Inside my Family’s Month-Long Trip to Florida for Scientology Services

Our whole family recently spent a month at Flag, the Scientology religious retreat in Clearwater, Florida, and as it was the most rejuvenating experience I’ve ever had for my marriage, my family, and for me personally, I figured I’d share a bit about the experience.

What is Flag?

The Church of Scientology Flag Building in Clearwater, on New Year’s Eve. This is the main building where parishioners like us do Scientology services while at Flag.

First, before getting into what we did, why we did it, and what it was like, I should first talk a bit about Flag. The Flag Land Base is the largest church of Scientology in the world, and is a place where Scientologists from around the world come to take part in counseling and training services, some of which are exclusively delivered at Flag.

Incorrectly characterized by many, including Wikipedia, as the “international headquarters” of the church (no church management happens there at all), it is more factually a “spiritual headquarters” in that it is a central home to Scientologists from across the globe who visit Flag for reasons as diverse as people are themselves.

This video tour from Scientology Network gives the most in-depth, behind-the-scenes tour of the facility and its many purposes, and I’d encourage you to give it a watch.

Why we planned a trip to Flag for our Family

To give context as to why it is that we traveled to Flag from our Oregon home in the first place, I should first restate one of the most significant reasons my wife and I enjoy being Scientologists in the first place (reasoning I talked about in my video interview I’d done about Scientology auditing here).

That reason, is that I love that Scientology gives one the ability to constantly improve oneself. It gives one opportunities to find things in life that aren’t going as well as they could, to massively improve them, then have a WHOLE NEW set of problems, and then to figure out how to better attack those.

We’ve got three kids that we’re raising, we’ve got a marriage (that TURNS 20 THIS YEAR!) which we’re always looking to improve, multiple work ventures, volunteer efforts, etc. It’s a lot we’re always looking to tackle, and we love that we have a religion that we can constantly turn to for effective help to get us constantly in a more causative and effective position to tackle our goals.

Or make bigger ones. 🙂

The wife and I while on the train bound for Florida

What We Did

So here’s what we did: instead of planning a “vacation” over the holidays, as many do, we instead started planning last spring for a month-long stay in Florida at Flag. Both my wife and I planned on doing Scientology services that would take weeks, so I planned to work remotely basically the whole time we were there while taking part in services at the church on a daily basis.

Family with the Amtrak Silver Star
The family and our Amtrak Silver Star train to Tampa, taking a break at Orlando station.

We left home in November, first flying to Washington, DC, where we had our Thanksgiving with family that we have in the DC area. We then piled ourselves and the three kids onto the Amtrak Silver Star train that took us from DC Union Station down to Tampa, where we were picked up by a shuttle from Flag.

Our plans involved staying at the historic Fort Harrison hotel during our stay, while my wife and I did our services. Our older two kids, who have been in and around Churches of Scientology in DC and Portland since they were newborns, also wanted to use the trip to Flag to take their own first services, which I’ll talk more about in a bit.

My mom and my sister are in the Sea Organization, as staff members of the Flag Service Organization, so we used our time down there to take a number of day trips with them, as well as spending Christmas and New Year’s Eve with them as well. My dad, who works at the Church of Scientology in DC, also came down while we were there, so we were able to have Christmas with him as well.

My dad, my sister and her husband, my mom and our whole family celebrating the holidays together at Flag

It was basically a perfect family trip.

Doing Services Together at Flag – the ULTIMATE Marriage Tune-Up

The family crossing over the skybridge from the Fort Harrison hotel over to the Flag Building where our Scientology services were done.

The primary goal of our trip to Flag, from a Scientology perspective, was for us both to do a service called the Cause Resurgence Rundown.

In Scientology, a “rundown” is defined as a series of related actions which culminate in a specific end result. The Cause Resurgence Rundown is an action which helps boost an individual’s level of cause and control, rehabilitates one’s ability to generate one’s own energy, and eliminate barriers to one being able to control one’s own life.

There are two things I want to say about this, and the first is about the Cause Resurgence Rundown itself, and what it was like for me.

First, you should know that I’m a systems architect by trade, and all day I work on designing, developing, debugging and consulting upon big cloud internet stuff. It’s not the most physical activity. But working all day in front of a computer screen, sometimes I’d find myself entirely unable to muster the energy to, say, think of what I was going to say at a conference. But then, I could easily go outside and split & stack a half-cord of firewood, go for a long bike ride, and still have energy to spare. What’s up with that?

It was through this action, though, that I really came into an ability to control my own personal energy output, and direct it at my choosing. It’s an amazing ability, and given my line of work, it’s so incredibly useful.

But that leads me into the second thing I wanted to say about this, in that getting a chance to do this and other Flag services alongside my wife was simply the best single thing we’ve ever done to tune up our marriage.

The wife and I out for a just-us bike ride on the Tampa-Clearwater Causeway.

A marriage is all about shared goals, purposes, plans and targets, and working with each other as a team to achieve them. The progression of changes we both had while doing our services and study at Flag just made for a cascading series of shared realizations, shared viewpoints, new plans and a vigor toward attaining them that just made it the most rejuvenating thing we’ve ever done as a couple. We’ve been over 20 years together, and we’ve never just “taken it easy”, opting instead for tons of tough goals: working together as church staff members, supporting each other through numerous career changes, several cross-country moves, juggling three kids and volunteer work, etc. And goodness, even with the ups and downs that come with all that, I’ve never been more excited to spend my life with that woman than I am now – and when I got married 20 years ago I was pretty freaking excited.

But I wanted to bring the second point there up in the context of why some people take vacations. They try to relieve the stress of the workaday world and “get away” for a while. Some might try to escape using a mixture of booze and beach time, but then returning to work you’ve still got the same baggage you left with. With this trip we returned home totally energized and ready to attack the year, which was glorious.

The Kids and their Scientology Services

My gymnastically-inclined daughter and how she’d tend to show up for her day’s work at the Purification Center in the Scientology Flag Building

Last spring, when we were first planning out how this trip was going to go, we figured that if the kids wanted, they could use our time down there to do their own Scientology services, if that was something they were down for. Well, it turned out they both rather enthusiastically wanted to, so the older two kids both did the Purification Rundown while we were there at Flag.

I wrote a bit more about the Purification Rundown here, but essentially all Scientology counseling practice is based on a first fundamental of a person being able to consider his own present and past without being encumbered by the harmful acute and residual effects of chemicals and drugs. Therefore, the Purif (as it’s generally referred-to) is done as a first step by everyone in Scientology before auditing. Even kids, though they’ve never (of course) had drugs or alcohol, they’ve been living in a city with legalized marijuana, they take bike rides along streets with vehicles belching all manner of smoke and awfulness, and there have been some hospital trips as well for the both of them.

The stringently-controlled regimen of exercise, vitamins, nutrition and time in the sauna frees one up from the effects of these substances, and went wonderfully smoothly for the kids to their entire satisfaction.

My daughter summed up the experience well, the day after she finished the Purif, saying: “Dad, I’m…I’m just happy all the time right now. I just feel really really great. I’m really glad I did that.”

Yep, that’s about all I’m looking for as a parent, anyhow. 🙂

Fabulous New Friends from Around the World

A wonderful facet of our time at Flag was not only the numbers of old friends that we got to connect with, but the new friends we all made.

All of our kids ended up making new friends from all corners of the globe. Whereas before, I had a hard time interesting the kids at all in learning any portion of a foreign language, my daughter started coming home telling me how to say a number of interesting phrases in Czech.

The best thing about the friends the kids made at Flag, though, were how amazingly clean these kids were. As a parent, you really do want your kids hanging around with the right crowd, and these kids they met were all facile communicators with buoyant spirits and were just wonderful to be around.

The only downside now is having to buy stamps for all the penpal action.

Would I Do It Again?

Well, after only two weeks of being there, my wife and I were already fervently planning how we could do a repeat. Almost every day, we’d turn to each other and go, “Hon, this was a really really good idea. We need to make a practice of doing this more.”

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