I Slept with My Guru.

Via on Mar 16, 2011

(Here’s Part One)

Part II: Stop Practicing

For the next three months I had the most complex relationship of my life with this man who I surrendered to as my guru.  Over the time together, he asked me why I was practicing asana.

I responded, “to quiet my mind.” 

“Is it working?”

“No.”

Then stop.

At that time, I had been practicing yoga asana for 11 years, and practicing daily for 7.  I had no idea how much was wrapped up in my practice until I was asked to give it up.

All of a sudden I worried about getting fat—I had no idea that that was a part of why I was practicing. I was worried about not being a good person. My life might be shitty, but at least I am a good person because I practice yoga two hours a day.  And now, if I don’t practice, then who am I?

This neurosis confirmed to me that this was a necessary, if temporary abstinence practice. I didn’t want my self-image and identity to be based on my yoga asana practice.  I wanted to address these deeper wounds that I had apparently been concealing or glossing over with practice.

From then on my sadhana would be 4:00am chanting—(4am is considered the most auspicious time for practice—Brahma mahurta) and meditation.  All my action, words, behaviors, were game for correction, instruction and dismantling.

I was game. I believed that he had wisdom and access to information, knowledge and connection worthy of my surrender.

Old School-Style

Any time of night I could be woken up and tested for the Sanskrit verses I was memorizing. When I went to the bathroom, I had to leave the door open, and he would comment on how I flushed.  If I did not learn something after the first exposure, then I was not offered that piece of knowledge again. For instance, if we were walking in the morning and he started humming a tune for a bit,  he would ask me to recall it at night. If I did not recall it, it was gone.

And I wanted every morsel of knowledge he had to offer.

Bad.

So it mattered to me.

On the other hand, although he had scoffed at my yoga asana practice and asked me to abandon it, whenever he paraded me around chanting, he always asked me to demonstrate Surya Namaskar for the small audience.  Despite intense allergy problems, if he awoke before dawn, he did so to help me strengthen my sadhana and break through resistance.

My learning was his first priority.

The Bigger Problem

The bigger problem was that he fell in love with me.

I was living in the house of the philosophy he built. So if the body is not real, why do I have preference?

Why do I allow some people to touch my body and not others?

Why do I not recognize his love as purer than any I have received before and therefore offer myself completely to him?

And why do I have so many prejudices against sexual relations with an Indian, a man older than my father?

Is Intuition Real?

All I knew was deep in my gut, I wanted a teacher, not a lover or a husband.

That is not how I felt about our relationship. But in our studies together, he taught me that intuition does not exist. That intuition is actually a refinement of observations—very small, detailed ones that our subconscious mind collects and that our conscious mind can learn to recognize when we refine our awareness.  He said that we have hunches all the time, but we only call it intuition when the hunches are right. We have tons that are wrong that we never express. If you observe this, it is true.

So my intuition, which I had fought to reclaim on a solo journey to India 10 years prior (ironically) after being date raped in college, was under suspicion again.

Somehow as much as I wanted this knowledge and had been craving an intense student/teacher relationship, I could not accept the demand of total surrender of myself, including my physical body.

My guru pulled out all the stops. He told me I was not a true sadhaka.  He said he had nothing to teach me, because this work was on every level, every aspect of life, so what good would it be for him to teach me more of the sacred texts, chant more together, if I was so blocked, and blocking the true nature of our relationship.

So I left.

~

To read Part One, go here.

…to be continued in Part 3: the Road Back

.

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About Kimberly Johnson

Kimberly Johnson is a yogini nomad who recently put the earth boots on for motherhood. After a lengthy love affair with India, she was relieved to fall in love with Brazil, a Brazilian and now lives in Rio de Janeiro with her 5 year old Brazilian daughter. She leads retreats on the most beautiful place on earth- Ilha Grande, an island with 100 beaches and no cars, leads teacher trainings, and tries not to pronounce Sanskrit with a Portuguese accent. Rearranged by childbirth in every way, she travels, teaches and learns about what yoga has to do with womanhood. She just released a CD of mantra Saudades da India. and recently hosted her first online course, Yoga for Back and Neck care.

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49 Responses to “I Slept with My Guru.”

  1. poppymama says:

    That's not a guru – what you just described is a cult leader. And an abuser.

  2. Lamp says:

    You are not the first female I've known to have put a large amount of trust into a guru-like figure only to have him put the moves on her

  3. Rachel says:

    GOOD FOR YOU! Fair enough to try to reach you but to abuse one's power to get access to an area that is sacred on it's own account is wrong. He taught you something amazing, to sand on your own against someone who is supposed to be "all wise." To trust your limits and yourself. That will take you a long way

  4. jenfnp says:

    Sorry this happened to you. From what I hear from others, it is not uncommon. Unethical, yes, uncommon, no.
    Not sure I agree with his teachings either.

  5. zuko says:

    love your bio! gratitude for sharing your story…

  6. boulderwind says:

    I am happily guru-less now. One after one I saw them fall either from sex, money, or power. My first guru (and perhaps my true guru- did I just contradict myself?) died a short time after I had met him. And I did not have a personal relationship with him and there were PLENTY of problems in his community. I came along after the worst of it because I was drawn to the silence I felt from his meditation techniques. Blessings on your healing journey. All the rest of the teachers who came later, well they all eventually fell from grace, so I am only left with myself. Which by leaving his body so soon after I met him is what my original guru tried to teach me. I guess I was a slow learner.

    • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

      Great lesson to learn. Any *real* guru is only interested in your learning that (in one form or another) anyway. And better to learn it slow than not at all…

  7. Sybil says:

    For the life of me, I can't imagine why I would desire a guru. Although there are probably some healthy guru relationships – it reminds me too much of religious whack-jobs. I've been exposed to enough of them in my life – no thanks.

    I was at a retreat a few months ago and the resident swami told the story of her guru's guru's guru who ran through the forest in a diaper with no concern for what others thought – - – showing his arse to those that displeased him – - total inhibition – - blah blah blah. This swami was actually impressed with this behavior and worshiped him (and expected us to worship him also).

    Now, perhaps I missed something – but my question to my yoga teacher (who also attended this retreat) is "why would I want to follow the teachings of a man who ran around in a diaper, didn't speak coherently and treated others with distain?" . There is nothing in that description that seems appealing to me.

    Brainwashing isn't my scene. Perhaps I need to drink a different flavor of koolaid (and yes……I know that is a distasteful reference to many of you).

  8. TouchstoneZ says:

    Thank you for this brave post. This is so interesting to me. I have met some other people's Gurus who are famous. I have had some wonderful teachers in my life and even a few perspective Gurus for me. But, I've never taken the plunge because that surrender seems to much to me like losing my Self as I, like you, have previous experience with. Perhaps that is something within me, that I do not know how to surrender without being consumed, but if so, it is not something I would like to learn about since learning about it would mean experiencing it.

  9. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    Abuse takes many forms. Emotional, psychological, financial, sexual, physical… etc.
    The one who is abused attracts the one who needs to abuse. The 'victim' attracts the abuser because the victim has weak boundaries, and the abuser can 'sense' people with weak boundaries, much like a dog can smell fear.That's why people are never abused just once. It happens many times until the cycle is broken.

    • Rebecca says:

      "The one who is abused attracts the one who needs to abuse."

      That, I'm afraid, is complete crap.

      • 13thfloorelevators says:

        What do you believe that statement says? Do you not think that an abuser is attracted to the victim in some way?

  10. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    Hi Laura,
    I base my comment on a great deal of experience.
    Firstly, I suffered from abuse for about 30 years. Then I healed the trauma of that abuse in myself, and finally I became a therapist and healer. I specialize in abuse. So trust me, I really know what I'm talking about here… I do see though that my comment above was rather vague, so please let me clarify.
    Abuse is cyclical. It is a pattern. It almost always runs in the family (is ancestral). And actually, there is no such thing as abuser or victim, because usually a person is both – the victim (in some way) very often takes out their suffering on another… thus perpetuating the cycle.
    Now, I am NOT talking only about sexual abuse. That is only one type of many types of abuse. As I said above, abuse can take many forms – emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, financial abuse, and so on. And abuse is TOTALLY subjective: some people's abuse is other people's pleasure (think S+M).
    I define abuse as a violation of boundaries.
    There no blame in my comment – you perhaps misunderstood me. I don't blame anyone. Actually, you blame the abuser, and I don't, I pity them, because I know that they suffer as much as the 'victim'.
    However, it is true what I wrote above – the 'victim' does attract abuse by having poor boundaries. Even though someone you work with doesn't tell you about other instances of abuse does not mean that there were none. Especially since they may not even realize that they have been abused. They may be telling you about an instance of (so called) 'serious' abuse, like domestic violence, and overlooking the fact that their business partner cheated them. Both are abuse though.
    It is not true what you say – that we are all vulnerable to abuse. I am no longer vulnerable to abuse, and neither are many of my clients. When you clear the trauma of past abuse (so you no longer feel like a victim) and strengthen your boundaries, you no longer attract it. You step into your power and simply cannot be abused.
    With love, Ben

    • so then in theory a "powerful" person could overpower the random sociopath abuser…bc I'm thinking that even someone who has healed the abuse from the inside out is still vulnerable, as is every other human being, from the random nutjob attacker….and I get what your saying but I think comparing an abused person to a fear smelling dog, is a bit harsh

      • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

        Replying to Searching4soul – "A random nutjob attacker" – sure, no one is safe from someone that is really off the rails. But those people are very rare let's face it. On the other hand, what we are talking about here is abuse, and it's something that is more widespread in our society than almost anyone dare imagine.

        • so we are a society with weak boundaries?? thats something i can grasp..

          • Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

            It's very interesting to put it like that – I've never thought of it from that perspective, but yes, I suppose we really are a society with weak boundaries. Or perhaps more accurate would be to say that we are a society made up mostly of people that have weak boundaries.
            I'm writing an article about abuse and I'll publish it here on Ele. I think you'll find it very interesting. It won't get many readers though because no one likes to acknowledge abuse – it's taboo – but there you go :)

          • I changed my name to my real name (sort of) so this is still searching4soul….I can't wait to read your article! thanks

          • Kimberly Johnson kajyoga says:

            to jennifer and ben,

            which is the society that you refer to with weak boundaries? i am assuming it is the US.

            isn't the human path one of differentiation from moment one, at conception and birth?
            a continual process of testing boundaries and discovering which are important and which are not.

    • Olivia says:

      "You blame the abuser, and I dont, I pity them, because I know that they suffer as much as the 'victim'"

      I have to say, I totally disagree

      Also, you say that the victim has poor boundaries. I would say the abuser has poor boundaries. It is the abuser who oversteps a boundary, therefore it is them who has the boundary problem.

      Look at abuse victims who are very young children. You cannot say that they the abuse was because of their boundary problems, they are too young to have developed boundaries. They are not vulnerable to abuse because they "attract" it- they are vulnerable to abuse simply because they are very young and completely powerless.

  11. Just posted to "Featured Today" on the new Elephant Yoga homepage.

  12. boulderwind says:

    Thank you Laura. Enough of this "spiritual" victim blaming. It is utter BS in my opinion. I see a lot of "oh that person's (name it) house burned down, got cancer, is a beggar on the street corner, has sick kids, was abused , etc. etc. because they were a really bad person in a past life" and an utter lack of compassion for suffering. I suppose when faced with the awareness that unbearable suffering is occurring, it is tempting to get all New Age-y about it and rationalize how that person somehow deserved it or brought it on themselves. Then we do not need to feel their pain. I am sure there are those rationalizing the Japanese tragedy in much the same manner. Blech!

    • boulderwind says:

      But I will also say that predators look for a certain sort of person. Someone who is more "open", someone who will keep secrets, someone whom they can "groom" and not everyone is susceptible to that but many learn about these predatory abusers the hard way, unfortunately. And some are so skilled at manipulating that they can fool even the most discerning person.

  13. Kimberly Johnson kajyoga says:

    Thanks for your presence here Indra- I appreciate you and your writing!

  14. noname says:

    What Ben says is correct. People misinterpret an objective view of the cycle that causes abuse as victim bashing when in fact it is true that people that have been abused often find the same abuse elsewhere. Battered women often if they leave the relationship end up in another abusive one that is a fact. The healing has to take place within first then the rest falls into place. As I read this I was struck by the naivety of the involvement with the "guru" and need to have someone else a man teach you including flushing? Wouldn't that be a sign for the exit door. I spend lot of time in India. I'm a woman. I travel alone. I actually have a guru and it's the most precious of relationships if you attract the real thing (and it's rarely a normal person with a book). There are many divine incarnations that are only here to heal humanity. The thing is…. you have to attract that into your life. When the student is ready the teacher appears. So no reason for guru bashing… there are enough of them that are crooked (and probably most) but interestingly, in 12 years of travel in India for long stays, I've met only one bad one. And I've had two teachers that have profoundly changed my life and the course of it and the level of joy and Love I experience in it. If you read the true journals of what a guru relationship is, it would be a good contrast to understand what it is not as is described here. It's in fact karmic and it's natural if you are ready for that "relationship" and it's not at all on the physical level. I'm an American and I had no problem kneeling at the feet of my teachers. It was the most amazing, humbling and profound experience nothing of which was foreign to me although I had never seen it before. In Irina Tweedie's book "Daughter of Fire" her 800 page journal of her time at the feet of a Sufi saint in India in the early '60's as a western woman in those conditions when she was 60+ in age. It is the most beautiful description of the longing for God and the process that happens non-verbally and the teaching non-verbally for the most part with a realized being and a true Saint (forget all the memorization and chanting – although I love it that is NOT what it's about). Her description is the polar opposite of the very naive experience described here. When we've been abused once there is healing that is needed on a deep level to free us from the cycle. Sadly people get the impression that these experiences have something to do with the state of gurus and it's always about the state of our own development. Obviously you've achieved a level of healing and moved on in your life, and that is a beautiful thing.

    • Kimberly Johnson kajyoga says:

      noname- why do you write anonymously?
      since this is a blog post, it is an abbreviated version of my experience. i do not
      get into the intricacies of the step-by-step process that were involved in my decision
      to enter a guru/siksha relationship. i also do not go into all of the mystical and revelatory
      doors that were open to me through my guru's teachings. nothing is black and
      white. i do not believe that reading the true journals as you recommend would have helped me
      prior to entering the relationship, nor do i believe they would help me now. i am neither naive nor
      ignorant. i actually have a very powerful discriminating mind. in addition, i obviously had a strong
      samskara with male authority and abuse of power. this experience was the most subtle form of abuse
      that i have experienced. it was extremely difficult to disentangle because there was such a
      powerful love and connection there.

      "Sadly people get the impression that these experiences have something to do with the state of gurus and it's always about the state of our own development."

      I do not blame my guru. I do not blame anyone. I see the experience as part of a intricate fabric that is my life and that has brought me to the point where I am now. My goal has never been to live a perfect life. I have lived fully and felt fully.

      I was surprised and sad about the arrogance in your comment. You seem to feel you are so different than me. That you found the right gurus and really get what this whole spiritual path is about. I prefer to think of us as walking the path together, and each no doubt has its own twists and turns, dead-ends, and some very long highways.

  15. Carol Horton Carol Horton says:

    Kimberly, I am so sorry that you had to go through this. It sounds awful. I believe that you should trust your intuition. It sounds like you did in fact end up doing so. And I would guess are doing so again in deciding to make this public. Wishing you all the best and many blessings. I have no doubt that you have much to teach others due to what you've been through.

  16. jaltucher says:

    Things happen. I'm sure its commonplace (whether you label it "abuse" or not) that students fall for gurus and vice versa. To be honest, most men would make horrible gurus. The temptations are probably too strong. But it doesn't sound like this guy was a good guru. When you say you "left" it sounds like you left every aspect of the relationship. Congratulations on a smart move.

  17. trapsas1 says:

    Wow, what a story. Got to agree with yoga-adan about "intuition"–when cultivated and listened to, it is absolutely the best guide we have on this earth. (As it enables you to pull from a greater, universal source of intelligence, that at best any guru can only match.) I am again reminded of the quote by Yogani: "The guru is in you." ~Tom (findingtheinnerway.com)

  18. Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the new Elephant Yoga homepage.

  19. Helena says:

    Kimberly, querida! Que bom receber notícias suas! Espero que a vida no Rio esteja realmente ótima e a família muito feliz. Quando voltar a Boulder não esqueça de me ligar… Quero saber mais de voce.
    Muitos beijos.

    • How does Google Translator do?:

      Kimberly, baby! Glad to hear from you! I hope that life in Rio is really great and very happy family. When I return to Boulder not forget to call me … Want to know more about you.
      Many kisses.

    • Kimberly Johnson kajyoga says:

      OI Helena,
      Que bom ver voce aqui! Está tudo ótima na vida Carioca aqui.
      Vou ligar sim quando eu consegou passar por Boulder.
      Beijos!!

  20. Leafinthewind says:

    In reading this, the Beatles song "Sexy Sadie" came to mind. Lennon wrote it in disgust after catching maharishi mahesh yogi forcing himself on the female students at the retreat center in India. He originally titled it "maharishi", only changing it to avoid a lawsuit.

  21. [...] for pragmatic reasons. Besides the acquisition of pleasure, contentment is much more conducive to yoga practice than discontent (ever try doing tree pose when you are agitated? Very [...]

  22. [...] rock stars, or personalities. We tend to do that, in general. But, really, the value of having a guru is like having a mirror. A true guru is somebody who will make you aware, who will help you in this [...]

  23. [...] Yogi speak to this quite powerfully. There’ re accounts of spiritual seekers getting sucked into abusive relationships with predatory pseudo-gurus, becoming deeply involved in insular communities full of lies and manipulation, and clinging [...]

  24. [...] the silence that’s previously surrounded many difficult issues, including the seductiveness of abusive gurus, the manipulative lies that can flourish in spiritual communities, and the soul-sucking scenes [...]

  25. Jun Ling says:

    I think the trend where westerners kept seeking for oriental belief in pursuit of peace of mind, is not different at all as compared to the born oriental religion followers converting into Christianity in oriental nations. It is NOT the teaching nor belief that make people feel peace, rather, it's like a child who is in fear, ran to a corner where he/she could not see what he/she fear and feel that he/she has hidden well and that he/she is safe. It is a runaway mentality that subconsciously produce a feelings of "u had move into a higher level of awareness", which in fact, it's only running away from the mainstream forbiddances of respective cultural background, or in another point of view, it's just like majority of people who seek out belief, individuals, and theories that support their existences and behaviour to be just and right.

    Do I see this kind of behaviour foolish? No, not at all. It's a walk of life, I've always believe that life is one chapter of the many lessons we will experiences, and being lagged behind in progress doesn't mean the person is lesser beings. They just haven't had the opportunity to experiences what would make them aware of what's essential to them. Life is an ongoing learning experiences, embrace it, enjoy it, indulge in it. Life is short. YOLO. LOL.

    Just my 2 cents.

  26. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    Hi 13thfloorelevators!
    I agree with much of what you say, but children are not open to becoming victims (on the whole) unless they have poor boundaries. Of course here I am talking about energetic boundaries (and we inherit them from our ancestors). But a child with powerful parents that have strong boundaries is also a force to be reckoned with, and very few adults would choose to abuse them in any way. That's why I consider the healing / therapy / personal development work that I do to be so important – when we heal ourselves, we heal our children.
    Ben

  27. 13thfloorelevators says:

    Children typically have less developed boundaries than adults. That was my point.

  28. Carol Horton Carol Horton says:

    As a parent, I would say that it would be wrong for a young child to have strong boundaries. We start off literally in our mother's bodies and anyone who's had a baby and toddler knows that they are not yet separate beings and developmentally, they are not supposed to be. The parent's job is to provide them with the security and love that they need so that they can slowly over time separate and individuate. This is why abuse of a child by an adult and particularly a family member is so horrific and so scarring. Of course, those who abuse were commonly abused themselves. It's a cycle that seems hard to break. I know that the research literature shows that the best way to break it is for the grownup abused child to be able to empathize deeply with what happened to him or her as a child – in other words, to process the pain and ideally let go of it as much as possible. This is a tall order and many people just shut down instead. Disconnected from their own pain, they unconsciously are driven to inflict it on others.

    Then of course it's also true that many who were abused never abuse, and should be given enormous credit for that. Many however may be drawn to repeat the cycle by allowing themselves to be abused again. In this sense I think that Ben is right. It's just very important I think to take any hint of blame out when you are talking about someone who has experienced abuse. They need all of our support and compassion and no sense of judgment or pity. Empathy feels with, pity looks down on and makes the person feel lesser. That is not what they (or anyone else) needs. But empathy also requires being willing to allow ourselves to feel some pain too. That makes it hard to too, particularly if it's pushing our own buttons.

    But kudos to Kimberly for having such courage to speak out and pursue her own healing as she sees fit.

  29. jaltucher says:

    Well, you are right, they shouldn't happen. I guess my knee-jerk reaction is to think of "abuse" as when a father rapes his daughters. But you are right, there's lots of shades of this. I do think it was horrible what happened and I suggested at the end of my post that it was good she left the siutation. So we are dealing with semantics.

    Everytime I turn around it seems like another male "guru", though is engaging in this sort of abuse. So whats going on? I think most people put the "enlightened" label on well before their time, and students often fall for them in the way that patients fall for their therapists by projecting feelings they had for father, husband, whoever. This is bad behavior. No question. ANd its good when the woman can get out of it.

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