February 12, 2012

The Anusara Situation.









“The Anusara Situation.”

It sounds like the title of a tell-all book, doesn’t it?

I debated whether or not I should even write about this after seeing some of the nastiness that people have been spewing regarding Mr. Friend. More important to notice is how people have been treating each other since this incident. All of the aforementioned has prompted me to try to craft a reasonable article to observe what appears to actually be happening and present a solution upon which we could all choose to act if we wanted.

For those that wish to pull the bias card on me, I think that anyone who knows me knows that I have been vocally critical of Anusara culture and the perception of John Friend as guru (whether he has ever proclaimed himself as such or not.) I have discussed my general feelings about this for years, in depth, with friends of mine in the Anusara community, students, Anusara-Inspired and Anusara-Certified instructors alike. I have always been honest with my discomfort of the more zealous instructors and students in the community who put Mr. Friend on a pedestal. Further, while I go to Anusara workshops and I incorporate elements of the Principles of Alignment into my practice and teaching, I am very certainly a Vinyasa Flow Teacher with a healthy leaning towards and respect for the teachings of Anusara.  Additionally, I hold a strong respect for many Anusara students and teachers whom I also consider to be amazing human beings. The latter is what I consider  important.

In the interest of full disclosure (although my big “disclosure” is kind of ridiculous,) I met Mr. Friend at Wanderlust last year in the crowd during the MC Yogi set. He was affable and kind enough to allow me to take a photo with the two of us. He never presented himself as anything other than a dude I bumped into at a concert. I even busted his chops a little because the girls I was hanging out with didn’t know who he was. He laughed when I said it. Admittedly, it got a little weird when his whole tribe arrived a little later and pretty much encapsulated him at the center of their crowd. It was almost as if he was cordoned off.  However, in having been there and seen it, it certainly did not seem like Mr. Friend orchestrated any of that and it also did not seem like anyone in the crowd was there to rush him. This recounting is just my experiences and observations at the time.

Yoga represents different journeys for different people. A large part of my journey has been to learn how to step back when presented with heated situations, both in my personal and professional life. I think the Anusara Situation with Mr. Friend would qualify as a heated situation. I have read Waylon Lewis’s interview with Mr. Friend as well as the veritable cornucopia of comments that followed. It’s a lot to go through, but if you read the comments, the entire spectrum of emotions is represented. While this spectrum is not shocking in and of itself, what has caused me alarm is watching how people are treating each other in how they address one another.

If you look at the up arrows and the down arrows right above where right above comment, you’ll see that the overarching majority of comments that have a positive spin, either relating to the interview itself, a wish that Mr. Friend get through this in one piece or a desire for the Anusara community to weather this, have a lot of down arrows.  Further, if you look at those who are boldly and often anonymously attacking Mr. Friend and Anusara in general, there are a lot of up arrows.  By no means is any of what I stated intractably true, but I think you’ll notice the same trend when you read the comments yourself.  Fascinating, right?

At this point, you’re probably getting your gloves on preparing to tell whoever will listen why the up arrow or down arrow is applied, or perhaps you are going to get ready to adamantly convince someone why you don’t care about any of this and why this doesn’t matter.  Very few of us reading this article are remaining completely silent or are actually truly “Aparigraha-ed” in this situation. Let’s be real, people. If you are working hard and expending energy trying to explain to people that you don’t actually give a crap about what’s going on, then some part of this is affecting you.

So what do we do?  I thought about going heavy on the comments and going after all of the people who I thought were being ridiculous or militant in their reactions.  I also thought that maybe my two cents would be considered valuable because people might read about my opinion and have a new take.  What to do…

And then I realized that pretty much every side has spoken.  The supporters of Mr. Friend have shown such.  The naysayers of Mr. Friend have indicated such.  Those who couldn’t give a rat’s ass have indicated accordingly (still not buying it though.) All arguments have been presented as regards whether Anusara should continue with Mr. Friend as its headmaster, or whether a change is in order.  It seems that every permutation of possibility has been explored, some explorations more vicious than others.

So what are we left with? At this point, it appears to be a lot of people fighting with each other and spewing caustic statements back and forth. I realize this is a sweeping generalization and that there are many exceptions to this rule in the forms of reasonable voices. But the proof is in the pudding. Read the comments. See for yourself.

Now that the die has essentially been cast, we are left with the fallout of everything that is out there. The “JFexposed” website was up and now it’s not. An interview, however complete or incomplete you might view it, was done.

It’s possible that those of us trying to live by the Yamas and the Niyamas may have fallen off the wagon for a while as this situation has continued to unfold. Again, let’s be real here! It happens. It’s possible that some of these Universal concepts of how to live eluded our consciousness because we had more of a perceived vested interest in what happens with Mr. Friend and Anusara than we realized or wanted to admit to ourselves.  And for those of us who had no idea who John Friend was or anything about Anusara before this story broke, maybe the temptation to chime in heavily and viciously outweighed our need to adhere to some of the more basic elements of compassion, truth, and non-attachment; ideas to which we are normally very vigilant.  For all intents and purposes, this situation has all of the right elements to create a lot of drama: Sex, Lies, and Skype conversations.

I have to admit, getting involved is tempting, and the ways in which to enmesh myself in the discussion is tempting. “I’m a yoga teacher!”  “I’ve met John Friend!” “I’ve taken Anusara classes and workshops with top teachers!” “I’m clairvoyant!” “Because of the aforementioned, I am qualified to put the Universal truths by which I am trying to live on hold!”

Or not.

This is the time to take a step back.  It’s time to let the dust settle.

The opinions are out there.  The lovers have loved, the haters have hated, the scholars have…well…intellectualized, the up-arrowers have up-arrowed, the down-arrowers have down-arrowed.

And the damage has been done.

Now we have an opportunity to look within ourselves about how we are choosing to live our lives and practice our yoga. What have you learned from this situation? If you are a yoga teacher, what can you bring to the mat to further enhance the transfer of yogic knowledge to your students? As a teacher, how can you become a better student of yoga?  If you are a student of yoga, are you being authentic and what can you do to go more deeply into your practice?

Sometimes, as a collective or individually, we engage in unhealthy rounds of douchebaggery and assholism that end up eclipsing the good people we really are.  Because that’s what we’re after, right? We want to be good people. Maybe our definitions of what comprises “good” are cacophonously different, but we are all trying to be intrinsically good, with lightness, darkness and everything in between. At the end of it all, we are each responsible for our own actions, whether we are the heads of corporations, employees, students, teachers, gurus, rockstars, or groupies.  As human beings who all occupy this big circular rock we call Earth, we are responsible for our own actions and reactions to situations.

A very wise Anusara teacher reminded me recently that our path to enlightenment lies within, and the moment we forget that, we give away our power to be happy.

At this point, I am going to trust that the Universe functions in a way that goes a little more than slightly beyond the scope of my comprehension. I am going to continue trying to adhere to ideas like compassion, honesty, service and love. I’m going to continue learning from the multitude of mistakes I continue to make.  I’m hoping to convince some of you to do the same.

Then, when we get together, we can do important things like nerd out on the physics of handstand.


Edited by Kate Bartolotta

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