Sex, Shadow, John Friend & Integrated Spirituality. ~ Julian Walker

Via on Feb 24, 2012

Disasters & Denial

I remember the tsunami. I was privileged to see it on TV from the comfort of my living room, and from the safe window of my computer screen. From a great distance it was terrifying, up close it must have been the scariest thing imaginable—if it didn’t kill you. So much water washing away everything in its path—buildings crumbling like they were made of toothpicks, cars swept up in the swell like rubber duckies in a giant’s bathtub, human beings engulfed in nano-seconds, swallowed  by a massive expanse of liquid darkness.

I remember the video of John Friend being interviewed by an adoring acolyte. No, seriously—I am not just being critical or mean, she addressed him as if he knew all the cosmic answers, like – John Friend please explain how, if the universe is a perfect expression of divine love, tsunamis are possible? She sat in her meditation posture in earnest anticipation.

The wise one didn’t bat an eye, but went on to give what, to my mind, is the classic (and woefully inadequate) New Age set of answers about the karma of “those people,” earthquakes not being “bad” per se, and, in a moment of particular callousness, explaining how a building falling on your foot would cause pain, but it was only your mind’s desire for things to be different that would cause you to suffer.

Turns out its all good then huh?! Light and love and lucky us for having good karma. Sparkle…

This moment actually inspired my first ever Elephant Journal piece—and I was critical of not only Friend’s handling of it, but also of that patron saint of magical thinking, Masaru Emoto.

The “Messages From Water”  charlatan suggested that if enough people meditated on it we could render the waters around Japan free from the radioactive waste being belched out of the Fukushima nuclear plant. Yeah, right. Maybe if we all visualized it, an army of Tinkerbells would appear and clean up all the other debris too!

The Shadow

Now you may just think I am being judgmental here. I mean isn’t spirituality about making ourselves feel better and coming up with ways not to be victims but to see the higher truth? Why would I wanna shoot that down, right?

Well, I think there is a powerful (but mostly avoided) step into adult spirituality that has to do with facing the shadow and letting go of child-like fairy tales that lull us into the sleepy trance of unreality in the name of “being spiritual.”

The fairy tale stuff actually creates what I call the “psychological u-turn” that returns us to the spirituality of a 5 or 6 year old instead of moving forward – but to move forward and develop adult spirituality we have to deal with the Shadow.

dreamglowpumpkincat210

The Shadow is a term for everything we deny about reality because we don’t like it. The poet Robert Bly uses this wonderful analogy for Jung’s idea of the Shadow: we have an invisible bag that we drag behind us into which we put everything we have learned is unacceptable.

The Catholic Church puts sexuality in the bag – and we see how well that works out.

Culturally, men in general often put vulnerability in the bag, a lot of women put their anger in the bag.

Spiritual folks tend to put what I call the Big 3 in the bag: suffering, injustice and death.

Depressing, huh -why wouldn’t one want to avoid these topic —isn’t spirituality about freedom and love and immortality?

Well, the thing is there are perhaps two kinds of spirituality:

1) Spirituality that encourages us to adopt beliefs that distort reality in order to make us feel better.

2) Spirituality that suggests that we face reality in all its shadow and light with courage, compassion and curiosity and learn to tolerate our true feelings.

The line between the two is actually quite easy to see, if not easy for many of us to accept. Part of the reason for this is that there has been a powerful and well-meaning trend toward relativism that makes it hard for many of us to be realistic about what is true or false, real or fantasy – and that makes spirituality a very confused mess so much of the time!

When we develop the ability to accept that suffering, injustice and death are indeed part of reality we actually become stronger, more resilient, more integrated human beings. The less we need to either deny, rationalize or put some metaphysical spin on these aspects of life the more we can be honest and truly compassionate with ourselves and others. The less susceptible we are to seeking the magical answer, enlightened guru, or metaphysical belief system that makes it seem like there is no shadow, only light!

Tsunamis happen. Earthquakes happen. Innocent people are the victims of terrible events that have no real meaning. Evil people often prosper and noble people are often oppressed. This is the nature of the world we live in.

No one is pulling any synchronistic, scale balancing strings to make it all turn out fairly, and there is no magic spell, special guru or ritual practice any of us can do to somehow change these facts.

We can do our best to love one another, to have integrity, to keep growing and healing and learning, to engage in practices that allow us to be more clear headed, open hearted, liberated and regulated in our embodied existence – and these things DO have powerful repercussions in our lives, relationships and community.

They are well worth engaging in without unreasonable beliefs about how they will supposedly change the laws of the universe, make one able to control reality with one’s thoughts, or confer magical powers!

So if we accept that at bottom either spirituality is about distorting reality or learning to work with it in unconditionally honest ways, genuine wisdom and honest integrated adult spirituality is born of the second form, while I observe that the first form wreaks havoc with our ability to think clearly, feel deeply and love fully, all while sincerely painting on the mask of nice shadow-denying spirituality.

Lock-in-key Dysfunction

…Which brings us back to John Friend. Listen, I am sure the guy’s a genius. He obviously influenced many smart and sincere people, and must have a pretty damn good system of asana, as well as a brilliant business model.

I was also very pleased to see that one of the fastest growing perspectives on yoga was based not in the dreary old uptight dualism of Patanajali, but in a vibrant neo-Tantra – this is in my opinion a positive step forward in the evolution of this beautiful yoga experiment.

But here’s the thing: unless we have spiritual philosophies that guide people into doing real shadow work, learning critical thinking and engaging in the kind of inquiry that produces truly integrated human beings and communities, these kinds of scandals and betrayals will continue.

Why? Because we create spiritual communities based on a fantasy, rooted in an ungrounded philosophy and based on a child-like idealization of a charismatic leader.

Integrated spirituality should actually address these pitfalls and help us heal the need to idealize, be grounded in reality, and wake up to the gift of honest, courageous awareness beyond the unsustainable bliss fantasy.

It’s a tough sell, I know.

Most spiritual seekers have learned that critical thinking is the enemy, and that having faith in unreasonable things is the way to become enlightened.

But look at all this enlightenment:

Sai Baba’s $9B estate and career long preoccupation with molesting young boys in between doing dime store magic tricks to prove his divine identity.

* Rolls Royce collector Osho‘s community poisoning the water supply of a nearby town on election day to try and gain influence over local government while stockpiling guns.

* Muktananda’s scandals and the Shakespearian drama that ensued when he tried to leave the Siddha empire to both Gurumayi and her brother Nityananda.

Chogyam Trungpa‘s alcoholism, sexual philandering and the criminal behavior of his HIV-infected regent.

Adi Da Samraj (hailed by Ken Wilber as the most realized being of all time) hiding out on a private island near Fiji because of the number of legal cases against him for fraud, violence and sexual assault.

And this is how the enlightened Holy Ones behave, the heroic gurus that millions strive to be like…

Damn.

Time for us to grow up, no? There is no such thing as perfect human being. “Enlightenment” is a mythic symbol that refers to certain states of consciousness and is usually weighed down with the baggage of metaphysical preconceptions.

There is no one in touch with some other world who has been sent to guide us there. We’re just people on a planet floating through space, trying to utilize our potentials to live intelligently, compassionately and in alive relationship to creativity, wonder and beauty—and that is so far beyond enough!

The sooner we realize that spiritual practice can be a vehicle for real personal growth and healing, the sooner we let go of the superficial magical fantasies and Disney-esque beliefs, the sooner we can break this cycle of charlatanism, cultish organizations, shadow denial, and the ironic turn-around that always seems to happen when all the focus is on light and love and bliss, until the shadow bites us in the ass.

One of the key areas of shadow denial is sexuality.

The age old dualistic religious struggle between spirit and flesh (unfortunately well represented in yoga by Patanjali) encourages a denial of our sexuality so as to attain to a “higher” realization of disembodied immortal bliss.

Basically sexuality is cast as a curse tying us to the icky body that eats, shits and dies, and spirit is seen as unencumbered by those fleshy chains – so the ideal of the celibate monk, nun, sadhu or sannyasin is part of the confused baggage of being “holy.”

Giuseppe Cades: The Virgin Mary and Infant Jesus served by the Angels

So sex goes in the shadow bag.

This of course bears terrible fruit, as evidenced in recent times by the Catholic church’s almost $2B and counting payouts to the victims of pedophile priests. (Go ahead, try putting a karmic/metaphysical/perfect universe/silver lining spin on that one – I dare ya…)

But in terms of the alternative/New Age scene the drama usually plays out on the stage of an idealistic Utopian community becoming cultishly incestuous and turning all Lord of the Flies along the predictable channels of power, sex, money and drugs.

This often happens because there is one charismatic leader deemed somehow especially spiritual and the projection of holiness ignores the fact of his (usually, but sometimes her) human imperfections, needs and the sick cocktail of impossible pressure combined with unreasonable gratification heaped upon this fearless leader.

In psychological terms, the guru can perhaps be understood as someone with deep seated unmet needs for “narcissistic mirroring.”

You know, that phase we all go through as kids when it is quite important to feel like we are the center of the universe and our every feeling, thought action and desire are of profound importance to our parents, teachers and siblings.

Someone who does not internalize enough of that feeling of self-worth may well spend the rest of their lives trying to capture that feeling, and being a guru, or rock star or actor or plain old prima donna is one way to try and fill that hole.

Little wonder then that it can never be enough and the misbehavior around drugs, sex, money and power so often lurks behind the scenes. It’s like the insatiable plant-monster in Little Shop of Horrors shouting—feed me!

The flip side of this dynamic is something psychologists call “unresolved idealization needs.”

You might remember that time as a kid when you would fight anyone who didn’t accept that your Mommy was the prettiest, your Daddy the strongest and your parents together the smartest people on the face of the planet.

Or the way you felt about your first grade teacher and later about your first love. When we are little, we idealize those we look up to and imagine them to be all-good, all-powerful, all-knowing on an almost impossible superhuman level.

If this need to idealize goes awry through trauma, abandonment or betrayal, we may find ourselves as adults seeking out situations in which we can idealize a guru figure as being in effect God’s representative on Earth, or damn close to it.

This sets up the perfect lock-and-key fit between students with a need to idealize and guru figures with a need to be worshipped. Unless the teacher is doing their own work around the inevitable pitfalls of such a position and the students are being guided into their particular work so as to not act out their unconscious needs, the whole thing keeps doing its dance until it blows up in everyone’s faces.

Perhaps just like Anusara just did…

 Conclusion

So I want to suggest a way forward. It has to do with my favorite word: Integration.

The step into adult spirituality I described above is a simple one, but not easy – embrace the limitations of being human. Accept that we die at the end, accept that there is no magic formula, accept that no guru is gonna save you from yourself and just do the work.

Day by day be interested in really growing, really healing. Ask the difficult questions, sit with the difficult emotions. True spiritual depth is hard won, and it is forged in the fires of a real willingness to dig in the dirt and be humbled by your own imperfections.

Embrace the body, your feelings, your desires and sacralize your own humanity rather than buying into the self-negating idealism of pure spirit, or eternal bliss or pretending to be happy all the time with that vacant cultish stare that demands too long eye contact and always carries the suggestion of far away ultimate truth.

Know that it takes a deeper kind of faith to see the pain and suffering of the world and know that life still has meaning, and in fact love, beauty, reason, wisdom etc are more valuable precisely because they are not guaranteed and their opposites are powerfully present in the real world.

Tsunamis happen, scandals come and go, none of us is getting any younger, and the world keeps spinning, 2012 prophecy or no, because you know what? No-one really knows what’s gonna happen next – and that’s what makes the game worth playing!

Oh, and one last thing – don’t buy into the idea that we shouldn’t talk about the shadow, that it is “unyogic” or “judgmental,”because this just perpetuates shadow denial and keeps us from growing, learning and healing as a community. Speak mindfully, but don’t bow down to the thought-police, especially if they are quoting scripture to shut you up!

~

Editor: Brianna Bemel

About Julian Walker

Julian Walker is the founder of http://www.yogateachergradschool.com/ where he supports new and established yoga teachers in living their dreams through business development. He is a writer who has been teaching yoga since 1994, and co-teaches the Awakened Heart, Embodied Mind Yoga Teacher Training in LA with Hala Khouri.Julian's writing is featured in the book 21st Century Yoga available on Amazon.com. www.julianwalkeryoga.com

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46 Responses to “Sex, Shadow, John Friend & Integrated Spirituality. ~ Julian Walker”

  1. Andrew Gurvey agurvey says:

    Brilliant! I thought this article was utterly brilliant. As someone who has fallen victim to a Kool Aid fiasco or two in my yogic life (although not the Anusara brand), it is refreshing to read a point of view that I finally came to after making many mistakes in the other directions. Thanks for a great article.

  2. mattalign says:

    That seems like is was deeply cathartic and autobiographical to write. I was imagining how powerful a personal revelation you might have experienced had you used the word "I" instead of "we", "my" in stead of "our". I am fascinated by some of the articles I read on Elephant Journal where people have this impulse to write on behalf of the collective. As if they hold some higher authority, which has the power to observe for everyone, (we) and guide everyone, (what we have to do is…). It's so interesting to me.

    • Julian Walker yogijulian says:

      it was actually not an act of catharsis, nor particularly about my autobiography, but rather an act of pulling together several ideas (from jung, kohut, existentialism, humanism etc) as a way to reflect upon recent events and the context in which i make sense of them…

      much of the "we" language centers around psychological concepts about how "us" humans function as well as a kind of invitation into a next step for spiritual growth.

      sorry that didn't work for you!

  3. Mark says:

    Just one small comment not meant to be an all encompassing commentary on your article….actually this term "mindfull" is a farce as well. Mindful seems to be an over used SC (spiritually correct) term which really says nothing. Usually it is used in such a way which reminds me of the look in a cow's eyes the moment right after it has had the hammer between the eyes. Mindful kills all conversation and debate. Mindful is as mindful does. Mindful, as is being used, is a dull state. MIndful businesses? When did a business become capable of a conscience? We want to argue against corporations having constitutional rights because they are not individuals yet we want to apply "mindful" to non entities. There is no organized mindfulness as in politics, diet, and spirituality. Mindfulness, to me, is nothing more than a concept which can be applied after one has attained something which is worth being mindful about. Sorry for the interruption.

    • Andrew Gurvey agurvey says:

      Mark, by that logic, can one make a "mindful" choice? Since the choice has not yet been made, and nothing has yet been attained, can mindfulness, in the context you are outlaying, be applied?

      • Mark says:

        Buzzword is correct. My only "Beef" is that it is a buzzword and really means nothing seeing that one's "mindfulness" does not match with anyone else's. Yet it it dominates our so-called "mindful"discussions. I really did not want to interrupt your article's thesis with this discussion.

      • Mark says:

        agurvey…by my logic..no. Mindfulness could only be used as a method to keep one in touch with their "realization". A sort of tool of protecting one's dharma. The frequent use of "mindfulness" renders it as a moral flag when discussing politics, diet, and spirituality which to me is an inaccurate understanding if we are to give it's credit to the Buddha.

        • Andrew Gurvey agurvey says:

          Mark…Interesting…I want to think about that for a while. And I want to start catching myself and see where I am using the word mindful. I hope I get a chance to come back to you about this at a later time.

          • Mark says:

            agurvey…I would really enjoy a larger discussion on the use and meaning of "being mindful". An article would be interesting. If we have attained "some" realization, the use of being mindful, is guarding your mind on an outer and inner level…actually guarding body,speech, and mind. If we are individuals, being mindful is according to your view of the world….just a reflection of our current personality…really with little or no common understanding. So why is it used so often? Are vegans more mindful than meat eaters? Are buddhists more mindful than hindus? Are democrats more mindful tha republicans? Yet being mindful is coined by all who are claiming a moral higher ground. How do they know?

    • Julian Walker yogijulian says:

      i used the word "mindful" because it was a buzzword during the john friend scandal in terms of a call to writers and commenters not to gossip and speak in hateful slanderous terms..

      i also felt it at times had an uncosncously censorious undercurrent, hence my closing sentences.

      not sure about your general beef with the term – as far as i know it refers generally to the practice of bring self-awareness to what one is doing, feeling or saying…

  4. Julia says:

    Mmmhhmm. Your language is a little inglorious and that kind of turns me off from your article, but, at heart, I do agree with the majority of your points. What bothers me about the larger yoga community is its woeful lack of critical thinking, critical questioning, or plain old doubt. I hear the word judgment being bandied around as a negative quality, as in "being judgmental without forethought" but judgment can also mean thoughtful choices, considered words. If yoga is the union of mind, body, and spirit then, by definition, shouldn't practitioners of yoga develop their minds as much as their bodies to achieve spiritual growth? In the western humanistic tradition this means intellectual curiosity and critical thinking faculties – doubt in many instances. That's what Galileo was fighting for: instead of blind faith, question and test a given statement so that acceptance comes from a quantifiable definition. A guru should be able to prove his or her "guru-ness" over and over again, and if a student is supposed to accept what he or she says on faith then in the words of Rumi, "Run when you hear that. … Your bodily soul wants comforting./The severe father wants spiritual clarity. … Pray for a tough instructor/to hear and act and stay within you."

    • Andrew Gurvey agurvey says:

      Brilliant! I know I'm replying to every comment, but I love what everyone is saying on here. Julia, your statement is quite brilliant. Discerning judgment is often overlooked because people get caught up in the semantics of words like "guru" or "judgment" such that we forget that part of what we are supposed to do to further ourselves on our individual (and possibly collective) journey is question that which we see and choose accordingly.

      • Julian Walker yogijulian says:

        enjoyed your comment julia – not sure about the "inglorious" reflection – did you object to me saying "shits" at one point?

        otherwise we are on the same page regarding critical thinking and the nature of true spiritual growth…

        all the best

    • Stewart J. Lawrence says:

      I believe the word is DISCERNMENT. As opposed to JUDGMENT, or condemnation.

      It takes Shiva's piercing sword, not just Shakti's loving but uncritical essence.

      But here's the kicker — It means there is no "intrinsic good," it requires moral choices, and utter clarity about
      boundaries and appropriate practices.

  5. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    andrew i appreciate your engaged enthusiasm and support – thanks!

  6. TDB says:

    FINALLY someone nails it. Thanks so much, I've been totally waiting for someone to write this. Real, grounded, addressing shadow … yes, shit happens. The real work happens when we show up in relationship to it, rather than in avoidance through various magical thinking modalities.

    Thanks for this scathingly brilliant blast of insight … now I just wish many would get this … but that is their path … and seems to provide great comfort for some, that I can't deny!

  7. Suri says:

    I think one of the reasons why many of us fall or have fallen for magical thinking is because we fail to question where is this ( ( your favorite spiritual dogma , scripture , teaching etc.. )coming from??? If for starters you think it comes from a supernatural source you will definitely tend to Idealize it and put it in a pedestal….are all things "sacred" really sacred?? Or are they just moral codes , teachings ..etc created by man in order to cope -or rather not- with this shadow side of reality?
    I m with you on this one julian.

  8. Jonagold says:

    OK, this article was almost as challenging for me to understand as the comment threads following it. How interesting and intriguing, and worth another try to "get", all of it.

    Without putting anyone on a pedestal, can I "play" with you guys? I think you might help me raise my game.

  9. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    hi mirror – appreciate your in depth comment, thanks for taking the time!

    you couldn't be more mistaken with regard to letting the leader off the hook though! if you read that section again you will see that i propose both sides of the dynamic: what the idealized teacher is seeking and what the students are seeking. in fact i call that section "key-in-lock dysfunction" which pretty explicitly names it is a co-created dynamic.

    i too am annoyed when people just wanna make it the fault of the student for putting the teacher on a pedestal – i think that is incorrect.

    your ad hominem attempts to interpret my motivations are partially correct: i have been in the yoga world for 20 years, and have seen a lot of this stuff. i have tried to create a community that is free from cultish dynamics, have tried to be aware of the shadow component of doing the work i do and being in the communities i am in – so ya, i have studied this, i think it is a fascinating topic – and as part of my teacher training i encourage aspiring teachers to look through this lens.

    do i have my own blindspots? without a doubt! we all do, that is why shadow work is important!

    as a teacher YES i have spent time working on my own need for narcissistic mirroring, which is why i know it is a valuable endeavor and try to put the concept out there into the discourse about yoga.

    for a few years i co-facilitated a yoga teachers support group in which we explicitly encouraged the group to be real about our underlying issues – the facilitators shared openly and honestly about our own journey of developing greater awareness around the psychodynamics of being teachers, students and the issues that we have worked with that we believe are common to others in the field…

    i agree with your opinion about yoga as healing, transference and counter transference etc (this too is part of what i train teachers to be aware of) – so yes we are actually on the same page.

    as for your other critiques – look, i am wanting to share information and perspectives on this issue that i find to be largely absent in our community. the material is based in a lot of thought and study and uses ideas from jung, kohut and others – as such i am not sure how to convey it with out it being a little bit of a lecture.

    it's a commentary on recent events and their context with some theoretical ideas about a) what may be at play in this area and b) possible ways of remedying/moving forward.

    why is this problematic?

    • Julian Walker yogijulian says:

      further mirror: i am deeply invested in the possibilities of a next level/stage of spiritual development that integrates reason, science and psychology with effective experiential practices.

      as such i have spent a lot of time trying to put my finger on what feels like it doesn't work in pop spirituality.

      having been involved in spirituality for over 20 years, being a voracious reader and having experienced a lot of disappointment at the superficiality, dysfunction and plain whackiness of the new age milieu, yea i have spent time and energy developing a critique and trying to make sense of and find solutions for the many problems i see.

      just how my mind works – and i hope it can be of service.

      i think it would be unfair to just categorize that in a dismissive and inappropriately psychoanalytic way.

  10. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    exactly suri – thanks for saying so and for identifying this key point.

    the authority of supernatural sources is a short circuit to critical thinking and makes us vulnerable to charlatanism and abuse of power. why?

    well the simple (but oh so unpopular) answer is that nothing has a supernatural source.

  11. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    jonagold you are most welcome… ;)

  12. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

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

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  13. timful says:

    Let me see if I got this straight. We need to stamp out this guru enabling culture because it is a catastrophe when we discover the guru is not perfect? Is there a story here if we did not believe he was perfect? Did he cause harm above and beyond what people do to each other every day across this land? Or, is it just the disillusion that outrages?

  14. Holymoly says:

    Wow. This is some extremely heady discourse. Some serious intellectual business going on here. I have thoroughly enjoyed the question and ways in which people have articulated their reactions to this blog, and the banter back and forth as a result. Even more enjoyable is reading people find common understanding around words and talk of shadows. Very stimulating.

    Personally, I love Anusara. At least pertaining to my own particular experience of it. I have had deeply cathartic experiences practicing under the tutelage of certified teachers of this fledgling hatha yoga. The Universal Principals or Alignment resonate and I’m not afraid to say “melt my heart”. But I would venture to say that more people who practice Anusara, some devotely, do it because it works, not because of who John Friend is in relation to them individually, or even globally.

    I am curious if Julian, the writer has had much experience practicing Anusara in LA,or anywhere for that matter. Ironically, I can tell you that Anusara first attracted me because of how workable it actually is in relationship with shadow. It has been both a magical and mundane tool for me to delve into my shadow side. The whole idea of stepping into the flow, from which the sanskrit derives its name, is very useful in building up a tolerance to emotion and sensation in the body/mind. It is a safe place to find expansion in contraction through breath. It is highly effective for learning to live in your head without anything to numb your or to consume to control your experience. It has shown me the grace to my gravity and sometimes vice versa. Anusara has always been for me another set of tools to pull out and play with on the mat. A vernacular, if you will, that helps me align my attention with my intention.

    In my own life when all is goin well, and I am riding high it is easy to ignore the shadow,and just coast. I guess most of us tend to work with it when it comes screaming out of the basement of our subconscious. Which tends to happen when we are over worked, over stressed, out of balance and burning the candle at both ends. Likewise, being over stimulated and over identified with the senses throws us out of balance too. John Friend unfortunately has become a cliche. Seeing this coming feels like a no brainer. But his karma is not ours after all. And we are good at ignoring what is most obvious on this path or yoga the great ego destroyer. There is something to be said for the age old tenants of trying to live a simplified life free of materialism and marked with humility. This idea of the rock star yogi has always made me giggle. Like Christina metal bands. hehe. Silly rock star yogi =D

    As for all my beautiful teachers… they each resigned their certification. I don’t recall a single one over the years really verbally shouting accolades or putting JF on a pedestal. Really, just a bursting desire to share what worked for them. And I am so grateful they have.

    • Vic says:

      Yes! I agree. I have a spiritual teacher who lives a good life, takes in the poor, especially women who have been thrown out by a caste system. Though he tells us again and again to look inside ourselves for the answers, not to him. Judgement often comes from ego. Though there are some great points in this article, there is also some bitterness. What you focus on, will multiply. So yes, visualize the waters of Japan being clear, AND, go volunteer to help. The flip side of that is – don't sit here and bitch about it and do neither, for that doesn't help, either. It is a fine balance of both, or as the Buddha said (who to my knowledge didn't own any RR or molest anyone), "Go the middle way."

  15. Robert says:

    Love this piece – a lot!

  16. integralhack says:

    Julian,

    I appreciated the focus on the shadow in this article. But I would suggest that any true guru would direct the student to face his/her own shadow. The shadow, after all, is deeply egoic and recognizing that small egoic self and lessening its dominion is (or should be) a good part of the work of both the guru and the student.

    Who is saying that we shouldn't talk about the shadow?

    -Matt

  17. [...] the rest of the article, Mr. Broad rehashes some of the sordid allegations of illicit sex by famous yoga teachers and self-proclaimed gurus—Muktananda, Swami Rama, Swami Satchidananda, Yogi Amrit Desai—all [...]

  18. Nigel says:

    Appreciate your point of view Julian and the thought provoking discourse that has ensued…
    Even got me using intelligent language now :}

    Please continue to write and share.

  19. [...] This year’s John Friend/Anusara Yoga scandal. (Small potatoes by true guru standards, but worth looking at through this [...]

  20. Andrew Gurvey agurvey says:

    His examples about the narcissism "we" all felt as children is truly something that resonates with many, because it is a cycle that I, and many of my peers, experienced as children. It does not mean that everyone felt this, or this idea resonates with everyone. Nonetheless, this level of inclusion is something that I think makes sense, without attaching a neurotic quality too it. I appreciate when people who do not feel a part of that collective being cited in the writing (perhaps like yourself?) take the time to say so and illustrate their feelings in the comments area after the article, as you have done so eloquently. Blogs, by nature, are opinion-based, and by the very articles that are written, indicate that there are multitudes of other views and ideas out there. I don't think the potential catharsis experienced for the author (if he indeed had one) or for me, the reader (I did), was any less negated by his choice to include all who read his article.

  21. Andrew Gurvey agurvey says:

    Additionally, what you said is also, by nature, a critique, so to not claim it as such is somewhat dubious to me. I appreciate that you spoke (or wrote) your mind and made such a critique because it keeps all of us more real and makes us all think more deeply about what we write. Notice that I used "we" in that last sentence, but if one doesn't feel like they are part of it, I would hope they don't feel excluded either. Additionally, a "guru impulse" being associated with a neurosis is also interesting…Not necessarily inaccurate…just interesting…Thank you for sparking my thinking further :) And, in the same way you offered it to the author, I offer it to you…Repect and peace. P.S. sorry for the long post, but what you wrote really sparked my thinking :)

  22. mattalign says:

    Thank you agurvey. That was lucid. I appreciate your taking the time to reflect and comment.

  23. Andrew Gurvey agurvey says:

    Of course, Mattalign. You brought up interesting ideas in my head, and I wanted to share :)

  24. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    i actually don't agree that there are limitless views and diversity – that is actually the relativism i critique as being part of what makes spirituality so confused. this does not mean i am not open to other opinions on these matters, i would just want to see them argued reasonably, and they would stand or fall on that basis.

    I am a teacher and writer by career and vocation and in fact am advocating for the opposite of guru worship – and providing some perspectives and ideas that are intended to be helpful both a) in terms of understanding the guru disciple dynamic and whyy it goes wrong as well as b) proposing an alternate spiritual route.

    i reject the PC idea that to be humble and respectful everything should be written from a kind of "excerpts from my (and only my) journal of personal experiences and opinions"

    this article is an attempt to think out loud about the subject in the title using various sources that i think are missing in the current zeitgeist.

    it is practically impossible to do this without sounding somewhat prescriptive, but i do get how that could rub you the wrong way – all teachers risk condescension every time we open our mouths… all i can do is bow to you if i have offended.

  25. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    the combination of reason and feeling, spirituality and intellect is for me part of the necessary integration that can move us all forward!

    glad to find you.

  26. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    very well said – thanks.

  27. Joe Sparks says:

    Hi \mb It is not any person's fault if that person has a particular kind of pattern. Certainly no pattern is "better" than another. ( They are all completely irrational and terrible.) To blame someone for their patterned behavior is a mistake. We do not have people who purposely do wrong; we have non-survival behavior enforced upon innocent humans by the unhealed residue of damages done to them. We do not have mean, destructive, vicious humans; we have kind, constructive, loving humans compelled to mean, destructive, vicious behavior by unhealed distress of which they are the first victims.It is important that we do not buy into any discriminatory attitude toward the worth of any human beings because of the degree to which they are involved. If we ourselves were free enough of our distresses any person's distresses would be easily handled. The judgemental description of "too deeply distressed guru" is really a projection on the gurus of the distress of the too-inflexible, too timid (" too deeply distressed" ) followers.

  28. mattalign says:

    If someone shares a personal revelation from the first person perspective it just comes across as so powerful to me. It triggers much more empathy in me. All the "we" and "Our" stuff just seems to trigger the "What's this we stuff?" impulse in me. The subject matter is so deep and deals with such deeply seated and personal psychological issues, it's hard for me to fathom that a layperson has figured all of this out. Unless, of course, you have done peer reviewed research on a very large sample group of western yoga practitioners. Is that what you have done? If not, well, then what we have here is conjecture and your article should be qualified as such by means of a disclaimer.

  29. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    i will look forward to reading your work sometime soon matt.

  30. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    i disagree that (failing disclaimers) one either has to write a memoir/journal entry type piece or a peer reviewed scientific paper. sounds very narrow in terms of intellectual discourse.

    i will look forward to reading your articles soon matt – do let me know when you have something up.

  31. mattalign says:

    I submitted an article recently and hopefully it will post in a few days. I have that feeling like we're talking about two different things, but I appreciate your responses to my comments.

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