With the recent controversy swirling around Anusara Yoga and John Friend taking a leave of absence, I wanted to share my opinion on students, teachers, and teaching. If you are interested in the history of the scandal, YogaDork does a fantastic job in this timeline: http://www.yogadork.com/news/running-timeline-of-anusara-controversy-updates-and-teacher-resignations/.
A good teacher or “guru” will awaken the teachings that are already alive within us. Eckhart Tolle says it best in Stillness Speaks, “A true spiritual teacher does not have anything to teach in the conventional sense of the word, does not have anything to give or add to you, such as new information beliefs, or rules of conduct. The only function of such a teacher, is to help you remove that which separates you from the truth of who you already are and what you already know in the depth of your being. The spiritual teacher is there to uncover and reveal to you that dimension of inner depth that is also peace.”
We must take responsibility for these precious awakenings. Every human is on a path of learning and growing, even our most respected teachers and gurus. In the West, most of us are taught to search for answers outside of ourselves and sometimes it is easier to believe that there is this “teacher,” “guru,” or “sacred being” that has all the answers that will enable us to go further on our spiritual path. I believe our teachers can shine a light and hold space for us, allowing us individually the opportunity to learn how to shine on our own. However, we are responsible for keeping that light well lit. The ultimate goal is to find, nurture and shine our own inner light, for ourselves and others. Many people, including our most respected teachers will disappoint us, but isn’t that how all of us learn to be and do better? I have been very fortunate that all of my yoga teachers including, Saul David Raye, Mike Curtis, and Margot Milcetich have always stressed that yoga is not a brand for someone to own. It is a universal truth that is available and accessible to everyone. I feel humbled to have the opportunity to share these teachings with others. I have found many of my students to also be my greatest teachers.
So what can those of us who really are not involved in this scandal learn from it?
I believe it is personal responsibility and accountability. When we choose the path of teaching, it is our responsibility to not just uphold the sacred ethical teachings, but to also ensure that teachers in our yoga family are upholding them as well. When we stay silent and allow unethical behaviors to continue, it is as if we are in agreement that the conduct is acceptable. I do not know John Friend, nor do I have any experience with Anusara Yoga, but this story is not unique in the yoga community. As we all know, reading and understanding what a spiritual life entails is the easy part. The difficulty comes when we begin to live the teachings. The more knowledge you are gifted with, the higher your responsibility. As we make mistakes, so shall we learn and grow. I would imagine this year will be a tremendous learning experience for John Friend. He will be forced to really go inward and perhaps for the first time, really see the essence of who he is and who he is meant to become. I wish accountability, awareness, compassion, and healing for John Friend and the Anusara Yoga community as they transition into a new stage of growth.