“Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.” ~ Carl Jung
There has been a lot of written discussion in the past few weeks about John Friend and Anusara Yoga.
Many times I have read: “John was partying a lot.” First, I don’t think use of the word partying as a verb after the age of 23, or the year 1988 is appropriate; and second, is it merely partying, or is it addiction?
Why can yogis and yoginis become apocalyptic about what food they put in their body, yet get drunk or smoke pot regularly?
I don’t know John Friend. I have seen him exactly once at a yoga class he taught at Wanderlust. I found the class to repetitive, addressing many things I had already learned from my own teacher, and I found the concert—like fawning over a man teaching yoga—inauthentic.
It was as if I were at mall yoga—instead of shopping at a small store where everyone cares about the customer, I was at a mall, where the quality of the product didn’t’t matter so much as the quantity being sold to the masses.
I left there and explored some classes featuring teachers with smaller attendance rosters, like Kellie Morris. She was akin to a boutique, where everything offered was chosen with grand care. Then I adored Wanderlust.
I digress—my point is I can’t possibly know if drugs or alcohol played a part in the complexities John Friend now faces because I don’t know him. However, I am disappointed in my communities’ hypocrisy around this topic.
I think yoga is about presence, and by presence I mean being fully awake and alive in the body, mind, and spirit. I often attend classes where the teacher engages in going-home-to-have-a-glass-of-wine-to-relax kind of chatter. This annoys me, I do not drink or use drugs.
I also don’t think every yogi needs to never do these things but, I wonder about drinking and drugging with any regularity if yoga is about being in the present moment.
I can hear drug users getting ready to tell me how some drugs help them “see the moment clearer.” Using something that is mind or mood altering does not bring on clarity—it brings on settling for less.
I too pull away from life with things like sugar, television, and some shopping. For people who have a drink once in a while, this action may be similar to me watching too much television. I don’t think that it is addiction, but I also don’t think it is nothing. Anytime I decide to be blank or medicate(yes—sigh—this includes sugar) I am missing full presence, and that is a problem, plain and simple.
My question is this:
What is the purpose of drugs and alcohol for those of us on the path to a full free life when the opposite of freedom is really is addiction.
With full disclosure I admit, I used to drink a lot. The decision to stop drinking was the beginning of my coming alive, I literally started showing up for my own life.
I also grew up with addiction, and I know from experience that addiction takes everything that matters, and then it takes more. Those suffering from addiction in my family—including myself—could only provide love in painful ways.
Selflessness is not possible when you are in the throes of addiction. By nature addiction is greedy, and can only give with the hope of getting something in return. I know addiction to be an illness and a spiritual sickness that comes to change only through honesty and accountability.
Some people in our community are doing more than having a drink once in a while to zone out or to relax. Although if you practice yoga, shouldn’t you know how to relax the body without chemicals?
There are those getting drunk and high often. It’s more than “they are just doing their own thing”, I don’t think “it’s no big deal”, and most definitely it will not “work itself out.” Addiction loves people who don’t want to rock the boat, thriving on secrecy, lies, and fear.
The people who helped me get clean and sober continue to help me ask for honesty. This work is exactly the same as the work on the mat—I face my body and my breath, I face my whole complete self. It is a radical way to live. I recommend it.
I do not know if alcohol or drug addiction played a part in the collapse of John Friend’s work and reputation. I do know there has been a lot of writing concerning his “sex addiction”—I think we would prefer to talk about that because it’s “interesting”, and perhaps it hits less close to home, but examining the use of drugs and alcohol needs to be added to the discussion of a healthy life.
The path to enlightenment reveals itself when we want what is, what is happening right now. I highly doubt wanting what is can happen when you’re half in the bag.
Let’s be honest about this, looking at it with clear eyes and an open heart. If anyone reading this thinks they are struggling with addiction please comment and I will be happy to talk with you about sober living.
Editor: Jennifer Cusano
A. E. Feucht is a yogini, writer, & explorer who in her non- free time works for a non-profit that serves kids. She tries to be a leader with heart and big ideas. She also attempts to practice daily meditation, becoming a morning person,and driving without distraction and fails at all three. She is a champion of glbtq rights, the power of non-violence, ice cream in all forms, and the smell of lavender. She is still looking for a good nickname, the perfect pair of boots, and a way to read when her eyes are tired. She’d like to learn sign language, how to shut her mouth faster, listen better, how to can things like berries, and more about the stars. She likes to think of herself as having a tiny bit of fashion, excellent taste in books, and movies and an ability to be really present…sometimes. She is most proud of being a hip Aunt, a deep friend, and a parent to two kitties and a near perfect golden retriever /Border collie pup, who seems smarter than most people. If you want to find her she might be at the library giving them a 30 titled book list to carry to her beat up Honda. She is a grand cook, at any decent “a person who has a dream and opens a shop” particularly but not limited to, a coffee shop, by the sea, at Camp Little Notch. You may also find her on her yoga mat or maybe on a walk with her Pup at her side, singing her own song written with silly lyrics and sung without one hint of a tune anyone would recognize, but she likes that just fine.