J. Michael Shoemaker, AKA Swami Chetananda, is a purported spiritual leader of some renown. He led the Movement Center in Portland.
He was highly regarded, especially by women, some of whom considered him divine. They believed he could cleanse bad karma and alter destinies. Many women were deeply devoted to him, with some believing that being sexually involved with him conferred spiritual benefits.
Despite these beliefs, many followers were unaware of or ignored his abusive actions. Some women at the center made excuses for Swami’s behavior, labeling it part of their spiritual journey.
Followers suffered injuries or odd incidents. One woman supposedly broke her back. Another jumped off a bridge. One woman died by drowning in the river.
Some women suffered abuse, concealed as accidents.
The Swami appeared to indulge in BDSM of a violent nature. One woman had a black eye and bruises. She said it was an accident, but her car was undamaged.
Another woman left by ambulance. The Swami settled her claim in a lawsuit for an undisclosed amount of money and a non-disclosure agreement. He allegedly had choked her into unconsciousness.
Another woman claims in a new lawsuit that Swami choked her by surprise from behind. After she regained consciousness, she ran away.
Another woman incessantly blinks and babbles. Once, a witness alleges, he severely beat her. They had to clean up her bodily fluids and blood.
One woman said he hung her on a hook in his room. He choked her on another occasion by surprise, making her unconscious.
According to a witness, he saw the Swami beat a woman with a baseball bat and then sent her to a sex club to have sex with anyone in a parking lot.
One woman said the Swami ordered her to have sex with repulsive strangers while he watched on his phone.
The center eventually moved to Gold Beach, leaving many longtime devotees behind with nothing to show for their years of free labor and devotion.
An individual who knew the Swami long ago read a Frank Report article describing some of the above. He chose to make the following comment.
By a Yoga Teacher
Bear with me, this is long, but I’m in shock
I first met Michael Shoemaker along with Liz (before she married) when I lived at Rudi’s Big Indian Ashram in my early 20s, long before he was Swamiji.
Even in his 20s, he was spiritually powerful, physically magnetic, and head of the Rudrananda Ashram in Indiana.
I left after three years, but learning Kundalini Yoga was a life-altering experience and may be the single most important thing I’ve ever done.
But I’m also aware that there’s stratification in ashrams, and people, being flawed, tended to strive for the “Inner Circle” and be worshipful toward the Teacher.
Not good if the teacher can’t absorb and transmute the energies to stay balanced. After all, the purpose is to shed the Ego, not to make it worse.
Michael (Swamiji) is no Rudy by any stretch of the imagination. But then again, who is?
And I understand that being part of an insular, energetically charged, beautiful environment is a privilege. But I’m shocked that some stayed – and served – for four decades!
It’s also interesting that Michael switched running a Kundalini Yoga Ashram to a more ambiguous “Movement Center”, and I can see how, under the right conditioning and circumstances, Tantric could morph into BDSM.
Many vulnerable (abused?) women gravitate to the ashrams, and teachers (me included), and I can see how all this could have happened.
Apparently, the “Flow” of 50 years ago stagnated and calcified in something hideous.
Poor Liz. She deserved better.