New Video: John Friend at the height of Anusara success.

Via Waylon Lewis
on May 27, 2012
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With thanks for the tip to Michelle, via Yogadork, who first discovered this newly-uploaded video.

Update: a final major departure from Anusara Yoga.

This comes via an ex-Anusara teacher, who viewed this on Yogadork, where they detail John Friend (disgraced former Yoga Tycoon, featured on cover of Sunday New York Times just one year ago) talking about “$500,000 just for flowers we’ll plant and give out all over Encinitas!” and “100-300,000 just for our sign!” and wonder if he’s high.

What I see here, frankly, is less sinister than, well, yet again just what I and many other “not in the club” outsiders saw in Anusara back in its heyday: happy, naive, nearly-embarrassing child-like enthusiasm for life. Also, I see the off-record (though, videoed!) musings of an entrepreneur—the happy dreams of a charismatic at the top of this game. All entrepreneurs muse and dream this way—that’s what gives fire to our hard work.

Perhaps I’ll come under fire, yet again, for “defending” John. As someone who’s hosted a site that’s published 100s of letters and op-eds criticizing John, hopefully fairly, that’s not a criticism I am guilty of. What I am guilty of is trying, with our many writers and ex-Anusara (after Desiree, there’s just about no one left) teacher friends, of trying to report the rise and fall of a human being with critical “prajna,” but without hate. As I’ve said from the beginning, it’s not our job to hang John with our rope. It’s our job to let John hang himself with his own rope. And don’t worry, no one’s actually hanging, the rope here is karma, cause and effect.

The facts of the situation are what’s important—and while anger and disappointment are real and relevant, there’s a sadness, a disappointment, a raw sense of loss that will, above all else, help us all, it is to be hoped, avoid buying into future “theistic” cults of personality.

This isn’t just about John, and his failings. It’s about the willingness of a large group of people to buy into a cult of personality, into theism. And yet no one is blaming themselves.

The fact is, wisdom and goodness are inherent. There’s no need to seek a cool club out there. Joy is never external. If it is, it’s not “integrous,” as John would put it.


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


15 Responses to “New Video: John Friend at the height of Anusara success.”

  1. G.C.Aloha says:

    Ugh. I can hardly bear to watch this. What a megalomaniac. I am disgusted with myself for ever buying into what he was selling.

  2. Aspiring Yogini says:

    I actually don't know the history, but I appreciate his enthusiasm to make the work better, more beautiful, plant flowers, celebrate sacredness and "magic". I wish more people felt inspired like that, and he was actually able to create a large yoga community, so there must be something heartfelt there.
    There are far worse examples of wall street greed and egomania, his heart seems pure. Maybe a tad self involved, that could be easily remedied with a bit more grounding techniques, like deep breathing. I have sometimes felt and spoke that way too, if you have some success and see what's possible to create, how much power we all have to help, you can get over-energized.
    However, I would certainly not demonize him, but rather, myself connect to this core inspiration and actually do something with our short time in this life. Watch how he lit up when the interviewer shared something about music, he was really interested and listened, that is not how egomaniacs are. What might make me concerned in the lynch mob mentality that often does not trust western teachers and "exploits" their human shortcomings with unrealistic, puritanical and judgmental fantasies of "purity" and really hurt and drive out many excellent and well intended teachers. I hope that this is not such a circumstance, but I see it happen in many "spiritual" communities. It may be the core board of directors that are the ones guilty of control issues, egos and self righteousness, let's not be so quick to judge.

  3. Waylon, why do you mention theism twice in your commentary? Are you trying to say that he is putting himself in a god like role, or that Anusara's philosophy is itself theistic?

  4. cathywaveyoga says:

    "wonder"? if he's high??!!

    As a child of the 60's I don't wonder listening to this. I am sure.

    I am grateful to see this less evil depiction of him after all the recent events.

    This plus events and so many columns and comments gives me a more complete picture of a 'flower child' whose success and money created such a large empire that the 'innocence' was lost. The 'child' forgot that hippies must use grown up mature ethics when writing, teaching and speaking about ethics to their new followers.

    Not so sinister, but rather a hippie who never grew up in some areas.

    • yogasamurai says:

      "Grown up mature ethics" and "yoga"?

      I'm experiencing cognitive dissonance – and whiplash – from trying to get my head around those two concepts at the same time!

      In today's highly commercialized yoga, these problems surely go way beyond one overgrown kid and his Big Wheel.

  5. PeaceAndLove says:

    I don't see an egomaniac I see an entrepreneur with a vision and riding on a wave of hyper enthusiasm for having that vision within reach. It takes a long time to build a brand regardless that in this case it was a yoga "brand" which may not be the best way to go about yoga, however I am very surprised to hear the good intention behind a lot of what he speaks. The expensive flowers etc. it's a high to reach a place where you can do that but he wasn't all about the money it was all about seeing the faces of the people who he would offer to plant flowers for on their own property and… that he would blow everyone away with this never done before vision. All around it seems very harmless in spite of what has been revealed. We all stray at times and often our lives are just much smaller so our straying isn't as far and wide as was his. But then again he had the vision to build something that was vast and it takes something in a person to do that. Too bad it went as it went. Perhaps he can reform himself and still have something to offer to the yoga world. Worse human conduct has been turned around to do good for humanity throughout history. Why give up on him. And I say this after being part of the original lynch mob.

  6. Anusour says:

    The following attributed to John Friend and verified by others in attendance, is from the contemporaneous notes of a former Anusara teacher at the time of his last public appearance in Miami, just after the scandal broke:

    Who’s the worst person you can think of in history? Hitler, Mao. There’s a little bit of dark in everyone. Everyone has some light too, even Hitler. Even in great evil there is still Shri. 
If you do what you believe, like Hitler did, you are in integrity. If someone broke into your house you would murder the person if they are threatening your family. At the very essence there is Shri. We have all done bad things. If you read about someone in the news who’s suffering you automatically feel love, compassion for them. We’re not separate, all connected in a web.

  7. bobcat says:

    It is childish, delusional and completely egotistical to want to spend half a million dollars planting flowers in a yoga village while millions of people living in poverty and starvation. You expect an egomaniac person or a stoner to want that but not from an experienced yoga teacher preaching about divine light leading ten of thousands of people on a spiritual path. I can't take this lightly because the view he offers here is the cause of much atrocity all over the planet. It is not innocence. It is ignorance. Because a child has no tool to make that unreasonable vision happens. But a yoga teacher backed by commercial enterprises could and almost have.

  8. Katy Poole says:

    I'm really sorry you posted this, Waylon. I'm sorry I watched it. And I'm even more sorry that JF was stupid enough to have someone videotape this hideous rant.

    Of course I don't blame you for posting it. It's relevant. But like a car accident, you just can't look away and for that reason I'm sorry you posted it. I wished I had looked away because I literally felt sick afterward. Like a bad horror movie, I just can't shake some of the comments from my mind. And I truly hope Tiffany never in her life sees this. To hear the man you've dedicated 3 years of your life working for—literally making his sh*t happen for him—and being so utterly dismissed as irrelevant and unimportant has to be the most demoralizing thing anyone would have to suffer to hear. I worship my assistant. She is my goddess. I pray every day that she won't find someone who can pay her more than me and leave me. She makes my life easy by doing the things I don't want to do. And she does them with a smile and genuine caring. If I grow financially, it's my policy to uplift her by sharing my profits with her. She's my partner and my friend. I'm sure Tiffany didn't feel like she was "just" an employee. But fortunately for her self-esteem, JF had a policy of silence and kept all that to his "inner circle."

    Now I understand even more why JF needed to go down. He doesn't value people. And he has no gratitude. The mean-spirited side of me hopes that he'll have to grovel and work for someone like Tiffany had to work for him. But then I think karma has a way of working itself out. It's just rare that we actually get to see karma working itself out. There's a lesson, therefore, for all of us in this.

    So I reverse my first statement. For the karmic lesson alone, I'm not sorry after all that you posted this, Waylon.

    • Pam says:

      Correction .. Kelly is the name of the undervalued administrative person. Tiffany is the coven member, student and rumored current young girlfriend of JF who was one of the inner circle valued people "in the know". Creepy dude for sure..

      • Katy Poole says:

        Sorry for my mistake. I pray KELLY never watches this video. I just couldn't bring myself to watch it again to verify the name of the "girl."

  9. Katy Poole says:

    One other thought that keeps coming to mind. Up until I saw this video, I confess I actually felt somewhat sorry for John Friend. I held a glimmer of hope inside that no one is all that bad and that no one deserves to be as publicly crucified as he's been. But I didn't really know JF and I think some of the commentators on the "scandal" do—especially if they're at all intimate with the face that's shown in this video.

    Obviously to him, there exists of a hierarchy of value among the humans. Some are clearly worth more. Male scholars are inherently more valuable than women scholars. (Something I experienced firsthand over and over again with this guy.) "Artists" are more valuable than the people who actually hold the business together—especially the "girl" in the office. And certain women clearly are more valuable than others—like the really hot ones in their 20s who'll sleep with you to get power and position out of you as opposed to the middle-aged or less attractive ones who are shelling out the big bucks for your programs nonetheless.

    And I think what depresses me the most, is that this kind of person once stood at the helm of "progressive" spirituality in yoga. Show me the feet of the guy who created the jfexposed website. I would like to touch them.

  10. yogijulian says:

    oh my goodness, goofy and mildly megalomaniacal in the initial money talk, totally delusional pot head once he gets to the shinto descriptions! double rainbow dude!

    feels to me like he really was caught up in thinking he and his leadership could be mythic figures and plugged into some literal magic energy….. all very sweet but my observation is that the more deeply one is invested in this kind of delusion, the more dissociated one is from the kind of grounded psychological awareness that would make both a healthy community and beneficial practice.

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