The following is an interview with Daniel Glavin and Jessica Stirton, a married couple who met at the Movement Center in Portland, Oregon.
Swami Chetanananda operated the Center in Portland until he moved to Gold Beach in 2019.
He was born J. Michael Shoemaker. He is 72. Since beginning our series, people have been calling to tell their stories about the Swami.
The Movement Center, Portland, OR
Tell me about your experience at the Movement Center and Swami Chetanananda AKA Michael Shoemaker.
I started volunteering before I moved in. The meditation practice helped me. I ended up moving in to attempt to get sober. They had full knowledge that I was moving in because I had a cocaine and alcohol problem.
After I lived there for about a month, Jimmy, Michael’s righthand person, approached me and said, “Hey, can you hook me up with cocaine?” I was shocked. I wanted to appease them.
They were like, “Well, we’re using it for spiritual purposes.”
Did you understand the cocaine was for Michael too?
Oh, yeah. One hundred percent. Michael would say, “I throw cocaine into the fire as a ritual sacrifice to the gods.”
Jim Brissette with Michael Shoemaker
Were you using cocaine that first 30 days?
No, I was trying to stay sober. And I started using when that happened. I started using again, and I even borrowed money from Jimmy sometimes to be able to afford to get cocaine.
Was Jimmy a full time resident in the place?
Yeah, he’s Michael Shoemaker’s right hand man. He seems like a nice person who’s always outside working with his hands. But there are women, like Allison Mack from NXIVM, Jen Wilhelm and Moni O’Neill, who were so desperate for attention from Michael, would lure younger women to the ashram for him.
Jimmy is very similar to that. Except he’s the male version. And I don’t think he did as much like subduing as young women on behalf of Michael as he did, gathering drugs and spying on people and telling Michael every single thing.
Like Jessica, my wife is an extremely attractive person. And if she and I were to get into some kind of an argument, you know, Jimmy is the kind of guy that would spy, find out and tell Michael and then Michael would seemingly know everything. It kind of made him seem like he had power. It was very manipulative. And Jimmy was that person for him. He was Michael’s shadow.
Was Jimmy having relations with the women?
Definitely. I didn’t know how bad the sex stuff was when I lived there. We started to piece it together as we were leaving, how gross it was.
Jimmy was helping, I would call it rape, what Michael is doing. I didn’t know that he was raping women with Michael at the time. I’ve since found out from Natasha and others.
You didn’t know Jessica, and they’re asking you to get cocaine for Michael. What happened then?
I kept getting them drugs for some time. Eventually, Jimmy started getting it on his own, not through me. I struggled to stay sober there. I was in a relationship with Jen Wilhelm for a short time. Michael had his claws in that whole situation, and was very manipulative, always trying to get Jen to tell him stuff about me.
Michael was always trying to get everybody to break up, is the simplest way I can put it. He was always trying to end every relationship, if it was with a woman he was interested in.
He liked to pit people against each other, so that he could save the day.
Exactly. It was extremely manipulative. I wasn’t directly involved with drug use with Jimmy or Michael. Not one time did I do cocaine with them. I just got cocaine and gave it to Jimmy.
When I struggled with sobriety, I would go to Michael for advice. He would always tell me he uses the cocaine for ritualistic purposes. For years, I just didn’t know how bad it was there. And then Jessica came.
They captured cycles of whatever a people were going through. I went through some depressions and struggles with my appetite. Dan, with his addiction.
They would use that information against you to say, “Well, this is why you need to stay here. You need to keep doing the practice. You’re lucky we’re helping you, because if you tried to leave, you wouldn’t make it, you wouldn’t keep a job or function. If you leave here and stop doing what we tell you, that’s a death sentence.”
And oftentimes people who don’t have much family or community support are in earnest, trying to be there, to sincerely improve themselves. So I think it’s hard to describe the intricacy of the way they could grab hold and power over people’s commitments and loyalty to the place.
So going back to your situation, Dan, you were there. You are asked to get cocaine, you get it. Then you set up Jimmy with your dealer so that he could acquire it directly. You’re struggling with sobriety. Did you meet Chetanananda one on one?
Oh, yeah. Many times I’ve communicated with him one on one.
And what was he like? What did you think he was then?
What those types of people do is fill, like, the hole inside you. So whatever you’re looking for, those types of people can like a chameleon and shift into that. For me, he was like a father figure. He was that for many people, and he knew that. In retrospect, I know it was just manipulation. At first when I was there, I would say he was supportive in some ways in doing the practice, living there and working there.
He wanted me to work there. And put my energy into the Movement Center, which I did.
Did you have an outside job at the time?
Not after a while. I only ended up full time.
You were a full time ashram member?
They just gave me food and a place to sleep.
What year did you arrive?
I was there somewhere in the middle of 2012, and we left in 2015.
Were you told to be celibate?
No, they were very against that. They did tell me not to date certain people. But sex was okay. Drugs were okay.
Were there any prohibitions about having sex with the members of the ashram?
No, but they just dig their claws in when you do. They did it with every relationship I experienced when I was there. Jimmy, Michael and Moni had their claws in everybody’s relationship, and manipulated the young people in particular.
All the people there who are Michael’s age have been following him since they were 20 years old. He had sex with their wives when they were young. He’s had sex with all those women, so he wasn’t trying to do that anymore. He has a very specific type of woman, the younger, the better. And then a girl with problems that he could easily manipulate.
Swami_chetanananda ‘With Sarah, since 1972….we are blessed…’
There was the situation with Moni O’Neil. At one point, Jimmy came to me and asked me if I was interested in doing some sexual tantra practices. At this time, Michael was in India. For a time, they told me that we were going to start doing sexual spiritual practices for the purpose of my own enlightenment, and that the person I was going to be doing this was with Moni O’Neil.
Now, that never came to fruition, because I was so unstable when I lived there. I was drinking and doing drugs. I don’t think they could trust me. Because I was too much of a loudmouth. So that never came to fruition. And that’s when they started hating me, trying to get me to leave, and trying to manipulate me. I started to be more outspoken about what I was seeing and happening.
What did you see that you spoke out about?
I didn’t realize when they were getting cocaine for me how messed up that truly was. And as time went on, that became more and more of a thing. I started to question, isn’t this weird? Isn’t this strange?
They’re talking about doing sex, tantric stuff. You know, this guy Michael’s got his hooks in every relationship I have or wanted to have.
If I was interested in another younger woman at the ashram. Everybody would go to him for permission. Is it okay if I date this person? Or what do you think I should do? And he would always tell everybody no. The younger women, “No. Don’t date any of the younger men.”
He didn’t want the younger women to date any of the younger men. He would isolate the younger women, tell them to focus on their spiritual work, and they shouldn’t date anybody. They should just work on their spiritual work and shouldn’t date anybody.
Like Liliana. That’s who I was thinking of. And then what happened, I started dating Jess when she came one night for a Tibetan ceremony.
And we just started dating pretty much immediately. She moved in with me pretty much immediately. She was at the time 21. And she was right up Michael’s alley.
Moni and Jen Wilhelm immediately started putting their claws in her and meddling with our relationship on his behalf. And that became more and more apparent to us. And then he started inviting us to private rituals in his room.
At one point there, he had just his tongue down Jess’s throat like out of nowhere.
In your presence?
Oh, yeah, in everybody’s presence in the whole space. It really became about about Jess and what her feelings were in her experience of him trying to get after her, and how creepy he was.
And then we started talking to other people about it. At one point, we were talking to two doctors who’ve been following him since they were in their 20s.
And they just told her right in front of me that Michael will attempt to rape you. And when that happens, that’s just going to be something that you have to deal with. And when they told us that, and these were good people from our perspective, like people that tried to help us and thought were good people. And that for me was the wake up call, like how brainwashed I was, and how messed up that was, and that everyone there was okay with that, with just enabling that to have happen.
Were these doctors male or female?
They were a husband and wife, Becky and Andrew Bonner. Andrew was John Bonner’s son. John Bonner was a famous slime mold biologist who lived there. Andrew was a ND. They did homeopathy, natural path work. Becky was an MD, but they did all the alternative stuff, not the western medicine.
In retrospect, I’m a young person living there. I don’t have health insurance, and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, these great, financially stable, older people are so sweet and kind to me. They have my back and they’ll help.”
I had a bike accident when I was there, and I was injured. They took care of me. It was so great.
Looking back, it seems Michael assembled an entire team to cover for him. I wondered later if people were given medications, or if certain people with certain credentials could. I don’t know if Andrew and Becky ever did that. I just wondered, especially when Liz passed.
When Liz went missing and then was found dead in the river. I thought, how deep is this? How many people have lied about how many things? What’s possible for so many people working in many fields to constantly cover for him or make up stories for him?
Tell me about the time you and Dan were up in his apartment. He just came over to you and did what?
The Kali Puja was by invite only. Liliana Lopez invited me, and it was a special honorable experience. People would be mad at you if you were invited and didn’t go, and people who weren’t invited were upset. It created an exclusivity.
Dan and I were having issues at that time, struggling with sobriety and navigating our way. Michael knew this. The majority of the ritual I had my eyes closed. There’s chanting, candles, and prayers, and menstrual blood is part of that ritual.
Obtained from where?
It’s primarily a meditation experience. I have my eyes closed, I’m doing the breathing. There’s shaktipat, which is where Michael goes, and touches people’s third eye. People may feel an electric pulse of sensation in their body. I don’t know if those are circus tricks, or what people I’ve talked to experienced when they were there.
It was custom for all the residents to greet with a hug and kiss on each cheek. And I wasn’t used to doing that. I felt like I was rude, because I would turn away and not understand why everybody’s trying to kiss each of my cheeks when they say hi or bye to me. It was also customary after a ritual that everyone stand in line to individually thank Michael for the ritual. Maybe give him a hug.
There were maybe 20 people in line, and I get to my turn. He’s sitting down, and I was going to kneel down to give him a hug, like everybody did. He reached behind me and grabbed my butt, pulled me forcefully towards him, and shoved his tongue in my mouth. In front of Daniel and everyone.
How far away was Daniel?
Five feet. At the time, I didn’t know he had shoved his tongue down her throat. But he always grabbed every woman’s ass. That was just typical. There would be days where everyone would just come for Darshan. Like 200 people would come and stand in a line to give him flowers. And every woman that came, he grabbed their ass.
So what did happen then when you came in the line to thank him? He grabbed you by the back and pulled you towards him?
Yeah, it was very forceful. I happened so quickly. And I don’t know, you know, if you have experience, but it’s common for people after meditation after sitting for hours to be in an altered state. I was certainly caught off guard.
It happened so quickly. It was so shocking to me. I didn’t really know how to react. It was hard to believe that he really just did that in front of everyone and that nobody else reacted.
And now looking back and piecing together with other people’s stories, it seems like that he would commonly exhibit that type of behavior to also be dominating towards other men. It wasn’t just about being dominating and exerting power over me. It was about doing it in front of Dan, and saying basically, I can do what I want.
I see. And so how long did he do this? He stuck his tongue down your mouth, right?
Yes. It was probably a second or two. I didn’t have time to react. It kind of happened. And then he sent me on my way. And I walked away kind of in disbelief about it, thinking, you know, maybe I did – I somehow signaled. Because that was the other thing they would say is “Oh, well, you know, you must have been thinking about that” Or “that must have been in your karma. You must have. He did that because you wanted him to do that.”
So what happened next, then, that day, that night? Did you talk to Dan about it?
Yeah, we laughed and talked about it. And we were, we were both really uncomfortable. I want to say that maybe Dan even emailed him
People will defend him. “Oh, he never did that to me,” “he doesn’t do that to everyone” or “he only does that to women who are interested.” Then they’re jealous about it later. That’s why they say bad things.
And I had that perspective. I know I’m not interested in this. I’m not interested in the power dynamic. I don’t want to become a teacher. I don’t want special attention from him. I’m not attracted to him. I don’t have any interest in tantric practice. I just like yoga. So I really thought nothing like that would ever happened to me.
Part of the problem with people coming out against him is that Sharon Ward is a lawyer. Many people there are lawyers who would come after you in a heartbeat for defamation or something. They guard him. I mean, if you ever get this into court, there are going to be a lot of people falling on their sword for this guy. For sure.
And something else on that note about Sharon Ward intentionally intimidating people. She’s the one who’s a search and rescue worker. And she has these big Rottweilers she takes everywhere with her. I remember one of the first nights I lived there.
Sharon does interviews to see if people are allowed to live there. She would comment about how she loves us, and she’ll take good care of us. Unless anybody hurts Michael, then she’d kill them. And she would laugh about that.
And then after Liz went missing, it occurred to me, kind of going back to what I was saying about the doctor setup is that’s really scary that someone like Sharon would have such a devout loyalty to Michael and that she could threaten to make you disappear and make sure nobody would find you.
Swami Chetanananda and Sharon Ward
So what happened immediately after this sudden assault, where he grabbed you and stuck his tongue down your mouth?
This was at a point of turmoil in our relationship also. And we were also going through some things, and I remember we stood outside, and she had told me what happened. And I didn’t know that the tongue was down the throat at that point.
And that was really kind of the beginning of the end, I think, where we started realizing how gross this person was and how manipulative it was, and that more and more evidence came to the table. Cassidy was our friend. I knew her. She was really close with my brother and his wife before she moved in there. She was giving Michael massages. She was young, kind of head in the clouds. Pretty girl. And Michael was sending her all kinds of creepy texts, like “I want you to come tuck me in.”
Cassidy was in a relationship with Taylor at that time. He has some very interesting stories with Michael as well.
And that was another creepy thing that was just on our radar. And then the conversation that we told you about what the doctors, Andrew and Becky said where they told Jess right to her face. “You know, there’s a good chance he’s going to try to rape you and that’s something that you’re going to have to deal with.” And so the evidence started piling up more and more. There was another woman there named Susan,..
Did they use the word rape? Or did they give it some euphemism?
They phrased it, “It’s likely that he will have you alone in a room, and pull his pants down.”
And then what?
And if I can walk away, I should turn around and walk away and act like that never happened.
Because their perspective was that dealing with that side of him was worth it because of how good the spiritual practice was.
And that’s why it’s phrased it that way.
There was a lady named Doreen. She told us she went up to serve him lunch one time. And she said, “yeah, he just stuck his hands right up my shirt and looked at me in the eyes, and grabbed my boobs. Didn’t say a word, and then just turned around and walked away.”
Weird stuff like that. Just creepy stuff. We kept hearing over and over and over again.
While you were living there, right?
Oh, yeah. This was when we were living there. There was a lot of drama with Natasha, when we were living there.
We still were just piecing things together. You know, there was a lot of drama with her parents. They had come. They were trying to get her to leave.
Everybody knew that she was having sex with Michael, that was common knowledge. And her state of mind and emotional state was just deteriorating rapidly the last few months we were there. And that was also weird to us. We felt weird about that.
Then there’s the other woman, Susan also wanted to have sex with him. But in the end, she said it was a very kind of gross and regrettable experience.
And so really, that incident that happened to Jess where he stuck his tongue down her throat was kind of the wake up call about what was happening there. And then it just our eyes opened. And so, we just started realizing everything.
What happened with Natasha? Were you there when she jumped from a bridge?
No, we left before that. Something else that seems relevant is one of the first things Michael does with people when they’re becoming a student or moving in is he reads your chart and your Vedic Indian astrology.
He’ll tell you what you’re supposed to do in life, or what your role at the ashram might be. I remember when he read mine. He told me that some of my placement looked just like Natasha’s, and that she and I would have a lot in common.
My job at the ashram was working with Rudra Press. They’re a publishing company. So I worked under Tom Fabrizio and his wife Patty Slote. And they were posing as mentors to me, but at the same time doing Michael’s bidding to try to keep me there and cut me off from other relationships.
Tom wanted me to quit my job outside of the ashram and was asking me, how much money do you make at that job? How much do I need to pay you to quit? I’ll pay you to clean my apartment, or to do this, or to do that.
Tom and his wife Patti Slote lived in the ashram. And I’m sure they live in Gold Beach. They’ve been his students since the beginning.
So he was trying to get you to quit your job. What was your job on the outside?
I was going to Portland State full time for school, and I was working at a restaurant. It was a primary social outlet for me, and it gave me a comparison of reality. It’s easy to get swept up when everything is only at the ashram.
Ninety-five percent of the people who lived there either worked there for some shell corporation they had. They had a jewelry business. They had the publishing company. Obviously, they were involved with drugs and stuff. So it was all about isolation. And Jess told me she felt she was horrible at this job they had her doing. And they were going to pay her anything. He wanted to keep her there.
Relating back to my job and the chart, I was nearing the end of my bachelor’s degree in English, and I was interested in pursuing a master’s degree. I was talking to one of the other residents who said, “Oh, you should definitely talk to Michael, you need to make an appointment, and get his guidance or insight on what to do about grad school.”
So I did. He told me that I should not pursue grad school or further work in English. He told me he wanted me to go to gemology school, which I had no interest in. He insisted that was my path, and he would like to pay for gemology school. I would just have to live in one of his apartments in either LA or New York, to do that.
And the attitude among the residents was that if you ask for your guru’s advice and don’t take it, you’re betraying them.
It became an obvious rift in my relationship with Michael, because that seemed creepy to me. First of all, why would I live in this old man’s private apartment away from everyone I know? It made me wonder, and I assumed he must be doing that to other people. He must find women and then ship them off to wherever to live in his part time residence, so that he can just have access to them away from everyone.
We have a part two of this interview. Jess and Dan will tell us more about what they learned as they left. How shocking revelations came to the surface. How a woman who lived there died and who found her body. How one woman became mentally deranged with the great guidance of the guru.
Dan and Jess will tell us about a suicide attempt and who found the woman. And suspected pedophilia.
In the cue after that are more interviews, some of which are harrowing from women who lived there. Uma will reveal who she is – and tell us more of the freaky sadism this so-called guru-deviant enjoys as he hurts women.
We have more to learn about Swami Chetananada, a man who likes to strangle women, beat and rape them. And worse.
We will look at his mansions. And how the money flows through his “church.”
Sex, rape, violence, sadism, a sex cult. Gang rape, random sex with strangers. Venereal disease. Drugs. And millions of dollars.
And we will explore his emails and texts sent to people.