Year of Sundays

By Amanda P. Westmont
We purposely didn’t call ahead this week to let the Church of Alice know we were coming. Joel and I both tend to be people who Live in Public and I have a propensity to over-share on my blog, so my entire life history is available to anyone with a search engine. I wanted them to know nothing about us on the off chance any of this “channeling” stuff was real. I mean, maybe the psychics are right. Maybe they CAN communicate with dead people. I was trying to stay open-minded and I figured by showing up as strangers, we were throwing them a credibility bone.

Which was pretty much a boomerang.

I have a hard time finding credibility in people who can talk for hours without actually SAYING ANYTHING. Like, for example, how Miriam Knight opened the meeting with the following sentiment: “Church of Alice is about introducing you to the power of the connection to the Spirit.” I sat there wondering what those words actually MEAN. Is “the Spirit” God? If so, is it a Biblical god? What is connection? How is it powerful? Is this the kind of power I could measure on my electric meter? Do I need a tachometer? I had no idea what she was talking about. I still don’t.

We had followed the signs from the front door down to the basement, where the house was already so packed, we weren’t even able to sit together. After Miriam’s welcome, the service began with the following invocation. I wasn’t able to read it aloud with the rest of the group, mostly because I wanted to keep the contents of my stomach where they belonged.

I am one with ALL THAT IS.
I surrender to my higher-self, God-soul that is me. In the eternity of now, I rise above all problems, tensions, and burdens of this day, into infinite Spirit.
In this creative center of pure consciousness, where all things exist, I accept into my life that which I choose for my wellbeing and spiritual unfoldment. I trust in Spirit and its perfect plan, knowing that the events in my life are neutral, and become what I make of them.

After hearing that, I kinda felt like I’d woken up on the wrong side of the bed. Maybe even the bed I slept in as a teenager in the city of Santa Cruz, California, where discussions of the infinite Spirit and its unfoldment often take place over goat milk cheese samples at the local free trade market. Both ideas (God-souls and goat cheese) tend to trigger my gag reflex.

The balloon-ride meditation to a bright, sparkly Star Trek utopia where you communicate with your “spirit guides” through thoughts instead of words certainly didn’t help my understanding any. I mean, I couldn’t even watch the Teletubbies when my babies were little, much less meditate on them.

When she asked us to imagine a hand-carved, “diamond, ruby and sapphire encrusted” BOX and then ask it a question, I opened my eyes and looked to the front of the room, where Miriam’s husband, Geoffrey, was so deep into the meditation that he appeared to be sleeping. Even Joel had his eyes closed and I wondered what question he’d asked his imaginary Pandora’s Box. I’d already promised pork chops for dinner later, so at least I could rule that out.

I was already off-kilter from the invocation and the meditation, so when the pianist started up a rousing rendition of Joyful Joyful, I got to add mental whiplash to my list of emotional responses. The music was so traditional I never saw it coming. After floating around the “garden of my inner beauty,” I was primed for harpsichords or didgeridoos, not Beethoven.

After the church ladies finished their chorus, Cherry Divine, (which is not her porn name, just her crazy-cat-lady name) the evening’s guest medium took off her shoes and took over the floor, opening with, “You are all beautiful and perfect.” She then launched into a sales pitch about how the real reason everyone freaked out over the rapture was because “expandedness is enveloping earth” and it’s a “worrisome shift in energy.” But instead of thinking of it as the end of times, we should just think of it as the “dawning of the days of harmony.” She brought up this theme every time someone asked a question. Apparently the planet is experiencing a HUGE EXPANSION right now. Of… light? Or something? It’s pretty vague. All I know is it involves a lot of zealous nodding and reminds me of my favorite childhood video game.

BUT! This is an expansion that has SYMPTOMS! Physical ones!

– Tiredness at times you wouldn’t normally be tired
– Insomnia or disrupted sleep
– Weight gain
– Aching in the hands and feet
– Chest flutters

Forget going to the doctor for a medically-based, scientific explanation! You’re only feeling weird because planet earth is “downloading a lot of light” right now. ORLY? So glad to hear I can blame the planet for this extra five pounds of ass-fat I’ve got between me and the church pew instead of all those chips I’ve been dipping in Ranch dressing. What a relief!

I got even more terrified when the questions from the audience started. One man explained that earlier in the week his co-workers had taken him to the ER after he’d had a severe mental breakdown at the office. “My brain was spinning! I thought I was going crazy. I looked at my computer and had NO IDEA what it was even FOR, much less how to work it. Everyone said they were afraid of me!”

“Well, you’re losing your mind!” Cherry laughed, as if that was a good thing, something to be proud of. Although I didn’t know it at the time, Ms. Divine lowered her voice and started channeling. Who/what/how she was channeling, I still don’t quite understand, but I do know her “spirits” are fond of dispensing assvice from the beyond.

“Stay around like-minded beings. Ask your angels and guides for help. This is not a psychotic episode. All it is is a change. Your power chakras are just giving you fear.”

It sounded like she was reading a horoscope. A horoscope written on crack with a side of peyote.

“Yesterday I went to kickball practice and I couldn’t play AT ALL. I had a total loss of self-control! People were shocked at the things I said. My family thought I’d gone off the deep end.”

“Don’t worry. It isn’t bipolar. They’re saying that, though, aren’t they?”

He nodded.

According to the guest medium, this poor man doesn’t need to check himself into a medical facility or take prescription mood stabilizers, all he needs to do is “allow himself to just be.” Yeah: JUST BE CRAZY. And don’t worry! You’re among “like-minded beings!”

I quickly began to notice a pattern in Cherry Divine’s channeling. All her sentences start with action verbs! It’s super convincing!

Find your guides and spirits.
Allow yourself to feel.
Look for joy.
Forgive yourself.
Practice patience.
Allow yourself to heal.
Give yourself permission to energetically move up to your place in the atmosphere.

Will you come back?

Isn’t life itself only a dream?”

I seriously WISH I was making this up because then it would actually be funny.

When another audience member offered up a cry for help with what was obviously very clinical depression (“I feel anger, fear, sadness and extreme loneliness and I don’t know what I should do…”), and again, Cherry’s answer was “allow it to be,” I lost the last shred of respect I’d been holding in escrow for the Church of Alice because, frankly, I was pissed.

I don’t care how many Grateful Dead concerts these nut-jobs have been to, they need mental health intervention! If your family, your co-workers and the medical establishment all think you’ve gone off the deep end? YOU MIGHT WANT TO LISTEN TO THEM. Not some hippie in a mother earth t-shirt with a tattoo of a turtle on her wrist.

Especially since even SHE knows it’s BS. When a fellow psychic took the floor and mentioned her theory about a volcano erupting soon in Washington state, Cherry Divine called upon her ancient intuition and “checked the mountains,” before proclaiming, “I see nothing like that happening in Oregon.” Nice sidestep there, circus show! That wasn’t actually the question now, was it? Good save.

After another hymn, it was time for the “Healing Service,” also led by Miss Cherry Divine. Only instead of actually healing anyone, we were invited for a do-over of our own births, which were most likely not too “comfy” the first time around. The lights were dimmed and Cherry led us through a very visually-stimulating re-imagining of birth. Again, I had to work hard not to gag. Instead, I looked back at Joel, who seemed – on the surface at least – to be genuinely TRYING to make his way back down the birth canal. His eyes were shut and he seemed to be concentrating. All I could think was that I don’t care how much I adore that bald genius or how good he smells or what his kisses do to me, if he’s buying into this crap, WE’RE DONE.

Fortunately, for both of us, he later revealed to me that he was sitting there quite deliberately trying NOT to relive his birth. Thank God! Or the spirit guides! Or the angels! Or whatever! I’m relieved to share that our relationship survived another Sunday and was strengthened by our mutual beliefs in gravity, Prozac and deliciously grilled pork chops that stay where they’re put.

As for the Spiritualists on Alice Street? I wasn’t impressed. I don’t believe in spirits or extraterrestrials and unlike Joel, I don’t really want to. Normally, I’m pretty open-minded about what other people choose to believe – wave your freak flag high! If you want to get your mental health advice from angels and aliens, go on with your bad self! But when you begin dispensing that advice to others, you cross a very serious line, a legal one. Church of Alice is desperately trying to prove that there is intelligence after death, but sadly, all they really proved to me is that hippies can be dangerous after all.

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