My first month at Freedom House was euphoric and surreal. Everyone worked toward one unified goal. The Darius called it The Journey to Freedom and everyone who arrived at Freedom House started in phase one: The Entrance. There were three phases. The Entrance, The Love, and The Free. Once these three stages of the journey were complete, we would all transcend into communal freedom, which The Darius called The Light and described it as becoming one unit of harmonious enlightenment so strong we could change the world as we knew it, where our leaders and cultures would embrace compassion and love and all worldly problems would be resolved.
I was ready to be part of something bigger; ready to experience compassion and love, two things I never had before arriving at Freedom House. Since Miles brought me in, he was to be my mentor. Miles was very close to The Darius, always going on long walks with him to engage in deep conversation. Miles was responsible for keeping The Darius’ room behind the pond in perfect condition. He had dark black shabby hair and a nervous habit of moving his bangs behind his ear during any conversation. He also wore a short-sleeved white shirt but with red loose pants rather than the beige that The Darius wore. Miles was very tall and his dark eyes kept a secret never told. He was to guide me on my Journey to Freedom.
“The Entrance phase is one of learning. We have wonderful activities and sessions here that will lead us all to the ultimate path, The Light. We take pride in what we do here. You will not find anything like this on the outside.”
This was exactly what I was searching for, a reason to live. Every step I took confirmed to me that I was meant to be there. Miles started by giving me a tour of the entirety of Freedom House. The living space was where meditation sessions took place. This is also where everyone slept. There were no televisions, computers, or phones allowed. The living space had one large bright blue and white rug. There were square orange pillows around the perimeter of each wall. Nothing was hung on any walls, as this would slow down our Journey to Freedom. We were free of distractions and only had ourselves, our minds, and each other.
The living space had an open archway leading into the kitchen. Penelope, the Freedom House chef, was always prepping and cooking meals for each day. She had short pixie blonde hair, earrings from top to bottom along each ear, and bright blue eyes. She was extremely thin and wore an apron with only panties underneath. She greeted everyone with a smile; purely happy to serve them the food she created. There were usually others on chore duty in the kitchen with her. We were only to eat natural food at Freedom House. Everyone was to convert to a diet solely of vegetables with the exception of fresh bread each day. There was no alcohol, drugs, or tobacco allowed on the property. We were to feed our body and minds the purest forms of food and liquid. This would keep our minds clear so we could reach The Light. I remembered then that when I first met Miles he was smoking a cigarette and I wondered why he would smoke if it were forbidden.
Opposite of the kitchen was another archway leading into a hallway. A long white rug ran down the depths of the hallway and stopped at the end where a large red door face. We started with the different rooms. The first door on the left was the carpentry room. “This is where our carpenters create for The Darius.”
The next room to the left was for yoga. Each day, every person was required to do 30 minutes of yoga. The room was bright, with one large window bare of curtains and blue mats were laid out along a smooth wood floor. There was a large full body mirror that spanned the room.
“Meet our yoga instructor, Sky. She has been with us from the beginning.” She had long red curly hair that was pulled back into a thick braid. Her bangs hung right over her eyebrows and she had dim freckles along her smooth soft cheeks that looked like they were tossed gently onto her face. She wore a white bikini top with red flowing pants.
“Welcome.” Sky immediately reached her hand to my face and touched my cheek. “We really believe in the power of breathing and movement. This brings peace to our minds and bodies and allows us to do the work of The Darius. I will see you later today.”
Miles led me to the bathroom. The bathroom had been redesigned for expansion. To the left were two sinks and mirrors. In the far, left corner was the toilet. On the right side was a small entrance into the shower. The shower had multiple showerheads along the wall in a wide, open space. “We shower in groups altogether. We believe in the highest form of freedom absent from judgement. This builds our sense of community as we do everything together and share the experience as one.”
On the other side of the hallway, across from the bathroom, there was only one door. “We use this room for The Love stage of the Journey to Freedom.” When Miles opened this door, my breath escaped me. Inside there was a sun roof window, light rays shone down angelically onto a large mattress overtaken by a fluffy white comforter and adorned with pillows of all sizes. Small throw rugs ran from the walls toward the mattress in the center. “Once you reach The Love stage, we will revisit this room.”
Then we arrived at the end of the hallway. In front of me stood the large wooden red door and carved on the front was that mysterious symbol. “This door is always locked and only The Darius and a few others have access to it.”
“What’s in there?” I asked.
“Once you reach the end of The Free stage, you will find out. Now it’s time to learn about our daily schedule. Let’s head back to the kitchen.”
The Freedom House ran on a structured schedule where everyone was either working for the community or participating in communal activities. Each person was assigned chores each day and activities. First thing in the morning, we all meditated in the living space. Meditation was always led by The Darius. The Darius only came into the main house for meditation and sometimes went into The Love room. Anytime he entered the main house, the aura he brought with him was overpowering. He always walked slowly, observing every little thing around him. Sometimes he touched and smelled the flowers outside before entering or he would approach people and hold out his hands which was his way of welcoming silent eye contact for minutes at a time. It was an honor to be approached by The Darius. He had a way of making us each feel special. Members would crowd around him and just follow him.
After morning meditation, we all showered. I was nervous at first, my fourteen-year-old premature body made me feel insecure. I remember the first time I ever showered at Freedom House. Everyone crowded to the bathroom. Each person helped one another get undressed, smiling and laughing together. Miles helped me and took my shirt off. I had never seen a man naked before. When you are completely exposed in a group, you feel both liberated and vulnerable. Each person had a partner who scrubbed the other clean, cleansing us all of any distractions and of our past.
After showers, we checked the schedule to see where we were assigned for the day. We were all eager to begin each day and contribute to The Freedom House. I couldn’t wait to see where I had been placed that first day. Miles led me to the schedule hanging in the kitchen, the only thing hanging in the entire house. “Ivy, your assigned to the garden. Head out to the front and I will meet you back here for lunch.” Miles held his hands out to me, palms up, and I placed my hands into his. He held them with an intimacy of someone I knew for years.
I made my way out the front door, down the small stoned path, past the gazebo, and to the garden. Standing in front of the garden was a young man wearing a white short sleeved shirt and red pants. He wore a straw hat and was clean shaven. “You must be Ivy. I have been expecting you. You can call me Simon.”
Simon reached out his hand to beckon mine. He held my hand and walked me into the garden. “Here is where we grow the food that purify our bodies and minds.”
-Written by Sterp
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My Mantra: Strive to be the best me and improve a little every day. Be compassionate, especially to those who may not practice it. Continue to learn and love. Take a moment multiple times each day to breathe. Forgive myself and forgive others. Read books. Live what I preach. Accept others. And above all, laugh every single day. (P.S. I have an infatuation for horror and disturbing and dark true stories.)