Anusara Teachers’ exodus.

Via Walk The Talk Show
on Feb 12, 2012
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A conversation with Bernadette Birney: on Anusara, Authority, Dissolution & Creation.

An inside view of a bumpy path.

The below wet-ink conversation with Bernadette Birney concerns “the John Friend / Anusara yoga situation.”

Bernadette is an Anusara yoga teacher, and announced her resignation just today. Her letter, and (a senior Anusara yoga teacher) Noah Mazé’s letter, are at the bottom here (shared by direct permission).

We just did this conversation via skype. I’ll leave the time stamp in, and BB doesn’t like to cap stuff…but in the interest of getting this up quickly, here ’tis.

It’s all rather raw, both grammar-wise and heart-wise.

~ Waylon Lewis, ed.

Bernadette Birney: what a day. what a week.

Waylon Lewis: Yah, hard to know what to say. I’m not even really involved as are you and so many others and yet I’m burned out and continually a little sad, depressed, about stuff.

bernadette birney: yeah, i know what you mean.

[2/12/12 4:10:55 PM] Waylon Lewis: I think everyone out there who isn’t like you or other teachers in the know just wants to know something basic: what’s been going on over the last day? Tons more teachers seem to be leaving.

[2/12/12 4:12:18 PM] bernadette birney: Well, I believe that John Friend teaching at “The Dharma of Relationship” was just too much. I know that it was for me. Many of us were working to prevent that from happening.

[2/12/12 4:12:40 PM] Waylon Lewis: Clearly. But he agreed not to teach that, right?

[2/12/12 4:12:47 PM] bernadette birney: No.

[2/12/12 4:12:56 PM] Waylon Lewis: Oh.

[2/12/12 4:13:01 PM] bernadette birney: He insisted on teaching asana at the event.

[2/12/12 4:13:05 PM] Waylon Lewis: That’s nervy.

[2/12/12 4:13:14 PM] bernadette birney: Yeah.

[2/12/12 4:13:16 PM] Waylon Lewis: Oh I heard he wanted to teach asana but not the lecture aspect.

It’s probably hard to unplug from being loved and go off, as he’d said he would do, and practice and work on himself. So even if the feedback he’s getting is critical, that’s a positive for him–clearly he seems to need a push to work on himself.

[2/12/12 4:14:30 PM] bernadette birney: Yes, I believe that’s true. It was entirely inappropriate for JF to be teaching anything to anyone at this time. He needs to take a sabbatical and get help. I had great hopes that we could help him and the community but he wouldn’t let us, and ultimately we had no power

[2/12/12 4:14:52 PM] Waylon Lewis: So is there reallllly room within Anusara for you all to take the reins

[2/12/12 4:14:57 PM] bernadette birney: no

[2/12/12 4:15:01 PM] Waylon Lewis: It seems like no: many of you have decided to leave and form a new tribe? I mean you all have been so closely knit.

[2/12/12 4:15:46 PM] bernadette birney: I had hopes that we would actually be able to reform from within, but the Interim Committee was impotent. JF owns the corporation and invested no power in the committee. I do have hopes of aligning to become a part of something that is greater than just me.

[2/12/12 4:16:36 PM] Waylon Lewis: Well, you’re pretty great.

What I’ve been primarily interested in, here, having seen this sexual craving play out with varous spiritual teachers and yoga teachers over the years is how can the Anusara community and more generally the greater yoga community and more generally the greater “mindful” community, spiritual communities, learn from this?

(If we don’t learn from this, history tells us we’ll repeat this)

[2/12/12 4:18:28 PM] bernadette birney: Well, I actually have an answer. We must turn away from the guru model that still dominates in many yoga traditions.

We must learn how to invest in our own power and authority rather than conferring it onto the teacher.

Yoga is always about power. An unethical teacher misappropriates power. A good teacher gives it back to you. And that applies to every kind of misuse of power, not just sexual.

[2/12/12 4:20:24 PM] Waylon Lewis: Yes! Love that. Right on…Beautifully put.

Hold on for a sec, it’s 4:20

Sorry, joke in poor taste considering the various allegations.

[2/12/12 4:21:39 PM] bernadette birney: i don’t offend easily. (:

Waylon Lewis: And the guru model isn’t the whole root of the problem. As you say it’s about seeing the guru (or wisdom, goodness generally) within. We are not fundamentally lacking, and the guru or teacher is not fundamentally perfect.

[2/12/12 4:23:11 PM] bernadette birney:

One of the things I’ve observed is that I have been a part of a community that keeps quiet. We are have been so busy conferring authority onto JF that we forgot our ability to use our voices.

[2/12/12 4:23:26 PM] Waylon Lewis: I’ve been meaning to write about my view of this matter, since some group of our readers seem to mistake my interest in not attacking but being clear on what is wrong and how to go forward and improve as support for John.

[2/12/12 4:23:44 PM] bernadette birney: No, no teacher or human is going to be perfect–not even the one within!

[2/12/12 4:23:56 PM] Waylon Lewis: Exactly. Anusara and many other communites are rather worshipful, dumbed down by the charm or charisma of their leader instead of awakened and inspired by it.

[2/12/12 4:24:18 PM] bernadette birney: My problem with JF wasn’t that he was human–it was the lack of transparency, and the fact that his actions did not reflect his remorse.

[2/12/12 4:25:06 PM] Waylon Lewis: Exactly. But you’re rather mature. I think many made the mistake of putting him on a pedestal. We have to stop doing that to our teachers. Every yoga conference I go to, I see a lot of dumbed down worshipful googly eyes aimed at every celeb yogi.

Transparency and honesty and genuine interest in waking up is vital. We have to look for teachers like that—and even then we don’t worship them. From the Buddhist pov, the root of the problem here is theism. Buddhist talks a lot about non-theism. And it’s useful teachings, since Buddhists like everyone else are suckers for rock star spirituality.

[2/12/12 4:25:25 PM] bernadette birney: As a community, after jfexposed, we needed to clean the wound, dress the wound, heal the wound. Instead, too many people wanted to sit around singing kumbaya, sending love and light.

[2/12/12 4:27:10 PM] Waylon Lewis: …and, too many wanted to attack the wound and throw salt on it.

Neither approach—defensiveness/ignorance or blame/anger helps heal a wound. At all.

{} Bernadette: They did not get that we needed to hold JF accountable for his actions, for his own good, and for ours. Compassion is not always warm, fuzzy and cuddly.

{} Waylon: Yes! Tough mother love is anything but warm, fuzzy, cuddly, just ask my ma!

[2/12/12 4:27:35 PM] bernadette birney: Yes, it’s prevalent in the community, and I get it. Who hasn’t at some time or other just wished that somebody would just tell them what to do?

[2/12/12 4:27:59 PM] Waylon Lewis: Not I, frankly. I always found the atmosphere around the Buddhist teachers I grew up around to be really silly and ridiculous.

[2/12/12 4:28:47 PM] bernadette birney: Well, I am a tortured soul who wishes it every now and then, and then gets really pissed when someone actually dares to tell me what to do. (:

Good on ya for yer good common sense.

[2/12/12 4:30:04 PM] Waylon Lewis: Well in Buddhism we’re trained to disagree with the teacher if his/her advice is stupid or dangerous. And we’re trained to always keep critical intelligence, because that’s what true friendship/loyalty/devotion looks like.

That said again we’re trained in all that because we fuck up devotion and get theistic like everyone else…it’s human nature. Heroes are easy to put up on pedestals. And then we tear them down, like it’s their fault they aren’t perfect.

John was never perfect.

[2/12/12 4:32:08 PM] bernadette birney: That is very much in keeping with the tradition in which I am reared. To be perfectly honest, although I have loved and admired JF, the teacher of my heart, my true teacher, has always been Douglas Brooks–who adamantly refuses to sit above his students, and instead raises the bar on the conversation among friends.

John was never perfect. I don’t fault him for that.

[2/12/12 4:32:49 PM] Waylon Lewis: But let’s not transfer our idolization to anyone. We can study with masters like Brooks without looking up to them.

[2/12/12 4:33:01 PM] bernadette birney: I fault him for fucking it up so royally after he fucked it up.

[2/12/12 4:33:07 PM] Waylon Lewis: Yes! I was just im’ing with Jeannie Page who I respect and often disagree with (and she’s always right in those cases, seriously) and was saying same thing.

I said “I just think if he had been encouraged to open and clarify rather than defend and lawyer up from the beginning this could have been better for all. He could have been a great example of accepting blame, responsibility, and exhibiting enthusiasm for waking up here.”

[2/12/12 4:34:03 PM] bernadette birney: one of the hugest problems in the Anusara organization is that there has only been a one-tiered power structure.

So, when it all blew up, we were all sort of trained to wait for somebody else to fix it because most of us were waiting to be invited into somebody else’s conversation about what to do instead of taking the initiative to generate a conversation ourselves.

[2/12/12 4:36:01 PM] Waylon Lewis: Well this is a great conversation…this is the conversation I wish we could all explore. Non-theism. Protected by our ongoing critical intelligence, dropping hero worship, we can cut the likelihood of future such situations.

[2/12/12 4:36:02 PM] bernadette birney: Yes, you are so right. Instead, there was a lot of silence, and a vacuum of leadership.

Then there was spin.

Then there was huge manipulation of the committee, and a lot of divide and conquer games.

[2/12/12 4:36:17 PM] Waylon Lewis: Yes. It’s felt a bit like politics, instead of spiritual path.

Well so you’re all taking leadership now, so that’s great…a great gift to be forced to accept.

Ironically, the best politics would have been to just warrior up, open his heart and go on retreat.

[2/12/12 4:37:33 PM] bernadette birney: Yes, I sort of stepped up like an unlikely leader, I guess. I was so certain that somebody needed to do something.

He could have come out looking like a hero. He had very good advice from truly brilliant members of our community.

He just wouldn’t take it.

Hey, I’m being really frank with you because I respect your integrity. Thanks for your vote of confidence.

[2/12/12 4:39:54 PM] Waylon Lewis: Well you’ve been who I wanted to talk to, here, you and Noah…

…because it seems like too many of those in the Anusara community, or formerly in the community, have been largely silent.

And then on the outside, too many have been attacking, gossiping, blaming, almost enjoying this.

There have been too few like you who love and respect John but have fundamental obvious problems with what’s happened and are now offering your independent, middle-ground voices. Neither worship / defense or hate / gossip—just personal openness and wisdom. That’s the way to heal this wound and form a new, wiser, independent community.

The blessing of running something like elephant is I get criticized 100 times a month. It’s not fun, and some of the criticism is mean-spirited and full of projection…but most of it serves to wake me up and help me keep elephant on course.

For all of us, our spouses or best friends serve that same purpose. Real friendship is not support. Real friendship is honesty with love behind it, not hate.

[2/12/12 4:41:48 PM] bernadette birney: This whole time, I just went with my gut. I felt some kind of inner guidance the whole way. Maybe there’s actually something to this yoga thing. (:

[2/12/12 4:42:05 PM] Waylon Lewis: Well, you’ve put yourself out there in a sane way and in this context that’s leadership, and I and many others have a longing for some sort of sane touchstone right now, and very little has been offered by anyone.

[2/12/12 4:42:30 PM] bernadette birney: It’s tough, too, in the yoga world where calling for accountability gets condemned as judgement.

[2/12/12 4:42:48 PM] Waylon Lewis: Well there has been a lot of judgment and prejudgment that hasn’t been helpful, or even accurate. Discernment is what we’re all after, as Carol Horton has said.

Going with our gut is the theism-killer…the best way to be non-theistic. Listen to our own wisdom and power. That’s what we all have to emulate and continually remember…or we’ll find ourselves in such a situation once again.

[2/12/12 4:43:52 PM] bernadette birney: i still think that the method is hands down one of the most healing modalities out there.

My teaching is not going to look different tomorrow, you know?

[2/12/12 4:44:29 PM] Waylon Lewis: Hah. I interviewed Katie and she did it to me live on camera. It was intense.

I was a doubter.

[2/12/12 4:44:50 PM] bernadette birney: what, like shoulder loop or something?

[2/12/12 4:45:40 PM] Waylon Lewis: Oh, sorry, I was thinking Byron Katie’s teachings! Too much coffee.

You’re talking about Anusara of course. Yes, I’ve never been attracted to Anusara but I’m sure the teachings attracted so many amazing teachers and students for a reason.

[2/12/12 4:46:55 PM] bernadette birney: oh, she is fantastic. a few months ago i got obsessed with her and disappeared for days into her videos on youtube. she is out there doing really good work.

Yeah, the community is everything to me.

Even resigning was in many ways an offering of love to the community. Do you know what I mean?

Waylon Lewis: Well, Noah and a whole host of others including yourself (we’ll include your letter, and Noah’s, both with direct permission) left today.

How can this leaving be an offering of love to the community, as you say?

Where are we at? How can we heal and go forward, from your pov? What does your gut or wisdom tell you, personally?

[2/12/12 4:49:15 PM] bernadette birney: it was a call to us all not to slide back into unhealthy relationship. that was what i could see happening. The only way forward for the community is for individuals to reclaim their power, and to be unafraid to speak out.

[2/12/12 4:49:57 PM] Waylon Lewis: Yes. Who all left today? I’ve heard of maybe five.

[2/12/12 4:51:58 PM] bernadette birney: let’s see: Noah, Sarah Faircloth, Emma Magenta, Elizabeth Cronise, Lara Demberg Voloto. Some of these teachers are prominent and well respected.

And me, of course.

[Ed’s note: also just now: Michelle Synnestvedt, Anne Libby, Jonathan Shoemaker]

Update: Emma’s letter. “John has demonstrated his unwillingness to take any meaningful responsibility for his actions or work with the community to effect real change.”

[2/12/12 4:53:23 PM] Waylon Lewis: Are there more to come? Or is the next step that the teachers who have left and the community that’s left and the community and teachers who remain will just begin the process of healing, and John will go off and work on himself?

[2/12/12 4:53:34 PM] bernadette birney: oh yes. There will be many more to come.

[2/12/12 4:53:49 PM] Waylon Lewis: Just messaged with Noah, he invited me to share his letter. Everyone’s tired.

Many more teachers and students will leave, you mean?

[2/12/12 4:54:02 PM] bernadette birney: yeah, we’re all really fried. I’ve been in pretty much around the clock contact with a sort of fellowship of teachers for the last week.

[2/12/12 4:54:55 PM] Waylon Lewis: Again I’m not in the Anusara community but just dealing with this and knowing many folks concerned with it a bit has been exhausting…I’ve found meditation, dog walks and friends and baths and exercise, biking to be only saving grace!

[2/12/12 4:56:18 PM] bernadette birney: many more teachers. I don’t know about students, if they will leave Anusara. Mostly, students show up to practice with teachers they really love. My guess is that among students we’ll see more loyalty to individual teachers than to anusara. As opposed to leaving a tradition, they’ll just stay with their teacher.

[2/12/12 4:56:37 PM] Waylon Lewis: Right. Like a hair salon.

[2/12/12 4:56:43 PM] bernadette birney: I’ve turned a lot to friends, and to my practice.

[2/12/12 4:57:07 PM] bernadette birney: Yeah, like a hair salon. At least–i think that’s how it will go.

[2/12/12 4:57:30 PM] Waylon Lewis: Okay. Anything else we shoudl bring up or touch upon?

[2/12/12 4:58:31 PM] bernadette birney: just that it is a potent time. From all the dissolution will come creation.

[2/12/12 5:01:07 PM] Waylon Lewis: Okay. Thanks, BB. Deep (but not worshipful) bow!

[2/12/12 5:02:01 PM] bernadette birney: Ha! Thanks for creating an opportunity to open the conversation wider than it has been. Superduper appreciative of that.

[2/12/12 5:02:45 PM] Waylon Lewis: You bet. Hopefully there’s some point. It seems like I just get hated on lately (I know it’s a vocal minority) for trying to put constructive stuff out there. It’s possible to be constructive and critical, both!

[2/12/12 5:03:31 PM] bernadette birney: Hang tough, baby. It hurts but just keep walking your talk. The world needs more like you.

[2/12/12 5:03:52 PM] Waylon Lewis: Well, I’ll have children soon enough.

Now get outta here…step away from the computer!

 

~

 

Here’s Noah’s letter:

Dear Beloved Anusara Kula,

The time has come for me to transition away from my professional ties to John Friend. In this past week of sitting on the Interim Committee and devoting countless hours to a grueling process of attempting to envision Anusara Yoga’s future, I was hit hard by the realization that I simply have no desire for a role in this challenging but hopefully fruitful evolution. I am about to broaden my horizon, and I’m deeply excited to share this news.

I am and will always remain ever grateful for all of the teachings I have received from John Friend, and I wish him only love, and the very best of luck with his personal recovery and professional development. Anusara was founded on solid principles of alignment, and my deepest wish is that these principles will guide the organization and its community members for many years to come. I will dearly miss being in the great company of my beloved Anusara kula. Fortunately though, I will be just around the corner, endeavoring to live the teachings, do my practices, teach and live life with joy, integrity and accountability. I remain a certified Anusara Yoga teacher, despite the fact that I will be surrendering my license. Further, in an effort to serve all of my students who are counting on studying Anusara Yoga with me this year, and those who are enrolled in my programs throughout the world, I will fulfill my obligations to you and offer all scheduled Anusara programming through the end of 2012. These programs and teacher training hours will count for anyone accruing credit to become a licensed Anusara Inspired or Certified teacher; and I will encourage any of my students who endeavor to walk that path.

I am much less interested in drawing the distinctions of yoga methods, and far more interested in the value of what every method and every teacher offers. I am interested in, and more in love than ever, with YOGA!

I will always aspire to keep great company, and am very excited to focus more on collaborating and teaching with my dear friends Christina Sell, Darren Rhodes, Elena Brower and Amy Ippoliti. I will keep you posted about these exciting offerings as we solidify our plans. The upcoming teacher development and Group Mentorship program, Good to Great, will also be a School of Yoga program, which I will offer with Christina Sell, and program hours will also work towards the Yoga Alliance 500 hour registry. Tracy and I have been working for many days and many hours on trying to help the current situation in Anusara. We leave you in the very best hands with the members of the Interim Committee.

I am proud of having been an Anusara teacher for the past decade plus. I am proud of what we have all created. I am so proud of you. I see incredible potential for what all of us can create. I will see you on the mat and in your house online! Live your highest truth, and keep it real.

Respect and with all my heart,

Noah

 

~

Here’s BB’s letter from this morning:

My Resignation Letter

Beloved Friends and Colleagues,

Just Thursday I wrote an open letter in which I urged you not to give up, and not to quit. Today, it is with a heavy heart that I sever my professional ties to John Friend. As for my efforts in achieving the right to the title Certified Anusara Yoga Teacher–they have been honestly earned. I own them. They belong to me.

In the aftermath of the discovery of John Friend’s professional and sexual misconduct, I maintained–right alongside my sense of heartbreak and anger– hope. It was my hope that the Anusara community could rise like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes. It was my hope that we would move from opacity toward transparency. It was my hope that we would move in the direction of a new, healthy, power structure.

It was my hope that we would hold John accountable for abusing our trust when he decided to “heal” his students with “sex therapy”. The lack of a transparent investigation on this topic is troublesome to the extreme. I have conducted my own investigation, and have good reason to believe it is true. I have a high regard for the people who confirmed this for me.They are not yet ready to publicly come forward.

I have gratitude for what I learned from John Friend. I am also clear that the responsibility for my own integrity rests upon my own shoulders.

This signifies the end of my hopes for reform. I have lost confidence in our ability to set and maintain healthy boundaries within the organization. Without our ability to set boundaries, there can be only the façade of change, and no actual change. Following such a course, Anusara yoga will slide back into what I now recognize as deeply engrained, unhealthy habits. This saddens me greatly.

I will continue to teach the Universal Principles with passion. I fully expect that since this is John’s mess, and we are all experiencing the fallout of his poor choices, that Anusara will do the right thing by honoring all of my students’ programming hours.

I will continue to be a presence in the community that I have devoted myself to for over a decade. My ferocious love for you is–and shall remain–a constant.

With love,
Bernadette


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Comments

128 Responses to “Anusara Teachers’ exodus.”

  1. Guest says:

    I was commenting on the 4 pictures of John Friend that you use throughout the interview of Bernadette. I saw the 1 picture of her at the top — and love it! In my view, using all those pictures of John reinforces a power imbalance; I would be surprised to hear that anyone needed a reminder of his reach at this point.

  2. madcrowherbals says:

    Thanks for such posting this. It just deepens my appreciation for Bernadette.

    – Michael

  3. elephantjournal says:

    You bet.

  4. JRF says:

    I felt nauseous when I read about John Friend's "healing of students with sex therapy". That is so incredibly disgusting, such an abuse of power and influence. Power and influence are gifts, great and rare gifts, that should be cherished and used to help others grow and reach their goals.

  5. Grace says:

    Puritanical, my ass. You sound like someone who has no clue what healthy boundaries are. If this were a matter of John merely being promiscuous I can't imagine who would be bothered to give a fiddler's fart about his sex life. This isn't about sex as much as it is about the abuse of power. (And read back, sexual misconduct isn't the only issue.) John Friend is a charismatic leader in a clear position of power. I am not saying his sexual partners had no culpability, but it's pretty clear that John abused his position of authority and took advantage of the power differential to yes, "sleep with his students" but also to offer "sex therapy" to them. WTF? These were people who trusted him. Misguided trust perhaps, but he took advantage of their trust and continues to try to manipulate this situation to his benefit.

    "SO NOT yogic." Really? Have you taken even a cursory glance at Patanjali's eight-fold path? How about any other ancient yoga texts? What the hell kind of "yoga" are you practicing?

  6. Oh MY GOD!!!

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!

    This cult of personality, the abuses it causes, the warping of teachings that comes with this abuse, this convincing others that living a life without consequence is okay (usually at the cost of others, as this controversy has effectively illustrated) must come to an end if any of this is to survive and not become nothing but a burnt out fad, as things like this always do (free love of the 60s, anyone?)

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU, both Waylon and Bernadette for this wonderful interview!!!!

  7. karman04 says:

    I totally agree. Here is a man whose arrogant behavior has made a mockery of the Yamas and Niyamas — every one of them. I understand loyalty to your teacher, your close friend. But at some point, your own integrity goes out of the window. I applaud those teachers who have followed their hearts; the others are following something else and It will undoubtedly have a negative effect on their own teaching careers. Please consider what your teacher has on you. And if you don't see his actions as an imposition, then you also need professional help.

  8. Harleigh Quinn says:

    Though, I feel I should say that there is one thing that has been not addressed, and that is that JF is not solely at fault. Those women, most specifically the married ones, the ones that took a vow to honor and elected to disregard it in "finding their truth", are even MORE at fault than he is.

    Yes, he may have slept with other men's wives, but THEY KNEW they were beholden to their vows and instead elected to practice the exact opposite of SATYA by having carnal relations with JF.

    In the end, he took an opportunity when it was available to him, but they need to stop transferring blame and responsibility of THEIR DECEPTION upon HIM.

    I feel it is easy to make JF a pariah to take the burden off themselves.

    This is ANOTHER problem within the yoga community.

  9. Grace says:

    Don't presume to know all of the Anusara kula's position and intention based on 5 classes you took with one teacher. For every one person caught up in John Friend's charisma, there are 50 or 100 or perhaps more, who practice yoga in the Anusara style with no particular desire to follow John himself.

    I am one of the latter. I am very sad to see what is happening and hope that my dear friends who are invested in the Anusara certification process or otherwise invested in John are able to build something new and awesome from the ashes of this fire. He brought an amazing method of framing and practicing Hatha yoga to life. I credit him with that. His other actions are regrettable, they do not erase what he created.

    If you are "trully sorry for the teachers and student of Anusara world", perhaps lording it over us that you are smarter than we because you associated Anusara with one lousy teacher and avoided it from there on isn't a particularly convincing way to commiserate.

  10. Grace says:

    Favorite quote, "We must learn how to invest in our own power and authority rather than conferring it onto the teacher."

    Amen, Bernadette, and thank you.

  11. Harleigh Quinn says:

    I'm not sure if your wording was meant to be irony, but isn't how this mess began in the first place? 😉

  12. Harleigh Quinn says:

    Thank you, Bernadette.
    I have been dealing with a similar situation for the last year, where forgiveness was demanded of me by a yoga zealot, with no self accountability on their (her) part.

    It seems the trend in the yoga community has obscured what yoga is intended for.
    I'm sorry, but this is just what I have seen, and many other yoga zealots have also attempted to push me to forgive, not taking into account the true weight of the damage done to me by this person.

    I have made many comments on this in other articles and am still working on an article, concerning spiritual materialism and relationships, that will address this (waiting for the final questions of an interview to be answered)

    I thank you for a common sense response that seems to be lost with modern yoga and buddhism zealots, looking for ways to not be responsible for their actions, and utilizing yoga and buddhism, and even (lately) taoism, all practices I have lived and studied (except for yoga) my entire life, as ways to accomplish this lack of accountability and responsibility toward others, as a way to absolve themselves without accountability.

    Again, I thank you for such a common sense response.

  13. Harleigh Quinn says:

    But these were adults. They are old enough and one wold believe intelligent enough to take responsibility for their own actions and make their own decisions…….

    Though, I feel I should say that there is one thing that has been not addressed, and that is that JF is not solely at fault. Those women, most specifically the married ones, the ones that took a vow to honor and elected to disregard it in "finding their truth", are even MORE at fault than he is.

    Yes, he may have slept with other men's wives, but THEY KNEW they were beholden to their vows and instead elected to practice the exact opposite of SATYA by having carnal relations with JF.

    In the end, he took an opportunity when it was available to him, but they need to stop transferring blame and responsibility of THEIR DECEPTION upon HIM.

    I feel it is easy to make JF a pariah to take the burden off themselves.

    This is ANOTHER problem within the yoga community.

    Therefore, the real issue, though it may never be known, may be that there is a shunning of personal responsibility, a self delusion among the supposed "victims", that they are not at fault for their own decisions.

    There was a recent study that stated that women, by frequency, cheated more often then men, and with more partners than men, as well.

    The real controversy, may it seem, is the shame these people are feeling for being "found out"?

  14. Shakti says:

    WOW! This is all so so fascinating…..not particularly surprising, and i am curious to see how it continues to unfold…
    i am not sure of the australian anusara communities reaction…
    i wonder if the rishis, swamis, and teachers, through the ages of yoga, are chuckling away in the ethereal planes!
    Jai Shiva!

  15. Vision_Quest2 says:

    All it takes is for them to admit they made a mistake, be decisive about needing to move on; and doing so …

    I still think it's a matter of sunk costs here, on the part of whoever will not come forward.

    Of course, sanctity of their own families and relationships also count for a lot.

  16. Marge says:

    "The deeply engrained, unhealthy habits to which I refer are specifically:

    Moving too quickly to forgiveness without actually tending to the wound that has been inflicted on the entire community. JF teaching in Miami felt, to me, indicative of wanting to race forward to the forgiveness without pausing at accountability."

    Well, then why didn't you just say that instead of being all cryptic and making it seem like the whole organization was sick intead of it's figurehead??? And I don't know what this phone call is about, I know job security is important. Despite what y'all might think. 'da yogis gots ta eat! But seriously, with all these resignations being tossed around like toilet paper…what are we to think??? That Anusara is no longer worth your time.

    Hate the drama. Love the Queen.

  17. Jessica says:

    I'm so glad YOU'RE not confused by your decision. You might be the only one. Especially since you were one of the select few who were asked to help. I love how you refuse to admit your own impatience by taking the moral high ground.

  18. pranayama anyone? says:

    So, wait. John had to be accountable on your terms only? He can't be accountable say…next week. Or for the rest of his life? It sounds like there's more than lack of transparency at the heart of this problem….

  19. chan says:

    R u kidding? great photo placement! the Anusara Village one is totally ridiculous – reveals the corporate propaganda and seems a lot like Disneyland. the Yoga Journal cover is now creepy considering the allegations.

  20. chan says:

    a male teacher prevents such an event by realizing that he's no longer a child but an adult who posesses control of himself.

  21. Whatev. says:

    Does a resignation protect the livelihood? Sorry, I thought she was trying to protect Anusara.

  22. chan says:

    economically, easier road was to remain silent. he was their meal ticket. now that someone else blew the whistle, it's safe for them to leave and more beneficial.

    kudos to elena, christina, amy and darren to branch out on their own into the unknown prior to the scandal!

  23. Patanjali says:

    Deep breath sweetheart. Do some yoga right now. Be in your heart not studying some "Ancient Texts". They're ancient for a reason. BREATHE.

  24. Peter says:

    mmm put the Guru model under the microscope??? Maybe some repsonsibility in who you choose as a teacher might be wise? If you can't choose a teacher, then how can you trust yourself, it appears you make bad choices and then blame? If somebody promises what can't be delivered and you choose to believe it, is it the promiser or the gullable that needs questioning. Personally I saw some video of John and Anasara and I wouldn't want to touch this stuff. Would rather other "Guru's" like the Dalai Lama who choose a more grounded way of teaching.

  25. Steven B. says:

    Bernadette is a great yoga teacher. I don't care what style she teaches. This was a total F-you to JF. I love it. He deserves it. Bernadette, you rock.

  26. elephantjournal says:

    You're right: You're putting a word in my mouth.

    "Nobody in their right mind would right now say JF is perfect or belongs on a pedestal."

    I didn't say "now."

    But before…there was quite a club of enthusiastic devotees around him. We can learn from this. That is all.

    Criticism is painful but if back by love, not pre-judgment or confusion, is the most helpful offering we as "friends" can all make to one another.

  27. elephantjournal says:

    We have two pretty remarkable teachers coming forward today, finally.

  28. elephantjournal says:

    Well, you sound as if you're knowledgable and in a yoga community. This has been the talk of the town here in Boulder, as I'm sure elsewhere, and most of not nearly all of the folks who've asked me about it aren't so knowledgable, and not only don't recognize the name "John Friend" or "Anusara" but have little idea of what either connote.

  29. elephantjournal says:

    (PS I didn't thumb you down, I hate downthumbs! Thanks for your clarification!)

  30. Katie says:

    That's not a bad point actually. i know of two people in the community who are upset because this has happened to them before with another teacher….

    Grounded ways of teaching seem lacking in other ways, like they exclude all the fun! Maybe I've learned enough then for this lifetime. Time to find a new hobby/obsession. Akido, parasailing, latin dancing…. If a latin dancer was sleeping with his students, no one would care. Funny isn't it? Either we're making too big a deal or not big enough. Which is it?

  31. Harleigh Quinn says:

    So, basically, what you are saying, is you really know nothing about yoga.
    Let me know if I have missed something…..

  32. Harleigh Quinn says:

    I'm sorry. that was intended for "guest".

  33. Harleigh Quinn says:

    Though, Patanjali, I must ask how you could name yourself that and make such a comment. Grace is correct, though the supposed "victims" are not blameless in the slightest.

    I am hoping that this was also directed to "guest", and, If so, I apologize.

  34. Harleigh Quinn says:

    The truth is that, as I said, though he is at fault, so are those that took him up on his "offer".

    I see this as an abuse of power, yes, but also a passing of the buck.

    Very un satya. Very indeed.

    I am saying this because your response seems to want to still lay all blame pun JF, but unless he violated them against their will, it literally takes two to tango.

  35. Harleigh Quinn says:

    Do you know anything about narcissism, Pranayama?
    Yes, I understand her need for him to be accountable immediately, and not further inflate and already sick and twisted ego that revels in the public deception it creates and the attention it gets.
    When someone has lied that often, and essentially continues to "get away with it", you form a sense of absolute disgust.

    Marge, if the people he was sleeping with were part and parcel of the organization, as well as no one saying anything about something that is BLATANTLY wrong, yes, nearly the entire organization would classify as sick, in one way or another.

    I feel Bernadette is performing a form of personal surgery, eliminating the cancerous parts and attempting to save what she can.

  36. Peter says:

    thanks for the reply Katie… I would say a too big a deal out of a group that shouldn't be made a big deal out of. All the clapping and cheering made me a little bit sick I must say and it is true, people get bored with true down to earth teachings. Who wants to make daily life spiritual, like sitting with ourselves and seeing what we are… how is that entertaining? We want all the bells and whistles of our "Heart Shining Through". Let's make it bigger than what it is to all feel special and then blame when the promise is broken.

  37. Harleigh Quinn says:

    At least you are criticizing.
    I feel too much is let slide in modern new age yoga and spirituality, which causes scandals such as this.
    if everyone criticized as you did, this may not have happened in the first place.

  38. Harleigh Quinn says:

    Not big enough.
    A latin dancer and a yoga teacher are two separate things.
    A yoga teacher is looked at as a spiritual leader, his actions looked at as being moral.

    Again, I feel that those that allowed themselves to sleep with him are equally at fault, however, you really can't compare those two examples.

  39. Harleigh Quinn says:

    Peter, I agree with you, 100 percent, but will admit I have an agenda of them realizing it's not all bells and whistles, just as you stated, so I'm sort of reveling in the controversy. 😉

  40. David Atlas says:

    BB: "I don’t know about students, if they will leave Anusara. Mostly, students show up to practice with teachers they really love. My guess is that among students we’ll see more loyalty to individual teachers than to anusara. As opposed to leaving a tradition, they’ll just stay with their teacher."

    WL: "Right. Like a hair salon."

    BB: "Yeah, like a hair salon. At least–i think that’s how it will go."

    I'm loyal to my daily yoga teacher because I love her and think she's awesome and she's helped me enormously, and I'm loyal to my hairstylist because he does a good job cutting hair, but to compare the two seems really jaded.

  41. Patanjali says:

    Harleigh Quinn you've missed so much it wouldn't fit on this post. A sense of humor for one. Yoga is not something you can "Know about" and study in an ancient text. Get present my friend. Feel your breath right now. Let go of that anger and then TURN OFF YOUR COMPUTER! Go for a walk, Dance, Breath. That's your yoga, Buddy. Thank God these are our problems though right, Harleigh? Oh, the problems of the white upper middle class who have time to practice yoga and put their teachers on pedestals and tear them down. Yay for us!

  42. Roger Wolsey says:

    Outsider perspective. I'm a Christian pastor and a yogi. This situation that I'm reading about here reminds me of the dire straights and train wrecks that take place in Christian denominations (or rather, in independent ministries) where there is no intentional accountability for their leaders. Here's a blog I wrote about an out of control Christian leader just a few weeks ago. "Why Mark Driscoll needs an Elephant" – http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithforward/2012/01

    All this said, most of the people I meet who "do" yoga don't idolize their instructors or even see them as spiritual leaders or gurus. They enjoy instructors who have some humor and who are gracious and compassionate, but they certainly don't put them on pedestals. They choose classes primarily based upon matters of convenience such as location and time of day. And you know what, there's nothing wrong with that. It may be slightly consumeristic and not as "relational/loyal" as some would prefer. Deal with it. Any yoga instructors (or pastors) who think that people need to learn about yoga/Christianity from them specifically… has issues.

    We, instructor types, are called to be humble servants, to simply share what we know with others, and trust that there are one heck of a lot of others out there doing it too. It's not about us.

  43. Roger Wolsey says:

    (1st paragraph, i meant dire *straits*) ; )

  44. elephantjournal says:

    Perhaps in this rather sad context, and via a skype conversation, it's easy to miss, but it's a thing called a joke.

    Furthermore, your belittling comment is offensive to hair stylists everywhere. It's a craft, and an art, and a spiritual practice of effervescent beauty that means a great deal to many people.

    Finally, this comment confirms a growing suspicion: it seems that on the internet, as in life, I'm not able to please all people all the time. Have you found this to be true, too?

  45. G.C. Aloha says:

    Anusara DOES have a code of ethics, and even an ethics committee! Here are the guidelines one must follow in order to become a certified Anusara or Anusara Inspired teacher. This is what makes me so upset–that John put these guidelines in place, telling his teachers they were to hold themselves to them, but then violated them himself! Take a look at the first four yamas, all of which he violated, as well as his own statement that the teacher needs to behave as a role model for his students. http://www.anusara.com/index.php?option=com_conte

  46. Grace says:

    Clearly "Patanjali" is "guest".

  47. Susan says:

    That is a beautiful gesture and the sort of support and compassion that hopfully all yogis would offer to others. Division is the opposite of yoga—we need unity to help us all through to the other side. What can you do? Just what you have done…offer your love and presence, devoid of judgment, and readiness to help in the spirit of yoga. Thank you.

  48. T.A.H. says:

    Harleigh, I agree with you mostly, but I don't believe that's always true. Not all yoga teachers (I'd wager to say not even most?) are spiritual leaders or even strive to be (or if they strive to be, doesn't mean anyone is taking them seriously) and I'd continue to wager most students don't ever think of their teacher as their moral leader.

    Those that teach asana as sport or exercise (even if they add in pranayama and chant OM at the end) just do their classes as safely and well as they can and go about their business. I know teachers who are deeply spiritual individuals in their private lives but when it comes to their teaching they just do their best to share what they know and don't have or give off any pretension to being a guru or moral leader of any kind (and if they did, they would never be allowed to rent out the church hall!). A whole lot of yoga teachers are no more or less spiritual than a latin dance teacher. And we cannot sight passion for the activity or even imparting something that gives students a 'spiritual high' as a difference between them, because if you talk to some ballroom or Latin dancers they can convince you of the heights of spirit they feel they reach doing it at its best and how they put their whole body and soul into it. Same for Akido and martial arts and other things above.

    So I can see where people are coming from when they ask if sometimes yoga is or is not sometimes making too big of a deal of itself? I think it's not a question that can be reflected on and answered once and for all time, but might be part of the continual process of reflection.

  49. matt says:

    Awww… You're just looking for reason to use "Really?". Am I the only one who thinks we've got to find a new word for the disdainful "Really?". And please don't say "Seriously?!". That one's worn out too…

  50. Harleigh Quinn says:

    Rank has it privileges?
    Either way, it takes two to tango…..

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