Dear John: A Letter Regarding Your Manifesto from the Contamination Pool

Dear John,

You don’t know me and I don’t know you but you’re somebody’s child just like me and we deserve to be loved. So I’m not writing to make you feel bad but to express my concern about a direction you’ve taken that’s making you look foolish and to express my impression of that foolishness which is what I do.

We’re not so different. I also entered yoga with Swami Satchidananda’s book. We are from the same generation, John.

And I also left my day job for yoga not long after you. I also appreciate Iyengar’s work and thank you for distilling it into broad strokes and ABC’s for easy digestion and accessibility to the general public so I could think of it as principles of alignment: so simple. But that wasn’t all you was it John? You had help and nothing wrong with that.  I mean you’re a money guy right? You must know the mantra for yoga teachers is that it’s O.K. to have a business model as yoga has become industry. Brand yourself and sell it. You were ahead of the curve there; tithing? Fucking brilliant! Well, it worked for the church, eh?

You created a kingdom and I get why you are reluctant to stand down from the throne though some of your faithful suggest there is no other way. No one likes to be dethroned from their own kingship. And you have all that business sense that you poured into the creation of a million dollar world -wide broadcast center to spread your message. It’s within hand’s reach now. You must know your penchance for gluttony. How irresistible is that beacon of broadcast at the ocean’s edge!  You have dharma to preach.

Now John, I’m not crazy about the polished posturing of politicians. It just pisses me off. And I recognize the smell of fear and shit when it’s in my face. I’ve seen men throw themselves at the feet of God and beg forgiveness and I’ve seen them prostrate themselves to their public. They are only human, John, like you. They should be forgiven. Like you.

But no, you do not become a better person because you had the shit scared out of you. You just act like one until time and reflection makes that real. You could have at least played the game for your audience.  Crawl away in humility for a little R&R before you start declaring new missives intent on, no sure of, an Anusara posse at your side. But maybe humility is not your thing. Well, we could all use a little more confidence. Hey John, you know what I’m reminded of? The Wall Street Bankers who got caught in moral bankruptcy just last year! Perhaps we can blame all of this on tough times. It might be worth a try.

And John, I recognize a manifesto when I see one.  You have created a new paradigm in which you and the community will heal together and go forward in even greater light and transparency with a democratic founding that insures that the leaders you helped to create will now have a voice in your kingdom.

But c’mon, you know you’ve pissed off too many people and most of them are probably women.  You don’t want to mess with women, John. You know, they talk. And ever since they were written out of a Bible that declared their name and power forbidden, women have been reclaiming their influence slowly ever since. Don’t fuck with women, John, just a bit of advice.

I have two sons and two brothers.  I appreciate men and I have always enjoyed great friendships with men and I am sensitive about the differences between us that can cause resentments and power struggles and breakdowns in socially accepted behavior. It’s part of our yoga story, isn’t it?  All this consciousness, this awareness, this discipline we talk about is more than words, wouldn’t you agree?

Time waits for no man and Wikipedia has already updated the story of Anusara to include your latest event. Wouldn’t it be funny if it was spelled Wicca-pedia?  Maybe you could spend some quiet time developing other interests on a site named just that. It could be therapeutic at a time when the world feels too real. That was meant to be funny. Levity saves us or at least it saves me.

You did so well with your patter of inner body bright and shining out banter. I get it. I feel it in my practice and so I know that is clever. But the cleverest part of it is that you could sense a broken population seeking answers in a dark decade tinged with hopelessness.  People were hungry for that. And they would stay charmed as you cast spells. They didn’t realize that in some small part they were cast in your darkness as well as your light. Or maybe we see what we want to see or what we expect to see and you were also cast as a wise man. Still, rest assured that your pre-corruption framework for the Anusara practice stands on its own.  Those who practice it are doing good work. You can be proud of that.

I didn’t mean to beat you up although I can see how harsh I’ve been. I am not a hater but as one yogi to another, one who has your seasoning and your age, I’ve got your number and I’m just calling you up

Friend who I’ve never met, go home and sort yourself out. Whoever helped along the way, however it happened, you’ve left a legacy that will probably embrace you in your next incarnation. Take your broken self home and wait for light to shine through the cracks as it will. Namaste: The human in me recognizes the human in you. We share obstacles. We want to be happy.  In this way, we are one. You are not alone.

Respectfully, Hilary



Filed under yoga

15 responses to “Dear John: A Letter Regarding Your Manifesto from the Contamination Pool

  1. The last three paragraphs nail it.

  2. Regarding this post, I must quote your own words: Fucking brilliant!

    This is a good time for yoga. We have a public reminder of the central problem. Namely, that we tend to believe that we are our circumstances. We start to accumulate – wealth, position, etc. And we think that all that accumulation is proof of our worth, and it becomes our identity. Patanjali called out this mistake. So did Krishna and Jesus and Buddha. You’d think we’d learn.

    The good deal for yoga is that we have been gotten some ice water in the face, and it’s made us catch our breath and pay attention for a breath or two. Some really good practice has become evident. Your post is thoughtful and honest and unsparing, and it is ultimately kind. I don’t know how you practice any better than that. And there are others who are really trying to walk the walk and who are succeeding. JF himself may still be caught in his samskaras, still believing he is his persona. Take a breath John.

    • David, I love your analysis of the situation; that we believe we are our circumstances, that we identify with the trappings around us. Great insight.

      I will say that I had the opposite reaction to myself at the time I became somewhat of a local celebrity at the start of my life in Nashville. I felt like a fraud and refused invitations to make videos or to train teachers because the idea of that made me uncomfortable. How surprised was I when yoga became big business! I thought I didn’t trust that I was worthy but maybe I just didn’t trust the judgement of my students. Your words are suddenly giving me something to ponder.

      Thank you for adding to this post. I hope others will read your comment.

      • Hillary, the suspicion of unworthiness turns up often. I’m in training with a group of other experienced teachers and many of us have this affliction. It’s surprising how delicate and brokenhearted yoga teachers are. And maybe not just yoga teachers.

        I’m now working with this in a different way. [I’ve been saying this around the blogosphere lately as I work it out, so please forgive me if I’m repeating myself.] I’m now trying to recognize and receive my gifts. In gratitude and, I hope, in humility. We all have things we can do, including me. I want to acknowledge that I’m good at some things. Having acknowledged that, I want to make an offering of my gifts to my students, to my family, to the world…

        Those are details. The thing is, I am obliged to contribute in my own way. I’m re-gifting! And if I do it correctly – with humility – then no ego problems arise and no psychological trips around my feelings of unworthiness. If I do it right, I’m not in it. Just let it flow – unattached to outcomes. Maybe JF began by letting it flow. Probably Amrit Desai did, too. The key practice is, I think, humility. That’s the one that keeps our heads on straight. We can’t go around thinking that we know what’s best for everyone else. The best we can do is just put it out there straight from the heart as an offering.

        If people want to make you a celebrity, Hillary, let them. Your gifts are going to bring that out from your students. We meet our students where they are, right? And once you have everybody’s attention, you tell them the truth.

      • These are wise words and I thank you for them and for sharing your own experience.

        I no longer have a studio. I lost it in a hostile take-over years ago and chose not to fight. Five years of hibernating changed my status but it’s fine. I’m fine and over regrets. Now it’s old material that is interesting to read again in the way you re-read a book to find something you hadn’t noticed.

        You are not the first to offer this advice but it may be that I can hear it better now. I’m having a lovely period of inspiration in my teaching these days. Those times come and go. The fun is getting to share it with people when it comes and I do get that pleasure. Should another opportunity to reach out arise I hope to meet it with grace. Should I have a strong desire to push myself toward that I hope for the strength to do that too.

        Your kindness inspires me. Hilary

      • It sounds like through it all you have arrived at freedom in your teaching. That is a precious jewel. No worries about you.

  3. WOW, Hilary. Refreshing to hear a voice that is not under that hustler’s spell. But hustlers keep hustling. It’s what they do. Remember Jim Baker? LOL

    It’s a safe bet to say he’s done.

    • Stephanie, thanks for the shout out. So good to hear from an ambassador of the Chattanooga yoga community. And who could forget Jim Baker and the lovely Tammy Faye! See you soon. I have plans to come your way.

  4. Pavanatanaya

    As a male yoga teacher, I resent JF’s abuses. When such a high profile character crosses a line, it makes the next guys job of gaining trust that much more difficult. I met my wife in Yoga class. we developed a relationship under the counsel of two Yoga teachers who had no interest either way. After we had established a groundwork and strategy, we disclosed the news to the students. Funny and probably parallel to Jfs situation, most of the students already were aware of our union. Monogamy is a big deal John. Until I had met my wife, I was celibate for 6 years…6 long ass years…with respect for the tenet of Bramacharya. So it can be done John. Maybe a self imposed 6 year celibacy for you might just clear out the cobwebs from your sex addled mind.

    • I suspect that your students would not confuse your energy with that of a rogue yoga teacher once they’ve gotten to know you a bit. It’s clear that you are extremely disciplined and aware of your personal behavior and people can sense that. The interesting thing about the JF case is that people close to him did sense it but he had become so big that they didn’t trust their judgement. Lesson then is: yogis, trust your selves. Thanks for reading and sharing your story.

  5. Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant!

  6. This article was inspired by John Friend’s exclusive post scandal interview which he gave to Elephant Journal.

    A friend commented that she thought the interview excellent and was pleased that he didn’t deny any allegations.

    My response was that he had just declared another manifesto and that he was such a smooth and addicted bullshitter that he had fooled her and probably she wasn’t alone. Of course he couldn’t deny anything; there were too many witnesses.

    But he certainly is a master of illusion which is funny because years before in another Elephant interview, he says that the magical and miraculous feats that he read about yogis when he was younger made a great impression on him.

  7. Pingback: Yoga: A Stretch of……Faith? | bitchin yoga

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