March 22, 2012

Anusara: The Great Chasm. ~ Richard Hudak

Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A great chasm, or rather canyon, separates the Yoga Coalition and the Kula Evolution

After reading Betsey Downing and Suzie Hurley’s Honoring Truth on elephant journal, and having had a few days to reflect Bernadette Birney’s Under the Influence, I had the distinct impression that a great chasm, or rather canyon, separates the Yoga Coalition and the Kula Evolution, the latter affiliated with the Interim Steering Committee that is trying to negotiate with John Friend over the eventual disposition of Anusara, Inc.

The Yoga Coalition has ridden the shiny new social media bus to the top of one side of the canyon, and is trying to speak through the megaphones of elephant journal and Facebook down into it, where they think the Kula Evolution folks are. The latter are actually halfway up the opposite side of the canyon, and scaling the sheer face of it. In the belly of the canyon only John Friend himself remains, holding the ropes of the climbers.

It’s really hard to climb with the speeches coming from the megaphones, and it’s hard for the speakers to feel they’re being heard with all of that climbing.

I remember one lesson, taught to me by my undergraduate anthropology teacher, which may be drawn from the work on conflict of the sociologist Georg Simmel. Conflict presupposes a relationship. All parties to this one seem united by the common canyon. This can be difficult for any of them to accept, for each takes a different role. This reminds me further of what my graduate professor made us read, work by Albert O. Hirschman, on Exit, Voice and Loyalty as responses to decline in organization. The Yoga Coalition folks have chosen exit, the climbers have chosen voice, and still others have chosen loyalty. Curiously, the Yoga Coalition also has chosen voice, of which loyalty increases the likelihood and exit increases the effectiveness. In truth, there is interplay, and interdependence of all three choices, and a reread of Hirschman reinforces this.

Only onlookers seem to be fully cognizant of the commonality of the canyon, and some of them, too, are shouting down there through similar means. With all of this shouting, the students of those on either side of the canyon have great difficulty hearing their teachers’ instructions, much less their wisdom. Indeed, with all the focus the climbers have on the technical instruments of their climb, their students also have trouble getting help from them.

A wise one close to me whispered, “Where is the Opening to Grace in all this?”

Where, indeed, is the evocation of the first of the five Universal Principles of Alignment? Certainly, I thought, the canyon is a big enough space to accommodate any opening. Thinking about space reminded me about “holding space,” which seems like another one of those things yogis say. But I’m actually thinking of a Quaker, Parker Palmer, who said it about conflict. He who has reflected on the courage to teach, and on leading from within, has also suggested that the ability to “hold space” for conflict is essential to healing the heart of democracy.

If we can’t recognize the commonality of this canyon and the opportunities it holds, can we have any relevance for living our yoga “in the world,” as the Tantric vision insists?

Many of the resignation statements I have seen from former Anusara instructors assure that they will continue to teach the Universal Principles of Alignment, or that they still believe in them. Without a doubt, those are among the things that those who have chosen loyalty or voice seek to preserve. These are principles of physical alignment, but not merely. Whenever I get stuck on the mat, or in my life, it’s very often the first principle I’m forgetting.

If we’re going to continue to converse about Anusara, can we commit to remember to Open to Grace?

After nearly fifteen years in the software industry, Richard returned to his first love, teaching sociology to college students. He has focused on social movements, and complex organization, especially religious organization. In teaching the sociology of war and peace, Richard revisits his undergraduate double major in sociology and peace studies. Recently he has been called upon to teach death and dying, and has combined his industry experience and sociological background in a freshman seminar on “the social impact of social media.” The stress of finally doing what he loved on a full time basis led him to find yoga in 2005. He discovered Anusara in 2009, and is currently in the middle of immersions with Sara Davidson Flanders, a Certified Anusara instructor. For the past year, Richard has kept a blog about the intersection of sociology and yoga at The Considered Kula.


Editor: Tanya L. Markul

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