My interview with John Friend regarding jfexposed accusations.

Via Walk The Talk Show
on Feb 8, 2012
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Update: two more key interviews/letters: Douglas Brooks, longtime colleague of John Friend’s, & Amy Ippoliti, senior Anusara teacher who recently resigned.

Update: my interview with an Anusara Yoga teacher who resigned today: an inside view re the Anusara teacher resignations and a conversation re: how to avoid repeating history. ~ ed,

5 Questions for Anusara Yoga’s John Friend regarding “jfexposed” anonymous accusations.

You and I go back for a few years. I like and respect you, as many of us do. That said, there’s obviously a situation here that’s serious, in that it affects people and, since that jfexposed exposé web site and then Yogadork’s blog has had much of the yoga world talking.

I hope you regard the below as tough questions that give you an opportunity to respond as fully as you are able. I acknowledge that there are legal issues that may prevent full answers in some cases, but here are the questions.

So I’d like to ask you five succinct questions.

These questions are important beyond the specific circumstances of what that web site alleged, in that this entire situation, it is my hope, can best serve the international yoga community as an example of honesty, transparency, learning from difficult “teaching moments,” and how we as a community can rise above gossip and rumor, and communicate to one another ethically and with sourced facts. This is why, until now, the only thing elephant has reported on is why we’re not reporting on this situation–until we have non-anonymous/agenda-driven public sources. This is what the NY Times’ Public Editor does, for example.

Reporting gossip and anonymous accusations that hurt real human beings isn’t what we do. This is how we do it: we aspire to deal with difficult situations with patience, guts, transparency, fairness and compassion. We as a community don’t chase gossip. This isn’t fun for anyone, but it can be an opportunity to show the wider world how we deal with crisis and scandal by example.

One final pre-ramble: elephant is not afraid of controversy, and we do not hold ourselves above any other media out there. We simply are aspiring to do responsible journalism—a craft and tradition I respect and aspire to practice. But in situations like this it’s important.

You understand I have to ask tough questions, and in so doing will do you and everyone concerned, on all sides, some small favor by giving this situation some air and light. If I’m accused of being a sycophant here, no one will respect a word you offer.

SITUATION
1. The situation is this: many of your senior teachers—Darren Rhodes, Christina Sell, Elena Brower, Amy Ippoliti, Laura Christensen, have resigned from Anusara over the past few months. We talked about that, you and I, here. Then, on Friday morning, this jfexposed web site, an anonymous web site alleging all sorts of things that we’ll get into here, appeared online. It was quickly passed around the yoga community. When I received it, I was depressed by the material in it, particularly the explicit photos, and asked my friends to stop passing it around. Clearly this was something serious that should be treated as more than gossip or entertainment.

The web site, which was hosted internationally so it was legally difficult to get taken down, alleged various things:
a) that you’d had various relationships, affairs with married women who in some cases have children.
b) That you had run some sort of corrupt pension scheme, which we detail in some legal context here.
c) that you smoked pot and had it shipped around
d) It showed graphic photos (with no face, so seemingly not adding anything to Mr. or Ms. Anonymous’ accusations, and skype screenshots of your conversations).

When I saw this I couldn’t help but think of these women’s families.

FIRST QUESTION
So the first question is, why should anyone care about this interview, when the last time I interviewed you about those teachers leaving, you were not fully honest about why they were leaving?

~

John Friend: First of all, thank you, Waylon, for giving me an opportunity to present my truth in the face of these accusations. 

This has been such a painful time for me as I self-reflect on how my personal decisions within my private life have become a source of deep anguish for my friends and community.

I am so deeply sorry for any harm that my actions have caused anyone.

I appreciate the opportunity to clear the record today since not all of the accusations were true, and yet they were posted on the internet six days ago without any verification. These are complicated issues about private matters involving many innocent people, and I will be as open and transparent as I can be. So, again, thank you Waylon for being the first person in the media to ask me about the truth in this matter. Thank you for being patient and waiting for the facts, the truth.

So, to answer your first question, every teacher has their own unique reason for moving on. When you asked me why the teachers left Anusara Yoga in the last few months, I shared with you the official reasons each teacher shared with me. Unequivocally, I can say that none of these teachers told me they were leaving because of these accusations or a problem with my ethical behavior. Every teacher has their own path, and I honor that wholly. I am grateful for the teachers who are standing behind the teachings of Anusara Yoga during this tender moment in time.

~

SECOND QUESTION
WTF? I’m not personally concerned with your relationships, or the relationships of the women who were outed on this web site. That’s not my business, or the business of my readers. I’m not very concerned with the wicca/witch/coven/tantra stuff, I personally find religion generally to be full of wonderful and rich myth and tradition. The Bible, for example, has all kinds of fantastic stories and rites or rituals in it.

But what is our business is ethics, and as a spiritual teacher and leader you are of course held to a higher standard. That said, we’re all adults here and the relationships were consensual, I understand. No one should be put on a pedestal as “perfect” only to be torn down. I don’t worship you, or anyone, and we all need to take responsibility for our own actions. That said, there is a power differential in any kind of intimate relationship between a student and a certified teacher. And while you’re not a medical professional, you have described yourself as a guru.

We all make mistakes. That said, how do you explain your actions, when obviously they have resulted in confusion, pain, and broken families?

~

John Friend: Waylon, first off, I do not use the term “Guru” to describe myself, and work hard to stay away from being so designated. Above all, I am a student of life and yoga, and then a teacher, and the founder of Anusara Yoga.

Secondly, it’s true. Over the course of my private life I have had consenting sexual relationships with women, some of whom have been my students and also my employees, some of which included married women.

It’s not fair for me to explain the intimate details of each relationship in a public forum, nor do I want to further violate the privacy of others as has been the case by this malicious attack. The most important thing to say here is I made some mistakes, yet my intent was never to do harm.

But as the details are spread across the internet, I see clearly where I can rise up as a man, and walk differently in my relationships with women.

~

THIRD QUESTION
Why is whomever is behind jfexposed accused you of all of this? Various web sites have been approached by him/her for some time now, s/he’s been trying to get her/his version of the story out there. Why is s/he seeking some sort of revenge? Are you suing her/him? What’s the overall situation?

~
John Friend: I do not know the motivations behind the viciousness of the attacks. It is clear to me that he has chosen to attack in a malicious, indiscriminate, and likely illegal way, which has been so hurtful and damaging to so many innocent people.

It should be noted that neither Anusara nor I have ever been in a lawsuit.

Lastly, I am practicing compassion for this guy, although very difficult, and yet I have no hate. I only pray for peace and healing for all.

~

FOURTH QUESTION
Pension? Below our readers will see a legal document exonerating Anusara of accusations of impropriety. But what’s the story with that, from your pov?

~

John Friend: As you can see from the following documents and public statements, here is the entire story regarding the pension.

> Pension Documents here.

~

FIFTH AND FINAL QUESTION
Going forward, on a personal level, how are you going to wake up and grow as a human being? Has this situation helped?

On a professional level—if it’s possible to separate the two as perhaps the world’s most famous and successful yoga teacher—do you have a career left? Will you be teaching? What’s going to happen with your community? Are more senior teachers going to leave? Will you be leading teacher trainings over the next 12 months?

On a greater community level, how can we all use this as a learning experience for how to rise above gossip and yet still be painfully, bravely transparent both as individuals, as a community, and in elephant’s case, as media?

~

John Friend: This is quite the one question!

…Study and practice is my life, and teaching is my dharma, which brings me the greatest joy.

I am awake to choices I have made that have opened the door for others to question who I am, and I know this is ultimately a gift. I am committed to being transparent and open, which I have not always been. To this end, I am fully evolving as a man, teacher and friend in the community and on this planet.

For the community, my deepest hope is this brings us closer together, in a more intimate and honest conversation around life. Some students and teachers will inevitably decide to move on, others will become more involved and take an expanded leadership role within the Anusara organization.

So, I envision the future of Anusara as including greater cooperation from all of our community.

We must all remember that any mis-steps by me do not invalidate any of the greatness of the Anusara yoga method.

I bravely step into the person I am today, and I am becoming in every moment. At once this is both deeply humbling and also a gift.

~

My best wishes and compassion to all involved. Thanks, John, for sitting down for these difficult questions.

I understand this situation is fully within a legal context and expect that you will be somewhat limited in your ability to answer. [editor’s note: John and his friends did not ask me to get rid of any questions or say they couldn’t answer anything above]. That’s not my concern. My job is to ask the questions thoroughly and fairly. I hope I’ve done that, and offer this interview in service to enlightened society.

I don’t personally find that exposed site fair, kind or helpful to you, the other persons concerned, or even the accuser. I think any of us could be exposed in such a way, with 80% being true and 20% agenda-driven anonymous stuff poisoning the lot. However, I do hope that site and yogadork’s report, and now this interview, plus your statement and document re: pension exoneration can ultimately be helpful.

We all need to learn to be more transparent and, as students, less caught up in rockstar syndrome. We can all embrace empowered non-theism as we Buddhists call it, and be kinder to one another as a community.

Deep breath! And deep bow to all concerned.

Yours in service as the ultimate smile,

Waylon


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Comments

464 Responses to “My interview with John Friend regarding jfexposed accusations.”

  1. So, If I understand the above interview…The Answer is Yes, The BSF was in effect and Yes…Apologies are being given to the people involved? In the end, all of the truth comes out, leaders have no choice but to live transparently. Those who don’t will not remain leaders. Unfortunately, I think a lot of this comes down to money, power and abuse. You have to be comfortable with sharing publicly how you live, otherwise we will appoint someone else to lead who is sharing their life honestly.

  2. elephantjournal says:

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    Criticism and supportive comments are welcome, but disrespectful comments will be deleted. Thanks! ~ Waylon
    3 hours ago · LikeUnlike
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    West Anson Very good, fair, & tough questions Waylon. While he is limited on what he can say at least he acknowledged his mistakes.
    3 hours ago · LikeUnlike
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    Gretchen Lynn Badami I admire his honest answers and admittance that he made mistakes. This episode bespeaks the larger problem of what happens in a community when one person gets put on a pedestal- the ego overtakes and power dynamics get created. None of this should be a part of yoga, and the true guru is one who shuns all acknowledgement of his/her gifts. If John can handle this situation with grace, it is an opportunity for him and the entire community to grow.
    2 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 9
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    Rob Hansen i think john friend is a fraud, following in the lineage of muktananda in molesting his followers. much respect to the teachers that resigned. the others should too
    2 hours ago ·
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    * Delete Comment…
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    Shiva Steve Ordog Snore
    2 hours ago · LikeUnlike
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    Susi Costello I don't see why this surprises people so much. I'm MUCH more surprised by powerful men who DON'T ply vulnerable women with their famous penises. I'll tell you what does shock me though. Yoga teachers with pensions. I wish!
    2 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 4
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    Mary Beth Bender It puts it into the perspective of 'there is no guru, no disciple, realize who you are.' JF is facing that publicly b/c he founded Anusara. Other Yogis and Yoginis are doing immoral things we just don't hear about. He teaches a practice centered on the heart. He can channel the ego into love. Love wins.
    about an hour ago · LikeUnlike
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    Tiffany Leor Cooper Thank you John Friend for being you. A complicated human being like all the rest of us. I love Anusara Yoga…it has made a beautiful and postivie impact on my life. None of this silliness changes that. ♥
    about an hour ago · LikeUnlike · 1
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    Yuna Shin Sex with your employees, whether paid or not, is NEVER appropriate. JF took advantage of them whether he believed they consented to it or not. JF can't just ask for forgiveness because he recognizes he made mistakes. He should have known better–he simply should not have made them. And whether he likes it or not, many believe him to be the guru. And why not? He founded and copyrighted Anusara. He has personally anointed his followers. In the end, yoga teachers are bound by yamas and nyamas. Did he? I am afraid not. And the argument that "others are doing it, so it's ok for you (or anyone else) to do it" is a fallacy called "common practice."
    about an hour ago · LikeUnlike · 2
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    Susan Ramos Rockstar yoga teachers behaving badly. *Yawn*
    57 minutes ago · LikeUnlike
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    Nyk Danu Yoga I supposed everyone judging here is perfect…right …don't make any mistakes?
    56 minutes ago · UnlikeLike · 2
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    Gail Super I am sorry but this is almost as bad as the excuses that the Italian captain made…as in I never knew I was jumping overboard….never mind the moral/ethical conundrum which is pretty obvious, DUH, but the pension issue also disturbs me. In effect the terms and conditions of the employee benefits were being altered unilaterally and to then plead that 'I acted in good faith because I never knew' is pretty bizarre. If you run a big corporation, which is what it seems Anusara, and many other yoga schools have become, then you should at the very least know that you have to be aware of the legalities of how you act. Om shanti.
    36 minutes ago · LikeUnlike
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    Tanya Botha John Friend is a genius for the system he has created. I have gained so much from Anusara Yoga and there are many many fantastic Anusara teachers that I love to learn from. My perspective of Johns public persona is that he seems kinda up his own ass and totally behaves like a rockstar. Funny how we love our rockstars for their bad behavior but not our yoga teachers. I have a lot of yoga teacher friends with secret personal lives that don't align with their public yogic presentation of themselves.
    Maybe it's time for John to pull back from being such a prominent figurehead in this system so that his chosen lifestyle doesn't affect it's followers and their commitment to something that is now so much bigger than he is. I don't think he deserves to be the leader of this system anymore. There are others who are carrying the light more brightly than he… Right now his credibility is sorely lacking as a trustworthy teacher. He hasn't made mistakes. He has made conscious choices that lack social integrity and honesty. He doesn't need to be forgiven. He needs to decide whether he should resign his own certification, or if he can actually be the trustworthy person we expect him to be if he holds the kind of esteemed position he has been holding.

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    Tara Dalley Hey Waylon…..thanks for always being awesome, and always asking the hard questions. Wish there were more writers out there like you! 🙂

  3. Anusara devotee says:

    The only reason he admits to this and expresses "regret" is because he got caught. He should step down.

  4. Erin says:

    Ugh….I have resisted thus far but can no longer…The first thing I noticed across the board harshness and lack of compassion about the whole thing. I’m not saying that what has transpired is OK, we all agree to that, but the responses from most have been far from “yogic”…..Yes, John has tremendous power in his role but at the end of the day he is still bound to the terms of being human, which includes making mistakes and LEARNING from them…Is that not why we are all here?? In a lot of ways this kind of situation just gives people the freedom to rail on the target to feel a little better about their path/life, that we are somehow above and better than the person we are condemning. Would you say the same things if the person was standing in front of you in their vulnerability? Continued….

  5. Erin says:

    ….When you have words to speak about this situation, really sit and think about the intention behind what you are about to spread into the community…Does it help? Is it going to heal all those affected?….I am a certified teacher, I have had my moments of questioning my path in general and with Anusara….the questioning is healthy….Through all of this I can honestly say my love for THE METHOD OF ANUSARA has never been greater…All of us have rallied and our resolve to serve our communities is at its highest….My heart has broken wide open and it is honestly one of life’s greatest gifts……we do not forget but we can forgive.

  6. Anusara devotee says:

    It wasn't a married woman, it was married "women". What kind of ego maniac needs to sleep with multiple women who are married?

  7. Teacher says:

    I'm currently a teacher in the Anusara certification process. Like many, I'm saddened by the situation and hope from the bottom of my heart that John sees what he has done and changes his ways.

    In the past few days I have paused and thought, do I still want to be certified considering all that's happened? And the answer is yes. Not because I necessarily condone what John has done but because NONE OF THIS HAS TO DO WITH THE SYSTEM ITSELF. Anusara is a method, a community, and a beautiful space that has brought many people great joy and insight into themselves and the world around them. Despite this controversy, Anusara will continue to do all that and much more. That's why I'm a proud teacher and student of this system.

  8. GetReal says:

    He had sex, they had sex, people had sex, everyone agreed to have sex. Who the hell cares!

    Go do something worthwhile. Write about something REALLY important.

    Stop being a bunch of prurient Amish prudes.

    Do something important; Stop corporatism.

    Stop killing animals. Stop war. Stop female genital mutilation. Stop polluting the earth. Stop leering at your grandmother you perv.

    Stop fraud and corruption at every level of government. This is all petty superficial bullshit.

  9. yogijulian says:

    omg you said "bullshit" lol 😉

  10. karlsaliter says:

    SECONDED!

  11. Anusara Yogi says:

    He was manipulating people with his position of power. He admitted in his own letters that he had lied to several women at the same time. This isn't about him having sex. Nobody cares about that. This is about him abusing his power, manipulating and lying to people and to his community, and breaking his own code of ethics. Hypocrisy at its worst.

  12. Erin says:

    Waylon, props to you. I feel that you are handling this whole mess really well. There are other matters here that aren’t being discussed, though, that need to be.

    Most importantly, WHY is everyone in anusara (and yoga for that matter), including myself, so afraid to talk? What is it about the SYSTEM (Anusara’s and other yoga systems, and, honestly, other educational systems) that has made it that way? I’m relieved that John wants to work on being more transparent, but as teachers in Anusara, it is impossible to do so without major consequences. How do we become teachers that can be transparent and still hold the seat of the teacher? I have a lot of thoughts on this (mostly around yoga etiquette and hierachy), but want to see what y’all think first. I am craving these much needed discussions and I think if we start to have them, our relationships will be a lot healthier.

  13. yogijulian says:

    i am curious – if the teacher does not exemplify the teachings, and has not been transformed or even guided into basic decency and integrity by them – please remind me why we shouldn't throw them out!?

    one of the problems here is a pretentious philosophy and rose colored world view that denies the shadow and doesn't really do substantive work on authenticity, deep process and sincere self awareness – while sheperding people together under the guidance of a charismatic leader who has the gift of the gab in terms of spinning people into an adoring trance with nonsensical metaphysics.

    this has always been the fruit of such cultish community architecture.

  14. jimmy says:

    Waylon, I'm sure you are well motivated. But, you know, we don't have to mediate with predators. I'm someone that tries to please and I recognize this in others. Someone one told me, "Wow, you would mediate a murder." Being sensitive to others "POV" is great until you run up against the person that works by a different set of rules. Anyone that reads that manipulative letter he wrote to the coven can see that John is someone that goes by his own rules. He is at the very least a serial liar and sexual addict. If that's the case, he deserves an opportunity to make real amends to the hundreds if not thousands of people he's harmed and being apologetic to him does not encourage that facing of the truth. I think he's actually a sociopath and a predator and that this interview has served to let him continue to con people.

    Perhaps you're not operating from a need to please sociopaths. I've also noted another trend in journalism which is that every point of view needs to be represented. So, we must drag out the person that insists that the world was formed 6000 years ago if we are also going to interview a geologist.

    I can see you are genuine, I just can't figure out why you are so apologetic for him or see a need to please "both sides". There's no need to balance the needs of a predator.

    Finally, in this picture you present where it is okay for people in power to have sex with those under their influence, I just find a great deal of ambiguity. Is it ethically wrong or is it not? Are you saying it is ethically wrong but that it does not rise to the level of abuse? Is the wrongness not based on the abuse of a person? If it is not based on that, in what way is it wrong?

    I think you are unclear in your thoughts in a murky subject and you were perhaps not the best choice for the interviewer. A nice person, I'm sure, but it seems like your admiration for the man and willingness to cut sexual predators a little slack in the name of fairness got in the way.

  15. yogijulian says:

    i actually agree with you "disappointed." sorry waylon – more on why another time..

  16. yogijulian says:

    i think the rock star groupie thing is a good analogy – but then add on top of this that the rock star has also assumed the mantle of both spiritual authority and being in control of your livelihood, while being the central figure in an organization that stirs up adoration and powerful beautiful altered states and believes the system he teachers is a doorway into a kind of enlightened tantric heart and mind opening into the ultimate nature of bliss….

    consider all of that and then what it really means for this man to initiate and consummate sexual moves on his married groupie, then keep it secret and to be doing it with multiple women at once in the name of sex magick that will produce abundance etc….

    let's just really think this through and not be so detached and egalitarian.

    if he were a school teacher or therapist it would be criminal behavior. as the employer of these women it is ethically and certainly legally problematic.

    as their spiritual mentor and head teacher, let's just think this through: the person they look to for ethical/moral guidelines and authoritative pronouncements about god the universe and how yoga can change people's lives is engaging them in secret sexual liasons that betray their own families and spouses or boyfriends, as well as his own significant other…. hmmmm let's not cover over how dark this is in the name of being modern.

    it's pretty bad.

  17. elephantjournal says:

    4) I did bring that up, perhaps you didn't read. I personally do not smoke, I'm Buddhist and we frown upon such, but I have zero moral issue with someone smoking, and don't feel it's my business or yours unless it harms another. ~ Waylon

  18. elephantjournal says:

    3) same. I did bring that up but find most religions to be nutters, from a scientific / ration pov. While I find much of Anusara happy-wappy, love n'lighty, I don't know much about it. And I know less about wicca, and am not sure it's our business. What is our business is those unethical relationships, and how and if John is going to learn from those mistakes, and how the others are doing and effected by this.

  19. maggie says:

    But here is the problem – hypocrisy – even in the above interview, John never says he was ethically wrong for sleeping with his students and employees. He defends himself as a victim of a disgruntled employee rather then understanding how his inappropriate behavior with the teacher/student power differential can result in psychological harm to women (and the people in the organization as a whole – those who have to cover up and look the other way and for those who can't speak up for fear of consequences). In effect, by failing to be a good role model or follow his own teacher/student ethics guidelines, he gives justifications for his behavior in this interview, ie, I am "not a guru" and these were "concensual relationships". So, there is pain to be spread as a result of his unconsciousness…. even in this interview he is not being fully accountable for his role in the "seat of the teacher" or acknowledging his failures in following his own ethical guidelines his teachers are required to follow. His teachers have faced consequences for ethics violations so now we see how this unfolds.

  20. yogijulian says:

    with all due respect braja, i highly recommend doing some reading on the psychology of cults and power imbalances. your statements here are incredibly one sided and lacking in the nuance this might offer…

  21. elephantjournal says:

    Not sure who you're correcting, but I certainly said "women" in my questions.

  22. Well said. I can't really account for their taste though…

    :))

  23. I'd ask why he had it in the first place….
    ?

  24. Well said: it takes someone who wants to worship to put another on a pedestal. I could stand on a pedestal til the cows come home, and it ain't havin' no effect 🙂 If someone comes along and starts fanning my ego? Then it starts. I think you hit a very fine line with a spotlight, and I thank you for doing so…

  25. yogijulian says:

    good job holding all this tension, sticking to your principles and getting the man to trust you enough to answer this frankly waylon. now get some sleep! 🙂

  26. elephantjournal says:

    I don't think this is hypocrisy…that implies that folks can be perfect. We're all hypocritical, if that's the case. We all make mistakes. From a Buddhist pov, when we make mistakes, the practice is to come back to honesty and the present moment and compassion as quickly as possible. That's what we practice. We do not practice being perfect, because that's not possible, and it's a self-serious, uptight, way of trying to live. Much better is to learn to laugh at ourselves, and learn, and be honest, and open.

    In this context, I agree with you on the sex. I do think the problem is more than he has been deceptive, and selfish. I hope this situation has provided him with the sort of feedback that will help him, and help his community, and help the yoga community generally learn to relax and be more honest, instead of surrounding himself and ourselves with those who already agree with him and us.

  27. karlsaliter says:

    I wasn't leering, that was a Glance, damnit.

    Your list of other worthwhile causes is daunting, and point taken, perhaps more constructive actions are on our palette, but look again at this one. Also, I'm no prude and I bet the Amish party when they party.

    The yoga community is a large force, and embryonic in its actions regarding real activism and change. Embryonic but potentially POWerful. GetReal, sorting our heads regarding the foibles of this major player in modern yoga is worthwhile.
    Steering our thinking now: framing these events in empowering terms, is work that matters.

    Some seeds look like marks on a computer screen.

  28. Same here, to all this. No agenda. Just watching. There's wrong on both sides. That's the way it ROOOOLLLLLS, this world…

  29. elephantjournal says:

    Thanks, Chris. That said, from my first reaction, I said "From the beginning I said I'd cover but we'd be patient, that human lives are concerned, and while we don't do journalism, we aspire to its ethics…" What I did here was not journalism, but I did try to hold to the middle line of criticism and compassion, both, not just one or the other.

  30. Jack says:

    Yes, this is the type of thing that CEOs get fired over. Yes, in years past this sort of revelation could lead to banishment or lynching. But I don’t think casting this man out is the answer. It wouldn’t just hurt John Friend to do that. It’d hurt all of us. Why? Because it’s our habitual response, and it doesn’t work. Whenever one of these scandals breaks – and they’re the same issues over and over – we just dispose of the person causing the problem and get back to business as usual. And then someone else goes and fornicates inappropriately or cheats their employees or the taxpayers or whoever… and more people get vengeful, more people feel hatred, more people become bitter and cynical. Let’s please stop doing that!

    So what to do instead? What can we express that might pave the way to something better? I think it’s got to start by recognizing that yes, John Friend messed up… AND many of us projected a lot onto him. So we all share this burden. If we want to truly get something good out of this situation, he’s got to change, and so do we.

    Should he continue to be in charge of Anusara? Maybe not. If a good teacher sees a student behaving inappropriately and can identify the cause of that inappropriate behavior, the teacher’s job is to help the student cast it off. John Friend says he’s a student first – so Anusara should try to teach him. The community should figure out what contributed to this misalignment, and determine where the man should be and what he should do to overcome it.

    It might be hard for him to make that kind of meaningful change at the helm of his organization. Then again, maybe what he really needs is to figure out how to incorporate recognition of his boo-boos and darkness and muck into Anusara. I don’t know.

    In any case, we should leave that judgement to those who know him within the Anusara community and have taken on the weighty responsibility of responding to this. The ethics committee doesn’t have the luxury of anonymously announcing “SCREW TAHT BASTARD!!11!1” and believing their words aren’t going to hurt anyone. They know there’s a lot riding on this, and this guy is their teacher and friend! They’ve got their work cut out for them… and so do we. We’ve got to attend to our own practice.

    What does that mean? Watch out for our tendencies toward projection and attachment? Stand loudly against business or spiritual models that put so much power into the hands of a few? I’m working on figuring it out for myself. What about you?

  31. Just ignore me, yogi julian. Please. No matter what i say, you're going to be troubled by it. You should have asked first if I have a Masters in Psychology and did my thesis on Cults and Power Imbalances….

  32. Laura Christensen says:

    It was ALL about ethics.

  33. Brad says:

    There is no way a person could be “ALL” that people claimed John Friend to be. If one was to read ” The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad, a good question to ask is

    “How could this not have happened?” IT TOOK A LOT MORE THAN JOHN FRIEND to create the MYTH OF JOHN FRIEND.

  34. Aron Stein says:

    This was great Waylon. I have done Anusara for 7 years and went through Anusara teacher training twice now. Ironically I just went though this with my Zen master Genpo Roshi. They both hit me hard, because I feel for those who invest so much energy in these great but narcissistic and flawed men. I really don't care what people do in private but for me if you adhere to a set of ethics and principals you simply have to uphold them. Buddhism teaches ethical behavior and right practice in sex, speech and deed. Anusara teaches alignment in your body and mind and especially in your ethics. Alignment in all things….includes your dick.
    I understand being human and making mistakes. I do not understand justifying your mistakes or continuing to engage in them until you are forced to change.
    Anusara is the best sytem of yoga I have found for myself.
    Anusaras first prinicpal is 'open to grace.'
    And now falling from grace.

  35. Jill Lawson says:

    Thank you for this interview Waylon. I think it’s just the tip of the iceberg. The road is wide open for teachers and students alike to speak their truths without fear, step up to the plate and act with integrity, as it should be, but it’s not always the case.

    So John Friend is not the man some people thought he was and I am not surprised. But I wonder how many of us are really fully aligned with truth. That is why we practice.

    John says “But as the details are spread across the internet, I see clearly where I can rise up as a man, and walk differently in my relationships with women.”

    How about we all walk differently in our relationship with ourselves, and let this be a lesson that the consequences of lies and deceit are not worth the pleasure. Phony doesn’t look good on anyone and some people just reek of it.

    Look forward to learning how Friend chooses to rise as a man.

  36. karlsaliter says:

    The odds on Waylon sleeping right now are thinner than a seven-foot supermodel.

  37. yogijulian says:

    actually no – you say things i agree with at times.

    re-read my comment and you will see it doesn't suggest you need to be a MA in psychology – just respectfully asks if you would be willing to do some reading on this specific subject as i don't think you have considered it from the psychological angle.

  38. yogijulian says:

    though to repost my response to some of what i see as attempts to minimize the sexual relationships here as being consenting between adults etc thus kinda erasing the power differential.

    one person said it wasn't so bad and she really kinda saw it as the rock star groupie thing…. i responded:

    i think the rock star groupie thing is a good analogy – but then add on top of this that the rock star has also assumed the mantle of both spiritual authority and being in control of your livelihood, while being the central figure in an organization that engenders adoration of him and powerful beautiful altered states and believes the system he teachers is a doorway into a kind of enlightened tantric heart and mind opening into the ultimate nature of bliss….

    consider all of that and then what it really means for this man to initiate and consummate sexual moves on his married groupie, then keep it secret and to be doing it with multiple women at once in the name of sex magick that will produce abundance etc….

    let's just really think this through and not be so detached and egalitarian.

    if he were a school teacher or therapist it would be criminal behavior. as the employer of these women it is ethically and certainly legally problematic.

    as their spiritual mentor and head teacher, think about it: the person they look to for ethical/moral guidelines and authoritative pronouncements about god the universe and how yoga can change people's lives is engaging them in secret sexual liasons that betray their own families and spouses or boyfriends, as well as his own significant other…. hmmmm let's not cover over how dark this is in the name of being modern.

    i love sex and think how people choose to set up their sex lives is up to them, and i am the last person you could ever call an ascetic puritan – but it's pretty bad.

  39. karlsaliter says:

    I agree on the questions, especially in this legal context.
    I mean, Waylon did WTF him.

  40. Julian-
    I can't agree more with everything you just said. When people use the term abuse I think there are conclusions that are automatically assumed when abuse is a word with such a broad meaning. You have to ask yourself, would these women have had relations with him had he not been in the position he is in? Who knows but I am inclined to think that the answer is probably not. How much of all of this is our business though? That's what I am struggling with. Because none of it affects me personally. You are absolutely right though if he had been a school teacher or therapist it is quite likely he would have formal charges pressed against him. It is pretty bad.

  41. I enjoyed that quite a bit!

  42. Andréa Balt says:

    Thanks for voicing out my thoughts with your Aussie BS detector & usual wit, Braja. Deep bow to Waylon & elephant for the way this was handled. This is as mindful as it gets for journalism & indie media.

  43. "i don't think you have considered it from a psychological angle."

    Then you know very, very little…

    Again, I'm not going to discuss this, or anything, with you, "with all due respect."

  44. YogiOm says:

    remember the "Yoga of Discipline"?

  45. YogiOm says:

    Agreed! For the students of Anusara (at the latest in the certification process) we are encouraged to read "The Yoga of Discipline". Yes, discipline in the senses, discipline in the way we lead our lives. So, no, smoking pot and bagging married women is not discipline and certainly not yoga.
    Some might argue that some tantric yogis smoke pot, eat meat and have strange sexual practices, but to decontextualize such practices is biased and unfair, for JF is not a naga sadhu and lives in the world.
    AND perhaps the most important question is: do these unrestrained, adharmic practices lead you and your environment to a more expanded state of mind? Is it beneficial at all, and ultimately does it lead to real freedom? Probably not.
    I am glad that John is coming out and hopefully he will be honest all the way. We all have much to learn and I am glad that the teachings are the teachings and if practiced and assimilated they do work. John is a great teacher, but I think that this will be a great reminder that foremost he should be a great student!
    For those of you who haven't read the letter he sent to the teachers here it is: http://bayshakti.com/john-friend-response-to-alle

  46. elephantjournal says:

    It's 157 am, talk show with Richard Freeman tomorrow night, and I'd have to agree. That said, Julian did get me to go get some bodywork today for first time in…2 years? Four years? Gassho.

  47. elephantjournal says:

    Yes. Theism takes two. We build them up, tear them down for not being what we wanted them to be. They are us: imperfect, striving, on the path. No excuses for any of us.

  48. elephantjournal says:

    Definitely just the tip of the ice berg. I do wish that more of the anonymous critics would appreciate how hard it was to get these out there and get answers back. John was forthcoming, but this was not a situation where I was able to get a real interview. A real interview would be live, of course, and everything on the table. This, however, was a start, and hopefully as Carol said offered some confirmation and new information.

  49. […] original here: My interview with John Friend regarding jfexposed accusations … Posted in Online Predators Tags: all-sorts, anonymous-web, friday, jfexposed, luring-and, […]

  50. elephantjournal says:

    hahahah deal. Anyone who can invoke a little humor right now gets whatever they want.

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