I've been spending a lot of time around Full Circle, and the truth is, it's not really a cult at all. I was fired from church at 14 years old and have rejected organized religion ever since, so I was a bit wary too- especially after reading that Vice article. (It's a long story.) However, what I've seen at Full Circle is a space for like-minded individuals to come together and explore their spirituality. There is no dogma, there are no rules, and no one leader that dictates- it's truly an open space for community collaboration. After 13 years of refusing to step foot inside a church aside from baptisms and funerals, it feels good to have found a space and a congregation where I feel free and welcomed.
My first experience with Full Circle was actually one night I was on a date with that hairdresser. (Remember him? Catch up here.) We heard music coming from the temple and walked in to check it out. Turns out Mr. Hairdresser cuts Andrew's hair, so we were quickly introduced that evening. Fast forward several months later, a few weeks after that Vice article went viral- I ran into Andrew Keegan again outside a restaurant in Santa Monica. Before I knew what was happening I was saying hello like we were buddies, and he came up to me and gave me a huge hug. Then he looked at me confused, and asked how we knew each other. I explained we didn't and introduced myself. I brought up the Vice article, and expressed that I wanted to do a piece giving a less biased write up about what was happening on my blog. He was super sweet and receptive and we went inside and chatted more about it. Andrew Keegan was not my childhood crush (I was more into Heath Ledger), but our meeting still felt serendipitous.
For several months after that meeting, we played a lot of text tag about meeting up about that article I never write (or perhaps I'm writing it now?) and started running into each other at events on a pretty regular basis. I started attending yoga classes and some weekend events at the temple, but I was still wary about attending any kind of 'service'. On Valentine's Day, I attended Munifisense, (an event Andrew helped to co-create) with my beautiful yogi friend, Jewels. She was working with Andrew, but had recently decided to make the move to Thailand for a year of soul searching and exploration, so she took me under her wing to help with the transition.
I started working with Jewels and Andrew, which meant I was spending more and more time at the temple. What I saw was a team of dedicated, humble, and self-aware individuals working tirelessly to create a safe and vibrant space for the Venice community. Andrew was always present, working alongside his team, and acting as a motivator not a dictator. The more I witnessed behind the scenes, the more I felt compelled to check out the Activ888 Sunday service. Soon after Jewels started training me, she let Andrew know that I was also a photographer. He contacted me soon after about shooting at their Easter service where ABC would be filming a segment for Nightline. (Did you see it? Catch up here.) I happily obliged and attended my first Easter Sunday service in 13 years last month.
What I experienced was pretty magical. The service was well attended and we kicked things off by going around the circle introducing ourselves and sharing what we were there to Activ888. I expressed that I was there to activate joy, as being part of a bigger community when I'm living so far away from my family, makes me feel full and joyous. After everyone took turns sharing, we directed our attention to the panel of speakers. The panel was diverse in their interests and talking points, but the one thing they had in common was a commitment to enhancing our communities and surrounding by working together to spread art, music, and love. Not only were the panelists diverse, but so was the audience; plenty of attendees were peers, but also families, children, and elder members of the community were in attendance.
Since attending the service on Easter Sunday, I've been making it a weekly ritual. I feel blessed to be welcomed into such a loving, respectful, and open-minded community and know that support is imperative in spiritual journey. So for all my friends who have expressed or felt concern for my involvement with Andrew Keegan's cult, don't worry- I'm ok. And if you're local, come join me at Full Circle this Sunday!