Love & Abuse: My Journey with Access Consciousness
It took my five years to write this.
I didn’t actually plan to. But then life sometimes has its own ways.
Many of you know that I was deeply involved in an organization called Access Consciousness for 12 years. Recently, an old colleague of mine left that group, and has been creating quite a stir.
A surprising number of people have contacted me in the last few weeks asking about my own departure.
I have spent years wrestling with the question of if I owe anyone any words. I helped create and maintain the image of Access as a beautiful self-help modality about consciousness for over a decade.
Do I owe the people that I brought in… an apology? Or details about anything I witnessed happening behind the scenes?
I still don’t have an answer to that question. Because we are all on such very different paths.
But recently, as I see and hear about my friend Lauren’s experience (hear recordings of her being publicly shamed, sworn at, and slammed for speaking up), I feel compelled to say a few words.
I’ll start with one truth perhaps most people who know this work can agree on:
One of the things Access is about is awareness. There are absolutely beautiful possibilities brought about by some of those tools.
I can tell you hundreds of stories of generous, kind and caring moments I had with the founders, Gary and Dain. They, and the Access staff, made up almost the entire guest list at my wedding. They were my family for over a decade. I get it. The love. When they are vulnerable and undefended, it is an exquisite and enrapturing space.
I can also tell you dozens of shocking and extremely damaging things I witnessed, experienced and participated in.
Because here’s the thing….
Love and abuse are not exclusive. These stories neither excuse each other nor cancel each other out. That is precisely what makes certain relationships so haunting, confusing and maddening to unpack.
I have come to believe that Access is about many things. Included in my list, especially when questioned, are: power, money, gaslighting, retribution and abuse.
By the time I left, I was convinced that I was a narcissistic sociopath who deserved to die for telling someone the truth about an investment project that I was concerned was not legal. I have sat quietly for the last five years unpacking that sentence.
No one gets the blame for my story. It is perfect, exactly as it is. It has been the single most growing, healing, maddening, soul shattering, liberating thing that has happened in my life. I have mined great treasures in the bits of truth I found in their accusations of me. I was blind to many of my shadows, and I acted out of integrity in a number of ways.
I have also been liberated by seeing and naming some of the many atrocities and lies.
What a holy healing journey that has been!
One of the hardest things in this life is to hold a paradox. To hold two conflicting truths in your hand at the same time. How do we make sense of our most disorienting experiences? And the fact that human beings are so disappointingly…. human?
I don’t think Access was ever meant to be a destination. It was meant to bring tools to empower people to trust themselves, then go into the world to create a more beautiful life. Somewhere, amidst all the money and power, it seems, to me, to have gotten desperately off its rails.
A few weeks ago I went on a retreat. For the first few days, I couldn’t figure out what I was experiencing, and why it felt so foreign in my body.
It was integrity.
In this space, there were no unspoken rules cancelling out the spoken ones. What the leader said we would be doing was exactly, and only, what was being done. Speaking honestly had no chance of getting anyone shamed, mocked or cast out.
And if it would, I knew with every fibre of my being, I would simply walk out the door.
I think I have finally made it to the place where I will not give my authority over to anything outside of myself ever again. If that is true…. literally anything and everything that has brought me to this moment, is a precious and sacred gift.
I am not here to chime in on whether Access is, or is not, a cult. Unpack that word any way you will.
What I know is that a group can stand for absolutely mesmerizing principles… and when there are charismatic leaders that are not to be questioned at the helm, it’s a rather squirrely game.
It does not mean you should not play it. Only you will know that.
For years I was afraid to speak. Afraid of retaliation, sure. But also afraid of my own subjectivity. Afraid I might write the narrative incorrectly inside myself.
I thought my story was so complicated and unique that no one could ever fully understand it.
It’s actually kind of simple.
I am you… (to the millions of women who have loved and defended your abuser).
I am you…. (to the billions of humans who have ever given your authority away to a teacher, a guru, a god).
We are not broken. We are human.
And part of how we heal, is by the simple, and powerful, speaking of truth.
I would like to share a piece I wrote about taking back your life. It doesn’t say what you think it will.
May you walk your path the only way you can.