Book Voyage

by helenzuman, September 18, 2018 in General

It’s September 14, 2018. I’m sitting on the floor by an open window, in a spare bedroom in a doublewide trailer in Phoenicia, New York. This evening, at the Golden Notebook in Woodstock, my dear ex-Zendik friend Kyra and I will offer the final episode of Composting Utopia: The 2018 Zendik Reunion Tour. Tomorrow, she […]

What My Hands Said

by helenzuman, August 22, 2018 in General

A couple weeks ago, the outsides of my hands started to feel numb and tingly. What, I wondered, did they want me to know? I’d had this problem before—most notably, and severely, in fall 2015, when I was both completing the final revision of my book and ramping up my work as an editor of […]

Money and Soul-Work

by helenzuman in General

A few months ago, I had my first experience of handing a copy of Mating in Captivity to a potential reader and receiving cash in return. Since the story of money I’ve lived with for decades dictates that income mainly accrues through labor for hire, this was a delightful surprise. Yes, I’d spent countless hours […]

Cycling Through Stories

by helenzuman in Cults, Memoir, Zendik

Once upon a time, in a coffee shop in Park Slope, I met up with a fellow ex-Zendik who’d lived at the Farm for a couple years (to my five). His outlook on his Zendik experience was essentially positive; he’d stayed as long as it served him, no longer. Soon after, I formed a hypothesis: […]

How Cults, Like Weeds, Can Help Us Heal

by helenzuman in Cults, General, Zendik

News reports about the cult NXIVM­ — whose leader, Keith Raniere, now awaits trial in Brooklyn on charges of sex trafficking and forced labor — brim with horrifying details. Female “slaves” were branded with Raniere’s initials. They dieted to the point of gauntness, and handed over damning “collateral” as insurance against defection. Of course, the particulars of the story […]

Spinning the Psychic Compass

by helenzuman in Zendik

In Chico, California, in April 2005, I got my first and only tattoo. It looks like a voluptuous “W,” with one end curving around the mole on my left forearm. It comes from a Zendik “mind-tuner” called The Psychic Compass; it’s linked to the following message: Do you dream of another, a higher reality? The […]

The Opposite of Selling Is Connecting: How I Escaped Kickstarter Hell

by helenzuman in Memoir, Zendik

In five years at Zendik Farm, I spent countless hours selling Zendik merchandise (magazines and CDs, plus stickers and T-shirts bearing the slogan “STOP BITCHING START A REVOLUTION”) all over the South, Northeast, and Midwest, at concerts and festivals and on city streets. Selling did not come easily to me – often I dreaded it […]

Cult Stories: Novels vs. Memoirs

by helenzuman in Cults, Memoir, Zendik

Since beginning work on my Zendik book, more than ten years ago, I’ve read dozens of cult memoirs. (In 2008, on a train from New York to Seattle, I binge-read maybe seven or eight.) Many are terrible; some are decent; a few kick butt. The terribles fall into two categories: self-published exposés with a side […]

My Cult and Infinite Growth: A Tale of Two Stories

by helenzuman in Cults, Zendik

[I wrote this essay in June 2014. A month later, a man I met at the Northeast Permaculture Convergence became the first to respond to my admission of cult involvement with a version of, “Yeah, me too.”] I spent most of my twenties trapped in a story. The story, roughly, was this: The mass of […]