The first two letters from high-ranking Anusara Yoga teachers Desiree Rumbaugh and Ross Rayburn were posted to a closed facebook group for Certified and Inspired Anusara Teachers Only created last Friday to provide a space for conversation over the upsetting accusations and revelations about Anusara founder and leader John Friend. Thanks to BayShakti.com for sharing them.
The third response is from Christina Sell who recently resigned and handed in her Anusara certificate. She shares further insight into her decision to leave the brand she was a part of for 12 years, and her own experience with confronting John on subjects “ranging from ethics, legalities, loyalties, teaching methods, personal accountability, public image, branding, boundaries, organizational politics and so forth.”
We appreciate the words and perspectives of these teachers closely involved, and hope that many more in the community are moved to voice their thoughts, opinions and personal experiences.
Dear Friends, I have been reading the mixed feelings that you all have been sharing on this page and want to offer this: It is very clear that we all want change in our beloved organization. Thank you for being willing to come forward with all of your ideas and opinions and requests.
Reflecting on what Ghandi said: “We must be the change we want to see in the world”, I would like to offer this: While many of you feel that John must step down and stop teaching immediately, the way the company is run right now simply does not allow for that. It is ineffective for any of us to continue to shout that demand. Anusara is solely owned and supported by John. He agrees with everyone that this model is now unsustainable and as the months progress, re-structuring Anusara will be one of the important issues to discuss. Regardless of what just happened, a succession plan is necessary for the simple fact that John is mortal and he knows that.
It came to me today that the way we can all be of REAL service right now and going forward, is to discontinue expressing so much anger and upset and instead go back to focusing on being great teachers. Teach Anusara Yoga the best way you know how. Separate your teaching from the man who inspired it and BE THE CHANGE. Live YOUR life with high integrity and set a living example to the world of how you think an Anusara teacher or leader (which many of you are) should behave. When we focus so much on shouting about what we no longer want, we just attract more of the same. When we focus instead upon what we do want, we create positive change.
This suggestion comes from my heart and from the teachings which have helped me the most in my life and is not meant to be aimed at anyone specifically. I have been John’s student since 1993. I helped him with the creation of Anusara Yoga and it has always been a big blessing in my life. This is partly the reason why I am staying and working with John and all of you to promote positive change at a pace that is actually possible. I love all of you, and I feel strongly about our Kula. Please work with us and help us spread more light and goodness through these posts. Please talk about your themes and what you are offering to help bring about this change.
Good Morning From Singapore,
This is not the letter coming from the committee. This is just from me.
I woke up and immediately grabbed for Facebook to make sure John’s letter had been sent and what the reaction would be. I started to write a response and realized I was about to react without even a moment meditation. So I stopped, went “inside” and tried to listen.
We teach this. We teach that pausing, listening and being open comes first, no matter what. I’ve been proud in the moments when I’ve done it and I’ve seen others do it. I’ve been saddened and yes, even a little heartbroken when I’ve not done it and seen it forgotten by others, including the man (John) I have such love and loyalty for.
For me what is exponentially more important than how fully John falls on his sword or is publicly crucified, more important than my own past successful choices and failed ones, more important than the very survival of Anusara Yoga, is whether or not we practice what we preach. For me, this is the primary issue for each of us. So, I ask anyone who gives me the space to ask the question: Are you practicing what you teach?
That said allow me to be more specific about what I know now that the letter is delivered. I’ve been speaking with John on the phone all throughout this process and I agreed with him it was best not to be on the interim committee since I’m in Asia for a few more weeks. Still, I’ve been in communication with almost everyone involved and am proud of the way it’s been handled.
There are basically two major issues: 1. The truth of the Allegations, and 2. The future structure of Anusara Yoga. The first one of course can and should affect the second one. This is why there will be two major committees.
How I see this all playing out :
- We all take individual and collective breaths and allow our divine consciousness to take the lead of our intelligent, human consciousness.
- We follow the advice of the interim body and elect the new committees, which, to those of you that are complaining it will be the same people and that that is not a good thing, something with which I mostly disagree … I trust everyone on that committee to do this job although I don’t think every single one of them wants, should or has to be in the new committees. In other words, it will be set up democratically. If it’s a group of the newest teachers who are voted in … that’s it!
- These committees will then have real power to make change. Let me be clear about the next statement: If it becomes evident that these committees have no power or are being blocked by John, I will revisit the entire situation with completely new eyes. But I don’t think that will happen. I really believe John’s sincerity. He cried with me on the phone last night. And if you’ll indulge a very personal moment, it broke my heart.
Two other important notes:
1) for those that demand something more than that, but don’t want to just walk away honorably from the system, which I would judge as a completely honorable choice: Anusara Yoga is a sole proprietorship. The calls for him to step down are actually not very logical. Even if he wanted to, it would be such difficult legal process taking tons of time.
Firstly, there is now strong support for the new plan. So, I venture to say the calls for him to step down are in the minority … at least until we see if this new plan works. Also, there are very real consequences financially and not just for John … for his staff (who is fully behind this plan by the way), the students who are invested in trainings, and the many, many of us who have built lives based on building Anusara yoga in small communities and in great cities around the world. Sure, we could rebuild something without John. That is just not what I’m personally choosing to do at this time.
With specific regard to Miami and the rest of his schedule, remember that people have made plans to attend already … that is real. And John’s workshops are the primary source of revenue for things we all use like the website administration to just name one. I think actually the intense scrutiny he will face by having to teach will be both powerful and healing.
I would even suggest that if someone is impassioned about knowing more … call him or go to the workshop … go and sit in the room without paying John a dime and confront him yourself. Don’t hide behind the internet. Just because we put our name on our posts doesn’t mean it’s the same as confronting the unknown or the misaligned in the light of live confrontation.
The second issue is the related to the accusations. Firstly, as much as our “absolute truth” instincts seem to demand, I would ask how many of you would be willing to share everything in your private life. John has shared more than I could have ever imagined and ever wanted to know, frankly. Even in the very real specter of American views on sexuality which to be honest are not shared the world over. If the activities of your bedroom, especially if you had done some of the things John has done, were spread over the internet would you be saying the exact things you are? If yes, I honor that. For me, I’m satisfied putting this in the hands of the newly elected committee (which by the way is another thing you can do if you’re impassioned about truth … put your name in nomination to be on that committee!)
I’d like to close by again pausing and letting my heart’s voice have a space to speak.
I’d like to state again the principles I believe in: Community, Yoga and Love and all the other forms of Satchitananda.
And lastly, I’d like to send everyone my sincere blessing: May we all find a way through this guided by the hand of the divine.
with love to all
Christina Sell, who recently resigned from Anusara, (via her blog):
So, as I was in the deep flows of teaching at some very beautiful events these last few days, I was also conferring, counseling and considering some pretty heavy stuff and bearing witness to the confusion, commitment and care that is circulating around the community right now. I have to say that the last few years of my involvement with Anusara yoga have been a lot like that. I have had some of my highest times teaching and some of my most profound personal and ethical challenges sitting side-by-side, sometimes in the same day. I have had more than a few difficult and confrontational conversations with John about topics ranging from ethics, legalities, loyalties, teaching methods, personal accountability, public image, branding, boundaries, organizational politics and so forth. I wrote a lot of this already and I do not want to dredge it all up again but the topic has come up again and people are asking me why I really left.
All those hard conversations eventually led me to recognize a deep and abiding feeling that I disagreed with too many things as they were to continue on in the same way, even though I loved John, was grateful for all I have gained and was deeply integrated into so many aspects of the Anusara community. It was my social life, my professional life and my practice life. Resigning felt like I was ripping apart the seams of my identity and yet I didn’t feel like I could effectively- without harming myself- continue to work for change from within nor did it seem to me that the system wanted to change.
I was living with an ongoing rub of anger and resentment that I couldn’t get to shift. I went to therapy, I went on retreat, I examined my marriage, I changed my diet, I had lots of bodywork and finally I came to the realization that I was angry because I was no longer aligned in the way I was portraying myself. My public persona did not match personal truth and so understandably I felt angry and misunderstood but the real thing is that I was the one keeping the game going. I have looked at this a lot and believe me more than few therapy sessions have been devoted to where that pattern has its origins. Add into that, the fact was that all this stuff was also my job, my social life, etc. and that made it difficult to face the truth because many times the truth demands action.
John himself told me several times that anyone who is not aligned with him should go their own way and so it was a huge wake-up call to own up to the fact that it was me who was not aligned, plain and simple. I disagreed with a lot of things that all added up to the stark and sobering realization that I was no longer able to hold my seat.
Did I know facts about covens, pensions, etc. and fail to expose them? No.
Had I heard rumors? Yes.
Did I mention them publicly? No.
Did I give feedback privately and repeatedly? Yes.
Did I protect John Friend by withholding my suspicion and comments from the public in forums like my blog or other articles? Yes.
Was that right or wrong? Did that enable the dysfunction or spare the innocent? I am still not sure, honestly.
Am I bit upset that my ethics are called into question because of my yoga teacher’s actions? Yes.
The hard thing about secrets and rumors is that they are not always ours to tell and yet once we know them we can become complicit as much by omission as by commission. I am sorting through that for myself. This cycle of events as been the hardest ethical challenge of my entire life. I am sure I made mistakes. If my actions- outright or otherwise- cause you or anyone else harm, I apologize and I ask for your forgiveness and understanding. If you need to speak to me directly about it, please email me or call me.
In my experience, which admittedly is not everyone’s, there have been very few formal channels for feedback in the corporate structure of Anusara yoga and very few, if any, checks and balances. The times that I tried to contribute in that way were painful and unproductive. With so many nuances and domains of relationships in play, it has not been easy to know what is best for me, for my friends and for the thousands of people who are associated with the method, most of which is very positive. Never in my whole life have so many people been so potentially affected by my choices. It is sobering to say the least.
I still don’t know about how best to really speak to some of these issues. When I resigned my legal right to use the Anusara trademark, I kept thinking about how many people run studios and make their livelihood on Anusara yoga and how much I love so many of those people and did not want to hurt them of give them a problem as a result of my choice. What’s a tricky thing to really look squarely at is that when John Friend was riding a popularity high all those years and and his reputation was good, we all benefitted from that and in some ways- not all ways- but in some ways, made a method that revolved around him and capitalized on his good name. And if our success is hinging on his good name, the hard thing is that the opposite sits close by as well. It’s hard to get one without the other, it seems, when it comes to esteem by association.
I think the cool thing that can happen now for the community is that it can begin- if it chooses to- to make some distinctions between the man and the method, the teachings and teacher and the practice/principles vs. the personalities involved. I don’t think it will be easy or quick and I think the road ahead will be fraught with difficulty. That being said, I think it will be a worthwhile process to engage.
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