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Cult Warning Signs with Ariela Sarai

Podchaser - Live. Love. Engage. Podcast: Inspiration | Spiritual Awakening | Happiness | Success | Life

On today’s episode we’re joined by Ariela Sarai. Ariela has an undergraduate degree from Columbia University and an MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She spent almost two years in India volunteering and studying Tibetan Buddhism. When she returned from her studies, she worked in prisons, foster homes, hospitals, hospice, and also had a private practice as a therapist.

Eventually, she took a self-empowerment course called Avatar and later even taught the course. While this took up a large part of her life, she realized over time that this organization and experience was not healthy for her. When Ariela left, she lost her reference point and all her friends. Instead, she found her inner compass, her freedom, and her joy. Now, she combines the experiences she’s been through to provide private coaching.

On this episode of the Live. Love. Engage. podcast:

  • How Ariela became interested in coaching at this stage in her life.
  • What Ariela became determined to do after leaving teaching at Avatar.
  • Signs that show if your environment is for your highest good or not.
  • What we’re trained to do in society.
  • What we all have inside that’s guiding us.
  • How micro compromises can impact you over time.
  • The definition of spiritual stretching.
  • What to watch out for in your own spiritual stretching.
  • How Ariela came to reflect on her own decisions and what she could do better.
  • What happened for Ariela when COVID hit and how it impacted her life.
  • When it dawned on Ariela that she might be in a cult.
  • Why it’s tempting to ignore the truth, and why it’s important not to.
  • How to start tuning into yourself today.
  • How to avoid losing yourself without feeling the pressure of change.
  • What Ariela is most grateful for right now.

Connect with Ariela

Ariela’s Website:


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Live. Love. Engage. Podcast: Inspiration | Spiritual Awakening | Happiness | Success | Life


[00:00:02] I am Gloria Grace Rand, founder of the Love Method and author of the number one Amazon best seller, Live Love Engage How to Stop Doubting Yourself and start being yourself. In this podcast, we share practical advice from a spiritual perspective on how to live fully, love deeply and engage authentically so you can create a life and business with more impact, influence and income. Welcome to Live, Love, Engage.

[00:00:37] namaste. I am Gloria Grace Rand, and I want to thank you for joining us for another edition of Live Love Engage. And today I’m delighted to have a guest with us. And she’s someone that I met a few weeks back through a networking group. And we just found out that we actually live in the same neighborhood. Basically, we’re only about a half an hour away from each other, which is wonderful here in central Florida. And her name is Ariela Sarai. So welcome. First off, to Live Love Engage. Very well. I am delighted to have you that she is an accomplished woman who has done a lot of things that I’m quite and frankly, she is an undergraduate degree from Columbia University and an MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. But that’s that’s OK. Now, what’s really amazing is that she spent almost two years in India first volunteering for Mother Teresa in Calcutta and then studying Tibetan Buddhism in northern India. And then when she returned, she worked in prisons, foster homes, hospitals, a hospice, and had a private practice as a therapist. And then in the year 2000, she took an international self empowerment course called Avatar and then spent the next twenty one years teaching the course, working her way up to being a top team leader. And now she actually left that organization in November. And she’s now combining her experiences to provide private coaching to four individuals, team leaders and teams. And I, I really I just I love your background. And the work that you’ve done in the past is amazing. And I am curious, though, to talk about where you are now, because you’ve definitely made a shift in over your life, as we all do. We all change and grow and do different things. So what got you interested in doing coaching now at this stage of your life?

[00:02:40] Yeah, well, I had a really interesting experience with the Avatar course. So as you said, I was there for twenty one years. I was very devoted and over time I started to get exhausted and I wasn’t happy and I started to feel a lot of pressure to bring in people and to be on course all the time. And. I kept going and kept taking on more responsibility in that organization. And finally in November. I realized that it was a controlling group, what they call a high control group or a cult, in my opinion, and I left. And so before I went to Avatar, I had been a therapist. I had done all those things that you mentioned. And then I was in a private practice for many years. Then I went into Avatar. And when I left, I just became so determined to educate people on how we can get caught up in relationships in groups that are destructive for us, even the most aware, the best of us good hearted people. You don’t need to be lost and totally purposeless and in a really bad place for that to happen. And I also became passionate about training leaders on how to be safe and create a culture of safety and empowerment and working with teams on communication so that people don’t have to experience what I experienced for all that time.

[00:04:32] Mhm. Yeah, that’s, that’s awesome that you’re doing that because I think it is so important. You know we a lot of times we go through life and we’re trying to find where we fit in, which we, we try different things, we and we join different organizations and and as you say, even the best organizations sometimes, you know, maybe it’s the people or something. Something doesn’t go quite right and it can start to detract from what draws you into what not draw what drew you into it. Good English you do. You would do it in the first place. So let’s talk a little bit more about that. What how how how do you know? Like if you’re in if you’re involved in some sort of organization, how how do you know what are some signs? I guess maybe that it is safe for you to stay or maybe I guess it should be everybody or some signs that it’s not safe maybe. And that this isn’t really. You were staying in there is not going to be for your highest good.

[00:05:38] Yeah, that’s a really good question. So. Obviously, I thought a lot about this, and I think that we are all trained in society to tune out our feelings, so we’re essentially tuning out our inner voice and we pride ourselves on being good at just dealing with things. So we go through a lot of our life thinking that it’s a badge of honor to put up with things and be able to handle things that don’t feel right to us. So that’s the start. And so when we tune out what we really feel, we’re actually tuning out what I call our inner compass. So we all have an inner compass that is guiding us toward what’s OK for us, what’s not OK for us, and also on the other side toward what really inspires us and what lights us up. What’s our purpose? What how do we want to express our creativity? But we have spent a lot of time tuning that voice out. So when we enter a groove or like I said, it could even be a relationship and there’s something very promising there, it can be extremely exciting. So when I first found Avatar, the tools are great and I still think they’re great. And the people that I met at that time were very supportive and I had a lot of Danes and I was incredible. So that’s wonderful. But what I did not do was I did not. Check out what was actually happening in your organization, and I did not tune in to how I really felt after the initial joyful part, so there’s really two pieces there.

[00:07:51] The first piece that I just mentioned was I found that exciting part and then I chose not to research the organization I didn’t want to do. I decided that that awareness wasn’t important because what I found felt so good that I was going to ignore that and it would be just fine. So that’s number one is tune in to what it is, do your research and then the second. And to me, the most important thing is I started to feel uncomfortable, really uncomfortable. And as I took more and more responsibility, I felt very pushed. And I actually compromised my own integrity and what I call micro compromises of integrity. So it’s very common in the group where you’ll be asked to do something that doesn’t feel quite right. But it’s not the hugest deal like, let’s say stay very late later than you would want to. And then you think about just a week. I can do that. Or you’re you’re paying more than you’re comfortable paying and you take out a loan or something, and then you just you justify it. But over time, these build up and you start to override your own integrity. And that’s where you get really lost because you can’t tell if something’s OK with you or not and you become very easily influenced.

[00:09:34] Yeah. You know, it’s interesting, when you were talking, it actually brought back to mind growing up. It’s like peer pressure when you’re a teenager and and maybe somebody want you to, oh, just have a cigarette or something or something. And you’re like, oh, you know, something inside is like, no, but you want to feel like you want to blend in with the kids and then you do you do that. And it’s and it is. I love that term. The micro compromises. I think that’s so powerful. It’s a really great way of putting at it. It’s like we do that and it does it starts to eat away at our I think our even our self esteem sometimes because we’re just we’re not we’re not listening to that inner compass, as you said. So, yeah,

[00:10:16] That’s a great analogy. It is kind of like a peer pressure. And then you combine it with the fact that you are getting something that’s genuinely good as well

[00:10:28] And makes it hard.

[00:10:30] That is a big mess. Are you getting involved? You really, really like what you’re getting and you want to keep it. And so you keep going. And here’s the next point that I really want to make is that. There’s a lot of twisting. We can call them spiritual principles. That it’s really important to watch out for and I’ll give some examples. So. I was told that stretching. Was a big, important part of my spiritual growth, so we called it stretching out of my comfort zone. OK, so we all know that anybody that does self empowerment work knows, OK, we don’t want to stay in our comfort zone

[00:11:26] Or that’s where growth comes. Growth comes out of your comfort zone, right?

[00:11:31] Exactly. So there’s let’s call that a principle that we’re all familiar with that we think has value. The twisting that I experienced was that. I kept stretching. To the point of doing damage, not stretching, so I look at it as there’s really two kinds of pain when you’re exercising, if you enjoy yourself and you keep going, you’re going to damage yourself in the performance. But you also need to be willing to stretch where the pain of building muscles that distinguish those two so stretched to the point where I completely compromised my financial integrity, my relationships, my well being on every level. And I called it stretching.

[00:12:34] Yeah, it’s that’s a good example to share, because really it’s it’s like you’re really stretching beyond, you know, you can only stretch a rubber band so far. And it is and especially it can it can eventually even break. So, yeah. So even though many times we think, well, it’s going to bounce back. Well, it can only bounce back so far if you do take it way too far out. And getting out of the camera range here, you know, it’s yeah, it can be damaging. So I’m I’m sorry you had to learn that lesson and. But it is good though, isn’t it.

[00:13:12] A great lesson. I’d like to give one more example.

[00:13:14] Oh yeah. Please.

[00:13:15] Yeah, I think this is such an important principle. So it’s so exciting when you find something that is bigger than you and you feel like you’re helping the planet, right? So it’s we call it the mission. We had a mission to help people awaken out of their suffering and being stuck in negativity and really wonderful. So you feel like you have this group of people. Yes. And it’s exciting. And so it’s this this mission, this cause that you get to be a part of. Again, that principle is wonderful, but when you sacrifice. Your core values and what’s most important to you for a cause. You have now gone into very dangerous territory. And I did get divorced. I was away from my family, my son and his half of the time, I there was a lot of things that happened, a lot of unintended consequences that happened as a result of putting their mission before my core values. And that’s another thing to pay attention to. It’s great if a group has a cause, but. Are you able? To stay and integrity, what’s with what’s most important to you? That’s a key question.

[00:14:52] Yeah, absolutely. You know, just just occurred to me what what do you think was it that finally gave you the courage or just what was the straw that broke the camel’s back that you said, you know what, I’ve got to start taking care of myself. This isn’t working for me anymore. What how did you make come to that decision?

[00:15:15] Yeah, that’s a great question. So I’m going to preface that by saying one of the things that was most revealing to me after I left is that it is possible to to know and even say and see that something is very toxic. But not let it register incredible ability of denial that we can create. That’s an amazing thing. So I actually for years I started to recognize and talk about the things that I saw that I thought were not OK. I knew they were not and how depressed I started getting. Really to a very high level of depression, and I was very afraid, and even though I was seeing it, I didn’t let it register. So there’s a big difference there. And what happened was when it started. I was home and I had been on a course for 14 to 17 days out of every month.

[00:16:33] Wow, that’s a lot

[00:16:36] When we work seven a.m. to 10 p.m.. Oh, my God. Well, all that time. So we didn’t really have a chance to stop reflect, which is another one of the tactics that these groups use because they discourage that, because then you might wake up to what’s going on. So with covid, I got a feel for what it was like to have time to for my partner, who I’m very connected with. He moved in and. We got to do things like watch Netflix.

[00:17:22] Hey, you know, it’s OK.

[00:17:24] Yeah, well, those are things that I didn’t do. Like if we go on scooter rides, like, it was just amazing. And so that was the first thing I started to get myself back and then started to look at. Wait a minute, what was I actually doing before that really wasn’t working. So that was the first thing. And then I started getting drawn to podcasts and books about quotes. And it was amazing. And I there was one particular book by Steve Harper, an educator, about quotes that I listen to on Audible, and it dawned on me I might be in a cult. So then I had a session with an exit counselor and really confirmed what I had been thinking. And twenty four hours later, I gave my notice and I have not looked back. I’ve been. Happier than I ever thought I could be. It was, of course, the transition where you have a loss of breath with a loss of all your friends that you had with nobody. Nobody talked to me. There’s a change. But I am really I have my self back, my own inner compass, my freedom and my joy. So it’s been incredible.

[00:18:54] That’s awesome. Well, I’m glad that you were able to come to that. And it is interesting that sometimes it takes something who who would have known that a pandemic would would be something that would wake you up and be able to give you that perspective, the distance that you were able to be able to recognize that. Wait, I’m feeling really good now. Why is that? Why am I feeling good now that I’m not involved in this group that I thought really initially gave me a lot of good.

[00:19:31] Exactly. So that’s another thing. I’m glad you brought that up. Is it control? You can feel good in the beginning. And then if it starts to change, don’t you deny it? And then. Yeah. And the other thing you just made me think of is people who are connected with friends and family that are part of groups like this, they ask a lot, what do I do? Right. And my friends and family try to tell me many times this is the same day. You’re not happy, you’re exhausted, you’re not getting paid. And it doesn’t work because you’re very much in a viewpoint, a belief system. You’re in this whole belief system that you’re right and that other people are suffering and they are in the dark and you have wisdom and awareness that they don’t have and it doesn’t work. But what you just said is what works. You connect with people and you’re not badgering them, not judging them. You give them the opportunity to really heard connected to love, had some fun that is way more impactful. And having that light bulb go off, then battering them.

[00:20:47] Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And, you know, and I think sometimes I mean it also I’m relating this because I’ve done I’ve done interviews even with with relationship experts also because I can see the parallels. And sometimes women and men, too, who get involved with with women. It can be either way that initially. Sure, it seems like this person can do no wrong. And you feel when you’re in that first blush of love and everything is great and and and sometimes you don’t see the signs because you don’t want to see them. In fact, I was just watching something yesterday that was like that same oh, I know where my husband and I were watching a show about the Mormon Church, but it was really about a man who forged historical documents and and was making money off of these things. And and his closest friends didn’t know. And the one guy said he says, you know what? I didn’t want to know. I didn’t want to see the signs that maybe something wasn’t quite right with this guy. And so it really does. It’s not just organizations. It can happen with our personal relationships to.

[00:22:01] Absolutely. And that for training that we have, I don’t want to know. Really is the starting point, yeah. Being susceptible to being influenced in unhealthy weight, I understand that sometimes we feel like we don’t want to know because there’s a lot at stake if we find out that the relationship we’re in or the job we’re in or whatever it may be. Is really not good for us. We need to show up in a whole new way, our our way of looking at the world changers, our sense of ourselves. We have a whole lot more work and responsibility to do to make that change. So it’s very tempting. To do that on one level, but in the end, the truth always keeps you safer, is what I have come to realize. And the other thing is that when we don’t want to know what’s happening within us. We actually stop being aware of where we stand because we’re black and look at this, we’re going to look at it that way. Part of it’s good part. It’s not good. I don’t know. I don’t know. And we don’t know how to look within and we choose to not one. And then you lose your own internal reference point of where you actually stand. And again, when you don’t know where you stand, guess what? Somebody who knows where they stand and wants to use others. It’s very tempting because when you see another paradigm, someone tells you, hey, look at it this way, come on it. You’re very, very susceptible, you know, being able to tune in to what you’re feeling. It’s a skill. Yeah, but it’s still that’s really worth learning.

[00:24:17] Can you offer maybe one piece of advice of how someone could get started to do that? What would be what would be the first thing that someone could do to start really tuning in if they’re hearing this and going, yeah, I need to do this, but but how do I how do I begin?

[00:24:33] Ok, so the first step that I would say is. Simply listen and pay attention, so you start the attention to what you’re hearing. One at a time, and you don’t need to do anything about it. Or analyze it, fix it or change it and please start by listening. Once you start to listen, you’ll notice that some feelings are just it could just be agitation. For example, I’m feeling frustrated and you just feel that frustration. Notice that you acknowledge and then you sort of let it go. You just noticed. And sometimes feelings carry messages. They don’t. So we don’t want to get obsessed with every single school. Sometimes you just have a moment. But even with those moments, you want to acknowledge it. I’m really not an advocate of positive thinking without acknowledging what’s really there. So notice your feeling and then if you wish, you can keep paying attention and seeing if there’s any message. That feeling is trying to reveal to you. So step one is really awareness and listen.

[00:26:01] Absolutely. I’ve when I first took up meditation, the the one of the people behind this is name is Bill Harris. And he talked about being the witness, just being the witness to to what’s going on. Because in you you try to sit still and and then thoughts will come through your head. And he was like, just just witness them. You know, you don’t have to worry about them. Just say, OK, you know, and just just be aware. So I love that that you’re saying because that that really does make sense to just just be aware of the feelings, just just to realize that they’re there and and look at them and say, OK,

[00:26:40] That’s it then. So that was the first step that you asked. And after that, when you’re comfortable with your own feelings, you can start to ask questions, very specific questions, like is there something that I’m not seeing that would be good for you or is there something I’m running from? Is there something that doesn’t feel right? Do I want to stay in this situation? Right. Do I need something? You know, you can ask questions and then tune in to the answer. And so one of the things one of the practices that I recommend and I do this now is I call it self checking. So you start with checking in, tuning in with your feelings, and then you can ask me any questions that you might have. And I also do a weekly check in with my partner and we check in with each other on all the different topics of our life. How’s work going? And we really tuned in to see if there’s anything coming up that we need to put attention on and our finances and our relationship, our help, because it’s so easy to not win and lose track literally for years.

[00:28:00] Yeah, absolutely. That’s for sure. If you want to grab a drink of water, you may because you’re struggling. But yeah, I love that it is so important. And one of the things I found that is helpful in asking those questions, at least for me anyway, I like to write it down. I spend some time journaling and sometimes I can write it out. Sometimes I actually do do it on the computer, although a lot of people say the writing handwriting is better, but I can do either one. So I think whatever works best for you and maybe maybe you want to paint your answers, you know, whatever, whatever you like, I think. Right.

[00:28:38] Absolutely. There’s so many ways to record your answers, express them. And I think one thing I want to mention as well is there are times in our lives where we don’t have a choice. So let’s say we’re in a job and we’re really unhappy about it, but we really can’t leave that job because we really need that. Right. We have learned to tune out how we feel in order to survive, and what I recommend is even if you can’t make a change, don’t lose touch with the pain you’re feeling because then you’ve really lost more than the job you’ve lost. So you can acknowledge it. And sometimes we do need to put up with a situation, but we can still maintain our connection with our own self when we acknowledge how bad it feels.

[00:29:34] Absolutely. And and that actually then leads me to suggest is sometimes, you know, you don’t have to always do this stuff on your own either. So maybe it is reaching out to a coach or a therapist or marriage counselor. But get an outside perspective, see someone like you or myself, because a lot of times you don’t it’s like you can’t say that you have blinders on and so you can’t see these things. And in fact, a lot of times you even speak them and you’re not even aware of the words that you’re saying. But someone else can be someone else who’s not living in your shoes. They can they can point those things out for you.

[00:30:15] Absolutely. Yeah.

[00:30:18] This is awesome so far. But I want to I want to maybe as we’re nearing the end of this, bring it up to something even lighter and just talk about one of my favorite subjects, which is gratitude. So what what do you feel the most grateful for in your life right now?

[00:30:37] I feel the most grateful for the little things in life every moment like. Sitting down with my family for a wonderful meal together, being able to enjoy my day, walk around a lake with my dog and feeling healthy, I just I feel so grateful for every aspect.

[00:31:06] Mm hmm. That’s awesome. And, you know, that’s a good reminder for anyone. Also, when they are struggling and going through, you know, when you’re in a situation that you’re not happy about is do think of a couple of things that you can be grateful for, because that in itself can sometimes help you to be able to switch that focus a little bit so that you can it can help you to cope better. I think when you can focus on things that you can be grateful for.

[00:31:41] Yeah. And we can start by being grateful for that feelings of unhappiness and acknowledging them

[00:31:47] And

[00:31:48] Looking at what else we’re grateful for. Because if you do that first. So genuine once you’ve acknowledged your interview.

[00:31:57] Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And I have learned to be grateful for challenges because a lot of times these things do present themselves to us for something to learn from. And sometimes they can be painful lessons, but sometimes not. But if we can be grateful for them, it’s it’s definitely a healthier way to be in general. So I would like to find out from you, if someone wants to connect with you and they have really resonated with you what you had to say today, and maybe they feel like you might be able to help them tune into their inner compass a bit easier. What would be the best way for someone to reach

[00:32:39] Out to you? They can go on my website, which is my name, Arianna, that and I have an opportunity for people to sign up for a complementary connection. So also want to find out what people are looking for and if I can help. So that’s available to anyone who would like to.

[00:33:05] All right. Awesome. Well, I will have that in the show notes. So if you are listening to this, don’t worry about it. You’ll be able to find it there and you’ll be able to connect with Irial. So thank you so much for being here today. I really think you provided a lot of really valuable information to help folks who might be needing some direction and how to really check in with themselves and and to know when when something is safe to be in or not a relationship or a business or organization, what have you. So thank you for that.

[00:33:44] I think that’s the final thing that is just coming to me, is really leave people with is self honesty. And then you start to tune into your feelings, you start to practice, and it really me that is the most important thing that you discerning in your choices in life.

[00:34:08] Yeah, absolutely. Yep. They say honesty is the best policy, but self honesty is truly even better when

[00:34:19] You start with that. Absolutely.

[00:34:23] All right. Well, thank you so much again for being here today. I appreciate you being here.

[00:34:28] Thank you for having me on it.

[00:34:31] And thank you to everyone who is listening and those who are watching on YouTube. I also appreciate you as well. And I encourage you to tune in for, you know, make sure that you’re a subscriber so you’ll be able to be here for our next episode. So until then, as always, I encourage you to go out and live fully loved deeply and engage authentically. Did you know that a majority of entrepreneurs tend to discount the importance of their work and a good number feel their success is

[00:35:03] Simply due to luck? I know from personal experience that self-doubt can keep you from having the kind of life and business you desire. That’s why I’ve created a free guide called Uniquely Knew how to move from self-doubt to self-love in four simple steps to claim your free guide. Go to live, love, engage dot gift. That’s live love. Engage dot g-i-f-t

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About the Author
An online marketer, SEO copywriter, and speaker for 15+ years, Gloria Grace Rand has helped over 150 companies including AAA and Scholastic Book Fairs attract and convert leads into sales.

Losing her older sister to cancer propelled Gloria on a journey of spiritual awakening that resulted in the publication of her international best-selling book, "Live. Love. Engage. – How to Stop Doubting Yourself and Start Being Yourself."

Known as “The Light Messenger” for her ability to intuitively transmit healing messages of love and light, Gloria combines a unique blend of energy healing techniques, intuition, and marketing expertise to create transformational results for her clients.

2 thoughts on “Cult Warning Signs with Ariela Sarai”

  1. Ariela Sarai is a dear friend of mine. I knew her years before she got involved with Avatar. I know Ariela as a devoted loving mother to her son Dimitri, as a gifted psychotherapist, and as loyal, caring, compassionate, trusting soul sister to me. I have never had a conversation with Ariela where I did not feel heard. I believe that everything Ariela has gone through has prepared her to be the true healer that she is today. If anyone is in need of a life coach, I would highly recommend Ariela without hesitation with the highest regard.


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