Grounding Anusara 3: intimacy, methods, therapy, and making it open-source

Via on Mar 7, 2012

by Matthew Remski

Okay. Last post on this. (Maybe.)

I’ve really been warmed by the strength of the discourse emerging from the Anusara experience. Blogs and comments are flying, phones are ringing off the hook (what a quaint old phrase!) and barrels of tea are flowing. It’s clear from the posts and threads of BrooksBirneyPomedaIppolitti andBrower, as well as compassionate outsider analyses like this one from Michelle Indianer, that we share a ripe opportunity to gaze calmly through the wreckage and heartache towards a yoga culture that actually mirrors yoga just a little bit more.

My deal has been to focus on the incoherence between corporate and communal cultures. (I also did a thing on the Ayurveda of the whole sitch.) My basic community-centred argument is this: notwithstanding figures like John Friend as both idols and phalli, the airplane and hotel-bound modus operandi of any transglobal yoga corporation will have a hard time fostering grounded relationship, because it mimics the alienation of all late-capitalist structures. How could it not? Either cynically or unconsciously, the corporation will try to hide its relational weakness behind escapist/transcendental philosophies, exclusive knowledge hierarchies, classist economic barriers, distractive marketing copy written in Shringlish, and the palm trees and spa robes of its resort-retreat-intensive gatherings. Eventually, the corporation will come to rely upon the weakened capacity for transparency amongst its adherents to continually conceal its obvious nature as a power system brokered by charismatic narcissists and their enablers. It will run on the carbon-heavy fumes of the spirituality of tyrannical happiness: the most despairing form of consumerism. This spirituality is a paper-thin consolation for guilt and despair. Tragically, it distracts adherents from serving all others and healing our ecology.

Inspired by the comments and questions on this view so far, I want to pull two functional propositions out of this analysis, and let them breathe a little more broadly. I’ll again limit my focus to the form and structure of the community issues involved. The content (John Friend’s psychology, the psychodynamics of cults, etc.) will continue to slowly unfold on a granular and therapeutic level. I think this can happen more easily if saferstructural space is created.

  1. In yoga it is obvious that economies of scale obstruct relationship. Go big or go home? Let’s go home, thank you very much.  Let’s think smaller.
  2. Transglobal corporations need definable and saleable products. A Yoga Method with “Universal Principles” works well for its marketing, as we have seen. But a trademarked product cannot be a therapy.

Through spotlighting these two issues through the following reveries, I think the collapse of Anusara begins to show us a structural way forward – involving a smaller scale, localism, inclusivity, and existentially reasonable philosophy, with (fingers crossed) a new-found focus on social service.

 

more than six mats in the room and you lose relationship

I’ve been teaching asana for nine years. About eight years and eleven months ago I realized that the tripwire from intimate pedagogy into yoga-styling performance lay at about six mats per class. More than six students in the room, and I would lose my ability to do what I cherish most: interact with each body and its needs, each personal story and its possible temporary resolutions.

How much more yawning would this absence of intimacy be for John Friend or other top-tier Anusara (or substitute any name-brand here) teachers, who regularly teach to hundreds at a time? A one-way lecture format might work with big numbers – but asana? Really? When every posture and adjustment and sequence should really be dictated by constitution, real-time bodily needs, injuries, and biorhythms?

More importantly – what pours in to fill the gap in pedagogical intimacy? The performance of virtue? Likely. Clichés as vague as newspaper horoscopes? Probably. A bias towards celebrating uniformity over diversity? Yep. I wonder whether the philosophy of Anusara became more and more simplistic in direct relation to the fact that John Friend eventually spent way more time interacting with crowds than with people. And simplicity, of course, is the groundwork of marketing. Find that perfect meme, trim that tagline down. This the opposite of responsive therapy.

It’s pretty clear in Ayurveda: if you’re doing good work as a therapist or teacher, you simply can’t make much money, because “good work” depends on small class sizes, and limiting your consultations to 4 per day, tops, unless you’re some sort of genius. But more importantly, the individual-care demands of Ayurveda mean that generalized herbal formulas (for instance) are of limited use. There are no panaceas in personalized naturopathy. This means: nothing to patent, nothing to brand. Each churna is best blended from scratch by a practitioner who contemplates the uniqueness of the client as the pestle gently rubs against the mortar.

“But product-driven capitalism is the system we have” comes the rationalization. Sure: but it’s also the system we do, and I for one would like to do it less and less, and smaller and smaller. There’s no reason my small classes and low client flow can’t earn me a middle-class income to support a modest family life. Interacting with 6-8 students at a time in my living room or someone else’s will net an average of $75 per hour in cash and trade. I can work about 15 public hours per week (backed by about 45 hours of practice and preparation) without getting exhausted. This nets a little over 45K per year, which keeps me well in dosas and chai. If more money comes to me than this, it would come from writing (yeah right), which for me is simply a process of transcribing and distilling the intimacy of my therapeutic experience. I always loved the sound of the word: santosha.

douglas in madhurai

I don’t know anything about Douglas Brooks’ mentor in Madhurai. But I’ll brush off the old novelist’s chops for a moment and speculate on a few things, just from looking at that beautiful picture he posted on EJ. His learning environment was quiet, humble, functional. He probably sat on that carpet for hours, not doing much, happy and warm (sometimes too bloody hot to move), received and receiving, chatting gently with Appa about everything from G_d to cricket, stirring the dal and fetching ladoos for guests. He probably learned as much about cooking and family dynamics as nirukta in his time there, and when the day came to bring his lovely daughter to the gurkula, I’m sure the old man made her princess for the week. I’ll also bet when Douglas finally started drawing a post-hippy paycheck he tried to wire money to Appa and later found out he’d given it to some orphanage down the street.

For however many years, Brooks slurped up the fresh-squeezed gurukula juice, now so rare in our world of bottled and from-concentrate. It took time and quietude. Of course, he brought his own precocious skills to India in his tatty army surplus duffle bag, but I’ll bet they were honed into analytical brilliance not by flashy knowledge nor charismatic displays, but through the light that glows in space held intently between fellow learners. It is a small light, in small rooms. The smallness keeps you humble, because you know there’s lots of light in other small rooms. This doesn’t have to just exist in the past, nor in India alone. om, sahanavavatu. If we’ve been in love, we know how yoga gets transmitted. We don’t have to settle for less. The trick also lies in not wanting more. Think smaller. The word santosha really does sound like what it means.

yoga should be a local masala

If you wind up learning yoga in a honking convention hall, hungover from plane travel or carsick from the interstate and smelling like the mini-soaps in your hotel bathroom, you’re probably getting shafted. I think we can all feel that in our bones.  But I’ll go further in my praise of the small: the only reason that any yoga system should even want to move beyond the kitchen and living room in terms of scale might be to mirror the fact that we humans seem to need our micro-levels of government to receive supportive oversight from macro-levels. It might therefore be useful to have some kind of international yoga organization in some form, but only to engage in international politics, perhaps as a charitable NGO to shadow a particularly non-yogic international system, such as the IMF. We can’t let ourselves think that a creepy office complex in The Woodlands, Texas, is somehow going to foster intimacy in Baraboo, WI. “The center cannot hold”, quoth Yeats. And should it even try to, when every day is a winding road, and each new town a joy to discover?

seriously?

Throughout India, yoga traditions are like masalas: hyper-local, bubbling over with jolly secrecy, lauded and gossiped about near and far, and impossible to export. Anusara made the fatal mistake of trying to patchwork the appropriated localisms of the Other into a centralized universalism. It cannot work for us, for despite our dissociation, we too are local at heart: the river sprites of Connecticut have different lessons to teach than the mountain gods of Taos. Most likely, the local gods will eventually pull us away from the transglobal idol. (And if they don’t, divorce or death surely will.) In my sannyasin phase I hope to hitchhike from town to town, and answer the question for myself: “What does the yoga taste like here, I wonder?” I’ll remember to drink a lot of broth and slather myself in ghee to keep my vata at least somewhat in check.

a “Method” does not exist outside of the way it is shared

My therapist once said to me: “I fuckin hate therapy methods. The worst thing a therapist can have is a fuckin method. Because then the interaction becomes all about the fuckin method instead of the relationship.”

This is at the heart of my second point: a trademarked product cannot be a therapy. It is in nature of trademarking to provoke the one-way relationship of producer and consumer. Consumerism derails the therapeutic.

In an understandable attempt to save a sinking ship, it sounds like the meme of “Anusara Method” is being thrown around by those who are hanging onto it by their nails as though it wasn’t the direct and ongoing outcome of the hierarchical relationships that shared and promoted it. The “Method” is sounding pre-ordained, now canonized, eternal, outside of us, something we all signed up for in the presence of G_d and that we didn’t continually bend to our shared purposes.

Can anyone continue to say in all seriousness that the method of Anusara is somehow distinguishable from the way in which John Friend and his teachers and his students related and continue to relate to each other? Did it really come from somewhere else? Does it really exist beyond the classes and conventions and somewhat-shrouded Gurumayi references that echo somewhat-creepy Muktananda memories and the parties and the workbooks and the syllabi of postures newsletters and levels of training? Where is the Method beyond its practitioners and how they have behaved? The spirals become real through the spiraly femurs. The loops manifest through the loopy shoulders. You can’t take yer spandas without yer scandals. Both men and Methods cast shadows. It’s all in there together. We are, warts and all, the very expression of our methods.

the ambivalent authenticity of methods/products

The branding of an “authentic” learning method requires precise definition: overdetermination, in fact. You can’t copyright what you haven’t determined. But ironically, the outcomes of learning are never determined. That’s why we call it learning.

Overdetermination governs the reified object, method, or product. Its perky definition makes it excruciatingly other from you, who are undefined. You hope that its completeness might bestow completeness upon you. The glitzier its completeness, the more broke your brokenness. We hear in the shiny whine of wholeness-marketing an anxiety that splits the heart.

Only the branded thing can be profitable, lifted up and out of context and touted as applicable to everyone and everywhere. Its alleged universality depends on fuzzy and presumptuous terms (“the Teachings”) and a lot of capital letters: “You and I always shared a love for what is Good, Shri, and Delightful” writes John to his coven-mate. (Because the relationship is unstable, the sentiment must pretend to be.) The capital letter is the primordial trademark sign.

But there’s a more troubling tension, which I hope to see Drs. Brooks et al address: it feels beyond my grasp. There is a perennial drive within yoga culture towards “authenticity”, which employs notions of inherency and ultimacy. This energy can be very easily co-opted by strategies of commodification. The mechanism of authenticity in capitalism is ownership: a thing becomes a thing through its trademark. The real and the true are established by protecting them against the assumption that someone wants to steal them. I think we have to take a long hard look at how copyrighting, economic exclusion, and the natural scarcity delusion fostered by both capitalism and the charismatic leader prey upon our need for authenticated (“certified”) spirituality.

Something tells me it may have something to do with Cabbage Patch dolls. Remember them? Now you do. You’re welcome.

During some 1980s Christmas shopping season there was a shortage of these puke-ugly dolls. Some joker claimed to have a planeload of them, and they would airlift them to a field outside of the city. All you had to do to gitcher doll was to show up in the field and hold your credit card skyward so that they could take a picture of the number, drop the dolls in little parachutes, and complete the cha-ching. So there stood a hundred suckers shivering to death in the late November afternoon, saluting the sun with their Visas, praying for an ass-doll (with a stamped certificate of authenticity!) all their own. The butt-faced cherubs never descended.

Obviously, yoga needs some additional and more transparent metrics for the authentic. I would start with the following: the authentic mentor never has more students than he/she can hold close to the heart at any one time. The authentic mentor considers him/herself a creative compiler and practitioner – not an author. The authentic mentor can’t imagine packaging up what she knows into a product, because she knows there’s too much she doesn’t know. The authentic mentor says “I don’t know” a lot. The authentic mentor busts open the canon with apocrypha. The authentic mentor is transparent about his/her practical and personal challenges, and through this transparency he/she shares power. The authentic mentor makes clear choices to deflect or unknot any spell of grandiosity that creeps into the exchange. I had one crazy-wisdom teacher who took great delight in ripping loud stinky farts and belching wetly during satsang. He had his own authenticity/integrity problems, but fame and vanity were not among them.

method is relationship

Indian pedagogy has always insisted on three pillars of authority-exchange which I think might help cut all the “Method”-talk down to relationship size. The pillars are guru-sisya-sastra: mentor-student-book. (“Book” in this case might stand in for “method”.) I learned about this triad, old-timey fashion, this way: the mentor needs the student just as the parent needs the child, to extend life and passion into the future. The student needs the mentor to empower them. The book keeps the mentor honest: “on-book”. But the book has margins that the student can write in. And as the book gets passed from mentor to student, it becomes rich and palimpsested with notes, underlinings, and pressed flowers. But if a third person picks up that book, they won’t be able to reconstruct or inhabit the relationship that co-wrote it. They can read what they like, but they will be reading an artifact of an encounter. They might glean the “Method”, but certainly not the means.

If we strip Anusara of its brand-locked (i.e. prematurely canonized) “Method”, what would we have left? Some really useful evolutionary memes: spirals, spandas, the value of giddy/goofy pleasure in vinyasa (in moderate doses). A general mood of hope and encouragement. I’m not diminishing things here: I’m sure there’s much more. I’d like to see these memes show up everywhere, unbranded, like spraypaint tags in the laneways behind yoga studios, as part of our authorless overflow of learning.

Or another metaphor: I’d love to see Anusara deconstructed into tiny bits of code, freely traded by yogis, hackers of the human experience. In the open-source world, it’s just plain rude to hold onto anything for yourself. The assumption is that useful things will be cobbled together into even more useful things, not by individuals pursuing possessive goals, but by the hive, expressing unconscious empathy.

 

notions for moving forward: make it open source

If you practice yoga, you have skin in this game. Because what happens now with the Anusara crowd has heavy implications for the general cultural perception of our beloved evolutionary art. Look at how the New York Times is consistently Broad-siding the lot of us. What happens now will impact everyone who has worked so hard to bring yoga into school Phys. Ed. programmes, for instance. What happens now will define yoga’s ability to speak truth to power, yoga’s political relevance, yoga’s capacity to work with dysfunctional relationships, and yoga’s therapeutic capital. I see modern yoga as a revolution of faith in embodiment and love for ecology. It is well-positioned to address core issues of human psychology – alienation, dissociation, reactivity – while providing an experiential gestalt to our scientific discoveries. It is very important for all of us that yoga transforms from a consumer cult into a community culture.

So I hope the newly-ordained Anusara Steering committee, along with new half-owner Michal Lichtman, doesn’t waste time polishing turds. There’s an opportunity here for something more. Currently, Anusara presents a highly-functional infrastructure standing as open as an empty city, holding millions of hours of networking equity. It can benefit many: not by resurrecting a Method-as-product by detaching it from the thrall of John, but by actually doing what it failed to do in the first place: support localism and the creative evolution of the Method into methods, of Shringlish into dialogue.

I have many niggling nuts-and-bolts ideas about yoga community structuring – mostly around how we might better use money – which I’m developing for a chapter in a new book project edited by Carol Horton and Roseanne Harvey. I’ll save those for that.

I was going to end here by laying out a big radical suggestion, but Douglas Brooks kinda scooped it. And then, in a way that has yet to come into focus, the Yoga Coalition perhaps scooped it as well. I too think AY should dissolve. But my concern is less about the insider-outsider, new AY/old AY frictions and more about resisting the general aparigraha of branding and rebranding.

Anusara can’t become a real non-profit if it remains reliant upon what has been a for-profit product. The best way that Anusara can improve the relational integrity of its Method is by giving it away for free. The best way that Anusara can prove its usefulness as a method is by seeing what its value becomes as an open-source tool, beyond the echo-chamber of those who have a vested interest in proclaiming its value because they’ve either invested a lot in it, or because they make at lot from it.

Some guidelines as to how this would work:

  • Give up the trademark. Allow the word Anusara to become as nebulous and evocative in meaning as hatha.
  • Continue to use the language if it floats your boat. But also allow others to use the language – in fact, teach them freely how to use it well so that we all have more tools to work with.
  • Offer the syllabus and manuals freely to the general population. Offer the video products at cost.
  • If you really do have such a great training programme for postural instruction (and I believe you do), offer to consult for free with Yoga Alliance – G_d knows they need some guidance in the standards department.
  • Keep all of the teaching dates on John’s current calendar open, but assign teachers to the events who are local to the venue, so that these events stop dissipating local energies by creating unsustainable flash-in-the-pan learning infatuations.
  • Lower the tuition prices of the 2012 events to cover the venue costs only: the teachers teach for free. It’s only a weekend. They’ll manage.
  • Make the 2012 tour the primary means for dispersing the Method into the general yoga population. Call it the “Passing the Torch” tour. Or maybe go ironic: “The Scrapyard Tour.”
  • Change the theme of the tour to generalize the content for the broader yoga population. A guiding principle might be: “What is the core gift of this method as I’ve learned it?” And, more importantly: “How does this method interact with other methods?” This would force prominent AY teachers to peak into what the rest of us have been doing.

 

In this proposal, there’s nothing of real value for anyone to lose, except a few weeks of pro bono work. Senior teachers have made enough from the brand: they will continue doing what they do best, and hopefully develop useful idiosyncrasies to meet their students’ unique and local needs. They’ll be fulfilled and suitably pecunious in their careers to the extent that they learn and teach transparently.

Nobody in the Nonusara world wants to give John Friend a red cent at this point. If the Method remains under any kind of copyright, we’ll be forced to pay him whenever we want to learn from one of its teachers. Releasing the trademark means cutting John free to make a living like the rest of us, floating from studio to studio, gym to gym, getting paid by the class or per mat, slowly reclimbing the mentorship ladder into his late middle age. If cutting him off seems cruel, and if his senior students really want to take care of their own and thank the man for his many innovations, let them all chip in an buy him an annuity to help him retire with dignity and a dental plan.

Anusara doesn’t need more money or to protect its teachings. What it really needs to see is whether its methods can function in intimacy, stripped bare of the spa-dazzle and doublespeak.

And everyone wants to stop shivering in the cold, waving our credit cards at the dim winter sun.

About yoga 2.0 lab

Matthew Remski is an Ayurvedic practitioner and Yoga Teacher Trainer in Toronto. His latest book, Threads of Yoga, is gathering international acclaim. He's teaching this online course starting 1/7/14. It's currently full, but there is a reduced-tuition option for auditing. The 12 weekly lessons will be available online for six months following the course. Participants receive a 130-page manual of notes.

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35 Responses to “Grounding Anusara 3: intimacy, methods, therapy, and making it open-source”

  1. Scott Newsom says:

    Pretty much with you on this. There is some interesting research out there on therapeutic group size that fits fairly well with what you are saying. Depending on the type of group, the ideal number has been pegged at somewhere in the range of 8 to 14, give or take 2. Fewer and there isn't enough energy, more and it isn't possible to maintain focus. So, you are in there on the low end, but your general principle is supported. Congratulations.

  2. I’m curious, Matthew..

    are you against standardization in general?

    I”m sure you know NAMA’s (National Ayurveda Medicine Association) recent work to create standardization in Ayurveda. Is that kind of “certification” also taboo for you?

    in response to “…but by actually doing what it failed to do in the first place: support localism and the creative evolution of the Method into methods, of Shringlish into dialogue.”

    I guess I see it differently. The only money I paid Anusara was to study with John, like I pay to study with any teacher. The annual fee is about the same as the annual fee I pay to support NAMA. Supporting organizations (for profit and non-profit) is a way to put energy where I find value.

    My local yoga studio was started as an Anusara yoga studio. I bought the business with another yoga teacher, and we continued to teach Anusara Yoga there. Studios around the country that teach Anusara paid nothing to Anusara, Inc., aside from the $90 a year teacher’s fee.

    Students come from around the the U.S., Canada, and Europe to our studio… knowing that they will receive competent teachings. Standardization can benefit the consumer. In flatland (refer Ken Wilber) the 6 students in a room with a below-average teacher who cares might not be as beneficial as 20 studentes in a room with an above-average teacher who cares.

    The Anusara teaching manual and Immersion manuals are inexpensive. It’s not exclusive by price. Certification may be exclusive by the numbers of hours needed. My yoga studio, as well as most I know about, offer worktrade. Worktade mimics the old guru/disciple relationship of helping out in exchange for teachings.

    There is more to say… but I prefer to get back to my day job as a teacher of more than 90 students who I care deeply about.

    • matthew says:

      I'm not against standardization or certification at all. If you read my somewhat-cheeky dissolution points more closely, you'll see that I actually suggest the AY standardization process be given over freely to Yoga Alliance, to help improve standards across the board.

      As I've tried to make clear: I'm against branding. I.e., the proprietary, top-down and over-monetized collection of canonized principles for sale. Branding is both explicitly and implicitly exclusive. It also tends to force the brander believe and communicate to others that his crap smells like roses.

      I might also define branding as "owned" standardization, whereas truly beneficial standardization goes through a long difficult democratic process of peer review — which is what happened with NAMA, and every other alt-health discipline in the last 20 years. True standardization is really hard to accomplish, because there no obvious money in it for anyone at the top.

      I'm afraid you reveal a huge blind spot in claiming that AY is/was not exclusive by price. First of all: most of yoga generally is. Secondly, I can personally name a dozen teachers who dropped out of the AY cert process because of cost alone. Air travel and accommodation to be with the now-fallen leader is absolutely a class-bound enterprise. Not recognizing this renders many pressures and inequities of our income-stratified society even more invisible.

      Finally, this argument is unclear to me: "Students come from around the the U.S., Canada, and Europe to our studio… knowing that they will receive competent teachings. Standardization can benefit the consumer. In flatland (refer Ken Wilber) the 6 students in a room with a below-average teacher who cares might not be as beneficial as 20 studentes in a room with an above-average teacher who cares."

      Standardization may indeed benefit the consumer (if "consumer" is how you want to identify your students), but branding and the advertising power of branding is what draws a world audience to your door: nobody can assess competency through marketing copy. And in that attraction, money and those resources begin to centralize and swell. Great. But so can disrespect for "lesser" paths. And so can the messiah complex. And other attitudes that further subdivide yoga culture.

      As in: how did the teacher with 6 students suddenly become below-average? Because they didn't have the gumption or resources to make a bigger splash? Because they have less business savvy? Sounds a little like Ayn Rand to me.

      Anyway, I look forward to visiting your studio one day. It sounds like you are managing the late-capital yoga-dance with more grace than most.

      best regards, m.

  3. yogijulian says:

    the elegant gangsta of truth telling rides again!

    love that you quote your therapist as saying "fuckin" multiple times…

  4. matthew says:

    FROM FACEBOOK:

    Josh Schrei
    ‎"towards a yoga culture that actually mirrors yoga just a little bit more."… hear, hear.

    Pankaj Seth
    I look forward to the day when Yoga is known as a worldview, and not just as some techniques which emerge from within that worldview. But that's some ways off in the West just yet.

    Julian Marc Walker
    nicely said – Shyam Dodge should be here too! :)

  5. matthew says:

    FROM FACEBOOK:

    Shyam Dodge
    I agree so much with what you have to say about methodology, the relational basis of therapy, corporate vs. community-centered, and many of your other critiques/proposals. I also resonate with your emphasis on more intimate learning–from a pedagogical point of view you do a brilliant job of critiquing the depersonalized "tyrannical happiness" marketing spectacle of the corporate model, which is the opposite of the intimacy-student centered model you are advocating.

    Here's the thing: While I see you brilliantly critiquing the “Universal Principles” absolutist-dogma, and a nuanced advocacy for what you term an “existentially reasonable philosophy” I think that much more work has to be done in unpacking and critiquing the epistemological basis/Pramanas of not only Anusara but of the traditional teacher-student relationship. Because it almost sounds like a resounding call to return to a more archaic model—while modified to some extent—in the face of the overwhelming despair engendered by the capitalist structure of popular yoga today.

    I agree with you on a philosophical level, regarding the necessity of a more intimate community-centered model, but fear that there is some glossing over the more unpleasant aspects of this traditional model, which often tends to foster the types of unhealthy power dynamics and dissociation as that of Anusara. This may have been merely a product of the focus of the argument in your piece and/or a slight romanticization of the intimacy-family-centered model itself.

    I hear you making many fine points in your overall assessment of "the reified object, method, or product" and the corporate guru… yet I still find it lacking in a more substantive ideological critique. Underpinning the pedagogical model of "guru-sisya-sastra" is the epistemological idealism of sabda (received knowledge) and the over-emphasis not only of the value of the method (which is the relationship/transmission) but the vertical hierarchy.

    While I'm not advocating for a pedagogy devoid of teachers or of connection to lineage, I fear that an over-emphasis on non-authorship (for much of the sastras while attributed to a mythic figure are in fact a product of many nameless authors)–and the traditional model of sampradaya–has the tendency to reinforce archaic educational dynamics that are in themselves tyrannical. This is because the metaphysics are inextricably wedded to the pedagogical theory.

    Because, in reality, JF's downfall was not just the product of “late-capitalism” but also of the metaphysics underlying Anusara and the traditional model of the guru-student-sastra paradigm.

    I do see that this type of critique is beautifully expressed, in many ways, within the overall tone and angle of your piece, but find it lacking in this near-romanticism of the traditional model of "guru-sisya-sastra." While this very old dynamic was brilliantly appropriated in your article, I still think the metaphysics need to be parsed out more thoroughly before I would hold them up as exemplary. (And, in all fairness, you do enunciate my view on the metaphysics w/r/t Anusara and the flaws inherent to its idealism, I'd just like to see it more up front w/r/t the more traditional model.)

    With regards to the recipe for a more grounded and healthy teaching model, something more disruptive is necessary than mere introduction of apocrypha, something more than mere self-deprecation or the baring of warts and cellulite. Those can be rationalized in a moment of idealization—idealization rooted in the metaphysics underpinning the model of "guru-sisya-sastra."

  6. matthew says:

    FROM FACEBOOK:

    (Shyam Dodge, con't)

    I think the generation and inclusion of outside critiques of yoga are necessary—in fact vital—to the growth of yoga. **Your open source proposal seems to go much in this direction. There is a deep need for modern yoga to de-emphasize its reliance upon traditional models–as well as new "Universal Principles"– and become more inclusive of developments in other spheres. In this respect, it will become more and more difficult to define what yoga is, but it will also allow yoga to remain vital and relevant to the world we live in.

    That being said this may be simply reactionary on my part in response to seeing such orthodox terminology thrown around in modern yoga discourse. It could also be the disparity between our experiences. Maybe in an ayur-focused guru relationship the same types of dysfunction I experienced in a Vedantic-focused guru relationship are simply not as prevalent–due most of all to the metaphysical reliance and implications of one as opposed to the other.

    I'd be interested to hear your experiences in this regard….

    In my later years, as a young sanyassin, I committed myself to a guru precisely because of the intimacy-family-centered focus of her educational model. She introduced apocrypha, never claimed authorship, and displayed human frailties with great abandon. And yet, in the end, it revealed itself to be a cult full of idealization, corruption, and heartache–mirroring in pitch and corruption the crumbling of the anusara-dream.

    This ended my idealization of the family-centered model, realizing that without deconstructing the metaphysics I'd be setting myself up for dysfunction the moment I taught a single student. So, in my humble opinion, the first step is an ideological critique (of the idealism/metaphysics) then the over-haul you are suggesting. For some reason I just see it in that order, otherwise we reinforce the same dynamic no matter the size of the structure.

  7. matthew says:

    FROM FACEBOOK:

    Ramesh Bjonnes
    Matthew, in my heart and in my body, I have lived small and intimate yoga all my yogi life. I learned on the dirt floors of India with hardly more than a dozen students at a time, and I have actually never ever practiced in a yoga studio. I practice at home alone, or with my wife, or the dog, with trees looking through the window of my forest house. So, I truly dig small, and I dig your article for that perspective. Truly. But I do not resonate with the all-or-nothing approach, the scathing criticism of Anusra Inc, the box store of yoga, but not seeing or writing about the potential problems with small and insular. Small could easily become the North Korea of yoga–insular, navel-gazing, isolated. Which I could easily become if I also did not live in a small community and have my work at the Prama Institute, which is a five minute walk down the forest road. A very idyllic setting, yes, but it;s not for everybody to live like this. Some can't stand the lack of streetlights and they leave. So, to you, and also Shyam, be careful in making the personal, the local, into a universal savior story. I see the same tendency in all the guru-bashing on EJ. People who have had bad experiences saying that because I had a bad guru, therefore all gurus are bad. Just because someone had a divorce that does not mean all marriages are bad. So, I urge you to write another article about the potential pitfalls of small, community oriented yoga. There are shadows everywhere, even in small rooms lit by candlelight.

    Matthew Remski ‎
    Ramesh Bjonnes, these are excellent, excellent points. I am actually working on other writing projects that explore the problems of insularity. But I do think this is a minority problem in yoga culture today. Here in Toronto I know of 3 self-isolating yoga communities out of 50 or so. Still, I must avoid painting with broad strokes: it is sloppy. Thank you, M

    Matthew Remski
    ‎Shyam Dodge, this is a home-run observation. I should definitely have parsed the metaphysics of G-S-S more closely. I gave a rather superficial lionization of its slowness and quietude, and certainly did leave out the bit about the authoritarianism of oral transmission. (The thing about peer-reviewed texts as opposed to Rsi-cognized texts is that they can be democratically validated, and not changed on-the-fly to suit the power differential.) I do have experience with this mess, and I thank you for reminding me of its importance. You've had a rough ride, I know, but you don't smell reactionary to me. Thanks, M

    Ramesh Bjonnes Matthew, that's wonderful, Matthew. I am looking forward to that article. And I agree with you that insularity is a minor problem… the problem I also point to,, which I think is a major problem is making the personal story universal:bashing others from the hip
    and which you are aware of: the broad strokes. Which I also practice and is often unavoidable because writing is a slow conversation, the back and forth communication, is limited and space is limited. So, more power to small communities connected in a global grid of interconnectedness, and for me, that means also seeing the beauty and value in yoga studios in Beverly Hills!

  8. Nancy Candea says:

    Thank you Matthew. In my 16 years in this business, I have come to many of the same conclusions. I feel that if I branded the yoga that I teach and training others to teach, I would lose the creative process of it, the flow, the soul of my practice; to grow and to respond to the world around me and most importantly to my clients. I am very grateful to all the teachers, from a variety of traditions, styles and brands, that I have experienced. I am looking ahead to the growth that will eventually come out of this current upset that has effected the world of yoga.

    • matthew says:

      hi nancy. i'm looking forward to it as well. i think this is the best discussion we've had about the big picture, perhaps ever, on the big scale. here's to crossing paths some day. warmly, m

  9. matthew says:

    FROM FACEBOOK:

    Michael Stone
    Let me offer something from my own experience. Centre of Gravity is run by a Board of Directors that the teachers (there are 3) report to. As the founder I also have an advisory board of 4 people who run similar non-profit groups and who are elder teachers in their own right. Lastly, I see a supervisor every two weeks – someone I used to see when I was working as a psychotherapist – who offers much guidance when I'm entangled or confused or irritated in my relationships with students (which is often). We list all the names of the Board and also the Advisory Board on our website so people can contact them. Now we are in the process of starting an Ethics Committee and also we are going to begin publishing our financial documents. I actually wonder what it would be like for all of us who are teaching yoga publicly to publish our financial records to demonstrate what it's like to use money, how it's used, how much we make, where it comes from, and so on. Based on Carol's comments maybe these details can help move this conversation along.

  10. matthew says:

    FROM FACEBOOK:

    Carol Horton
    Wow, this is a fantastic discussion. It should really be on the EJ page itself so that more people can see it, however . . . That said, I wanted to chime in and say that I while I love the writing and critique so much that it feels somehow like I'm ruining my aesthetic to join the cautionary chorus raised by Shyam and Ramesh, I do share their concerns. I don't think that the shift from corporation-based, conference hotel yoga to home-based, living room yoga gets at all of the most important issues involved. At all, really. It works beautifully on some levels, which you hit on with breathtaking literary acumen. But – as far as the messed up transfers of power that all too often occur between teacher and student – no. While I don't have Shyam's grounding in "tradition," what he says nonetheless resonates with my own experience. I had teachers here who worked well with students as long as they were part of the stable of a big studio – in other words, nothing so special. But once they started their own, much smaller studio – precisely for the purpose of being more intimate, community building, etc. – the narcissism flared out of control. I went to their house repeatedly for practice; they had communal gardening events in their yard. Everything got worse. Within a year and a half of this shift from big studio to small, most of the most strong-minded people in the community had had serious fallings out with one of these teachers – breaking what had been a relationship years in the making. This included me – I left after years of profitable study. So . . . the psychology can replicate itself in different structures (big or small). We really need to get into the issues at a more psychological than structural level, I think, to get to the heart of the matter. Nonetheless – a brilliant post! Loved it.

    • yogasamurai says:

      You're missing the obvious. None of these yoga teachers are trained and licensed in psychology or theology, and have no practical experience in pastoral spiritual care or clinical work as therapists. They are not qualified for the roles and settings they have "trained" for, but in fact have NOT trained for, which can quickly and easily transcend the mere imparting of a methodology for physical and "surface" psychology self-care into much, much deeper spiritual and therapeutic realms.

      The only solution I see, since we now have an estimated 70,000 narcissistic monsters calling themselves certified teachers running loose across America:

      Put every yogi and yogini under the direct care and supervision of a priest or religious minister, with regular weekly confession. The priest or minister need not be Judeo-Christian but it must be somebody with years of spiritual formation who is familiar with elementary principles of pastoral care. Also, require every yoga teacher to go into some kind of personal or group therapy because I have yet to meet one in over a decade who did not desperately need to address their own developmental issues, if only because of their extreme youth and life inexperience.

      Most of the yogis now being "trained" and "certified" are engaged in spiritual malpractice. Forget about their primitive understanding of the body, anatomy, and pedagogy. It's not the prospect of physical injuries that should concern us most – though the prospect is real. It's the psychological and spiritual injuries. This is not a matter of whether the teaching is occurring in studios in collectivity or in private apartments. None of the people in either setting are qualified to engage their "students" in any matter relating to care of the psyche and soul, so the potential for disguised and untreated – and therefore quite dangerous – mutual power transference is quite real.

      This is the great horrible fallacy of contemporary American yoga. People are wandering into the mysteries of their soul and the Spirit either unguided, or misdirected by stupidity, arrogance and infantile ego-projections, their teachers' and their own.

      The current yoga "movement" if we can call it that is headed for disaster, bankruptcy, and emotional and spiritual destruction. The number of people who have already tried the new yoga – and left – already surpasses by a large margin those who are still in it. History is passing this movement by. It's clinging to its consumer niche among aging baby boomers with disposable income who are dying off, and is desperately trying to find these new little niches – gays in Nude Yoga, pot heads in Ganja Yoga, men in Broga – but the returns are diminishing

      Yoga is seducing and titillating the mainstream – but it's not actually "mainstreaming," not as a genuine therapeutic or wellness practice. And it can't given who and what it is, organizationally, psychologically, generationally, and gender-wise, and what it refuses to become.

      Westerners have no business mucking about in this faux-Hindu world with its trappings of priestly omniscience unrestrained by any true organizational or religious system, with personal transparency and accountability. Priests and religious have real spiritual formation, yogis in America have none. Their presence would at least create a check and balance – a semblance of adult "supervision" that could allow for a reorientation of today's "mass yoga" to occur over time. It's the only way I see to save what is otherwise becoming a rapidly metastasizing spiritual cancer.

      Beyond this – totally reform the teacher training system – take it out of the hands of the studios with their short-term profit motives and the corporate yoga brands that merely want to indoctrinate their faithful to preserve their market share. Turn yogis into yoga professionals with licensure, earned over a long period of time, not a quick and dirty certificate that isn't worth the paper it is printed on. Put the training into formally chartered yoga schools that award real professional degrees in yoga. Make it publicly privately run, jointly. There are plenty of fine examples in New Zealand, Germany, the UK and yes the Indian motherland. Let's build a yoga movement/industry that God and Shiva would be proud of – not the carnival freak show and pornographic social media circle jerk we are living with now?.

  11. SQR says:

    This article may come off as a bit harsh to some of Anusara's defenders, but I think it's level-headed. I also think Carol Horton's Facebook comment that you posted here is an interesting twist, and something to bear in mind. I know teachers in small home settings, large studios, and remote rural areas- the student/teacher dynamics seem to vary with the social skills (and maturity level) of those involved.

    • SQR says:

      I should also say that, while I appreciate the general tone of this piece, I found the comparison of yoga teachers promoting themselves to Ayn Rand type values not up to the intellectual standards of the rest of your observations.

      • matthew says:

        hi. the reference wasn't to self-promotion. it was to the implication that the teacher who had 6 students was somehow "below standard". sounded like an argument spiked with a whiff of objectivism. but just a whiff. I agree: the reference is a bit flat-footed.

  12. matthew says:

    FROM FACEBOOK:

    Shyam Dodge
    The transparency and oversight controls in place for your model, Michael, are really inspiring. Thank you, it does progress the dialog… and combined with the points Matthew made w/r/t community culture and social service I think that a workable model is emerging, one that both of you are trailblazing.
    about an hour ago

    Julian Marc Walker

    ‎Shyam Dodge "In my later years, as a young sanyassin, I committed myself to a guru precisely because of the intimacy-family-centered focus of her educational model. She introduced apocrypha, never claimed authorship, and displayed human frailties with great abandon. And yet, in the end, it revealed itself to be a cult full of idealization, corruption, and heartache–mirroring in pitch and corruption the crumbling of the anusara-dream."

    potent.

    Ramesh Bjonnes "There are shadows everywhere, even in small rooms lit by candlelight."

    beautifully said.

    "Just because someone had a divorce that does not mean all marriages are bad."

    well, of course not – but we can critique arranged marriages based on their lack of personal choice and point to the problems with the outdated traditionalist reliance on astrology as a way to pick which children will end up spending their lives together, right?

    my critiques about the guru model are precisely that – they do not say all gurus are bad, they say the guru model is outdated, creates a lot of room for exploitation as has been amply demonstrated, and in short is based on the literalization of a mythic image and the fantasy that any human being can in fact be an archetype.

    as i said in one of my responses to you: i am delighted that you have a guru you deem worthy of your devotion! it does make me wonder though when you claim they have paranormal abilities…

    Julian Marc Walker
    it also de facto discourages critical thinking and this is always a mistake in my opinion as it not only provides leverage for deception but also fragments the student instead of allowing for integrated growth.
    54 minutes ago · Like · 1

    Julian Marc Walker
    wow – michael, great point.

    Carol Horton
    Following up on Michael's comment – I want to amend my previous statement that structure is not important. What I really meant is that the same problems can arise with a structural dyad (teacher/student, guru/disciple) whether the context is large (ansura inc.) or small (a home). BUT if you change that structure entirely – that's a different matter. Michael provided a great concrete example – I think that more accountable structures must have these features of multiple accessible points of entry, cross-checks on leaders, etc.

    John Allen Gibel
    Julian, I read your EJ article on Guru devotion the other day and I believe that you make some valid criticisms. I wanted to mention to you however, that the model of guru devotion is irrevocably tied to the to the context of Hindu and Buddhist Tantra and esotericism. What this means, is that if you take the Guru-principle out of the equation, then there is no Tantra, no lineage, no transmission, and these traditions disappear. Now, if I understand you correctly, what you are suggesting is in some sense a rehabilitation or revision of the yoga tradition that would excise the aspect of Guru devotionalism. However, doing so would irrevocably mean the demise of those traditions altogether. So my question is, are you saying that Guru tradition and its applications (both psychologically and culturally) has any place in evolved spirituality, or that it should be rendered altogether abrogate as a harmful throwback to superstition and abuse? More simply stated, do you believe that many individuals may have ever been benefited in extraordinary ways by gurus and the culture of guru-devotionalism, just as many have been harmed? And if so, how can the dismantling of that tradition be justified? It is interesting that you chose Pema Chödron as an exemplary teacher, when as you know, her own Guru was one of the last centuries most notorious yet influential. Any thoughts?

  13. matthew says:

    FROM FACEBOOK:

    Julian Marc Walker
    john, the yoga tradition (and buddhism to some extent) in the west has already been powerfully changed – it is a work in progress, an evolving synthesis. most yogis and meditators in the usa no longer are involved in any kind of orthodox guru disciple relationship – yet the benefits of the practices continue because they transcend cultural models and worldviews.

    i am saying that the belief that gurus have supernatural authority, are literally divine beings come to earth and are infallible conduits of absolute truth is something that can be teased apart from the actual value of these practices in contemporary life, especially in the west.

    even though most contemporary yogis and meditators are to in the guru model, there is still a lot of idealizing of it as a basis for various metaphysical claims about the ultimate purpose of these practices.

    i think we can keep getting more grounded and letting go of these underpinnings.

    personally i am as interested in mythic literalism from the judaeo-christian or greco-roman traditions as i am in mythic literalism from the hindu-buddhist traditions – which is to say not at all!

    it is not necessary for us to take on wholesale the outdated baggage of ancient cultures from the other side of the world in order to receive the demonstrable neurobiological, psychological and indeed spiritual gifts of the practices.

    as you know i am not much for feeling like "traditions" should be treated with kid gloves, not questioned or critiqued, and preserved in toto in perpetuity.

    everything is evolving and the idea of an eternal tradition/lineage that somehow has tis roots in ancient supernatural origins is an idealized fantasy.

    what has enduring value in any tradition will survive the evolutionary process including honest critique and our grounded attempts to not relinquish the advances of critical thinking, individual liberty, psychological knowledge and scientific method.

    have you checked out mark singleton's book yoga body yet? very interesting in this regard.

    as for pema chodron, i find her to be a very grounded, integrated, honest, compassionate teacher that emphasizes sitting with one's shadow emotions and doing the personal work on oneself with no reliance on supernatural claims or guru authority.

    her teacher chogyam trungpa was a brilliant but deeply flawed teacher. he is yet another example of the problems with the old world approach, but i didn't include him in my list because i don't see him as an example specifically of the the literalized myth of the supernatural holy man – though he no doubt played a lot of the same manipulative games.

  14. matthew says:

    FROM FACEBOOK:

    John Allen Gibel
    Julian, I see what you are saying now. Good clarification. And as always, thanks for your thoughtful response. I have read Singleton's book, and found it to be very informative. I was particularly interested (I think due to my art/film studies background) in his chapter on the ways in which the technological medium of photographic reproduction was instrumental in the Asana revivalism as a part of the physical fitness movement of the 20th century. I also have read his Oxford mentor Elizabeth DeMichelis' book "History of Modern Yoga," which I found to have even more breadth in the examination of the tangled intersection of South Asian religion and Western culture. As you said, it is a work in progress, and one that requires transparency, and a great deal of responsibility on the part of those who seek to engage within it. The recent John Friend debacle is a great example of a how skewed facts and bogus history can be a fatal part of botched attempt at upholding a purported "tradition" in an alien culture.
    However, I am wondering, moreso in the case of Trungpa, with all of his attendant flaws and his rock-star brazenness, can we not also take the good with the bad and acknowledge his accomplishments and the profound impact that he made in transplanting and popularizing the meditation and art of Buddhism in the United States (given the turmoil and complexity of the 1960s when he was doing so)? Trungpa, had he not been so incendiary and volatile (at times) would likely not have made the impact that he did in advancing the East-West dialog. Thats something notable about the difference between Trungpa and many others was how open and forthcoming he was about his blurring of ethical boundaries. Perhaps the guru principle, without its shadow, is in some ways neutered, and ineffectual, is what I am saying.
    This I think is interesting to note, in light of the point of topic of Tantra as a body of practices, the texts of which purport, in their cosmological chronology, that we are living in a Dark Age known as the Kali Yoga; in such an age of unprecedented chaos, violence, and spiritual benightedness it is only Tantra that can tame the minds of wanderers in Samsara. Which is to say that radical times require radical measures. Now we can surely say that this then becomes a rationalization for any number of abhorrent behaviors, but we similarly find instances where conventional means and niceties and even rationality fail in the face of great spiritual crises.

    Julian Marc Walker
    yea wasn't the bit about propagation of the image of the yogi fascinating!?

    Julian Marc Walker
    we can of course take the good with the bad, but i think we cannot ignore the GLARING irony of someone making claims of having attained to certain rarified levels of development and setting themselves up as a spiritual guide to thousands of people and then turning out to be as deeply troubled if not MORE SO than the people they were claiming to guide!

    we gloss this over at our own peril and in a breach of faith with the possibilities of an honest and integrated spirituality!

    Julian Marc Walker
    i think the case you make for the guru principles being "neutered" or "ineffectual" without its attendant shadow getting acted out is a dangerous step in the direction of rationalization along the lines of "crazy wisdom" and being able to see beyond our "judgments" to the "perfection" the guru is pointing out even as he steals our money, screws our wife, and demands we clean the toilet!

    Julian Marc Walker
    sorry (and i mean this as a frank comment between friends, so please hear it as such) fuck the kali yuga! that's on th same level as thinking 2012 prophecies are true or jesus might be coming back sometime soon… :) ya?

    John Allen Gibel
    haha

    Julian Marc Walker
    know what i mean? neither elijah nor nostradamus nor the mayans nor the tantrics have a bona fide crystal ball…..

  15. matthew says:

    FROM FACEBOOK:

    Pankaj Seth ‎"as he steals our money, screws our wife, and demands we clean the toilet!"… good stuff. Before people study the Yoga Sutra and the like, they ought to study the Panchatantra, and even the Arthashastra. Worldly wisdom has always been recommended. lest 'he steals our money…"

    John Allen Gibel
    Here's the thing though, which is where we differ on this, but somehow meet on the other end… I love the Kali Yuga, and the notion of the Kali Yoga as the substrate of the Tantra (and prefer professor Robert Thurman's translation of it as "The Apocalyptic Vehicle"), I love living in it, because as a metaphor it means that we are all ripe for coming into our ownmost authenticity as the ultimate potentiality of our boundless radiant being's original nature, in this lifetime. The Kali Yuga is a state of mind man! Now if you'll excuse me, I have a date with my root guru, the Ty-D-Bowl Man. ;) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DC_M2VgfVA

    John Allen Gibel
    Also, another important cultural document that highlights some of the more exciting methodologies employed in the Kali Yuga ;) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBIdcUxdgo0

    John Allen Gibel Julian, our conversation reminded me of this, I think you'll enjoy it. Hakim Bey on the Kali Yuga: http://deoxy.org/gaia/kaliyuga.htm
    "Her age must contain horrors, for most of us cannot understand her or reach beyond the necklace of skulls…

  16. matthew says:

    FROM FACEBOOK:

    Ramesh Bjonnes
    Julian, although I never heard my guru use the f-word, he basically agreed with you on the Kali Yuga. It's a metaphor and literally speaking it's as bunk as the 2012 propehcies. That said, he did foretell the future on numerous occasion, and many times my own, but let those stories wait for another article. Why don't you send me your definition of paranpormal, and I'll respond with am article based on personal and other yogs' experiences.

    Ramesh Bjonnes
    I think Michael's points are great and mirror somewhat my own experiences here at Prama. We have a board of directors and an advisory board as well, and we make all big executive decisions via consensus. It has worked for 5 years without any majir interpersonal or business conflicts. Indeed, it's been a very smooth and rewarding ride.

    Ramesh Bjonnes
    Following up on Carol's and Michael's comments, which I basically agree with: all structures have potential flaws because they are run by people, and so checks and balances are important. The model we work with we term (coined by my paranormal guru, Julian :-) ) "coordinated cooperation" as opposed to the top-down model of "subordinated cooperation." So, even if you have a director of this and that, the idea is that a "leader" is working in coordinated cooperation with everyone else, no matter their position, and not simply as a top down boss. This, for us, creates a sense of community and sharing.

    Julian Marc Walker
    ramesh it is precisely because i find your pieces astute, engaging, generous and sophisticated that i engage you on these sorts of questions…. i hope that comes through!

    Julian Marc Walker
    hmmm as for paranormal powers, i guess they would have to both defy the laws of physics and be demonstrated in a way that goes beyond anecdotal accounts that assume causal connections that may not be there….

    form the wiki page: "paranormal phenomena are inconsistent with the world as already understood through empirical observation coupled with scientific methodology.[5]
    Thousands of stories relating to paranormal phenomena are found in popular culture, folklore, and the recollections of individual subjects.[6] In contrast, the scientific community, as referenced in statements made by organizations such as the United States National Science Foundation, maintains that scientific evidence does not support a variety of beliefs that have been characterized as paranormal"

  17. matthew says:

    FROM FACEBOOK:

    John Allen Gibel
    Empirical observation coupled with scientific methodology are inconsistent with the world as already understood through empirical observation coupled with scientific methodology. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg18524911.60

    13 things that do not make sense – space – 19 March 2005 – New Scientist http://www.newscientist.com
    There are many scientific observations that simply defy explanation. New Scienti…

    Pankaj Seth
    Speaking of the paranormal, does anyone have any recollection of the Ganesha drinking milk episode, I think in the late 90's? Have you decided for yourselves that it did or didn't happen, or are you in ambiguity about that? I found that really puzzling. I didn't experience it myself, never tried to feed a statue, a statue wasn't around where I was. But my mother went to a local temple and she is skeptical by nature but she came back convinced.There were many reports, including certain scientists proposing 'capillary action', which indicated to me that they probably thought that there was some phenomenon to explain. Other things like vibhuti flowing from pics of Sai Baba I have heard about, sporadic things, easy to ignore. But this episode with Ganesha was a mass episode. Any thoughts?

    Julian Marc Walker
    all a trick until there is reasonable evidence otherwise.

    Julian Marc Walker http://ibnlive.in.com/news/science-behind-milk-dr

    Milk-drinking gods just plain science
    ibnlive.in.com
    The phenomenon of idols 'drinking' milk could be explained scientifically by the theory of capillary action.

    Julian Marc Walker http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindu_milk_miracle

    Hindu milk miracle – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    en.wikipedia.org
    The Hindu milk miracle was a phenomenon, considered by many Hindus as a miracle,…

  18. matthew says:

    Pankaj Seth Yes, I've read those and still I am not convinced of the capillary action theory. For one thing, metal statues were also mass reported to take in milk. Also, the amount of milk used did not show up on the floor, so it is said. And then, this phenomenon began one day, lasted several days, worldwide, and then stopped. The day after and every day since, there are no reports of milk drinking statues. Another interesting question is whether on'e worldview could account for this, or is it the case that the worldview would collapse. For myself, I see material reality (space-time-matter-motion) as part of a mindscape, rather than as a mechanical clockwork. Here, it is possible to see this come about, as things come about in a dream. Some dreams are quite pedestrian, but others can be revelatory. So for me, I read the dream and see an auspicious event having been sighted. It brings a smile and deepens the breath, but time will tell.

    Julian Marc Walker
    i see.

    Chelsea Roff
    Epic thread. Simply epic.

    Loved what Michael shared about the importance of transparency and organizational structure. If the "yoga community" (whatever that means) gleans anything from the JF/Anusara fiasco, I hope it is that we take a closer look at the relational dynamics within our organizations. When a single "leader," "guru," "teacher," or individual is responsible for delegating all the teachings, ethical guidelines, decision-making, etc… well, we're just setting ourselves up for unhealthy psychological dynamics to develop. It shouldn't be any surprise that abuses of power happen under those circumstances. As the dust settles, I hope we can begin a real conversation about models of leadership and organizational structure such as the ones Michael discussed.

    Per the discussion of paranormal powers… Wow, very timely, Julian. Point taken. Ramesh, what powers (besides telling the future) does your guru seem to have?

    Aside: Is paranormal the same thing as supernatural?

    su·per·nat·u·ral/ˌso͞opərˈnaCH(ə)rəl/
    Adjective:
    (of a manifestation or event) Attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature.

    John Allen Gibel
    su·per·nat·u·ral/ˌso͞opərˈnaCH(ə)rəl/
    Adjective: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8__iRsxG_A :)

    Mikhail Baryshnikov in Giselle http://www.youtube.com
    Baryshnikov performs Albrechts' variation from act II of Giselle in 1977.

    Ramesh Bjonnes Julian, yes, it comes through load and clear. I welcome your challenges, so I will take it up in more detail in an article. Regarding the milk drinking Ganesha, I agree with you, there is some natural explanation–trickery or science. Indeed, all phenomenons are natural, even the so-called paranormal ones, but more on that in the article.

  19. [...] work, as a community, to do? As a Marriage and Family Therapist I cannot help but look through the lens of psychological growth and development, group dynamics, and character structure as much as I contemplate through my [...]

  20. Schism in Faith says:

    I recall seeing Douglas in a very large gathering in La Jolla where he completey pissed some one off in the audience. your spin on yoga from the perspective of an activist is amusing.

    Authentic yoga will transcend your blog and all the interpretations and schisms of people with good intentions but not grounded in any tradition.

    • matthew says:

      Thank you, Schism in Faith. I'm tickled to think that there's still some old-timey catholic gumption tearing it up out there somewhere. It takes all types.

      By the way: is "Authentic yoga" a person? I thought that people transcended things. I've never heard of things transcending things.

      • Not Impressed says:

        Authentic yoga happens in your own subtle awareness which fortunately can transcend your message.

        Your polished articles that use language to to elevate your amazing level of intellect are of no relevance to the inner experience of yoga.

        • matthew says:

          In my view, discriminating awareness is key to practicing yama and niyama, and to forming the strong and transparent communities in which the inner experiences of yoga can flourish: this is my focus here.

  21. Not Impressed says:

    Your writing attracts approval but lacks wisdom from actual experience in the sublte aspects of yoga. It hard to believe in the sultle realms when you have not actully experienced them.

    No need to evolve yoga as it already complete where as western pyshcology is still diverging and full of hypothesis.

    As yoga loves to tell us ou addiction to our own rationl onsciousness as the finest product of evolution is our forst blunder. (asmita)

    • matthew says:

      thank you not impressed, but tell me: how is it that you know more about me and my experiences than I do?

      the writing is about a topic, which you are not interested in, clearly. the writing is not "me".

      and: which in particular, amongst the thousands of streams of yogas, each differing from the other and growing through their differences, is "complete"? did someone close the vault after a particular experience was had, or a particular meditative state was attained?

  22. leader says:

    Good stuff, thanks!

  23. [...] to collect and analyze data that have only recently become part of the social researcher's toolbox. Grounding Anusara 3: intimacy, method, therapy | elephant journal What it needs to see is whether its methods can survive intimacy, stripped bare of the spa-dazzle [...]

  24. [...] do care people were abused and manipulated. I do care that modern yoga has been deeply wounded. And I do care that we live in a society where [...]

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