A journey to India for meditation and enlightenment in late November 2008 turned into a terrorist bloodbath that left 164 people dead throughout multiple locations in Mumbai. Among them were a father and daughter from Synchronicity Foundation in Nelson County.
Days later, the modern spirituality community made international news again when the mother’s response was compassion and forgiveness to those who killed her family.
Alan Scherr and his 13-year-old daughter, Naomi, were staying at the luxurious Oberoi Hotel when they were slain and four other members of Synchronicity were wounded.
Charles Cannon, known as Master Charles to his followers, was there November 26, 2008, and remained barricaded in his 12th-floor suite for nearly two days. Eight years later, he recalls, “Of course it was a horrendous experience of being in a terrorist context when you have no history of that. It hit us hard when two of our members were killed and four seriously injured.”
Upon his return to the United States, he and Kia Scherr, who lost her husband and daughter in the attack, held a press conference. She attributed her calm demeanor to years of meditation training at Synchronicity that allowed her to remain balanced during a time of personal tragedy.
“In the aftermath, we were compassionate and forgiving of the terrorists,” says Cannon. “We got literally thousands of responses from people wanting to know how we can do that.”
He wrote a book, Forgiving the Unforgivable, and says sharing his philosophy of a balanced and spiritual life has “radically increased” his audience and the number of people coming to Synchronicity for retreats.
Scherr spends most of her time in India, staying in the same hotel where the attack occurred, and is president of One Life Alliance, which focuses on children in third-world countries who are often uneducated and marginalized, says Cannon.
Children are sold by their parents and groomed to be terrorists, which he says was the case in the Mumbai attacks.
The State Department had a psychiatrist who was an expert in post-traumatic stress disorder meet with all the Americans after they were rescued from the Oberoi. “He took me through the process, and educated us on how that’s going to play out the next few years,” says Cannon.
The psychiatrist was impressed with the Synchronicity group and how well they handled the experience, “a testament to our lifestyle of meditation,” says Cannon.
The members didn’t require specialized therapy and had “very minimal post-traumatic stress,” he says.
With the upcoming anniversary of the attacks, Synchronicity held an open house and commemorative program November 13 at its facility on Adail Road in Nellysford, where sightings of the Blessed Mother still take place, according to Cannon.
“The Blessed Mother and I have a long history that started when I was 3 years old,” he says. “My life has been a journey trying to understand it.”
In the facility’s meditation hall, a statue of the Blessed Mother, whom Cannon calls a “divine feminine archetype,” stands to the left of the raised platform. Attired in a white tunic and scarf, he speaks to his followers. After donning headphones for high-tech meditation with ambient sounds, the three dozen or so attendees line up to approach Cannon with a bow and to be blessed.
The occasion also provided an opportunity to unveil his latest book, Living an Awakened Life: The Lessons of Love, which offers 52 weekly explorations of a life based on modern spirituality.