[INTERVIEW] Ex-Certified Anusara Teacher Opens Up /// What’s Behind the Hurt?

Last week a video of John Friend was released that, judging on who you speak to, either showed a bro riffing high and exuberantly on the imminence of his future success, or a deviant scoundrel further enclosing himself within a secret inner-circle of money-hungry faux-artist ambitions. With this video’s leaking came the predictable onslaught of comments from Anusara students, teachers, and detractors alike, along with another wave of resignations from certified Anusara teachers.

One thing is certain, the John Friend scandal has triggered a seemingly infinite barrage of public yoga practitioner catharses from around the globe. However, we here at BabaHQ have noticed that much of the flurry has come out in well-timed, well-edited “Open Letters” to “the community.” All the while, much of what is being said—the feelings of betrayal and remorse—float beyond the scope of dialogue. That is, letters come out, people react, people get angry, people forget, people move on. Rarely is there an opportunity to ask, “Really?” and expect a response.

Nevertheless, we The Babarazzi wanted to get down to something deeper. Who or what are people really angry at? Is it John Friend? Is it themselves? Is it the commodification of yoga? Is it yoga in general? Is it us?! Furthermore, we wanted to get a better understanding of the hurt and betrayal felt by so many. What’s fueling this bitter feeling of abandonment and loss of trust? What has really been damaged?

Then, like light in the dark, an ex-certified Anusara teacher contacted us wanting to assist in any fact-checking we might need were we to continue covering the saga. In truth, we had all but left the John Friend scandal by the side of the road, thinking it having run its course. However, it occurred to us that something more universal could be had were we to speak to someone directly effected by the scandal, and specifically about the human element of the fall out. We just had to know: What are Anusara teachers really so angry about?

Thank you “Warrior One” for agreeing to speak with us and sharing your many personal feelings. May your journey on the path of yoga and meditation bare you sweet fruits.

THE BABARAZZI: I’m interested in your take on some of the recent John Friend stuff floating around. The latest video, etc. But first, I need to know, how are you feeling?

WARRIOR ONE: Honestly? Really up and down. It’s different every day. New emotions and levels of realization arise. Today, truthfully, after that vid, I feel duped. I feel ashamed that I ever trusted him.

TB: Why do you feel duped?

WO: It was exposure for me into what I knew was true about him (stoner megalomaniac), but hadn’t witnessed. Look. The one thing I am totally doing, though, is taking full responsibility for my own willing participation in the dance of teacher-student with him. But what I didn’t realize, from not being brought into the inner-inner circle, was the mayhem going on behind the scenes. I’m a little ashamed I supported him. Sang his praises. He never fucking sang mine.

TB: In all honesty, to me he just looks and sounds like a post-New Age businessman who’s very very very excited about how what he’s creating is taking off. He sounds like a surfer who made three million dollars making surfboards. Why do you think people are so shocked by this video?

WO: I hear you. Peeps are shocked because he’s not the creator of surf boards. He stood as a teacher and leader. Though, the metaphor of the surfboard is actually brilliant. For surfers, It’s the vehicle to god: the water and the freedom, skill, joy of being out there on it. That’s what John Friend did for us. He created the vehicle.

TB: He was also the head of a hugely successful yoga business. Did you view him that way? Did his “CEO side” ever occur or present itself to you?

WO: Business came into play twice. I had issues with a couple Anusara Yoga studio owners, and he sided with the owners. Put me down, told me to “get humble,” which I did. That was a good lesson for me to learn. But, he’s a business leader before a spiritual leader when money or image is involved. He favored the other teachers unbelievably.

TB: Can you say more as to how John Friend got involved in the issues that came up between you and the studios? Who contacted him? How would he have even known there was an issue?

WO: Well, in my two cases, I called him myself…. I saw him as my mentor, my teacher, and he always told us in the giant workshops that he was available for all of us, anytime. Gave all of his certified teachers his cell number. When I was fired from one of my teaching positions at a yoga studio, I called him immediately. He responded a few days later. We spoke and he sided with the owner. Took a business approach. He was NOT good as a mediator, and that’s what we needed.

The second case was similar. I reached out to him to mediate an issue with another studio owner. Again he put me down in front of the owner.

TB: What do you mean “put you down?” Can you be more specific?

WO: “Put me down” is incorrect of me to say. I did not feel supported by him in either example. He did not ask either studio owner to step up and take responsibility for their part in the particular problems at hand. In the second case, the owner was a teacher much younger than me, both in age, and time with Anusara. I was more “senior” to her. He asked me to apologize to her, not her to me, and when I told him after how that sucked for me, he said, “You’re the more senior teacher, so you’re setting the example for her now.” That didn’t feel correct.

TB: I see….

WO: Look, I own my stuff. I really do. I don’t want to sound like I’m blindly projecting stuff onto him. But, he really set himself up to us, to me, as a friend we could count on. I looked up to him. Thought he’d support me. Like a big brother. A father figure. Teachers can be made into that by students. I own that creation.

Although, I should say that he also did support me at another vitally difficult time. Right before the scandal broke. Last October. He finally did “show up” for me. But still, what a fucker. He’s hurt an incredible amount of people, waiting THIS long to respond, and even still, not really responding.

TB: So, how are you feeling about this new video? Is it or the scandal in general something you wake up thinking about?

WO: I’m not at all thinking about the video. I sometimes wake up sad about the fractures of friendship. Like a shattered illusion.

TB: Can you describe what the illusion was?

WO: It’s probably personal for everyone, but mine was the illusion of community, or even family. You take the good with the bad. Work things through. All held together by the common thread of values and beliefs. But, really we were gathered around John’s ego and vision.

There’s a pic that Wanderlust used of him that I now find so horrifying: He’s teaching in a tent, a huge group, and it’s shot from behind showing his arms spread wide. Like, “these are my minions.” Ugh.

TB: Can you explain for people who weren’t his direct students why seeing John Friend standing in front of what he built—taking pleasure in what he’s created—why that can feel so disturbing?

WO: He’s not behaving, or hasn’t behaved, like he cares about his teachers. He cares about the business first. That’s insulting. It’s like he promised something and didn’t, or couldn’t, deliver. And, he won’t come clean and admit it. He’s simply not living what he’s been teaching all these years.

I feel misled about him caring about us, his teachers. He always said Grace comes first. In there is Love, Hope, Wisdom, etc. That’s the First Principle (to put it in Anusara Yoga language). But, he’s doing Second Principle, first. He’s being ego-ic, grabbing, stubborn, not letting go.

TB: Can you be specific on how he was supposed to care for you? What do you mean by the word “care?”

WO: Again, it’s my projection onto him. But, he certainly brought that projection into being by saying, “I’m here for you, day or night. Follow me. Trust me.” Sounded to me like he was saying, “I’ll take care of you when in need, when troubled. Find Grace and Shakti in me when you’re unable to find it in yourself.” He was a vehicle.

In a way he remains a vehicle. But, more for our own expansion, each one of us. I’m stepping up. I feel more liberated than ever, and it’s because of his downfall. I no longer have to be friends with people I didn’t really like! Imagine that!

TB: Do you think a lot of the anger and resentment that is being hurled at John Friend is actually stuff that’s really about the people hurling it?

WO: YES. But they are totally NOT saying it, seeing it, or willing to admit it.

TB: Are you personally more angry with yourself than you are with John Friend?

WO: 100%. That’s what’s making me crazy. That admittance from teachers would be a real example of Taking Ownership. I am admitting it to you, and to others. I’m in therapy, I have been processing this!

TB: You entered therapy after the John Friend scandal or before?

WO: No, no. I’ve been in for years. I’m just saying I’m not using Facebook, or blogs, or my BFFs to process.

The scandal didn’t “turn” me to get help. Please don’t misunderstand.

TB: What angers you most about yourself, specifically related to the John Friend scandal?

WO: Well the anger is from recent experiences. What I know is that I needed what I received from him and the communal experiences in the early days. Really, there were amazingly healthy good times. Friendships: strong. His teachings: strong. His practice: strong.

But, I’m angry that as I matured, and saw misbehavior, and felt duped, that I didn’t listen to myself. I didn’t trust myself sooner. I didn’t leave sooner, or speak up sooner. I flirted with resigning about a year, year-and-a-half ago. More like three years. Around the time I was fired, and so poorly supported during that time. It was extremely hard for me.

TB: Can you give a specific example of your projecting something about yourself onto John Friend?

WO: The family stuff is my projection. I don’t have the closest relationships to my siblings. I looked at John for fatherhood and brotherhood. More brotherhood, I think. The way a big brother would come to your defense on the playground. I’m closer with my bro now, but he’s far away, and we didn’t have a shared high school experience because he’s older. Not close with my sis either. I sought siblings in the kula. I’d LOVE to hear others finally admit this.

TB: Perhaps it isn’t their experience.

WO: Perhaps. But I can’t be alone in that one, can I?

TB: Hard to say. It’s hard enough to know what your own experience is the more it unfolds, let alone someone else’s experience. Especially one that’s so twisted and hidden.

WO: True. And it certainly keeps unfolding. Deep layers in me are rising up. Partnered, though, with this incredible experience of strength. It’s fascinating.

TB: What do you think is the most hidden aspect of yourself that has come to the surface from this experience?

WO: As of today…. Confidence, wisdom, an ability to believe in myself, trust myself. A true sense of Liberation. Trust in my own process rather than relying on group-think.

TB: Were you less confident before this experience?

WO: Yes, a bit less.

TB: Less confident in what specifically?

WO: More likely to jump on the bandwagon. I really owe it to my practices for grounding me.

TB: Would you say you were easily swayed previous to this experience?

WO: Yes. But it’s not really about this experience for me. It’s about having a meditation practice, a meditation community. This experience is the vehicle for me to see how meditation has shifted me. That’s more my true experience. Pre- meditation I would have been more swayed.

TB: So, who is John Friend to you now? He was a projected brother. But, who is he now?

WO: That’s a deep question.

TB: These are the only questions worth asking.

WO: I’m not sure yet…. Well, I’m sure of one thing: he’s not my teacher now. And I’m loving my relationship with my brother. It’s gotten stronger.

TB: Do you think you will ever take on another teacher?

WO: Hmm…. Well, I have. I have a meditation teacher. Although, I’m watching my projections very closely. I feel forewarned by this current experience.

I guess, what I am now is more open to learn from everyone. Every teacher can be my teacher, if I let them.

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47 comments

  1. iamronen

    A few days ago I took in your post about Ram Dass … I wanted to leave a comment but for some technical reasons it didn’t work out. My intended comment was that while I am touched by Ram Dass, his videos and “Be Here Now” …. however it isn’t enough for me. I wondered if that message was good/sufficient/relevant in its time … but isn’t … here and now.!?
    http://iamronen.com/2010/05/reading-lila-dynamic-static/

    I haven’t (yet?) experienced the kind (emotional expression?) of happiness that is documented in the videos you posted. I am not even sure I want to or am capable of it.

    Now as I read and watched the linked video I couldn’t help but wonder if “Be Here Now” was somehow incomplete and left a gap that is now being filled with …. emptiness?

  2. yoga_muff diver

    Thank God for the IT geek who decided to pull the plug on this Shaman Charade. And all it took was one close-up photo of a hairy vagina and a couple of emails? Moishe, my friend, if only real revolutions were so easy!.

    A familiar story – individual power transference to the Fuhrer on behalf of the “kula,” the imagined community. The only thing missing here, I thought, was whether a new female-dominated oligarchy schooled in the same cult guru methods is likely to far any better than the one-man dictatorship. All of the reform talk now is about “giving power to the teachers”? Well, what abut power to the students? You know, the great unwashed? Or was this really just a preemptive “captain’s coup” led by a band of jealous junior officers, anxious to keep the regime afloat – and it methods intact- while supplanting the dictator?

    The Anusarans seem truly lost without Daddy. Of course, as coup plotters since time immemorial have learned, it’s one thing to smash an existing authority system, quite another to build up a legitimate counter-authority. You often just end up creating a power vacuum, with the dutiful daughters caught between their own gyrating “deliberations” and their vain hope that Daddy might still be coming home – and of course. sober this time.. Something tells me that old John-Boy really knows his flock – after all, he “played” them for over a decade – and that persistent rumors of his defeat and demise may be greatly exaggerated. Everyone loves a redemption story. Rocky! Rocky!

  3. “the idea that there is a goal.. is wrong.. We are the goal, we are peace. To get rid of the idea that we are not peace is all that is required.” –shri ramana maharshi letting go of the fruits of action. “Renunciation of the fruits of action..is the center around which the Gita is woven. It is the central sun around which devotion, knowledge, and the rest revolve like planets.” -Gandhi

  4. sha-sha

    @ muff-diver: Stewart, you give yourself away once again with all the graphic sexual references (“muff-diver,” “hairy vagina”) and the hatred of even imagined female power (“female oligarchy”) and the dimestore psychology (“daddy issues”). It’s pathetic to think you were up spewing the crazy hate about this at five-thirty in the morning.
    Get a life.
    The former Anusara teachers are not lost. They’re teaching.
    The students are fine, too. Most of us were never as stupid as the teachers who got caught in the web. We’re just working people who want good teachers and good yoga experiences. We’re also smart consumers and can call the bullshit when we see it.
    It’s not up to you to “save” us with your “concern.” I certainly don’t want such an ugly, vicious misogynist on my “side” as a student.

    • Pranama Red

      Brilliant analysis. While I was always suspicious of John Friend, many as well as myself were taken in to the extent that we relied on our teachers. Since I had no direct relationship to him and I respected my teachers, I accorded him a measure of respect, out of respect for my teachers.

    • yoga_muff diver

      And you don’t even have the ovaries to ID yourself. You guys are always trying to recreate asymmetrical power relationships – that’s certainly the Anusara way in my experience-,John Boy or not. No misogynist here. Raised by solid mature feminists and Just a firm life-long believer in real gender balance – not disguised gender power hierarchies, be they male or female. I’ll pray for you, whomever you are. If I struck a nerve – that’s on you, though. 100% Love, Stewart

  5. Warrior One

    Sha-sha:
    You’re right- we’re teaching. Our hearts out! But I love your comment about students seeking good yoga with good teachers, smart enough to call bs when seen.
    I agree, which is why I think LC should give it all back to him, severely broken. Everyone resigns. We all keep teaching, expanding ourselves, teaching students how to also thru mayhem like this. He’ll have to deal with the mess of his life. Ultimately, you said it- students choose.

    • iamronen

      Warrior One … I don’t mean this in a personal way since I don’t know you at all … however I do have some doubts about what teachings you may have been given and what teachings you may be passing on.

      this entire discussion seems to focus on the people involved and it is taken for granted that the teachings have not been harmed … I worry about the teachings too.

      • iamronen:
        i love the sentiment. like a PSA is needed to declare “No teachings were harmed, misused, or poorly conveyed during this scandal”.
        I can only speak for myself that I’ve used teachings from all traditions during this. I wish I could speak for others about how they’ve adapted and interpreted whatever they’ve taken in from working this path, but I can’t.

  6. What amazes me about the whole Anusaragate/JF scandal is how many people fell for it. I had a few yoga instructors who were hard-core Anusara followers and kept telling me how amazing JF was and even tried convincing me to go to Wanderlust. I didn’t know anything about him but after watching several videos and whatnot, it was so obvious to me this guy is an operator. To slick, too goofy, too immature. The vibe was completely off.

    I don’t blame the people who fell for the act. It’s easy to* want* to believe in something especially if it seems to fill or address a need in us which is somehow lacking. Which is why self-awareness is so important. It’s sad because it looks like John Friend took advantage of the good-will and genuine earnestness of his teachers and students and squandered it completely. People need to take their power back and that means speaking up, loud and clear, when any sort of wrong-doing or questionable practice happens. Moral-whistle blowing has to happen more often

    Warrior One, my hat off to you for being honest about your role in this and sharing your story.

  7. Sarva

    Interesting interview. So without being too reductionist about your argument (which is to say, I’m about to reduce your argument …): can we say that JF is no more nor less guilty than anyone involved in the commercialization of yoga? Well: of course you aren’t saying that per se but I’m *suspecting* that would be your conclusion, your comment on this, if you were to make it directly; please correct me if I’m wrong. Having worked in the corporate world myself, whatever “deviant scoundrel”-ism or “high bro”-ism he has (to use your terms) *pale* in comparison to the egomaniacal titans of non-yoga start-up ventures! That said … the really interesting question to me that extends further from that is: when yoga in particular is commercialized [and *yoga* may stand for any type of spirituality that to some degree is anti-commercial by nature], is an inevitable fall-out of this that the type of “consumer” it attracts in particular has traits the lend themselves to a certain lack of self-possession? Does the selling of *yoga* [bleaching] naturally create [or, at least, selectively attract] a type of consumer who is capable of seeing for all these years things that they simultaneously allow themselves to ignore? Where else does a consumer just hang on to a product in spite of their own personal experience of that product having deeply flawed problems?

    • Thanks for the comments and questions, Sarva.

      Personally, I think JF is currently in a state of judgment. While he’s obviously undeniably guilty in the eyes of many of his former students, I have a feeling the end of this story has yet to be written. As far as our particular opinion, we tend to comment largely on the representation of the scandal, JF’s role in that representation, and the people representing it. I certainly wouldn’t say that JF is “no more nor less guilty than anyone involved in the commercialization of yoga” if only because the commercialization of yoga is so varied in scope. If you follow our critique of JF and the scandal as a whole, you’ll find that we tend to comment more on the spectacle rather than the actions. This is, in part, the case, because much of what is being lobbed against him is simply so very personal in nature. There is of course the bit about the freezing of funds and the sex with pagan women, but that tends to be almost a side note to the overall emotional nature of the criticism. Not passing judgment on that nature, just tends to effect how and where we come at the whole thing, if you get what I’m saying….

      Your final questions are good ones. I unfortunately don’t have much in the way of an answer for any of them. I’d love to read a well-thought out/articulated piece on what you brought up. In particular, the question “Where else does a consumer just hang on to a product in spite of their own personal experience of that product having deeply flawed problems?” My quick response, and typically the one we promote around here, is that there is no difference between yogic (for lack of better term) and non-yogic (for lack of better term) commodities, and the ways in which these commodities attract people and the kinds of people they attract. That is one of our main theses: that the commercialization of yoga becomes a much more dynamic subject when looked at from the perspective of commodity culture, rather than through the lens of yogic discourse.

      In effect, we don’t do “yoga commodities” the courtesy of saying they have anything to do with yoga at all. Rather, we approach them as if they were simply more commercial bric-a-brac within the greater wasteland of bric-a-brac. It just so happens, that’s the bric-a-brac we tend to rummage through.

  8. sha-sha

    Hi Stewart,
    How was charm school, “grace?” Kiss your “:feminist” mother with that potty mouth? Etc, etc.
    And no, it’s not “on me,” that I got disgusted by the constant pussy references. That IS misogynist behavior. When I write to and/or about males, I don’t constantly put in references to cock and dick and balls and prostate and whatever. That’s just puerile and out of place.
    But I suppose we disagree on basic manners. I’d love to see you grow up a bit on that count, b/c you really undercut your own credibility with all that balls-to-the-wall machismo. It’s tiresome.
    Beyond that, neither students nor even former Anusara teachers are “you guys.” It’s endless straw dog arguments and over generalization.
    Many of us are just, again, going to yoga classes, wary of and disgusted by corporate yoga, but also equally bored with all the screaming.

    • yoga_muff diver

      Ad hominem anonymous attacks of this kind are also tiresome – and childish.- but I have to tell you, they are also thoroughly validating So even though you’re clearly now a troll, Sweetheart, please do keep it up! That said, if you do want to meet some time, do let me know. if you think you can hold your urine talkjng, that is. I’ll even buy the chai. Stewart

    • yoga_muff diver

      Hey Zsa-Zsa —

      Why don’t you write a real article of your own, under an actual byline, since you clearly think you have so much to say on this topic and are thus in a position to legitimately dominate this one blog post?

      It would be refreshing to hear an Anusara apologist like yourself actually provide something other than another public “Asana” on behalf of this crippled and declining movement. We’ve mainly read one self-serving resignation letter after another – sometimes 2 and even 3, as the same people constantly seek to renegotiate their positions – as if somehow the whole yoga world is actually watching you guys – rather than just suffering through these endless public displays of chronic organizational and psychological dysfunction and public rehabilitative therapy.

      I have to say Babarazzi, that you have taken what is usually a very interesting and edgy site that offers a unique optic on contemporary yoga and letting it become a dumbed down version of what generally appears at Yoga Dork.

      The lengthy discussion there over a period of months about the issues raised by Anusara-gate far surpasses the level of discussion here. These issues go way beyond John Friend. There are issues here relating more broadly to “cultism” and,”guruism” in numerous yoga organizations at all levels – not just the very top – and that speak to miuch deeper flaws at the heart of Anusara teacher training, pedagogy, and community-building that are being resurrected in an entirely new way.

      These are very real and very interesting issues, with many many men and women who have survived Anusara participating in this discussion.

      I suppose this is fine – you seem to want it – but it is boring and uninspiring, and really lacks the critical edge and insight that I have come to associate with the Babarazzi enterprise in general.

      That’s all from me. Promise. I normally just post once, as do all the contributors here, but really, listening to you Zsa Zsa has made me quite ill, No, I have no desire to save anyone – except myself – from people and organizations like yours, however well incarnated – or reincarnated – they choose to become.

      By the way, hundreds of beautiful yoga organizations out there, guys, run by beautiful women and men. Shop widely.

      • sha-sha

        O lord — now who is under whose skin?
        Please don’t call me sweetheart or whatever; you’re only proving yourself the misogynist I observed you were. If you really don’t understand how nasty/dirty/ugly all that is, you’ve been pretty insulated. At any rate, if you’re really into “actual equality,” then be an equal opportunity misanthropist. Next time you write about male yoga teachers or moguls, include all kinds of graphic porno-fantasy details about their MALE anatomy. I mean, really, if you’re gonna be a 13-year-old, go for it.
        Beyond that, my critique is not ad hominem. It’s a critique of your WRITING. You know — tone, word choice.
        Go back to college and take a class.

  9. sha-sha

    PS — for all –e
    Whatever happens with Anusara, I have unfortunately come to the conclusion that corporate yoga is here to stay. This seems to happen with everything in America. Many small independent bookstores were pushed out by Borders and Barnes and Noble, which were pushed out by Amazon, which may eventually be pushed out by Kindle. Same with yoga….? We’ll see….
    Insofar as the next step of de-programming different ex-AY teachers are doing, in terms of “owning” what they did and “owning” their “projections,” well, great — but I don’t think it’s either/or.
    I’m not excusing anyone’s naivete, but Friend was a business tycoon who played guru, but both business tycoons and guru can be and often are con artists. Con artists are the ultimate salesmen — they sniff out your longings and weaknesses and give you just enough to get you hooked in. They make their profit on the come-back — when you keeping coming back for more! They give you a little rope at a time, knowing exactly what their little gestures and comments have evoked, and they let your own projections do the rest. It’s a game between grifter and sucker.
    People like Friend knew their mark: young, well-heeled, idealistic, perfectionistic, insecure white women whose longings for community were twisted up with unacknowledged bloodthirsty mean-girl competitiveness.
    Just goes to show: the less you know yourself, and take responsibility for your shit, the easier you are to play.

    • @sha-sha

      I think if people really want to understand these situations it’s very helpful to not assume that there is malicious intent, but rather the best intent. Meaning: I have met very few people who actually intended to harm or swindle people. I’ve met a few, but they are rarities. What’s more at play here, and what I believe to be far more common, is a mixture of:

      • one parts really good intentions
      • one parts a desire to accumulate a vast amount of wealth (whether “consciously” or otherwise)
      • one parts “self” promotion as a means to gain “self” worth

      I find this to be a far more dangerous cocktail than just straight malice, and believe this to be the entry point to truly understanding how situations like the JFS come to be.

      • sha-sha

        Oh, well, sure, but MOST con artists are simply people who live in bad faith — in other words, people who believe that their intentions are only good, and are not being honest with themselves about the full spectrum of their own motivations and/or are simply not thinking a whole lot about the implications of/consequences of their actions for others down the line. And/or are just amoral and vapid, without being actively hateful. Maybe, like Friend in his latest video, their stoned and just riffing, and not thinking. Not thinking.
        That basically puts paid to the issue of “malicious intent.” It doesn’t matter. Who don’t have to actively, consciously be working to screw somebody in order for major screwing to go on.
        This is why I don’t agree with the emphasison intent in Americanized yoga and Buddhism, The road to hell, etc etc. How many imperialist missionaries, for example, destroyed or practically destroyed indigenous cultures all over the world while believing their intentions were positive? How many badly educated and/or naive social workers have worsened situations for people in need they were trying to help? The examples go on…
        Really, no one cares about the “purity” of anyone’s “intent.” “I didn’t MEAN to….” carries very little weight in the world of adult responsibility.
        Life is complex. There is a whole world outside considerations of “intent.” And that world matters. The rest of us have to make sense of and/or clean up the messes of those who acted “without malicious intent,” who who still, nonetheless, wreaked havoc.

        • Agreed. Of course, no one gets off the hook by what I’m saying. In fact, the hook is intended to go that much deeper. Once we start calling people “evil” or “malicious” without that really being totally the case, we end up relating to an idea—”The Evil Bad Man”—which ultimately takes the pressure off the person himself.

          • sha-sha

            Yeah, but as a public fracas, that was within a dynamic. I think the sustained fury is partly in reaction to/against the arrogance, denial and minimization of the Anusara crowd, originally, and the continued soft-pedaling of some of their buds.
            Re the vid: “This is sad. This is just…sad….” Sad? Really? I thought is was just kind of gross, the way it always is to see some one else drunk, stoned, and/or totally bs’ing.
            Also, many times the Friend camp reminded me of the Republicans, whose whole method in terms of PR and spin has been to tell a lie/minimization/spin and to keep repeating it until it’s taken by the public as truth. Or wait out a fracas, then go back to the same original line and keep telling it as if it’s truth, until it becomes the publicly-accepted version. This the public’s memory is so short, who ever spins loudest and last, unfortunately, often wins. And this has very much been an issue of public image.
            THAT is infuriating. And frightening. And then it’s VERY tempting to keep swinging.
            Oh well. Thanks for the exchange!

  10. sha-sha

    oh. shit, I meant “they’re” in the first paragraph.

  11. Em

    As a yoga teacher and outside observer, I’ve found this whole unraveling of Anusara fascinating, much like a car wreck from which you just can’t look away. As the phenomenon of Anusara (and Friend) grew over the past few years, I often looked at the “kula” as a popular clique, i.e.- something shimmery and endlessly cool, but kind of fake once you got up close. All of that lovey-dovey, Shri, heart-bursting-open chatter was just that! When the scandal broke and the first wave of angry comments decried JF Exposed, I knew that the illusion was broken; and by not speaking out immediately, that Friend was probably guilty of all the accusations.

    The saddest thing about it is the teachers who feel so lost and heartbroken. It’s like they’re former members of a cult. I hope that the main lesson that comes out of this whole deal is that young, impressionable yogis learn to trust themselves, and not a guru. I’m so glad I never tried Anusara!

    • Em:
      I had similar experiences to your observance of what it was like being inside, vs. outside the community. I put heart and soul into what I was doing, and I got a lot out of it for my life, body, relationships, and purpose on the planet. I have been educated on so many levels.
      Check this out though – all the teachers educated in the system have a lot to offer. The resigned and not-resigned. The practice speaks for itself through the individual teacher. I know for me, I’m opening in such dramatic ways that my classes are stronger, more clear, and coming from a deep place of knowledge. It’s a shame to say “I’m glad I never tried Anusara” – the practice is good. The founder is not. I still teach the method because it provides solid ground for every yoga student to do seriously good work on themselves from the inside out. Give it a try sometime, maybe when this all blows over.
      WO

      • wondering

        the” practice” is good, if the PRACTICE IS YOGA, not anusara, ashtanga, iyengar, power, blah blah blah

      • Em

        Food for thought… thanks! I meant to write that I was drawn to look into Anusara because of an awesome workshop of Desiree Rumbaugh’s, so I definitely think the method has lots of merit :) It’s good to hear that you got so much out of it, and that you continue to do so. Good luck!

      • gimme a BREAK warrior one!

        anusara is not better than OTHER methods. just do some yoga. asana, jnana, karma, iyengar, vinyasa, ashtanga. whatever the heck you do you will find the same openings. anusara is not a “method”, its a corporation. its just YOGA. jeeze, you are still confused after all this… you STILL think “the method” is a cool thing to say?

      • gimme a BREAK warrior one!

        it just KILLS me that you still have your head thinking your/the “method” is something special or beyond the other “methods”. KILLS ME! seriously. im sure you are a nice person. anything you’d put your heart and soul into would produce great results. that is just how it is. have you seen ever been around an IYENGAR teacher? or a serious Bhakti? or a really skilled Vinyasa teacher. or a really amazing kettlebells instructor? or how about a tai chi master? all awesome practices.

        • GMABWO,
          yes, i’ve been around all of those practices, and have enjoyed them, learned from them. and guess what? They’re methods, some of them even BRANDS; developed forms of yoga for particular teachings, particular ways of using the body, and teaching the teachings. Iyengar yoga has some of the highest standards of any form of hatha yoga around. I never said what I am doing is better, all I did was try to ‘coo’ EM away from dumping all AY classes and teachers. I’m not sure what you do for a living GMABWO, but I teach yoga full time. I didn’t act without integrity, yet I may take the brunt of it, as will many of my R and N-R colleagues. With all the disappointment we’re dealing with, that is an additional bummer.

  12. wondering

    I’ll expand a bit…teachers are students (the good ones anyway). Practice, learn, grow, share this w/your students w/out obsessing and limiting oneself to a “style/brand”. Yoga is far greater than any one style, nor was it intended to be a style/brand. Keep it simple and resist the need to possess any part of it, or to be in an exclusive/limiting “yoga school/club/group etc.” Humans and Americans more than most, tend to want to own things and then rate them. Yoga is beyond all that. As Thich Nhat Hanh teaches…breathe in and breathe out, enjoy the present moment. That’s all there is to it.

  13. J

    I think this interview would be of tremendous help to anyone who may want to understand why this so called ‘scandal’ has shaken so many people so badly.

    I met John Friend for the first time in 1999. I attended one of his workshops in 2000, and after being introduced to him by my teacher at the time, had a chance to speak with him one on one at length. Though I have known and (when I used to teach) taught alongside many senior Anusara teachers, I have not interacted with John Friend since.

    I feel that the person I see in the above mentioned video and photos is exactly the person I met more than 12 years ago. That he is driven to acquire personal wealth and power should surprise no one who has met him in even the most casual way. In the one conversation I had with him, I was half convinced at any moment he might start trying to sell me a time share. But a grifter? A dishonest charlatan? Not at all. He seemed harmless and a little confused.

    The Babarazzi have articulated far better than I might how absurd the sanctimonious reactions to news of his personal life have been; I won’t try to improve on what has been written here. If there was any malfeasance in Anusara Incorporated’s handling of their pension fund, well… shame on them. But not really so shocking. Again, others have written about it more than enough.

    I’ll add this though: let us not forget how painful embarrassment can be.

    It must be very hard to have defended John Friend (and his teachings, organization, methods of marketing, etc) for years, only to then be forced by circumstance to see him the way a great many of us have always seen him. Imagine if you had set yourself up as a teacher of yoga or a spiritual guide of some kind based on your proximity to John Friend. You’d now feel lost, cheated and perhaps most of all… embarrassed. Though we all have been there and will be again at some point, it’s never easy to be embarrassed.

    • This is a great comment.

    • sha-sha

      Actually, apparently there were MANY cases of Friend engaging in dishonest business practices.
      It sounds like all that happened is you met a guy you thought was pretty nice, if pretty obviously on the make for all kinds of things, and you don’t want to think badly of him.
      Well, most salesmen are nice. So are most con artists. That’s why it can be hard to tell the two apart.
      And again, the “sanctimony” you cite has many sources — not just in the guy’s actions, but in the enormous pious arrogance of the Anusara crowd. It was a real turn-off, but I’m glad that many of them have their eyes more open now.

    • wondering

      what I find intriguing is why one would set oneself up as ” a teacher of yoga or a spiritual guide of some kind based on your proximity to John Friend” a middle aged american fellow who seemed sincere, kind etc. is that enough to base your practice, spiritual path etc. on and to beleieve that to be the most meaningful path to a many 1000 year old spiritual tradition? but I guess I really wonder what is the appeal in these modern day average folk “gurus”? is it their familiarity to us, or their accessability? the average yoga practicioner may not be able to afford the time or money to travel to far off places and search out spiritual teachers, but I really don’t think folk should settle for convenience and then confuse it with the other. It’s ok to practice yoga for the practice and never become famous or be in the orbit of these self made “spriitual teachers/guides”.

    • gimme a BREAK warrior one!

      OR, let’s say you rode his coat-tails to yoga-lebrity status. you’re totally psyched he got called out, you still have your “fan” base and a special PAGE on FB b/c you went over your 5k friends limit, and now you don’t have to be affiliated! super WIN! im sure not one of the anusara people names that we all know regrets for a second they followed him. they would not be so known now had they not. he is a mogul, and brought a few dandies into the spotlight behind him! “JUICE UP YOUR CHAKRAS” “FIRE UP YOUR SHAKTI!” woo hoo! let’s drink that, call it kool-aid, and get some coffee.

      • GMABWO, i’d LOVE to sit for coffee with you, actually. Who you described isn’t me, not by a long shot, but lets go take a class together sometime. you choose
        WO

  14. yoga_muff diver

    Wow, congratulations Babarazzi. With this interview and stream, you have officially joined the ranks of the Yoga “Bleachers.” Actually, your “conversion” was faster than most. What, a couple of months? Well. you have ALWAYS been an incredibly quick study. And I guess you did have to join the club – to say viable. Of course you “sold out.” But no self-mocking irony at least? Now THAT’s what’s so disappointing….:o))))

    • Ah, yoga_muff.

      And, it only took you a quarter of the time to become “that guy.” Well done.

      • yoga_muff diver

        NICE TRY. Stick to the tried and true. You are actually living what for me is simply an ironic moniker. I am well and in good stead – always. Carry on, Dudess.

      • sha-sha

        Don’t bother.. That troll got here as “that guy.” Has been “that guy” everywhere else, always will be. What’s the cliche? “We cannot escape ourselves.” No “irony” possible when some one descends into a parody of themselves.. Hall of mirrors, etc. But I’m sure he;ll need the last word again, as ever….

      • The P

        Yeah, this character (Stewart J. L. ) has been “that guy” all over the yoga internet pages. If he’s not spewing here he’s over at EJ (yogasamarai), or on yogadork (Stewart j) or posting his anti-yoga/anti-woman stuff on his HuffPo blog. The amount of time he spends focussed on posting his negativity is disturbingly unhealthy. Get some therapy, bro.

  15. JJ Love

    Forgive me if I am redundant here- I don’t have the time to read all the posts….I just want to say that it’s really easy to hate a playa’.

    I have known JF for many years. And, sure, we watch that video and it is super ugly. Honestly it is so intimate it makes me feel a little shameful for watching it. But he is so clearly innocent. John’s heart is good, as is every heart. Fearless sometimes comes before discrimination, compassion, and humility. In the time frame of Spirit- this is a micro-blip.

    I like the analogy of the surf board millionaire. Maybe his ego was out of control- but we are only doing this lambaste on him because it is out of control in an INFLATED way. He is an “outy”. 99% of all other “yoga” teachers -especially the ones leading the Dr. Frankenstein torch wielding lynch mob against John- have egos just as out of control- more so even- only in more yin, “inny” alienated ways….sitting at their mac books trying to write a bio for their local yoga studio, or bleating out their public resignation letters on facebook.

    Of all of the totally ineffectual, lame-ass enterprises that people do- his enterprise actually did help a lot of people. And even now -in the Fierce Grace period- those same people are being helped even more when they are forced to move on from their infatuation puppy-love relationship with Truth to a more seasoned one. I know JF and I know his prayer (at least one of them) was “make me an instrument- whatever it takes”. Well, Grace heard the prayer.

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