A Personal Reaction to Rumors, Accusations & Community.

Via Jennifer Cusano
on Feb 3, 2012
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We need to remember what we value when faced with rumors and slander that have no place in our community.

Here’s Waylon’s response to the yoga controversy.

I was shocked to my core today. From the inside out.

One of the many reasons I was so intrigued by the Yogic community was because of the authentic, compassionate and loving ways the


members treat one another. Before I made the decision that Yoga—and by that I mean all of Yoga, not just the asanas but the beliefs, principles and values as well—was for me, my life was not filled with the beautiful friendships and mindful living that has become a part of my daily life and path, since. That is not to say that I didn’t experience some genuine relationships, but for most of my life I was surrounded by people who smiled in your face and talked shit behind your back.

I did it too.

The relief I felt when I was no longer a part of and no longer subjected myself to those types of things was paramount. In the time since I have been a part of and witnessed some amazing things. When we Yogis get together and put our minds to it, we can change the world. We are changing the world. So today, when I was subjected to something you would see happen in the tabloids—a lewd exposure of the most personal of things with the intention to destroy someone’s career, livelihood, their family, their complete person—not only was I deeply saddened but I felt horribly betrayed.

For those of you who do not know what I am talking about, an anonymous website has been constructed to expose a yoga teacher, and those closest to this person who will no doubt be collateral damage. The material was vulgar, yet has snaked its way, shamefully, through our community. The specifics of which are not yet important because, for now, they are rumor-based.

The issue at hand now, here for me was the way it is being dealt with: through gossip.

A Statement From Waylon:

“Having a serious discussion about healthy community can be hard, and important, and is a part of our mission. The anonymous site in question does not do so in the form of a dialogue, and we will not link to it. If you want more info about it, go to Yogadork.”


Our community is bound by the Yamas and Niyamas. They are our moral commandments, the model by which we live each day. I am so proud to be one of those people.  Ahimsa and Satya have been broken by this anonymous person and I refuse to abandon my beliefs  by reproducing what I believe to be slanderous statements about somebody else. We are not supposed to cause harm, that is not what we stand for and there are no exceptions to this standard. If that is to hard to understand then maybe a simpler way to say it would be that I choose to mind my own business.

Still, it is important to be honest and transparent—and when and if we have firsthand, non-anonymous information, we’ll seek to honor this painful issue with a constructive dialogue. Middle Way. ~ Waylon Lewis, ed.

Let me ask you this: what do you think the intentions were behind this publication? It appears to have been executed specifically to cause irreversible harm. Is it our duty as human beings to not pre-judge until we have the facts…but we have a responsibility to remain true to our genuine nature and uphold the commitments we have made by choosing to live our lives in a mindful way. Talking trash and spreading rumors is not conducive.

How quickly the contributions and sacrifices that have been of benefit to our community can be easily forgotten in the mists of gossip and accusation.

It is my heartfelt desire that, as a community, we treat this situation respectfully and mindfully. Let’s keep in constant awareness of the damage we can do by conversing in an unhealthy manner. Let’s keep our intentions behind our actions pure and authentic. This is how we live our lives daily, and this unfortunate occurrence is a time when we need to be most vigilant, awake, kind and honest.




About Jennifer Cusano

Jennifer Cusano, social media aficionado, research connoisseur, and writer du jour, is a Yogi on a path of personal exploration and long overdue healing. Managing Editor for YOGANONYMOUS, Producer for Where Is My Guru, Director of Social Media for YOGASCAPES and TumericALIVE, wife and mother of three, Jenn is really a superhero in disguise—or so she likes to think. In her spare time Jenn likes to read about and search for vampires, so if you happen to know or come across one, please do send them her way. Hit her up on Facebook or Twitter to discuss the various methods of tracking down said vampires. Also she is more than a little uncomfortable writing about herself in the third person, it may just be the hardest thing she's had to do, and that's saying something...


56 Responses to “A Personal Reaction to Rumors, Accusations & Community.”

  1. yogijulian says:

    very complex issue.

    i agree that gossip is toxic, damaging and often untrue.

    at the same time – as this story unfolds it will no doubt carry important lessons for the yoga community.

    some do feel that the yamas and niyamas are their code of living. some resonate more with other moral codes or ethical principles.

    in any event, if the accusations are true john friend would be the one in violation of said ethics and moral codes, not those telling the story.

    so – i suggest restraint until it is clear what is really going on.

    this does not however sound like mere rumor mongering – it sounds like what is unfortunately an all too common portrait of the charismatic guru figure at the head of a lucrative organization being somewhat corrupted by power and adulation.

    of course none of us know the facts – but i am slightly confused by the notion that it is a bad thing to tell the truth about such a big story once it is known.

    JF is a huge figure in this community – and the recent departures of several prominent senior teachers from his organizations had many wondering what was really going on behind the BS love and light, everything is perfect official statements…

    i am 100% on board that the man should not be crucified on the tree of public opinion based on rumors – but also have a stake in the conversation regarding exposing the shadow that is so so common in spiritual communities, and that is perpetuated by the kind of denial that turns a blind eye in the name of not saying anything negative…

  2. Dear Jen – what a beautiful tribute to how this has affected YOU and how the practices of yoga have changed YOUR WALK and how this situation made YOU feel. Thank you.

    We can all only speak, react, respond, etc – from our own experience. BUT, as a community – what principles do we want to uphold? What will we allow ourselves to be raised or reduced to?

    For me – this situation begs a deeper question as to what I did when I saw the material, how I responded, what my first reaction was, what I chose to do or chose not to do with the information that at the end of the day – "is none of my business" and actually is none of any of ours.

    It is an interesting time for the yoga community. Will we hide behind our own masks, pride, yoga style, etc? Could this be a situation where the only thing needed is compassion? Do we need to react? Should we be responding?

    I am asking myself and all of you these questions.

  3. Hey Julian

    I agree with what you have said, and I think that the facts are important too but the route to bring light to those facts, in this case, I think was disrespectful as the truth is not yet known and some pretty personal information was brought forward for all the world to see. I guess when you live in the spotlight you choose to give up some privacy but there are some things that should never be seen by the public eye and this was one of them. It could have been done very differently and it's sad that it wasn't. I guess thats really what I am saying at the very core.

  4. Beautifully written Jennifer. Well done.- Jeannie

  5. Emily Perry says:

    wow. speechless, really. much love to all yogis out there!

  6. Jess-
    At the end of the day, the only thing that anyone really has a right to speculate about is their own feelings and they should be carefully evaluated so that we know how to react in the best way possible while being true to our paths. Thats why I was speaking in terms of me and what I will and will not do. That being said like I said before there is a reason I wanted to be a part of this great big Yogi family and that is because of how genuine it is. I truly hope that as I delve "deeper" into the yoga world I dont run into more hurtful instances or pathologies such as this one. The Yogis I know are not capable of this kind of thing and I know for a fact they would never intentionally hurt someone regardless of their actions. I am firm in believing that as I add years and depth to my practice this will not change.

    It is an interesting time in the community and I personally I will never hide behind anything. That is something I gave up when I entered these doors. While the situation needs compassion I think the way to react is by not reacting until there are affirmative statements made. I for one would not want someone to post on the internet what goes on behind private doors in my life and if they did I would definitely look to my community for support. One way to support is to engage in healthy discussions like this one and to remain exempt from partaking in harmful actions.

    These are my person opinions and reactions and I value everyone elses as well as respect them. Thank you so much for your support and comment.

  7. Matthew says:

    Another thing to keep in mind is the people who are involved in this are grown adults who should accept the consequences of their behavior.

  8. Amy C. says:

    Let's start with the freezing pensions thing. That is WHACK. Federal investigation implies illegal activity. NY Times tried to open the disicussion on Mr Friend last year. They will get a hold of this. Welcome to reality. Wish I couldve seen the pics but the site kept crashing. The whole thing sounds very misogynist. Shocking but not in the least surprising.

  9. elephantjournal says:

    Again, I think our reaction here at elephant is less about either doubting or believing the veracity, or truth of anonymous, salacious (porn pictures that add nothing to proof) allegations…than waiting to have a single named source or non-anonymous source. Remember the truth can be true, but used for malicious means.

  10. elephantjournal says:

    Yes, if true. In any case, meta for all and may we all learn from this and elevate this gossip into something more–a learning moment, however this turns out.

  11. Vision_Quest2 says:

    That goes without saying, but one small part of me wonders at what could have been … if this had not been exposed by YD … might have been handled in a more hostile manner (not that I don't think hostility is unwarranted at all times …)

    Say what you want about the Dork, something like this is handled fairly sensitively over there …

  12. Ben_Ralston says:

    This is what happens when spiritual practice is used as a vehicle for fame and fortune,
    when personal gain trumps respect for lineage,
    when the student proclaims himself teacher of teachers.

    Jenn – to answer your question, it feels to me that the intentions behind the original anonymous website were malicious and vindictive. As you say – to cause harm.

  13. elephantjournal says:

    This is what happens? We don't know anything at all yet, none of it is substantiated. Let's watch our minds, for now, and we'll report things when more is known. ~ Waylon

  14. Ben_Ralston says:

    Controversy Waylon. And slander, and gossip – this IS happening, and we do know it. That's what I was talking about…
    So rather than fighting the good fight and doing what we can to make the world a better place, here we all are, talking about mud-slinging. No?

  15. yogijulian says:

    well having looked it over i must say in order for this not to be true it would have to be a very elaborate and imaginative hoax which someone with extremely malicious motives would have had to spend a lot of time concocting…..

    i am also a bit confused by the stance that is being fairly firmly insisted upon with a kind of implied moral high ground.

  16. yogijulian says:

    actually i think it is a lot more complex than that when you have an organization explicitly organized around a charismatic leader who claims certain spiritual authority and elicits adulation and respect.

  17. yogijulian says:

    ah ha! the links were not working when i tried before – now i understand a little better the explicit and sensationalist nature of the expose site. very interesting and bizarre – perhaps unnecessary, though i am sure they would argue they wanted to make the truth known by any means at hand…

    personally i still think though that the alleged lies, hypocrisy and abuse of power are MUCH more serious offenses than having the gall to be the one pointing out that the emperor is wearing no clothes, has a joint in his hand and his employees pensions frozen in his bank account!

    bear in mind people close to this fiasco are probably deeply wounded and betrayed by it all – they are the actual victims.

  18. elephantjournal says:

    I would love to talk this over with you personally tomorrow, Julian, if you have the time. I respect you and your assessments, generally. Here I, so far, disagree. The gravity of the accusations and the effect of these rumors, if true, makes it all the more important to have sources and facts. ~ Waylon

    PS: The graphic photos, for example, do not include a face and do not identify anyone–what's the point of sharing them?

  19. elephantjournal says:

    Don't worry, it's only one modest step up. We're simply waiting for anything a single non-anonymous source or statement.

    As for the truth or hoax, we can assume much of it is true, or not…either way, the anonymous site is presenting everything in a particular way. As we know from Emily Dickinson, the truth is only half the matter…how the truth is presented determines the story. If this were presented evenly and openly, without being framed as it is, it would do the gravity of that site's charges more justice perhaps.

    ~ Waylon

  20. elephantjournal says:

    Amen brother and I agree with your comment that "the intentions behind the original anonymous website were malicious and vindictive. As you say – to cause harm…"

    For myself, having grown up in a wonderful, fiery, devoted and diverse Buddhist community that was and is far from perfect, talking about how to handle such situations is a worthy conversation, much better than mere suppression/gossip. The two go together, generally, in my experience.

    The less we suppress, the less gossip. The less we indulge in gossip and rest on fact and focus on our own lives, the more openly and clearly we can see what's going on and where to go from here. ~ Waylon

  21. elephantjournal says:

    Sorry, but there's some confusion here. When I say gossip, I'm talking about the site itself. YD I have respect for. ~ Waylon

  22. elephantjournal says:

    Theism is equally the fault of those putting humans on pedestals, then knocking them down…and those who allow themselves to be put on pedestals.

  23. elephantjournal says:

    Carol, respect and appreciation to you for this comment and your leadership on this. I've needed advice and counsel, as do we all.

    As for YD, my comments on other posts about gossip and such are referring to the site itself, not YD. While I disagree personally with the decision to pass along such gossip, I like and have always liked YD's writing and respect her decision to go for it. She has reaped tons of traffic, broken some real news, done so simply and respectfully, and won a ton of positive and negative comments. I've been there, and did not want to be there, here, until we had more verified facts or any non-anonymous sources. ~ Waylon

  24. […] We live in a grey world. Our society is very, very grey – phone hacking, money-makes-money banking, countries invaded under the guise of WMD that were never there. Soap operas and adverts and MTV and internet-filters and rigged elections and Arms Fairs and Oil dependency and Global Warming and… on and on. One scandal, one controversy after another. […]

  25. Benjy Wertheimer says:

    I greatly appreciate your clear efforts to maintain a balanced response to these deeply disturbing
    allegations, Waylon. Yes, these are very disquieting assertions, yet I find the anonymity of the person(s) putting forth these charges (& the lack of identification of any verifiable/credible source behind such serious charges) very disturbing as well. Given both the "I saw it on the Internet – it must be true" phenomenon that seems to wreak havoc with what I interpret as responsible journalism (with clear sources, citations, and evidence – not porn shots or types of "photographic" evidence that can be all-too-easily falsified) and the vitriolic tone of the site putting these allegations forward.
    It is my hope that balanced, compassionate, patient and yogic responses such as yours, Waylon, will lead the way as this unfolds. Thanks again.

  26. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    I have no idea what's going on – maybe that's an okay thing?! 🙂

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

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

  27. Vision_Quest2 says:

    Yes it is, Tanya … it's just another Angel with Clay Feet problem here in America …

  28. yogijulian says:

    yea i hear you on the photos. i think that is probably the main sticking point here and source of the outrage toward the exposers. sure lets talk later..

  29. yogijulian says:

    i am with you carol.

    i am a bit confused by the reaction i am hearing – i think the anonymous nature of the site and the explicit pictures are creating a kind of knee jerk moral outrage, which i understand – but i can't help but feel it is misplaced.

  30. yogijulian says:

    i imagine though that the people running the site would say they do know the truth and are putting it out there.

    the pension stuff is appalling and criminal.

    the sexual stuff is much more problematic than most will want to see: this is a very prominent charismatic leader who claims a lot of spiritual authority, adulation and respect. this puts him in a position of psychological power from which he can persuade people to gratify his fantasies and desires in the name of various mystified motives and justifications.

    lying to his girlfriend and participating/instigating sexual activities that got the women involved to betray their significant others is not just a private matter given the nature of the situation – these are employees and students and it appears that he has learned perhaps too well some the cultish techniques of too many gurus to name – but specifically his own – muktananda.

    requiring that students/employees risk their own legality by receiving packages of pot for him is also a serious problem in an organization like this.

    lastly the main thing here is perhaps the hypocrisy of explicitly claiming status as a leader with a moral and ethical code passed down for others while behaving in these criminal, unethical, manipulative ways.

    the big takeaway for the yoga community is this: as long as spiritual communities continue to not emphasize shadow work, critical thinking and truly inquiry based practice, as long as they are organized around magical thinking and shadow denial, as long as they continue to be cults of personality in which special leader figures have unrealistic idealizations projected onto them – and we keep having leaders who actively encourage such projections – this kind of stuff will continue to be the rule rather than the exception.

  31. yogijulian says:

    fair enough.

  32. yogijulian says:

    i agree – and yet it is very much a psychological issue – and the one doing the psychological manipulating basically persuades people to regress into a child-like idealization of their new hero/savior/daddy.

    were the spiritual community more healthy and integrated this kind of dynamic would be better understood and less ubiquitously enacted. as it stands, ideas of devotion, surrendering ego, the archetype of the enlightened guru etc all perpetuate the variables that allow this kind of abuse.

    the person who gets themselves into a position of power by claiming a certain special status and then misuses this power around the predictable zones of money and sex is the guilty party, those caught in his web are the victims of a scam that is deeply wounding because they are so vulnerable.

    so the question of "blame" i think is clear – it is an equally important question how we learn from these kinds of situations both as students and teachers, and my old stand by is this: critical thinking, shadow work and a practice based in inquiry rather than authority or faith are the key elements to integrated healthy contemporary spirituality and community…

  33. yogijulian says:

    my very first EJ article expressed concern over the weird dynamic in which john friend is being interviewed by a student on how tsunamis are possible in the universe of tantric perfection and the smarmy way he authoritatively mouthed his schtick about karma and suffering etc with not a glimmer of grounded and genuine compassion for the suffering at hand…

  34. Shannon says:

    "A truth that’s told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent."
    – William Blake

  35. Amy C. says:

    Certainly, and I think the way which ele dealt with this, esp word choice and ahimsa-wsie was really heartfelt. I have not seen the site. This appaers to be a big case of Tough Love for Yogaland. What we think about sex, drugs and rock 'n roll is a weird mix of new age/post-60s openness and more traditional

  36. elephantjournal says:

    Yes, it's a dangerous mix, for student and teacher alike! Has been in various Buddhist communities, as well—Zen and Tibetan Buddhist.

  37. Carol Horton says:

    Thanks, Adan. You raise important points. Ultimately everyone has to weigh to importance of getting what may be an important story about serious abuses out there, versus the importance of not making that anonymous site public. Based on everything that I know about these issues, I feel that YD made the right choice. However, I can also see how someone else might reasonably have a different view.

  38. elephantjournal says:

    Again, we never said we'd keep quiet, that's not our job, our job is to communicate. We said we would hold off on reporting facts until we knew was was fact and what was mere invective. As for the statement above, that was JC's,, and folks are allowed to speak their mind here. In this case I did ask our writers, all except JC who had already come forward in an heartfelt way, to hold off.

    We did that out of respect, despite it being giving up a scoop or breaking news, which is what the media lives for.

  39. elephantjournal says:

    Carol's thoughtful. Always good to converse under her umbrella!

  40. Carol Horton says:

    Totally agree! I hope that everyone following this story thinks into these issues more deeply – they are very important regardless of the way this particular story plays out.

  41. yoga-adan says:

    I agree, plus she id'd her sourceThanks carolSent from my iPhone

  42. integralhack says:

    I agree, Julian, regarding the "moral high ground" people are taking. Other than the employee pension issue all I see are adults that might be participating in some relations–sexual or otherwise–outside of marriages or other overt romantic involvements.

    If these accusations are true, I see delusion and irresponsibility on the parts of both the teacher and the students. Once again, the teacher/guru is inflated into being something other than he ever was.

    This might all end up being appropriately embarrassing for all involved, but probably not worth the degree of moral indignation and upset displayed in this thread.

  43. I don't take any of the accusations lightly and I am not saying that should they be true it's ok at all. The approach is what I am having a hard time with. The anonymous sites approach.

  44. yogijulian says:

    we should not cover this over with well meaning rationalizations. this will make us fail to learn the lessons at hand!

  45. Vision_Quest2 says:

    It's an issue of ethics, not an issue of authoritarian and/or unquestioned leadership–so I agree with you.

    It takes a stronger mind than I have (too) to walk away until and unless there is news. But I am trying ..

  46. yogijulian says:

    totally get what you are saying and agree jen.

  47. yoga-adan says:

    yes, it's a pleasureand gotta give ej some kudos, “some” of what i've seen going on with trying to make authentic conversation on “some” social media sites is brutal, attackish, and plain old ganging-up-on so thank you for keeping a place for conversation

  48. yogijulian says:

    "do i have to tell a story
    of a thousand rainy days since we first met?

    its a big enough umbrella
    but its always me that ends up
    getting wet…"