John Friend: “Here is my side of this story from the beginning…”

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on Jun 12, 2012
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John Friend: Full Statement.

A Summary of the Facts from my View, the Future of Anusara Yoga, & a Full Offering of Regrets & Commitment to Improve.

6-12-12

It is with profound sadness that I write this public statement today. My level of remorse for my mistakes and my grief for Anusara yoga is simply indescribable. It has been a nightmare for me to watch a community that once was united become so divided.

From the beginning I tried to handle this situation with dignity and professionalism. I now recognize that many people felt that I was not forthcoming enough in my previous public statements addressing the allegations, and that to some my statements came across as polished PR spin. Some expressed to me their feelings that I was not taking genuine responsibility for my actions, and that I have little real intention of changing my ways.

To be clear, I humbly accept 100% responsibility and ownership for my part in any of the confusion and suffering surrounding this terrible situation. Furthermore, I am, and have been, intent on discovering my shadows and working diligently to improve myself.

For the first couple of months I got a lot of varied and sometimes opposing advice from attorneys and business consultants on how to respond to this crisis. I chose to take the advice of my attorneys, so I was cautious with my public statements because there were legal ramifications with other people involved.

In addition, I was in confidential negotiations with teacher groups on the future of the organization. To uphold confidentiality that was requested by the groups, I made limited public statements with the hope and expectation that a resolution to a teacher-led school was just around the corner. I also thought it was prudent to pause and reflect, so I could come from a place of clarity when the time was right for me to publish a thorough statement.

I am so sorry that my voice on this situation has not been fully heard until now. My limited public statements were overwhelmed by an onslaught of public postings on the blogger-sphere and social media, most of which were inaccurate. These distorted accounts of me and the crisis became the most consistent and pervasive information that was provided in the public forum, and therefore was believed by many. I now understand that more confusion and chaos were created by my relative silence, which I regret. Please know that my silence was not because of a lack of caring, lack of taking ownership, or lack of remorse.

Overall, I would say, many in the community, including me, handled this crisis poorly. The preliminary reaction to the situation by most, including myself and numerous senior teachers, was based on fear and confusion. Personally, I was shocked by the intensity of what came at me, so I know I didn’t respond in the most skillful way that I could have, especially in the beginning of the crisis. Over the last months emotions only grew throughout the community, and nothing I said or did helped to bring calm or clarity, for which I am deeply saddened.

So, now I would like to openly share my story from my heart, to address my character faults, to clear misinformation, and to sincerely take full responsibility for my actions.

The following statement contains a summary of the facts from my view, a presentation for the future of Anusara yoga, and a full offering of my heartfelt regrets and commitment to improve as a person.

 

***

Over the last four months I have negotiated with four different independently formed teacher groups who have each dictated terms to me for the release of the school of Anusara yoga into the hands of the teachers.

Please know that this is something that I fully support.

The legal ownership of the trademarks has been the central point of contention in many of the talks. Friday, the Leadership Committee made its final statement that they would not be continuing to pursue a teacher-led school of Anusara yoga. They clearly presented their side of the story.

Here is my side of this story from the beginning…

On Monday afternoon, February 6th, three days after the illicit website about my private life was posted, I received a phone call from a certified teacher claiming to be the spokesperson for a self-appointed committee of 12 certified teachers. Each of these teachers currently served on at least one committee: Ethics, Curriculum, or Certification, so they felt that they were the “senior” Anusara yoga teachers representing the rest of the certified teachers.

The group emailed me a document with a list of actions that I was requested to do including: “curtail your teaching for 6 months or some defined period; seek counseling; revise the corporate documents of Anusara, Inc to give a new Board of Directors, elected by certified teachers, which will have genuine authority over the future direction of school (Anusara yoga). You may have a seat on the Board, perhaps Chair. However, you cannot be CEO. The Board of Directors will be empowered to offer positions of authority to key teachers and leaders within the organization.” The letter was signed by 24 certified teachers. Although there were other certified teachers reaching out to me with a different and more compassionate perspective, I chose to hear this group out because they were long-time friends and respected colleagues, and I was hoping to clearly demonstrate my desire to honor everyone’s concerns.

This senior teacher committee accidentally sent the letter to others outside of their expanded group of 24, so some teachers became upset that it was appearing like a small coup d’état and the rest of the licensed teachers were not being represented in the terms presented to me. In attempting to come to a compromise on the senior teachers committee terms, and begin a cooperative discussion with a core group of teachers to figure out the next best steps for Anusara yoga, I chose an “Interim Committee” mainly from the group of 24, and scheduled a professionally mediated session for 3 hours on Thursday afternoon. In that meeting the Committee agreed to have me teach in Miami starting on Sunday for 8 days. The Miami event was only a few days away and it would not have been fair to cancel the event especially for those who had non-refundable travel and accommodation booked. Furthermore, I thought it was wise to stand up and take immediate and public responsibility for my transgressions in front of many teachers and students, instead of instantly retreating. So, I was thankful that the committee agreed to have me teach that event.

However, on Saturday, the day before the event began, I was informed by a member of the Interim Committee that there was a strong voice in the greater yoga community speaking out against me teaching in Miami, and that I should have scholars and certified teachers teach in my place. So, I called an emergency mediated meeting of the Interim Committee for Saturday afternoon. After a 3-hour conference call there was a straw vote about me teaching in Miami. The Committee voted to support me if I wanted to teach in Miami with the assistance of scholars and certified teachers.

On Saturday night I was forwarded an email from one of the Interim Committee members stating that a strong dissenting voice outside the Interim Committee presented the following terms to me:

1. John may not teach or sit on the stage. He may not ask for forgiveness but he can apologize only and take a seat. 

2. A group of senior teachers will teach the entire event.  John has disqualified his teaching credentials and can earn his way back into the Kula after therapy.   

3. Further: No opportunities whatsoever to put himself in the limelight. No consideration whatsoever or forum for well-wishers, crying, etc. No darshan lines to talk. 

4. Further, this is what he says in the current statement: ‘Although it would be easier to retreat for a while, I am stepping out today into the public to speak and teach, being completely transparent about my behavior.’ This portion of the letter needs to be retracted and he needs to say, ‘Since I am unfit to teach on the Dharma of Relationships, I have humbly requested that my teachers to come and teach in my stead. I will humbly sit before you all and listen.’

5. John must leave before the classes end.”

These terms were not discussed in the Interim Committee meeting, and I never agreed to them. Yet, on Sunday morning a group of certified teachers were informed from Miami that I was teaching, and immediately a number of resignations of top teachers began to be publicly announced on the Internet.

Throughout the week in Miami the call for me to step down and stop teaching continued from a group of teachers in the community who were not present at the event, but who were in support of the person who dictated the above terms to me. As I had initially agreed to in the conference call with the Interim Committee, I brought in a scholar for a couple of philosophy talks on Sunday afternoon and Monday morning. I thought the committee’s idea of having a scholar teach the philosophy part of the event was a good one which allowed me the opportunity to sit amongst the students and study from a person of high integrity. Also, I had several certified teachers teach a significant part of the asana section on that first day. Yet, my efforts to compromise with the Interim Committee did not seem to make any difference, and teachers continued to resign. The almost 400 students from 20 countries who were present during the week were vocal that they did not want me to stop teaching nor to have substitute teachers.

There were also many licensed teachers reaching out who were not present in Miami, writing to me that they were proud that I had decided to stand up and face the heat of my consequences and speak earnestly in public (which they heard through reports), rather than staying hidden. So, torn about who to honor and to appease, and deeply conflicted about the way things were going, I felt the best way to serve was to complete Miami and then begin my leave of absence from teaching and let things settle. I announced on Thursday, February 16th that my sabbatical would start on Monday, the 20th.

Several members of the Interim Committee resigned that week, which effectively dissolved the committee. A “Steering Committee” was then formed by another group of certified teachers. A strong faction of the committee demanded nothing less than for me to turn over the school of Anusara yoga, particularly the trademarks, to the teachers. Essentially the trademarks represent the core value of the school, and that is what the Steering Committee ultimately wanted. I was willing to allow the school to be completely teacher-led, so teachers could guide all the future direction of the Anusara yoga school curriculum and certification procedures. However, I was not willing to relinquish ownership of the trademarks to the teacher group who I was not confident could run the school on their own, which entailed managing business administration including upholding the legal integrity of the trademarks.

Over the last few years I started to turn over more control of the school to the teachers. I created a Curriculum Committee who helped direct the curriculum for trainings, and I turned over the certification process to Co-Chairpersons and a full committee. So, this difficult situation created the right opportunity to turnover the guidance of the school fully to the teachers, which I truly supported. Again, what I was not willing to sacrifice was the control and protection of the integrity and value of the trademarks.

The Leadership Committee followed the dissolution of the Steering Committee in April. Once again, there was little in the way of compromise or cooperation from the LC. Rather than engage in a collaborative conversation about how we could realistically create a teacher-run Anusara yoga school together, they demanded that I turn over not only the trademarks, but also control of my corporation (I am the sole stockholder). Their main proposal was for me to hire a new CEO chosen by the LC. They wanted me to pay the annual salary for the CEO who would have the power to fire my staff and move the office to another state. This proposal gave away all of my corporate power effectively, while as the sole owner, left me with all the fiduciary responsibility and liability for the company. So, I offered to sell the company, with full and complete due diligence, and agreed to sign a legal non-compete document with this scenario. However, the LC also did not accept this option. So, when I refused their CEO proposal, which I found completely unreasonable, I was informed by my representative in the negotiations that we were at an impasse.

I then wrote a letter to the teachers stating how I was moving forward with the school of Anusara yoga, since an agreement with the LC could not be agreed upon. I submitted the letter to Wendy Willtrout to post on the Anusara Yoga FB page. It was then decided in the office that the letter should come from Wendy and not me, so Wendy began editing my letter to put it in her voice. In her stressful haste Wendy left the letter in my name and did not fully edit the letter, which then created mass confusion in the community since it made the letter read in a bizarre way.

This letter was also received poorly for several other reasons, one of which was that it was perceived that I was “firing the LC” and taking charge of the school again. Since the LC was independent of Anusara, Inc. I had nothing to do with its formation or dissolution. I also acknowledge that the letter sounded as if I thought that just because teachers were remaining licensed with me this year that they were supporting me and my leadership. I realize that this was not the case at all, and I regret my emotionally charged verbiage contributing to this effect, particularly my phrase, “vicious vocal minority.” Obviously, the whole letter from Wendy was improperly compiled from my letter and posted rashly with very unfortunate consequences. It was then voiced in the media that I was once again being uncooperative and was going back on my word to let the teachers lead the school, which was erroneous. Many new resignations followed this disastrous episode.

Realizing that I did not have the broad-based support of the community, I then offered to gift the trademarks to the LC and to eventually deactivate Anusara, Inc. By so doing Anusara yoga could continue to survive as a yoga school, and I could be completely independent and teach under my own auspices. I then completely turned the matter over to my corporate attorneys to complete the deal with the LC’s legal counsel.

However, the LC submitted a due diligence list that consisted of 9 pages containing over 75 items and which my business attorney deemed “beyond the pale of reasonableness given what is being offered.” Furthermore, my attorneys claim that there was “absolutely no justification” for reviewing all of my financial information that has nothing to do with the transaction of me gifting the teachers the trademarks. My attorneys emphasized that I was completely willing to provide due diligence concerning the Intellectual Property at stake, but this was not acceptable to the LC. More importantly, the LC presented no business plan or showed any indication that they had the financial resources to properly run Anusara yoga if gifted the trademarks. Furthermore, the LC never filed for a legal entity status to begin the process of becoming a school to hold the trademarks. So, I felt it irresponsible on my part to handover the trademarks without receiving a viable business plan from the LC.

From my point of view the relationship with the LC was adversarial, since their uncompromising intention was for me to completely relinquish control of Anusara, yet still have me fund its operations as the owner, which I felt was unfair. I feel that it is also important to note here that over the last 4 months I have been very careful and restrictive with my public statements in part as a matter of proper business confidentiality within my negotiations to help create a teacher-led yoga school with the various teacher groups. However, as my attorney wrote the LC’s legal counsel after they published their letter on Friday, “…principles of confidentiality in this matter have been completely ignored (by the LC).” It is unfortunate that I am now forced to present the private details of negotiations into the public forum since I have been repeatedly blamed for the failed negotiations. While I appreciate all of the hard work and passion the members of the LC have put forth, negotiations throughout felt more like unreasonable demands and dictates from them, rather than a cooperative endeavor for the common goal of a true teacher-led school.

It is also important for everyone to understand that the school of Anusara yoga, which administers licensing and certification for top-level professional hatha yoga teachers around the world, has been funded by and run by me over the last 15 years. Each year the expenses of the school far exceeded the revenue generated by annual teacher dues, and so I would cover the annual deficit through my personal workshop revenue. Through the years I took a very modest salary while investing millions of dollars back into Anusara to support the school worldwide and to enable as many teachers as possible to make a good living teaching Anusara yoga. So, to properly run the school is quite expensive and requires professional administration. To date none of the teacher groups with whom I have negotiated have shown the capacity to effectively manage the school on their own or shown adequate funding to cover expenses or uphold the trademarks.

 

***

Anusara yoga has its own system, technology, and community completely aside from me. According to recent responses from the community, many still believe in the integrity of Anusara yoga as a methodology independent of me. Many of the teachers who have resigned are keeping their licenses current through the rest of the year so they can continue to teach Anusara yoga classes, workshops, Immersions and Trainings, which clearly demonstrates that the school and brand still holds value. Even many teachers, who have fully severed ties with the school, still advertise in their biographies that they were Certified or Inspired in Anusara yoga, which also speaks to the inherent value the name conveys. While there are certainly many ways the school can improve its organization, one only has to look at the caliber of teachers who have come out of this school to recognize that it is full of value. The school of Anusara yoga has helped to produce wonderful teachers over the years, and it has contributed a great deal of positive and beautiful energy to the world.

The recent Kula Evolution newsletter and questionnaire pointed out that the community wants a teacher-led organization; they want the school that has supported them to survive; they want to remain connected to the community that they have grown to love; and they want a pathway towards teacher certification because they recognize and appreciate its undeniable value.

So, based on my experience with the LC and the other teacher groups, I propose the following to meet the desires of the community:

  • I am happy to turn over the administration of the Anusara yoga school to the certified teachers who want to run it. The teachers will be the true guiding voices for the school, and the Anusara staff will defer to their decisions and support them in their endeavors.
  • The creation of a democratic survey/feedback system will allow the whole community to weigh-in with ideas.
  • I want no personal part of managing or directing the school at all, which is a decision that I feel is best for the school and me personally.
  • The Anusara office staff through their administrative expertise will help the teachers run the school as much as the teachers feel is necessary.
  • Teacher dues and other teacher-generated revenue must financially support the operations of the school. None of the dues for the school will be going to my personal accounts in any way.
  • In order to help assuage any fear and mistrust of my stated intentions here, I am willing to sign a legal document to ensure that I will not have an ability to take authoritative control over decisions having to do with the school.

My highest aim is to create community healing and to avoid misunderstandings, so please write the Anusara office for clarification on these points. The small, yet incredibly dedicated staff that remains is committed to being there to serve everyone and offer answers to your questions.

If you are a licensed teacher and want to help administer the school of Anusara yoga in any way, then please write to: Wendy Willtrout in the Anusara office – [email protected] and write “Help Anusara Yoga” in the subject line.

If there is not enough participation in running the school, then I will close the school next year when the final teacher license expires. However, over this past weekend, several licensed teachers have contacted me to let me know that they are happy we can finally move forward and get busy with refining and rebuilding, so I am presuming there are other people who want to move forward, regardless of who holds ownership of the trademarks.

The future of Anusara yoga is now in the hands of the teachers. Please write to the Anusara office with what you wish to see happen with Anusara yoga. We will survey what the teachers and students want for Anusara yoga. Unfortunately, Anusara, Inc. is not privy to any of the results of the LC’s survey, so please email the office directly at [email protected].

Whether or not Anusara yoga continues, I will not be involved with the management of the school any longer. At this time, I will be teaching under my own auspices, and I will not use the Anusara yoga trademark to promote myself. This will give a clear separation between my controversial image and the school’s new image.

My request of the Leadership Committee to use the Universal Principles of Alignment was regarding that specific trademark in any of my future publications, and was one of the points in the confidential negotiations with the LC. The UPA’s can be taught by any yoga teacher, yet the tradename of ‘Anusara yoga’ can only be used with a legal license to promote oneself as a professional yoga teacher. Although I will not be formally teaching Anusara yoga any time in the foreseeable future, I will be teaching the UPA’s when presenting asana instruction.

 

***

 

My public disassociation with Anusara yoga has arisen from my accountability for ethical transgressions as the leader of this yoga school, which is the only way for Anusara yoga to move forward at this juncture.

I have made public statements confessing my transgressions, which primarily centered on infidelity and dishonesty in my intimate relationships. However, negative judgments against my character, which go beyond my intimate relationships, have been posted widely in the public forum via social media and the blogger-sphere. To date I have remained quiet in response, yet it is time for me now to finally address some of these other accusations against my character which have become pervasive on the Internet.

Again, I am very clear that I have made ethical violations, including infidelity and deception in my intimate relations. Out of my own fears and my belief that my personal life is private I have lied over the years to protect my privacy. This shadow within myself is something I am diligently working on. Furthermore, I betrayed the trust of some of my closest friends in order to have illicit affairs, and this is a great violation of my own personal ethics, which has brought me some of the most profound suffering of my life. My deepest remorse is for the lies I told to my loved ones and friends who trusted me.

In the first days of the scandal, I lied to some certified teachers about doing bodywork on a student to help her with her sexual trauma. I lied in order to cover the fact that I was being unfaithful to my girlfriend at the time by being sexually involved with this student. In turn, some of those certified teachers openly propagated the label of ‘sex therapist’ on the Internet, which I never claimed to be in any way, ever. Any counter claim by the woman was dismissed by those who believed that the woman could not honestly state the truth, since she was a student and perceived to be in a weakened power differential to me. Some on the Internet who have focused on my character assassination then expanded this slanderous claim against me to ‘sex predator’. This is extremely hurtful and erroneous. In any case, I am terribly regretful for my actions and words in this situation, which have hurt so many and led some to speculative and judgmental conclusions.

All of my sexual relations have been consensual and sacred. I have certainly made many mistakes in my relationships through my life, and I offer deep apologies to all for those mistakes. I have never manipulated or controlled women for the gratification of my power or sensuality. My intimate relationships have been cultivated over time, many years in most cases, so there was always a foundation of trust, mutual love, and respect. I am certainly aware that a power differential is present in the teacher-student relationship, so I have always done my best to be sensitive to this when involved in any relationship with a student.

Regarding other charges of my character faults, which have been recently posted on social media, some have complained that they felt that I could sometimes be too tough and diminishing in the classroom as a teacher. My intention has always been to inspire and guide students to become their highest potential. Although I am fiery in my personality, I never intended to demean, disrespect or devalue any student. I certainly have been tougher with more experienced teachers and leaders in the community, since I expected more from them. However, I never meant to hurt anyone with my words, and for any harm I have caused, I am very sorry. I apologize for any way that I modeled behavior, which can rightfully be argued as not being uplifting or positive to the students. Being fiery is powerful when channeled skillfully, but can be very offensive when unskillfully channeled. I see this about myself and own it with humility; I will endeavor to be mindful of this tendency with increased sensitivity. My goal has always been for students to leave my classes feeling better about themselves than when they arrived.

Also, several people claimed recently that I played favorites over the years. This is true to a point. It has always been difficult to choose which teachers to recommend for various things because I have a deep desire to please everyone (another character flaw that has led me into trouble at various times and one that I am working on). My intention has always been to operate and expand Anusara yoga by the help of those who I felt would do a good job with various tasks. Again, I have never meant to diminish one person by elevating another. I also never gave preference to anyone or appointed anyone to something who didn’t deserve it or wasn’t up for the task; rather I always chose teachers who demonstrated excellent working knowledge and application of the principles or philosophy of the Anusara methodology. It is true that some teachers were able to create wonderful careers from my support, while others felt unseen and unappreciated. For any who felt that I did not give them proper consideration or acknowledgment over the years of serving Anusara yoga, I am truly sorry. I am sincerely appreciative of every teacher’s best efforts to make Anusara yoga great. I always intended Anusara yoga to be inclusive and not exclusive, and so I apologize for actions I took that did not bring that intention into manifestation.

My strategy and business plan of expanding the teachings of Anusara yoga to a much larger global audience through an Internet channel and soundstage at The Center in Encinitas, California was seen as a big mistake by many, including some of my own staff. It was perceived that my priorities became more commercial and off-track from the essence of the yoga. Although I still feel that my intentions were ultimately for the good of the community and the yoga, I take responsibility for any harmful perceptions of Anusara yoga with my failed business endeavor. Also, the very commercial branding of the system, along with the emphasis on performance art and festivals, caused many to believe that I had shifted my focus away from the essence of the yoga, and steered me away from being the teacher who they had known me to be. I am very sorry that I helped to create the misperception that Anusara yoga was getting away from its core values. That was never my intention.

Related to the perception of me moving away from the foundations of Anusara yoga is the subject of Shiva-Shakti Tantra. Recently, a few teachers voiced concern that Shiva-Shakti Tantra was out of alignment with the philosophical foundations of Anusara yoga. The philosophical foundation of Anusara yoga has always been called a ‘broad-based Tantric philosophy’, because it incorporates concepts from Shaiva-oriented schools of Northern India as well as Shakta-oriented schools of Southern India. So, I came up with the term “Shiva-Shakti Tantra” to give a name to this wide spectrum Tantric philosophy, which described Anusara yoga’s philosophy for years. Nothing in the philosophy changed at all; it was just the label of the philosophy that changed. The primer book on Shiva-Shakti Tantra that I created a couple of years ago was simply an artistic reiteration of the same Tantric philosophy that has always been taught in the Anusara yoga curriculum.

Over the 2-year period of my attempting to expand Anusara yoga through capital-raising and increased marketing, my public image grew and the scene around that image also grew. I acknowledge that at times I met that growth with over-enthusiasm and unreal optimism. Some perceived that my ego also became inflated during that period, and I am sure that this is true. Although I do not believe that I ever lost sight of the higher intention of the business expansion, I humbly acknowledge that I was overly confident at times and perhaps unplugged from the original form of my teaching. At times I certainly fell into the traps of my small self without always keeping my ego anchored in the wisdom of Spirit. For my egotism, which reflected poorly on the Anusara yoga community, I am truly very apologetic. Having my personal reputation attacked on the Internet, losing many friends, and losing my affiliation with the yoga system that I founded has certainly been humbling and devastating to any excessive sense of self that I might have once had. I understand that some people continue to post malicious information against me on the Internet since they believe that I somehow remain unaffected or unchanged through this crisis, and they want to make sure that I am duly punished for whatever misdeeds they have judged me to have made. Please know that I am anguished while acknowledging my accountability and responsibility for what has happened, and that I am shifted deep in my heart forever for the pain and difficultly that I have brought on myself and the community. I am firmly committed to a life-long path of introspection and personal transformation on every level, the fruits of which I intend to demonstrate in all my future actions.

Recently, a segment of a video that was filmed 2 years ago in Japan of me speaking confidentially to a couple of contract staff was posted without my consent on the Internet. This was hurtful and embarrassing since I didn’t know that I was being filmed at that time. I spoke out of line about another employee who was also a wonderful and invaluable friend, and to whom I am greatly appreciative. I deeply regret my words about that other employee who was not present, and my statements were not meant in any way to hurt her. I was excited about the future of Anusara yoga since I had reason to believe that a multimillion dollar investment in the company was imminent. All of my excitement and desire was ultimately for the greater good of Anusara yoga, yet I greatly misspoke at that time and for that I am very remorseful. In an attempt to excite the person I was talking to about a potential future with the company, I diminished my dear friend, who deserves nothing but praise and admiration for the invaluable passion and service she has offered to me and this community for years. I was trying to make a point that the person with whom I was conversing, with his technical and artistic expertise, was more valuable than an administrative position, but the way I went about it was by making it seem that my other friend was not vital. This was not only completely untrue, but it was shameful. I am so sorry for this stupid tactic, which was unintentionally manipulative, and I can only commit to continue to work with this tendency of my character with as much awareness and diligence as possible.

 

*

During the Anusara scandal, false accusations and misinformation have been widely distributed via social media without any accountability, fact-checking or investigation. A lot of the information posted was incorrect and therefore very damaging to both Anusara and myself. Moreover, many people projected their own shadows and frustrations onto my public image, and then posted their personal issues with me into the international public forum without any discretion or discussion with me. Due to this, people have become even more confused and many teachers have resigned.

Rather than an honest and personal confrontation, distorted information has also been disseminated on the Internet in an anonymous way to create maximum damage. All Internet gossip is a way of bypassing the channels of healthy and good communication between caring persons, and it is a shame that so much of it has happened within our community. I am so sorry that I didn’t always provide a good example as a teacher of how to deal with challenges in the highest way.

*

I realize that I am human with shadows and imperfections. By being a yoga teacher of an international yoga school, this has made me a spiritual leader in the minds of many. However, I am not a guru or god-man that some students elevated me to be. I tried to keep my private life private, but being the leader of Anusara yoga put every element of my character and private life under a public microscope. Unfortunately, I did not meet the expectations of many in the community. I am very sorry for the great disappointment in me as a leader. It is heartbreaking to have Anusara yoga negatively affected by my misconduct.

I have always been committed to personal refinement and so I will continue to strive to be the best person that I can be for the rest of my life. I realize with a renewed lucidity that I choose not to harm, not to violate the energy of Life with my words, thoughts, or actions. I will do my inner work for many years to come, rest assured, since this has been the most apocalyptic, soul-shifting period of my life. I am choosing the highest path for my healing and transformation, which is my process alone and something no one else can truly understand or judge. Please know that while it has not been pleasant or easy, this process has already been profoundly transformative, and has afforded me with invaluable opportunities to look at myself with sober objectivity.

For years to come I will be working on transforming my weaknesses and honing my talents. Essential to healing is self-forgiveness, and so as I carry the pain of this heartbreak, I will hold a vision for my own highest expression. I love to serve, to give, and to create beauty in the world, and so I will endeavor to offer my best every day for the rest of my life.

It is time for peace in the yoga world. The hurtful gossip on the Internet by yogis has been shameful and deplorable in my view. It is awful to think that my own wavering from my integrity has sparked others (my own students) to do the same. So, let us all take responsibility now and demonstrate that our yoga ethics are filled with humility, rigor, truth, compassion, forgiveness and accountability for all parties, and most of all, genuine love, which transcends fear and hatred. Although each of us will not be perfect in our humanity all the time, let us continue to be assiduous in embodying the highest in all our words and actions.

I do not wish to engage in a public war of words on the Internet with fellow yogis, which in my estimation reflects poorly on the greater yoga community worldwide. Instead I choose to focus on my own healing and transformation in a private way away from Anusara yoga and the greater yoga community for some time.

I know that my words will come too late for many, and I sincerely apologize for that—but I do hope my words help bring much needed perspective and understanding of this whole heartrending situation. For those who have patiently waited for this full statement from me, I greatly thank you.

To everyone, friends and adversaries alike, I offer prayers for peace, healing and love.

Thank you all for the reflections that have helped me see myself more clearly.

Yours on the path of awakening,

John


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Comments

113 Responses to “John Friend: “Here is my side of this story from the beginning…””

  1. Cliff says:

    In this world we are all rising and falling.

  2. elephantjournal says:

    #
    CB: Lust catches many of us. And then…

    #
    Sherri Everhart Smith You know… I don't even care about his side of the story anymore. Can we just get past this?

    #
    Chris Courtney I'm so over this whole saga…its become the OJ Simpson case of the yoga world. A slow moving train wreck with few sympathetic characters and nothing but wreckage left behind.

    #
    Jagatjeet Kaur Peace to all, light to all, love to all.

    #
    elephantjournal.com I think most everyone's are burned out on this. And I think that's a sane thing. ~ Waylon.

  3. Mitch says:

    I know he had a lot to get off his chest, but , wow, John could use a good editor.

    Can we all move on now? Sheesh. Enough already.

  4. Emily says:

    Yuck, yuck, yuck. The more this guy explains, the more he creeps me out. I hope he just goes away.

  5. Annie Ory says:

    Poor thing. He has destroyed what he created and driven himself out into the cold.
    I saw the video he mentions on YogaDork, and I can understand why he is embarrassed. He was stoned out of his mind on that video. It was a 30 minute ramble, common to stoners, full of his ego, the nature of which many of us will be personally familiar with. Sad really to have such nonsense on the net, but it's the result of things he did, and he remains ever blaming of others for his predicament. He uses words like "humble" "apologies" again and again, but his embarrassment is due not to his own behavior but to someone filming him without his knowledge and putting it on the Internet without his permission.
    He talks about how our understanding of the situation is based on lies and misunderstandings, but that's life, yes?
    The thing I notice most, is that he continues to refer to his sexual relationships as being "sacred" and refers to his own commitment to a journey of "personal refinement". The egotism of both of these is massive when used in a letter of apology relating to a scandal thick with lies. The lying he did, and perhaps continues to do, takes all sacred energy out of his sexual relationships. Lying sucks the sacredness from any and everything.
    I fear that John is still caught up in the trajectory of his loss. My personal experience with loss has me imagine he needs to stop writing for public consumption now, and go inside, if he is ever to be able to see his own part. I wish him peace and healing on his journey.

  6. […] Aggiornamento: qui la lunga dichiarazione di John Friend pubblicata il 12 giugno 2012 con la sua versione sulla vic…. […]

  7. Antoinette says:

    It is like being witness to a bad breakup…letting go is harder than rehashing the pain. He probably doesn't know who he is anymore, without being who he was. I feel bad, it is a tough place to be, but hopefully there are enough yoga tools in his personal toolbelt to eventually bring him through it. Unfortunately we have to bear witness to each attempt and can't do much to help him.

  8. JSC, yoga teacher says:

    I am not an anusara yogi and never really understood what the fuss was all about and why teachers would spend their hard earned cash to become 'professional' yoga teachers. As yoga teachers, we are tachers and students, not professionals. The big theme in this statement is very celebrity-esque.. Of course he will spend a lot of time reflecting on himself and his actions because he has a lot of time and money to be self centered. John friend is a businessman and has been very successful financially. Yoga is a multi million dollar industry and he found a niche as an entrepreneur. Let him crawl into his so called hole which is probably not a hole at all, more like a really nice remodeled house overlooking the ocean. Poor mr friend.

  9. Kamala says:

    He was a powerful teacher/authority figure having sex with his students. There is a power deferential there. It's up to the teacher, not the student , to uphold the boundary. I read that he stated at a yoga conference for his Anusara teachers that he wanted to be" bigger than Amma". Now that is some serious delusion and ego run amok.

  10. MatBoy says:

    My take away: John was consulting with his attorney and business consultant instead of with a therapist, spiritual friends or a community leader once the sh*t hit the fan. He still views the world from this 'me-verses-them' perspective. Sad!

  11. yogasamurai says:

    King Lear, Part 27.

    But if you have read Lear, you know that he was, in the end, a sad, tragic, and sympathetic figure.

    The real danger isn't Lear — it's his conniving little "daughters" – Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia.

    You figure it out — I am tired of stating the obvious: the entire Anusara community is sick and deluded and needs to disband before it spreads its spiritual cancer again?

    A collective self-immolation ceremony in the Anusara landfill in Encinitas would be a fitting end note — and badly needed cleansing ritual.

    Namaste!!!

  12. Platofish says:

    Rambling egotistical nonsense…… more concerned with self than the community at large.

  13. Mamaste says:

    Just intro'd on FB to : Yoga.
    ~Mamaste

  14. Karen says:

    JF has lost all credibility. His lack of self-awareness is spectacular. People in the community acted badly? No, John — YOU acted badly. What a disgrace.

  15. yogasamurai says:

    This is the end
    Beautiful friend
    This is the end
    My only friend, the end

    Of our elaborate plans, the end
    Of everything that stands, the end
    No safety or surprise, the end
    I'll never look into your eyes…again

    Can you picture what will be
    So limitless and free
    Desperately in need…of some…stranger's hand
    In a…desperate land

    Lost in a Roman…wilderness of pain
    And all the children are insane
    All the children are insane

    From: "The End" (Jim Morrison and The Doors, 1967)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1b26BD5KjH0

  16. Katie Myer says:

    Yet another litany of lies, accusations, and manipulation. Such a disgrace. I'm so glad I resigned in February. I hope more people will walk away from him and his dysfunctional organization.

    Waylon, I hope you and EJ will reconsider the way you protect and promote John Friend. This irrational letter is so far gone from the truth, it can only hurt your organization's reputation to associate with John.

  17. Dani says:

    How sad! Even now, he has no forgiveness? Where is the forgiveness in your hearts?

    He is over. Finished. Dear God, the man has faced social death… the only thing left is killing his body! Perhaps be satisfied in your vengeance that he is done for, he has his punishment and his cards are dealt.

    If my dirty laundry was bared over the internet, I'm sure I'd be burned at the stake as well. Would you?

    He of course has his own view of himself… of course there are things he feels wronged for, and of course he repetitively owned up and apologized. Actions speak louder than words… but where is he now? What is he doing? Of course he consulted his lawyers the most – Anusara is a BUSINESS! Makes sense to me to publicly try and save his business while he privately consults therapists.

    I would hope people could be finished with being so hateful. Forgive, forgive your hate, accept an apology like a human being and get over it.

  18. RajKap says:

    True, this JF fellow could use an editor :) I am not familiar with the so called 'crisis' or even with Anusara Yoga as such but it (this issue) really brings to light all the gritty humanness we are living in. We in the West often live with an idea of what yoga is or is supposed to be (despite the many workshops on what Yoga is all about) but it's issues like this one that really bring it all up to the front of the classroom. People lie and are deceptive and manipulate. And also, they are loving and compassionate and sweet and generous. I think they can be both at different times (and maybe even at the same time?). Sounds like he's asking for forgiveness. Whether or not he means it is of no real consequence, is it? By being forgiving we put an end to this separateness, the divisiveness and isn't that what yoga means (union?). He reached out, he's accepting accountability, why not just forgive? So much more peaceful than maintaining an angry mindset, which is, after all, antithetical to the whole point of Yoga. Peace y'all….

  19. trueayurveda says:

    John,
    How does having sexual encounters with married women, even if it is consensual, meet integrity or anything to do with the sacred? When you walk in the sewer you get ___ all over you.

    This is just one of the many comments i have.

    I wish you healing and the entire community. The veil was lifted pretty hard and fast.

    You have been a teacher beyond teachers. Only a few will truly see this, this is the shame of it all.

    In the reaction to your actions, we have seen what is truly being lived out there. We see that the path is not much but dissolved into talk. We truly get to question all that we believe and have been told. This is a huge gift. and it was given by you. It could be the huge transition of the yoga world to a real living of the path rather than a trying or talking.

    I personally thank you from the bottom of my heart for your sacrifice. I know it has been painful to so many. many still have not even really gotten out of the found someone to blame game. To see their own responsibilities in the whole drama, like identification, truth, etc…..

    Blessings.

  20. arnaud says:

    I remenber wondering about John Friend some years ago when the Anusara school was growing so much and got so much attention from the medias.
    I saw already the challenges that comes with fame and spirituality.
    If noone expect a famous actor to behave well and to be trustful in his private life,it s very different for someone that was seen as a Guru by many.

    The modern crash of spirituality and corporate philosophy is i think one of the less adressed problem of our time.

    We should have forgiveness and compassion for someone like JF and move on. His story should teach us about the potential danger of the dreams of greatness.

  21. Toshito says:

    For years JF is treated like a rock star and a cult leader, and then the kula loses their shit when he starts behaving like a rock star and a cult leader. Is the bitterness really about JF being a mere mortal, or is it just a really, really shitty kool-aid hangover?
    Over the years I would sometimes attend Anusara classes. The UPA is amazing. But the thing that kept me from going all in was observing so many of the "initiated" act is if a world outside of Anusara just didn't exist. That, and the pervasive vibe that JF was the ultimate daddy.
    Well John, your an asshole. But if it's any consolation, so are the rest of us. And some of us are so adept that we can even appear enlightened while being an asshole. You leave quite a legacy in your rearview mirror, John Friend.

  22. Brab says:

    Well said Toshito…my take on it is that there were several yogini from his inner circle of witches that wanted to toss him aside and assume the throne…he was like, "You can have all the touchy-feely, community shit, but the business stays where it is."…he mentioned the branding, intellectual property side of his holding continuously throughout the article, he's just trying to save what's worth saving

  23. ancwisdom says:

    This is what happens when a teacher is elevated to enlightened guru status. People are tragically disappointed when they discover he is merely human. What did they expect? Read Carlos Pomeda's article on Elephant Journal about the difference between a teacher and an enlightened guru.

  24. mattalign says:

    There is quite possibly something in this letter for everyone to learn from. Most people who read the letter will never know what it's like to occupy the space of name and fame and influence that John has. For this reason, you will never know the intensity of the temptation that one can face. Intoxicated by power, influence and wealth and having a literal army of adherents to your every word to back you and support your every move… Until you fall… Then they scatter, frantically tripping over one another to save their own skins, pointing to the terrible man left alone in the center saying, "Look at what he has done". All of life is a mirror. When you point to the terrible man, realize that there are three more fingers pointing back in your direction.

  25. kconnorsd says:

    As a member of yoga community, what saddens me more than a man (emphasis on that…. MAN, not GOD) messes up and pays in many ways for his transgressions is when the people who once blindly kissed his feet now sit in their own egos, unable to forgive or find an ounce of compassion in their heart, because THEY feel unhappy that the person they adored and admired is actually "an asshole, creep, etc." Are you so much better? What would you do if your past moral mishaps were blasted to your loving and adoring students? Probably hope they could find compassion for you, but clearly one is not ready to receive such forgiveness if one cannot give it. Your turn to pull yourself out of the pit of egomania and find some true yogic decency – direct your hatred to those things within yourself that fuel this angry fire.

    I love and appreciate those saying the same as me…

  26. Annabel says:

    Sorry? Ok I forgive you John. Why hold on?

  27. Sarah says:

    So much judgement here,so much separation,that's what's wrong with the world. He gave us a gift! The UPA'S! In my humble opinion that's all he should be remembered for.Who care's who he slept with.

  28. diane says:

    Telling that none of JF's colleagues have stepped up publicly for him. He and his system isolated themselves and now came the piper. Years before JF had many before he systematized that were friends and worked together. His band of isolation and arrogance caused alarm for years. Now he pays the piper-I hope that his newly acquired global audience does not fall into the same isolated world that Anusara created for itself. if it does then predict more of the same ahead.

  29. chelsea says:

    Why does this remind me of Bill Clinton??
    Who gives a #$&%(^!!?

    Do you like Anusara-Inspired yoga? I do
    Has that changed in any way? Nope

    In my lifetime, Bill Clinton was the best president the US had and he was burned at the stake by certain witch-hunting zealots for something that was none of their/our business.
    For me, the Anusara-inspired yoga teachers I have taken class from have been the "best" and what JF did or did not do cannot change that. Nor does it change my desire to get Anusara certified – except that I may be associated with a group of overly-reactive people who did not take the situation as an opportunity to "deepen practice" – ie "just sit with it"… whatever "it" is….

  30. chang says:

    2 things:

    can we all agree that “social media” is real?

    the elephant journal now has a tip jar???

    GROSS

  31. wildjoie says:

    true confessions of a game show host…oh, i mean, ah, um, yoga teacher.
    got yoga?

  32. guest says:

    didn't read…I don't really care.

  33. cathywaveyoga says:

    I feel sorry for him. He lost a lot and the pull and responses from consultants, attorneys etc.. probably made things even harder for time everlasting.

    I do nto condone the misuse of power, nor the forgetting to contribute to 401k retirement accounts.

    its a sad whimpering little flame flickering now.

  34. Ed Spyhill says:

    If only John Friend were more like Bikram Choudery. http://www.details.com/culture-trends/critical-ey

  35. John, I'm going to suggest you learn the difference between active and passive voice.

    Did anyone notice how much stuff just happened to John.

    So much of it still is other peoples' fault.

    John – Everything was YOUR fault.

    You lifted up your leg and peed on Anusara.

    It's a miracle anyone wants you at all.

  36. Candace says:

    We are all human, even Mr. Friend. He is not exempt from ego, or emotion. He is on a journey like the rest of us, and is creating his own experience. I have empathy for him, and all who were impacted by this experience.

    May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness;
    May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering;
    May all beings experience the joy that is without sorrow, and may that joy never leave them;
    May all beings live in balance and in harmony, free from greed and aggression,
    Believing in the equality of all that live.

    Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone.

    If you want to see the brave, look at those who can forgive.

    To err is human, to forgive is divine.

  37. It’s been interesting to observe this whole debacle as an outsider. I could care less about Anusara. I like the teaching methods of some of the teachers and am not attracted to the methods of others.

    We all screw up from time to time. If we don’t screw up then we aren’t doing anything. Hopefully we will all screw up more often. It is apparent that John Friend had consensual sex with students and lied to people he is close to. Is he the first? Will he be the last? I hope not.

    Now you need to get over it.

    It seems to me this whole issue has become about attachment or control. We all suffer loss and the Anusara community has suffered a huge loss. You built something. It has now crumbled. But you are all yoga teachers and you can still teach yoga. All of you, including John. Teach! We are students and at least for me it does not matter one whit that these transgressions have occurred. You can hang on and attempt to control the Anusara brand or you can let it go.

    I do not wish to diminish your loss but that’s the past. Be in the moment.

    In any case: breathe…

  38. NOT AN ANUSARAN says:

    IT SHOULD BE ILLEGAL TO TEACH ANY YOGA WITHOUT THE UNIVERSAL PRINCIPLES OF ALIGNMENT. THANK YOU JOHN FRIEND YOU ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT TEACHER OF THE PHYSICAL METHOD OF YOGA.

    LOVE YOU AND HOPE TO MEET AGAIN

  39. […] John Friend: “Here is my side of this story from the beginning…” […]

  40. Pat Spahr says:

    Dear John, My heart is truly with you. May you be well. May you always have enough. May you always give from your heart. May your life be filled with peace. May you awaken and be free. Namaste, my brother. All is truly well. Everything is working out for our highest good. Out of this situation, only good we come. We (all beings) are safe.

  41. Tummo says:

    TTTTUUUUMMMMMMMOOOO!!!!!!

  42. edspyhill09 says:

    Whoops, there it is!

    * Then there are the stories about him having sex with his students. When I ask him about this, he doesn't deny it—he claims they blackmail him: "Only when they give me no choice! If they say to me, 'Boss, you must fuck me or I will kill myself,' then I do it! Think if I don't! The karma!" Whatever the nature of his dalliances, his appeal to women is obvious—and a common trait among spiritual leaders, as Love points out: "When Swami Vivekananda"—another key figure in the spread of yoga to the West—"toured the U.S. at the end of the 19th century, it was the same way. Mostly women showed up for his lectures." *

  43. tao23 says:

    absolutely, totally, utterly clueless. Ain't reality grand, though? It always outs.

  44. tao23 says:

    it's so clear from that yogadork video he just thinks he's a rock star. Rock stars sleep with groupies. Rock stars smoke tons of dope, and do what they want. I guess he learned that yoga gurus aren't really supposed to. Seems obvious from down here, but up there? Watch out for that step, its a doozy.

  45. JHL says:

    I expect that on advice of counsel, he didn't comment about the pot mailing as that's federal prison time.

    The various ramblings aside, he focused on the trademarks and other IP assets: that' is the only thing that has value and it's clear that that is all he worries about. He would like a payday now or at least a structured sale with payments over time like an earn-out or tiem deferred payment stream. An annuity would even be better. But for that he needs the new owners to line up financing or at least have a business plan that generates enough cash to pay him off. They don't have it and he's not Mother Teresa. End of story other than a few more incoherent ramblings. Is English a second language for him?

  46. […] don’t mean to bring up a sore subject—and no, this isn’t about John Friend—but we’re going to have this conversation […]

  47. […] is not unusual, given the nature of the egoic mind, which likes to focus on ‘me’ before anyone […]

  48. […] the Indian men who brought yoga to the west, right down to the recently humiliated John Friend, male yogis have been abusing their power the way men usually abuse power—sexual exploitation. So […]

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