Tuesday, March 13, 2012

WORST. YOGA. PHOTO. EVER.


Yoga Dork's excellent run-down on the accusations against John Friend, as well as links to a timeline of the scandal, can be found here. I'm posting this separately from the Elephant Friend interview (below) as I think the issues of what went down and how he is now handling the fall out in the press merit separate threads for discussion.

 Have at it yogis, yoginis and foregoinis!

73 comments:

Anonymous said...

Gosh, I don't want to enjoy this too much, but what craptacular fall from grace! Couldn't be worse and the full story isn't even out. See you should never direct your own PR. No perpsective. On a serious note, hope it stops all kinds of narcissitic nonsense. Many spend what they don't have seeking what Friend is shilling.

Seekher site veering close to an official guilty pleasure. :-)

Sad for many I realize. May their wounds heal quickly.

Anonymous said...

Glad you are (finally) taking this up here. This whole thing is the legacy of what the Siddha Yoga organization has bequeathed to us. The worst and most abused features of Anusara Yoga as a business and cultish phenomenon were appropriated directly from the methodologies of Siddha Yoga, not to mention the manipulation of teachings to exalt the authority of the 'Teacher.' Lot's to read on Yoga Dork, where the real discussion (and honesty) is taking place.

Anonymous said...

I'll repeat: JF drank the Kulaid and poisoned himself and his business.

What's going on is about yoga, it's about trusting ourselves, our impressions and inner voices. It's a very earthy yoga and that's part of the epiphany.

Anonymous said...

As I read a little of the discussion over at yoga snark? whatever...a word is used frequently by those defending Anasura and sticking with the teachings of John Friend.

This is the world 'lifestyle'. Yoga is a lifestyle. They frequently repeat that their whole life is yoga. Friend says it, many of the teachers say it.

Isn't it a gross denigration of this ancient wisdom to call it a lifestyle? Poor Pantjali!

I don't see these paths as evolution, but devolution. Abandoning oneself to the pleasure principle does not work long term. Loss of power and self. Not development.

Maybe there is hope for good things to come out of this scandal since Friend's yoga lifestyle just morphed into a Mind Blowing Recovery Program. Hey maybe John Friend will make another fortune! He's good at that!

Anonymous said...

Shri Patanjali please excuse my typo of your honorable name in comment above.

Anonymous said...

Really, the photo is wonderful. Not a single man seated on the floor in front of him. Dear dear.

older but wiser

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this, which pretty much tells the whole story in one photo! The New York Times used this photo in their 2010 article on the "Yoga Mogul". The subtitle to the photo was "Boss Pose", right on!

Even though Friend has (mis)stated that he never portrayed himself as a guru, he did like playing the guru role. He put himself right up on the altar, with all the statues of gods & spiritual paraphernalia surrounding him!

I agree with Anon at 12:07 - YogaDork has some great comment threads on this hot topic, for instance following their last article on this subject at http://ritualsofdisenchantment.blogspot.com/2012/03/friend-with-benefits.html.

I have enjoyed participating in that discussion over there (I signed with "IRM"). It is consoling to see somehow that many people see the connection between Siddha Yoga & its sister corporation Anusara.

Free At Last

Anonymous said...

Anusara staging is pure George Afif. Plush, but so tacky. Versace etc. Too bad for the Texan, bad role model.

Anonymous said...

John Friend Lifts His Leg on Yoga.

Perfect.

SeekHer said...

Just wondering--how come no comments on the previous post here with the John Friend interview?

Anonymous said...

Blog commenters are lazy (I'll speak for myself) and usually comment on the top posting...jusayin'.

I also have a not so polite remark for that most telling photo...yes ladies, 3 inches is this long.. you can delete Seekher..

Anonymous said...

SeekHer,

Yeah, I think a lot of bloggers' first impulse is to simply reply to the most recent post, regardless of whether it's the same topic as the one directly below it.

(This is what you discover when you make 2 posts on the same day, I guess.)

I thought the "3 inches" comment by the other commenter was uproariously funny. Perhaps this can become a ribald game at posting the most outrageous (yet still using clean language) possible captions?

Well, I'll "give it a go" as JF himself used to say when I studied with him 10 years ago:

1. "Next?"

2. "See what you're missin'?"

3. Hat tip to NBC's old "Friends" series: "How YOU doin'?"

Sorry if this crossed the line and offended anyone. I feel particularly punchy today and couldn't resist!

Anonymous said...

Just astonishing the instant gratification and immediate access we have in today's world. See below for a collection of resignation letters from dozens and dozens of former Anusara teachers.

http://bayshakti.com/anusara-controversy-overview-and-timeline

Anonymous said...

Anon 3/16 12:45 am,

Wow. That's quite a list of resigning teachers.

Am happy to see that my first yoga teacher ever from back to 1980's is part of that resigning group.

Anonymous said...

Geez, SeekHer these three concurrent threads are really putting my ADD to the test! For now I’ve decided to stay put here. Will keep my oar in this stream until your next entry entices me to paddle off elsewhere.

I want to return and respond to some of the themes raised under “Friend With Benefits”:

1) The “truncated” path of SY that has left many in “limbo” (bullseye word choices, BTW)
2) Birch’s request for concrete news on GM’s whereabouts/the original question that five years ago launched this blog
3) Free At Last’s comment that "things that seemed so vitally important to illuminate, I couldn't freely discuss them with any of my long-time center friends who had been my main community for 12 years +."

Last August, after receiving the link of pics from the Bade Baba celebrations and learning my last remaining devotee friend was in Fallsburg for the event, I decided to take the final big step in my exit from SY – a step I’d been delaying since the discovery of this blog and Marta Szabo’s book in 2007. That last big step was writing, then deciding to actually send the letter below . . .

Lucid

Anonymous said...

August 12, 2011

Dear friend,

This morning my mom sent me the link you shared with her to the recent celebrations in Fallsburg. Hey – who knew the party was still goin’ on?!

I must say, though I would expect nothing less, it appears no detail or expense was spared. The slideshow of precisely captured moments was beautifully done – the words “immaculate” and “pristine” come to mind. I imagine the occasion must have felt very special to those fortunate enough to be invited.

Seeing those pictures, and learning you are in back in Fallsburg with Gurumayi, prompts me unexpectedly to reach out and address something there is no best time or place for. (Uh-oh, what’s coming?). Perhaps you may wish to wait and read this after you return home.

I know your history with Siddha Yoga and relationship with Gurumayi have been and continue to be a significant part of your life, far beyond the definition of the word. I also know your history and relationship are very different from mine. (In fact, I’ve always thought everyone’s “connection” to Siddha Yoga was intimate, individual.)

But because the history you and I share pre-dates either of our introductions to Gurumayi, I don’t want to do to you what I feel Siddha Yoga did – make an “about face” in our relationship, then never address it.

What I want to say first – though at this point it probably goes without saying – is I am no longer on the Siddha path. I haven’t been for years. Stepping away was a gradual process and if you'd ever like to know why I decided to take a change in direction I’d be happy to share – but that’s not the point of this letter.

What I want most to let you know today is that even though we are now in “different places” about something that used to be a shared source of deep common bond, I still care about and love you – no matter what.

Partly because I feel so protective of our 3+ decade history I've refrained from saying anything about this prior to now. My delay was also partly due to first needing to deal with the grief I went through in the process of “leaving” Siddha Yoga. But frankly, as the years have passed, my departure and your continued participation hasn’t felt like something that was “okay to talk about." While on one level I understand my discomfort/ reluctance in bringing this up, avoiding the subject has made me sad.

You have been such an important part of my life and I don't like feeling there are topics “off limits” between us. I also question why this scenario seems to have played out in many other instances over the years, this apparent inability for those outside of Siddha Yoga to have much of a conversation with those still in. But then I recall, when I was still involved, feeling that only people who'd "met Gurumayi" really got it. Until that day arrived, there wasn’t any point in me trying to convince anyone of anything otherwise. Each person's path to understanding was their own. I was just grateful I knew what I knew.

That said, here I am today, having met Gurumayi and experienced what I experienced, no longer involved . . .

(cont'd in next post)

Anonymous said...

(cont'd from above)


My participation in Siddha Yoga was significant. I don’t regret any of it. My one and only summer in South Fallsburg was an experience to remember, and I credit you largely. On my last day, we went up for Darshan together. I couldn't speak, so you spoke for me. You shared with Gurumayi the highlights of my extraordinary visit and she listened intently, rhythmically bopping the the top of my head with her peacock feathers as I knelt beside you trembling. I thought my heart would shake free from my chest.

As history played out, that Darshan would be my last – the practice was withdrawn a few months later – and it will always be very special to me that I shared my final up-close encounter with Gurumayi with you, in South Fallsburg, in “the Guru’s home”.

Way back then I would never have expected the day would arrive when I’d look at pictures like the ones you just sent my mom and feel as if I was looking at something frozen in time. I would never have guessed something once so real, so front-and-center in my life and being would one day amount to, simply, a dozen photos embedded in a mass email link.

That doesn’t mean I think one bit less of the memories those pictures conjure – my soul used to swoon over such images – but looking at them this morning I'm struck by the very different place I’m in today.

At the peak of my involvement in Siddha Yoga, it felt right. Where I am now, away from it all, feels right too.

Funny, it just occurred to me: the connection between Ganesh being the “remover of obstacles” and my wish to address here what has at times felt like “the elephant in the room.” I hope this letter serves to remove an obstacle, not place one.

Although in recent years our lives (especially mine as a parent) have caught up with us and our contact is infrequent, please know you have and always will be a very special to me.

I’ve never known anyone like you and I know I never will. You remain among only a handful of people I've known as long, and through such formative years. There is only ONE you!


So. I’m not going to second-guess myself and let this letter sit suspended in my computer (and head) for weeks while I debate the pros and cons of hitting "send". As I said, we’ve known each other so long I don’t want to feel any more like there are things I can’t tell you.

And I would hate to think you were holding onto things you felt you couldn't tell me.

Regardless of how this is received (and I am going to say a little prayer), thank you in advance for hearing me out yet again, lo' these many moons.

Love,

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Lucid, for sharing that beautiful letter, trying to open up communication with someone you still cared about!

It is kind of a big topic, the care & affection for & shared history with friends who are still in the bubble... I actually find that since I have left the concept of SY behind, I am much more interested in the real human individuals. I don't divide people anymore into co-devotees (with whom I happened to be stuck with forever, because we are bonded together on the same path til eternity) & the other people who weren't quite as special & as fortunate to have a true guru and all that.

But it is hard to talk to the ones we left behind! I agree with what people shared here earlier - that is often kind of a disappointing interaction, and that they don't seem to be very present. And there is so much that we have to tiptoe around - the "elephant", or "Ganesh" (haha!) or whatever we want to call it. And I find myself also less & less willing to endure all the habitual SY talk coming at me on those occasions.

Lucid, now you also have to share with us what came of you sending that letter! Did it lead to some meaningful exchange with your friend? I could use some pointers on that - just this afternoon I received a message from a former devotee friend. She had told me at an earlier occasion that she has thought of calling me numerous times. She is that sort of "unwavering" authoritative SY person, with lots of years as GM's secretary to back up her innately strong personality.

I'm not quite sure how I will be able to hold up to her way of talking. At the same time, she was a good friend & seva ally, & even a professional mentor of mine at times. In general, I tend to seek harmony in interactions, and am not a particularly brilliant negotiator in verbal confrontations. So I will see how it will go talking with her. The problem is that in those kinds of conversations, across the invisible line in the sand, each party kind of thinks of the other one as somewhat (or even severely) deluded.

Free At Last

Anonymous said...

Re: "Just Living Is Enough" or "Questioning Everything"

Recently, I read some of Seekher's earlier blog entries which I had somehow overlooked when I first went through everything I could find online. I found that he/she had taken one of Lucid's write-ups from the Salon blog as a starting point. I remember that one phrase on there had become something like a fresh new invocation for me, a replacement "mantra" of sorts:

"I don’t meditate, chant or pray anymore. Just living is enough."

Such an amazing idea that life is enough without a big "spiritual" concept around it! Always focusing on how we were going to be more & more "purified" & closer to "enlightenment", the more "sadhana" we did. It is so nice not to have to use all those words anymore...

That was a perfect punch line for your share! And so refreshing for me to read, a little less than a year ago, when all of a sudden I had permission to question everything.

Questioning Everything - that, for me, has become a fun angle on life's complexity. Giving myself permission, exploring what else there is to question, now that I have left so many other crutches behind. The freedom to make the final decision myself, fearlessly asking "Do I still believe in this frame work over here, or will I be freer without it?". More often than not, I feel better off leaving it behind, at least for the time being.

For me right now, this includes random topics like astrology, yoga classes (where there is still a teacher up front), anything that sounds like an Indian doctrine of sorts, many things with the tag line "spiritual" or "mystical", anything claiming to be part of a "lineage" which supposedly puts it on a pedestal beyond doubts. So I am on the other side of the scale these days, a happy non-believer. It feels so good to be out in the open air & feel the breeze, outside of the bubble...

On the Bay Shakti blog in response to the AY (anusaragate) controversy, Michele Indianer shared that she used to wear a button "Question Authority" for many years in college. She grew up with Watergate in her formative years, which put her on guard re higher ups in power. I was too young at that time, & kind of missed that era, growing up in Europe. But I am living it full on now, and it is kind of exhiliating!

Free At Last

Anonymous said...

re: "Lucid, now you also have to share with us what came of you sending that letter! Did it lead to some meaningful exchange with your friend?"


Sorry to disappoint you, FAL, but it’s a bit of a non-epilogue.

A few minutes after I hit send, a reply popped back into my inbox. The time lapse between my email and my friend's was so abrupt I initially thought I'd received an automated response – one of those "out of office" notices, or maybe a delivery failure. From my side of the screen it was as if I'd hit send, blinked, and back came a reply.

I clicked the email open and there was her note. Just three short sentences.

I’m not going to reproduce her reply here, but essentially she wished me well in my life, however I chose to live it. And that was about it. One of those responses that speaks volumes based on all the things it doesn't say.

To me, the overall implication was that the Guru’s love continued, regardless of whether I believed in Siddha Yoga or not. And, although the sentiment may have been well-intended, it came across with a tinge of “You are free to feel what you feel, but the Guru is still the Guru.” (Again, not my friend's words. Just how they went in.)

Her response was so instantaneous and so abbreviated, my initial reaction was to second-guess what I was reading. I went back over her words several times, then double-checked the time-stamp on my email, vs. hers. Just a six-minute difference.

In hindsight, the upside of her immediate reply was it gave me no time to build up expectations, dwell on or worry about her potential reaction. After holding off on speaking up for years, wanting to protect her, our friendship, and myself, I got my answer right there in the moment.

Maybe part of me would've liked to think that because I was saying, "Hey, this is your friend of thirty years, and I want you to know our shared history is more important to me than some 'difference' we may now have," etc., that she would have offered something of herself in her return – even if it had been a direct "I don't want to talk about this with you!" Instead her response came back like one of those pre-printed greeting cards that contains only a signature. Sadly, this only reaffirmed for me everything about SY that by that point no longer needed reaffirming.

In the end, I expressed what I expressed. I called the elephant by its name. It was time for me to share how I felt, even if, as it turned out, it wasn't time for her. I still believe she knows the door remains open, but my gut tells me none of this will come up again.


In December I sent my friend a Christmas card, as I always do. I received one from her as well. But my email to her last August, and her reply, represents the last time we spoke.

Anonymous said...

Hello readers here, struggling to become free! :-)

If Douglas Brooks says shut down Anusara is anyone still trying to prop up yet another Siddha Yoga dog and pony show? Haven't kept up with Brooks but he has credibility as a doctor of philosophy, while John Friend has an MBA which served Friend well, but not the rest of us. It would be one thing to have a man overcome by weakness, but Friend's bad actions appear to be the actual modus op. Wasn't it L. Ron Hubbard who said wanna be rich start a religion? Still works. Oprah is working on hers. John Friend on his come back. Gurumayi just on chosen few. Religion for the select elect.

Still very grateful for the experiences in sy especially all the dear hearts and company of seek(hers). Keep it humble friends, your best guide in life. I am That! recipe for delusion for the untutored.

Anonymous said...

So many great thoughts presented on several threads. I wi be getting back to them, thinking about them. This blog and others helped me so clean my inner house of what was not mine. Thanks to each and everyone who has been on board these little vessels of light for those now and still looking to understand just wth happened on the way to enlightenment.

Truncated path, leading to limbo captures some of the state. Pushing the metaphor further are we waiting for a freaking second coming? How does the She really see this thing. Not what her minions say, but what she really really thinks is the future? Does she have rational capacity any longer or did believing she herself was God for way too long drive her right off the rails.

It was fabulous and great to experience myself as utterly one with the universe and everyone around me. Not just once but frequently and for extended periods, Did not change my worst faults. Certainly did not elevate me or make me better than anyone else. These windows into reality belong to everyone and are nothing more than information. Achieving these states deserves no special merit. Just means you spent the time. Not everyone has that kind of time. You think God won't talk to you unless you do YOGA??! The immaturity of the yoga community is a real problem.

Seeker I will try to go to the other thread:-)
Can only log in sometimes but value each visit. Thanks all.

Anonymous said...

To Anon March 20, 2012 8:34 AM who wrote:

“This blog and others helped me so clean my inner house of what was not mine.”

“It was fabulous and great to experience myself as utterly one with the universe and everyone around me. Not just once but frequently and for extended periods, Did not change my worst faults.”

“Achieving these states deserves no special merit. Just means you spent the time. Not everyone has that kind of time.”

So well said and clear. Especially like the refreshing take-back and new interpretation of “Getting Rid of What You Haven’t Got.” Whether the reference was intentional or not it did make me smile.

In addition to Dalai Lama’s latest, Beyond Religion, which I mentioned in another stream, it occurs to me there is also another book some here might find worth exploring. Written by three Bay Area psychiatrists (Lewis, Amini and Lannon), A General Theory of Love is a book about attachment and relationships that delves, in parts, into the very real impact our “limbic states” have on each another. Has anyone else here come across this title? AGTOL is not a book about cults or group-think, per se, but several sections jumped out at me and helped explain why I was vulnerable to and swept away by the SY experience, as well as why, in retrospect, SY had less and less of a hold on me as the relationships in my life outside it stabilized.

AGTOL also contains some welcome, compelling research on the very real power of our intuition – as I’ve shared here in the past, the realization post-SY that my intuition had always been with me was only thing that allowed me to walk away from the experience feeling sane.

Will share snippets below.

Lucid

Anonymous said...

A General Theory of Love
(Lewis, Amini and Lannon)

excerpts:
“Because limbic states can leap between minds, feelings are contagious, while notions are not . . . The limbic activity of those around us draws our emotions into almost immediate congruence. That’s why a movie viewed in a theater of thrilled fans is electrifying, when its living room version disappoints. It’s not the size of the screen or sound speakers (as the home electronics industry would have it), it’s the crowd that releases the storytelling magic, the essential, communal, multiplied wonder. The same limbic evocation sends waves of emotion rolling through a throng, making scattered individuals into a unitary, panic-stricken herd, hate-filled lynch mob, or fanatic congregation.”

"From the dawn of the species until a few hundred years ago, most human beings lived out their lives in one community . . . Today our society overlooks the drain on emotional balance that results from severing attachments. The signature lesson of the twentieth century is that unforeseen complications are ever the faithful companions of technological progress. The convenient devices that enable extensive mobility are problematic because limbic regulation operates weakly at a distance. We have the means to establish a peripatetic lifestyle, but we will never have the brains for it."


"The scientific study of intuition is just beginning. Researchers are already probing its power . . . As we move through the world we tend to presume that success comes from understanding. The brightness of rationality's narrow beam makes this supposition nearly inescapable. 'Reason is the substance of the universe,' Hegel crowed in and age when science still expected to explicate everything. But recent memory studies have intuition leading comprehension by a country mile; they reveal our lives lit by the diffuse glow of a second sun we never see."

from a Publishers Weekly review:
The Beatles may have sounded naive when they assured us that "all you need is love," but they may not have been far off the mark. New research in brain function has proven that love is a human necessity; its absence damages not only individuals, but our whole society . . . Because our culture does not sufficiently value interpersonal relationships, we are plagued by anxiety and depression, narcissism and superficiality, which can lead to violence and self-destructive behaviors. It is futile to try to think our way out of such behaviors, the authors believe, because emotions are not within the intellect's domain . . . Their claim that "what we do inside relationships matters more than any other aspect of human life" is a powerful one.

from an Amazon user review:
Exposed as children to imperfect relationships, many of us slip into the same stale and ineffectual patterns as adults, inexplicably falling for those who will hurt us, driving away those who don't, or habitually avoiding the intimacy that we need. No matter how senseless our behavior seems, we stick to the formula, married to conscripts of love that – time and time again – leave us broken-hearted. Enter this sizzling new book called "A General Theory of Love," which – with unsurpassed eloquence – explains why love confounds us and why it is finally within our grasp . . .

Anonymous said...

Great snips. Will check out.
Knowledge base on what we went thru is growing

Tell Lucid. Are we in
Limbic limbo perhaps? :-)
Friends discussions like this still help me many thanks for them.

Anonymous said...

Guys, guys, guys! Lucid here. Have no idea who Matthew Remski is but wow, lot's to chew on in here:

"My deal has been to focus on the incoherence between corporate and communal cultures . . .

My basic community-centered argument is this: notwithstanding figures like John Friend as both idols and phalli, the airplane and hotel-bound modus operandi of any transglobal yoga corporation will have a hard time fostering grounded relationship, because it mimics the alienation of all late-capitalist structures. How could it not? Either cynically or unconsciously, the corporation will try to hide its relational weakness behind escapist/transcendental philosophies, exclusive knowledge hierarchies, classist economic barriers, distractive marketing copy written in Shringlish, and the palm trees and spa robes of its resort-retreat-intensive gatherings. Eventually, the corporation will come to rely upon the weakened capacity for transparency amongst its adherents to continually conceal its obvious nature as a power system brokered by charismatic narcissists and their enablers. It will run on the carbon-heavy fumes of the spirituality of tyrannical happiness: the most despairing form of consumerism. This spirituality is a paper-thin consolation for guilt and despair. Tragically, it distracts adherents from serving all others and healing our ecology . . .

1. In yoga it is obvious that economies of scale obstruct relationship. Go big or go home? Let’s go home, thank you very much. Let’s think smaller.
2. Transglobal corporations need definable and saleable products. A Yoga Method with “Universal Principles” works well for its marketing, as we have seen. But a trademarked product cannot be a therapy . . .

. . . because it is in nature of trademarking to provoke the one-way relationship of producer and consumer. Consumerism derails the therapeutic.

If you wind up learning yoga in a honking convention hall, hungover from plane travel or carsick from the interstate and smelling like the mini-soaps in your hotel bathroom, you’re probably getting shafted. I think we can all feel that in our bones . . .

Can anyone continue to say in all seriousness that the method of Anusara is somehow distinguishable from the way in which John Friend and his teachers and his students related and continue to relate to each other? Did it really come from somewhere else? Does it really exist beyond the classes and conventions and somewhat-shrouded Gurumayi references that echo somewhat-creepy Muktananda memories and the parties and the workbooks and the syllabi of postures newsletters and levels of training?"

see full post:
grounding anusara 3: intimacy, methods, therapy, and making it open-source
by matthew remski
Mar 7, 2012
http://matthewremski.com/wordpress/?p=1439

Anonymous said...

Remski is just another Marxist Occupod un-grounded in the reality of how things work.

Nothing to see here. I'm moving along.

Anonymous said...

And this too. Had not heard the term "Spiritual Bypass" before. Makes a perfect title for my SY memoir.

"Spiritual bypass is a phrase coined in transpersonal psychology (psychology that sees spiritual development as fundamental to psychological growth) to describe using spiritual jargon or practices to unconsciously side-step or avoid difficult psychological process. For example, we may be someone who has developed an avoidance of personal relationships due to our own wounding and so we choose a spiritual practice which has jargon we can use to support this defensive pattern and therefore “heighten” it as a spiritual choice rather than facing it as a psychological growth edge."

from:
Integrating the Shadow
Maturity in the practice: Where do we go from here?
by Darcy Lyon on March 7, 2012
http://bayshakti.com/integrating-the-shadow

Anonymous said...

Thanks for links ppl.
Swahah!

Anonymous said...

You say "Marxist" like it's a bad thing. ;)

Anonymous said...

In my opinion "Marxist" IS a bad thing. A very, VERY bad thing.

My family suffered terribly under those who espoused that political philosophy as an excuse for a reign of terror and suspicion in the old Soviet Union. I have close friends who left China that have told me very similar stories from their lives in the People's Republic.

A lot of left-leaning Americans seem to think Marxism is a good thing. They are thinking of theory, not reality.

Ask anyone in my position whose origins are from a totalitarian Marxist state which system they would choose, Marxism or capitalist free enterprise. The answers from those who lived it may actually surprise you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for Lucid for including Matthew Remski in our discussion here! I also had never heard of him, but chewed on all his three articles on Grounding Anusara. Definitely some heady stuff & it's worth revisiting. I was a little too late, coming across it in Elephant Journal, to join their discussion thread when it was current.

I don't think we can entirely write him off as a Marxist, he sounds more like a revolutionary poet to me. He is definitely a fan of old-fashioned, small scale traditional Ayurveda, one-on-one healing with home-grown herbs. Since Ayurveda is also among the ideas I am currently rebelling against, I'm not so into it, but I still think he is making a good case for it. I do appreciate his subtlety & the time he invested in this topic. Fortunately (IMO) people take the way he writes seriously & his contributions have taken the AY discussion to an interesting level.

I like his emphasis on staying put instead of contributing to global warming, like all the Anusarais who constantly had to chase JF around to the next "conference-center love-in" - as he coins it somewhere. When I read that, it did bring up images of the Mega-Maha SY retreats & summers in SMA that we all felt compelled to travel tom, even if our families, jobs or bank accounts couldn't really support it. Always looking for the next fix, always getting closer to the carrot of enlightenment...

I also liked his recommendation for JF to eat veggie root soup & do gardening & volunteer in a soup kitchen. He says that talk therapy usually doesn't work well for Vata-imbalanced sociopaths because of their "windbagism". I also like his term "Anuland" & "Nonusara". He really got into it, deconstructing it in a thoroughly irreverent way that made me laugh - since being irreverent is also top on my list of favorite things to do these days :)

I couldn't quite keep up with the intensely smart & intellectual dialogue on his comment threads. But I'm glad people are getting into it at this level.

"Spiritual Bypass" is a wonderful term, & I would love someone's SY memoir (or AY memoir) with that title! Very promising indeed. BayShakti had some great articles in this discussion, thanks for the reminder. I had devoured so much on this topic, that some of it didn't really take root, and I had forgotten about that essay on "Integrating the Shadow".

This unfolding of the Anusara implosion continues to be very exciting to me! Like someone said here, it is instant gratification because we can access it so easily & in the "age of foreverism" no single organization can suppress all the voices.

It is also so encouraging to see how many people are making up their minds. This is the kind of consciousness-raising that I want to be a part of! Even though I don't care much about all the 2012 talk these days, this kind of movement out of the enforced conformity really feels very expansive.

In kind of a cosmic way, I am relishing my new growing peer-group of betrayed seekers (not quite sure I like that word anymore, but I'll try it). So many also just went through an earthshaking experience of betrayal of trust & are now starting to feel the wind of freedom under their wings!

I am delighted to see the gems of writing, not just in the articles on AY, but from all the people contributing to the discussions afterwards.

Anonymous said...

One more thing that I liked about the Matthew Remski's approach: He seriously questions what people mean by saving "the teachings" of AY. Basically it is all an entangled mess, all the talk about preserving the "principles of alignment" that AY was so proud of & branded so well.

"Can anyone continue to say in all seriousness that the method of Anusara is somehow distinguishable from the way in which John Friend and his teachers and his students related and continue to relate to each other? Did it really come from somewhere else? Does it really exist beyond the classes and conventions and somewhat-shrouded Gurumayi references that echo somewhat-creepy Muktananda memories and the parties and the workbooks and the syllabi of postures newsletters and levels of training?"

That superior AY method in my eyes is just as bogus & made-up as the "inspired leader & founder" at the top. When people now put the "sacred channeled method" on a pedestal, they are still believing in something out there, a tradition, a lineage, that will be their salvation.

It is also comforting to see how many SY references do show up in the AY debate, and how thoroughly demystified the brand SY seems to be in those circles. I forget that sometimes, since so many people that I was friends with are still head-over-heels in love with it - or rather, they are attached to their memories of the experiences they once had in SY.

Good to see that the outside world does not regard the dark side of SY just as "rumors of a few disgruntled ex-devotees".

Anonymous said...

Spiritual bypassing is a well-known way people's minds work to avoid emotional pain. The term has been around for a while. John Welwood, who coined the term originally, has written about it in a way I think is wise, coming from both a psychological and a spiritual (Buddhist) perspective.

It was so common in SY--rationalizing unethical or unkind behavior with some reference to absolute truths. "It's my karma." "She's working on my ego." "It's just the lesson I need to learn right now." It's what allowed the sexual abuse to be accepted, and what allowed GM's humiliation of people to be accepted, and right on down through the hierarchy.

older but wiser

Anonymous said...

Anon at 6:37,6:47

Thanks for sharing some of AY discussion here. I am still relishing my freedom from the SY brainwash. Everyday I am grateful not to have an interior guru. That whole concept of inculcating another person into oneself seems a corrupt and alien practice to me now when i first read about it I was so keen on it, but it made me frankly delusional. Anusara Yoga, Siddha Yoga are not about freedom but enslavement. As our host says ..."when the guru has us spell bound how can we ever be free?"

Human conciousness is evolving but these paths are just the usual carny sideshow. This is not spiritual it's just business. Incorporated profit seeking people, where can they lead? To THEIR bank account! :-)

Peace everbody

Anonymous said...

For those interested in the subject, here's a link to a page on John Welwood's website with an interview he did last year on spiritual bypassing. Good insights, I think:

http://www.johnwelwood.com/articlesandinterviews.htm

The interview itself opens as a Word doc, not a web page.

older but wiser

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the Welwood link, I look forward to checking that out. I loved reading his books on couple therapy, like "Love & Awakening: the Spiritual Path of Relationships", or something like that. I trust his voice & he writes well about acknowledging & incorporating our shadow sides.

I also really appreciated reading Jack Kornfield's "Path with a Heart", the chapter on "The Emperor's Clothes: Problems With Teachers", not sure if I mentioned that somewhere already.

Anonymous said...

Jack Kornfield shout out definitely. His work has been mentioned in these threads by our dear older but wiser I believe :-) Kornfield onto risks involved in paths that led you to doors inside yourself you did not know existed. Big help.

Anonymous said...

An article in Elephant Journal by one person who had a yoga and guru odyssey - and a very painful one.

"The Downside to Down Dog" by Kelly Grey

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/08/the-downside-to-down-dog-by-kelly-grey/

Problem is heavy exposure to the mindset of yoga and ashrams can leave sincere people's self protective instincts blunted.

This can make the aspirant sadly vulnerable.

Its similar to persons who are talented artists and find it difficult to reconcile the open ness needed to create their art with the shrewdness needed to protect themselves from being ripped off by commercial sharks with well developed egos who are great at speaking soulfully but only to get deeper into the pockets and hearts of artists and yogis/yoginis.

How to look after oneself and at the same time be a yogi/yogini is a hell of a balancing act.

Anonymous said...

Hey Free At Last, this is from an earlier comment of yours in another stream I am just now getting back to:

"My local friend went back last summer, in July ‘11, for 2 weeks, for more seva in the same department. Apparently, she saw GM quite a few times during her stay. She shared at our center about GM talking in staff meetings, scolding people that they weren’t welcoming enough. She had them do role plays, working on being more welcoming."

1) Thank you for the image the above conjured and the hearty laugh that image provoked.
2) GM's been "Guru" for nearly three decades and is still struggling to train her peeps on the basics.
3) If there was any doubt still left that I got out while the gettin was good and haven't missed a thing since, the above shoots that doubt right between the eyes.

Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Hello Cheers, glad you got something out of that account ! It reminded me that I had wanted to share another story re recent sightings of GM. Not that it relates closely to JF's photo... but her it is:

This is the story of a young man (now he is close to 30) who was on staff in SMA for 4-5 years I believe. He left in the summer of 2011. We are friends with his parents who live locally, so we have been getting intermittent reports on his experience on staff for those years. When his parents heard about our transition away from SY, they asked to meet with us. They wanted to ask us some candid questions that they couldn't ask anyone else in the SY community. We heard some revealing stories about their son's experiences on staff and their growing uneasiness for him to be there.

According to his parents, from the very beginning he was running himself ragged with doing seva 24/7, heading a major and understaffed technical department.
Another college-age friend of mine who used to go do seva with him on weekends confirmed that he was always crazy busy. Trying to do the impossible, like many of us did at times with our devotion to seva. (A picture comes to mind of the 45,000 Brussels sprouts that had to be prepped for a holiday, as someone had shared before).

His health was not so good, probably as a result of the pressure and hardly taking time for himself. During his first two years there (maybe around 2006 & 2007?) we also had heard that he felt lonely, with few peers his age around and trying to adjust to life in the cold catskills in an ashram with a now much smaller population.

This young fellow was good-looking and in his early twenties when he started his career on staff full-time. He was talented, devoted and willing to give himself completely. GM had taken interest in him since he was a teenager doing seva & had given him special attention when she saw him doing seva on retreats etc on the West Coast.

The longer he stayed in SMA, the more GM asked him to take on public sevas, like Mc'ing and being in Foundation meetings. That was in addition to running his department as a one-person army. He felt a lot of pressure, the whole time he was in SMA. Of course, he was also proud to be singled out & get a lot of personal attention from the leader. His mom felt that Gurumayi really had her teeth into him (my words, but that was what it sounded like, drawing him closer and closer into the inner circle and cultivating him as one of her special young people.

He finally managed to make up his mind and move out to NYC last summer (2011) where he is still connected to SY circles. He had stayed in the ashram many more years than he had initially intended. It sounded like his skills and everything about him were a great asset there. Since there are fewer young people in the ranks of Siddha Yogis these days (to put it mildly), I picture he was an important part of putting a young face on SY. Reminiscent of that tradition of inviting that kids, teenagers & young adults to sit close up to GM in programs, or do seva as lead chanters & darshan girls.

To be Continued -
Free At Last

Anonymous said...

Continuation:

His parents long for him to find his own life and independent path. When he left the ashram, GM told him that "he will be back". So he still feels a lot of tension around that. One reason why he was able to move out was that he wanted to have a relationship which he couldn't see himself having in SMA (It is kind of an isolated place to live, now that the sound of "all things Siddha Yoga has been turned down to an almost imperceptible hum" - as someone put it here somewhere.)

His mom also felt that the ashram staff set up was not family-friendly at all. It was difficult for her to be in touch with him & she could not see him as much as she wanted to for many years. Many of us must know how that is, when you are completely enthralled with your seva, any relationships outside of the immediate ashram environment fade away and there is no time to stay in touch. She also felt conflicted, because their son got into SY at an early age, through his parents. It was very interesting for me to get such a real-time, close-up at life in SMA, hearing that the same manipulations & control issues are still going on around GM - albeit on a smaller, less public scale, with less staff etc.

In all fairness, the fellow I am speaking about would probably tell this story differently. I attribute that to him still being "under the influence" of GM's spell & her direct command to keep serving her. For me, it painted a picture of GM still playing the role of the all-powerful commander for the smaller group that she is surrounding herself with. Even though for some unknown reason she doesn't make herself available as a public guru figure, she still seems to be pulling all the strings for those "sevites", exerting the same kind of mind control & directing their lives.

Free At Last

Anonymous said...

FAL,

Your young friend remind me of...well, ME. Somewhat.

I got into SY in 1980 at the age of 19. I was so devoted to Muk, and later to GM and her bro (mostly out of reverence for Muk), that although I never became an ashramite, a LOT of decisions - - critical, trajectory-of-one's-life, life altering level decisions - - what kind of work to do, who to associate with, how to spend my time...even who to marry (another SY'er, naturally since nobody else could possibly share or understand that wonderful magical gift of a path (yes I'm being sarcastic now, but really saw it as such then))...were ENTIRELY driven by SY as the primary consideration.

Somehow I knew inside that ashram life would not fit me. Yet I was as devoted as a non-ashramite devotee could be.

Now...going on 7 years after having left SY and seeing things for what they truly were...that I was in a CULT in every aspect of the word...there are just SOOOO many of those life-altering decisions I revisit in my mind, that I would decide differently had I had (at the time) the added 30+ years of wisdom that increasing age and life experience bring.

Regrets? I've had a few.
More than a few, actually.
Because I DIDN'T do it "My Way".

(All as a result of the overpowering influence I allowed - - yes, ultimately it WAS my own fault, I acknowledge that -- allowed SY to have over my life.

I know I should not dwell on a life not lived differently, more independently.

I know it is a waste of my mental, emotional and physical energy, not to mention the remaining time I have left on this earth.

But it is SO difficult to not wish I had made other choices along the path of my life, well-reasoned and not driven by SY considerations.

To all the readership here at ROD, I'm sorry if this post is sad, is a downer.

But FAL, I'm point this out, so I can urge you to have your young friend read this post. PLEASE.

Because I truly, truly, truly do NOT wish for him to wind up like me in 20 or so years. Where I am in regretting my SY involvement is truly NOT a fun place for a human being to be at.

Hopefully, hopefully, I pray he will read this post, and have the wisdom at a relatively young age, to spare himself the pain and sadness at the pathways not taken, because I let others do my thinking for me, rather than fully independently determining my key life decisions for myself.

Perhaps I'm thinking wishfully here. I fully acknowledge that if some old codger in his 50's tried to tell me at age 19, 20, even age 30, what I'm trying to convey right now, SY had me so starry-eyed, I probably would not have listened even IF it were possible for me to hear myself from 30 years in the future, trying to advise the me from back then.

But perhaps, just perhaps, your young friend will "get" the message I've tried to convey here, and shake himself off, and be entirely FREE to live his life without ANYONE else's influence but his own un-influenced judgement and "discrimination".

Signed,

Down and "Out" (as in out of SY).

Anonymous said...

Down and Out. Very well put. Sometimes I wonder if it was just me? No, I decide. Especially when I think of my marriage to another SY devotee. I'm in my 50s now was late 20s when I married. Ex was Indian and co-guru gave us his blessings. Living in New Delhi I learned ex's personallity quarks were dangerous. I got a book and learned he had a serious mental illness. When he pushed me once and only once, I went to Swami Hemananda for help. She said, (OK I'm laughing now, so absurd in retrospect) trust in the guru. Well, I remembered my mother imparted to me that no one hurts me. Managed to extracate myself to Ganeshpuri. I asked Mr. Guru, who knew of my husband's problems, why he didn't tell me. He said "I thought you knew". That would have been nice, and that, friends, was spiritual bypassing on his part. Like everything, there was the good and the bad. And there are the scars which have affected my life since then. You know, a trauma supported by a trusted teacher who had a blindness. When Mr. Guru "stepped down" I had to laugh. And laughed some more when I learned the truth. It doesn't have to be so harsh, to those who wonder. And in this day, I think there are better paths. I believe it was Chogyam Trungpa who coined spiritual materialism, and I thought, spiritual bypassing.

Om Shanti, Blue

Om shanti, Blue

Anonymous said...

When GM ok'd people's relationships that was the signal that they wouldn't last. I think she was just playing with their heads.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for those comments, I would love to say more, but I have to run.
I just wanted to post a link to a new article on John Friend in the Washington Post, yesterday's edition. It is kind of a non-secretory, but definitely relevant to the Anusara debate. http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/scandal-contorts-future-of-john-friend-anusara-yoga/2012/03/28/gIQAeLVThS_allComments.html?ctab=all_&#comments

The article is amazing, lots of powerful facts & new information! Douglas Brooks is quoted, asking JF to resign, to save AY from becoming "another fallen yoga cult", I like that phrasing.

Among many other people, it quotes Jeff Barrett, former personal assistant of JF’s. He reports on how JF ordered him to assist with juggling his sexual pursuits, & “stashing” girl-friends in different locations at the same time, like a hotel and his own house etc.

Jeff was fired because he voiced concern about JF putting him in the position of receiving a large container of marijuana for him. Jeff actually was driving around with it, unknowingly, since he was in charge of JF’s personal mail. He was fired for “disloyalty”.

I’m really glad so many people went on the record for this article. I think this is indisputable. The way it is put together … this is just what was needed to convince anyone who might still be on the fence. It covers the business aspects that were getting more and more fishy, and the whole history.

And it comes from the reputable source that brought us Watergate many decades ago. Nobody will be able to say anymore this is all just rumors. Oh well, and if they do, they will be in the minority of really stubborn followers.

The comment section underneath the article is going wild, I’m sorry that I will really have to go packing right now …. I am going to the old country, visiting my parents & family, and the blogosphere will be beyond my reach there. Hope to back here after my return!

Seekher, I believe the Post article would deserve a new blog post - it looks to me like it could be the equivalent for the 1994 New Yorker article, for Anusara. It is kind of impossible in my eyes to read this & still have any doubts about the dark sides of this organization, SY sister company of sorts.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to sign - Free At Last
Happy reading & posting!

Anonymous said...

Forgot to sign - Free At Last
Happy Reading & Posting!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
When GM ok'd people's relationships that was the signal that they wouldn't last. I think she was just playing with their heads.
March 29, 2012 8:51 AM


That, or she was simply exposing (if unintentionally) her lack of personal experience, generally poor judgment when it came to relationships in general, and terrible taste in men.

How many people did GM marry back in the day? Anyone have a success story? The one couple I'm aware of was comprised of GM's then-seamstress and a fellow whose picture can probably be found posted in Wikipedia next to George Afif's -- under the definition for "Creep". That particularly abusive marriage dragged on for years before ending in divorce.

Endless the list of examples of how this path that purported "looking within" fostered an environment that continually compelled us to do the exact opposite. I looked to GM for many, many, things but, thankfully, endorsement of my romantic relationships was not one of them.

Anonymous said...

Please forgive me for careening slighty off topic but, Jesus, Mary and Oprah! Anyone catch Ms. Winfrey's hour-long infomercial for the Fairfield, Iowa TM community last Sunday? TM has the run of the place: grade school + high school + college + adult daily life all centered around the practice. Entire community meets to meditate same time twice daily beneath two massive domes that make the Mandap look like a Hair-Dini shopping mall kiosk.

Okay, okay, far worse things a group of folks could be doing with their time than stopping the world for desingated daily doses of quiet. But my understanding is Maharishi, like most gurus who lived as large, has his own, um, colorful past... yet Oprah's special barely mentioned his name. One of the most probing questions, presented in such a non-threatening way Oprah may as well have been pressing the TM townsfolk to her bosom as she asked it, amounted to "What does mediation do for you?" But of course she already knew the answer to that one.

Perhaps, as seems to be the natural inevitable evolution of many such paths, at a certain point the community began to separate the teachings, and themselves, from the teacher. It may have been due to where Oprah's cameras were and were not allowed but I didn't spy a single gold-framed guru photo on the lot. Though Oprah did pass one small altar arranged around a Maharishi quote which she paused to read aloud, something fairly standard and innocuous about meditation leading to the discovery of the self within, and furthermore, and thus and such.

Having fantasies once upon a time that Oprah and Gurumayi would meet -- the latter has most certainly known about the former for decades through the numerous devotees were regular guests on her show -- I got a bit of a warped thrill watching Sunday as Ms. W. slipped out of her Louboutins in the shoe room, padded into the sprawling meditation hall and sat beneath the planetarium style dome with 1000s of others in silence. The whole thing gave me a visual feel for what it would look like if SY had become a reality show. Can you imagine? "This week on 'Spiritual Bypass' Adam is assigned the seva of scrubbing toilets, Denise changes her name to Urveshi, and Carolyn takes her third Intensive -- will the third time be the charm? Stay tuned!"

http://www.oprah.com/own-oprahs-next-chapter/Oprahs-Next-Chapter-Americas-Most-Unusual-Town

Anonymous said...

I heard that Oprah had a private 3 hour meeting with GM.

Anonymous said...

Same goes for Streisand who went to Fallsburg for a private darshan early 90s just prior to embarking on her first tour in decades.

Anonymous said...

Thank god Oprah wasn't taken in, if she did indeed meet with GM. Though actually if she had started to promote it, the media would probably have jumped on the abuses. SY would be a bigger story if Oprah were even tangentially involved.

Streisand's husband James Brolin was a long-time SY guy, along with his first wife and kids. I don't think Streisand went for it. I don't know if Brolin is still involved.

SY's best hope of continued existence is to lie low. I doubt the Eat, Pray, Love connection was helpful, given the Salon article and its fallout. "There's no such thing as bad publicity" does not hold true for gurus (or yoga superstars).

older but wiser

Anonymous said...

It surprises me that the media following the JF story haven't glommed more firmly onto the GM/Muk connection JF had...or connected the sordid details on one mirroring the other.

Anonymous said...

THAT is the one article that has not yet been written.

Perhaps someone somewhere is working on it as we speak . . .

Anonymous said...

Hey FAL,

Thanks for the heads up on the WSJ article. I just finished it. On the hand, more and more of the same old same. (And sorry, this may be unfair, but his ex-girlfriend -- who states it was no big deal JF cheated on her and who later went on to marry one of her own students -- comes across as having taken her share of bong hits off the contents of a certain special delivery.) On the other, the article does (though not overtly and without realizing it) illustrate particularly well how influenced by and modeled after you know who and you know what AS was/is. So much in there straight outta the Baba & Co. playbook, so much readers here will recognize, right down to the goofy fire twirlers and hula hoopers performing at one of JF's big yoga expos (think GM's birthday extravaganzas back before the beginning of the end). I suspect the striking comparisons are largely lost on anyone w/o a SY or similar frame of reference. Hence all the comments below the article to the tune of "Who cares?" and "Why is this news?"

Just one small example in which RoD readers will immediately recognize the SY influence:

"Barrett, the former personal assistant, said Friend was focused on juggling his sexual relationships and keeping them secret. Barrett said Friend asked him to send a different gift to one girlfriend on each of the 12 days leading up to Christmas, including earrings and a monogrammed robe. It was Barrett’s job to arrange accommodations for Friend’s girlfriends, sometimes stashing one girlfriend at a hotel while the other stayed at the modest home in the Woodlands that Friend inherited after the death of his mother."

I know I've been plenty flip throughout my posts here and elsewhere but reading the WSJ article just now I realize there is an element to all this that presses against a spot that's apparently still a little sore -- that spot that eventually closed over and healed, that now phantom limb of loss and grief that lingers post-amputation, post de-installation of SY.

There is a deeply sad element all this AS "news" dusts up that I guess I can only describe as my disappointment in our human fallibility, and my wish for us all to do better. This latest "spiritual community" scandal thrusts into the headlines once more very real aspects of the full spectrum of human behavior that are still, for me, a bit of a tough sell. There is still part of me that would prefer to wave a magic wand and make it go away. If I had my druthers I'd rather not have to acknowledge that this is part of the truth of who we are and what we do as humans. Not running away anymore – trying to be a grown up, here – but just still find myself tempted on these occasions to reach for my old pair of rose-colored glasses. I guess that's either a surprise or just further proof of my own particular human tendencies.

No wonder, back in the day, I was such a glutton for the big-budget, Original Broadway Cast version of Spiritual Bypass. No wonder I fell hook-line-and-sinker for all that "Thieves of the Heart" mumbo-jumbo. Remember how SY told us to rise above our desires? Remember how SY told us we should aspire to be better than what, as it turned out, is often just our own human nature, warts and all, playing itself out? SY didn’t want us to look at the warts. SY told us the warts were delusion. SY told us to "let them go". SY told us only that which was positive was real. What a great self-defense that was for them! Astonishing isn’t it, to think back for a moment and picture yourself sitting cross legged in all those programs and Intensives, swaying and swooning, drunk on Gurumayi – and then juxtapose that image with the realization that so much of what we were being fed had only one purpose: keep the organization alive.

Anonymous said...

(cont'd. from above)

Reflecting on all this reminds me once more what a different place I was in when I fell before the guru's feet, and even what a different place I was in the handful of years ago I shifted my exit process into 4th gear. I don't let GM or SY off the hook, so to speak, but somewhere along the way their behavior in all of this became beside the point. The relationship I was having was never with them anyway. GM and SY never did and never will know who I was, who I am or what I'm going through. And that's just fine by me.

It feels good to be able to check in here with all of you, even if it is only every few years or so when some SY-related headline hits. For some reason dramas of this nature continue to play out and be reported and when they do it feels good to stop by RoD and see where everyone is, how we are all coming along in the process. Thank you, SeekHer. Glad you've given us this space to keep moving ourselves and the conversation forward.

Lucid

Anonymous said...

Here's something to look at that I think is related to the discussion of AY: did it ever seem odd to anyone that in Fallsburg, the "bookstore" (I use quotation marks because really it was more of a gift shop) was right between the meditation hall and the shoe room? You come out of the meditation hall, feeling all warm and fuzzy, and the first thing you see is merchandise! Beautifully displayed material goods, all blessed and supposedly there to help you awaken.

Knowing what I know now about the way a mind in samadhi can attach to whatever object is presented and become absorbed in it--I don't think it was accidental, the placement of the bookstore. It was there, to quote Lucid, "to keep the organization alive." Quite opportunistic, manipulative--using our meditative states to increase desire for products.

(Minor correction: article FAL linked was in the Washington Post, not the WSJ.)

older but wiser

Anonymous said...

OBW,

Not to sound caustic, but...it's 2012. Was this literally the first time you had that realization about the bookstore?

Of COURSE that was intentional!

My memory of SF in the early 1980s is fuzzy but if memory serves accurately, the Anugraha bookstore (Anugraha was all there was in those days) was located where it was in Muk's era...back when the whole building was simply named "Shree Nityananda Ashram".

So if I'm remembering correctly, the location of the bookstore pre-dates GM.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, OBW. Good catch on WP vs. WSJ. You see what decades of japa do to a person?!

And yeah. “Please exit through the gift shop.” But really no different from the set up found at any other number of organizations, touristed churches, “holy sites”, museums, etc. We do like our trinkets. SY especially knew we’d be too stoned to do anything other than rush to get our hands on all that sparkling merchandise. It's almost as if in those sensational, blissed out states we were desperate for something real to hold onto. Yet so much of what the bookstore offered seemed sterile and corporate once you got it home. I think of all the times I tried to defend and justify that pricey spread to newcomers I’d brought along – especially the random crap like leftover peacock feathers from some remodeled room in GP, and ALL THOSE PHOTOS! To the uninitiated the whole set up was a blatant, shameless lure. Like, hey how gullible are these suckers?! Totally played into our obsessive-compulsive need to “own” an experience, which in this case was the equivalent of trying to own a set smoke and mirrors. “Devotees will want this,” I can hear them saying in their endless marketing dept. meetings. The whole thing reminds me of those Disney movies where the evil Emperor seduces the unsuspecting pauper away from his better judgment with an entrancing mirage of imaginary jewels. You want to scream, “No Aladdin! Don’t do it!” But it’s too late. In the face of such sophisticated magic he’s powerless.

Anonymous said...

Great comment, Anon at 10:45 AM. We were blinded by our desire, for sure. And when I think of things I valued--a pen with a "message" printed on it, a little glass heart, an embossed candle holder, etc--so much of it was swag, the kind of thing you walk away with bags of from business conferences. I mean--coffee mugs!! Seriously?? I was so deluded.

And Anon at 10:06, sure I assumed they put the bookstore where it was to catch the traffic from the hall, but it wasn't until the past couple years that I started to see that they were exploiting not just our presence there in large numbers, but the state of our minds after coming from an intensive session or chant or some other mind-altering event. It is only in the last few years that I began to understand the way a mind in samadhi will glom onto things in an obsessive way, and give them great significance. It's a fact of meditation practice I was not consciously aware of, even after experiencing it for years. It can get you in trouble in many ways, one of which they took advantage of with the bookstore there in the "main building".

OBW

Anonymous said...

Oh, and also I misspoke, bookstore was between shoe room and amrit, not before the shoe room, of course.
OBW

Anonymous said...

Thanks writers all. Nice to stop and find your thoughts. Oprah getting into LGAT techniques seems logical evolution for her. Her OWN network is a bust. Using more intense psychological manipulation next up. But will they work this time? Just was an article on how an Oprah's book club has not created a world of readers. Just sales. Ha!

Anonymous said...

Hey spiritual warriors and friends,
Just wanted to hop on here and say thanks to our host and company here. I feel supported even when not reading. That's good company. May your spirits all feel the season's renewal.

Anonymous said...

The Anusara dustup has validated why I no longer felt comfortable in SY. For that I am grateful. This guru need has spilled over to many other types of corporate manipulative product selling businesses. In my business they love a good yarn about the "new paradigm". Many intelligent people buy into the future happy happy talk rather than plain old hard work and self effort. Typical....think big, have a hard time actualizing the dream into reality, leave a mess in the middle of the project so others must come in and clean up the mess. Using critical thinking is liberation. Happy liberation during this holiday time.

Anonymous said...

Corporate yoga = Oxymoron.

Anonymous said...

Friend in a new interview. http://nymag.com/news/features/john-friend-yoga-2012-4/?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link to the JF article in the New York Mag - surprising that the writer actually got to talk to him, since it sounded like JF was denying all interview requests, and the Washington Post couldn't get him to comment on anything.

An article worth reading for anyone interested in the topic, with lots of pieces in the puzzle that were news to me. I just saw that Yoga Dork did a review of the article, with a comment section starting below it. http://www.yogadork.com/news/new-york-magazine-on-john-friend-karma-crash-and-anusara-melt-down/

They are expressing some disappointment in the tone of the article: "With the first one-on-one interview since the less than clarifying post-scandal breaking messages, we’re just a bit disappointed in the opportunity here to bring balance to an otherwise one-sided conversation with John Friend talking about himself with an air of woe is me."

I also just saw that Yoga Dork did a digest of a new AS article in the daily beast, which I haven't read yet, but here it is: http://www.yogadork.com/news/the-daily-beast-goes-inside-john-friends-wiccan-sex-coven/

It was somewhat disappointing to me that neither Yoga Dork not Elephant Journal reported on the Washington Post article, but at least YD now has it linked in their running time line http://www.yogadork.com/news/running-timeline-of-anusara-controversy-updates-and-teacher-resignations/

Free At Last

Marta Szabo said...

Latest on John via Yoga Dork http://www.yogadork.com/

Anonymous said...

Here is a link to the 3rd article in the mainstream press on the Anusara debate this week. http://www.yogadork.com/news/texas-monthly-on-john-friend-saga-anusara-collapse-money-sex-and-power-yoga-mogul-author-mimi-swartz-on-what-went-wrong/#comments
This one is by Mimi who wrote the excellent 2010 article in the New York times on the "Yoga Mogul". I am posting it here before having read it all, but the yoda dork digest sounds promising. Mimi also touches on SY, which I am pleased to see.

From Yoga Dork: "Putting the JF sex scandalness into perspective Mimi Swartz ranks him in with other publicly “disgraced sexual miscreants” such as Ted Haggard, Eliot Spitzer, and Anthony Weiners of the world, as well as pointing out past yogis Swami Muktananda and Swami Rama, gurus who were accused of sexual misadventures in 1981 and 1994, respectively, and Gurumayi (made famous by Eat, Pray, Love) who was also in trouble for cultlike misconduct, which was chronicled in the New Yorker in 1994."

Somebody earlier posts here were wondering (rightfully) why no article so far explored the striking similarities between SY & AS. This article seems to pick that theme up, and the author Mimi sounds like she did some thorough research. She already had done a great job painting a picture of AS in the Yoga Mogul article.

It does feel like some sort of justice, to see it all out in the open, and I am glad to see that the mainstream press is interested in it.

Free At Last

SeekHer said...

Well, I guess there is nothing like a good ole-fashioned sex scandal to bring all us Disenchanted folk back together. I haven't checked in here in a couple of weeks and catching up on the comments has been such delicious fun. Lord-Krishna-on-a-Crutch we're a feisty bunch of misfits! (Considering the cost that fitting-in entailed, and the courage it took for us all to break out of the mold, you know that's a high compliment.) Anyway, either we've all been away long enough to want to check back in, or there is a constant need out there for us to be able to come together as a community, pixilated though we may be. Either way, I commit to posting more often--not because what I have to say is so important (for some time the real RoD action has been in the comments section) but because it seems that fresh posts give us all a chance to gather together and have at it.

Anonymous said...

Seekher so heartfelt. Thank you MC

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