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Michael Stone, Beloved Buddhist Teacher, In Coma, Taken Off Life Support

in YD News

michael-stone

We were deeply saddened to hear that beloved Buddhist teacher Michael Stone had suddenly taken ill on July 13th and had reportedly fallen into a coma. We’ve now learned that Stone has been taken off of life support as of Sunday evening, July 16, according to his partner.

Michael Stone is a British Columbia-based Buddhist teacher, yogi, author and social activist. Though he was based in Canada, Stone often traveled internationally to teach workshops and lead retreats. He’s the author of multiple books bridging Buddhism, yoga, and social action, most recently Family Wakes Us Up, a collaboration with Matthew Remski, and according to his recent Facebook posts, he was working on several more, including The National Parks of the Mind: A Field Guide to Mental States.

On Friday, July 14, a status update was posted to Stone’s Facebook page: “This post is to let you all know that Michael was hospitalized in Victoria yesterday evening. He is in a coma, and being monitored closely. Carina is by his side. We ask that you send them both your thoughts and prayers. We cannot answer any individual questions at this time but will update this page as soon as more information becomes available, and according to the family’s wishes. Thank you.”

Stone’s partner Carina posted later Friday evening that Michael was “between worlds right now,” and encouraged his friends and students to “sit, feel, cry, stand up and move your body.”

Though little is known yet as to the cause of Stone’s sudden condition, Carina shared that Stone “didn’t return from a day trip to town” and that “he was taken to the hospital in a coma and had lost all brain function by the time he arrived,” she said in a message posted Sunday afternoon, July 16. She also shared that they would be taking him off life support.

Here is the full message via Michael Stone’s Facebook page:

Dear Michael’s Friends, Students and Loved Ones,

Thank you all for your love and support for Michael during this difficult time. We are writing to keep you informed of what is happening.

On Thursday night Michael didn’t return from a day trip to town. He was taken to the hospital in a coma and had lost all brain function by the time he arrived. His body has been kept on life support over the weekend while his family came to say their goodbyes and surround him with love. He will remain on life support until tonight (Sunday) between 8pm and 1am Pacific Time. If you can practice and send love and blessings in whatever way you can during that time, it would be a welcome and loving support to Michael and all of us.

We are still piecing together what happened and will need some time to learn, process and share more with you. In the meantime, we would appreciate your patience, understanding and support as we move through this experience.

With Immense Love,
Carina and Jayme

For those who know Michael Stone or know of his teachings, we invite you to share your thoughts, prayers and good memories below, or over on his Facebook page where the outpouring of love and admiration continues to flow.

We will keep you posted on any updates.

We leave you with this. Take a few minutes to breathe, courtesy of Michael Stone and his Awake in the World podcast.

 

UPDATE: Michael Stone has passed. A message from his partner Carina was posted on his Facebook page around 2pm (eastern).

This is Carina.

Michael left beautifully and peacefully last night. There was joy and release in his time of transformation.

Unfathomable. Heart opening. Mind grasping for knowing every unknowable.
Deep feelings of peace.

A blue heron landed on our deck
Another at the oceans edge
Three turns of the earth
Always in a moment
His nose
Face of a Buddha
A hand on my shoulder
Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhisvaha
Prajna heart sutra

Thank you for your love and practice
Bowing

UPDATE 7/20/17:

Michael Stone’s Passing – Official Statement
from Carina Stone, Erin Robinsong & Rose Riccio

Michael Stone passed suddenly from this world last weekend in Victoria, BC. He was found on July 14th and remained on life support until July 16th. The story of what led to this moment is complex and heartbreaking.

Michael was loved for his brilliant mind and generous heart. He was an eminent Buddhist and yoga teacher, author, uncommon activist and human being. He had a gift for making really old practices fresh and relevant. He shone brightly. He was the bedrock of a community of yoga and meditation practitioners, first in Toronto and now an expanded international community. If you met or studied with Michael you may remember him as wise, charismatic and poetic. He seemed unshakeable and capable of holding everyone else’s suffering. And he did, but he struggled with his own.

Michael lived with bipolar disorder his whole life. Bipolar disorder is characterized by a fluctuation between normalcy, mania and depression. This manifested in visible and invisible ways. He was aroused by life, he sought experiences. As a young man he drove race cars, followed the Grateful Dead, and experimented with psychedelics. He perceived the world with incredible sensitivity, through music, art and literature. Along with this lust for life was an impulsivity that he struggled to quell through yoga and Buddhist practice. His brain was rapidfire and wide open. It was part of his brilliance and his sensitive nature.

Michael came to spiritual practice innately at a young age, and then to formal study as a teenager. It was also a way to take care of his mental health. For a long time he was well enough to resist the diagnosis and stay balanced naturally through practice and self-care, but as things got worse, he opened up more to family and friends, and sought medical help. Taking care of his extreme mental states became a full-time job for him and his partner Carina. They were a team. They were doing well. His international work was incredibly inspired and flourishing. They established self-care routines. He exercised. He went to bed early. He ate a special diet. They joked about fecal transplants. He saw naturopaths and herbalists and trainers and therapists. He continued his daily practice. As things worsened he turned to psychiatry and medication as well. Balancing his meds was ever-changing and precarious. He struggled to be completely open with those around him about how much and how deeply he struggled. He tried.

In 2015, Michael shared-
“You’d think that given all this inner work, an incredible network of support, strong friendships, a loving partner and kids, and lastly, a life dedicated to embodying the dharma (literally every single day includes practice and study), that I’d be immune to extreme mental states.
[…]
It can be hard to admit even to ourselves that there are times when the stability of awareness that we discover in [meditation] just isn’t there. When this started happening I’d say my practice needs to get deeper. But the truth is, there was a chemical change in my brain.”

As versed as Michael was with the silence around mental health issues in our culture, he feared the stigma of his diagnosis. He was on the cusp of revealing publicly how shaped he was by bipolar disorder, and how he was doing.

In the silencing he hid desires he had for relief. This spring his mania began to cycle more rapidly. The psychiatrist had always said the most dangerous part of bipolar disorder is the manic episode. It’s the part they treat. In an effort to stabilize him, his medication dosage was increased. Now and then he would mention a wish for a safe, non-addictive prescribed natural form of opium. He discussed it with his psychiatrist and Carina. He thought it might calm his overactive mind.

Unbeknownst to everybody, he was growing more desperate. On Thursday July 13, Michael left his Gulf Island home for a routine trip to Victoria. On the way into town, he called a substance abuse and addictions pharmacy, likely to ask for a safe, controlled drug to self-medicate. He was not a candidate. He got a haircut, exercised, ran household errands and finally acquired a street drug. Initial toxicology tests suggest inconclusively that he had opioids, including fentanyl, in his system. Because of the back up due to the fentanyl crisis, it will be five months before the conclusive toxicology test results are in.

When he didn’t come home, Carina initiated a missing persons search with the RCMP and he was found around midnight on Thursday. He was unresponsive and found to have no brain function upon arrival at the hospital. He was declared brain dead on July 14th and was kept on life support for the purposes of being an organ donor on Sunday, July 16th. Within hours of the operation, three people received new life through his organs. His lungs, and kidneys.

His time in hospital was beautiful and peaceful, full of love and gratitude. Carina was by his side night and day until the last moment. He was surrounded by his family, his children and dear friends.

It may be hard to put one’s mind into his, to imagine how he could take such a risk with a young family, baby on the way, with such a full life and such fortune. It could be easy to shake one’s head and think, what a shame. Culturally we don’t have enough language to talk about this. Rather than feel the shame and tragedy of it, can we find questions? What was he feeling? How was he coping? What am I uncomfortable hearing? What can we do for ourselves and others who have impulses or behaviors we cannot understand? Impulses that scare us and silence us? How can we take care of each other?

Michael did amazing work in the world and changed the lives of so many. He was a beautiful father and loving husband. He loved his life, his work and his students deeply. He was loved immeasurably. He continues.

UPDATE 7/24/17:

Via CBC News:

“In a statement released last Thursday, his wife, Carina Stone, and students revealed he’d been living with bipolar disorder and may have been trying to alleviate his symptoms when he died.

Stone was on his way to Victoria for a “routine” day trip on July 13 when he sought help, the statement said.

“On the way into town, he called a substance abuse and addictions pharmacy, likely to ask for a safe, controlled drug to self-medicate,” it reads. “He was not a candidate.”

Stone eventually bought and took an unspecified “street drug,” the statement said. RCMP found him unresponsive around midnight after his wife reported him missing.

Stone was declared brain dead in hospital and died on July 16, having remained on life support for two days so his lungs and kidneys could be donated.”

photo: Caitlin Strom 
58 comments… add one
  • Deepest sorrow to Michaels family and our community. The loss of a Dhamma teacher is great in a world so difficult. His light was bright and shined through from the beginning. His friendship and love awakened those around him.
    May we rise from our sufferings and awaken.
    Sending love to Michaels family, only love.

  • I have read several of Michael’s books. His teachings are a gift to the world. Michael is in the Bardo now and needs out prayers for his transitions. Blessings Michael and your loving family.

  • Brendan Mc Alorum

    I’ve been following Micheal since 2009,he’s helped me so much with my depression and anxiety,his books give me so much help and joy,i joined one of his online courses which was great to,I pary for him and his family

  • Della Eames

    I pray Jesus will come to Michael in his state and accept Him into his heart, to be with Him in Paradise!! Jn 3:16

  • I had just discovered beloved global spiritual teacher and yoga/buddhist activist Michael Stone through his engaged, real world philosophy and global work – I read some of his writings and listened to several podcasts. Two days later, he is gone.

    I know, of course, he is not only gone, but also, in another sense, found — to the extent he is loved, memorialized/held in memory, essence and spirit, and well-internalized in the lives of those who love him so well, he lives on.
    and so, hello and farewell, dear Michael.
    May the depths of bonds of love and attachment hold and cradle those who love you best – now in their sorrow, and in years ahead through continuing bonds of attachment.
    Marilee

  • It deeply bothers me the mystery, cover-up of information on the cause of his death.
    The lack of truthful information waters distrust. Is this his legacy?

    • Antoinette Simms

      To Sylvia C Shcroll, did you happen to read Carina’s letter? She wrote that they don’t know yet what happened as he became ill suddenly. She asked for everyone to have patience while they find out. They have to do an autopsy and figure out what happened. His legacy lives on and has little to do with why he died. Patience, love and compassion are his legacy and that’s what’s really needed at this time.

    • Yogi flu

      I heard it was cocaine overdose…but never judge a book by its cover….

  • Sue

    To: Antoinette Simms. I agree with Sylvia Schroll. Something doesn’t stack up here in what we are being told. People don’t just “go into a coma” out of the blue. Something causes it. That could be a head injury, like a car accident or a fall or getting struck on the head. That would be pretty obvious as a cause and there’s no reason not to say he was in a car accident or fell. Someone who has a heart attack and cardiac arrest can also go into a coma like this if CPR isn’t started soon enough. A stroke or brain aneurism could also cause a coma. The medics would have diagnosed all of these causes with a brain scan within 30 minutes of being in the emergency room. They don’t need an autopsy at all. If you are informing the public about someone being in a coma, there is no reason not to also say they had a heart attack or stroke or were in a car accident. Or just say the person died and you want privacy.
    Another reason for someone to go into a coma like this is a drug overdose. Look up the singer Andrew Wood from Seattle. Very similar situation where he was in a coma for a few days on life support.
    People lead double lives sometimes, and the Buddhist community, for all of their aphorisms and platitudes, are one of the most political groups out there. The partial information certainly smacks of a cover-up and leads to questions as to what really happened. I don’t know Stone, and have never read his books, but I can see why, if someone died from a cause that didn’t fit with their public persona, people might want to cover that up.

    • haley

      Yogi flu, do you have any sources for it being a cocaine overdose? That would make some sense and it explains some of what others here are speculating is a cover up of the cause of death. Someone is an author in the yoga community, who is teaching about life and a world out of balance and is sort of a life coach and stuff like that. It’s like it undermines their whole stated mission if they are a closet drug user. Whether that is justified or not, it is true. We expect our spiritual teachers to be squeaky clean.

    • A brain Aneurysm can cause a situation like this.

  • Is one of the most perceptive people Michael Stone has demonstrated a lot of social development views today
    https://intanminhthanh.com/san-pham/in-bia-dung-ho-so-gia-re-hcm

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  • Barry Soetoro

    It’s interesting that yogadork is also spinning this as “he suddenly took ill and fell into a coma” because that is likely not what happened. The rumor, alluded to in some of the comments, is that there is a bit more to the story. I imagine the spin doctors who have a vested interest in this will be out in force. Yogadork lost credibility a long time ago.

  • New to Michael’s masterful teachings, just reviewd some of those on suicide. I observe, in light of the obvious issues regarding cause of death, suggestions of bipolarality- expansiveness, voracious reading, writing & speaking, constant movement, travel and urge for connectedness , risk taking pushing limits, restless, incredibly sensitive and disclosing, astute– while not negative characteristics, if they were indicators of a bipolar process untreated, they could account for a rapid descent into a depressive state, poor judgment, uncharacteristic or overuse of substances, vulnerability to being exploited in a drug induced state, etc. As a trauma psychologist, I’ve had experience with individuals displaying a similar constellation of issues (plus others) that resulted in precipituous suicide. These were psychotherapists and ministers whose families were completely in the dark regarding the meaning of some of their symptoms over the years, partly because the men were such high achievers , and particularly charismatic in their compassionate relating to others in pain. They failed, or were unable, to get effective help for themselves, probably partly a function of distorted thinking (mood -affected – grandiosity plus depressive constriction of options) and with time, the depressive episodes came closer and closer together. This is merely hypothesis in the baffling case of much belived Michael, whom all of you know better than I do. It is something I would be wanting to rule out as a clinician as it is not an uncommon scenario. I would be very surprised if they had not already considered this possibility.

    • kalixasane

      You were right. It’s so very sad. But you were right.

      • yeah

        Yeah, kalizasane, maybe a little “too right”…as in pre-spinning.

    • Polly Moore

      Thank you Marilee Ruebsamen for your compassionate and knowledgable comment. I found it very helpful in understanding what may have happened. The rumour I heard is that Michael suffered a fentanyl induced coma. If this is true, I hope that the story is brought to light in time so that it can be grappled with honestly, discussed sensitively and intelligently, and Michael can be known as more than his public persona; as a complex person struggling with his own demons and pain. I believe his family should be cut some slack for the vague and confusing public statement they have provided thus far – obviously this would be extremely difficult for them to address, both personally and publicly, and perhaps they are taking the time to determine what they are willing or obligated to share.

    • Thank you for this link. Recently, I began working with folks in recovery. These are battles I do not understand personally, but open my own heart to be present with them while teaching them yoga. A mantra I find helpful during my time serving them is , “I see your suffering and I see your courage”. Michael was more than courageous for a very long time. His family saw his suffering up close while accompanying him on his journey. His suffering and his courage mattered.

  • texmex

    There is still alot in the recent statement that raises eyebrows. I understand that there is a legacy etc to protect, but some of it doesn’t add up. They say that initial toxicology tests “suggest” inconclusively that he had opioids, including fentanyl, in his system. The thing is, those tests are highly accurate and conclusive. The statement also implies that it will be months before a final report. I dunno. Then there’s the thing about going to a pharmacy to get a non addictive drug. That doesn’t add up. Pharmacies require prescriptions. It’s like they are dancing around the drug use. Why? Is it so bad for someone to be a drug user?
    “Spiritual teachers” often live two lives–that’s part of the allure. On the one hand you have a bunch of followers who hang on your every word. Then there is the real you. Living a double life can be exciting. It’s a form of psychopathy itself. We’ve seen it with tele-evangelists and gurus so many times–look at the other big one exposed here back in 2012.
    And these spiritual leaders look at their followers with cynicism, like they are a bunch of schmucks.
    I guess I want more details, more answers. Where was he found? Who was he with when he was found? Who brought him to the hospital. The statement dances around that, making it seem like the Mounties found him. That isn’t the way it went down though. He must have been in a place where people take drugs, possibly with others who are spiritual “leaders”. Was his drug use a long term thing and were his writings a sham? Look at the film “Kumare”.

  • neil

    I caught you knockin’ at my cellar door
    I love you, baby, can I have some more
    Ooh, ooh, the damage done.

    I hit the city and I lost my band
    I watched the needle take another man
    Gone, gone, the damage done.

    I sing the song because I love the man
    I know that some of you don’t understand
    Milk-blood to keep from running out.

    I’ve seen the needle and the damage done
    A little part of it in everyone
    But every junkie’s like a settin’ sun…

  • Kathari

    Some of the words of the commentors here are horrid. They pretend to point to “the wrongness of a cover-up” instead of to the real situation, which is that people can’t stand to be in the dark and feel indignant when they don’t have all the information, as if thy are owed. They imply that the privacy & shock of a mourning community, and the time needed to collect oneself and speak openly, is somehow “spin”. They write as if a person’s reticence to share his mental illness or reveal the depth of his struggle is somehow a great wrong; as if his intense suffering while still being a respected teacher equates to a cynical double life.
    I feel so sad to read these arrogant comments ~ I can only guess that these people have no-one close to them who suffers from mental illness, depression or addiction.

    • Tina

      Hi Kathari,
      I have to chime in here, having worked with addicts for over 20 years. I don’t fault people for asking questions. Addicts are among the most manipulative people you will encounter. And hard drugs can cause symptoms identical to bipolar disorder. You post seems to say that if anyone questions what is now the official narrative surrounding this, then they are horrific. I disagree with that sentiment.

      • Kathari

        Hi Tina,
        I understand your comment absolutely, and I also have direct experience with the lies and manipulations of addicted people. I just find the urge to tear down and suspect everything that was expressed by M Stone’s family so close on the heels of his death, when they themselves were in great shock and sorrow, really insensitive, judgy and so impatient. If you’ve ever lost someone you loved– think about those traumatic hours and days afterwards. I acknowledge my comment itself may make people feel judged.

        I did not say that the commenters were horrific. I said that their words were.
        The “official narrative to be questioned” at the time that they posted was that he was found in a coma. It was not an untruth. It was not spin. I completely respect the family and sangha for needing time to process and express what happened.

    • Wondering

      I’m with you Katharine.

  • Mario

    Kathari:
    I think that the people talking about questions and critical thinking here shouldn’t be shamed. We don’t know the story with Michael and I question things in the statement. He work out, go shopping and then…bought some hard street drugs?? If that really happened, then he play with fire, which is form of arrogance too. Hard drugs like heroin and fentanyl are some of the most destructive things in society. Traffic in hard drugs, even buying, or selling is playing in economy that deals in bad things with all kinds of crime and destruction. Dark and bad. I remember a basketball player years ago who just get drafted number one in NBA. He go out and take coke and die. That wake a lot of people up. He thought he was invincible and a little coke is ok. That was wake up call. Maybe this is same, but you have to look at it critically.

    • Kathari

      Mario,
      I understand why you feel disturbed and want to question.
      If my comment was shaming I apologize. Please put yourselves in the position of the loved ones and those who are also suffering in the wake of his death. His moral perfection has nothing to do with how we ourselves can choose to be compassionate, patient, kind.

  • Hard to believe all the faux-spiritual bull being thrown about regarding a drug addict’s overdose death. This proves he was a fraud, in case your brain isn’t functioning right now.

    • Buzz

      Thank god someone else is calling this for what it is! Thank you Bradd. It is amazing the hocum story they are floating about this guy. The “statement” from the family reads like some kind PR release. Right…he did heroin because he was bipolar. Seems to be a disconnect there. Lots of people are bipolar. It doesn’t necessarily lead to heroin use. But they’ve got a GoFundMe page up. “To support his wife and kids for the years to come”. What?! And people are lapping this shit up. Sorry he died, but he knew the risks. That doesn’t usually buy your family a free ride.

  • suz

    I came across this story in the CBC. They were trying to make this charlatan like he was some kind of tragic victim and make excuses for his drug use. Total BS. No one forced this guy to abuse drugs. As a wellness person he should have known better, period. This guy was a total hypocrite and a complete fraud. Going around pretending being something he obviously wasnt and preaching bogus spiritual lessons he wasnt even following himself and obviously didnt even work for him since he needed to use hard drugs to cope. “Do as I preach, not as I do.” I cant believe the people defending this guy. Total swindler. He took peoples money to regurgitate some total nonsense he didnt even believe in himself.

    Also apparently they kept him on life support to donate his organs?? Seriously who want the liver and lungs of a drug addict?? No thanks

    • Buzz

      Suz, YES! The organ donor thing is part of the PR schpeel to show you what a good guy he was. And he lives on! Now please donate some cash to his gofundme page. It is amazing that they are spinning this as a tragic death of a great spiritual teacher…who, well, died while shooting heroin. I miss the connection. Sounds like he was coping pretty good, traveling around the world, selling his BS to the gullible yoga crowd. In the press release, they say he went into town, worked out, went shopping and then, apparently unable to go on further, unable to cope…went out and bought some smack and shot up. It’s all the fault of mental illness!

      • Ethana

        I miss the connection as well. If we are all equal… equal in our fragility, human-ness, vulnerability, imperfection, then all families who have lost loved ones to drugs should create a gofundme page as the one here: https://www.gofundme.com/carina-stone-family-fund
        However, for some reason I don’t think that they would reach even an eighth of what’s been donated so far because it would go to a drug addict’s family. Drug addicts are not revered in society, they are not upheld, they are not treated as equal but lesser than. Why is it okay to donate to this family because of the falsehood that Michael Stone created? How is that Buddhist-like? Why aren’t people angry about this? Because he philosophized and harmonized with his yoga and Buddhist teachings? Maybe pause and think. Live within the breaths in between and realize how equal we all are… if you keep Michael Stone on a pedestal, so too must you the addict sitting in the alley across the street, soaked in their own urine and vomit. Hypocrites. Every One of his followers, donators, and contributors to this sanctimonious event.

        • Bonga

          Hi Ethana,

          I’m going to chime in here, because it’s a fascinating ethical / moral dilemma, and I think you’ve summarised it quite well.

          You wrote: “Drug addicts are not revered in society, they are not upheld, they are not treated as equal but lesser than.” However, my sense is that we’re living in an era which is very confused about street drugs.

          Sure, it’s easy for some of us to be “high and mighty about drugs” and “Just Say No” (by natural inclination, I’m in this group), but the reality is that these things, and especially this fentanyl/opioid crisis is hitting families unilaterally.

          It’s hitting families in the Midwest, it’s hitting families in Calgary, it’s hitting families in Appalachia, it’s hitting families across planet Earth. That’s the core of it, for me, that we’ve got this small-e epidemic that hits indiscriminately. I mean, not like AIDS or malaria or the flu, because there *is* an element of choice involved.

          But do you really not know people who, or people whose kids, have fallen prey to addictive drugs? I mean, it’s awful. “People from good families” (… whatever that means).

          In my view, the basic compassionate attitude is that *anyone* whose main breadwinner disappears deserves support to help them weather that transition. It’s not because they’re famous or belong to a tightly-knit community or have affluent friends.

          The point is that everyone deserves this.

          Will they come out and ask for it? Do we need to continue having this stigma around overdose deaths, and non-prescription drug use in general? Can we extend compassion to afflicted families unilaterally, without understanding their circumstances, or necessarily the nature of addiction itself?

          In terms of contributing money to help a family in need, we make choices all the time about how spend our charitable assets. People often donate to a cause because they feel close to the beneficiary for some reason (think of a fundraiser for a local child or parent with cancer), and we don’t usually question why people donate to one good “cause” rather than another.

  • Kathari

    I was going to address each of the commenters who posted after my initial post, but instead of engaging individually I will just say this:

    I am 52 years old. I’ve been a yoga practitioner and “wellness person” most of my life. Very recently, until the past two years in which two close friends became addicted to opioids and a third relapsed badly into alcoholism, I had a huge amount judgment about addiction. I would have spoken as you do.

    Life has forced me to go deep into, and learn so much, about addiction and mental illness. A crash course, really, and nothing I can experience with joy or even detachment. My understanding and compassion runs more deeply now and I hesitate to pass judgment quite as quickly. And while I fully believe that we are all indeed responsible for our choices, (that “no one forced him to take street drugs” as one person wrote), until we are in the harrowing places that depression or chemical addiction create, we’re just talking out our asses when we diminish the humanity of others who suffer. Yes, they create suffering for others through their shame and secrecy; they make us feel duped and resentful of their inability to live what they teach. I once would have been on my high horse about this but I cannot be anymore after what my friends have lived through and died from.

    Michael Stone shared many precious teachings that helped many beings. That is why there is an outpouring of support for him. His wife and family happen to be part of this particular story, this situation, this time ~ and they are being offered help. Yeah, life isn’t fair. The human being on the street doesn’t get the same treatment, we know that. It isn’t right but it is part of the condition that we’re all trying to wake up to. Hating on someone who died in the dead end of his suffering, no matter how successful or hypocritical you think he is, doesn’t enhance our humanity at all.

    • Blessings to you Katherine as you speak your truth. I also honor the suffering and the life of Michael Stone as I hold his family and community near. Working thru our own judgments and attitudes is much more difficult than writing negativity about a life that, in balance, helped others with their suffering.

    • Mary

      Kathari,
      I don’t understand why you say that people don’t have the right to ask what exactly happened. You do realize that they have a page soliciting donations, with over 50k dollars donated? I think if you are going to ask for funds, then people should be able to ask what happened (and also if you really need funds). The update posted by the family was carefully written by a lawyer, PR person or other person who bullshits for a living. Look at the way they avoid any discussion of what actually happened, where and with whom. Doesn’t that bother you? Why would that be “such a painful personal thing” to share. Reading the press release, you would think it was this great guy, going for a workout, getting gifts for his family and some milk for the kittens and then “poof!”. He’s in a coma! Fell ill, he did. Next thing you know, there’s a missing persons report to the RCMP. We don’t know what happened then, because a big section is left out. The implication is there that the cops searched around and found him in a coma. Doesn’t really make sense. So he has no ID? No cell phone on him. No facebook page.
      Somehow, he overdosed on heroin, and I would like to know the details of that. The fact that they are concealing it makes it even more suspicious. Was he dealing? Were other of his spiritual cohorts involved? There’s a big blank space in the story where there shouldn’t be one. Feigned indignance and “it’s none of your business” really doesn’t fly here. Doesn’t this big unknown trouble you?

  • Buzz

    Actually, I think the whole “mental illness” thing is a half baked explanation to keep the gravy train going. If he were in chronic physical pain, yeah, it might make sense. But they are trying to paint him as some kind of hero! They’ve done a pretty good job though. Proves what the poster above said about how these charlatans look at their followers as a bunch of schmucks. Truth?

  • Michelle

    “Family wakes up”
    yessiree, bob!
    (and how…)

  • Cynthia

    I offered up my practice to Michael ,Carina and his children.

  • Roy

    Here’s a youtube video that I think fits the mood here:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vkqLhTwhfc

    Bye…

  • pal

    wow, “died shooting heroin” “was he dealing” “proves he was a fraud” what gossipy nonsense. many drugs are bad; but people are worse; peace to all beings, even the cursed (not bradd graves tho, see you in hell bud).

  • Jane

    This is a sad story, but I wanted to comment, Michael Stone was a yoga teacher, a meditation and mindfulness teacher and an activist, but I can’t find anything indicating he taught Buddhism. I think it’s very misleading that it appears in so many headlines.

    • Dwayne

      Interesting point. “Buddhist teacher” seems to be used in the sense of “teacher who happens to be Buddhist” rather than “teacher of Buddhism”.
      I actually read a book Stone edited, “Freeing the body, freeing the mind: writings on the connections between Yoga and Buddhism”. His contribution was on Yoga rather than Buddhism. (I expected much from the book, but found it rather weak and donated it to my local library.). OTOH, two of the main Web stories on Stone’s death appeared on the websites of Buddhist publishers Tricycle and Lion’s Roar.

    • Kathari

      Michael Stone taught extensively from the Lotus and Diamond Sutras, as well as from various aspects of the Tibetan Buddhist traditional, such as Lojong (training the mind) Tonglen (taking and sending) and from the Zen tradition in the Suzuki Lineage. I don’t know 100% for sure but based on his writings and words about himself I can only assume that he had taken Refuge and Bodhisattva vows.

      • Kathari

        Typo-from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition

      • Michelle

        He also apparently really liked getting “blissed out” on opioids. According to the press release on the Buddhist site Lion’s Roar, “Now and then he would mention a wish for a safe, non-addictive prescribed natural form of opium. He discussed it with his psychiatrist and Carina. He thought it might calm his overactive mind.”
        I think this PR site posting this statement helps to show just how out of touch his supporters are. He wished for a drug to help him bliss out. A statement like that kind of reflects the weak mindset of the person.
        Apparently, he liked doing drugs and used his schtick about yoga and spirituality to pay for them. As some have alluded to above, he was living a double life. He was a charlaton.

        • Dwayne

          I’m not familiar enough with M. Stone to comment. My knee-jerk reaction would be to agree with you, but the issue *may* be more complex.
          For instance, for many years I avoided reading books by the famous Tibetan Buddhist
          Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche (teacher of Pema Chodron and many other famous Western Buddhist figures). I reasoned that since he was (by all indications) a raging alcoholic, his spiritual advice could not be worth paying much attention to. However, in the past few months I read a couple of his books (“Cutting through spiritual materialism” and “The myth of freedom”) and found them excellent. I still feel somewhat queasy about the controversies surrounding Trungpa, but would not hesitate to study more of his published teaching.

          • B

            Interesting thought, Dwayne. Chen Man Ching of the Yang Tai Chi lineage was, by many accounts, also a raging alcoholic. Patthabbi Jois openly foundled his female students, yet his followers will defend him forever. Even with video footage.
            Iyengar and his organization has crafted myth around the man, especially when he was alive. But if you speak to some outside of his organization who spent time there they will tell you he was full of raging pathology–arguably over the edge in egotism and insecurity. His followers helped him keep the fabrications going and bury the injuries. All of these “great spiritual teachers” were, arguably, douchebags! They set themselves up and their followers perpetuate the myth.

        • pal

          he had bipolar disorder, which is having manic and depressive episodes. depression is widely discussed, but because we value mania, it isn’t. in manic episodes, your mind goes so fast it’s like you’re losing it, the mind whirring so fast it’s running away. he sought relief outside the system because it was not responding to him. rather than look at this disorder honestly, you are here jerking off to your sense of superiority, and lying to boot.

          • Bonga

            Yeah, I think that’s another core of it, and I’m going to come out and express more succinctly what’s relevant to me in all this:

            I am diagnosed bipolar, spent several years totally pursuing yoga, have read extensively and deeply in the spiritual traditions, and … and and and, I feel my relatives AND the psycho-health system, despite being *generally* well-meaning, to be: a) stigmatising, b) un-comforting, c) intolerant (of e.g. diversity and simple eccentricity), d) un-helpful (from cost-benefit perspective:

            yes/ meds are okay-ish, I guess, maybe — and that’s considering that I’m fortunately to respond fairly well to valproic acid, but God help me, I wasn’t prescribed bad shit, including the addictive kinds that I found people on (or cocktails of meds!) on my last unfortunate foray to an asylum in the States

            no/ to think of the hypocrisy, lies, bad attitude, self-centredness, lack of empathy, did I already say ‘stigma’, arrogance I encountered throughout my twenties and most of my thirties at the hands of the medical “establishment” and those who were supposed to be my nearest and dearest.

            My landlady had better compassion than my own parents — as in, my father disinherited / disowned me (I was formerly the apple of his eye), and my mum … Well, she’s just so “clinical” in her approach, it’s unsettling.

            I believe in the Myth of the Wounded Healer. Not like somebody broke / wounded healers so that they could heal others, but that it often seems to take a journey out of suffering to help others in their pain.

            I can’t pretend to be a shaman, but I *do* know I have a pretty good sense of the human spectrum of human emotion, from personal experience. And that’s okay.

            The terrible thing at the heart of my (so-called??) disease (yes, 4 or 5 hospital sessions ‘n all, so there’s no plausible deniability from a medical standpoint — unless “they’re all wrong” … which I’m open to, btw ;-))

            The terrible thing is that much of the time it doesn’t feel like a “dis-ease” at all. And I’m manic. I mean, I get off and I get high and I get hospitalized when I’m at the manic end of the bipolar spectrum. It’s the “racing thoughts, all is connected, everything is a rainbow of bliss” field of being. Yes, it’s awesome, and it’s fantastic, and part of the 20-odd year battle around bipolar, for me, has been the tension between “those judging” and “me having fun”.

            Those judging, and “my personal bliss” (and if you watch a movie like Mr. Jones, which was actually nice to watch with my mum — but the question is, “Was he really going to jump off that building? Or wasn’t he?” Yes, people when they’re bipolar-high can do stupid or life-threatening things — but so do many other segments of society, without, potentially, as much stigma.

            Sorry-but-not-sorry for this run-on sentence. I guess for me the way this story shapes itself is that I can extrapolate from my own experience, and readings of the world around me, that there’s this thing called “coexisting conditions” or “co-factors” or whatever, and often “people who take drugs also drink” or “people who are used to chasing highs (maybe because they occur in them naturally??) will want to chase them a little more … ”

            I mean, yikes, what’s there *really* to judge here? I mean, he’s not *your* spiritual teacher, so who cares? And he’s also not Sun Myung Moon, or like, “mega-crooked”, I wouldn’t think. (Bottom line: No one was hurt / No one was told to jump off a bridge by his Teachings, nor did anyone do it.)

            On my last time in hospital (for a month, three years ago, for mania), no one sent me “Get Well Cards.” I keep going back to that, because that for me is that prime indicator that it’s “the other people” who are “the hypocrites”. They’re all “Take your meds-y” and “Mental health issues are *just the same* as a fragile liver or delicate kidneys or some other physical ailment, like a broken bone.”

            And then when it comes to actually honouring that person who is sick, or who is supposedly “just sick” — well then personally I’ve felt a very different story (plus with the arrogance of many — but not all — doctors.)

            Each “episode” in hospital has set me back in so many ways. (There’s clinical research to indicate that every mania “fries” your brain — which is possible … certainly I’ve felt lethargy after the fact. But I’ve also always wondered if it was the after-effects of the obscene amount of anti-psychotics they force-inject you in hospital. Bye-bye dignity.)

            But I digress.

            The aspect of this story that interests me is that here was someone who was potentially self-medicating with opiates (?), and — the truth is, I’ve never *really* heard of Michael Stone, besides extremely peripherally. I hear from the comments and the published bio that people felt drawn to his personal warmth and empathic knowledge of the human condition.

            Great! Just the kind of being one would want to be around (right?)!

            Now to try and untangle the moral and ethical threads, which I alluded to in an earlier comment:

            If we’re in agreement that he was an affable fellow and engaging to be around, does it matter that he took drugs?

            Question 2: If he was teaching a “revolutionary method to live drug free” — and he was taking drugs, would that make him an ideal teacher?

            The answer to Question 2 is probably “no.” But what about Question 1, “He’s ‘just’ a great guy, AND happens to be fallible and human (and a junkie, to perhaps overstate the case), AND is also a big fan of the Buddha or Tantric Yoga (where you love all that is in the world, not an atom more or less: it’s all tantrically amazing and loveable … ) — AND makes no bones about the fact that he’s also fallible and human and trying to learn (while teaching — which many would say is the only way to learn … )

            I mean, is that shocking or isn’t it? I think that’s what it boils down to, all these clauses, and we need to figure out — or all these various commentators in various states of alarm and pique (indignation) — whether it’s okay to be fallible AND a teacher, or whether we demand of our teachers that they be perfect, OR whether the fact that (to my knowledge) M.S. never said a word openly about drug use is a “fatal flaw” (well, no pun intended but it’s getting late … )

            Basically, I’m interested in the ethics of the thing, and to my “legal mind” it sort of comes down to whether the fact that he took drugs is relevant to him being a yoga teacher.

            I struggle with this question all the time: I teach one class per week, and because my life does not revolve around it or yoga anymore to the same extent, I worry that I’m not a good yoga teacher or “falling off the Path” or deceiving my students or disappointing the Divine or something like that.

            But if we look at the facts very clearly in the face: My students love me, I am delivering an okay-to-above-average class that connects to their level of proficiency and their pain (I get the sense that the more flawed I am, the better they respond to me: I could be the celibate tea-totalling always-practicing yoga chick Bodhisattva (whatever … anyways, ideals … ) but the fact of the matter is that it’s almost as if “the more wine I drink, and the more I experience the inevitable joys and tribulations that they can relate to, such as those I have with my partner, and the *less* personal practice I do (stiff muscles!!!) — well somehow, I still have the body memory for all this after so many years of practice, and I can “fake it” and my students and I connect, and I get the sense of “transmission of something”.

            Am I painting myself as someone I’m not? No, in this case, definitely I am not.

            But I never took one of Michael Stone’s classes, and again, I don’t know if he said, “Hey kids, just say no to drugs” or if he was perhaps a bit coy and used masterful and uplifting language to suggest “We’re all in this together,” “You can do it,” “Don’t despair,” “It takes one to know one,” “In the eyes of Tara, all are worthy,” and what-have-you.

            I don’t know. I just know that some of the commenters seem to jump to hasty conclusions about “hypocrisy” and “double-standards” when maybe the whole POINT of his teachings was to say, “I’m flawed, follow me if you dare.”

            Oh, and another question — this isn’t my cup of tea, but I supposed I’m writing so much because all of these are “deep inner questions” I’ve wondered about forever: We don’t usually dismiss musicians (rock ‘n rollers, for instance, or great jazz or blues men / women) just because they have a habit.

            I’m asking this innocently, to move the conversation forward: How is this different?

            Thanks,
            SB

  • Dwayne

    B, I never “drank the Kool-Aid” re. the famous Indian yoga gurus. When P. Jois passed in 2009, an Indian correspondent for _The Economist_ magazine (highly respectable source whose articles are usually anonymous) wrote a snarky (signed) obit; a passage I vividly remember read something like “…male students lived in fear of being adjusted by [Pattabhi], while women received adjustments of a completely different sort…” And Mark Singleton’s _Yoga Body_ makes it clear that Pattabhi invented much of the Ashtanga hagiography out of whole cloth. Re. Iyengar, my first yoga teacher frequently said that “Iyengar broke somebody’s back”, and anecdotes of him humiliating students are legion. Re. “spiritual gurus” I have less hard knowledge, but view them with a high degree of scepticism.

    • B

      Dwayne,
      You were lucky not to drink the Kool Aid regarding the “gurus”. Iyengar seems to have perhaps the most enduring reputation for integrity, yet he really was a complete asshole a large part of the time. He loved to humiliate people in the most cowardly way (when he had a crowd around swooning over him). Really a flaming jackass. If anyone else acted like that, they’d be considered a complete jerk. But his followers were always very sensitive about anyone criticizing him, saying “he’s only human bla bla..” He stoked the myth of having supernatural healing powers but frequently injured his subjects. He fabricated his successes and buried the injuries. A carefully created facade of bullshit, which continues to this day. I doubt he had a real friend in the world. All were there to climb up his hierarchy. Yet the yoga does have something to it.
      I never cease to be amazed at how the followers of Jois can deny that he was a complete and total sexual deviant, even when the Indian police went after him. But I like many aspects of the ashtanga series.
      When I look at it that way, Stone seems to be, at worst, harmless–except to himself. A lot of people seem to have liked his teaching and he seemed like a decent enough guy but we never really know what’s behind the public mask. Probably an addict who happened on some heroin spiked with fentanyl. That stuff is very dangerous and can kill you quickly.
      I can’t really say he was a complete fraud, although he may well have been not living what he was advocating. But, if we hold the teachers to even a minimal standard of integrity, I have to say most every single one fails miserably.

  • Jane

    I’m no expert, but the teachers mentioned above were all immersed in variations of the tantric tradition, without supervision and control by more senior masters. After acquiring the status of guru to many young women, the consequences aren’t the least surprising, and in fact are quite consistent with tantra.

    • B

      Jane,
      I think more likely Patthabbi was just a horny old Indian man who got turned on by all of the hot young lithe babes showing up in Mysore. He never struck me as the brightest bulb on the tree either. His students concocted a variety of excuses for him (like this was some type of Tantric mumbo jumbo).
      I never heard about Iyengar fondling any students. He was just a pompous egomaniac who wanted people to think he could cure diseases. Hence, his bogus “medical classes” 🙂

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  • Carlos

    I understand those concerned in wanting to know more of the story as I wonder myself what the depth of Mr. Stone’s suffering entailed. I have direct experience of dealing with a close family member diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder and who had a severe manic episode when they did not follow up with their prescribed medication. The result was a manic episode that was so severe that they attempted to take their life by overdosing on over the counter medication just to find some relief.
    The manic episode is something so severe and painful that it is impossible for one who doesn’t suffer from this disorder could ever understand the severity of deep depression and the manic state. Often times there are those who have this emotional and psychological instability in which they deal with day in and day out, end up resorting to “Self medicate” just to find the relief that works for them. Of course the danger in self medicating can lead to exacerbating the issue even more. I don’t doubt Michael Stone suffered from Bi-Polar disorder and reading into the official family statement it appears that there is a possibility that he sought to self medicate for his pain more than just once and perhaps had an addiction. Regardless on how that looks, it does lead back to a man suffering with emotional and mental health disorder for many years of his life. I hope we can begin the conversation in how to better understand mental illness and what we can do as a society to be there for those in need with an open heart.

  • Howie

    Many of the negative and harsh comments here strike me as being more about disappointed hero/guru worship than an objective evaluation of a tragedy. Why, after all, the almost obsessive need to “unmask” teachers as “druggies””assholes” “alcoholics” etc unless they were placed on a rather ridiculous pedestal to begin with? Michael Stone was a good teacher of yoga/meditation who made contributions to those disciplines. He also, obviously, had severe personal issues which resulted in his tragic death. Why is it not that simple? And why not a more compassionate response? Is it because the harsh criticism is a reaction to being taken for a fool – yet again – by people who have “burnt” by their unwarranted adulation of spiritual teachers in the past? This is certainly what it sounds like.

    As to the question of people being “entitled” to know all the facts – why, exactly, is this necessary? In order to continue the “unmasking” process with a vengeance, which itself was made necessary by the silliness of guru hero worship to begin with. To the harsh critics here I would say the following:take responsibility for your own spiritual development, stop “surrendering” to flawed human beings, and (hopefully) the obsessive need for the bitter and extremely negative commentary here will diminish.

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