yoga, I take into account my own experiences, Dahn yoga as it presents itself, as well as the backlash.

Minimal damage includes first-hand accounts of yoga class coercion. The blogosphere is filled with personal experiences; 32 Entropy Lane writes:

He [yoga master] totally tried to brainwash me and told me my Lupus was because my mind and body weren’t connecting and there were “Blockages”. They could heal me through their “program”. I laughed. Seriously. The whole thing was $1900 and he had me trapped in this little room talking about how I really needed this and my body was crying out in pain. SO funny. He kept pressuring me and I kept saying “I’m not making any decisions tonight.” The guy was relentless. It was so odd. Then he started bringing the price down...It was very “One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in that they were all wearing white faux karate outfits with their names scrawled in black marker across their chests...This Dahn Studio was the place where they felt validated and loved and accepted.

An ex-member writes:
"I am an ex-member of Dahnhak. I experienced a complete emotional/psychotic breakdown and was hospitalized, directly after a Shimsung workshop. I can remember their exercises, the people there, the Shimsung experience and the suicidal feelings that I felt after leaving. It took all my strength just to heal myself. After Shimsung I've needed a therapist, psychotherapy, medication and a psychiatrist to prescribe my meds. I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. My business went into bankruptcy and my life was forever changed. I'm terrified about what happened to me and embarrassed that I was fooled, but can't stop thinking about the next new member, who might not be as lucky as me to live through it. I could have died!"

An article by the Albuquerque Tribune, Dahn Yoga Stretches Into Controversy, trace the story of Monica Demarco, former member of the group:

The first day, Demarco recalled walking into a training session that she expected would be for learning new stretching or martial arts moves.

Instead, she said, participants were meditating with their "inner child" and "saying sorry to yourself for your inner pain."

"People were hysterically crying, some hitting the ground with their fists. It was freaky," Demarco said. "Imagine 150 people doing this all at once."

She said she and a few others sat in the back of the room pretending to participate "so no one would ask me about it later."

The oddest experience, Demarco said, was the session with Dahn Yoga founder Lee during one of the last days of the retreat.

"We had to meditate for an hour before he entered the room," she said. "People were sobbing before he came in."

He spoke about working for peace and told the group he was "shooting us light through his eyes," Demarco said.

Additionally, retreats include rigorous training, including fasting. Such excessive deprivation and physical exertion resulted in the death of an attendee:

In New York, Lee and 11 other Dahn-related entities are listed as defendants in the Julia Siverls wrongful death lawsuit.

Siverls, the 41-year-old who died at the Sedona retreat in 2003, had been involved with Dahn Yoga for about two years before advancing to a master training seminar, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims she was "pressured and coerced" into walking a tightrope 30 feet in the air without safety precautions, that she was secretly drugged with narcotics and that she was forced into the hike that killed her.

The hike, the lawsuit contends, consisted of her five-member group hiking up a mountain while wearing backpacks filled with 40 pounds of rocks and only three, 10-ounce bottles of water and three pieces of fruit for the entire group.

The lawsuit claims she passed out several times starting about 9:30 a.m. but continued, finally collapsing unconscious sometime after 10 a.m. The Siverls' attorney says the hikers didn't call 911 until about 4:30 p.m., after they had called the center.

But is there a differences between yoga classes and workshop/retreats? Can one enjoy the benefits of classes without being coerced into a physically and mentally dangerous cult? The Ohmtastic blog features a variety of opinions:

"I dunno - I just signed up for a one year membership at a dahn place in union square. unlimited classes (2-3 a day if I want) for 1,500. that's a great price (in new york). I don't plan to buy any of the extras. dahn yoga, like anything in life, if what you make of it."

Another comments:

"I have been in Dahn Hak for 3 years and have enjoyed the experience of the yoga exercise. EVEN though next level classes were recommended, I used a little word my parents taught me - NO. What concerned me most were the folks coming in looking for this to be the end all be all to whatever was troubling them. These were the folks that seemed to sign up for the additional courses, etc. My thought is whether it is Dahn Hak or the little church down the street, folks have to keep some common sense about them"

In response to stories of losing thousands of dollars, one blogger writes:

I can hardly believe what I'm reading. Ever go to a car dearlership? Ever go to Bally's for that matter? If anything, i joined Dahn Yoga because they didn't hound me on the phone every day trying to get me to join. I went for the free class and they told me my options. Pressure...didn't get it more than i would at any other business. I've only been at it for 30 months and i love it. They do anxiously want you to attend their weekend workshops as if it was a bit of an urgency but I have a life and a mind of my own. I say no and they leave it alone. You get sucked in to stuff only if you allow it."


"I started my Dahn hak practice six years ago (on-and-off) and it really hurts me reading some of the negative comments about Dahn hak. Yes, they may pressure you to sign up for some of the special training but, it really is up to YOU whether you actually do it or not. No one is going to threathend you or do anything even if you don't spend any more money on special trainings. And Yes, I would agree with idea that Dahn yoga cots money. But, I am truly willing to spend $100 some money a month just for my physical well-being and mental health. and from my own experience, I personally beilieve that it actully worth more than the moeny I pay. So, if you are so curious about it, why don't you try the class first, and see if you like it. If it works you, you join the class, if you don't, try some other types of yoga. there's no harm trying. You should remember that it is always your own decision and you know whether it is good for you or not."

Steven Alan Hassan's Freedom of Mind Center released an expert investigative report, concluding:

"It is my professional opinion that Dahn Hak, in all its incarnations, operates as a cult or high demand group, and employs unethical mind control, meets the BITE criteria for a destructive cult, uses undue influence and coercive persuasion to attract and retain members, and subjects members to a thought control program/process (see Lifton above). As a result of their involvement, members are not provided informed consent, are deceived as to the true nature and purpose of the group, are coerced into remaining in the group, are isolated from family, friends, and their former lives, are subject to increasing demands on their time and livelihood, are preventing from exercising free, unbridled choice, and live in an atmosphere of fear, shame, guilt, and may be subject to phobia indoctrination about criticizing or leaving the group."

There is a wealth of information available regarding Dahn yoga, and all it's alternate names, including:
- Dahnhak
- Dahn Center
- Holistic Fitness Center
- Dahn Tao Institute
- Healing Society
- Sedona Dahn Retreat
- Tai Chi Yoga Health Center
- Tao Aerobics
- Zen N’ Fit
- Energy Training Centre
- BR Holistic
- HSPHolistic

As an attendee of Dahn classes, and a well-informed individual, it is my opinion that if one is able to attend the classes, reap the benefits, and leave...that is perfectly acceptable. Attendees should avoid personal healing sessions, retreats, workshops and paraphernalia (including vibrating objects and dvds). If one feels harassed or manipulated, clearly that person should not return. I have only had positive experiences, and will continue attending with an open mind, ready to chronicle my adventures on The Colonic. My curious side would love to attend seminars for the shear purpose of reporting on them...however I am not willing to waste my money.

I will be transitioning to a different center shortly, and I am interested how the studios will handle my switch. Will I be contacted to ensure my continued attendance? Will the other studio be informed that I am coming? Will the other studio be more aggressive in its pitches to buy products and services?

Regardless of the horror stories, I have found my classes to be unparalleled by any other yoga experiences I have had. Buyer beware...and I certainly am. Get ready for updates.

What is Dahn Yoga?

Dahn Yoga is based on principles of Oriental medicine, and is designed to increase blood and energy circulation throughout the body. Meridian stretching exercises are designed to open the meridian channels, improve flexibility and increase the energy circulation that makes natural healing possible. These movements also improve body balance and overall fitness, and promote stress relief. Testimonials praise Dahn for weight management, increased physical fitness, stress relief, allergy relief, feeling younger, increased flexibility, personal well being and disease recovery. Many share that they have discovered emotional stability and have weened off anti-depressants; others have discovered spirituality. The website also features endorsements from medical doctors and psychiatrists.

The roots of Dahn yoga began in Korea 5,000 years ago. Two-thousand years ago, the tradition died. It was revived in 1980 when a single man began teaching it in a park. From there, Dahn yoga has spread across countries, including the US, Canada, the UK, Brazil, Russia, Korea and Japan.

The mission statement includes the four components of healing: the individual, the family, society, and the earth.

Fees: "Dahn Yoga centers offer different levels of membership. Membership fees depend on your area of interest and your body condition. You can choose from regular classes, special workshops, private sessions, more advanced trainings, or a combination off all of these. Dahn Yoga memberships vary from 1 month to 1 year to lifetime membership, with many options in between. Our instructors can customize a yoga exercise program to match your needs and interests. Membership prices are comparable to those of other national health clubs and spas. Generally, prices for membership at a Dahn Yoga Centers range from $89 per month to $180 per month, depending on the center location and the programs you choose to take. At Dahn Yoga, there is something for everyone."

Dahn is also affiliated with many other organizations: Dahn yoga centers supports Body & Brain Clubs on college campuses, which includes Young Earth Human Alliance (YEHA) activity groups. These motivate young people to expand their horizons and grow awareness and will provide them with appropriate opportunities to do so.

The World Healing Family Association (WHFA) was founded to enhance the health, happiness, and peace of families everywhere. WHFA instituted a Healing Family Campaign to support families in regaining and maintaining their health, strengthening their familial bonds, and creating a robust, balanced life. A community-based international initiative, the Campaign is dedicated to providing support, tools, and resources that empower families and help create a healthier, more peaceful culture.

The International Graduate University for Peace aims to create new peace studies on the basis of harmony and co-existence/co-prosperity; change humans into peace-oriented moral and spiritual beings via experiential approaches; and cultivate intellectuals with peace-making and peace-realizing abilities for the realization of peace on the Korean Peninsula and around the globe.

CGI Fitness is a luxurious 30,000 sq. ft. Holistic Health Club and Spa that combines the latest Western scientific cardio and strength training equipment and techniques with the whole body healing mentality of the East. CGI offers a wide variety of programs that focus on restoring the natural flow of Ki-energy throughout the body and education that enables participants to live a holistically balanced life. CGI represents a revolutionary concept in comprehensive health clubs that bring complete body, mind, and spiritual health.


This of course is a look at Dahn yoga from the institution itself--but what it claims to offer seems respectable, with a strong spiritual orientation that would not appeal to everyone. However, its affiliated organizations raise an eyebrow.

As a lover of Dahn yoga classes, I have made it my mission to explore the organization, as well as its dangerous activities. Cult experts and former members (and their families) warn against Dahn yoga, and I relate to their concerns. The exclusiveness of the organization is suspicious, as well as signs prohibiting pictures/videotaping, and tiny rooms with only 2 mats. My blog will chronicle my investigations, as well as personal research on Dahn yoga retreats and related practices.

Friday, April 27, 2007

A Yoga Story

I have been experiencing chronic back pains for the past two weeks--and am quite sure my pain has been worsened by the fact that I have been on antibiotics for almost a month, and not felt well enough to be active. Anyhow, I am staying in Beverly Hills for a week to dog sit for a friend, and decided that I needed to go to a yoga class to deal with my discomfort. I googled "Beverly Hills yoga" and was happy to find Dahn Yoga on South Beverly Drive.

I arrived to class early, mat in hand, eager to get my stretch on. As I entered the studio, I was surprised when an Asian woman in a very cultural outfit bowed to me. She guided me to lobby, where she sat next to me and began paperwork. I have attended my fair share of yoga studios, and never filled out paperwork...nor have I ever had an instructor care about the condition of my body from head to toe, (of which I explained my knee disorder, sway back, hip flexor complications and achilles tendon difficulties).

I was then asked if I wanted the $30.00 check-up, which examines the health and energy of my body. I have had long bouts in physical therapy, am well versed in the effects of anxiety disorder, and most certainly don't need to pay some shmuck to tell me that I am too busy, too tired, too tight and have the energy level of a flaccid penis. I kindly declined.

As I walked into the studio, I was taken aback by the immaculate condition and furnishing of the lobby and yoga room. I thought this was to be expected of Beverly Hills yoga--the bathroom was a porcelain throne for god sake. Anyhow, I was also surprised that my mat was unnecessary, and that the entire studio floor was one giant, soft mat that was as fresh and spotless as the jon.

I thought it was quite pleasant that a warm-up begins 10 minutes before class; I hate getting into intense stretches right off the bat. But the warm-up was not what I had expected: I followed the instructor as we drummed on our chest and abdomen to stimulate our organs, taking turns counting out loud in Korean (written on a dry-erase board). I don't know that I buy the organ stimulation, but you never know...I can get down with something different...I like counting in another language...and it's a really good arm work-out.

I noticed others come in the room. Although there were only 5 in total, many of them were wearing white Dahn uniforms, with special Dahn socks. These socks have grip to handle poses better.

We began the yoga session, but did not engage any of the conventional yoga postures: no downward dogs or warrior (1's or 2's). The class focuses on seemingly basic stretches with repetition and emphasized breathing. Additionally, we have specific poses for receiving energy. I found it challenging, but more simple and enjoyable. The instructor, or should I say master, was smiling brightly the whole time. I found her persona extremely encouraging.

Aside from stretches, there were certain poses that we had to hold for what seemed like an eternity, (actually 5 minutes). As a beginner, I was shaking uncontrollably, and the instructor came and sat beside me, putting her hand on my lower abdomen--I inferred from this she was giving me her energy. Although I don't believe I my instructor was transmitting power into my core, I found it comforting.

After holding 3 poses, we began meditation. Although I can't meditate, clear my mind or relax for jack shit, as we controlled our breathing and pulled hands together and apart, I could feel an attraction in my palms. A few minutes of meditation (and me not meditating)passed, and we clapped our hands, rubbed them together aggressively, and cupped our eyes to release energy into our faces. For the first time in my life, I did eye stretches, and we rubbed our energy all over our eyes, nose, cheeks and mouth, and repeated, "I love my beautiful face." I felt cheesy...but it was sweet.

I thought this was the end of class: a yoga cheer. "Are you ready?" asks the instructor? "Yes!" members reply, releasing feet into an open stance. Patting our stomachs, chest and then head, we yell "Healthy body, happy heart, power brain!" and break into three jumps, exclaiming "Yes, yes, yes!" Again, I felt cheesy...but in a summer camp way, appreciate the yoga cheer.

As I said, I thought this was the end. But I was wrong. The headmaster came out with a tray of tea, and members sat down in a circle. "Tell us your name and what you enjoyed in the class." As a people person, I loved this part. What a great way to get feedback and meet the people next to you.

I was hooked. I planned to come everyday. My body felt incredible, but above all, I was attracted to the fact that this was not a "I'm so trendy, I take yoga" class, nor was it an "Omg I need to workout" class. I felt that it was really about the body, mind, and feeling good. Not to mention, the emphasis on breathing relieved my throat tension, which is where I hold my stress. I found the class physically rewarding, and appreciated the sense of community.

When the class ended, the instructor talked to me about coming back. She also commented on how my spine is tilted and I am in the habit of leaning in one direction or the other. She added this further throws off my alignment. I was impressed that she picked up on my scoliosis, because no yoga instructor ever has. I liked the extra attention because now I am more aware of my body. I almost second guessed the check-up, but still dismissed the idea. Then began the discussion of future classes. Strangely, this studio is similar to a gym--it utilizes memberships. I explained that I was temporarily in the area, and the instructor let me know of all other Dahn studios in the of which is near my house in the valley. I didn't know if I could commit to a membership, so I took the option of buying a block of 10 classes. The instructor seemed to be insistent on my commitment...which was a little odd. Yoga is usually in and out for me. I asked to pay next time, (had to pay off my credit card bill first). My instructor hugged me good bye.

As I walked home, I called a friend to recap on the class. Playfully I said, "a) it's a cult, and b) I'm joining."

6:00 pm the next day I returned. My instructor hugged me hello. I was much more enthusiastic about the warm-up, and was in to every moment of the class. I felt confident and excited about what I was doing. Again I struggled with the stances, and again the instructor sat with me. But this time during meditation, I actually cleared my mind. It was really a moment of victory for someone who is obsessive compulsive. I finally reached mental serenity...and it felt so good. Tea-time ended, and I went to pay for my yoga card.

Now the instructor talked to me again about membership, in which I repeated I was not interested. But now I had a second option: 20 classes instead of 10. As with everything in bulk, buying more classes lowered the price...and so I went for it. Still though, it's not cheap yoga. She hugged me goodbye, and this time, when I recapped to a friend, I exclaimed my plan to get trained as a Dahn instructor. I have been thinking a lot about how I want to do something rewarding, that really gives something to people. Owning an organic farm for example. I would love to give people this experience.

The next day I returned for a class with a tai chi emphasis. This time, I really paid attention to the Dahn yoga exercises for "brain respiration." This included mentally challenging movement that took coordination and concentration, as well as deep breathing.

The class ended in the usual way, and this time as I left, the smiling instructor approached me once more. "What are you doing on Sunday?" she asked. "Studying...why?" She let me know that there is a workshop in healing martial arts. Interesting...I asked her for how long. "10:00am-6:00pm." What the fuck? I replied that I could not attend, and asked if there would be regular classes. She told me that classes are offered Monday-Saturday, and on Sunday "we usually have a workshop." Weird.

At this point, I still loved the classes and the masters, but this really seemed cultish. I googled "Dahn yoga cult" and found website after website of warnings: Do not let anyone you know go to Dahn yoga!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Bomb Iran

I didn't know McCain was a beach boy

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Thoughts on The Sexual Manifesto

I have been thinking a lot about The Sexual Manifesto...

a lot.

I think that philosophically, it is gorgeous and absolutely solid.

But honestly, if my manifesto gained a following, and sexual categories began to be abandoned by X amount of people,

this may end up being the same as putting people back in the closet. I just don't know...

My brain hurts from thinking about this. And it has been an issue for me for quite some time: what is the impact of The Sexual Manifesto on the LGBT movement? I thought i could work it out...I can't.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Silence is Golden

Today was my first day taking a vow of silence--and aside from the motivating factor of LGBT rights--it was really a unique experience. Given that I am quite talkative on any other day, I found that by not talking, I actually felt different. Most profoundly, by expending less energy communicating, I reached deeper thought and concentration, and was just much more introspective. It was also fun to interact with someone in a different way, namely gestures and notes. At the end of the day when I began to speak again, it felt strange, and I really appreciated language and how easy it becomes to interact. I suppose I just felt more in touch with myself, and appreciated engaging with others more.

I really want to make it a goal to spend, if not a day, but half a day of the week being silent. We'll see...

Darfur Demonstrations IN YOUR AREA

Darfur activists have planned 195 events nationwide between April 23-30th. Rally participants will come together to call on world leaders to adopt - and enforce - tough sanctions on Sudan until it allows the deployment of an international peacekeeping force to Darfur. GET YOUR ASS INTO GEAR AND GO

Find an event using your zipcode

Family and Persian People of 310/818, I did the searching for you


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Day of Silence

On Wednesday, April 18, hundreds of thousands of students will observe the 11th annual National Day of Silence--a protest against harassment, discrimination and prejudice faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender communities and allies.

"GLSEN’s 2005 National School Climate Survey found that more than 64% of LGBT students report verbal, sexual or physical harassment at school and 29% report missing at least a day of school in the past month out of fear for their personal safety. The Day of Silence is one way students and their allies are making anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and name-calling unacceptable in America’s schools."

I am not sure what role technology plays in the protest. Personally, I will observe the 24-hour day of silence, but will still use technologies such as texting, IMs and email.

Many will carry signs to explain their silence and spread awareness. There is a standard message available on I have to say that, in terms of "My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by harassment, prejudice, and discrimination" technically can't echoe silence. I really would encourage participants to opt for a different verb or phrase. Perhaps "call attention to" or "showcase." I am personally opting for "My deliberate silence protests harassment of...etc" Either way, I am thrilled at the level of commitment.

What are you doing to end the silence?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Feminism v. Conservapedia: What's in a name?

When a classmate told me about Conservapedia, I was apalled. An alternative online encyclopedia, the site guidelines "are kept simple in order to avoid the arbitrary and biased enforcement that is rampant on Wikipedia." This sounds funny, but if you Wikipedia "Conservapedia," you will find it described as:

"a conservative, wiki-based encyclopedia project whose articles are broadly pro-U.S., socially
and supportive of conservative Christianity and Biblical literalism (including Young Earth creationism). The project was founded in response to an alleged liberal, anti-Christian, and anti-American bias in the articles of Wikipedia."
In the spirit of free information, if you Conservapedia "Wikipedia," you will find a series of listed scandals and foul-play on the part of Ol' Wik, which are too extensive to quote concisely--however you may read them here.

Anyhow, I feel as though nothing can function in the name of equality with the gross contradiction of a bias name, and found the very notion of a conservative encyclopedia vying for objective coverage quite hypocritical. After all, I would understand claims against "Liberalopedia" if that were the name.

I continued to think about this, and then I thought of a parallel: Feminism. Defined by as "the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men," feminism advocates equality between men and women (also including sexual/gender oppression as well, and racial/economic factors)--it is NOT a policy of female domination.

So there you have it. Feminism has committed the same crime as Conservapedia. Both posit fairness and equality.

Back in the day, I wanted to begin gender neutralism. I was set on this because I found feminism to have its limits--but then I came to realize that feminism is consciously and unconsciously stigmatized to impede the movement, (and of course people are ignorant, or should I say mal-informed?). I did not want to abandon the rich history of the women's movement because it has been grossly exploited, misrepresented, and is full of conflict among feminists themselves. People also fail to realize the different forms of feminism, (social, marxist, cultural, radical, etc.).

Anyhow, as I said, I could not abandon feminism nor its pioneers whom I so admire. But the more I think of it, by the same logic I condemn Conservapedia, the title Feminism is faulty.

Maybe I am just being too hard on Conservapedia (although I don't think so).

I still identify with neutralism because I advocate gender neutral socialization, which escapes sex dichotomy all together. But it is still a battle how I will deal with my ideological problem with the title (not the beliefs of) Feminism.

Fatigue linked to premature aging

So I'm self-diagnosed with sporadic insomnia, and I have not been able to sleep properly in weeks. Anyhow, when sleep deprived, my eyes get really swollen--such that my under eye folds into itself, causing pre-mature wrinkles. Now, generally this would go away in a day, but since I cannot catch up on sleep for the life of me, this is a constant feature. Which would not be a problem, but since the folds of my premature wrinkle force under-eye skin to rub together, my poor sweet skin is becoming chaffed, irritated, and consequently rashy looking.

Moral of the story: sleep deprivation can lead to face vaginitis