The following is the story told to me by a woman who knew Swami Chetanananda, AKA J. Michael Shoemaker. I interviewed her repeatedly over more than six hours. We exchanged numerous texts and emails to clarify facts. She sent me her photo to confirm her identity, which I independently verified.
The photo I used above her name is not her photo, but looks like her. I’ve changed her first name. For now, I’m only using women’s first names. If anyone has a problem using their name, my phone number is 305-783-7083. Or email me at email@example.com.
When I was young, to be completely candid, I had experience in BDSM, in dominance and fetishes. For a time, I was a sex worker. I have used drugs in the past and sometimes abused alcohol.
I worked in retail and the service industry for most of my adult life. I married and divorced. No kids.
One year, I hit bottom and checked into rehab for alcohol abuse. I was on the West Coast, so I decided to stay a little longer. I wound up at the Movement Center.
The building sits on three acres and has 61 bedrooms and 39 bathrooms.
The Movement Center operated as a Hindu ashram or yoga center. Swami Chetanananda led a community of about 60 people who lived there full time.
He was the guru. He led the worship, rituals, fire ceremonies, yoga classes, and meditation.
According to his website, “Swami Chetanananda is a spiritual teacher, author, and highly accomplished practitioner of kundalini meditation and tantric sadhana.”
Chetanananda had his own guru, Swami Rudrananda. They called him Rudi. He died in the 1970s. There was a statue of Rudi who was worshiped daily.
People would come to get his spiritual blessings. They would touch his feet. He was a great guru, they believed.
He often left the ashram. He had a contingent of disciples in Los Angeles. Some who lived in Portland had been there for decades.
“The world has gone insane,” he said. “Don’t get tangled up in that. None of us can do anything about it. What we can do is be our finest self every single day for the rest of our lives and choose to grow love. If we do, we are making the finest contribution that can possibly be made to this world. And, I will endure in my support of all of you in your effort and your activities to grow that love.”
I was looking for something that would keep me from doing harmful things.
My first meeting with Chetanananda was when he agreed to do an astrological reading.
When I stood up to leave, he said, “Uma, I love you.”
I looked at him, puzzled. “How can he love me when he doesn’t even know me?”
He laughed and said, “You’ll understand in time.”
One day he texted me.
“If you ever drink, you must text me right away.”
According to his website, “Swamiji teaches a powerful eyes-open practice, an advanced form of meditation with the potential for profound transformation. Eyes open meditation involves a transmission of energy from teacher to student.”
On Saturday nights, when he was in town, we would have an eyes-open meditation. Swami Chetananada explained, “Our eyes are open because there is no difference between inner and outer, and we are never in denial of our physical reality.”
He said this “eyes open” meditation is the most effective and fastest way to change your karma.
The students would sit around with him at the front and gaze into his eyes. He would look around the room and gaze back, and this was to cleanse us for four generations in both directions. It would help our ancestors and descendants.
And of course, it helps you.
On one Saturday night, after an eyes-open meditation, he went to his apartment to dine with devotees.
I went to my room. By the time I got there, it was on my phone. He texted, “You looked beautiful tonight in meditation.”
According to his website, “Swamiji’s teaching draws from his study of kundalini yoga, Śakta Śaivism, Śrī Vidyā, Vajrayana tantrism, osteopathy, quantum physics, and neuroscience.”
I worked in the kitchen and in the yoga studio. He came to the kitchen. After addressing the others, he would come straight to me, his eyes fixed on me, and talk to me. He would take my hand.
He had giant hands. From my days as a sex worker, I had to understand what men were into. Whether they were safe. I felt he was into something, some fetish or something kinky.
I kept it to myself.
I had a relative with a problem. I asked if he would do a reading so I could share it with her. I had an appointment with him to do the reading. I thought it would be at his office. At the last minute, he changed the meeting place. He wanted me to go to his apartment.
He had a great room, a bedroom and bathroom. In the great room, there were Asian art, statues, artifacts, books, and relics, some of them more than 1000 years old. On the floor were oriental rugs and paintings on the walls. He had a giant wooden altar.
I came in. He was in a chair, he said was Rudi’s chair. Those who came usually knelt before him or sat below him.
He did the reading. Then out of the blue, without warning, he grabbed me by the hair and pulled me. As he pulled me, his hand wrapped around my neck, my eyes fixed on him. I was staring into his eyes. He let go.
Without looking, he said, “you can go.” I got up to leave. As I went to walk away, he grabbed my hair with one hand, put his other hand around my neck, and squeezed. Then he let up.
Then he sent me to my room.
We began to communicate by text. I texted back. I wanted to see where this was going.
One day, I was at the bottom of one of the beautiful wooden staircases. He came up and said he didn’t like something about my appearance. He told me to change it.
I said, “No, it’s not going to happen.”
He looked at me with almost dead cold eyes. “I always get my way,” he said.
One night at a party at the ashram, I drank wine. When I went to my room, I was going to lie down. Then I remembered my promise to text him if I had a drink.
I texted him.
He texted back, “Come up to my apartment right away.”
When I got there, he was sitting in a chair to the right of his altar. I was a little drunk. He motioned for me to kneel before him. I did.
He talked for a few minutes. Then he pulled out a mirror. On it were three big lines of cocaine.
I’d done cocaine before, but not in a long time. I didn’t want it. He had his own straw, and he handed me a rolled-up $100 bill and said, “Do this.”
It was a giant line. I did it because he told me. But I was not used to cocaine at the time. Between the alcohol and that huge line of coke, I was high.
The next thing I knew, he stood up, pulled his pants down enough to expose his dick. He shoved my head against him, and “smothered” me – a BDSM kind of sex play. He smothered me with his dick, thighs, and belly. I could not breathe. I struggled. After a time, he pulled my neck away, then pulled me upright by my hair.
He told me to do another, even bigger line of coke. Then he ordered me to take my clothes off. He took his clothes off. He was not erect.
I was thirsty. I asked if I could have water. He said, “No, drink wine.”
Then he ordered me to sit on his coffee table, and spread my legs. He shoved two fingers in me. He pushed down hard on my clit. He put all this pressure on me with his two fat, big fingers. The cocaine made me numb. I could not feel it.
Then he had me flip over on my stomach and put my butt in my air. He said what he was doing was for my spiritual welfare. He started talking about my relationship with my mother and how he was going to cleanse it.
Then, he shoved four fingers up my anus. It was painful, but I did not scream or do anything. I could tell he didn’t know anything about women’s anatomy. He said he knew it felt wonderful for me. It didn’t.
He had me turn back over. I sat up. Then suddenly he got mean and violent. He put his arms around my neck and strangled me. I passed out.
When I came to, he picked me up gently. He spoke of different things. He spoke about his guru, Rudi. He told me he had a special relationship with Rudi. He told me Rudi ordered him to have sex.
I said, “You didn’t have a say?”
I asked, “What was that like?”
He said, “He was my guru. And so I knew this was a loving way to help me. I did whatever he told me.”
He spoke of things, things he wanted to do. Then he took out a bamboo whip and hit me.
High and drunk, I asked if I could pee. He followed me to the bathroom. With him watching, I could not pee. I asked for privacy. He shoved me to the floor, and said, “I should pee and shit on you because you wasted my time.”
Then he took me to the bedroom. He shoved me onto his dick. A whole night passed with him pouring bigger and bigger lines for us. He kept taking cocaine and ordering me to take more. I thought I would have a heart attack.
At about 5 am, he stopped. He wanted me to make the bed. My body was shaking. I was so high I could not do it.
He left, then came back to the room and poked me with a needle on my ass. He said it was B-12. I lay in his bed. He went to his puja room. After a while, someone came to the door. I got dressed. I had to sneak downstairs and go down to my room without anyone seeing me. He did not look at me when I left.
They worshiped his divine grace, and lucky women got to worship more,
He said, “Come up right now.”
I said, “I can’t right now. I’m working.”
We were talking about something. We went to his balcony. I was kneeling in front of him.
He looked me in the eye, grabbed my neck, with a two-grip, as a killer would, and strangled me. I fell over and passed out.
When I came to, I was lying on the balcony.
According to his website, Swami Chetanananda, “teaches that consciousness is in eternal union with the respiratory process, which he calls the Breath of Life, and that it can be experienced through contact, alignment and flow with the creative energy.”
After this, I did drugs with him whenever he commanded. Meth, coke, and pills. Oxy, Xanax, Valium. He’s a binge user. I’m surprised he never had a heart attack when he was high.
I came there to get help, and now I was drinking and using drugs. As far as anybody knew, I was all in. But in my head, I knew he was running a game with the sexual stuff and the drugs. That’s not part of the tantra yoga he says he teaches.
I drank a lot and did drugs by myself too. I was falling apart.
I learned he was sleeping with five women in the ashram. I was the sixth.
The students who lived there knew about him. They ignored it. “That’s between those people. That’s none of my business,” they’d say.
He talked about bringing in teenagers for threesomes. He told me he had been into BDSM since he was 30. All those years – 40 years – he had been a guru, always picking women, girls, maybe men.
He probably had 1000 disciples that he had sex with.
He never made me have sexual encounters with strange men. He talked about it. He brought in prostitutes for threesomes and a couple.
Even though he makes women unconscious, “Chetanananda,” means “the joy of consciousness.” Perhaps it means the joy of making others unconscious, while he remains conscious.
He said he was lifting bad karma out of me.
While he would urinate in my mouth, only once did he have an orgasm. He came in my mouth. That was it.
He loved to increase the thrills. Once, he took down a painting on his wall and hung me upside down on the hook. I was only upside down for a minute because I couldn’t stay conscious. It was a lot of blood rushing to my head. He took me off, then helped me get right side up.
When we were together, that was his favorite thing. He would do it whenever he wanted. Strangle me till I was out. No safe words. He never has a safe word.
Swami Chetanananda said, “We are permeated by love and unimaginable possibility. Our bodies are love. Our minds and our senses are love…. Meditation is about love…. And, then holding our awareness there long enough that our heart can start to inform our brain about the unimaginable possibility and power that is inside us. Our heart will tell us that our lives are love.”
I thought, “You can’t even use it. So what’s the difference?”
When we were together at night, usually it wasn’t that lit in his apartment. I couldn’t see, and I went out fast the first few times he strangled me. But when I could see him clearly, he would start to get hard before I would pass out.
One time, when we were in my room, he suddenly attacked me and started strangling me. And he got a huge hard-on. The only way he can get hard is when he strangled me out. It excited him to surprise me. And he got full-on erections.
He also liked younger girls.
“She really likes to be strangled.”
“Why are you telling me this?” I said, “This is privileged information.”
The next thing I knew, the patient was coming to the ashram.
She had another patient, a young girl about 16. Her mom came with her. The girl was troubled with drugs and alcohol, which is Chet’s MO like he would help her. Then he’d do drugs with her. The next thing I knew, the teen girl was coming to the ashram. There was a picture of her in his apartment.
So why did I stay? I had seen the world of BDSM. But he wasn’t doing BDSM. He was a sadist. I did not fully understand at the time.
I liked being in the ashram. I did not care if he was there or not. I didn’t think it was hurting me as much as it was. I think there’s a process of the brain trying to protect you. I knew because I was unraveling. I just wouldn’t admit it. That’s what it was. He wasn’t somebody who was either spiritual or helpful.
On top of that, my husband divorced me. He had cut off my money. I had nowhere to go.
Yet of what I saw of his inner circle, it meant becoming a slave for him, not just sex, but all the time. You serve him food. You cook, clean, or do anything he wants. He’s the king.
I noticed the jealousy. I witnessed fights and yelling between the women in the inner circle. Tasha got jealous. It was obvious. Another girl was hurt and jealous. She said as she left, “I’m being replaced.”
He would go on and on, telling women this in group settings, or one on one.
He had slept with all the older women. He told me, “We’ve all slept together.” In his mind, because he’s narcissistic, he did not mean they all slept together. But that he had slept with each of them at various times.
Nobody talked directly. He’s been doing this for many years. We all knew when a new woman was with him. You could see the signs of someone who was with him—a super inflated ego.
He doesn’t think he’s doing anything wrong. He has been told for 40 years that everything he does is amazing.
Yes, I was a sex worker—a dominatrix. That’s why I knew what he was. Some men who said they were into BDSM were simply mentally ill – sadists, masochists with death wishes. Those people are not truly into BDSM. With real BDSM, we always had safe words. It was a loving experience.
Chetanananda told me he watched a person get castrated. He has seen people get genital mutilation, and I think he mutilated women. He told me he wanted to put fire ants on my vagina, then added he had done that before.
I am betting he did many of those things, watching people’s genitals get mutilated, castrated, putting fire ants on a woman’s vagina. I think he tortured Moni. I’m guessing he did so to Tasha. Tasha jumped off a bridge. She broke her legs. She tried a second time. I was there when that happened. That was the end of their relationship.
People died. He may have done it himself or had others do it. Theresa’s sister drowned. I was told she stepped out at night. They had a search party for her. They found her body in the river. I don’t know what she was doing in the river.
He told me about an affair he had once with a married woman. The husband and wife were disciples. Chet was having an affair with the wife. She got pregnant. I think the husband is the father, but I’m not sure.
Chet told me he was in the room when she gave birth. The mother and father lived there while the daughter grew up. She was a pretty blonde, tall and thin. When the daughter turned 18, Chet started fucking her.
It’s creepy. But he was happy to tell me about it. He told me how incredible it was. He also told me how the girl turned on him and went to New York. She is now an art dealer.
He complained, “I taught her all about Asian art. And then she just left me.”
She went to start her life, because that’s what you’re supposed to do. But she probably also left because of him.
Then there was Janet. She lived at the ashram. She was going to nursing school. She was fine at first. But he had her up to his apartment when she graduated. He had a party for her. That’s when everything started. She’s sensitive and delicate emotionally. I don’t know what he did.
But I woke up at three in the morning. My room was by the front door. I woke up to flashing lights and a car at the front. I looked out my window, and it was an ambulance. I came out of my room to see Jen flying down the steps. They carried Janet out on a stretcher.
I don’t know what happened. There were stories. He told everybody at one point that she slipped on the treadmill in the gym.
At three in the morning?
She never came back. I learned she sued him and won a settlement. But, before he paid her, he made her sign an NDA. I heard she is still unwell. She is still having trauma.
He gave me $900 once to buy a computer, which I didn’t want. But he kept saying to take it. A few days later, he wanted me to cop drugs on the street. He insisted anybody coming from rehab would be great at it. He wanted two bottles of Oxycontin, which is jail time if I got caught.
He said, “Just spend some of that money you got for the computer on the drugs.”