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Second John Friend Letter to Anusara Teachers: Assume Forgiveness, Resume Business As Usual; Letter from Interim Committee Reflects Discord

in YD News

Yet another letter has been emailed to the Anusara community of teachers from their leader John Friend, late Friday afternoon. It has already been posted several places online and is confirmed to be authentic. This time, with apologies out of the way, there is barely a recognition of wrong doings or accountability, but rather a shift in gears to what sounds like moving on with business as usual, with everyone’s “love and forgiveness.”

John Friend states that he will not retreat, but continue his public appearances and teaching engagements as normal, though he reveals that the new Anusara will be more teacher-driven and less of a John Friend show; an interim team of 12 teachers, which he has assembled himself, will begin the process by establishing a new Ethics Committee and a Leadership Committee.

This is the ‘What now?’ While therapy is mentioned, and seems like a good way to go, it acts more like a bandaid on the gaping wounds apparent within the organization and John Friend’s character. John Friend expects everyone’s love, forgiveness and patience, moving forward with business as usual. He preaches transparency, yet offers little.

Healing and moving on are great ideas and everyone wants that. But, we have to ask ourselves, if this were any other public figure in a corporation (not to mention one banking on spirituality) facing this series of serious allegations of misuse of power and corruption, would we find this acceptable and be so quick to forgive and move on? Now that information is out there, we sincerely hope the Anusara community can look beyond any tethers to blind devotion, or fears of being ostracized as a “betrayer” in order to do what they deem to be the right steps toward clarity and rehabilitation. We will continue to bring you information as it surfaces.

UPDATE: Continue reading for the first correspondence from the Interim Committee to Anusara teachers with more details about the “collaborative spirit” of the committee going forward.

John Friend letter to Anusara community entitled “Vision, Progress, and Unity”:

Dearest Kula,

I deeply feel your pain and confusion since it is also my pain during this time. My highest wish is to live every moment with impeccability from this point forward, so I am now in deep self-reflection and looking directly at all of my shadows. I am seeking help for all my personal integrity issues, and with your love and forgiveness, I trust we will all make it through this very challenging time. Although it would be easier to retreat for a while, I am stepping out today into the public to speak and teach, being completely transparent about my behavior.

I want to inform you all that I am currently in close communication and process with a core group of teachers, Anusara staff, and advisors about taking positive steps toward healing and bringing a new structure to Anusara with formal teacher representation. By necessity, our current process requires some smaller/intimate group work and mediated discussions. Therefore, I have chosen this interim core group of teachers, which is largely representative of the previous ethics and curriculum committees. (Noah Mazé, Desiree, Andrew Rivin, Todd Norian, Suzie Hurley, Betsey Downing, Ellen Saltonstall, Denise Benitez, Martin Kirk, Deb Neubauer, and Jimmy Bernaert)

We intend to quickly set up an election process within our greater teacher community as a whole so that we have equal and fair representation within our organization moving forward. Working together, we arrived at a plan to establish a new Ethics Committee and a Leadership Committee, the members of which will be elected through a transparent and democratic process. These committees will also serve as a communication hub for teacher feedback and representation. Details about this process will be coming to you next week. There will be a series of communications coming to the certified and inspired teachers over the next days. We request transparency, open communication, real input and feedback from all of our licensed teachers.

Thank you for your patience now as Anusara yoga shifts to more of a teacher-driven organization and away from a John Friend-centered yoga school. We are working diligently on recreating this new structure of Anusara, and I assure you that this is my decision and not that of “a rogue group of teachers presenting me with ultimatums,” as I have heard some suggest.

We are beginning the process of, and are fully engaged in, positive actions now in our community. We must unite as dedicated teachers of Anusara yoga, aside from any personal feelings towards me or anyone else in our community. Please help today by turning any anger and disappointment in our process thus far toward constructive, cooperative action. There are going to be many steps in our process of creating an improved organizational structure within Anusara. I ask for your patience. This is a journey in which we will take together one step at a time.

Thanks to each of you for your forgiveness, loving support, and unified cooperation. I am entirely committed to demonstrating to each of you that I mean what I say through my actions, not just my words.

With humility and love,

John Friend

Letter from Interim Committee emailed late Friday evening:

Dearest Friends,

Yesterday afternoon, a group of twelve certified teachers and a handful of advisors had a clear, direct and open dialogue with our teacher, John Friend. We spoke for 3 hours through a professional mediator about the pressing issues before us. It was a frank, honest, open, and emotional conversation. We are free to discuss much of what was shared, and this reflects the collaborative spirit of the time we spent together. However, please know that we are bound by some duties of confidentiality at this time. John was open and reflective, and expressed his deep remorse at the pain that his actions have caused our community and the Anusara brand.

We did not enter the meeting in the spirit of any ultimatum. John supports and encourages the idea that a genuine transfer of authority and responsibility needs to be implemented for future success and longevity of the Anusara yoga method. In addition, John has agreed to seek therapy immediately, and is taking full accountability for each of the errors in judgment that he has admittedly made. We understand that many of you are upset at the notion of John teaching the dharma of relationship in Miami. Although we originally asked him to consider canceling the event or replace himself, he felt strongly that he wanted to show up with humility, serve, and publicly ask for forgiveness. We acknowledge that this is a controversial issue.

We also realize that on top of all of the recent allegations, many of you may feel frustrated that your voices are not being heard. To this end, please be assured that the intention of this interim group is to set up both a democratic process and a clear line of open communication. This interim group consists of many of the various current Anusara committee members and is merely a starting point. As we move through this process be assured that we will make every attempt to hear each of you when you come to us.

While there is still much to be cleared up in establishing the details of all that has occurred and where we go from here, we did develop and commit to several immediate action items:

Each of the licensed teachers in our method will be empowered to elect some individuals who will sit on committees with actual authority and autonomy in the Anusara organization. The committees will be:
1. An Ethics Committee, focused on investigating the allegations already presented, as well as any and all additional allegations and possible breaches of ethics, and engaging in processes of accountability.
2. A Leadership Committee that will be instrumental in envisioning the future of the organization. This will involve restructuring power, leadership and other aspects of Anusara. The Leadership Committee will also have a point person who will be dedicated to communicating with the Anusara community and transparently reporting goals, progress, setbacks and policies in real time.
The group invited to participate in mediation yesterday has been appointed by Anusara as the “Interim Committee”, and will continue to meet with John in (and possibly out) of a mediation setting to create a general outline for interim restructuring, and the creation of an outline for moving forward, which may possibly include some corporate restructuring (i.e. changes to Anusara’s corporate structure and/or bylaws). In other words, no exact path has been laid out but the discussion will continue. Further, Tracy Silver (wife of Noah Mazé) was nominated by John and the group in the course of the mediation to chair this interim committee, and move all action items forward. She was elected in part because she is not a certified teacher, and thus is committed to holding space as objectively as possible.
The Interim Committee will continue to explore with John the best courses of action to take to help separate John Friend, the man, and John Friend, the Teacher, from the Anusara brand, to ensure the Anusara yoga method’s long term viability and the ability of all who rely on Anusara yoga to continue to earn their living(s) unharmed by the actions of any specific individual.

Yesterday was a first step, and a very good first step, in a healing process. We all left the conversation feeling unified and cautiously optimistic. Still, this may remain a difficult process that will involve all of us in varying capacities, and it will certainly require your patience with us, and your forgiveness of our certain mistakes as we cut a path through new and uncharted territory.

Thank you all for your support. We welcome your input.

With love and hope,

Tracy Silver
Deb Neubauer
Ellen Saltonsal
Jimmy Bernaert
Andrew Rivin
Desiree Rumbaugh
Todd Norian
Martin Kirk
Denise Benetiz
Betsey Downing
Suzie Hurley
Noah Mazé

Both letters viewable here:

——

Earlier

19 comments… add one

  • Should be an interesting weekend coming up with John Friend teaching a workshop on the “Dharma of Relationships” in Miami – ! Yes, really.

  • hmmm
  • it's still a business

    Anusara = John Friend, he holds the trade marks and all the stock and can set the price of the brand. Unless the conversation moves to giving up principle ownership and control this is all therapy talk for the greater community until the winds die down. Kripalu continued after Amrit Desai resigned because he was only a face not the name, after a stumble it picked itself up and moved on without Desai. A leopard does not change its spots. The primary purpose of color change in chameleons is social signaling, with camouflage secondary. Color change signals a chameleon’s physiological condition and intentions to other chameleons.

    Here’s sincerely wishing the committee success, my skeptic says – “We’ll see.”

  • Anusour

    “Further, Tracy Silver (wife of Noah Mazé) was nominated by John and the group in the course of the mediation to chair this interim committee, and move all action items forward. She was elected in part because she is not a certified teacher, and thus is committed to holding space as objectively as possible.”

    With all due respect, I do not understand this calculus. She is the wife of a certified teacher, which would not be the logical first choice to maintain objectivity.

  • Anonayogi

    Thank you for bringing this up. It’s how politicians handle their problems, by using their own people. It should be a given to use someone that is really impartial. It’s all so childish in my opinion.
    Everyone just needs to grow up a bit. I definitely don’t understand the calculus on this one.

  • LMAO

    Noah is now leaving the fold, and I trust, so is his wife.
    http://www.noahmazeyoga.com/letter/

    Om Swaha …..

  • Cindy

    So John appoints a panel of those who will decide his future? This is looks worse with every letter that gets sent out.

  • jimmy

    The Miami workshop says he is still calling the shots.

    Anusara doesn’t seem to have a vocabulary–much less an organizational structure–that supports democratic, grass roots processes.

    It might not be a cult, but it is like some type of Chinese capitalist/authoritarian hybrid corporation where people learn to teach how they are expected and say only the right things.

    I hope people take a stand to either wrest control or just jump ship like the others.

  • HJCOTTON

    It appears to me that Anusara yoga is a fiefdoom with Friend being the absolute overlord.

  • Wearing my YogaDork t-shirt with pride right now, YD! I’ve read some pretty nasty bitching about YD’s role in breaking this story last Friday — so much for not shooting the messenger — but I, for one, a devoted Anusara student for over 5 years, remain truly grateful to you for your perspective. There have been so many blog posts, so many words, so much rationalizing bla bla bla, over the past week, but YD seems to be the only source clearly stating that the Emperor’s ass is clearly on display. THANK YOU.

  • anusara sucks and should be dissolved and destroyed— FOREVER as an example that branding and profiteering and exploiting others through yoga is unacceptable.

  • Well, at least he admits it has been a “John Friend-centered yoga school”.

    Although I question having a council made up entirely of certified Anusara teachers. All of those people have already bought heavily into the Anusara world, and their ability to be objective is shot.

    When a company required auditing, usually outside analysts are brought in. That would be so much more appropriate than an in-house team from the inner circles of JF’s world.

  • jsk

    This whole ordeal has turned me off to the teacher/student yoga classes altogether. The whole aspect has turned bitter in my stomach. I’m also afraid this is a game changer for the yoga community. Expect to see a whole lot less male yoga teachers accepted on the scene. It’s a woman’s game now.

  • As someone outside of the anusara community, and not a fan of JF, yet love many anusara teacher’s, my question is……What can we, the yoga community as a whole, do to support our fellow yogi’s in need. Being outside of the Anusara Kula, many of us wish to open our hearts and extend a great big welcome to you. Your pain is our pain as we are all one. How can we come into a universal alignment of unity with in YOGA, minus all the division of styles and lineages. We are all spiritual beings living in a physical body with many different stories, yet thru the practice of yoga, YOGA, we find a common denominator, one of love, joy and unity.

  • Chris

    Dear YD Editor :

    Can we let go of this Anusara thingy already ?

    We can dissect this Anusara non-event till the cows come home to the Gau-shala, but remember, Patanjali ain’t never heard of John Friend or of Anusara.

    Let’s all us Yogis just stick to the real thing, Patanjali Yoga, because this Yoga alone is Yoga. This Yoga, alone, has been selflessly compiled by Rishi Patanjali, for the greater good of all mankind, without any ulterior motive.

    All the other trendy, hyphenated-Yogas are just so many pretenders to the throne. Surely, we Yogis can see that !

  • Mark

    Surely the first step is to set up Anusara as a not-for-profit with all the formal processes of a member focused organisation? If John was serious about the development of Anusara then this would have been in his plan.
    This is the clear way to deal with the politics of the organisation and the commercial associations that have accrued.

  • Annoyed

    You want forgiveness and love– SCREW YOU! Your lack or moral fiber RUINED the lives of countless people. Look in the eyes of the 6 year old boy who’s parents are now getting divorced because you slept with the wife and ask for forgiveness. Look in the eyes of the 9 year old girl who will never have a holiday with her family because your loose morals. There is NOTHING worse than men like you.

  • rebecca

    John Friend’s letter sounds like the desperate manipulations of Jim Jones. And if this doesn’t allow you to keep all your overlord power and money…what next, you serve us all the Jim Jones Punch at Gun Point. Do the right thing. Resign, walk away,and let the yoga community heal. Once you have done your work 10/15 years from now then we will listen to you. For now stop the soft shoe shuffle, we’ve all seen Chicago. I relize the Anasura Yoga Studio’s owners and employees don’t want to loose their livelyhoods over your behavior. However, if each community has run its business correctly, then they should stand sound. More than likely, better than they would if they align themselves w/you.Since society as a whole is tired of its daughters and sons being sexually and emotionally abused.Since the Yoga Alliance, all ancient teaching, and all corporations across the globe have a fairly clear understanding of ETHICS. Since you are a grown man and don’t get to employ the put me in time out for 10 minutes rule. If you were any kind of real man at all you would want to atone and DO THE RIGHT THING and not play the I’m the king so its ok card. That was outdated w/Monica Lewensky. Time to put your big boy panties on and Act like the facade you created.

  • come down

    What about moral standings of these wives who jumped into his bed w/o any hesitation? I think all parties involved in this mess worth each other.

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