Of course, I've been following the Anusara scandal lately. And I have many, many thoughts about it. And there's many of you that I'd love to sit down and talk them over with - hashing it all out over a cup of tea. Or maybe a luscious glass of red wine.
But otherwise - right now, I'm feeling like it's not my story to tell. So I'm going to write about what I know . . .
I spent two hours practicing by myself today in a mostly empty room. And it was wonderful. And I realized that - yes, I am so, so blessed to have this knowledge. Of how to get into my tight spots and feel them start to open. To sense something wonderful, and even mysterious, about such a seemingly banal process. Um, just stretching . . . yeah, just stretching my mind open again, prying off the scabs of ancient samskaras and feeling the liberated fresh skin breathing underneath.
Mia, a Chicago yoga teacher I don't really even know (we volunteer for the same organization and briefly met once) sent me (and the other members of our little "Yoga for Recovery" group) an email yesterday explaining that she's just had a conversation with a MD who works at the Cook County Jail (where our group runs yoga classes for women on Fridays) that made her realize just how little she (and by extension, all of us) knows about the women we're teaching there.
i felt ignorant. maybe i'm the only one in the dark, but did you know that our clients are in this usually court-ordered "sheriff's women's justice program" for 120 days and are drug addicts &/or mentally disabled &/or prostitutes trying to leave the life?She embedded the link below, which previews a documentary on prostitution produced by the Oprah channel. Surprisingly to me, it highlights the program we've connected with through our program. Lisa - the woman who starts speaking at 1 minute 24 seconds into the video - is someone I've worked with a number of times. She's our insider point person and a huge yoga booster.
Lisa lights up the room with her enthusiasm whenever she helps me set up the room for yoga, chatting brightly and energetically as we push furniture to the sides of the room. I had no clue that she's been a prostitute for 20 years. I can't even imagine.
But while we're working together to get ready to provide a yoga class to a dozen or so women, the truth is that . . . I don't even care. I don't mean that in a callous way. I just mean that - if we're working together, and if we both believe that the yoga's worth our time and effort, then - we're just together, absorbed in that project, in that moment. And the past and the present and society and its cruelties and inequalities don't go away. But they don't divide us either. We're just there, dedicating some time to some yoga - and to some exploration, and some healing.
And while there's no silver bullet, there is a distinct, real sense that - this is valuable. It does work. How? Why? Right then, it doesn't matter. I don't have to analyze it, prove it, or even say it. I just notice that my mind is clearer, that I feel more grounded. And I see enough students lighting up, and smiling, and thanking us as they say "goodbye" to feel assured that no, it's not just me - they're getting a lot out of the yoga, too.
And it's a good feeling.
Now, the latest iteration in the endlessly spooling Anusara scandal story is "Science of Yoga" author William J. Broad writing with easy, jocular journalistic authority in the New York Times that since yoga "began as a sex cult," practitioners today shouldn't really be surprised when libidinous gurus color outside the lines when it comes to ill-advised or even abusive sex with their followers. OK . . . sigh. How to muster the energy to even start to address all the problems involved with framing the issues at hand in this way? Right now, I don't have it in me. So I won't.
There's a lot of interesting talk about Tantra circulating around in the newly opened space created by John Friend's current implosion. What I used to call the "Anusasra Police" formerly had Tantra on commodified lock-down - it was their thing, damn it, and they were going to control the terms of discourse so that it was quite clear that they had their copyright right there, squarely on top of it.
Well, that's no longer the case. And that's good. But still, all of this intricate Tantra talk that's been circulating in the blogosphere recently can just feel like a lot of - blah blah blah. At least to me.
Bottom line is that: I don't really care about your religion or your ideology or your atheism or your science or your whatever. But if you love yoga, and find that the physicality of asana can in fact ignite some magic for you - then it seems to me that the core issues are quite simple:
Is it helping you to heal, and through that process, helping others?
Is it helping you to grow in wisdom, and compassion?
Is is helping you to connect with something mysterious, and sustaining?
If we can pretty much answer "yes" to those questions, then - do we really need anything more?