Sunday, March 11, 2012

5 Lessons Learned from the Anusara Scandal

The dust has settled a bit since the news came out that Anusara founder John Friend admitted to misconduct. While I've never considered myself an Anusara student, I've gained many insights from the Principles of Alignment and have been inspired a great deal by the philosophy. I was deeply saddened and disappointed to see Friend "fall from Grace" (I'm sorry, but does no one else see the humor in that phrase, considering the word Anusara means "flowing with Grace"?), but I think there are a few things to learn from it all.

Here are a few things I took away from it all.

1. We all have inner demons. We are all capable of doing bad things. We all have to work hard to be who we want to be in the world and live a life that we're proud of. The most inspiring people I know are the ones who wear their faults on their sleeves like a badge of honor and work hard to be a good person in spite of their shortcomings.

2. Corruption often follows power and money. There's nothing wrong with success. But it's also easy to let our financial or business ambitions get in the way of what you know is right and who you want to be. (I'm not saying this is what happened with John Friend--I don't know. But this has been a reminder of the possibility.) For example, maybe it's working a job you hate that pays the bills but stifles your creativity and you notice you're grumpy to the people you love most. For me, this was a reminder not to let my quest for money (or your fear of not having enough) stand in the way of who I want to be.
3. Never let your own voice and intuition be overshadowed. Teachers are necessary and can be wonderful for guiding us to greater understanding and even pointing out where we're going wrong. But as much as we respect and honor our teachers, it's more important to respect and honor your own intuition and what feels right, even if it's contradictory to the lessons your teacher is sharing.

4. There is strength in numbers. One of the best things about Anusara Yoga is their community. From an outsiders point of view, it's obvious that this is a group that cares deeply about each other and is committed to supporting and uplifting each other. Having a strong support system can be great when you need a helping hand, but it also means you have to be strong in your convictions and willing to take a stand (at the risk of alienating those you care about) when you think something isn't right. We've seen many teachers stand up and share their stories in light of the scandal--something that took tremendous courage anyway, but even more because they had to say something that might not have been received that well by their community of peers. So while it's amazing to be a part of a strong community, it's important not to let the group mentality cause you to lose your own voice and your own sense of what's right and wrong.

5. It's never too late to change. I have full faith that John Friend and the Anusara community will come out of this stronger, more clear about their intentions, and more dedicated to their yoga practice.Will everything be the same as it was a year ago? I hope not. Anusara will be a different organization. The teachers who have left Anusara will move on to other others. But I truly believe that everyone will heal and grow from the experience.