Heroes & Villians. ~ Brian Penny
“Dark Knight feelin’; you either die the hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
They say you can judge a man by his enemies; mine are numerous.
I’m a legend in the mortgage and insurance industries.
January 5, 2011 was the day Bank of America labeled me a terrorist. On March 14, 2011, I worked with Anonymous to leak confidential bank documents proving knowledge of fraud within the mortgage industry in an event called Black Monday.
The act ignited a media frenzy. The bank’s stock price plummeted.
I took a beating for standing up and doing the right thing; Black Monday was the day I hit back. I was just one man, but I took a sizeable chunk out of Bank of America that day.
A few months later, they would drop from the largest bank in the United States to second place. Occupy was ignited and I had joined the hive-mind of the activist group Anonymous.
This is all a story to you, but for the last two years, this has been my life.
Most of my friends and family turned their backs on me during my battle—they saw me as a loser.
They couldn’t understand why a bank as large as Bank of America would discredit someone, unless it was true. My chosen path in life was too much for the people around me to understand; corruption is best viewed from a distance.
People find comfort in numbers, and going against the grain is frowned upon in adult society. I thought blowing the whistle on bank and insurance fraud was the right thing to do; I did what anyone would’ve done in my situation.
Suddenly, I lost everything and everyone around me.
I found myself alone. I questioned my spirituality and became an Atheist. I pondered my existence and studied the universe. I sought comfort in drugs and women. I ripped my psyche to pieces.
As a coping mechanism, I developed an alter ego: Versability…a member of the Anonymous collective. Versability is a digital freedom fighter while Brian Penny became lost in a shell of his former self.
My war left me disconnected, off centered and on a downward spiral. Desperately seeking meaning to the world around me, I discovered mindful meditation.
The practice took a while to get used to.
So much information swirled around in my head that it seemed impossible to ever shut it off. Patience and persistence eventually paid off.
I focused on my breath until I experienced nirvana for the first time. I felt my center. The weight of the world dropped off my shoulders. My mind cleared and I saw my path.
My journey led me to a yoga practice. After careful consideration, I chose to dedicate my time and energy to the traditional Ashtanga style of yoga, under Ally Ford; the Mysore teaching method in particular appealed to me.
My breath is slow and steady when I’m in my zone. Instructor-led classes make me feel rushed. It throws me off balance, and I struggle to match the pace of the class. When I struggle in Mysore classes, I have only myself to hold accountable.
Ally showed me to have fun in life again; she’s teaching me how to relax and detach myself from my work.
My yoga practice grounded me at a time when I was alone and in pieces. The discipline it takes to master the Ashtanga Primary Series is extraordinary; I have a deep respect for anyone who masters the Ashtanga style.
While researching this traditional style of yoga, one name stuck out to me: Kino.
Kino Macgregor rose through the Ashtanga world quickly, turning her practice into a respectable brand in the yoga universe—I had to find out more about her.
I read a blog she wrote for elephant journal about the mixed feelings she invoked in other yoga teachers; I immediately related.
Kino is both hero and villain.
Her goal of bringing the benefits of yoga and meditation to a mass audience vilified her in some circles—Ashtangi’s pride themselves in the tradition of their practice. Many students find comfort in the repetition of the practice and some view Kino’s work as eschewing tradition and ruining the spirit of the Ashtanga practice.
I see the world in a different way—I’ve been behind enough curtains to understand Kino’s intentions. I know the difference between following Ashtanga tradition and emulating the steps your teacher walked.
Kino is doing exactly what I would’ve done in her position.
I have four months left in Florida.
Mastering the Ashtanga Primary Series is my primary goal in life; it’s the key to unlocking my future.
In order to understand the applications of yogic theory in my journey to change the world, I have to walk the gray areas of karma, enlightenment and the eight limbs of yoga.
I have to find ways to be a good person while maintaining my edge.
I have to speak to Kino.
I reached out to her and started another step in my journey…
Brian Penny is a former business analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower who spent the last two years helping regulators and attorneys uncover the largest bank and insurance fraud in history. He documents his experiences van dwelling, working with Anonymous and fighting the banks on his blog. He’s currently in the Tampa Bay area attending school, assisting homeowners and attorneys and practicing yoga with the guidance Ally Ford.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise