Update: Since the premiere of the Scientology Network, a 45-minute long walk-through was made of the entire Flag base, showing the public-facing and internal facilities of the church, including quick glimpses of my family in there too. Please do have a look as it gives a fabulous overview of what Flag is and does.
This winter I took a trip to Clearwater, Florida with my family to take Scientology services at the spiritual headquarters of the Scientology religion, known as the Flag Service Organization or simply “Flag”. I wanted to tell you a bit about the trip itself, as I think it should add a bit of color and insight into the life of a Scientology family. I’d previously described the trip that we took to Los Angeles so that my wife could partake in Scientology services there. On that trip I ran child activities so my wife could focus in on her services, and on this trip the roles were reversed.
The reasons why people take trips to Flag are as varied as people themselves. Being both the largest Scientology organization in the world, as well as its most advanced, Flag provides Scientology parishioners with not only same counseling and study opportunities as local churches of Scientology around the world, but also has a vast array of Flag-only services which each have their own particular purpose and appropriate use depending on the person. For me, my purpose for going to Flag was for Scientology counseling (called auditing), with the intention of reaching the State of Clear. (see explainer link here on what it means to “go Clear”)
Flag itself is a fairly massive complex of buildings. The majority of the work that Scientologists do at Flag takes place either at the Flag Building – the home of most Scientology training & auditing spaces, or at the Flag Advanced Org, a building a few blocks away where more advanced services are taken. This video here gives a good overview of what Flag is and what it consists of:
Flag also provides a number of options for lodging for parishioners coming in for service, including the historic Fort Harrison hotel as well as several others around downtown Clearwater. My family has split time, staying sometimes in the Fort Harrison, sometimes at the recently-renovated Oak Cove (which has fantastic views of the Gulf of Mexico), as well as staying with my wife’s godsister – a lifelong friend of the family.
My job as an IT engineer allows me to work remotely, so I scheduled my auditing sessions around my work, and also gave myself time to take frequent outings with the family to the beach, and to also spend time with my sister and mother who have worked at Flag for nearly the last 20 years, and are members of the Sea Organization, the religious order of the church. And they’re some of my favorite people in the entire world.
My trip to Flag was in two chunks – a few weeks before Thanksgiving on my own, and then I came down after Christmas with the rest of my family. My dad, who works at the Founding Church of Scientology in Washington, DC, had also flown down as well, so I got to not only have a family vacation with my kids, but also my own family as well, which was a treat.
The family time I got to spend, and the fresh air I got at the beach was only the icing on the cake, and that “cake” was the amazing Scientology services I partook in while at Flag. Being that it is a religious retreat, the entire organization at Flag is aligned around making for a perfect, distraction-free experience while one pursues the spiritual goals one’s there for.
I wrote at some length in the article I recently wrote about attaining the State of Clear, what it was that I did in the auditing I did at Flag, and what it meant for me personally, as a husband, and as a father. I’ll not repeat that here, but to say it was life-changing would be a travesty of an understatement. The clarity of thought, the absence of untoward impulses and feelings I can’t understand or control and do not want, the love I feel for my family and my friends, it’s just been a fantastic journey for me and worth every second I’ve put into getting there. So many people in this world feel they have to learn to “cope” with these shortcomings and limitations, and it’s just a miracle to be able to be at a point of causation, confront, peace and understanding about myself.
That brings me to that very pertinent question I’ve gotten asked, which is: “Is it worth it?” In this case, I could compare this “vacation” that I took to any number of vacations that my IT-worker friends take on a regular basis. One could go to New Zealand or Bali rent a sailboat in the Azores or have fun blowing a massive bunch of money on a lavish gambling spree in Macao. Everyone’s got their own idea of what would comprise a “good time” or the “best vacation ever” and what would be “worth it”. A lot of these people arrive back to work after a few weeks away, a bit refreshed (or hungover) from the time away from work, but aside from that, not having any particular lasting valuable aside from some great photos.
For me, the most important thing in my life is to be the best dad, the best husband that I can be. I want to do that for my kids, I want to make sure they have a dad that is present, caring, and supportive. I have seen other people grow up with parents who are so engrossed in their own messes that they have no time to spend quality time as parents. I’ve seen too many parents that want nothing more than an escape away from the kids.
But having gotten a chance to not only spend quality time in a lovely environment with family and to make myself into a better daddy, that really did indeed just make this the best trip I’ve ever taken.