Love & Abuse: My Journey with Access Consciousness

It took me 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.

Hmmmm…

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.

Both/ and.

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 not.

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.

Take Back Your Life!

“Take back your life!”

It’s easy to see a phrase like that and feel like you are meant to do something. That you must be gallant. That by someone else’s rallying cry (or program or bestselling how to) you should leave that marriage, set better boundaries, make that big leap.

But here’s the thing. You will or you wont. You will. When the time is right for you. Or you won’t. And that will be perfect.

Perhaps you don’t have to worry so much.

Life is happening. It is pushing us and showing us things. Life may bring you success in one chapter, only to knock you down and show you that was never what you thought it was in the next. Well, isn’t that wild?!

I worried for years about how to leave Access. But then life made it happen. I can look back and judge that I should have left sooner. But I couldn’t. I was not the person who could leave. Life had not given me the ingredients, in this case, the pain threshold, I needed to do that. I needed to watch myself being the person who did not speak her truth. I needed to feel how it felt in my body to be resentful and angry and frustrated and sneaky, even in the midst of a swirly, magical looking life. I needed to watch what occurs in this form when my thoughts veer towards money and attention and proving that I am of value in this world.

Why? There is no why. It is my life, that is why. My life. I am simply a creature, a unique combination of who I came into the world as, mixed with my very singular experience of being on the planet (my mentors, my trauma, my culture, the beliefs and values of the people around me in the place I was born), for whom that was the only possible path.

Where you are right now is the only possible place you can be. Because it is where you are.

For some people, part of that unfolding life story at some point includes awareness dawning; that who you are and how you are operating in the world does not feel good. You are frustrated. Or bitter. Or not at peace. Perhaps there comes a time where it is simply not satisfying to make choices from the beliefs of the people who raised you. Maybe you notice it makes you filled with rage to play by certain rules set out by others. Or you become aware of how a certain mindset is deeply destructive, and keeps you isolated or afraid.

Well, remarkable!

What if you don’t have to do anything about that either?

You don’t.

A different current is now flowing through you. As awareness dawns, you will be different. Not because you tried, but because it is now a seed planted. New branches of the river, new possible future choices are being created up ahead. This is not a new idea that simply watching your life unfold, objectively, without attachment, is so powerful. But it is.

Others may never have this awareness dawn. And that is not their fault. That is not what they or their lives have made available to them. Or at least not now. Let it be.

For a long time after I left Access I wanted others to leave as well. I felt angry, betrayed even, by anyone who stayed. I no longer feel that way.

“Let everything be exactly as it is.” This phrase returns, and saves me once again.

If I do not know where my own story is going, I most certainly do not know about yours! Something intense had to happen for me to leave. And you? Well, it may be exactly what you need. Now. For a little bit. Forever. Maybe you feel empowered by where you are? Maybe you need that social network? Maybe you too, need to give yourself away, before being smashed wide awake? I literally don’t know. Something quite grand is at play as all our lives swirl together. It’s beautiful!

I have finally realized that everyone else’s life is not my rodeo. This is your movie. You will watch this scene as long as life has you watching it. And then, something will come next.

No one wants to be patient. But as a brilliant friend of mine put it, “you can’t binge watch this movie”. So sit tight. Things are happening. You will find out your next move soon enough.

I have come to believe that our life experiences are truly treasures.

Treasure them. Or rage against them. Feel whatever you feel.

But life builds on itself.

If you surrender to whatever is present for you right now… You will get the astonishing gift of whatever comes next.