Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
It's a crisp Wednesday evening and we're unknowingly late for our very first Full Circle experience—fittingly, a class that's all about "leaving linear time and [meeting] the part of yourself which already has access to your future state." Call it synchronicity or whatever (really, it's just a matter of user error in GCal scheduling on our part), but nobody seems to notice when we tiptoe into the center's sky-high space a half-hour into the Future Self Meditation and Sound Healing session.
By now, you've heard about the Venice-based spiritual community led by frequent Bop magazine cover subject Andrew Keegan, star of such '90s teen titles as 10 Things I Hate About You. Most recently, the mystic hippie magnet made headlines when it was busted for illegal kombucha (more on all of the above later), but what hasn't quite made the internet rounds is a first-hand experience of what the guru himself (but please, don't call him that) later explains is "a place of center-ness."
We'll admit that it all sounded a bit hippie-dippie, Source Family-esque to us at first. But as the old adage once encouraged, "don't knock it before you try it"—so naturally, we decide to do some soul-searching in the name of science.
After cursing our Newtonian understanding of space and time—which we blame for that minor time management fail—we claim a spot on the outskirts of the circle of mostly Millennial-aged people. Later, Keegan will comment that the number of people in the room is 33 (a "master" figure in numerology) and that it's "Back to the Future Day." Our minds are somewhat blown, if not very intrigued.
Everyone's sitting cross-legged atop yoga mats surrounding an altar of candles and crystals, and on the stage is meditation leader Peter Oppermann (who also teaches at Unplug) and "sound healer" Torkom Ji. Behind them, there's a trippy painting illuminated by a blacklight; on one wall, a spirograph-like light projection swirls over the stained-glass window. The sesh begins with some deep inhalations and exhalations and everyone shuts their eyes, eventually laying down as the meditation progresses.
Oppermann narrates us through a series of journeys, and it's at this point that our imaginations (and attention) really get put to the test. We suddenly remember that scene from the quirky French blockbuster Amélie in which the cheeky star turns to see her fellow moviegoers in awe at the screen. We can't resist the urge to lift an eyelid and catch the entire room in a zen-like state in the midst of Torkom's buzzing beats; but being the focused, scientifically-grounded researchers that we are, we quickly re-route ourselves back onto the very important path of soul seeking. (Okay, we peeked a few more times after that.)
We're then told to envision a suburban street lined with homes (we imagine non-descript tract housing as seen in Irvine or the TV series, the Leftovers), where each of our "future selves" resides. Oppermann instructs us to walk up to the front door and invite our future selves on a jaunt to the market, and it's at this point that our meditation n00b-ness makes our present selves doze into a nap. Oops.
Miraculously, our minds are awakened by Oppermann's ominous voice, telling us to imagine ourselves rising up to the atmosphere and looking down on the rest of the mortals in Venice. After floating back down to earth, we slowly open our eyes (and indulge in some deep yawning) and are told to connect with another nearby meditator to discuss our mental journey through suburban enlightenment. Being the non-touchy-feely types that we are, all of this talk about emotions and feelings and the like start to make us feel, well, all weird inside—but we're here to step out of our comfort zone, yeah?
This is all followed by a sort of "sharing time," the kind of thing that made our stage fright-strickened kindergartener selves take a perfectly-timed bathroom break. Luckily, it's all voluntary; we sit tight-lipped as the group is encouraged to blurt out a word of intention. "Prosperity," says one person across the room; "balance" is another affirmation, and after a dozen or so people, "trust" is the last to be uttered. We think of the word "dinner." Then there's another short participation session in which we all hold hands, take deep breaths, and chant "Ommmmmm" loudly three times.
It's almost 10pm at this point, and all of this brain juicing has us ready for a nine-hour nap. We'd tell you everything that our future self revealed, but that's like giving you the key to our 7th grade diary. (Sorry.) That night, we sleep babies—babies that are assured that the future is rightfully aligned, or something. Also, we vow to assess our scheduling skills.
To get a better sense of Full Circle's vibes, we meet up with Keegan a few days later and chat more about that kombucha debacle and how he feels about being dubbed a "guru," among other things. Sitting inside the now-empty spiritual space—a 110-year-old former church most recently known as a Hare Krishna temple—with executive director Jason Dilts, he tells us what really went down at that raid.
"It was very damaging," says Keegan. "I was not arrested, as multiple outlets [reported]," he says. Dilts explains that a third-party vendor was cited for selling the fermented drink without a permit, and that Keegan wasn't even on-site during the event, which was a fundraiser for the marine conservation organization Sea Shepherd. The two tell us there's an ongoing lawsuit against certain media outlets in regards to how the raid was reported—and for the record, yes, there's even a chance of an official endeavor into kombucha. (Can't say we didn't have ideas.)
At some point, we divulge a dirty little secret that could possibly date us: somewhere in our needs-to-be-KonMari'd garage is a VHS tape (egads, analog!) of 10 Things I Hate About You. Of course, we have to ask Keegan if he's embarrassed by his former life as the object of tweens's affections.
"Considering how much it's come up, the embarrassment has been beat out of me," he admits. "It's always endearing because there's a nostalgic quality to that part of my history. This was now 15, 16 years ago when, for a lot of the audience we're offering this idea [of our community and] energy to, it was a pivotal time in life."
About Full Circle's cult-like comparisons, Keegan notes that "anybody who has walked in the door has a completely difference experience." Sure, he's aged quite gracefully, but he's far from the celebrity prophet that's been oft described in online media. In fact, hardly anyone seems to profess the breed of creepy undying devotion that other Manson-like spiritual founders have commanded. At the very least, the accusations have given him "some good ideas for Halloween costumes." (Father Yod, maybe?)
"As it exists in the paradigm and dynamics of humans, there's a great need for leadership; there's also a great need for collective leadership," Keegan notes. "Albeit clearly I am in the position of being responsible for finances and other much more direct ways, we initiated this project as a co-creative model, meaning we really have committed to the importance that everybody feels fully involved and fully responsible in their part of [its] creation."
While yes, the center is in a space that once housed the Church of England, Full Circle is not a religion. That statue of the Indian god Ganesh inside the space? Keegan points out that there's "a light association" with Hinduism, "but this space is really here for people to explore without [anyone] necessarily driving home a specific agenda. Come as you are, take from this, and give what you like—we're all in the same cultural revolution together [as far as] what we want out of this experience."
So maybe we're fully drinking the Keegan kool-aid (errrr, kombucha?), but the "non-denominational spiritual community center" is more aligned with Hollywood yoga haven Wanderlust than yet another celebrity-worshipping commune. However, we're no experts in the latter, so perhaps that's another adventure in science?