Why I’m Not Buying the Whole Forgiveness Trend in Yoga & Spirituality.

Via Amy Ippoliti
on May 20, 2013
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Is it just me, or have you noticed that the word “forgiveness” has been thrown around this year ad nauseam as a spiritual cure-all in Facebook posts, on Twitter and even on Oprah?

Forgiveness has been designated as the number one way to be more spiritual and has been heralded by some as the definition of yoga itself.


One prominent yogi named 2013 as the “Year of Forgiveness” on Facebook.

It’s become a buzzword spackled haphazardly, guaranteed to land a lot of “likes,” but I think forgiveness deserves to be handled with more care and consideration.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I am a huge fan of forgiveness as well as unconditional love, compassion and empathy. After all, studies show that people who forgive are happier and healthier than those who hold resentments.forgiveness

Leaders have been dropping the forgiveness buzzword like it’s going out of style—have you succumbed to the peer pressure and done your own post or two?

Read on for a forgiveness shakedown from someone who has been burned, and has forgiven aplenty.

Webster’s Dictionary gives two meanings for the word forgive:

1. to stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake

2. to grant pardon for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.); absolve.

What-does-the-Bible-say-about-ForgivenessThe first definition addresses letting go.

When we are betrayed, it is healthy to experience a blast of initial anger and resentment. It’s rare to be able to let go instantly. And the more you care about that hurt, the harder it is to release.

No one wants to be angry and bitter their whole life just because someone betrayed them or caused them harm in the past.

There are two kinds of anger, however—there’s the fresh, big, hot, boiling kind—and then, there’s the more seasoned, much smaller, wise, conscious and less significant, simmering kind.

The healthy choice is to eventually release the blasting, boiling kind of anger and replace it with the more conscious kind.

As long as your anger does not boil over, your mild simmering anger will be the thing that helps you discern and protect yourself and others from getting hurt again.

And again.

In other words, keeping some of this kind of self-aware anger around is smart and even healthy!

If you release the boiling anger, but keep a small grain of sand that you could rub between your fingers, that tiny grain of anger is what will help make you stronger and more aware.

Hot burning anger can be released further when you examine your own part in the unfolding of the betrayal and take responsibility for the ways in which you may have contributed to the circumstances in which the betrayal occurred. This empowers, rather than turning you into a victim.

It’s the second definition—the pardoning—that can be risky to others in the future and can inhibit a fuller, more meaningful conversation.

Let’s break this down:

We live in a relative world, a world of cause and effect, a world with consequences.

While we can tap into the realm of unconditional love and oneness through meditation and yoga, the last time I checked we were on the planet and in a body and do have other people to consider.

We are each other’s keepers.

If we pardon someone too soon (“idiot compassion“), what is to stop him or her from repeating their misdeed and hurting another?

What assurance do we have that a person won’t replicate the same harmful behavior (which is typically the case unless significant action toward changing has occurred)?

Should we give him or her reprieve even when there has been no sign of accountability on their part? Do we just pardon when there has been no remorse or expression of regret, no making amends? Should we shrug our shoulders, let it go and mind our own business, even when we know it is possible for this person to cause more harm?

What if they do it again and hurt someone else because they never had someone set a clear boundary and tell them no?

This is when having that small grain of “anger sand” could come in handy—it helps us remember that this person may not be trusted yet.

To wit, yogis, because of their compassionate (but not always discerning) nature can easily fall prey and are quick to blindly forgive.

I’ve been there; I am as stubborn as they come. I will hold out hope for someone far beyond healthy limits and I’ve been burned as a result—an embarrassing number of times.

I’m going to say it: forgiveness must be earned.

Sure, a person will have my compassion and my best wishes. I will feel for them. I will trust that they will heal and change on their own timeline different than my own (perhaps in a new lifetime). But pardon them too soon? No—I don’t see how that serves them.

When someone points out, “Did you consider that you might be enabling this poor soul?” the yogi or spiritual leader will say things like:

“But they are only human.”
“I am all about unconditional love.”
“Love is the answer.”
“People make mistakes”
“But yoga is forgiveness.”

Let’s break it down again.

“But they are only human,” or “People make mistakes:”

Yes, they are human—and so are all of the people this person has harmed in the past and will, likely, harm in the future! Does being human mean we get a pass for being a liar or an abuser so we can turn around and be one again?

This is a cop out.

Yogis, we can do better!

Yes, I am human and I’ve messed up royally and still make terrible errors…but I sincerely want to learn from my mistakes. I want to do the hard work to grow and change; I expect the same when someone I respect has blundered.

We can do better than just hiding behind the “being human” line.

Don’t just take my word for it—listen to Jason Mraz’s song, Only Human for further insight.

How about rebuilding trust before we pardon too soon?

“I am all about unconditional love:”

Meeting each other’s needs unconditionally is certainly one of the most loving, devotional endeavors one could embark upon.

That said, I prefer that my love have conditions and boundaries too—it makes my relationships much more interesting, and it motivates me to step up and grow as I respect my loved one’s conditions and boundaries.

Furthermore, just because we can be unconditionally loving does not mean that we are obligated to hang out with, support, do business with, or condone proven liars, cheaters, abusers, rapists or criminals because we know they are hurting inside and deserve love!

And it’s interesting that our forgiving yoga culture makes such a statement even necessary.

Such individuals would be better served with conditional or “tough” love—i.e. if they were allowed to hit rock bottom and then rebuild themselves.

They don’t know it, but their inner child is crying out to have someone set a boundary. Maybe when they realize that no one will put up with them, then and only then will they finally seek the professional support they need.

There’s a reason that the global governing body of cycling has banned Lance Armstrong from the sport. He has not proven that he’s healed his lying problem and won’t misstep again. So, no more racing for Lance.

“Love is the Answer:”

Well, if love is the answer, then I guess there are no more questions to ask. That would be a pity. Curiosity, interest and asking the tough questions are also great forces for enormous change in our world. I hope we never stop questioning things, even if one of the many possible answers happens to be love.

“Yoga is forgiveness:”

Have you ever seen yoga defined as forgiveness in any of the yoga texts you’ve studied? I haven’t.

Now, why do I care about all this? You must be thinking I’m…unforgiving.

My concern centers on how yoga studio owners, yoga leaders and spiritual teachers respond to situations that negatively affect yoga and spirituality.

For example, when a yoga studio hosts a teacher who is a known liar or has abused his or her power, is it okay? One studio owner told me that she forgives all the “bad boys of yoga.”

Is it okay to have these “bad boys” in yoga? Should we even have “bad boys” or “bad girls” in yoga?

When, as leaders, teachers or yoga studio owners, do we stand up to protect students?

How hard is it for our role models (or in this case the bad boys of yoga) to follow a yama and niyama or two?

Forgiving too soon does not help these bad boys—nor does it give our students the respect they deserve. Simply forgiving and loving has too often become an excuse to disengage and not enter the dialogue that would be healthy for yoga.

There is a beautiful spectrum of attributes beyond love and forgiveness alone. Attributes such as discernment, integrity, ethics, protectiveness and values are just as important, if not more so, in the full scope of life.

I think we owe more to our students than to bypass thoughts, emotions and process by simply pardoning. I think we can still teach on compassion without inviting the bad boys back into the classroom.

As seekers, we show up in a vulnerable state—the potential to hurt students with false guidance (even in the name of love and forgiveness) is that much more possible.

I hope we will inform students about making their own choices.

I hope we can start to teach critical thinking in yoga and spirituality.

I hope we can do more than simply love and forgive.

I hope we can hold each other accountable to growth and being excellent, precisely because we’ve made mistakes in the past. Our students will appreciate it—and perhaps, in the process, we will find life richer than we imagined.

So the next time you see a post about forgiveness, remember this conversation and perhaps think twice about being so quick to hit “like.”


Like I’m not “Spiritual.” I just practice being a good person on Facebook.


Ed: Bryonie Wise


About Amy Ippoliti

Amy is a yoga teacher, writer, and philanthropist. She is known for her innovative methods to bridge the gap between ancient yoga wisdom and modern day life. Amy is a pioneer for advanced yoga education serving both students as well as fellow yoga teachers. She co-founded 90Monkeys.com, an online professional development school that has enhanced the skills of yoga teachers and studios in 43 countries around the globe. She has graced the covers of Yoga Journal and Fit Yoga Magazine and has been featured in Yoga International, Self, Origin Magazine, New York Magazine, Yogini Magazine (Japan), Allure (Korea), Elephant Journal, intent.com, and many more. Amy is a faculty member at the Omega Institute, Esalen and Kripalu. She is a regular presenter at the Yoga Journal Conferences, Omega Institute Conference, Wanderlust Festivals, and The Hanuman Festival. Since the age of 14 Amy has been a champion of all forms of eco-consciousness, animal conservation and more recent forays into marine conservation. Website: amyippoliti.com . Hang with Amy on Facebook: AmyIppolitiPage Talk to Amy on Twitter: @Amy-Ippoliti Pin with Amy on Pinterest and share your pics with her on Instagram.


87 Responses to “Why I’m Not Buying the Whole Forgiveness Trend in Yoga & Spirituality.”

  1. Joe Sparks says:

    Hi Amy, nice job. My perspective is, Just about everyone is massively confused in this area. Lot's of pretense, patterned behavior being acted out. Most of it is cultural conditioning being brought into the Yoga world. This is not yoga, this is us! You are right, doing the right thing, dosen't always feel good. Remember we all have been hurt by mistakes adults made in our direction growing up. So, this pattern is set-up to not do what was done to us or act out the mistakes that were heaped on us. Definatley not our thinking. So today, we need to have clear boundaries and everyone cannot be your friend. You will make alot less mistakes. So, If we make a mistake, we need to clean it up, and not just get the forgiveness card. And it is important to remember to forgive the person and not their behavior. Which might mean you will never spend time with them again. You both will recover, and interupt the pattern. Otherwise we take it all too personally. There is a clear distinction, between person and pattern, or we will continue to confuse the two, and make the same mistakes and or allow others to make them in our direction. Thank you.

  2. tatumann says:

    Amy, I love this article and could not have read it at a more perfect time. Yesterday, I made a decision to forgive a couple of people, trying to move on from the negativity. As I discussed this with a friend, I basically said I need to let go for me, but I'm not ready to trust these people yet. And I have been considering where the line was and how to handle that both internally and externally. This discusses exactly my concerns and really gives me some great insight into myself! Thank you so much for this! ~Tatum.

  3. scott says:

    to stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake

    Forgiveness is not about the other person, it is about letting your spirit grow. In the end, you only have you, why hold it in your heart, so you can relive it in another life. Let go and enjoy now. That is all we really have.

  4. Kim says:

    There is a very distinct difference between anger and boundaries. Just because you forgive someone does not mean you have given up your boundary. People are capable of both great things and terrible things and often it's the same human being who does both. It's a good idea to hold your ground and create boundaries, hold people accountable, and be truthful about the hurt someone has caused. Forgiveness allows you to do this from a place of truth and honesty with yourself, rather than anger. Forgiveness allows you to move on emotionally and feel like you walked away with your lesson, the appropriate reaction to the person, and the correct next steps. Forgiveness DOES NOT equal being a doormat.

    You also must recognize the positive contributions people have in your life and the lessons they have taught you even if the correct next step is to no longer engage in a relationship with a particular person. The world is not black and white, and while that makes relationships seriously confusing, it's also what makes this world amazing.

  5. Katie says:

    Thank you, Amy. I'm amazed by how many yoga teacher want to give themselves and others a free pass to behave however they choose, then manipulate their students by clamoring for forgiveness, as if it's somehow the "yogic" thing to do.

    "What if they do it again and hurt someone else because they never had someone set a clear boundary and tell them no?"

    YES! I've seen this play out with many different people. If no one stands up to them, they won't stop. I can't abide my saying nothing, if it means they are free to hurt other students and colleagues.

    In the last year, some colleagues have called me judgmental and uptight for holding boundaries around professional, ethical behavior. If standing up for ethics, for students, and for our community means I'm targeted by the name-callers, I'll take their slights. We simply must hold ourselves accountable. Our community won't function any other way.

  6. Rhona says:

    Thanks for this well balanced and rational look at a subject that, you are right, gets us into trouble so often. The value of forgiveness and compassion of our core religious or spiritual practices can definitely put us in a place where we allow ourselves to continue to be harmed. I read an article by a Baptist minister while in a waiting room once, wherein he admitted that he had inadvertently caused one of the women in his congregation to stay in an abusive marriage by counseling her to forgive and love unconditionally. Very poignant lesson! We have to be careful to apply these values of forgiveness and compassion first and foremost to ourselves. How ironic that we will allow someone to continue to hurt us because we are loving them unconditionally, but not consider the same unconditional love and acceptance of our own pain. Great thoughts!

  7. Jim Sharp says:

    Forgiveness is a process, not a destination. The process involves changing our thinking, but it is also for uprooting the deeper cause of the anger. Anger being a secondary emotion rising from sadness. By bypassing anger the opportunity for deeper healing is negated.

  8. Cher says:

    This is brilliant… I am glad you voiced it.

  9. cher says:

    This is not a reply to myself, just a continuation as to what I was trying to say. I feel that this culture of forgiveness has gotten us into a pickle, as a society. We have guilted ourselves into feeling badly if we do not forgive immediately and then the victim is turned into the perpetrator (if you will).

  10. Connie says:

    Right on Amy!

  11. Susan says:

    Authentic and courageous. Thank you.

  12. tina foster says:

    We've never met, but I'm really moved to say I totally agree with you. Furthermore, I'm really relieved yogis are starting to speak up about these issues.

    Over decades I've seen abuses cycle through the yoga world. Up close, in ashrams, pre-internet– again and again– up to the post-internet present days where information is harder to sweep under the moldy carpet.

    After watching a few cycles, the abuses get predictable. We see little signs of abuse here and there and know something way worse is brewing in the shadows, that, without sunlight will eventually rear it's head in a ugly way. We hope we're wrong, just misunderstanding……

    We try to "stay positive." Consider speaking up to the larger group, but, well, yogis are not supposed to judge. They should use "wise speech." So, the fatal choice is made to, as you say "bypass thoughts."

    At some point, wise speech IS speaking up even if your words fall on deaf ears, or "denial ears."

    Finally when the sh*t storm happens. Everyone runs for cover until it's over…..

    Sometimes forgiveness is like a veil.

    That veil might be transparent, but it's also a wall. Of protection. The scared, wounded person hides behind positive words, the language of forgiveness and unity. If you choose to look closely, you can see them trembling underneath that soft cover.

    I see this a lot with students and teachers I mentor. They're hurt, and aren't allowed to REALLY protect themselves. They're afraid of being judged or even worse, ostracized from community.

    Thank you so much for writing this. We don't have live this way.

    And thanks to everyone who reads this. Big Namaste to you.

  13. In "spiritual" terms (not dictionary terms), my forgiveness involves working with a higher power to release what may be eating me up inside, as best I can – to remember how the Infinite is central. But to absolve responsibility, condone, or enable, no way! In fact, it helps me set boundaries more clearly, directly, and firmly.

    I see this frequently in A Course in Miracles circles, what Ken Wapnick calls "level confusion" – of the metaphysical and corporeal realms – another description of spiritual bypass. Just have observed it from a distance in the yoga world. Thanks, Amy.

  14. Fogayoga says:

    Revenge can feel great in the short run! But detrimental in the long run?
    Forgiveness frees us in the long run! But not always in the short run?
    So how old are you?

  15. Priya says:

    Ahhh thank you for bringing this up! There is a lot of fluff going around these days under the guise of being yogic. Forgiveness is a process and no one should guilt trip themselves into following something that they're not really feeling yet. Especially if its coming in the way of standing up for what is right. We need more teachers, guides and (especially) writers who are grounded and honest enough to know the difference and help people be more true to themselves. You simply cannot push away something under the rug and pretend it didn't happen or doesn't exist because you feel obliged to be forgiving. Address it, confront it and let it go when you're ready but for your own sake do not shoulder all that pretense "forgiveness" baggage.

  16. Carol Horton says:

    "When, as leaders, teachers or yoga studio owners, do we stand up to protect students?"

    I think it should be beyond obvious that the answer is "NOW." Thanks, Amy, for stepping up and speaking out.

  17. isabelezrati says:

    Amy – thank you so much for voicing this opinion. I have been having the same exact conversation with my therapist of late. In the past, every time I mentioned forgiveness as a positive thing I needed to do, I could watch her work hard not to roll her eyes. I love the way you describe that small grain of anger as used for protection. I've worked so hard over the years to be "nice" and then my anger explodes when people push me too far. Learning to pay attention to frustration or resentment before it becomes explosive and unbearable has helped me improve so many of my relationships, including the one with myself. I particularly appreciate your point about forgiveness being earned. Sometimes we can forgive at a distance but maintain a strong, clear boundary; at other times, a person can earn our trust enough to be forgiven and let it again. But that is rare and extraordinary. This perspective is so grounding and relatable. As a new yoga teacher, it gives me confidence to voice my perspective too. Thanks for bringing a little nuance into the forgiveness conversation.

  18. Jennifer says:

    perfectly said….and I have had to deal with forgiveness large and small…with asses and angels….doesn't work until time is right – many thanks and amen! It is so hard to find a teacher who is as real as you are…keep it up – I look forward to following your writing.

  19. Ellen says:

    There are many poignant concepts in this and I appreciate those. But it is also painfully clear that you hold a great deal of anger and resentment – or rather, those emotions are holding you.

    Another responder made a point of explaining that forgiveness does not mean being a doormat and I fully agree. You can be very clear with boundaries and accountability while still offering forgiveness, and that is some very powerful work to attempt.

    It is so clear you are pissed off at John Friend and anyone who still studies with him or is associated with his former yoga style, but I think you need to let go and actually forgive yourself. He is not a criminal and his blunders were mostly in his personal life. He is an exemplary yoga teacher, definitely one of the most insightful ever. He apologized several times, made many ammends, showed deep regret and remorse, and volunteered to step down as head of his yoga school.

    Those are very courageous and meaningful steps that I have not seen any yoga bad boy take, so it seems to me that he definitely deserves forgiveness. To keep yourself from studying under his amazing mind seems to only hurt you and deprive students.

  20. Kerry Headley says:

    This is great. I wish I had come upon this years ago when I was still trying to overcome my human emotions to "evolve" and please my yoga teacher.

  21. Javan says:

    Simply perfect. Thanks for writing this piece of brilliance, about which there is so much I love. Thanks for an external confirmation of what I already believe to be true for me. ❤

  22. Lisa Kneller says:

    Great article Amy! I would like to recommend the book, "Boundaries" by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.

  23. Gail says:

    "I am so sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you, I won't do it again." How does that feel? All better now? No. Why? Because
    there is no responsibility for the actions taken. No reason to believe this platitude, and they DID mean to hurt you, that was the whole point of the behavior.
    The highest truth, reveals WHY the person did it, and felt they had a right to hurt you in the first place.
    "I am so sorry I hurt you; the truth is, I was jealous that you got that great job, while I am still unemployed".
    Thank you for telling me the truth. " I know I have no right to 'punish' you for your success."
    No, you don't. In the future, please consider being inspired instead of jealous; and until that is possible, please
    just TELL me the TRUTH. (such as)" I know I am supposed to be happy for you, but I really wish I had gotten such a job, instead!"
    I understand, I hear how you feel, thanks for being so candid. I know you are not a bad person. "You are welcome, and that said, I really am happy for you and I will agree to tell you whatever I am thinking/feeling in the future…thank you for making it possible to admit this to you". I appreciate that so much, and you are welcome.
    To me, being close is more important than being right.
    I see it as a shared responsibility if you want to continue to be close. Make a non-judgemental space for someone to tell their 'not-pretty ' truth, and forgive the why, if not the what. If you are not interested in getting closer, then just distance, forgive, and move on. Engaging in such conversations, obviously takes a lot of focus and energy…(just like yoga)..but
    can you think of anything more important to do with your time, than contributing to healed relationships? Forgiveness, IMHO, does not come from "on high" but person to person–using examples of spiritual leaders (yogis choice) and their splendid results 🙂

  24. Ellen says:

    It is also clear that most of the most angry voices against John friend are the ones who learned their craft and got their careers from his thorough tutelage. Seems you should be practicing refining your gratitude rather than your anger.

    The mind can argue anything and words can be used to make any viewpoint salient. But the hearts energy doesn’t lie – when you forgive, you heal. Plain and simple.

  25. Patrick says:

    "To keep yourself from studying under his amazing mind seems to only hurt you and deprive students." You're joking right? For more information on John Friend…

    John Friend Anusara Scandal: Inside the Wiccan ‘Sex’ Coven http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/04/15/

    John Friend Scandal – Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/john-friend-sc

    Yoga Mogul Turns Out to Be a Total Scumbag http://jezebel.com/5886795/yoga-mogul-turns-out-t

    Scandal contorts future of John Friend, Anusara yoga http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-03-28/lif

    Yoga and Sex Scandals: No Surprise Here http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/28/health/nutritio

    Sex scandal knocks yoga world off balance http://vitals.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/03/02/105630

    Karma Crash
    Sex and the fall of an all-American yogi. http://nymag.com/news/features/john-friend-yoga-2

    the anusara controversy: ethics, responsibility & integrity http://www.itsallyogababy.com/the-anusara-controv

    John Friend, Head of Anusara: The Accusations http://yogadork.com/news/john-friend-head-of-anus

    Anusara Controversy: Overview and Timeline http://bayshakti.com/anusara-controversy-overview

    Bringing My Life Into Perspective: What Matters Most. http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/02/amy-ippoli

    My intention is to serve those who have not had the direct experience of John Friend’s shadow side. http://leavingthekula.com/leaving_abruno.html

    From Patience Armstrong: My Story http://leavingthekula.com/leaving_parmstrong.html

    Naked massages, 'kissing and rubbing' and exchanging locks of pubic hair: The Wiccan sex parties that forced Anusara yoga teachers to quit http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2130547/A

    Open Letter to John Friend http://bayshakti.com/open-letter-to-john-friend

    ‘SPIRITUAL INCEST’: YOGA ‘GURU’ UNDER FIRE FOR ALLEGED NAKED WICCAN RITUALS & MISCONDUCT http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2012/04/17/spirit

    Honoring Truth. ~ Betsey Downing & Suzie Hurley {John Friend / Anusara Yoga} http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/03/honoring-t

    The Yoga Mogul http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/25/magazine/25Yoga

    Downward Dog – Texasmonthly.com http://www.leavingsiddhayoga.net/john_friend_texa

    These posts track every significant milestone in the unraveling of Anusara yoga during this time. http://bayshakti.com/page/6?s=Controversy

    An open letter to the community one year after resigning my Anusara Certification. http://bernadettebirney.com/2013/01/an-open-lette

  26. Amy Whelan says:

    Forgiveness is not about the other person, it's about releasing the anger and hurt so that it doesn't harm you…forgiveness is really not for the other person. I can forgive someone for their actions, but I will be wary of trusting that person again, but that doesn't mean I'm trying to teach them a lesson. I will learn the lesson, and the forgiveness allows me to move forward.

  27. coyote varlet says:

    Speaking for myself, I love studying under former students of jf, but want nothing to do with people with behaviors like his.

  28. mariahbythesea says:

    Anger is not required to set boundaries and forgiveness does not require boundaries to be broken.

    "Is it okay to have these “bad boys” in yoga? Should we even have “bad boys” or “bad girls” in yoga?"

    "in yoga"? What does this mean? Yoga is not a place or an organization, it's a practice. You can't stop anyone from practicing yoga. Im a little confused by this sentence. It seems like there is a fence created here guarding yoga and defining it. Yoga is unity and you just can't put that in a box.

  29. soulsistashakti says:

    Brilliant I couldn't have said it better myself. For myself, I sustained lifelong injuries from being raped as a child, brainwashed, groomed and raped until I got pregnant and had the child. I was not able to stick up for myself because I developed a severe dissociative disorder and chronic PTSD and now that my child is older and after many years in and out of institutions I am trying to bring him to justice. And I was into yoga for many years and tried to forgive. I was too brainwashed to know the difference anyway. I hope he didn't hurt anyone else like this but I will make sure he never does it again. I started a blog about it at brendabrewer.blogspot.com.

  30. Not buying it either says:

    ^ spiritual bypassing. Did you even read the article?

  31. ava says:

    good article. 'forgiveness' & 'love' are catch-all, happy, polly anna lazy buzz words to release the responsibility of deeper analysis, critical thought and full understanding. they have become tired, over-used words and knee jerk, unconscious (yes) reactions similiar to the 'where do you get your protein?' annoyance that vegetarians are constantly subjected to, without escape!
    perhaps 'non-judgment' could replace the robotic and self-righteous proclamation of the easy to say 'forgiveness'
    but you touched on alot of good and important thoughts here and this is a well written and well thought out piece…

  32. Katie says:

    Indeed, Carol.

  33. Dale Elson says:

    No. On several counts, no.

    First, your feeling about someone should be separated from your actions by wisdom, or you are no wiser than a monkey that really wants to pull the nut out of the jar :-). Anger, forgiveness, and such are emotions, and you should seek to manage your emotions with wisdom, and that means using the process of forgiveness to release the self-harming emotions.

    The wise little anger that you are talking about is something that the Bible warns us about most strongly – it is called hatred in English, & is a gut-eating, life-ruining, nurtured little cancer that will eventually poison you. Your choice, but I'd let it go soon.

    The Biblical model is to forgive the person their sin. This frees you of it, and you can go on. It has nothing to do with the other person – it is not a pardon or a "get out of jail free" card. Forgiving the person doesn't mean letting them back into the camp. We forgive child molesters, but we do not let them be around children unsupervised any more. We forgive thieves, but they still have to serve their time.

    So, forgive John, let that emotion go, let yourself move on. And feel free to continue to not be associated with him, and to speak your carefully considered critique of his actions.

  34. lisa says:

    beautifully written….and yes, forgiveness IS a crucial part in one's healing process; however, blindly forgiving is unhealthy to all.

  35. NEO says:

    I think you just inadvertently made the article's point, the forgiveness bandwagon has nothing to do with yoga. So many raised in western religions are trying to change eastern philosophy to match their programming. No wonder we have a bunch of people running around preaching forgiveness…it's just their programming for absolution coming into play.

    Regarding your comment on of jars above…here is a nice write up complete with what John filled his jars with… http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/04/15/

  36. Laurie says:

    May I suggest an al-anon meeting! It is not up to you or me to decide what is "right" for another.

  37. Raven says:

    As I read the article, I kept thinking about the parents who have reached out and forgiven the murderer of their child. Would I apply your reasoning to that situation? No. Would you accuse these people of spiritual bypassing? I certainly hope not. That kind of compassion and forgiveness takes a deep engagement with life and emotional processing.

    The idea that anger can protect you from being hurt again is false. We will all be hurt again and again in this life. Boundaries can provide a framework, but not protection. Nor can anger.

    Accountability does not require anger either. Most parents will say that holding their children accountable for their actions, while forgiving the transgressions is a crucial aspect of parenting, as hard as it is when there is a deep hurt or loss of trust.

    I realize that that relationship is different because it is a continuing relationship versus one that has ended. But if it is over, then let it go. Holding on to anger when the relationship is over will not change the behavior of the offender. It will only affect the angry one.

  38. Ginger says:

    Amy- I love you and you’re teaching has helped me grow so much as a yoga teacher myself. My father passed away a year and a half ago and I had a dream about him the other night. He said one word, “forgiveness.” You see in his life here it was very hard for him to forgive people and he harbored much anger and resentment because of it. Forgiving is not justifying the actions, it is allowing you both to move on from the event and maybe grow and learn from it as well. It is totally your choice as to if you still want to associate with this person, knowing that the action may be repeated, but that is karma. For every action there is a reaction and we all must pay for our negative actions.

    Holding onto anger has fueled lives. Those embers still burn inside of me for past wrongs, but it is my dharma in this life to let them go. So I say this, please let go as much as you can! Life is a journey of lessons. Give those people that wrong you up to your higher power and let them deal with them! Live your life care free and follow your soul purpose!

  39. Jewels says:

    Amy, forgiveness is not about the other person but about us; we forgive (eventually) so that we are not forever hostage to our anger at the other person. Oh, and it doesn’t happen from today to tomorrow. Forgive doesn’t mean condone. Nor burying our heads in the sand. I also don’t think we can/should have unconditional love for everyone…I’m sick to my stomach with this fake yoga world, like it’s its own illusion of sorts! No-one seems to have an ounce of common sense about them anymore.

  40. sara says:

    Amazing, clear and courageous article Amy!! Thank you so much for being willing to voice your experience and insight about forgiveness. I agree wholeheartedly!! And would rather have not read all the comments as I am astounded (but then, not so surprised in the end) at the voices clamoring to defend their opinion about forgiveness being the endgame. It's as if "forgiveness" is the elite spiritual virtue, if only us mere mortals could cast aside our petty anger, or rise above it,or DENY DENY it. It is much easier to feign forgiveness and turn away from our own pain, feelings of hurt or betrayal, so that we might avoid confronting our own helplessness or vulnerability. You described working through the boiling rage but keeping the healthy edge of discernment -yes.

    You also said "I think we owe more to our students than to bypass thoughts, emotions and process by simply pardoning. I think we can still teach on compassion without inviting the bad boys back into the classroom."

    I agree and would add, that as studio owners and/or yoga teachers, it is our responsibility to our students to say NO to any guest or regular teacher who has not displayed consistent and reliable integrity and emotional health in all their relationships. Where is the compassion to our students when we invite someone into the sacred space of a yoga classroom who has abused their power and hurt those around them? Yogis need to grow up and not skip over the crucial emotional development that requires discernment & boundary making, This to me is a fierce form of love- knowing when to say no, hold a line, walk away. We need to model this for our students. I will add that I had to say no over and over for years to the abusive types of men that kept coming toward me… and all the no's, honoring how I deserved to be treated- transformed old childhood wounds and prepared me to be able to say yes to the absolutely loving, kind and amazing man who became my husband.

  41. Linda Lee says:

    Thank you for a thoughtful and poignant article. Accountability is as important as forgiveness and I agree that forgiveness is earned. We let go for ourselves, so we don't have to live in the energy of the victim. Forgiveness is not a requirement to move on. The so-called "bad boys" used their power to take advantage and unless that is truth-fully owned it will happen again. Next time it might look different, but the essence will be the same and more women will be left to pick up the pieces.

    South Africa presented the world with an amazing model for healing with the "truth and reconciliation commission". The offender was required to go back to their community and own their transgressions ~ only when the community was satisfied was forgiveness bestowed.

  42. Lance says:

    WOW!! Forgiveness!!! It’s nothing new!

    It’s written in every ancient spiritual text there is!

    The focus on forgiveness is crucial in this day!

    We who want more of a flow of the spirit in our lives can’t expect to have God/Love/Light flow through us when we are choosing judgment and anger and unforgivness in us against others! There are no justified resentments or holding others accountable! We are all guilty of committing offenses and all the other deeds of the flesh. Unforgivness is a low/dark energy. It separates us from whomever we judge. If we are one with the universe then we are one with each other! When we divide ourselves we weaken ourselves.

    There is an old saying “you don’t die from a snake bite! It’s the venom that runs through our veins that kills us!”

    Same goes for offenses, harboring unforgivness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die!

    Fact is we need to manage our energy and choose light, love, peace and kindness, acceptance and tolerance!

    It’s not some fad or cute spiritual catchy trend! It’s vital and absolutely necessary to reach higher more powerful levels of our spiritual journey, individually and collectively!

    If you don’t get this, meditate on it!!

    Nowhere that I have read or channeled does forgiveness mean we are foolish and subject ourselves to abuse of any kind! But as we realize that others are on different paths, different levels with a myriad of belief systems, we cannot be offended by anything that crosses our path!! Compassion and understanding enables us to allow others their way and lead by example!

    Unforgivness is a self righteous energy that comes from our ego that insists on being “Right” and placing blame on others!

    Pray through this Amy!!!

    Love ya, but you should know better!

  43. Tracie says:

    Yes Kim, this is a key distinction! Thank you for expressing it. Sometimes the most loving thing to do is to set healthy boundaries and hold people accountable with awareness instead of judgement, with love and forgiveness in our own hearts.
    Sincerely, Tracie

  44. Roldan Smith says:

    saw your post on a friend and fellow yogi's wall. this is my response there which i felt so called to repost and share here for the benefit of the one or two who might actually read the comments section of blogs. lovingly submitted, Pheonyx

    one is only able to give in capacity to the level (and more) that one is able to receive. one is only able to receive in capacity that the level (and more) that one is able to believe. lack trust, lose trust. lack compassion, lose compassion. lack forgiveness, lose forgiveness. it's really that simple.

    don't worry or concern yourself how others are doing it. it has no bearing on your own capacity to do it differently and to be-come it truthfully, that path, which so many question as possible. which is why so many will fail to realize fully forgiving and living free of fear of disappointment, failed expectations and illusions of abandonment and/or betrayal… because they doubt it so deeply, shrouding even access to the essence of their soul and the ability for the Self to prove to its self otherwise.

    now some of you may feel that's just a bunch of "new age" mumbo jumbo (when actually there's nothing new about any of it), and some of you may realize, by wisdom brought on by your own experience, that it hits the proverbial nail on the head. that's okay, because i'm not attached to how anyone receives it. it is what it is. in the end, it matters not what you believe is true, only that which is. (hold on. don't react just yet…) and yet, here's the twisted metaphysical irony… what you BELIEVE to be true has a very profound affect on what is. so, find it hard to trust? you get every experience to support that, and also sometimes challenge it! find it hard to forgive? yup, lots and lots of experiences to confirm that too, and a few that show up to help you break the mold.

    now with all that being said, i will say this… live in a world view that "forgiveness must be earned" and you will live a very long and challenging life. now, trust may be a different matter. BUT realize that true forgiveness (yes, that one) does is not something that can be earned but only given, then you understand the true nature of the Law of Compassion. grace is not earned, grace is given. true forgiveness is not based on "you do this and i'll forgive you." that's control. that circumstance. that's ego.

    true forgiveness may look more like this… "i love you. i don't agree with what you did, and it hurt. but i also realize that there is something of a hidden gift in here for me, too. so, i'm going to seek and find it. i forgive you and you do as you will. i may or may not choose to trust you as i once did, but that too is a learning process. and so it is. and so I AM forgiven as you are forgiven and so that we both may be set free from the chain that anger, resentment, remorse and regret may bind." try that for a change and watch the world and your need to even forgive anyone dissipate and free you even of the burden to have to consider it, as you allow Grace to flow through all. not the human version based on judgments of right and wrong, but that which existed long before humans existed and flows through the highest levels of the Divine. learn and understand that and you will be free of having to forgive anyone or anything, because in truth, it is already done.

    i offer it for what it's worth. you decide. to each their own path, as we all work it out together. all life is learning. Namaste and in Light, Pheonyx

    p.s. feel free to receive these for what they're worth as well. with love… http://theocgproject.com/2009/03/18/unexceeding-ehttp://theocgproject.com/2007/11/23/the-act-of-fohttp://theocgproject.com/2013/02/09/mirros-and-me

  45. Susan says:

    If you are not "Pissed off " at John Friend, you are not paying attention.
    "You can't fix stupid"

  46. As a yoga and meditation teacher I find it helpful to perceive and explain things in their dualistic nature. There are two ways to deal with forgiveness and anger. One is more useful than the other.

    1. Forgiveness that direct toward the other – is only useful if you truly believe the other has changed which most of the time is not the case and you give up your own power to make a real change
    2. Forgiveness directing toward self – acknowledging about how you feel and look for lessons that can be learned from the experience which leads to understanding and growth

    1. Anger directing toward the other – stopping you from truly accept your own feeling and often leads to hatred and destruction
    2. Anger directing toward rightful actions – is an energy that drives you to accomplish what need to be done and stirring your creativity that leads to solutions

    The writer's style is engaging. I suspect that there is a lot of interest around the issues because of the John Friend scandal and the author's relationship with him. It would be helpful for the author to acknowledge this in the article. What we learn and share through our personal experience is powerful. By focusing on the "bad boys" who do not practice Niyama the author minimizes her own learning process. Hope this is a helpful feedback.

  47. jeff brown says:

    Forgiveness is a beautiful thing, but it’s essential
    that it arises organically. Many of us claim to have
    forgiven while still holding toxic emotions below the
    surface: the forgiveness bypass. The truth is that we
    cannot will ourselves into forgiveness. If we try to
    forgive before we have worked through the feelings,
    inauthenticity blocks our path. We cannot be in the
    real, because we’re not emotionally real. Our heart is
    still back there.

  48. jeff brown says:

    the forgiveness bypass is one of many ways that the new age community avoids its unresolved pain. self-avoidance masquerading as enlightenment. pseudo non-duality that removes everything uncomfortable from the equation. its the big lie and its deeply destructive. if a yogi treats the emotional body as secondary, they are missing the moment entirely. Repressed emotions are unactualized spiritual lessons. If we aren't inclusive of all elements of the human experience, we aren't growing.

  49. abby says:

    Forgiveness is not a trend to be bought into. It is a profound experience that begins with oneself. My deepest experiences of forgiveness have come as a result of yoga sadhana. Encouraging students to forgive is a healing, transformative practice. To forgive does not make the person's deed "right" or "okay." To me, forgiveness breaks the cycle. Amy, to think that your forgiveness of a person (in your case John) gives them the fortitude to continue detrimental behavior shows a severe misunderstanding of what forgiveness really is, and can be. To the contrary, you are one of many that held him on a pedestal and led so many to him. Have you forgiven yourself for this? (for whatever it's worth, I have;)

    Forgiveness IS woven throughout the ancient yogic texts. Here are just a few instances: http://vedabase.net/k/ksama

    But, let's not put these texts before our own experiences.

    You are calling for critical thinking. On this, we completely agree. My critical mind is thinking that you are using the exact buzzword you condemn to bring people to your article. And, that Anusara yoga teachers brought buzzwords to a whole new level in yoga! lol. Yes, there was a time when hearing the words "kula" or "shri" actually did induce nausea because they did not come with authenticity, as you now well know. An element of humor is also helpful in these situations!

    I think you are well meaning, Amy, and you put yourself/your ideas out here for all of us to take in. I hope you will take in all of the responses as well, not just the ones that validate you.