I have a girlfriend who went through a terrible divorce and she was bitter for several years. Then one day she was not. She shared her secret with me over dinner:
“I had to own my part in it.”
As far as I was concerned, the whole mess was 100 percent his fault and not hers, but whatever. Of course, this conversation is only a little bit about her divorce and a lot about yoga.
I wrote in my book that, “Yoga is just like love. We have to be willing to try over and over again until we get it right.” Well, this year showed me that it is also like divorce.
In 2012, we woke up to a lot of yogis behaving badly. One after another guru confessed to smoking pot, having sex with married women and underage girls and being narcissistically cray-cray. In my case, I was devastated to discover that I had been taken in by a middle-aged man dressed in a yoga diaper.
I’m embarrased to admit, this was my teacher.
The wisest among us have taken time in private to process their emotions and feelings about their spiritual split from their yoga teacher. I was not that smart. I processed all over the pages of various newspapers, blogs, magazines and Facebook. I processed in the car taking my children to soccer.
I processed so much that the “f” word is now a regular part of my family’s vocabulary. Same with the word “douche,” which I did not ever use before I practiced yoga.
Though the smart thing to do, and certainly the politically correct thing to do would have been to mull this over privately, and perhaps resign my Anusara license privately, and you know, go to a cave and meditate on the whole shebang privately, I did not. I felt as a writer it was my dharma to provide a voice to the feelings of anger and betrayal that were coursing through the yoga community. I thought that by providing a glimpse of my own pain it might reassure others that suffering is normal.
“Yooo hoooo. Do you feel lost and angry and betrayed? Me tooooo! Let’s hang out.”
The best part of my misery is that it loved company. I made a lot of really cool friends through our shared heartbreak and disillusionment in yoga. We have been through a war together. Together we have cursed at the world and cursed at yoga. They are my compatriots.
However, I have some news. Like many, I was bitter for months. And then, one day, I was not. Here is the secret to my newly discovered contentment:
I have owned my part in this.
Yes, I had a part in this. Although I wasn’t a coven girl and I was never invited to the hot tub parties, I had a part in this nonetheless. Here it is: I gave my heart to a man who did not deserve it. Oh there’s a newsflash. Stop the presses: Michelle Marchildon fell for the wrong man. (Hint: In the past, the wrong men usually looked pretty damn good in tight jeans.)
Yes, I thought my teacher had discovered a unique way to practice yoga and that he was a good guy. Turns out, I was both right and wrong. The power I invested in him, I should have invested in myself. Freaking duh.
But before I go any further, I want to say that most of the five years and $10,000 I put into Anusara yoga was time and money well spent. I didn’t get to say I’m a “Certified Teacher” and charge outrageous sums for other teachers to go through the process. But learning how to practice yoga in alignment certainly enhanced my life. I might even say it saved it.
Before I could own my part in this, it was much easier just to blame the teacher, or my ex-husband or any other cowboy in tight jeans that loved and left me. Right? It takes two to tango.
For a while I was so upset I quit yoga. I made it two days. The thing is, I love yoga. I love all that it has to teach me, the good and the bad about myself and life.
Living in Colorado has been a daily confrontation of the ghosts that haunt from this thing as my former teacher is now just down the street. I have students tell me every day, “Well, he didn’t hurt me and he is a great asana teacher, so I think I’ll catch his Thursday class.” Okay, you do that.
It made me sad that people still want to study with a man who so blatantly made a mockery of the Yamas and Niyamas and who has never, not once, apologized and owned up to his indiscretions. Instead, he blames his followers for his downfall because he was just a human trying to wear big shoes.
And then one day, I didn’t care anymore. Or at least, not as much.
If yoga is to recover and thrive, if it doesn’t go the way of the gurus who behaved badly, then I still want to be a part of it. I feel that it is time to move on. My divorce is finalized, and I want to fall in love again. I only hope I choose better this time.
I am wiser now, less trusting of the gurus, but by the same token, I am willing to try again until I get it right. That is yoga. It is just like love, and sometimes like divorce too.
Ed: Kate B.