Earlier this week FR published Couple Tells How Pervert Swami Chetanananda Runs Insane Asylum Ashram
The following is Part 2 of an interview with Daniel Glavin, 33, and Jessica Stirton, 29. Dan and Jess are a married couple who met at the Movement Center in Portland, Oregon. They left in 2015.
Swami Chetanananda, born J. Michael Shoemaker, operated the Movement Center. It closed when he moved to Gold Beach in 2020. Dan and Jess did not move with him.
Part I ended with Swami Chetanananda advising Jess that her college plans were wrong. Instead, he said she should become a gemologist and live in one of his apartments in Los Angeles or New York. He said he would finance her in this endeavor. This offer came around the time the Swami grabbed her and inserted his tongue down her mouth by surprise. This unwelcome assault came at the end of a ceremony, in front of devotees, and in front of Dan.
Michael did what he did to me in front of Dan to see how far he could push our boundaries and what our reaction would be. How can he chip away at psychological and physical boundaries with people to see where his power is, and whether he can keep getting what he wants, inch by inch and take a mile, or whether he needs to kick you out because now you know too much?
Is Michael wealthy?
His name’s not on anything. The Movement Center is a corporation. Sharon Ward is on the board, you know, and all the money moves through those board members and CEOs, and he’s not attached to any of it. Someone purchased the Movement Center for him. And when he sold it, all the money went to him.
Sharon Ward, she’s the lawyer. They have a record of settling with women he injures outside of court, which is what they’ve been doing over the last couple of decades.
Michael is extremely rich. He’s always covered in diamonds, gold and jewels. He has priceless artwork, rare artwork, rare statues, paintings, thangkas. I mean, nothing is a print. Extremely wealthy. Always drinking $500 bottles of wine.
Did he ever share the wine with you?
Oh, yeah. He’d be given the wine as gifts. There were many rich people who came there. Many rich people made donations.
Tell me about some of the people in the ashram.
I experienced an uncomfortable dynamic with Jen and Moni. They were abrasive and rude while constantly harassing me to do more for Michael.
They would ask me to drop whatever I was doing, homework or whatever, and have me do some menial task like set up Michael’s flowers or candles. And it was always followed with, “How could you not want to help your guru? Look at all he does for you, all he’s provided for you.
How could you not give us your time, right this minute?”
I didn’t know I was being lined up at first. I wasn’t working many hours. I wasn’t performing my jobs. It became clear they kept me around, not charging me for things, to be one of Michael’s next victims.
Jen and the Swami.
Moni and Swami
I was in a relationship with Jen. She had a chiropractic business that was successful in Oakland. She sold the business and moved from Oakland to Portland because he told her. This was before he exploited her sexually.
I met her at the ashram. Michael was mad at her because she had breast implants.
Jen started to talk to me about how she felt her implants were like a poison to her. She wanted them removed. I drove down to Oakland with her. And she got her breast implants removed. And I remember him not being happy about that whole situation with me.
He was trying to get her and I to break up the whole time we were together. He always invited her to every special event. She was his private servant at one point.
She seemed a little unstable when she first came. And she definitely went a little crazy, then completely unhinged by the time we were leaving. It was almost like you were looking into her eyes. They were almost soulless.
Jen was extremely competitive for Michael’s attention. She and Moni both. They were very aggressive about who could please Swami to the Nth degree.
They were rivals.
And teammates. That was uncomfortable. Why were they treating me so strangely? Why are they acting as though they feel threatened by me? But they’re pushing me forcefully to try to get me into whatever they’re doing. It was a strange dynamic. They would hate me if I spent time with Michael, and they would hate me if I wasn’t spending time with Michael. I had no interest in Michael.
Jen, Moni, Jimmy, Michael, Gretchen, Victor, Liliana. The inner circle was always in the process of bringing women in. Like Ava for example.
Ava had severe injuries from whatever Michael was doing with her.
He was always trying to recruit the youngest, prettiest women they could. A girl named Autumn was a pretty young lady with two kids, a single mom. And Michael said, “Yeah, I’ll give you a great apartment,” and let her move in immediately.
Susan had sex with him. She complained he refused to wear protection. He said he’d never done that before. He would never use protection with anyone. He has herpes. Everybody says he confirms that, and he’s just openly spreading it.
The woman who drowned, did you know her?
We knew Liz well. One of the disturbing things is her grandchild.
Liz was so devoted and involved. She had her granddaughter there all the time. The granddaughter had her own bed area in Liz’s apartment. She was seven and the only child in the ashram. She would make funny drawings and put them in people’s mailboxes.
Taylor said he believed Liz was suicidal. And, it wasn’t surprising to him when people said she committed suicide. But I could not help but wonder about the one child resident and that her grandma caretaker suddenly went missing, and it was ruled a suicide. To me, that seemed worth looking into.
Were you there when she disappeared?
That happened about a month after we left. I knew her well, worked with her a lot. She didn’t seem to me that she was on the verge of suicide.
I was told she was battling an illness.
She cooked a lot of food, worked in the kitchen, moved a lot of pans around, cooked heavy pots of dal and rice. She made him lunch frequently and served it. She seemed fine to me. I was surprised to hear the story of her suicide.
Did you know anything about Gretchen’s sister, who supposedly disappeared?
No. But I know Gretchen lived with Michael in his apartment. She was the only woman who did. She answered the door for him. And did everything for him. The women were jealous of her. She was presented like his wife.
But I don’t know about Gretchen’s sister. I think something similar happened with Natasha’s sister. But Natasha’s sister didn’t go missing.
Her sister’s name is Marianna. She lived there for only a short time when I first moved in. I remember, she abruptly left and was shamed. I never found out why. But shortly after she left, her and Natasha’s father came rolling in. He was angry. He was trying to get Natasha out. I think he had some money, and there might have been some threats from him to Michael.
I’m fairly certain Michael did something to Marianna. I remember Natasha’s mother, father, and Marianna coming back and trying to get Natasha out of there. Her mom even bought a house near the ashram so she could be close to Natasha and help her because she was so worried about her.
Did you still talk to Natasha?
Yes. She is traumatized from everything that happened to her. She said they were doing crazy BDSM stuff. They were tying her up and all having sex with her at once. Michael and Jimmy used to tie her up, and everybody used to gangbang her with weird BDSM stuff.
Jimmy Brissette, Shoemaker’s right hand man.I
swami_chetanananda “Natacha … wearing pants for the first time in 7mo.. all surgeries complete.. time to walk again.. she is a walking miracle!”
I don’t know how it comes down in a legal context. It seems everybody who doesn’t understand says, “Well, you know, you agreed to have sex with him.” And it’s like, “okay, but I didn’t agree to get tied up, beat and strangled.”
And then, what are we supposed to do? Are we supposed to fault these people for having that happen a second time? Or a third time?
How do you even deal with something like that when it happens to you? In Natasha’s case, she had been there for years. Her only income was from him. Her family tried to get her out, and she wouldn’t go. So at that time, she didn’t have family because she pushed them aside.
So at that time, she had no support structure outside. It’s extreme isolation of just Michael telling Natasha over and over again, that nobody loves her, that she doesn’t matter, that she’s never going to have any friends, and that he’s the only one who is going to be there for her.
I don’t know why she ended up jumping off that bridge, but he probably had a lot to do with it. I wouldn’t put it past him that he asked her to do it.
After she left, they’ve been harassing her, making it impossible for her to make money.
Salman, Janet, Gretchen, Theresa, Swami and Steve.
Was there any allegations of underage sex or disturbing departures?
There was Kristin. She plainly told me the reason she left was because Michael was trying to have sex with her 13 year old daughter.
There was a lady named Shaffir. She had two young kids. Jimmy and Moni were doing weird sex stuff with Shaffir and trying to get her involved with Michael. She left angrily. She left with the chef at the ashram, whose name was also Michael. They left together with her kids.
And John, a younger guy. He was fit, a workout guy. He was about to become a Swami. He was slated to be the next open eye meditation teacher at the center.
It was dramatic when he left. He was a teacher, and an open eye teacher was rare. And he left after openly, and publicly accussing Michael of stalking his wife. That’s why he left. They had a social media argument about it that was public. And in-person outbursts at the ashram.
He was ridiculed and shamed, called a liar and removed. I was told he was just a complete liar.
Taylor was in a relationship with Cassidy. Taylor approached Michael in his apartment once to ask him why he was doing these things to all these women and manipulating all his people? Michael responded by grabbing his penis and his junk, and told Taylor he could fuck anybody he wants. Taylor moved out after that.
swami_chetanananda with Nick, Vienna, and Tuscany…
There were women in California also?
Yes. Savannah was with another ring of the inner circle. She was part of the California group. She went down to Malibu. There was an inner circle of women there, helping him find other women.
swami_chetanananda with Ali… in Malibu
That’s how Jen joined. Jen heard about Michael being in Malibu. She lived in Oakland. Through Savannah, Jen met Michael and ended up moving to Portland and getting involved. Savannah is another member of the inner circle that brings in women.
The last straw for me was December 2015. I did the Festival of Lights every year, which was a big banquet style dinner, where the ashram hosted a bunch of people, and it was a money making event.
It was a big to do because Michael was there. Moni made up a story that there was a team of people from the yoga teacher training who were going to be waiters, waitresses, and staff. I was in the yoga teacher training. I knew the name tags she made and laid out were not real people.
Then at the last second, Moni said, “Oh, all these people didn’t show up. I have no staff for this event tonight”
And she said Jen, Cassidy, two other women and myself were designated emergency waitresses. We didn’t have a choice. There was nobody else there. We had to be the waitress staff for this dinner. Those are the kinds of things that Moni and Jen would do.,
I was not pleased. So I served the wine and food half-hearted. I saw another woman who was not a resident, but a student. She came to volunteer and brought her daughter, who was 15. A freshman in high school. She didn’t want to be there. Her mom dragged her along, and she was dragging her feet. I could understand that.
I watched what they were having this teenage girl do. Moni instructed her specifically to be the only person to serve Michael. I watched the interaction, and observed how they had her go to his table and bend over and give him his food. They were only allowing her to serve him. She was not a student there. She was just a random kid. She’d never been there before.
I saw the way Michael looked at her. He looked over her body, as she bent over. The expression on his face made me sick.
I told the girl, “You know, do you want to take a break? Tell your mom that it’s time for you to take a break.” And I just had her stop working and come sit with me.
At the Festival of Lights. Left to right: 15 year-old, Jess, unknown, Jen Wilhelm, Cassidy Millar, unknown, unknown.
I had a separate place where I sat with Alexis Sanderson who was a big name guest. Alexis Sanderson is an Oxford linguist who is a big name in Sanskrit studies.
He was the foundation of an offshoot company they started with Tom Fabrizio, where they were trying to legitimize the history and art element of the ashram, give it credibility, and I’m sure some type of financial thing went along with that.
The unspoken rule among the residents was that if you were entertaining Sanderson, you didn’t have to do anything else because everybody wanted to impress him. If he was having a good time talking, nobody would ask you to get up and do a different chore.
There was a joke around the ashram that I remember. “Michael keeps Sanderson around because you know, Sandereson can reference 1000 year old texts where they justify having crazy sexual relations with underage girls.”
That was a joke that went around?
Yeah. And the ashram purchased Alexis Sanderson a house next door, because of his name, and said it was such a big deal academically that they wanted to latch on – that they were housing the famous scholar. That would give legitimacy to the historical interpretation of Sanskrit texts and practice derived from them.