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Latest Statement from John Friend on State of Anusara

in YD News

If you’re still following along, the latest and longest statement from John Friend yet, on the allegations, his state of mind and the state of Anusara. Via Anusara facebook page, posted earlier today.

Statement from John & the Future of Anusara Yoga

It is with profound sadness and humility that I write this public statement today. My level of remorse for my mistakes and my grief for Anusara yoga is simply indescribable. It has been a nightmare for me to watch a community that once was united become so divided.

From the beginning I tried to handle this situation with dignity and professionalism. I now recognize that many people felt that I was not forthcoming enough in my previous public statements addressing the allegations, and that to some my statements came across as polished PR spin. Some expressed to me their feelings that I was not taking genuine responsibility for my actions, and that I have little real intention of changing my ways. To be clear, I humbly accept 100% responsibility and ownership for my part in any of the confusion and suffering surrounding this terrible situation. Furthermore, I am, and have been, very intent on discovering my shadows and working diligently to improve myself.

For the first couple of months I got a lot of varied and sometimes opposing advice from attorneys and business consultants on how to respond to this crisis. I chose to take the advice of my attorneys, so I was cautious with my public statements because there were legal ramifications with other people involved.

In addition, I was in confidential negotiations with teacher groups on the future of the organization. To uphold confidentiality that was requested by the groups, I made limited public statements with the hope and expectation that a resolution to a teacher-led school was just around the corner. I also thought it was prudent to pause and reflect, so I could come from a place of clarity when the time was right for me to publish a thorough statement.

I am so sorry that my voice on this situation has not been fully heard until now. My limited public statements were overwhelmed by an onslaught of public postings on the blogger-sphere and social media, most of which were inaccurate. These distorted accounts of me and the crisis became the most consistent and pervasive information that was provided in the public forum, and therefore was believed by many. I now understand that more confusion and chaos were created by my relative silence, which I regret. Please know that my silence was not because of a lack of caring, lack of taking ownership, or lack of remorse.

Overall, I would say, many in the community, including me, handled this crisis very poorly. The preliminary reaction to the situation by most, including myself and numerous senior teachers, was based on fear and confusion. Personally, I was shocked by the intensity of what came at me, so I know I didn’t respond in the most skillful way that I could have, especially in the beginning of the crisis. Over the last months emotions only grew throughout the community, and nothing I said or did helped to bring calm or clarity, for which I am deeply saddened.

So, now I would like to openly share my story from my heart, to address my character faults, to clear misinformation, and to sincerely take full responsibility for my actions.

The following statement contains a summary of the facts from my view, a presentation for the future of Anusara yoga, and a full offering of my heartfelt regrets and commitment to improve as a person.

***

Over the last 4 months I have negotiated with 4 different independently formed teacher groups who have each dictated terms to me for the release of the school of Anusara yoga into the hands of the teachers. Please know that this is something that I fully support. The legal ownership of the trademarks has been the central point of contention in many of the talks. Friday, the Leadership Committee made its final statement that they would not be continuing to pursue a teacher-led school of Anusara yoga. They clearly presented their side of the story. Here is my side of this story from the beginning…

On Monday afternoon, February 6th, three days after the illicit website about my private life was posted, I received a phone call from a certified teacher claiming to be the spokesperson for a self-appointed committee of 12 certified teachers. Each of these teachers currently served on at least one committee: Ethics, Curriculum, or Certification, so they felt that they were the “senior” Anusara yoga teachers representing the rest of the certified teachers.

The group emailed me a document with a list of actions that I was requested to do including: “curtail your teaching for 6 months or some defined period; seek counseling; revise the corporate documents of Anusara, Inc to give a new Board of Directors, elected by certified teachers, which will have genuine authority over the future direction of school (Anusara yoga). You may have a seat on the Board, perhaps Chair. However, you cannot be CEO. The Board of Directors will be empowered to offer positions of authority to key teachers and leaders within the organization.” The letter was signed by 24 certified teachers. Although there were other certified teachers reaching out to me with a different and more compassionate perspective, I chose to hear this group out because they were long-time friends and respected colleagues, and I was hoping to clearly demonstrate my desire to honor everyone’s concerns.

This senior teacher committee accidentally sent the letter to others outside of their expanded group of 24, so some teachers became upset that it was appearing like a small coup d’état and the rest of the licensed teachers were not being represented in the terms presented to me. In attempting to come to a compromise on the senior teachers committee terms, and begin a cooperative discussion with a core group of teachers to figure out the next best steps for Anusara yoga, I chose an “Interim Committee” mainly from the group of 24, and scheduled a professionally mediated session for 3 hours on Thursday afternoon. In that meeting the Committee agreed to have me teach in Miami starting on Sunday for 8 days. The Miami event was only a few days away and it would not have been fair to cancel the event especially for those who had non-refundable travel and accommodation booked. Furthermore, I thought it was wise to stand up and take immediate and public responsibility for my transgressions in front of many teachers and students, instead of instantly retreating. So, I was thankful that the committee agreed to have me teach that event.

However, on Saturday, the day before the event began, I was informed by a member of the Interim Committee that there was a strong voice in the greater yoga community speaking out against me teaching in Miami, and that I should have scholars and certified teachers teach in my place. So, I called an emergency mediated meeting of the Interim Committee for Saturday afternoon. After a 3-hour conference call there was a straw vote about me teaching in Miami. The Committee voted to support me if I wanted to teach in Miami with the assistance of scholars and certified teachers.

On Saturday night I was forwarded an email from one of the Interim Committee members stating that a strong dissenting voice outside the Interim Committee presented the following terms to me:
“1. John may not teach or sit on the stage. He may not ask for forgiveness but he can apologize only and take a seat.
2. A group of senior teachers will teach the entire event. John has disqualified his teaching credentials and can earn his way back into the Kula after therapy.
3. Further: No opportunities whatsoever to put himself in the limelight. No consideration whatsoever or forum for well-wishers, crying, etc. No darshan lines to talk.
4. Further, this is what he says in the current statement: ‘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.’ This portion of the letter needs to be retracted and he needs to say, ‘Since I am unfit to teach on the Dharma of Relationships, I have humbly requested that my teachers to come and teach in my stead. I will humbly sit before you all and listen.’
5. John must leave before the classes end.”

These terms were not discussed in the Interim Committee meeting, and I never agreed to them. Yet, on Sunday morning a group of certified teachers were informed from Miami that I was teaching, and immediately a number of resignations of top teachers began to be publicly announced on the Internet.

Throughout the week in Miami the call for me to step down and stop teaching continued from a group of teachers in the community who were not present at the event, but who were in support of the person who dictated the above terms to me. As I had initially agreed to in the conference call with the Interim Committee, I brought in a scholar for a couple of philosophy talks on Sunday afternoon and Monday morning. I thought the committee’s idea of having a scholar teach the philosophy part of the event was a good one which allowed me the opportunity to sit amongst the students and study from a person of high integrity. Also, I had several certified teachers teach a significant part of the asana section on that first day. Yet, my efforts to compromise with the Interim Committee did not seem to make any difference, and teachers continued to resign. The almost 400 students from 20 countries who were present during the week were very vocal that they did not want me to stop teaching nor to have substitute teachers.

There were also many licensed teachers reaching out who were not present in Miami, writing to me that they were proud that I had decided to stand up and face the heat of my consequences and speak earnestly in public (which they heard through reports), rather than staying hidden. So, torn about who to honor and to appease, and deeply conflicted about the way things were going, I felt the best way to serve was to complete Miami and then begin my leave of absence from teaching and let things settle. I announced on Thursday, February 16th that my sabbatical would start on Monday, the 20th.

Several members of the Interim Committee resigned that week, which effectively dissolved the committee. A “Steering Committee” was then formed by another group of certified teachers. A strong faction of the committee demanded nothing less than for me to turn over the school of Anusara yoga, particularly the trademarks, to the teachers. Essentially the trademarks represent the core value of the school, and that is what the Steering Committee ultimately wanted. I was willing to allow the school to be completely teacher-led, so teachers could guide all the future direction of the Anusara yoga school curriculum and certification procedures. However, I was not willing to relinquish ownership of the trademarks to the teacher group who I was not confident could run the school on their own, which entailed managing business administration including upholding the legal integrity of the trademarks.

Over the last few years I started to turn over more control of the school to the teachers. I created a Curriculum Committee who helped direct the curriculum for trainings, and I turned over the certification process to Co-Chairpersons and a full committee. So, this difficult situation created the right opportunity to turnover the guidance of the school fully to the teachers, which I truly supported. Again, what I was not willing to sacrifice was the control and protection of the integrity and value of the trademarks.

The Leadership Committee followed the dissolution of the Steering Committee in April. Once again, there was little in the way of compromise or cooperation from the LC. Rather than engage in a collaborative conversation about how we could realistically create a teacher-run Anusara yoga school together, they demanded that I turn over not only the trademarks, but also control of my corporation (I am the sole stockholder). Their main proposal was for me to hire a new CEO chosen by the LC. They wanted me to pay the annual salary for the CEO who would have the power to fire my staff and move the office to another state. This proposal gave away all of my corporate power effectively, while as the sole owner, left me with all the fiduciary responsibility and liability for the company. So, I offered to sell the company, with full and complete due diligence, and agreed to sign a legal non-compete document with this scenario. However, the LC also did not accept this option. So, when I refused their CEO proposal, which I found completely unreasonable, I was informed by my representative in the negotiations that we were at an impasse.

I then wrote a letter to the teachers stating how I was moving forward with the school of Anusara yoga, since an agreement with the LC could not be agreed upon. I submitted the letter to Wendy Willtrout to post on the Anusara Yoga FB page. It was then decided in the office that the letter should come from Wendy and not me, so Wendy began editing my letter to put it in her voice. In her stressful haste Wendy left the letter in my name and did not fully edit the letter, which then created mass confusion in the community since it made the letter read in a bizarre way.

This letter was also received poorly for several other reasons, one of which was that it was perceived that I was “firing the LC” and taking charge of the school again. Since the LC was independent of Anusara, Inc. I had nothing to do with its formation or dissolution. I also acknowledge that the letter sounded as if I thought that just because teachers were remaining licensed with me this year that they were supporting me and my leadership. I realize that this was not the case at all, and I regret my emotionally charged verbiage contributing to this effect, particularly my phrase, “vicious vocal minority.” Obviously, the whole letter from Wendy was improperly compiled from my letter and posted rashly with very unfortunate consequences. It was then voiced in the media that I was once again being uncooperative and was going back on my word to let the teachers lead the school, which was erroneous. Many new resignations followed this disastrous episode.

Realizing that I did not have the broad-based support of the community, I then offered to gift the trademarks to the LC and to eventually deactivate Anusara, Inc. By so doing Anusara yoga could continue to survive as a yoga school, and I could be completely independent and teach under my own auspices. I then completely turned the matter over to my corporate attorneys to complete the deal with the LC’s legal counsel.

However, the LC submitted a due diligence list that consisted of 9 pages containing over 75 items and which my business attorney deemed “beyond the pale of reasonableness given what is being offered.” Furthermore, my attorneys claim that there was “absolutely no justification” for reviewing all of my financial information that has nothing to do with the transaction of me gifting the teachers the trademarks. My attorneys emphasized that I was completely willing to provide due diligence concerning the Intellectual Property at stake, but this was not acceptable to the LC. More importantly, the LC presented no business plan or showed any indication that they had the financial resources to properly run Anusara yoga if gifted the trademarks. Furthermore, the LC never filed for a legal entity status to begin the process of becoming a school to hold the trademarks. So, I felt it irresponsible on my part to handover the trademarks without receiving a viable business plan from the LC.

From my point of view the relationship with the LC was adversarial, since their uncompromising intention was for me to completely relinquish control of Anusara, yet still have me fund its operations as the owner, which I felt was unfair. I feel that it is also important to note here that over the last 4 months I have been very careful and restrictive with my public statements in part as a matter of proper business confidentiality within my negotiations to help create a teacher-led yoga school with the various teacher groups. However, as my attorney wrote the LC’s legal counsel after they published their letter on Friday, “…principles of confidentiality in this matter have been completely ignored (by the LC).” It is unfortunate that I am now forced to present the private details of negotiations into the public forum since I have been repeatedly blamed for the failed negotiations. While I appreciate all of the hard work and passion the members of the LC have put forth, negotiations throughout felt more like unreasonable demands and dictates from them, rather than a cooperative endeavor for the common goal of a true teacher-led school.

It is also important for everyone to understand that the school of Anusara yoga, which administers licensing and certification for top-level professional hatha yoga teachers around the world, has been funded by and run by me over the last 15 years. Each year the expenses of the school far exceeded the revenue generated by annual teacher dues, and so I would cover the annual deficit through my personal workshop revenue. Through the years I took a very modest salary while investing millions of dollars back into Anusara to support the school worldwide and to enable as many teachers as possible to make a good living teaching Anusara yoga. So, to properly run the school is quite expensive and requires professional administration. To date none of the teacher groups with whom I have negotiated have shown the capacity to effectively manage the school on their own or shown adequate funding to cover expenses or uphold the trademarks.

***

Anusara yoga has its own system, technology, and community completely aside from me. According to recent responses from the community, many still believe in the integrity of Anusara yoga as a methodology independent of me. Many of the teachers who have resigned are keeping their licenses current through the rest of the year so they can continue to teach Anusara yoga classes, workshops, Immersions and Trainings, which clearly demonstrates that the school and brand still holds value. Even many teachers, who have fully severed ties with the school, still advertise in their biographies that they were Certified or Inspired in Anusara yoga, which also speaks to the inherent value the name conveys. While there are certainly many ways the school can improve its organization, one only has to look at the caliber of teachers who have come out of this school to recognize that it is full of value. The school of Anusara yoga has helped to produce wonderful teachers over the years, and it has contributed a great deal of positive and beautiful energy to the world.

The recent Kula Evolution newsletter and questionnaire pointed out that the community wants a teacher-led organization; they want the school that has supported them to survive; they want to remain connected to the community that they have grown to love; and they want a pathway towards teacher certification because they recognize and appreciate its undeniable value.

So, based on my experience with the LC and the other teacher groups, I propose the following to meet the desires of the community:
• I am happy to turn over the administration of the Anusara yoga school to the certified teachers who want to run it. The teachers will be the true guiding voices for the school, and the Anusara staff will defer to their decisions and support them in their endeavors.
• The creation of a democratic survey/feedback system will allow the whole community to weigh-in with ideas.
• I want no personal part of managing or directing the school at all, which is a decision that I feel is best for the school and me personally.
• The Anusara office staff through their administrative expertise will help the teachers run the school as much as the teachers feel is necessary.
• Teacher dues and other teacher-generated revenue must financially support the operations of the school. None of the dues for the school will be going to my personal accounts in any way.
• In order to help assuage any fear and mistrust of my stated intentions here, I am willing to sign a legal document to ensure that I will not have an ability to take authoritative control over decisions having to do with the school.

My highest aim is to create community healing and to avoid misunderstandings, so please write the Anusara office for clarification on these points. The small, yet incredibly dedicated staff that remains is committed to being there to serve everyone and offer answers to your questions.

If you are a licensed teacher and want to help administer the school of Anusara yoga in any way, then please write to: Wendy Willtrout in the Anusara office – Wendy@anusara.com and write “Help Anusara Yoga” in the subject line.

If there is not enough participation in running the school, then I will close the school next year when the final teacher license expires. However, over this past weekend, several licensed teachers have contacted me to let me know that they are happy we can finally move forward and get busy with refining and rebuilding, so I am presuming there are other people who want to move forward, regardless of who holds ownership of the trademarks.

The future of Anusara yoga is now in the hands of the teachers. Please write to the Anusara office with what you wish to see happen with Anusara yoga. We will survey what the teachers and students want for Anusara yoga. Unfortunately, Anusara, Inc. is not privy to any of the results of the LC’s survey, so please email the office directly at survey@anusara.com.

Whether or not Anusara yoga continues, I will not be involved with the management of the school any longer. At this time, I will be teaching under my own auspices, and I will not use the Anusara yoga trademark to promote myself. This will give a clear separation between my controversial image and the school’s new image.

My request of the Leadership Committee to use the Universal Principles of Alignment was regarding that specific trademark in any of my future publications, and was one of the points in the confidential negotiations with the LC. The UPA’s can be taught by any yoga teacher, yet the tradename of ‘Anusara yoga’ can only be used with a legal license to promote oneself as a professional yoga teacher. Although I will not be formally teaching Anusara yoga any time in the foreseeable future, I will be teaching the UPA’s when presenting asana instruction.

***

My public disassociation with Anusara yoga has arisen from my accountability for ethical transgressions as the leader of this yoga school, which is the only way for Anusara yoga to move forward at this juncture. I have made public statements confessing my transgressions, which primarily centered on infidelity and dishonesty in my intimate relationships. However, negative judgments against my character, which go beyond my intimate relationships, have been posted widely in the public forum via social media and the blogger-sphere. To date I have remained quiet in response, yet it is time for me now to finally address some of these other accusations against my character which have become pervasive on the Internet.

Again, I am very clear that I have made ethical violations, including infidelity and deception in my intimate relations. Out of my own fears and my belief that my personal life is private I have lied over the years to protect my privacy. This shadow within myself is something I am diligently working on. Furthermore, I betrayed the trust of some of my closest friends in order to have illicit affairs, and this is a great violation of my own personal ethics, which has brought me some of the most profound suffering of my life. My deepest remorse is for the lies I told to my loved ones and friends who trusted me.

In the first days of the scandal, I lied to some certified teachers about doing bodywork on a student to help her with her sexual trauma. I lied in order to cover the fact that I was being unfaithful to my girlfriend at the time by being sexually involved with this student. In turn, some of those certified teachers openly propagated the label of ‘sex therapist’ on the Internet, which I never claimed to be in any way, ever. Any counter claim by the woman was dismissed by those who believed that the woman could not honestly state the truth, since she was a student and perceived to be in a weakened power differential to me. Some on the Internet who have focused on my character assassination then expanded this slanderous claim against me to ‘sex predator’. This is extremely hurtful and erroneous. In any case, I am terribly regretful for my actions and words in this situation, which have hurt so many and led some to speculative and judgmental conclusions.

All of my sexual relations have been consensual and sacred. I have certainly made many mistakes in my relationships through my life, and I offer deep apologies to all for those mistakes. I have never manipulated or controlled women for the gratification of my power or sensuality. My intimate relationships have been cultivated over time, many years in most cases, so there was always a foundation of trust, mutual love, and respect. I am certainly aware that a power differential is present in the teacher-student relationship, so I have always done my best to be sensitive to this when involved in any relationship with a student.

Regarding other charges of my character faults, which have been recently posted on social media, some have complained that they felt that I could sometimes be too tough and diminishing in the classroom as a teacher. My intention has always been to inspire and guide students to become their highest potential. Although I am fiery in my personality, I never intended to demean, disrespect or devalue any student. I certainly have been tougher with more experienced teachers and leaders in the community, since I expected more from them. However, I never meant to hurt anyone with my words, and for any harm I have caused, I am very sorry. I apologize for any way that I modeled behavior, which can rightfully be argued as not being uplifting or positive to the students. Being fiery is powerful when channeled skillfully, but can be very offensive when unskillfully channeled. I see this about myself and own it with humility; I will endeavor to be mindful of this tendency with increased sensitivity. My goal has always been for students to leave my classes feeling better about themselves than when they arrived.

Also, several people claimed recently that I played favorites over the years. This is true to a point. It has always been difficult to choose which teachers to recommend for various things because I have a deep desire to please everyone (another character flaw that has led me into trouble at various times and one that I am working on). My intention has always been to operate and expand Anusara yoga by the help of those who I felt would do a good job with various tasks. Again, I have never meant to diminish one person by elevating another. I also never gave preference to anyone or appointed anyone to something who didn’t deserve it or wasn’t up for the task; rather I always chose teachers who demonstrated excellent working knowledge and application of the principles or philosophy of the Anusara methodology. It is true that some teachers were able to create wonderful careers from my support, while others felt unseen and unappreciated. For any who felt that I did not give them proper consideration or acknowledgment over the years of serving Anusara yoga, I am truly very sorry. I am sincerely appreciative of every teacher’s best efforts to make Anusara yoga great. I always intended Anusara yoga to be inclusive and not exclusive, and so I apologize for actions I took that did not bring that intention into manifestation.

My strategy and business plan of expanding the teachings of Anusara yoga to a much larger global audience through an Internet channel and soundstage at The Center in Encinitas, California was seen as a big mistake by many, including some of my own staff. It was perceived that my priorities became more commercial and off-track from the essence of the yoga. Although I still feel that my intentions were ultimately for the good of the community and the yoga, I take responsibility for any harmful perceptions of Anusara yoga with my failed business endeavor. Also, the very commercial branding of the system, along with the emphasis on performance art and festivals, caused many to believe that I had shifted my focus away from the essence of the yoga, and steered me away from being the teacher who they had known me to be. I am very sorry that I helped to create the misperception that Anusara yoga was getting away from its core values. That was never my intention.

Related to the perception of me moving away from the foundations of Anusara yoga is the subject of Shiva-Shakti Tantra. Recently, a few teachers voiced concern that Shiva-Shakti Tantra was out of alignment with the philosophical foundations of Anusara yoga. The philosophical foundation of Anusara yoga has always been called a ‘broad-based Tantric philosophy’, because it incorporates concepts from Shaiva-oriented schools of Northern India as well as Shakta-oriented schools of Southern India. So, I came up with the term “Shiva-Shakti Tantra” to give a name to this wide spectrum Tantric philosophy, which described Anusara yoga’s philosophy for years. Nothing in the philosophy changed at all; it was just the label of the philosophy that changed. The primer book on Shiva-Shakti Tantra that I created a couple of years ago was simply an artistic reiteration of the same Tantric philosophy that has always been taught in the Anusara yoga curriculum.

Over the 2-year period of my attempting to expand Anusara yoga through capital-raising and increased marketing, my public image grew and the scene around that image also grew. I acknowledge that at times I met that growth with over-enthusiasm and unreal optimism. Some perceived that my ego also became inflated during that period, and I am sure that this is true. Although I do not believe that I ever lost sight of the higher intention of the business expansion, I humbly acknowledge that I was overly confident at times and perhaps unplugged from the original form of my teaching. At times I certainly fell into the traps of my small self without always keeping my ego anchored in the wisdom of Spirit. For my egotism, which reflected poorly on the Anusara yoga community, I am truly very apologetic. Having my personal reputation attacked on the Internet, losing many friends, and losing my affiliation with the yoga system that I founded has certainly been humbling and devastating to any excessive sense of self that I might have once had. I understand that some people continue to post malicious information against me on the Internet since they believe that I somehow remain unaffected or unchanged through this crisis, and they want to make sure that I am duly punished for whatever misdeeds they have judged me to have made. Please know that I am anguished while acknowledging my accountability and responsibility for what has happened, and that I am shifted deep in my heart forever for the pain and difficultly that I have brought on myself and the community. I am firmly committed to a life-long path of introspection and personal transformation on every level, the fruits of which I intend to demonstrate in all my future actions.

Recently, a segment of a video that was filmed 2 years ago in Japan of me speaking confidentially to a couple of contract staff was posted without my consent on the Internet. This was very hurtful and embarrassing since I didn’t know that I was being filmed at that time. I spoke out of line about another employee who was also a wonderful and invaluable friend, and for whom I am greatly appreciative. I deeply regret my words about that other employee who was not present, and my statements were not meant in any way to hurt her. I was excited about the future of Anusara yoga since I had reason to believe that a multimillion dollar investment in the company was imminent. All of my excitement and desire was ultimately for the greater good of Anusara yoga, yet I greatly misspoke at that time and for that I am very remorseful. In an attempt to excite the person I was talking to about a potential future with the company, I diminished my dear friend, who deserves nothing but praise and admiration for the invaluable passion and service she has offered to me and this community for years. I was trying to make a point that the person with whom I was conversing, with his technical and artistic expertise, was more valuable than an administrative position, but the way I went about it was by making it seem that my other friend was not vital. This was not only completely untrue, but it was shameful. I am so sorry for this stupid tactic, which was unintentionally manipulative, and I can only commit to continue to work with this tendency of my character with as much awareness and diligence as possible.

*

During the Anusara scandal, false accusations and misinformation have been widely distributed via social media without any accountability, fact-checking or investigation. A lot of the information posted was incorrect and therefore very damaging to both Anusara and myself. Moreover, many people projected their own shadows and frustrations onto my public image, and then posted their personal issues with me into the international public forum without any discretion or discussion with me. Due to this, people have become even more confused and many teachers have resigned.

Rather than an honest and personal confrontation, distorted information has also been disseminated on the Internet in an anonymous way to create maximum damage. All Internet gossip is a way of bypassing the channels of healthy and good communication between caring persons, and it is a shame that so much of it has happened within our community. I am so sorry that I didn’t always provide a good example as a teacher of how to deal with challenges in the highest way.

*

I realize that I am human with shadows and imperfections. By being a yoga teacher of an international yoga school, this has made me a spiritual leader in the minds of many. However, I am not a guru or god-man that some students elevated me to be. I tried to keep my private life private, but being the leader of Anusara yoga put every element of my character and private life under a public microscope. Unfortunately, I did not meet the expectations of many in the community. I am very sorry for the great disappointment in me as a leader. It is heartbreaking to have Anusara yoga negatively affected by my misconduct.

I have always been committed to personal refinement and so I will continue to strive to be the best person that I can be for the rest of my life. I realize with a renewed lucidity that I choose not to harm, not to violate the energy of Life with my words, thoughts, or actions. I will do my inner work for many years to come, rest assured, since this has been the most apocalyptic, soul-shifting period of my life. I am choosing the highest path for my healing and transformation, which is my process alone and something no one else can truly understand or judge. Please know that while it has not been pleasant or easy, this process has already been profoundly transformative, and has afforded me with invaluable opportunities to look at myself with sober objectivity.

For years to come I will be working on transforming my weaknesses and honing my talents. Essential to healing is self-forgiveness, and so as I carry the pain of this heartbreak, I will hold a vision for my own highest expression. I love to serve, to give, and to create beauty in the world, and so I will endeavor to offer my best every day for the rest of my life.

It is time for peace in the yoga world. The hurtful gossip on the Internet by yogis has been shameful and deplorable in my view. It is awful to think that my own wavering from my integrity has sparked others (my own students) to do the same. So, let us all take responsibility now and demonstrate that our yoga ethics are filled with humility, rigor, truth, compassion, forgiveness and accountability for all parties, and most of all, genuine love, which transcends fear and hatred. Although each of us will not be perfect in our humanity all the time, let us continue to be assiduous in embodying the highest in all our words and actions.

I do not wish to engage in a public war of words on the Internet with fellow yogis, which in my estimation reflects very poorly on the greater yoga community worldwide. Instead I choose to focus on my own healing and transformation in a very private way away from Anusara yoga and the greater yoga community for some time.

I know that my words will come too late for many, and I sincerely apologize for that, but I do hope my words help bring much needed perspective and understanding of this whole heartrending situation. For those who have patiently waited for this full statement from me, I greatly thank you.

To everyone, friends and adversaries alike, I offer prayers for peace, healing and love.
Thank you all for the reflections that have helped me see myself more clearly.

Yours on the path of awakening,
John

Did this clear anything up for you?

——

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88 comments… add one

  • Yawn Friend

    “I lied in order to cover the fact that I was being unfaithful to my girlfriend at the time by being sexually involved with this student.”

    From the NEXT PARAGRAPH:

    “All of my sexual relations have been consensual and sacred… there was always a foundation of trust, mutual love, and respect.”

    Keep trying, John…

  • Bryan

    Sigh. He still thinks he can talk his way out of things. The world could use fewer noble words from JF and more noble acts.

  • yosemite sam

    “However, I was not willing to relinquish ownership of the trademarks to the teacher group who I was not confident could run the school on their own, which entailed managing business administration including upholding the legal integrity of the trademarks.”

    really? with all the shit hitting the fan the way it has over the last few months your excuse for holding out is you don’t think they could find someone with any sort of managing ability or find any legal council??? riiight. if only that damn LC would get it together and start COMPROMISING….ya know, and see things your way….

    “Realizing that I did not have the broad-based support of the community, I then offered to gift the trademarks to the LC”.

    well that sure was easy. sleight of hand or enough pressure applied and the genie will start to materialize more gifts?

    “Essentially the trademarks represent the core value of the school, and that is what the Steering Committee ultimately wanted.”

    aside from the fact that this goes right to the root of why McAnusara is the bane of everything that yoga means to me in the first place, it looks from here that the good ship is at least half way under water now, good luck with trying to leverage a perceived value out of it for your last stand with the pesky varmints over at the LC.

  • yosemite sam

    not sure if im more troubled that this drama fest STILL hasn’t ended, or the fact that i actually sat and read that whole thing…..better meditate on that.

  • yep

    I think a lot of folks just enjoy the hell out of watching a kingpin bullshitter dig himself deeper….and deeper…and deeper….very entertaining fare.

  • Wow, what a long and boring letter… Blergh, can’t we all just move on??

  • Kate

    I…I…I…me…me..me…

  • anyone who thinks what’s he’s still trying to sell is Yoga, they are as delusional as he is….

  • Well, some interesting points.

    I cannot say that I necessarily believe him in regards to different negotiations of the different committees/groups, but it seems interesting to me that he’s willing to give away the trademarks (which are the only assets of anusara yoga that I can see), and then the company will what, dissolve? But, not right away because the employees are going to assist the new owners of the trade marks — on JF’s dime, I assume, as the owner of Anusara Inc who employs those employees?

    That’s confusing. And I don’t think any lawyer would be cool with that. I mean, a lawyer will draw up any contract you want, but seriously? That’s weird.

    See, because he said something like “The LC wanted me to get a new CEO, and fully fund the business as sole proprietor, but I don’t want to do that.” And then goes on to say “But I’ll give away the only valuable asset — so long as they present a viable business plan that will protect the trademark — and the people whom I pay will be the ones to help them execute that business plan. . . you know, if they want.”

    That is the most confusing legal situation I’ve ever read. And I’ve read some confusing ones.

    How about this?

    Step 1. John Friend puts his trademarks up for sale at a reasonable market rate. That rate might be based on the income from trainings and licensing — the current *profit margin* of that for Anusara, Inc, generally times two.

    Which means that if trainings and licensing earns Anusara, Inc $100 per year in profits, then the value of the trademark is $200.

    Step 2. Some entrepreneur who thinks the trademark is still worth anything, creates a business plan wherein s/he has an Anusara training school based on the previous model (which looks like it’s quickly going extinct, so one could create their own model with the Anusara “curriculum” or methodology or whatever you want to call that which is now public domain (UPAs, by John’s own admission), and then approach JF to purchase the “asset” called the Anusara trademarks.

    OR

    Step 1. John Friend sells Anusara, Inc lock, stock, and barrel — offices, computers, company cars, company pot, company stationary, employment contracts/agreements, licensing agreements, legal agreements, trade marks, pens, and fancy car stickers — and then

    Step 2. Some entrepreneur buys said Anusara, Inc — which apparently doesn’t make John a lot of money, which means it has a narrow profit margin, and since the average going rates for businesses are 2x profit margins — and then goes about his/her merry way redeveloping Anusara, Inc?

    In both “Step 2s” A group of individual could choose to form: a legal partnership, a corporation, a cooperative, a non-profit organization. And then, they could write a business plan and marketing strategy. And then they could GO TO A BANK AND GET A LOAN to buy the business from John Friend. Or find Angel Investors. Or, Pony Up Their Own Cash plus Bank Loans plus Grants from the Government (for non-profits) plus Angel Investors and. . . buy the business.

    Selling and buying businesses is easy. It would be easiest for John Friend to simply sell the asset (trade marks) or sell the whole company and be done with it.

    Honestly, easy-peasy.

    Though, I suggest that JF probably thinks his current business is worth way more than it is, and when you think that, you’re not like to get a viable buyer.

    What something is worth is what the market would bear. I wouldn’t pay much for the anusara trademark, because it’s largely BURNED by this scandal.

    Most students whom I know — who know about yoga — are not giving Anusara a wide, wide berth, including would-be teachers who are discovering that, guess what? Anusara *isn’t* “the harvard of teacher trainings” it is just expensive and time-consuming and not necessarily effective as a training model. And it’s method? Available widely, not just in anusara — so why go through all of that, when you can do a training close to home with a teacher? Even a former anusara teacher?

    So, the trademark, and as far as I can tell the company, aren’t worth that much at this point.

    It’s basically a fire sale as far as I could tell, though I would be loathe to buy the brand myself.

    And I have purchased a business and revitalized it — so I know what to look for and I know what the process is.

    but the biggest hurdle? Former owners. Even when it’s obvious that the books are cooked, the brand is meaningless (little to no market penetration and/or an abject loss of viability due to scandal, etc), and the business is faltering, they still think it’s worth it’s “hay day” price, and/or they think they should get “the return on the investment that I put in!” and what value they think that has. . .well that’s usually a ridiculous number in deed.

    Businesses, in general, are worth two things: 1. roughly 2x their profit margins, and if there’s no profit margin, then only the value of their assets; or 2. what a person will pay you for that business.

    If the only asset that anusara really has right now — assuming no profit margin — is the brand/trademark, I would say it’s not worth that much.

    But I’m sure John Friend would assure me that it’s worth several hundred thousand dollars at least, after all, look at how much everyone things anusara is a great method! look at how hard he worked!

    Nah, I’m not buying. And I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else.

  • I’m with Emily. This is so convoluted I can imagine anyone can follow it.

  • MAG

    is there an updated list of resigned teachers?

  • Larry

    One fave bit was…..”Recently, a segment of a video that was filmed 2 years ago in Japan of me speaking confidentially to a couple of contract staff was posted without my consent on the Internet. This was very hurtful and embarrassing since I didn’t know that I was being filmed at that time.”
    Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm

  • honomann

    tl;dr
    too soon JF, too soon

  • Janet

    John, seriously, just keep quiet already.
    For real.
    Damage is done. Enough words. Now it’s time for action. Walk the walk.
    “But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I DO.” -James 2:18

  • sonia

    Yea. Narcism is a bittch.

    I have to say, I find it a fascinating juncture.
    Almost NONE of us have been in this man’s shoes, yet we are so eager to pass judgement and deem ourSelves so fit to decide what she should be doing instead of what he is doing, and what is not good enough for him to be saying or doing at this point.

    This “mess” was a complete and total collaboration. Every SINGLE person who was “hurt” “damaged” “betrayed” “exploited” had a hand in WHAT THIS IS.

    Have any one of you asked your allsoknowing SELVES what *you* would do if you found yourself in this situation.

    Of course not: YOU are above it all, aren’t you? *YOU* saw him for what he was years ago, and within minutes. Furthermore, YOU would do it all differently.

    And yet, so it goes…

    Maybe this is a cautionary tale. Maybe you will reap infinitely more to watch, listen, and follow up with self reflection and be thankful for the compassion that arises as a result.

    “There, but for the grace of God….”

    C’mon people, get a grip: your judgements mean and do nothing but reinforce what is worst about all this.

    Thank you to YogaDork for giving humanity a chance to reveal itself through this spewing floodith forth.

    NONE of you are superior to this man, or any of those who wished to believe that adherence to this system would remove them from the suffering we are all subject to by being human.

  • Chris

    A wise man speaks because he has something to say, a fool speaks because he has to say something.

  • Chris

    judgements from the community have come so harshly because it just seems like this fool can’t stop talking about himself.

  • sonia

    AH, thank you for your profound insight…

    Excuse me, correction:
    none of us EXCEPT Chris, voice of “the community”/ judgement league.

  • Chris

    Veiling and projecting at it’s finest. Please, I don’t intend to start petty arguments, but you clearly judged everyone in your initial post. To flip that around on me is silly and childish.

    It is obvious what the community is saying if you have read anything on facebook or the other many outlets voiced by the Anusara community. It’s not my voice. Try to read more next time before you start name calling.

  • sonia

    Well, I think anyone who can read can see who is doing the name calling in this exchange.

    Sure, if “the community” is defined by those who agree with your sentiments.

  • human

    “Have any one of you asked your allsoknowing SELVES what *you* would do if you found yourself in this situation ”
    I have, and it’s really hard to imagine how I would feel if I had acted like a selfish pig, and betrayed people who put their trust in my words, and looked to me as a leader. Nope, I’m not feeling it
    Sonia was he boinking you?

  • sonia

    Honestly, given what you have offered about yourself thus far, you would never, EVER be in even remotely a similar position- except perhaps in very wet dreams… so your answer is meaningless.

  • human

    you must have some mighty twisted wet dreams if JF type behavior is what turns you on

  • sonia

    @human- if that is what you read into what I have said, it’s you who are twisted…Tho, I suspect it’s just another puritanically distressed compulsive 1upmanship that drives you. Comments like that you seem to pull out of your ass ever so easily, and not a misunderstanding that drives you to type out such things.

  • SoBeach

    That was sure a whole lot of, whattayacallit, *words*.

  • ian

    yet, some of the harshest criticisms have come over the fact he hasn’t said enough all this time…

    the guy can’t win for losing! and what are you all winning with your snappy little judgements and attacks?

  • Chris

    Who said this was about winning or losing? There is no battle. I think this is huge part of the problem. Everyone is trying to achieve something, both inside this “situation” and outside.

    JF and this LC were both trying to “win” Anusara, onlookers seem to be claiming a victory in that they are above JF/never “fell for his BS.” And then there are those that defend him, which are trying to “win” in their stance as well. They call everyone else a hater, and we are not yogic for “putting down” JF.

    Personally I have no connection Anusara, nor JF, and quite frankly, I haven’t really said much about this whole thing. What is obvious to me as an outside viewer, is that there are tremendous issues of attachment and control within this organization and its leadership.

    The people that have criticized may have minor issues in themselves, but these are extremely minor compared to those involved in the issue at hand. I don’t think it is unreasonable for someone to comment on the clearly high levels of egotism being shown here, although perhaps some could have been less abrasive.

    This issue has accomplished the same as any political tactic. It has served to divide us into two groups. With JF or against JF?

    THE MIDDLE WAY PEOPLE

  • I think when people say “he hasn’t said enough”, what they mean is “he hasn’t said the right thing in the right way, yet”. A statement accepting blame, but not fully embracing responsibility followed by a statement deflecting blame or citing some external circumstance is not very satisfying for most people. If he simply apologized and accepted responsibility of his personal actions and his role in events at the beginning and just said, “like everyone, I have some personal work to do, so I am going to take and extended leave of absence, I will make no further statements until I return. This group of teachers is now running things and will determine the future of Anusara Yoga and will determine if/when/at what level my future involvement will be without my interference or input.”, oh, and said that several months ago, then at this point…well, wouldn’t be at this point. His repeated statements, along with his choice of word has been the undoing of Anusara Yoga. All along, it hasn’t been how much he said, but what he said.

  • yosemite sam

    he hasn’t said enough this whole time, its only when bits and pieces of the picture get dragged out by someone else. then he will admit that yeah, maybe that was partially true….but i’m still the victim here! too say enough in this situation, it has to be the truth and it has to be humble. it has to be a real apology. it has to have actual substance.

    he has said too much with the lying, covering of tracks, and purposely trying to manipulate the situation by reframing it and shifting blame in stead of acknowledging what is really going on. that doesn’t count either. more words doesn’t equate to more honesty, in fact the track record has only shown that it has done the opposite. that’s why people are upset with him.

    it looks to me that through this whole process he has actually been opening up more and more and letting go of chunks of his bullshit, a little at a time, as each layer of it is called out and there is no other choice.not the best situation for the community to have to continually back in more and more in to the corner, but there it is. i dont really have any agenda or want or need anything from this situation, im not a part of the anusara world….but seeing it from the outside it is like a ridiculous soap opera or reality show that just keeps getting thrown in your face, hard to avoid it.

    hopefully if and when he really pulls out and lets anusara die, real healing can happen for both he and the anusara community as everyone finds their place in the world of yoga again. that, in my opinion anyway, is the best thing he could do right now. make that priority number one and let the dust settle. the more of these long statements that keep coming out the more it just becomes a spectacle…..and the more i keep reading it on YD!!! …ugh.

  • ian

    “can’t win for loosing” is clearly a metaphor… i won’t condescend to you to try to spell it out, as i think by the way you can construct a sentence you have the IQ to figure that out, and that will likely lead to a contentious exchange between us which, by the tone of your post Chris…. perhaps you are looking for? he is to me clearly doing his best given the complexity of the situation– he is slowly relinquishing control but for some reason so many people are using the high visibility factor as an opportunity to say as many hateful and hurtful things about him as they can think of. he is the current BIGGEST DEMON OF THEM ALL to many minds right now, and perhaps those minds think they are “winning” something by throwing your stones? (uh oh, 2 metaphors in one sentence…)

    so tell me Chris, what is it “about” then, to pass judgement on this man, and appoint yourself to know so much about who it should be and how and what he SHOULD have stated ? tell me all that it’s ABOUT? what am i, someone you have never met, trying to achieve? (pray tell)

  • Chris

    You have a great deal of assumptions about both me and my post, based on your response. Many of which seem to be inaccurate. Quite frankly, your post seemed like a passive aggressive attack at me, which is confusing, considering I did no such thing to you, nor JF (whom you clearly seem adamant about defending). I never said anything bad about JF in that post did I? Than why are you defending something that isn’t there?

    I did not type a reply to have an ego clash on the internet with you, I can do that anywhere.

    If you missed what “it’s ABOUT?” I suggest re-reading my post. Otherwise I’m afraid I will be of no help to you. It is pretty self-explanatory i.e. the final line – THE MIDDLE WAY.

  • ian

    what if (just a thought) YOUR way (“THE MIDDLE WAY”) isn’t EVERYONE’S “best”way? what if an INTENSE way, or even a Lax way is the “right” way for people who aren’t you, or like you? What is the world actually has all kinds for a reason that none of us can fully perceive? Does THE MIDDLE WAY you are barking about not have ANY pitfalls? like mediocrity? self-righteousness? propensity to follow status quo and condemn those who don’t, esp for being “extreme”?

  • Chris

    Ummm….Buddhism > The Middle Way…look it up.

  • ian

    umm well, what good would that do me Chris, since i’m just obviously too dern stoopid to read/understand that which is so self-explanatory?

  • Rhonda

    Yeah well, their accomplishments and enhancements to humanity are relatively smaller too. Everyone is using him as their pet scapegoat at the moment, but like it or not JF has created an opportunity for som many people to transform their suffering into something much more life affirming and enhancing than it was before he was around…he also created some pitfalls and fell into a few along the way. Hopefully we can all “get”what we are demanding he “get”. Making it all about him (ie, not giving an opportunity to the minions and “victims” to take significant enough responsibility of what happened here) then condemning him for answering to that is pretty hilarious!

    And oh so human.

    Guess what? we’re all “guilty” of that.

  • Chris

    Is the work of a monk in isolation not comparable to the work of a yogi guiding many students? Perhaps an issue for you to consider.

    I have not condemned anyone. Guess what? I practice yoga, I smoke weed, and I have sex too. That’s not what I’m interested in. I’m talking about the fact that everyone is drawn into a dual stance based on this issue.

    You and Ian both seem very adamant about “choosing a side.”

    All I am suggesting, is that we don’t take sides…

  • o lord

    preaching judgmentally and resentfully about how people should choose “the middle way” is like shouting at some one to relax.

  • Chris

    What I’m talking about is duality. The issue causes a reaction in many which makes them leap towards a dual perspective. Take the information without jumping to a conclusion.

  • Nope.

    Hey, asshole, this guy had sex with married women who were ALSO whis students and employees AT the TIME. He also cheated on his girlfriend at the time in doing so. He also routinely bullied employees, got high on the job, had employees cover up for him re: his infidelities and drug abuse, has employees ship drugs to him.
    Yep, I’m takin’ sides. He’s got the morals of a cockroach. He didn’t want a community; he wanted a harem. And he got one, partially due to the pressure in that harem to be all “spiritual” about it, “not judge,” and “don’t take sides.”
    Listen, I’m a married man. You think I’d be comfortable practicing in a “community” with guys like this, who might make plays for my wife? By his own admission (look it up; he DID admit it) the husband of the coven member he screwed was outraged.
    Me, I’d have cut off his balls.
    There’s some “middle way” for you. Middle way with a knife right down the middle of his testicles.

  • yup.

    “Middle way with a knife right down the middle of his testicles.” Muuahahahhahaha! Thanks for the laugh! ‘Taint a bad idea. OK, kidding. ;P

    My real opinion? No moral compass = unfit to lead.

    His junk can remain attached, and may he be graced with better judgement in the future about where he lets it lead him…

  • ian

    actually, i am suggesting that as well. please reread what i have written.

    i don’t get the “choosing sides” interpretation of Rhonda’s post, either.

  • Rhonda

    Hi Chris, no I am not suggesting that anyone “take sides”- quite the opposite.

  • Chris

    Cool, everyone is smart and the best. Now we can all go home happy.

  • sonia

    Sure, Chris- by all means please go home, smart one

    be happy.

  • chris

    Namaskar.

  • wondering

    I love all the opinions. the point of these blogs is to share your opinion. there is a great saying, Tibetan, I think:

    people with opinions just go around bothereing each other.

  • SkarNama

    Yea it’s true. I think there’s something to that.
    Also to something Albert Einstein said:

    If you can explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.

  • human

    How ironic- the judgements passed and personal attacks on Chris because he passed judgement

  • wow.. i have to say, I had to bookmark where I was at, take a nap, then come back to read more.. because really that is a lot of words and I’m still not really sure what he’s trying to say. JF go meditate.. sit still, breathe, and focus… do it every day for like a month.. THEN try to communicate.. but until then, you are just making it worse! *sigh

  • being

    Perhaps if Chis were a bit of a narcissist, he might think that it was he that was being judged, when maybe it was the propensity to judge (by multiple beings) that was being pointed out and questioned.

  • Chris

    A+

  • yep

    Enough with the “he’s only human” bullshit. Yeah, he’s human….so what? So were some true horrors — Jeffrey Dahmer, Hitler, etc — big deal. Their actions were monstrous. Friend is a big stoner and a hustler. It’s neither self-righteous nor hypocritical for anyone to judge him. He’s acted like a douche-bag.
    I’m sick of asshole spirituality-heads performing their “compassion” and “forgiveness” so publicly. Like Pharisees praying in the temple. What are you trying to prove? If you think after getting your heart and head “right,” then right action will follow, you are pathetically wrong. Actual human beings are more complicated. Poeople need some kind of internal moral compass, and if they don’t have it, emotions have NO connection at all to actions, or at least not in any morally aligned way. Murderers and rapists can actually feel all kinds of sympathy and love for their victims, and still do what they do.
    So for all those who try to presssure the rest of us towards one or another set of emotions, as if emotions = spirituality or morality, finally shut the fuck up. Shut the fuck uuuuuuupppp. Stop labeling anything you don’t like as “hatred, anger” etc and judging that as somehow lesser. This is not a dick contest about who has the correct emotions or attitude. SHUT UP. I’m sure John Friend is reeeaaallllllllly sooooooorrrrry about the mistakes he’s made. But I’m also sure that’s not worth SHIT, b/c I’m sure that given the chance, he’d have happily gotten away with all of it, every single last bully session, scam, spliff, orgasm, and spin-doctor session. I’m sure, quite sure, that given the chance, he’d do it again. That’s amorality, you idiots, and it has nothing, nothing, nothing to do with having any particular set of emotions. You Anusaris and other spirituality-heads are true suckers.

  • inanna

    wow. i’m in the uk, nothing to do with anusara, never met jf. i was involved in something very similar 6/7 years ago; a “sex scandal” in the yoga school i’m part of that destroyed the teacher’s marriage and plenty of his friendships/business and professional associations. i’m a senior teacher within the school so i guess my position would be allied with the lc in this case.
    6/7 years and a huge amount of emotional fallout , legal ramifications, disrupted careers and financial loss for many people later, i’m still involved with the school. i figured then that if all us seniors left, the guy in question would essentially be left without peers – to both judge and support. i felt my most compassionate course of action was to stay, and i believe the school is better for it. not because of me – i don’t think i’m that important or have a better take on ethics than the guy in question- but because of what my continued membership represents.
    from my slightly more detached perspective, given that i’ve had time to make my peace with the yoga school, the man who transgressed, and at least some of the massive issues involved, this is so fascinating to me. there’s nothing new under the sun… clearly, issues of the guru/teacher/student relationship, individual v the collective, sexuality, power, are debates the yoga community needs to have.
    blessings to you all x

  • hmmmmm

    well, except that here, all the teachers have left the school. You know, I just don’t believe your story. You sound too much like a John Friend plant — even down to the obligatory distancing rhetoric of “wow.” If not, well then. But really, every single teacher of Anusara should stay the hell away from Anusara. Its name is dirt on the streets here. Blessings to you too! x!

  • Yoga Mama

    It seems you do not know that JF has not only engaged in inappropriate sexual behaviors but shady business practices, potentially libelous smear campaigns against former teachers and employees and has brought about the implosion of a once thriving cash cow of trainings that built whole careers.
    People are angry or hurt or both and the struggle is to find the balance between finding compassion and forgiveness for JF, because he is human, and coming to terms with what he did. For, though he is just human, he has done things are wrong to the point of being criminal, things that the vast majority of his fellow humans would not do. So forgive the man but expect him to reap the consequences of his acts. Oh yes, and stay as far away from him as possible. Just because he (kinda) says he’s sorry doesn’t mean he’s changed. Just read the latest from the LC.

  • Interesting band of sock puppets on display here…

  • blah

    yo blog sucks

  • Call me crazy, but I’m most curious about the business side of things.

    For me, there are three areas that pique my curiosity the most: 1. what effect his models and methods will have on those influenced by him, positive and negative within their own businesses (and thus the business culture of yoga in general); 2. the future of anusara as a business (and training and licensing organization); and 3. now the intellectual property questions that come to mind due to this letter.

    Honestly, I just love this stuff, because it’s problem solving. And there’s nothing like a good puzzle.

    As I wrote above, it would be most simple for John Friend to simply sell the whole business, including the assets of the brand/trademarks.

    One of the things he repeatedly asserts in his letters is that he wants someone who will maintain and protect the integrity of the brand/trademark — who has the tenacity (and financial capacity) to do so.

    Which begs the question for me as to what the intellectual property is that needs to be protected since he asserted that the UPAs could be taught by anyone, and, it also calls into question what the UPAs even are.

    And that calls into question what people are getting in their license.

    Licensing should be fairly straight-forward. Usually, a person contracts with an organization to utilize their brand and method. An example of this is Zumba. It is a method created by a given organization. They have a clear brand, marketing strategy, and market penetration. They also have “what ever class must have” — so they have a method, a sequence, often music tapes are developed, and so on. While there is room for individuation and creativity, there is a cohesive “product” that the individual or gym is purchasing. The product is not just the marketing, but the method — which has certain intellectual property elements.

    I assumed that when an Anusara trained teacher decided to take on (and renew annually) the license, they were not only getting the use of the brand (name, marketing, market awareness/penetration), but they were also getting to use a method.

    And as I understand it, the license also restricted them in specific ways (like zumba might, they may say “no adding in ballet moves” for example) — from teaching certain things that may have previously been taught or teaching other methods or what have you.

    So, it would seem that there is something to protect beyond the brand itself, and I assumed that this would have included the UPAs.

    In looking at the web site, I would say that it’s the UPAs, the “shiva-shakti tantra philosophy” and perhaps things like the way classes go — the invocations and ritualized aspects, the particular way of using themes, and then, perhaps also, particular sequences (i don’t know about this last one per se).

    But now, the letter asserts that the “shiva shakti tantra” is basically nothing really — or nothing more than a survey of ideas, which are vague and undefined really, just a nod to the history and context of yoga.

    And then, he goes on to say that the UPAs are not part of the intellectual property (or he’s willing to let that go perhaps?) and that people can and should continue to teach that whether or not they are
    licensed.

    So what is left is the ritualization/theming of the classes themselves — as the mark of being “anusara” and therefore the “what” of the trademark that would require protection.

    I suppose that, like zumba, that is enough. I mean, zumba is — in many ways — simply a ritualization of how a particular dance-fitness class should be run, perhaps with a certain ‘feeling’ to it (underlying theme?), and beyond that, the basics of the marketing.

    There is nothing stopping anyone from running “Latin Dance Fusion Fitness” classes — just without the brand awareness — and of course they could even take the zumba training, just not tap into the marketing.

    I wonder though, if the licensed teachers — all of these years — realized that what they purchased was simply a brand and how it was ritualized. What were they sold by Anusara, Inc as what the license is for? And, what does the license both entitle them to do and restrict them from doing? What benefits does it confer? What are the drawbacks of maintaining a license?

    And if the trademark really only holds to the ritualization of the classes themselves — then that is what Anusara is. And, I can’t imagine that would be difficult to maintain, or even need to be legally protected per se. The only protection would primarily be needing the licensees to not expand on it.

    Even so, it begs the question of the value of the trademark itself — if it only protects or confers the ritual of the class, is it really worth much at all?

  • inanna

    !!! to the idea that i’m a jf stooge! if i weren’t all too painfully aware of the nightmare that this is for many people, i’d probably be flattered! at the moment i’m a housewife in rural england, not even teaching!

    “wow” is in common usage and although i recognise that there’s a leadership battle going on, it seems to me that it’s a little paranoid to read too much into its use here. – although re-reading my earlier comment, its use does come across as somewhat lame. apologies. i’ve only just heard about all this (been busy having a baby) and it stirs up contradictory emotions in me, including, i’m afraid, amusement and world-weary resignation.

    most of the teachers in “my” school left too within a year or so. our name was mud too, a fact which made me extremely angry given that the validity of my teaching and practice was inevitably and endlessly called into question. the guy in question – i”ll refer to him as jfII – behaved abominably and utterly unethically, and it was MY hard work and reputation that suffered. so, i fully supported the decisions of those who left. however… i recognised that although i would NEVER have behaved in the way he did, as part of the group, i inevitably contributed, in complicated and convoluted ways, to his decisions and behaviour. to ignore this fact is to demonstrate ignorance of the subtlties of group dynamics. i’m clear that jfII’s actions weren’t in any way my fault, but with hindsight – and this is the point of my contribution; the fact that this is less fresh and raw for me – i would do things differently. for instance, i was so caught up in what was going on at the time, i failed to see that jfII was in the throes of some kind of breakdown.

    “Comment:
    Honestly, given what you have offered about yourself thus far, you would never, EVER be in even remotely a similar position- except perhaps in very wet dreams… so your answer is meaningless”.

    i’m curious as to why you think this. because i made a decision that you can’t imagine yourself making at this point? with respect and understanding towards your obvious anger, this is quite offensive. the school i’m involved in is much less bigtime than anusara. thank god. we had less to lose in terms of the material – though no less on deeper levels. so, no, my responsibilities were not the ones i imagine the lc have to take on. but it might be useful for you to recognise that actually, other people have found themselves in very similar situations. if i wasn’t all too aware of how shit this all is, and how we can lash out in pain, i’d be offended by your “wet dreams” comment. as it is i see clinging and attachment to your assumed position of moral integrity. – sorry ’bout that, but i do. again, that’s hindsight, i guess.

    writing this and pondering the issues make me realise that although i’ve made my peace with what happened to us, i don’t know that it’s all really done and dusted; that the karma is all played out. i may call an informal meeting of all the teachers involved to see where they’re all at with it nowadays. since so many left the debate was curtailed…

  • o lord

    can we syop? take a breath and get a sense of humor. folks

  • o lord

    I meant, “stop,” ha ha

  • inanna

    sonia – sorry – i’m writing all this on a phone while feeding a baby, so hard to see which comment belongs where – tracking back, i’ve just seen that your earlier comment didn’t refer to mine. apologies for any hurt caused. ( and fwiw, i think we’re saying the same thing.)

    thank god my situation all hapoened before the internet age took over! it’s a minefield

    btw – apparently stephen cope wrote a book on the kripalu scandal in the 90s which might have some pertinent points…amyone read it?

  • sonia

    inana, there was no hurt, because it is pretty clear you were confused and reactive when you were writing. I don’t think we are saying the same thing, but I have no qualms or disagreements with what you are saying.

  • Scott

    In an earlier letter to his coven, JF laughed about how he has always been able to con people. Now he thinks that when he knowingly put the entire organization at risk with illicit sexual behavior, it was always spiritual. I’ll let his own words and actions speak for themselves. If anyone isn’t clear about JF after all this, they are simply cultivating their own ignorance.

  • Ouch

    If you’re going to shoot yourself in the foot, make sure it’s not already in your mouth.

  • Vision_Quest2

    Amen to that … lol … it’s tantamount to hanging yourself …

  • Brigitte

    just wasted 30 minutes of my life reading that. could have been sharing yoga with PTSD survivors, or writing a letter to congress to end the wars that have created legions of PTSD survivors or a gazillion other meaningful things that would make my life and the world richer. This micro-blip in yoga history has somehow become a rubber neckers dream of a train wreck. Set yourselves free yogis. Onwards.

  • Janet

    I agree with Brigitte – the more we ignore JF, the faster he’ll go away and recede further into memory.
    Keep the lesson, throw away the experience.

  • Except That

    Except that he is already planning his comeback with a ‘teacher led’ school as a cover, pulling together previous supporters while apparently based at present in Colorado. While making noise about how he ‘could’ sue a number of people for libel for what they said in their resignation letters. Shows how repentant he is. There are a number of people — him especially — who indeed hope that you will forget so that THEY can move on….with business as usual.

  • Jackie

    I’m not understanding why everyone’s so upset. Bad things happen and people make mistakes. Yelling and cursing at people with differing opinions on this subject – or any – is beyond me. To see yoga practitioners speaking this way has shocked me. The ripple that this guy created through his transgressions has become a wave because of the anger in the hearts of people only witnessing it. As far as I can tell, a lot of the angriest people weren’t even personally involved. Additionally, why on earth are his relationship issues a topic? Infedelity is between him and his partner. Lies are between himself an those he lied to. If the students he was having affairs with consented and were of age, it was a moral lapse, but none of anyone’s business. My goodness.

  • ooooo

    What I am learning is that five months into the mess, after loads of information, tons of argument, and many many tough decisions on the part of people VERY directly affected, people like this can appear out of the blue with the same old ignorant attitude of “oh my, this is so UNPLEASANT” in that aghast self-righteous way. I’m sooooooo tired of that precious holier-and-healthier-than-all-of-THOU attitude. Good god, yoga community can suck. Worse than a bunch of brainless evangelicals at sunday school.

  • hmmm

    I have to agree; this whole “well, whatEVEH can be the problem….well, I nevah” is pretty stupid, self-serving and disingenuous. Minimization at this point? Really? Honeychile, if you sooooo bewildered, get off your butt and get reading.

  • hmmmm...seconded

    The minimization in many cases comes from those who have a vested interest in having the conversation blow over because it’s bad for business — people who want to continue teaching Anusara and continue charging for Anusara Immersions and trainings. People who want to reduce the whole thing to a mere question of “infidelity” among ‘consenting adults’ and turn attention away from the many problems that plagued the system as a whole and caused much real suffering. Discussion of those aspects is what is being hushed by the righteous ‘tsp-tsk, well I nevah…’

    And for those who just need to catch up and hear the stories from teachers talking about aspects other than the sex stuff, a place to start is the site leavingthekula dot com. It is a locus of firsthand experiences from those more directly affected by the real issues of how the Anusara system was being run.

  • hmmm

    Yes, and it just makes them more and more transparent as a bunch of greedy, power-hungry, conniving, manipulative liars. If they just keep repeating the same lies over and over….maybe it will work…..if they just keep spouting the same old corporate quasi-spiritual buzzwords ….. blass gratitide foriveness grace….maybe, maybe people will forget…..
    WRONG.

  • third eye

    These are the kinds of replies that I got from my yoga community that made me run away. I find that the enabling of JF is the very same thing. If you believe in God then God gave us anger and critical thinking, too. It’s how we use them, our *choices*. These enabling remarks of nothing to see hear, move on shuts down the critical think that God gave to us. Stay away from me enablers. I must say, that some of the most emotionally shut down of people were who I met in yoga. Contort bodies anyway you want but you’re still not actualized if you are falling for a con-man. I’d rather do life these days; my *choices* are where my yoga fits in.

  • Okay

    The problem with even the idea of the “school” continuing is that the people who are his most staunch supporters are absolutely mad fangirls like April Ritchey (who continuously gushes “I love this man!”) and ex-girlfriend/students like Christy Nones. These people are utterly vapid and morally completelt disconnected. As others have observed, there is a terrible problem in the “culture” of Anusara. It’s more like a rock star groupie goo-gest than a yoga practice. I would not want to have anything to do with either John Friend “teaching under his own auspices” (ahem) or what remains of “anusara.” The problem is the people.
    As I side note, I howled with laughter at the post of “nope.” I am also married with kids. Obviously Friend cannot be trusted around women. And, or course, women make up the majority of his followers. Many of the women who get/got caught in his spell seem to have been very needy, did not practice much good judgment, and he took advantage sexually and economically. At that level, even “just the sex” is NOT “no big deal.” It’s a big deal all right. If Friend had ever fucked or fucked with my wife or daughters, I’d have found him and broken his neck and cut off his dick. He’s a worthless piece of shit.

  • Okay

    excuse the typos; if this site had a preview option, I’d have used it.

  • inanna

    thing is, in my case, i’m pretty sure what happened with jfII was down to a series of rash judgements formed in the moment, with not enough time/space to reflect. it wasn’t because he was a bad, unthinking, unkind human being. as far as i can recall, nobody judged him as such, either. he’s certainly an excellent asana, p/yama and meditation teacher (i don’t use the term “yoga teacher” because in my view, yoga is inseperable from its ethical disciplines; they’re not an add-on). but what he did changed the course of several people’s lives, forever. they’re yogis and most of them, as far as i know, have integrated the schism and are walking other paths with peace and acceptance. however, to assert “it was a moral lapse, but none of anyone’s business” strikes me as the words of someone ignorant of the subtlties of these issues. – lucky you! it’s a hideous space! i hope you don’t get thrust into a situation where you have no choice but to wise up about it all.
    what I am learning, as someone utterly unconnected with anusara – it’s not big in the uk and i don’t think i even know anyone who teaches it – is that actually, i still have loads of issues around what happened. therefore, “none of anyone’s business”… i really do not agree.

  • okay

    But not just “several” people’s lives. Hundreds, counting all the teachers and the teachers-in-training. Anusara’s name is dirt on the street now. And these were not “rash decisions in the moment,” but rather the seedy, half-conscious calculations of a habitual playa. Down to the last disgusted bitter moments he was trying to stack the LC committee in his favor, just as he would have insisted on staffing the administration of the “teacher-led” school with his own stooges. It never ends.

  • Sometimes, the more you say the worse you make things.

  • Ku

    Booooooooring!

    Just come up with another silly name and re-brand it all. Isn’t that the main teaching or philosophy of yoga.

  • brian smith

    Anyone who would get in my car and put their foot on the dashboard to tie their shoe clearly has no respect for me.
    This was my personal experience of driving John Friend to the Airport.
    He was rude, tacky, and full of it.
    I do think i am better than John Friend because I am nice to people. I treat people with respect. I dont preach about bullshit yoga from the heart and try to sell it.
    I dont try to sell books on the internet for a profit.
    I dont claim i am a vegetarian and then eat at chilis or whataburger fast food. ( a true vegetarian would never eat at those places)
    I dont try to make people bow down to me and control them.

    Anusara Yoga and John Friend its all about the $$$$$$$$$$$!

    its not about treating people with kindness and respect.

    My personal experience is John Friend is a Liar!

  • :d

    This is the sad state of ‘superstar’ yogi’s…it would seem the sacred art of Yoga is no longer truly sacred. In the West, we are such babes in the woods as it were. Many of us unprepared for the intensity of the true Yogic path…calling Yoga a ‘workout’..it really is not!

    I personally feel the need to teach Yoga yes, but feel I still have so much spiritual work to do that I would not pursue the path until I felt truly ‘ready’ for the unfolding and huge responsibility of becoming a Yoga teacher.

    I gotta add here, I know of all too many Yoga teachers who lead pretty unscrupulous lives..drinking in excess, smoking pot, taking hard drugs (one having committed violent crimes)..acting out in very promiscuous ways, it is not a job for the average joe!!

    Anyways, my point here is this; Teaching Yoga is a great honor, one meant for truly awakened people..yoga teacher training has now become so en mass ANYONE can teach..I simply disagree with this idea. I feel Yoga is sacred, if you want to teach a fitness class…teach Pilates..or Zumba.

    Best of luck to you John Friend, I truly do hope you get the help you need and healing you deserve. I also hope others see this mans journey as an example of how easy it can be to get caught up in the ‘glory’ of it all..

  • Enlightened Asshole

    Ohh your truly awakened! Congratulations you win. Your yoga class sounds like a night mare!

  • :k

    Totally disagreeing.
    You made some great points and yes- wait until you are ready to teach! Many people approach it like it’s just one step above bartending, waitressing, or manual labor- because it can be that. It can be something you do because you have no other skills, and you’re sick of the job you are in so you “just teach yoga.” We are off subject here in some ways because JF studied for in depth for many years, and encourages students to do the same…But you are right that someone can take a 3 week training and technically be qualified to teach. This is sad, insane, and absurd in one way, and quite wonderful in another. I like the degree of availability of it now days, tho I have literally laughed in the face of a few over-zealous newbies, under the impression they knew way more than they actually do. Yoga was once for only most ernest of seekers, and those on the upper end of the class structure in India. So glad that has changed, but it’s definitely not sure where it belongs just yet. This particular scandal is all part of Yoga’s growing pains, and I think it is a wonderful blessing (in disguise.) I liked the letter from Douglas Brooks, published in march in this very website a lot. I also highly recommend The Guru Papers, by J Kramer. Excellent exploration why the guru model, which seemed to work to a good degree centuries ago in India, doesn’t work here and now.

    We gonna have to figger sometin’ else out, if we want to continue to enjoy the countless benefits of a quality yoga practice.

    Should be interesting!

  • The whole thing is sad. And John, though I am sure in real pain, still seems oblivious to some of the real issues.

    I just saw the video he complains about; hard to believe he had no idea he was being filmed since the whole video is a headshot. And while his manipulating behavior and dissing of Kelly is really shitty and mean-spirited, I find it interesting that he things THAT of all things is what he needs to apologize for. The whole video is (or should be) an embarrassment! Comments seem to think he’s stoned; who knows. But the megalomania gets worse over the course of the 12 minutes and he still doesn’t seem to get it?

    I wrote an essay before I was aware of the scandal as it was breaking back in February; it was an argument I made many times over the years — at least twice directly to John Friend himself.

    Today, it seems he is experiencing duhkha, (the first noble truth) but still remains unclear as to the causes of duhkha (the second noble truth) and how to end it (third and fourth noble truth). So, sadly, I do not see him learning much from this experience.

    http://www.mindfulness-yoga.blogspot.ca/2012/02/recently-exodus-of-several-senior.html

  • we're done here

    JF has unilaterally decided an ethics investigation is no longer required. We’re all cool here — case closed.

    Letter to the community about the ethics investigation July 5, 2012
    Dear Community,
    In the past several months, there has been much reference to an ethics review. At this time, we would like to share the history of what has transpired with the ethics process as well as where it now stands.
    The history
    When the allegations of misconduct became public in early February, many people in the community, including John Friend, called for an ethics investigation. The previous Ethics Committee of Anusara yoga was not operational at that time, nor was there any established process for evaluating John’s conduct. Three certified teachers (Deb Neubauer, Ellen Saltonstall and Darcy Lyon) volunteered during March and April to gather ideas about how to plan an ethics investigation using comparable professional standards. Darcy Lyon is a Marriage and Family Therapy Intern as well as a certified Anusara teacher, and she offered to help with ethics in the early days of February. John Friend and Wendy Willtrout approved Darcy Lyon as the Chair of this team in March.
    Over a period of several months, we gathered information about procedures used by other professional organizations. We specifically looked at how these professional organizations handled allegations that involved power differentials, including those between student/teacher, employer/employee, and counselor/client in the arenas of personal intimacy, spirituality and organizational administration.
    As part of our research, we spoke with lawyers, doctors, professional mediators, spiritual leaders and therapists. We also spoke with individuals whose job it is to evaluate medical doctors or spiritual leaders who have been accused of violating ethical standards. The organizations we consulted included: The Board of Behavioral Sciences, California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, the Bar Association, The Ethics and Reconciliation Council of the San Francisco Zen Center, The Committee for Physician Health in New York State, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, PA and Spirit Rock Meditation Center.
    Why do it?
    More than four months have passed since the community began to hear allegations about John’s conduct. Much debate has occurred on social media. We realized two important things: 1) We do not want the court of public media to determine the truth or falsehood of the allegations and 2) We are not in a position to forcefully restrain John Friend in any way: from teaching, from using the trademarks, or from conducting his personal and professional life as he pleases. He has no license for anyone to withdraw. The community is already fractured; some will continue to associate with him by their own choice, others will not.
    Our goal in planning this ethics process was to provide an honest, respectful, safe, compassionate, fair, systematic and widely accepted means toward a greater understanding of what has occurred. We felt that this process could have potentially helped to heal some of the wounds that the community has suffered, as well as give John a chance to make amends for specific ethical violations.
    This process was approved by the Leadership Committee in early May.
    The process that we proposed:
    1. Gathering the allegations
    We proposed two possible means for gathering allegations that would alert members of the community by websites and social media that they could submit allegations/complaints within a 30 day time limit. The two methods for submissions that we proposed were:
    a) A written form (downloaded from websites) could have been submitted to the Chair who would have compiled them. This form would have indicated what substantiating information was necessary.
    b) Complaints could also have been anonymously submitted by phone to a professional therapist from outside the Anusara community. That therapist would then screen and compile the allegations, giving pseudonyms where appropriate, and would submit a report to the Chair.
    2. Submission and initial review of the allegations
    Having received and reviewed the allegations from written forms and the therapist, the Chair would have reported (in general, not with all details) to the entire Leadership Committee, or a smaller representative group of LC members.
    3. The professional panel
    A panel of 3-5 people would form the ethics review panel. We chose people who are of high integrity, who have appropriate detachment from John Friend and the Anusara community, and who have substantial professional credibility. The Chair and the review panel would have signed an agreement of confidentiality, meaning that no names or stories would have been shared with those outside of this group, including with other community members, those outside the community or any member of the media including on-line publications. The intent of this strict adherence to confidentiality was to create a safe space for all.
    4. The review process
    The panel would have reviewed and discussed the information. Ethical guidelines written and published by John Friend prior to February 3rd would have been used in the process of evaluating his conduct. For more information about these guidelines please go to the Anusara Yoga website or the teacher training manual.
    5. The mediation process
    The panel would have met with John Friend to hear his response to the allegations, possibly assisted by a professional mediator.
    6. The recommendations
    After hearing John’s response to the allegations, the panel would have arrived at a series of recommendations.
    7. John would have been given the chance to respond to these recommendations.
    8. The community would have been informed of the proceedings from this point onward. The process of the investigation was intended to be transparent to the community including the ethics panel members’ names, while the content of what was submitted would have remained strictly confidential to ensure privacy and safety for all.
    9. The panel would keep in touch with John to assess whether the recommendations had been followed.
    Expenses:
    An anonymous donor offered $5000 towards the cost of the review process if all parties agreed to the process described above. Each of the panel members was to be paid an honorarium of $900 for their work on the panel. Half of this honorarium would have been paid before any work began and the other half upon completion of the panel’s work. Each panel member was guaranteed this honorarium regardless of the recommendations made or outcomes from their recommendations, as long as they participated in each of the steps outlined above. Any remaining funds would have been used to cover expenses related to the ethics review process. The Ethics Chair would have received no financial compensation for her participation. Any costs associated with the process exceeding $5000 would have been paid by John Friend.
    Where we are:
    The ethics review process was always held separately from the business negotiations. We submitted our proposal to John on May 24th when negotiations for a trademark deal were still in process. John reported that he would not comment on the ethics proposal until the trademark deal was complete. On June 11th we followed up with John stating that since the trademark negotiations between John Friend and the Leadership Committee had ended, it was time to decide on whether the ethics procedure that we proposed would begin. Wendy and John responded by asking some clarifying questions about the process. We responded to those questions.
    On Friday, June 22nd John let us know that he was not interested in participating in our proposed ethics review process. In his response to us, he wrote that “the main feeling that I gather from those wishing to stay associated with Anusara yoga is that an ethics review of my actions is past due and unnecessary, particularly because I have fully taken responsibility for my ethical violations.”
    Instead, he outlined “steps for a proper and balanced Anusara yoga ethics process”, which had many similarities to the ethics review process which we had developed, but which would be overseen by teachers remaining within Anusara, Inc.
    Our response:
    An ethics investigation is standard practice in most established professional communities where the bond of trust between teacher-student, client-therapist, patient-doctor or other relationship appears to have been violated.
    Given the level of allegations and strife within the community over the last four months, we have felt a dharmic responsibility to respond in some clear way that ensures we can learn from this history and not repeat it.
    We are concerned that any investigation initiated within Anusara Inc. may lack credibility and may not bring healing to the community. It also may not provide reparation to those harmed, clear John’s name or restore integrity into the lineage of Anusara yoga.

    We realize that some members of the community may want to pursue an ethics process without John’s involvement, but we choose not to do that.
    Each of us have been driven by our love of this method, our desire for healing for all involved and the belief that all experiences can be transformed through skillful means to be beneficial in some way. We have endeavored to have our actions guided by these standards.
    Sincerely,
    Darcy Lyon
    Ellen Saltonstall
    Deb Neubauer

  • brian smith

    John Friend is a complete MORON end of story!

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