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

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Not because of the meal, the pies, or even the gathering of family of friends (don’t get me wrong, I enjoy all of these elements, especially the family part, but sometimes all that work and energy just for a meal seems a little pointless, but maybe that’s the point); Thanksgiving is dear to me because I love that we have a holiday dedicated to gratitude. Most of the yoga teachers I know have been teaching on gratitude all week long; there’s a “24 days of gratitude” challenge going around facebook wherein people posted something to be grateful for from November 1 until today; thankfulness is in the air.

Of course Thanksgiving has a bit of a shady past, what with the implications of sharing a harvest with the Native Americans then proceeding to commit a sweeping ethnocentric betrayal and cultural decimation.  Thanksgiving and the holidays in general are difficult for too many people for whom family, or perhaps worse, loneliness, is something morethan a challenge. But, to paraphrase John Friend, “We see the negative but freely choose the positive. We look for the good and in celebrating that transform a painful past into a bright present.”*

As I’ve contemplated gratitude and thanksgiving this week it occurred to me that giving thanks, saying “thank you” is an outward expression of gratitude born from the recognition of the highest good, the fullness of heart, the Divine in each other and in the full, messy, magical spectrum of life. What could more powerful, more transformative than that?

So on this day, lets start a blog-ersation.** I invite all who read this to comment with a couple of things for which you are grateful. Here are just a few of mine.

Thank You For…

1. You, dear reader. For your comments, support and willingness to read these words

2. ALL of my family, friends, and kula — especially my husband, parents, brother, in-laws, the tourists,  “my girls,” Apollo & Magnum

3. A good relationship with my family

4. The ability to cook (pie crusts and a perfect rise on the bread – hooray!)

5. Literacy

6. No longer fearing dogs

7. Food, clothing and shelter — including working heat and AC

8. Creativity

9. Good movies, good books, good art (The Muppets!)

10. Yoga – for my teachers, the teachings, the honor of teaching

11. My wonderful students who always “take it up to 11.”

12. The vast, heartbreaking beauty of the earth

13. Humor

14. The “Big Truck” drivers who waved and honked at my not quite 2 year old cousin

15. The boundless Love of Grace dancing this Life

May we continue to practice gratitude as a recognition of the Abundant Love of Grace moving in and through all things. May our thanks be an offering of loving service to God and an embrace for all who suffer this day and always.

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* This from a discussion of John’s visit to the Biltmore estate which was built in less than optimal conditions but is now a source of income to many, a place of beauty, a steward of the land, and a general good time.
** 🙂
*** Ok, there isn’t a notation for a three star footnote, but I thought I’d post this anyway. For a great (and brief) Thanksgiving Prayer check out this blog post from Abby Tucker.
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