Working Backwards

Dear Friends,

Thank you all for your well wishes and immense support during these last few weeks. It has meant the world to me and helped keep me grounded in what really matters: service to God, to you and to the Yoga.

My trip to Miami was, to say the least, intense. I made a point to practice detachment and observation, not to get sucked into charisma, but also to remain open and loving. While I felt kind of bad I felt kind of bad being so sharply critical, I think it was necessary as I quickly saw many discrepancies in John’s words, teaching and actions. In my opinion, and from what John has said, the allegations against him are true, though we may never know to what extent. As Lila said, he remains cloaked by Shiva’s magic mirror (the mirror that reflects the Absolute in limited form thus “cloaking or inverting” the ultimate Reality but making the revelation of the full Self that much sweeter) – this is necessary to a degree because if he were to see everything at once he would probably be overwhelmed beyond reason. It is my most humble prayer that he remain held by the light of Grace during the revelation of all things, both good and bad, in the fullness of time. I give thanks for all that he has offered us and send him compassion and support for the difficult road he is now traversing. We cannot know his path, but pray it leads to an genuine experience of his highest good.

As for Anusara, Inc,. I do not know what will happen. John has agreed to step down – though we don’t yet know what that means – and take a leave of absence from teaching – we don’t know for how long. I’m cautiously optimistic about the organization being shifted into one that is vibrant, healthy and community run, but am still unsure what, if any, place I will have in it. Rest assured that regardless of my licensing decision, I remain committed as ever to teaching the Anusara method in all it’s beauty, elegance and precision.

Last night I dreamed of my grandfather. As we passed each other on the street, he smiled, reached out to say hello and wished me well. He was dressed as debonair as ever and for the first time in years looked joyful, robust, and radiant. He wasn’t young but he wasn’t old either. He was about 72, the age he was when he met Betty, his third wife, and the woman who opened him up to the experience of receiving and more importantly sharing love, even if just for her.

In my time on this earth I haven’t personally experienced much death. My maternal grandfather died when I was 3, my maternal grandmother when I was 20. My paternal grandfather died last September. From the moment he stepped out his retirement home, to entering the hospital, and then finally, in hospice, I was with him often. My first thoughts of granddad are of those final days: the shock at seeing him pale, grey, thin and shrivelled, shaking in his bed; peaceful in hospice as his breath slowed. I have to work backwards from here. I don’t want these to be my only memories of him so I focus and recall: showing up in his Sunday best to take me to a job interview; patiently (which was a miracle for him) learning to check stock prices on the internet; lunch at Wendy’s; Christmas in ’94; driving too fast over the hills in Providence, RI with Betty in the front seat yelling in her best Carolina drawl “Roy! You slow down now Roy, there are children in this car!” These are the memories I want to have. The are the ones I want to come to mind first. But his death is still too near and still too vivid.

So is Anusara. Anusara as we have known and loved it is dead. It will never, ever be the same. And that’s ok. That’s as it should be. But I don’t want its final days of the current incarnation to be the first thing that comes to mind when I think of it. I don’t want my memory of all the sweetness and opening and powerful learning and community to be colored by the sting of betrayal, pain, secrets, lies, divisiveness and confusion. Of course we need to remember these things if we are to grow, but I don’t want us to look back and see the darkness first. I want us to see the light. This will take time. We’ll have to work backwards. In time, I hope the memory of the light will out shine the shadow.

Whatever happens now to Anusara, whether it as an organization dies today, or rebuilds to something truly spectacular; whether I am a part of the new incarnation or not, I hope to meet it again, joyful, robust, and radiant.

Thank you again, my friends, for all that you do. For all the dedication and willingness to meet the full spectrum of this life in steadfast commitment to Love. You are an inspiration and I look forward to seeing you all soon.

There is a possibility that we will be having a special community gathering/practice, co-lead by Lila, Michelle, Hayley and myself, next Thursday, March 1st, from 5:45 – 7:15 (ish) at EVOLVE Movement in Raleigh. We’re working now to make sure our schedules line up and will let you know for sure in the next few days. This will be a free class and we hope you will all come out and join us and maybe even help lead us through the practice as we continue to share the amazing journey of our Yoga.

With love and highest regard,
Melinda

Below are links to a few articles and blog posts I have found helpful in the last few days.

Lila Rasa Brown ~ 2012 is Bringing it On!
Elena Brower ~ Art of Attention: Misconduct in the (Yoga) World
Amy Ippoliti ~ Bringing My Life Back into Persepctive: What Matters Most
Denise Benitez ~ The Threshold (poem I’ve been reading in class this week)

An Open Letter

Dear Beloved Students, Friends and Family,

As you may or may not be aware for the past week and a half Anusara yoga has been in a firestorm due to the recent allegations of sexual and ethical misconduct by John Friend, founder and current head of Anusara yoga, Inc. Some of these allegations have, sadly, proven to be true.

At present John has admitted and apologized for his wrongdoing though perhaps not thoroughly enough. John is also the CEO and sole proprietor of Anusara, Inc and thus holds all copyrights and trademarks related to Anusara yoga that we as Certified and Inspired teachers work so hard to earn the right to use. As of Friday an official effort for greater transparency and teacher involvement within Anusara as an organization is underway.

What remains unclear to me is John’s level of acceptance and understanding of wrongdoing on his part, his willingness to get meaningful help and the efficacy of corporate restructuring. I had already planned to go to Miami this week for a workshop with John and now view this as a unique opportunity to gain first hand perspective regarding the concerns noted above. I will use this experience to help make a decision regarding maintaining or resigning my status as a licensed Anusara-Inspired teacher.

Whatever happens regarding licensing, the fate of Anusara, Inc or Anusara as a branded system of yoga, be assured that my commitment to the Principles of the practice remain: a life-affirming philosophy, elegant alignment principles and most importantly you, my cherished community of students, teachers and friends. No matter where this journey of transformation takes us we will always remain a community of the heart.

On a final note, my dear mentor and friend Lila Brown resigned her Anusara Certification today. She and I had an in-depth conversation about this and I fully understand, support and honor her decision.

I encourage you to contact me with any questions or concerns. I am here and happy to be of service.

With love and gratitude,
Melinda

Humble Spaces

I am often surprised at the lack of glamor that surrounds radical transformation. The big shifts in life appear to happen in a moment of instant awakening, coming like a thief in the night, are really the product of long term commitment to Self-study and small, daily changes. When transformation happens, or at least when you realize that transformation has happened, it feels so full of power, so brilliant and wonderful that it must have occurred in a dramatic landscape, or a take-your-breath away, well lit, well designed room.

You probably couldn't do a whole lot of asana in here, still ...

Half of my weekly classes are held in a 1000sq/ft room located in the upstairs of an office building. A pretty space to be sure but one that shares a floor and a bathroom with an insurance agent and a pan-asian consulting company. In that context, it presents as a rather unlikely place for healing.

It’s true that when John Friend comes to Raleigh the event is held in a gigantic gathering space in a building owned by the Hindu Society of North Carolina. Here there is a lobby for checking in, an entire room for the Sri-Tail (retail) store, separate bathrooms, another room for a healing practitioner to offer his services; there’s even an industrial kitchen. The practice space is well lit, the colors are soothing and the ceilings are high. All in all, quite swanky. Not all of John’s venue’s are like this. Many are in old YMCA’s and community centers where no matter how much you try, the floors will never really be clean. At the Y in Cary, where I also teach, there is a fat pole in the middle of the room; cycles and aerobic equipment line the walls. There is no elegance in any of these places. But it’s in these slap-dash spaces with very little in the way of amenities or view, people experience bursts of light, deep energetic shifts, physical, emotional and spiritual healing. They change, and they change for the better.

In my home I am blessed to have a small room of my own. There is a window looking out at the patio and wax myrtles where robins and finches and squirrels like to play; three of the walls are light, creamy yellow with the fourth accented in lilac purple. Last August I relieved my parents of the honey colored oak desk set that was a part of my childhood bedroom suite and rearranged the room to better serve it’s many purposes as a place to practice, meditate (though I actually do that on the couch in the living room), write, paint, pay bills etc. Until recently the floors, like the desk, were a pleasing honey color. Two weeks after putting in the new/old desk the AC froze and then, despite the tech’s guarantee to the contrary, unfroze and water leaked into the room warping half of the floor boards. This happened in September. For various reasons it still has not been repaired. I spent the fall practicing and working in a room with half laminate, half concrete flooring. Now, as we prepare to install some lovely bamboo, all of the contents of the room have been hauled into our open dining area and I am doing asana in our bathroom. Certainly no glamor here. But there is a skylight and when I look up I see the tips of pine trees giggling with light; the black outline of birds soaring through the sky. I didn’t see this part of the dance from the window in my room and am glad I haven’t missed it.

At our old apartment I did my yoga first on the carpet in the living room next to the gas fireplace (which was excellent at 5am on chilly winter mornings) then on the sturdier vinyl floor in the shotgun kitchen. While not very big, this was a great place to practice. It’s where I learned to go from Prasaritapadottanasana to Sirasana II (standing forward fold to tri-pod headstand.) Cradled on one side by the oven and fridge and counter on the other, I had no fear of falling.

It doesn’t matter where we practice or meditate or pray (in a studio, a church, the woods, the shower) so long as we do. A clean, beautiful space creates a more inviting, less chaotic atmosphere and I think that’s important. Pleasing color, light, furniture, cleanliness is a gift we give ourselves. But what really matters is the space inside. Overtime our yoga rooms, no matter how humble or stylish, build up a resonance of Shakti and this resonance creates open spaces within for the power of Heart to take up residence. What could be more humble than residing in the house of the Divine?

New Work Coming Soon!

Dawn Sets the Ocean on Fire
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