March 15, 2012

Under the Influence.

“Hang on for a sec, I have to formulate this thought.”

I held the phone away from my ear. I was talking with a friend about Anusara Yoga, a now out of print book written by Doug Keller, and something fuzzy was poking at my brain, trying to get my attention.

Rewind about 8 or 9 years. Doug was essentially blacklisted from from the Anusara community when he had a falling out with John Friend. I used Doug’s book in the first Immersion Program I ever taught because it was superior to John’s manual.

I should tell you this:  Anusara teachers were actively discouraged from using Doug’s book. I remember getting into a big disagreement about it with the instructor who co-taught that first program with me.

“John doesn’t want us to use that book,” she insisted.

“I don’t care. It’s the better book,” I insisted back.

Back and forth we went. Our disagreement was so heated that it was one of a couple of factors that almost resulted in the end of the friendship. In the end, a trip to India saved that relationship. I realize how dumb risking a friendship over a textbook sounds. That was almost 10 years ago, and I’ve done a lot of work on my communication skills since then.

I dug my heels in about that book. An uneasy agreement was made to use it. I remember trying to order it for my students through Anusara’s online store. It was no longer available. Eventually, I wound up contacting Doug directly, and purchasing what I believe were the last printed copies of that book.

The next time I taught an Immersion, there was no longer any stress regarding what book to use. Doug’s book had gone out of print, leaving John’s manual the only option.

I never said anything. I never openly challenged the lack of room for a book that would have been a good resource for my students. I shrugged, and eventually forgot that there was a copy of Doug’s book in my bookshelf.

Right now, there is a brutal thread active on the Kula Without Boarders Facebook page in which teachers are coming forward to share their experiences of being asked by John not to work with specific teachers who had raised his ire. Some of the teachers acquiesced. Some of them didn’t. All of the teachers relay a feeling that I’ll describe in my own words as–dirty.

I very much hope that some of those teachers will be willing to risk re-posting their stories in the comment section on this post. We can’t heal what we don’t reveal.

I am emphatically not judging any of the teachers who buckled under the pressure to accommodate John in blacklisting “troublemakers”. I honestly don’t know what I would have done had I been asked to participate more actively in the blacklist. I want to think I would have refused but I can’t know for sure. I would have certainly understood the political ramifications of invoking John’s displeasure.

I’ll say this–I sure didn’t invite any blacklisted teachers to teach programs with me, or suggest them for workshops.

It’s far too soon to say what kind of relationship I might have today with some of these teachers who were made to disappear. I’m not suggesting that we all reflexively hug it out, braid each others’ hair, and give each other facials. I do intend to keep an open mind, and to allow my perception of these folks to be shaped by what direct experience I have with them. I have apologized to Doug for having chugged enough Kool-Aid to have affected my judgement.

Wait–that was it!  That was the thought I had needed to formulate. Kool-Aid!  All this time, my friend was still hanging on the other end of the telephone.

I drank a lot of Kool-Aid  over the last decade.

I am not debasing myself here, okay? I’m not vilifying, blaming, or playing the victim. I’m a free, competent human who sees value in self-reflection. I’m reflecting upon the way I voluntarily help out my cup to be filled, swallowed, and drank. I’m reflecting that, under the influence, it made sense to me that some teachers were anti-Anusara, and needed to be ostracized. That was never a conscious thought but my actions demonstrated that it was somewhere in my unconscious.

So, what other assumptions might I have made with impaired judgement? It’s very unlikely that I have detoxed overnight from 10 years of metaphorical substance abuse. I have to go on the assumption that there is still residual Kool-Aid in my system.

That means it will probably be a pretty good idea to be open to questioning my beliefs–especially around Anusara yoga, and John Friend.

Lots of good beliefs will probably hold up. Some might not pass muster.

I’m open to waiting to see.

Have you ever been complicit in blacklisting someone, or have you ever been blacklisted? Tell me your story in a comment below.

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