I can share now that one of the best things I did in my life was participating in Balanced View (BV) (when it was called Great Freedom); the next best was leaving BV some years later.
When I first met Balanced View, I was struck by the clarity and inclusivity of the teachings, and by the warm heartedness of the community. It really felt like there was something different and special about the people involved.
There were for sure some cultish vibes, but I didn’t pay them much attention, as many organizations inevitably have some degree of cult-like tendencies. The teaching and the community helped me come to peace with some difficult events in my life, and I willingly devoted my time, energy and money to Balanced View. Already one year on, I started noticing some changes happening. In particular, the teaching started being used in ways that seemed quite manipulative.
We were being more and more encouraged to rely on the support structure of The Four Mainstays (The 4MS). Despite the teaching repeating again and again that no circumstances, relationships or states should be relied upon for happiness and peace, the 4MS were said to be unerring and that they must be relied upon over anything else. Participants were told that the 4MS are special and different from all other appearances, and therefore one must immerse themselves in them.
Initially Candice O’Denver (founder of Balance View) had stated that there was no need to promote Balanced View, that attraction was the spontaneous and natural way. Then, during one transmission (live-stream), all that suddenly changed, and an almost relentless promotion of Balanced View was set in motion. I remember feeling my stomach sink in that moment, it just felt so out of line with the teachings.
Candice, who initially had stated she was here to make herself obsolete, like Balanced View itself (something I had found very touching and beautiful) slowly started to make herself indispensable. Devotion to the her as the root teacher was encouraged, almost forced, seen as superior and better than any other form of teaching. Candice and her trainers shared many times that the teacher was to be seen as always right.
Initially, any connecting with Dzogchen had been categorically denied, yet now she is a lineage holder of the Nyingma Dzogchen tradition. When someone asked her why her texts are an almost exact copy of some Dzogchen writings, in a later transmission she stated that when she met her teacher, she suddenly, by direct transmission, learned Tibetan and Sanskrit. And yet no one has ever seen the proof of that. It was just accepted. It just become one of the many statements that no one questioned. It seems we all have a longing to believe in the one special person who will save us…
Candice in 2007, ironically, warned against her future self (this seems to happen a lot in spiritual organizations), calling the kind of transmissions she now does twice a week, “spiritual martinis”, saying if you have to come back again and again to something to feel good, you are becoming dependent on something outside yourself, so run away as fast as you can … a far cry from what is happening now.
It is very sad to see how dependent some of my friends have become, seemingly unable to function or to feel okay, without endless trainings.
The peace felt in the support structure is seen as a sign it is working, yet very few are able to leave with ease, as soon as they leave, many realize that the peace they felt was simply a fragile peace that is dependent on the support structure. Many end up going back, and this co-dependency is strongly encouraged.
In that structure some people often stop caring about finding their own truth, because being identified with BV brings such a sense of relief, belonging, purpose and specialness.
Control became tighter. I saw people escorted off the premises, not allowed in trainings or at the centre, not allowed to share. It became more and more divisive; people were encouraged to only work and be with people in the support structure, encouraged to stay in the bubble of the Balanced View world.
The guarantee of complete mental and emotional stability has also turned out not to be true. Many still struggle with addictions and mental health problems many years on in the training, and two people have committed suicide despite being immersed in the “Unerring Four Mainstays” support structure.
One young woman was raped in India some years ago, she went to the Goa centre to get help, but no trainer went to accompany her to the hospital. Participants were encouraged just to carry on with their service. There were a few moments like this where it seemed to me that simple human compassion had been lost. The benefit of BV took precedence, and that was increasingly hard for me to see.
More and more financial demands were also asked of us, even though at that time there were about 300 people on twice weekly transmissions paying a minimum of 10/20 dollars x week. Anyone can do simple math to see there was lot of money coming in just from this.
In the money training Balanced View offers, it is suggested that participants share their bank statements with their trainer, to “normalize” feelings around money and to encourage transparency.
And while Balanced View’s finances are not at all transparent, it is very easy to find Balanced View’s tax returns, (as they are a charitable organization required by law to have these available). And it can be seen that more than a third of the money (a third of an average of $500.000 x year) goes to Candice.
While some have no problems with this, I believe it has come at the expense of some participants who later find themselves in financial difficulties. While this has been their choice, there is also pressure, subtle and sometimes not, especially for the more committed to donate generously to Balanced View.
Some trainers have become so brainwashed; I even overheard one saying to a writer there was no need to write any books as “Candice has written all the books the world will ever need.”
In the Balanced View bubble it is easy after a while to believe even these statements.
There were many instances where if it has been in any other organization I would have left. I was starting to lose my discernment and confidence. It became too much, and so I left. I was heartbroken to leave, as there are still many beautiful aspects to it, but I could not stay with an organization that is becoming so out of integrity with its beautiful teaching and even harming some people.
Now I am so grateful to have left, it is such a relief to be free from that control and all that dysfunction, to finally feel free to be myself again.