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. elephantjournal says:

    Chris, this was not a back and forth, I'm afraid. This was a "send questions" and "receive answers" a few days later and in the meantime, 800 phone calls with 20 people, half of whom think I'm attacked John and half of whom think I'm defending him. I'd love to conference call them all together, then leave the room and go have a real meal or…say, go to yoga.

  2. elephantjournal says:

    Don't be sorry, I respect your views consistently!

  3. elephantjournal says:

    Thanks for your gentleness, and perhaps condescension. I may not be the best for the role, and I certainly didn't volunteer and am not benefiting in any way. If readership numbers were my primary motivator here, I could have broken the story on Friday morning when 800 friends skyped me the jfexposed site in 20 minutes. And while I may not be the best for the role, I stepped forward, with my name non-anonymous, and have submitted to the chopping block of readers' comments and downarrows in the interests of bringing the community together, providing however much more context I'm able, so that we might begin to heal and move forward. I feel as if I lot of folks are taking anger and downarrows out on me, because I'm replying, and John and his colleagues and friends are not, understandably.

    Furthermore, I'm not that nice. I don't admire John or anyone, including my Buddhist teachers, more than I care about the truth. The best way to get open answers, a la Charlie Rose, can be openness. Openness doesn't mean gullibility. It does require tact.

  4. elephantjournal says:

    Update: 322 am..!

  5. elephantjournal says:

    In response to my question about relationships.

    "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."

  6. Ted says:

    Ok to make one thing clear because a lot of people seem confused. A yoga teacher can have sexual intercourse with a student if they are consenting adults and if the student is there to learn yoga. The archetype of the hero or the teacher often attracts the feminine. You can see it playing out in many relationships and not just in student teacher relationships.
    So it’s ok if the contract is clear: I want to be intimate with you.
    Now it is not ok when the ‘consenting’ vulnerable adult is approaching the teacher asking for healing or the teacher offers healing but instead manipulates the situation to get what he wants.

    Intent, relationship ‘contract’ and the specific needs and vulnerabilities have to be taken into consideration. Although a lot of people do yoga not all of them are in vulnerable position. The matter of boundaries is quite delicate and I could say more but it s definetly a case by case decision that requires maturity and discrimination from student and even more from teacher.
    In yoga the oral contract between student and teacher is not the same as a psychotherapist with client or school student and teacher although they might be some similarities the differences are quite important.

  7. and now yoga says:

    "We simply are aspiring to do responsible journalism", thank you Ele and Waylon for doing your very best to put your ethics first. This has been an opportunity for me to see (and reflect upon..again and again) the teachings of Yoga unfolding particularly the two first yamas: Ahimsa and Satya. There is a cause to any consequence, be it painful or pleasant- So I very much liked your reminder Waylon on response-ability… In regards to that, I feel that the choice of words is important. Waylon, in your first question, you used the words "not fully honest". I think there is nothing such as being fully or partially honest. You either say what you mean and mean what you say, either not. I felt the attempt to be straightforward in that first question but I think we cannot invite truthfulness by using words such as "fully honest". Also related to your second question, I wanted to add that I AM concerned about my teachers relationships, because Yoga is definitively about relationships. So maybe, you feel it is not your business, but I can assure you that, as a reader of Ele, it is MY concern that my teachers live a sattvic life, a life that inspires and uplifts other people, a life that (on a day to day basis)values and honors the sacredness of the teachings of Yoga (i.e. the yamas) and unapologetically embrace the response-ability of being spiritual teachers (in english) or gurus (in sanskrit). And again thank you for stepping in, putting your ethics first. A reader and an aspiring yogini, Jeanine

  8. FlyingYogini says:

    Is there any interview of him right now that would satisfy all readers? My guess is that there is not. He has agreed to some of the charges and ignored others and I guess that is within the parameters of his own conscious to do so.

    For me what really needs to be addressed is the pedestal this man was put on, by whom and why. He is not only a simply a yoga teacher (caveat: I am too and not Anusara) but also only a human. The culture of almost deity-like admiration of someone creates this kind of power and opportunity for them to dance outside the boundaries of what is acceptable behavior to others. When this happens then a situation where someone in a position of power can abuse it over those who put him there can be created. That to me is the real issue.

    Perhaps the question we should be asking is not "did you do these things?" but rather "how did our system, our reverance and our lack of looking at self as a guru allow such a situation to get this crazy?" Then we might all might not be satisfied by the answer, but at least we'd have something concrete to work on for the future.

  9. Ansana says:

    I will not judge him, everyone makes mistakes. I have taken workshops and classes with John Friend and know that he is a great teacher. But his actions and the allegations against him now make me question if he truly believes what he teaches. By involving himself in these situations shows me that he has still has demons of his own to fight so how can he continue to be a leader of the Anusara Community when it is based on the premises of love and is not self love the first step to loving others.

  10. […] Friend Replies source We’re going off in a different direction today. Instead of looking at the practices of Yoga […]

  11. Rebecca Strang says:

    Thank you Elephant for giving John a voice. I find it shocking how unwilling to forgive many of the yogis are. It seems they have forgotten the principle "Open to GRACE". Throw the first stone if you are so perfect, but I for one support John. So sad that mistakes we make cast aside the good that we do! Hmmmm let me think… Clinton, Kennedy…my Anusara practice was never about or for or to John. It is about the principles. I wish him love and light as he walks through the cave of haters.

  12. Maggie lee says:

    A year ago after taking a few anusara classes, (unsafe and ego driven) I went to website and read this long rambling, obnoxious, cliche filled description and mission statement. It read like a Saturday night live skit! I knew then Mr. “Friend” would be where he is today., I hope he finds another path.., Attachment…, practice yoga, don’t cling to it.

  13. YogiChaya says:

    For anyone who says that the organization is separate from JF, think again. Ten percent of the money you give to your local Anusara teacher still ends up in his pocket. Fortunately the teacher I respect the most in my are is already planning her exit strategy. Until he has PROVEN that he is worthy of trust and respect, again, I wish him well but I will not support this system.. there are plenty of other great yoga teachers and classes out there. I have no idea if JF is sincere in changing his ways or if he is right now cuddled up in bed with his newest squeeze, smoking a doobie an while he reads this on his ipad, having a good laugh on us. Only time will tell.

  14. […] My interview with John Friend regarding jfexposed accusations.. […]

  15. connie says:

    Yes ! Move on, people. We are ALL human. Accept your feelings about this matter, and as you have so simply stated, Michael, "the practice is pure and is beyond any one teacher".

  16. agurvey says:

    If his biggest mistake was making an incorrect assumption about your education or underestimating your expertise in the area of psychology, then I think he deserves admonition for making said assumption, but then it would be nice to hear your other insights. I hope you are not taking offense to this, as none is meant, but there are a number of people on EJ whose comments I read and want to continue reading. Yours and Yogijulians are two of them.

  17. Yogatchr says:

    It's abuse of a powerful position and it violates ethics, as Waylon said. Here is the code of conduct from yoga alliance: http://yogaalliance.org/content/policies

    Here's a couple of important ones:
    Conduct myself in a professional and conscientious manner.
    Avoid words and actions that constitute sexual harassment
    Create and maintain a safe, clean and comfortable environment for the practice of yoga

    His actions are reprehensible. He is a teacher. That comes with responsibilities including exercising some freaking self control.

  18. agurvey says:

    Well said, Karl.

  19. Jessica says:

    There is nothing worse than telling a lie, and that is when you are given the chance to tell the truth and you lie again.

    Waylon, great interview. You can only work with what you’ve got. Could you have been tougher? Is that really for me to judge? I don’t think you can take on the responsibility of serving thousands of peoples curiosity, anger, hurt, suffering because of this situation. But, for me (and I can only speak for myself) the truth about this situation is there, loud and clear. The hard part about the truth sometimes, is that we all want to run away from it, when that is the only thing that will liberate us from deceit and manipulation. Thank you for providing that, for me, with this interview.

  20. laura says:

    we are all students of life, humans with flaws, and we all make mistakes. yoga is not a religion. why should we expect our teachers to be anything more than human? yoga is accepting where you are, who you are, with an open heart. that includes teachers, students and the entire community. outrage isn't yoga, compassion and the willingness to get up when we fall down. that is yoga. well done waylon.

  21. rosangela lewin says:

    Guruji BKS Iyenger said that he had many temptations but he kept away from it, also kripalu founder was demoted for doing what Mr friend did I like Anusara yoga and I hope humility and deep thoughts will not ruin all the good work, power is a very distractive yoga is about non attachment not even to power!!!

  22. Doug says:

    So what happened to Hilary Lindsay's article, originally posted on your own site, revealing that the much-advertised Anusara facility in Encinitas can't be physically located, and no one there seems to know anything about it? The article has suddenly disappeared.

  23. Vision_Quest2 says:

    ???

    Chacun a son goùt :–)

  24. Vision_Quest2 says:

    I see it, Sinead, as a watershed moment for all of commercialized yoga.

    Doesn't affect my home yoga practice one bit, however … (not based on Anusara … but in its DNA was some deceased charismatic character who slept with his students, too. Do I like that? No. But teachings are teachings).

    If I ever were in better straits time-and-money-wise, I probably would have gone with I.S.H.T.A., which is right here where i live, which also has a strong contemporary founder and leader … which is what makes certain practices more vulnerable to these types of things … I would go for the teachings, if I found they added value to my life—and not because the teacher was above reproach. (Except, I do think Alan Finger at this point, is …)

  25. Kris says:

    He actually hasn’t had it (my respect) since 2005. I studied Anusara yoga from 2003-2005 and then shifted my focus to more traditional yogic study. I stopped studying Anusara for a few reasons. One, I didn’t agree with their shoulder blade alignment, but much more importantly I didn’t like how people were so enamored with “the great John Friend”. For years I’ve said I stopped my association with Anusara yoga because it felt too cult like. Everything that’s coming to light right now just confirms why I was having those feelings.
    I also strongly disagree with all the branding of yoga that is going on in American yoga these days and he’s the king of branding. I feel branding creates separation and division in the yoga world and not unity or community. I’d be happy if the whole Anusara brand crumbled and people went back to teaching and practicing just yoga.

  26. FREE says:

    Sometimes we put energy into things that are a waste of time, and at other times we make the right effort to do what really needs to be done right now- which is dharma. Discrimination comes through buddhi, which is the fourteenth tattva. Through buddhi, knowledge and wisdom flow to manas, the mind, which is the sixteenth tattva, and once we are consciously aware of that knowledge we can put it to practical use in this world. Between buddhi, the higher mind, and the manas, the conscious mind, is the fifteenth tattva, Ahamkara – the ego. So with its own conditioning, the ego distorts or filters intuitive insights from buddhi, and passes them on to manas, after it has added its own distinct touch. This is why sadhana consists of purifying the ego- so that instead of appropriating or identifying with all the tattvas below, it will be an open and pure channel for receiving higher knowledge from the tattvas above.

  27. Michael says:

    For teachers: shunning from the rest of the kula
    For staff: losing their job

  28. Michael says:

    My money is on him suing the person that told the truth…

  29. Steve says:

    This all reminds me of Tiger Woods. Don't worry about John Friend being any sort of force in Anusara Yoga in the future. He's toast. Anusara (like golf) will live on!

  30. you says:

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

    in fact, WE must all be brave enough to abandon a ‘system’ put in place by a narcissistic lying megalomaniac.

    these allegations are the tip of an iceberg. the fabric from which the anusara world was made is tainted by ‘yoga teacher’ who behaves like a insecure yet popular 7th grader. the man orchestrates stage lights and standing ovations for dharma talks that are essentially content-less. just this goes against everything that yoga is. it is just another demonstration of a teacher who wants himself to be seen rather than any beautiful source of lineage-rooted teachings, of which anusara is devoid of.

    my surprise is how long it took for people to start seeing the contradiction and comedy that is john friend’s empire. anusara is a spoon fed eclectic which inspires people to stop thinking. it is wholly ungrounded in anything real and like all such things will be washed away by the tide of discrimination.

  31. Annie Ory says:

    You GO girl. Claim your yoga and denounce ALL gurus! Forget the teacher, remember the teachings.

  32. Annie Ory says:

    Well, that and not manipulating students to sleep with us while telling them that it will make them more "powerful". The magnificent ego of that rocks me off my feet. The idea that he perpetuated the belief that his "sexual energy" would give these women a step up to spiritual enlightenment and power! Wow!

  33. diane says:

    The first impression of JF that I had was that he always had a lovely groupie's assisting him–a friend who has long time certification told me oh she to this young girl or the next is John's new paramour. It was well known that he exploited and then discarded one for another. As far as I know, no one spoke up and his behavior was just tolerated along with having favorites which were exchanged like buying a new pair of shoes.
    JF was deified in the system as powerful and a brilliant marketeer. The interview beyond the validity of the questions seemed like something the suit that JF once was would give- little substance- lots of excuses- and a dearth of details.

  34. Jason says:

    Strongly agree. Well put. Worse, now Friend can claim that he's been open with the yoga press by answering "tough questions." On the other hand, this is what Friend does. He sniffs out someone's weakness–in this case, perhaps an surfeit of good will and good faith–and uses it against them to get what he wants.

  35. TCB says:

    This may be anecdotal but supports the idea that John cannot continue to lead when he has implicitly asked so many to maintain standards that he would not uphold himself.

    During 1930′s, a young boy had become obsessed with eating sugar. His mother was very upset with this. But no matter how much she scolded him and tried to break his habit, he continued to satisfy his sweet tooth. Totally frustrated, she decided to take her son to see his idol – Mahatma Gandhi; perhaps her son would listen to him.

    She walked miles, for hours under scorching sun to finally reach Gandhi’s ashram. There, she shared with Gandhi her predicament. –
    “Bapu, my son eats too much sugar. It is not good for his health. Would you please advise him to stop eating it?”

    Gandhi listened to the woman carefully, thought for a while and replied,
    “Please come back after two weeks. I will talk to your son.”

    The woman looked perplexed and wondered why had he not asked the boy to stop eating sugar right away. She took the boy by the hand and went home.

    Two weeks later they revisited Gandhi. Gandhi looked directly at the boy and said,
    “Boy, you should stop eating sugar. It is not good for your health.”

    The boy nodded and promised he would not continue this habit any longer. The boy’s mother was puzzled. She turned to Gandhi and asked,
    “Bapu, Why didn’t you tell him that two weeks ago when I brought him here to see you?”

    Gandhi smiled,
    “Mother, two weeks ago I was eating a lot of sugar myself.”

  36. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Never better put.

  37. Vision_Quest2 says:

    You can only work with what you got. Where is Barbara Walters when you need her?

  38. Kris says:

    John didn’t make a “mistake”. A “mistake” is something you didn’t mean to do. Or, it’s making one bad decision, having a momentary lapse in judgment. John made the conscious decision to behave this way over and over and over again. I do not consider his behavior “being human”. I consider it deplorable and deceitful. Behaving decently is simply not that hard and I expect it of everyone, especially yogis and especially yogis in such powerful, visible positions.
    John should have followed your advice, “really sit and think about the intention behind what you are about to spread into the community”.

  39. yogijulian says:

    here's a point to consider waylon and braja and kate – when i hear the examples of strong women who are able to say no to the inappropriate advances of seductive gurus (waylon you used your mom and trungpa, braja you used yourself and gurus more charismatic and handsome than JF) as a way of saying that the women involved are adults and can make their own decisions are not victims etc – i think there may be something key you are missing:

    it is not the strong ones who get victimized in these situations. it is the weak ones, the insecure ones, the ones who came to the spiritual community because they are wounded, don't have good boundaries or healthy self esteem, maybe have a history of abuse or trauma.

    it is the ones who get into the inner circle because they make the new community their life, because they buy so deeply into the philosophy and idealize the teacher in a way that is filling early childhood needs.

    you may scoff at this last statement but think about it: people who get really involved in the whole guru adoration trip are desperately seeking a parental substitute – not only that these need comes from such an early developmental place that they are seeking a *perfect* new parent who won't let them down – and what better person than someone who appears to be ethical, enlightened, a leader, a teacher of a profound spiritual philosophy that contains the answers about how the universe works, what the purpose of life is and how to live an awakened life?

    when i did my critique of friend based on his bizarre statements about the japanese tsunami i was reacting to a video interview. i had long seen the far away look in the eyes and heard the reverent tone when anusarites uttered his name – but seeing this student of his in the video asking the great master how it was possible that tsunamis happen given his teachings on the all-good nature of the universe and then listening to his inflated and disconnected pronouncements about earthquakes not being bad, just our response to them causing our own suffering – i was deeply disturbed by the dynamic at play and its psychological implications for how people in this community dealt with reality and what they were projecting onto their leader.

    sure – the students do the projecting, but the community provides the space and protocol for this and the leader sets the tone and either plays along with the projections or defuses them either gets real or perpetuates the unstable and delusional fantasy.

    i think we might consider that it is perhaps a mistake to separate the teachings from the teacher – my sense is that someone who teaches what he does and sets up a community in which he holds the kind of power and aura that he did usually has these unresolved shadow issues and they usually play out somehow along the predictable lines of sex, money and drugs.

    from a psychological perspective, if the women are perhaps in search of an all good daddy to idealize, the guru is unconsciously seeking his own early unmet needs around childhood narcissism: i am so amazing, look at what i can do, applaud me, praise me, tell me i am the best ever, so perfect, so smart, so beautiful, the most important etc…

    the problem with a lot of spirituality is that it actually does not address or provide ways of working through these kinds of issues, but instead perpetuates them….. the blunt force tropes about "killing the ego" just don't do it for this kinda stuff and the further one goes into these kinds of light and love spiritual communities without doing serious inner work on your shadow material (grief, rage, fear, trauma, unmet needs etc) the more precarious the situation becomes, especially if the guru is not also doing work on themselves and buys into their own hype as being infallible, or most enlightened or at another level above everyone else – this is usually a big set up for a massive fall from grace. we have seen it again and again but don't seem to learn the lesson.

    so my main point: it is the weak ones, the vulnerable ones, the ones with trauma, the ones who are trying to work something very deep and unconscious out with their guru who are most susceptible and will put their families and relationships at risk at the behest of the philandering narcissistic guru in the name of sex magick. really it is an old trick: well if you really wanna be enlightened you need to get some of this here special juju in the swamis pants…

    on the one hand, yeah sure they are consenting adults – on the other hand we do well to remember the altered reality that people in a cultish organization (however benign seeming) are living under and the psychological implications of a lot of the dynamics at play. people who get deeply involved in these sorts of dramas are usually unconsciously trying to work out a lot of stuff – spiritual communities would function better if there was more awareness of this and more tools and information to make this stuff conscious.

    check out how jack kornfield has his community set up based on a lot of psychological savvy and research into why cultish dynamics occur and how to keep things healthy….

  40. Erin says:

    just to clarify, this is not the same Erin as above! i should be Erin2 i guess.

  41. Erin says:

    and again, not the same Erin as before, I'm Erin2.

  42. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Well done Waylon!! Great interview – total respect!

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  43. BuffCrone says:

    I agree with this comment. It seems that John, like many charismatic leaders, began to believe in his omnipotence. Teachers have left because of his unwillingness to let his students grow beyond him. He demanded unquestioning loyalty and obedience. He expected his teachers to feed and house him, serve him for free at his intensives, and give all their attention to his needs. He was unable to accept criticism or to allow other perspectives. He demanded that they pay him for products and services that they produce that have nothing to do with Anusara. I personally observed him playing to the audience of female students who thronged to him for attention. He thought everything was his to control. Like all of us, he has learned that everything is not within his control. I do think that there is a tremendous benefit to the Anusara form of practice; for the good of the Anusara practice, he should resign. But since he has made Anusara his personal "cult of personality" and chased away most of his heirs apparent, I suppose this is not possible. But that is the only thing that will remove the taint.

  44. yogijulian says:

    let's not ignore the important piece here too that there is a god like aura bestowed upon the person who claims to know god. for a lot of these students john friend is their guide to nothing less than knowing god and in so doing fulfilling their deepest spiritual yearning – which (when it is that intense) is very often unconsciously symbolic of a whole lot of other stuff: yearning for mommy or daddy, struggling with the imperfect and painful nature of real life, longing for freedom from suffering etc…

  45. Kris says:

    Yoga "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". Anusara is just a brand name.

  46. yogijulian says:

    here's a point to consider waylon and braja and kate – when i hear the examples of strong women who are able to say no to the inappropriate advances of seductive gurus (waylon you used your mom and trungpa, braja you used yourself and gurus more charismatic and handsome than JF) as a way of saying that the women involved are adults and can make their own decisions are not victims etc – i think there may be something key you are missing:

    it is not the strong ones who get victimized in these situations. it is the weak ones, the insecure ones, the ones who came to the spiritual community because they are wounded, don't have good boundaries or healthy self esteem, maybe have a history of abuse or trauma.

    it is the ones who get into the inner circle because they make the new community their life, because they buy so deeply into the philosophy and idealize the teacher in a way that is filling early childhood needs.

    you may scoff at this last statement but think about it: people who get really involved in the whole guru adoration trip are desperately seeking a parental substitute – not only that these need comes from such an early developmental place that they are seeking a *perfect* new parent who won't let them down – and what better person than someone who appears to be ethical, enlightened, a leader, a teacher of a profound spiritual philosophy that contains the answers about how the universe works, what the purpose of life is and how to live an awakened life?

    let's not ignore the important piece here too that there is a god like aura bestowed upon the person who claims to know god. for a lot of these students john friend is their guide to nothing less than knowing god and in so doing fulfilling their deepest spiritual yearning – which (when it is that intense) is very often unconsciously symbolic of a whole lot of other stuff: yearning for mommy or daddy, struggling with the imperfect and painful nature of real life, longing for freedom from suffering etc…

    when i did my critique of friend based on his bizarre statements about the japanese tsunami i was reacting to a video interview. i had long seen the far away look in the eyes and heard the reverent tone when anusarites uttered his name – but seeing this student of his in the video asking the great master how it was possible that tsunamis happen given his teachings on the all-good nature of the universe and then listening to his inflated and disconnected pronouncements about earthquakes not being bad, just our response to them causing our own suffering – i was deeply disturbed by the dynamic at play and its psychological implications for how people in this community dealt with reality and what they were projecting onto their leader.

    sure – the students do the projecting, but the community provides the space and protocol for this and the leader sets the tone and either plays along with the projections or defuses them either gets real or perpetuates the unstable and delusional fantasy.

    i think we might consider that it is perhaps a mistake to separate the teachings from the teacher – my sense is that someone who teaches what he does and sets up a community in which he holds the kind of power and aura that he did usually has these unresolved shadow issues and they usually play out somehow along the predictable lines of sex, money and drugs.

    from a psychological perspective, if the women are perhaps in search of an all good daddy to idealize, the guru is unconsciously seeking his own early unmet needs around childhood narcissism: i am so amazing, look at what i can do, applaud me, praise me, tell me i am the best ever, so perfect, so smart, so beautiful, the most important etc…

    the problem with a lot of spirituality is that it actually does not address or provide ways of working through these kinds of issues, but instead perpetuates them….. the blunt force tropes about "killing the ego" just don't do it for this kinda stuff and the further one goes into these kinds of light and love spiritual communities without doing serious inner work on your shadow material (grief, rage, fear, trauma, unmet needs etc) the more precarious the situation becomes, especially if the guru is not also doing work on themselves and buys into their own hype as being infallible, or most enlightened or at another level above everyone else – this is usually a big set up for a massive fall from grace. we have seen it again and again but don't seem to learn the lesson.

  47. yogijulian says:

    so my main point: it is the weak ones, the vulnerable ones, the ones with trauma, the ones who are trying to work something very deep and unconscious out with their guru who are most susceptible and will put their families and relationships at risk at the behest of the philandering narcissistic guru in the name of sex magick. really it is an old trick: well if you really wanna be enlightened you need to get some of this here special juju in the swamis pants…

    on the one hand, yeah sure they are consenting adults – on the other hand we do well to remember the altered reality that people in a cultish organization (however benign seeming) are living under and the psychological implications of a lot of the dynamics at play. people who get deeply involved in these sorts of dramas are usually unconsciously trying to work out a lot of stuff – spiritual communities would function better if there was more awareness of this and more tools and information to make this stuff conscious.

    check out how jack kornfield has his community set up based on a lot of psychological savvy and research into why cultish dynamics occur and how to keep things healthy….

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