Why even the hardest heart can melt: Scientists find we can’t empathise and analyze at the same time


Why even the hardest heart can melt: Scientists find we can’t empathise and analyze at the same time

Source: Mail Online • FIONA MACRAE • November 1, 2012

  • Team analysed 45 people for new survey
  • Found brain networks responsible for empathy and analysis were unable to function at the same time

Even the hardest heart sometimes melts.

Now scientists think they know why.

Research shows that when we put ourselves into someone else’s shoes, the part of the brain used for cold, hard analysis is suppressed.

The finding could explain why even highly-intelligent people get taken in by sob stories.

Researchers say our brains cannot empathise and analyse at the same time - so even the hardest of hearts can melt when we put ourselves in another person's shoesResearchers say our brains cannot empathise and analyse at the same time – so even the hardest of hearts can melt when we put ourselves in another person’s shoes

It comes from US scientists who scanned the brain of 45 young men and women as they solved problems.

Half of the questions required them to think about how others might feel and half were based on physics.

When they were lying in the scanner with nothing to do, their brain cycled between a region associated with empathising and one linked to analysis.

But when asked to think about others, the empathy network fired up and the analytical one was turned down.


The reverse occurred when given physics to do, the journal NeuroImage reports.

In other words, it is difficult to empathise and analyse at the same time.

Researcher Anthony Jack, of Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, said: ‘This is a cognitive function we’ve evolved.

‘Empathetic and analytic thinking are, at least to some extent, mutually exclusive in the brain.’

This could explain why even the smartest people get taken in my tales spun by conmen.

With the empathetic part of their brain hard at work, the side that would expose flaws in the story can’t do its job.

However, some people rely too much on one type of thinking.

For instance, hard-headed business leaders can be oblivious to the human cost of their actions.

Professor Jack said: ‘You want the CEO of a company to be highly analytical in order to run a company efficiently, otherwise it will go out of business.

The researcher's say that the discovery explains why some business leaders struggle to see the human cost of their decisions The researcher’s say that the discovery explains why some business leaders struggle to see the human cost of their decisions


‘But you can lose your moral compass if you get stuck in an analytical way of thinking.

‘You’ll never get by without both networks. You don’t have to favour one, but cycle efficiently between them, and employ the right network at the same time.’

The research could offer insight into anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and ADHD, all of which involve problems in interacting socially.

It could also increase understanding of autism, in which people are often good at solving complex visuo-spatial problems but have poor social skills.

Love Letter to the Milky Way


Love Letter to the Milky Way

by: Drew Dellinger


I want to tell you about love.
There are approximately 1 trillion galaxies
I want to tell you about
In the Milky Way there are about 100 billion stars
I want to tell you
Love is the breath of the cosmos

I want to write a love letter to the Milky Way
Everything is an expression of the galaxy
My 30 trillion cells
The four noble truths
The eight – fold path
The five precepts
The seven energy centers of the body
Everything is the Milky Way
Including my lover,
and every kiss
of every lover that’s ever


Your skin
the texture of the cosmos
the religion beyond religion
I want to know you like the wind knows the canyon
or the rain knows the rivulets
Lightening is continuously striking in 100 places every moment
The universe spills through our dreams
The future belongs to the most compelling story
Even the word “love”
is not adequate to define
the force that wove
the fabric of
If we could sense everything at once
like Krishna entering with all the memory of his past
then I could tell you about love.




Find the Conditions That are Conducive to Life…


“…And the wild geese are calling down. And it’s getting louder and louder. And then they circle and circle, and they land. And honestly, I was like, no way. No way. I look at Eduardo who is near tears looking at this. And I say, you’re telling me that your geese are calling to the wild geese to say, come for a visit.

And he says, no, no, no. They come to stay. They come to stay? Think about that for a minute. I mean, imagine– I don’t know– imagine a hog farm in North Carolina. And a wild pig comes upon a factory farm and decides to stay. The DNA of a goose is to fly South in the winter, right? I said that. I said, isn’t that what they’re put on this earth for? To fly South in the winter and North when it gets warm? He said, no, no, no. Their DNA is to find the conditions that are conducive to life, to happiness. They find it here…”

Stay curious, keep asking questions – open minds and hearts with the essence of who you are. Practice protracted and thoughtful observation.


Sufi poetry of love


Sufi poetry of love…


Jalaluddin Rumi ♥

“The minute I heard my first love story,
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along.”


“I want to see you.
Know your voice.
Recognize you when you first come ’round the corner.

Sense your scent when I come into a room you’ve just left.

Know the lift of your heel, the glide of your foot.

Become familiar with the way you purse your lips then let them part, 
just the slightest bit,
when I lean in to your space and kiss you.

I want to know the joy 
of how you whisper 

You’ve no idea how hard I’ve looked for a gift to bring You.
Nothing seemed right.

What’s the point of bringing gold to the gold mine, or water to the Ocean.
Everything I came up with was like taking spices to the Orient.

It’s no good giving my heart and my soul because you already have these.
So- I’ve brought you a mirror.

Hafiz ♥

Look at yourself and remember me.
Young lovers wisely say,
“Let’s try it from this angle,
Maybe something marvelous will happen,
Maybe three suns and two moons
Will roll out
From a hiding place in the body
Our passion has yet to ignite.”

Old lovers say,
“We can do it one more time,
How about from this longitude

Swinging from a rope tied to the ceiling,
Maybe a part of God
Is still hiding in a corner of your heart
Our devotion has yet to reveal.”

Bottom line: Do not stop playing
These beautiful Love Games.

i love you stephen

The subject tonight is love

And for tomorrow night as well.

As a matter of fact, I know of no better topic
For us all to discuss — until we all die.

Kahlil Gibran ♥

When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.

And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you.
Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height
and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.

Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;

And then he assigns you to his sacred fire,
that you may become sacred bread
for God’s sacred feast.

All these things shall love do unto you
that you may know the secrets of your heart
and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.

But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness
and pass out of love’s threshing floor,
Into the seasonless world where youhall laugh, but not all of your laughter,
and weep, but not all of your tears.

Love gives naught but itself and takesnaught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.
When you love you should not say,
“God is in my heart,” but rather,
“I am in the heart of God.”
And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy,
directs your course.

Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart
and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise
upon your lips.

i love you.

The Yoga of Ray Bradbury


Ray Bradbury, one of the most revered and loved science-fiction authors of all time, died Tuesday, June 5th at the age of 91.


Ray Bradbury – Thank you for being alive and sharing your richness with us all. I am honored that I had the extreme privilege of hugging you, sharing my homemade vegan cookies and drinking in your brilliance in person on so many occasions in my youth. I learned so much from you.

I remember meeting Ray Bradbury when I was 20 (working at his favorite bookstore in Santa Monica) and he told stories of growing up always wanting to be a writer… He was rejected HUNDREDS of times and everyone he knew told him to give up, he was a terrible writer, told him he would NEVER be successful. His passion was writing. He wrote every day. He reminded us all to never allow others to define our purpose or our passions or shrink us into a smaller version of self. His passion was to flowing thought from mind and soul to tip of pen. He lived his passion.
Thank you Ray Bradbury. Thank you for being. Thank you for leaving so many beautiful words behind. ♥

Come celebrate building your own wings! Ray Bradbury tribute yoga class today at Om ShalA Yoga at 4:00pm with moí, Artemisia Shine:


“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”


If we listened to our intellect we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go in business because we’d be cynical: “It’s gonna go wrong.” Or “She’s going to hurt me.” Or, “I’ve had a couple of bad love affairs, so therefore …” Well, that’s nonsense. You’re going to miss life. You’ve got to jump off the cliff all the time and build your wings on the way down.


 I have two rules in life — to hell with it, whatever it is, and get your work done.


 We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.


I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories — science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.


Insanity is relative. It depends on who has who locked in what cage.
Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.


Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spent the rest of the day putting the pieces together.


The best scientist is open to experience and begins with romance – the idea that anything is possible.


We are the miracle of force and matter making itself over into imagination and will. Incredible. The Life Force experimenting with forms. You for one. Me for another. The Universe has shouted itself alive. We are one of the shouts.


I believe the universe created us — we are an audience for miracles. In that sense, I guess, I’m religious.


We must become astronauts and go out into the universe and discover the God in ourselves.



Psychology beyond the Brain: What scientists are discovering by measuring the beating of the heart


Psychology beyond the Brain: What scientists are discovering by measuring the beating of the heart

Source: Scientific American • Adam Waytz • October 5, 2010

Image: David Marchal

The brain has long enjoyed a privileged status as psychology’s favorite body organ. This is, of course, unsurprising given that the brain instantiates virtually all mental operations, from understanding language, to learning that fire is dangerous, to recalling the name of one’s kindergarten teacher, to categorizing fruits and vegetables, to predicting the future. Arguing for the importance of the brain in psychology is like arguing for the importance of money in economics.

More surprising, however, is the role of the entire body in psychology and the capacity for body parts inside and out to influence and regulate the most intimate operations of emotional and social life. The stomach’s gastric activity , for example, corresponds to how intensely people experience feelings such as happiness and disgust. The hands’ manipulation of objects that vary in temperature and texture influences judgments of how “warm” or “rough” people are. And the ovaries and testes’ production of progesterone and testosterone shapes behavior ranging from financial risk-taking to shopping preferences.

Psychology’s recognition of the body’s influence on the mind coincides with a recent focus on the role of the heart in our social psychology. It turns out that the heart is not only critical for survival, but also for how people related to one another. In particular, heart rate variability (HRV), variation in the heart’s beat-to-beat interval, plays a key role in social behaviors ranging from decision-making, regulating one’s emotions, coping with stress, and even academic engagement. Decreased HRV appears to be related to depression and autism and may be linked to thinking about information deliberately. Increased HRV, on the other hand, is associated with greater social skills such as recognizing other people’s emotions and helps people cope with socially stressful situations, such asthinking about giving a public speech or being evaluated by someone of another race. This diverse array of findings reflects a burgeoning interest across clinical psychology, neuroscience, social psychology, and developmental psychology in studying the role of the heart in social life.

A key moment for the field came in 1995, when Stephen Porges, currently a professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago, put forth Polyvagal Theory, a theory that emphasized the role of the heart in social behavior. The theory states that the vagus nerve, a nerve likely found only in mammals, provides input to the heart to guide behavior as complex as forming relationships with other people as well as disengaging from others. A distinguishing feature of Polyvagal theory is that it places importance not on heart rate per se, but rather on the variability of the heart rate, previously thought to be an uninteresting variable or mere noise.

Since 1995, a broad spectrum of research emerged in support of Polyvagal theory and has demonstrated the importance of the heart in social functioning. In 2001, Porges and his colleagues monitored infants when they engaged in a social interaction with the experimenter (cooing, talking, and smiling at them) and when they encountered the experimenter simply making a still face—a frozen expression—toward them. Infants’ HRV not only increased during the social interaction, but also increases in HRV predicted positive engagement (greater attention and active participation by the infants) during this interaction. In adults as well, HRV appears to be associated with success in regulating one’s emotions during social interaction, extraversion, and general positive mood.

A number of recent findings converge on the role of heart rate variability in adaptive social functioning as well. One study by Bethany Kok and Barbara Frederickson, psychologists at the University of North Carolina, asked 52 adults to report how often they experienced positive emotions like happiness, awe, and gratitude and how socially connected they felt in their social interactions every day for a period of nine weeks. The researchers also measured the HRV of each individual at the beginning and end of the study by measuring heart rate during a two-minute session of normal breathing. HRV at the beginning of the study predicted how quickly people developed positive feelings and experiences of social connectedness throughout the nine-week period. In addition, experiences of social connectedness predicted increases in HRV at the end of the study, demonstrating a reciprocal relationship between heart rate and having satisfying social experiences.

Although high heart rate variability seems to have largely positive effects on people’s emotional state and their ability to adapt to their social environment, the story may soon become more complicated. For example, in unpublished research, Katrina Koslov and Wendy Berry Mendes at Harvard University have recently found that people’s capacity to alter—and in a sense regulate—HRV predicts their social skills. In three studies, Koslov and Mendes measured this capacity to alter HRV during a task involving tracking the location of shapes on a computer screen (completely unrelated to anything social), and demonstrated that people’s capacity to alter HRV during this task subsequently predicted both their ability to judge others’ emotions accurately and their sensitivity to social feedback (how much they responded positively to positive feedback and negatively to negative feedback). These findings suggest that although high HRV at rest may be adaptive for social engagement, the capacity to modulate HRV also promotes social sensitivity.

Writers from Ovid to Stevie Wonder have used the heart as a convenient metaphor to convey emotional responses toward others. Emerging research suggests, however, that this metaphor is an oversimplification. The heart has complex interactions with how we treat and evaluate others, how we cope with social stress, and how we manage our emotions, and research has only begun to explore the relationship between cardiovascular processes and social life. Although philosopher Blaise Pascal noted, “The heart has reasons that reason cannot know,” it is clear that psychological research is beginning to illuminate this mystery.


Harvard, Brigham Study: Yoga Eases Veterans PTSD Symptoms


Harvard, Brigham Study: Yoga Eases Veterans PTSD Symptoms

Source: Common Health | Reform and Realty • Rachel Zimmerman • December 8, 2010

The words “Department of Defense” and “yoga” aren’t often uttered in the same breath, let alone in a long, conscious, exhale.

But preliminary results from a small study funded by the U.S. Defense Department, and led by a Harvard Medical School assistant professor, found that veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder showed improvement in their symptoms after ten weeks of yoga classes, including meditation and breathing, done twice a week, and fifteen minutes of daily practice at home.

William Haviland never considered himself a yoga kind of guy. He served in Vietnam in 1968 during the TET offensive. Ask him about his combat experience and out comes a torrent of trauma: “I remember the things that happened, I’ve seen people killed right before my eyes,” he says. Among his vivid recollections, more than 40 years after the fact: a sergeant lured into a booby-trapped village, then castrated by shrapnel; the screams of a woman being raped and tortured all night. “I have a stream of memories,” he says, many which come out during sleep. Haviland, 63, says he frequently attacked his wife in the middle of the night, after nightmares that he was being chased by a fast-approaching enemy. Yoga, he says “took me out of myself” and had a more profound calming effect than drugs or drinking.

“PTSD is a disorder involving dysregulation of the stress response system, and one of the most powerful effects of yoga is to work on cognitive and physiological stress,” says Sat Bir S. Khalsa, Ph.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and the principal investigator of the yoga study. “What we believe is happening, is that through the control of attention on a target — the breath, the postures, the body — that kind of awareness generates changes in the brain, in the limbic system, and these changes in thinking focus more in the moment, less in the past, and it quiets down the anxiety-provoking chatter going on in the head. People become less reactive and the hormone-related stress cycle starts to calm down.”

One common symptom of PTSD is the dissociation of mind and body, feeling disconnected from oneself and one’s surroundings, as well as an experience of time displacement. The brain portrays the traumatic event as though it is live and active in the present even though it may have happened decades ago. The practice of yoga combines physical exercises, postures and breath regulation together with meditation and awareness in the present moment and Khalsa says this integrative characteristic of yoga is likely important in resolving this dissociative aspect of PTSD.

Joseph Muxie served in the military from 1977-1984. While stationed in England, he said, he experienced an unbearable assault that is at the core of his PTSD. After years of alcoholism and a stint in rehab, he saw an ad about the Brigham yoga study and decided to try it. “I think what the yoga has really allowed me to do is give me the ability to ground myself,” said Muxie, 51. “As a result, I’m more peaceful with myself in whatever moment I happen to be in.”

According to the VA, as many as 20% of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have PTSD; 10% of Gulf War vets and 30% of Vietnam vets are diagnosed with the disorder. In addition, approximately 23% of women reported they were sexually assaulted in the military and 55% of women and 38% of men experienced sexual harassment while serving. Military Sexual Assault (MSA) is a known factor in PTSD.

Because the incidence of trauma is so high, Khalsa says, the DOD’s, Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center, which paid a total of $600,000 for this study, is exploring new approaches to treatment.

In the Brigham study, which has so far evaluated only the first 9 subjects to complete the protocol, each veteran’s PTSD severity was assessed using a tool called CAPS, the clinician-administered PTSD scale. The patient is scored by a trained psychologist using the CAPS scale both before and after the yoga intervention to determine any change in the scope and intensity of symptoms, which can include flashbacks, nightmares and a pervasive hyper-vigilance. According to Khalsa, the average baseline CAPS score before yoga in the subjects was 73.0, and the average score post-intervention was 43.6. (The average reduction in CAPS score pre-to-post was 29.4.) Here are the subject’s individual scores, before and after yoga:

– 113; 81
– 81; 40
– 111; 21
– 37;33
– 62;36
– 53;15
– 84;78
– 66;72
– 50;16

So, for 6 subjects, their scores improved quite a lot with yoga; for 3, there was little change. Khalsa said that typically even well-known, highly effective treatments don’t work for every patient and he is still evaluating other measures to determine if the yoga had any other non-CAPS benefits. “These subjects may possibly have benefited in things like depression or anxiety, even though their overall PTSD CAPS score did not change much (as was observed in a preliminary yoga-PTSD study in Australia)… Human subject research is pretty messy.”

Ultimately, he said he hopes to evaluate a total of 60 subjects, including a control group, but so far, recruitment has been slow, due to yoga’s “new age” reputation and its association with women. “There’s some sense that sissies do yoga,” he said.

Jennifer Johnston, a yoga teacher, licensed mental health counselor and the project leader, said that beyond recruitment, yoga’s “hot” reputation has in some sense eclipsed its greatest assets. “Because yoga is so sexy now, certain aspects get forgotten,” she said. “Yoga is a path to reconnect all of the parts of yourself. It’s a self-care strategy. The poses are important, but the philosophy is how we do our lives. The magic is in the meditation, integrating it and taking the yoga off the mat and into your life.”

De-mystifying the Guru: The Case of John Friend and Anusara Yoga


De-mystifying the Guru: The Case of John Friend and Anusara Yoga

Source: Huffington Post • Lauren Jacobs • February 23, 2012

How many times have we heard the story of the religious or socio-political guru outed for his failings involving sex, money and corruption? The community is shocked. The higher-ups resign. The rest of the members aren’t sure what to do: they either overturn the guru, instituting a democratic decision-making process, or they go down with him. In the case of Anusara Yoga founder John Friend, the jury’s out.

I’m sure the feeling was similar at Kripalu in 1999 when the yoga and wellness center’s guru-teacher-leader, Amrit Desai, was found to be having a number of extra-marital affairs:

Over the course of the next years, the community would go through a complete death and rebirth. Many of the senior members would leave … The entire organization was restructured… But… the guru had to leave, and the idealization had to be irreparably broken.

I am glad for their sake that their community sorted through the issue and came out whole on the other side.

As for John Friend, I’ve read the accusations and it certainly seems that he is a fallible man, and that his situation is very much like that of Desai: he is a man who was supposed to behave with great purity of intention, and did not. The Anusara community is certainly extremely disappointed in and angry with their leader, for good reason.

Alleged special (supposedly ‘Wiccan’) sexual circles with teachers and students, including married individuals whose partners were not aware or had not approved? Frozen pensions with no notice and backdated paperwork to cover it up? Allegations of personal marijuana deliveries received by his assistants all over town? What was he thinking? (As to his response that the freezing of pensions was just a mistake, Friend worked as a financial analyst until he began to teach yoga full time in 1986, so that excuse will not hold.)

Fortunately, the studio where I practice yoga was founded over 40 years ago, before Friend’s method was a twinkle in his own eye. So while it espouses the alignment principals of Anusara yoga, its spiritual practices go far deeper into the lineage of Muktananda and the gurus of India.

Now, who they were sleeping with, I don’t know!

Oh, wait. There it is:

In 1983 William Rodarmor wrote an article… charging that Muktananda had engaged in behavior at odds with his own teachings and with wider societal norms. In 1985, [his disciple] Nityananda stepped down… and started his own organization.”

Unfortunately it seems the ‘guru complex’ is indeed widespread.

It causes one to wonder: Do these leaders misuse their power because they have risen to such great heights that they have lost touch with reality, or have they risen to power because their egos knew no bounds in the first place?

Certainly, one factor in the ‘guru-ization’ of religious leaders, spiritual teachers, politicians, and even therapists who seem to be permitted to act above the rules that govern the rest of us, is that people are so beholden to them than no one will speak out against them. Another factor is that human beings are unfortunately often all too happy to be led into wherever they think they will be safe, loved, and taken care of.

We must be more discerning: It is always important to put our religious and spiritual leaders’ advice and behavior in perspective rather than losing ourselves within it… and to not be surprised when religious leaders are flawed and spiritual teachers are human.

Ideally, those leaders would also take greater responsibility for their behavior and their attitude toward their position of power, becoming more responsible and ethical within it.

I am curious to see what Vira Yoga and other Anusara-affiliated yoga centers will do with this information and its fallout. I suppose that if the teachings can be separated from the man as some have suggested, then the principles of Anusara yoga can still stand even as their articulator steps down (or at least moves slightly out of the picture).

I do have to wonder if most of the high-ranking and very involved teachers didn’t know what was going on, and if they resigned amidst the scandal because they were first learning of Friend’s alleged actions, or because it had suddenly became public knowledge. I suppose I can understand that under certain types of peer pressure, public outcry provides the reason for the exit that has not yet otherwise been made:

“It was my social life, my professional life and my practice life. Resigning felt like I was ripping apart the seams of my identity and yet I didn’t feel like I could…continue to work for change from within [the organization].” – From Christina Sell’s letter to her students as she left Anusara, parting ways with Friend

Most disturbing has been my discovery that there are “high-ranking yoga teachers'” at all! And that Anusara is not only a method for achieving physical alignment or spiritual peace but is actually a company and a brand with by-laws! I would never have thought of it that way, and hearing it described as such was a remedy for my naiveté.

Still, if I understand it correctly, yoga should not be something you ‘join’ or ‘leave.’ It should not be an organization or a company. It should be a seeking of insight, tranquility and inner contentment. So if this whole issue provides any silver lining, perhaps it is simply to remember that.

Art Of Attention: Misconduct In The (Yoga) World


Art Of Attention: Misconduct In The (Yoga) World

Source: Huffington Post • Elna Brower • February 20, 2012

2002. Inner Harmony Retreat, Southern Utah. Forty of us in the room. Amongst us were Desiree Rumbaugh, Deb Neubauer, Noah Maze, Christina Sell, Darren Rhodes, Ross Rayburn, Sianna Sherman, Mitchel Bleier, Todd and Ann Norian, Michelle Synnestvedt, Amy Ippoliti, Sue Elkind, Naime Jezzeny, Anthony Benenati. It was an unforgettable time; John Friend was at his finest, delivering the most crystalline teachings both physically and philosophically. Krishna Das played for our shavasanas, Benjy and Heather Wertheimer played during our classes. We were having consistent, deep experiences of our hearts and felt strong both individually and as a community on that mountaintop. Profoundly inspired, we brought those hours and pages of learnings home to our local communities and, without knowing it at the time, were shifting the landscape of yoga forever. We loved what we were learning, we cared deeply about our work as local teachers, and we respected and loved John.

Since then, John Friend created for himself an interestingly powerful seat, and amidst his stellar teaching, made some unfortunately destructive choices over the years. After his disgruntled I.T. guy recently posted his salacious electronic interactions for all the world to see, everything in the Anusara community began to crumble. Within the context of that disintegration, it’s become apparent that within the community of teachers, there were two discernible camps. As you’ll see, one of the “camps” knew less and were definitely more “in the dark” about the “real” John than others of us. Together, we were a dedicated group of assiduously studious teachers who chose to be there and truly did make an impact in the world of yoga. We received an incredibly rich and precise education, and in the language of the heart, we all found our voices and made real careers out of our work, and that felt so true for a long time.

The Two “Camps” Within Anusara

There were the ones in John’s closer circle who “knew” of his penchant for women, partying and fun; I’m from that camp. None of us were shocked to see that evidence, although admittedly it was disturbingly graphic and veered from embarrassing to awful to deeply sad. I’ll offer some thoughts from that perspective in just a moment.

Then there were the ones who had absolutely no idea about any of it. Those folks are devastated at John’s breach of ethics and morals. To them, this whole situation feels like the earth-shattering discovery of the end of the sky on the Truman show. They’re talking about the failed power grab, the just-plain-icky “sex therapy” that looks eerily like sexual abuse within the context of the student-teacher paradigm, except that the “victim” seems to have been a willing participant. They’re understandably disappointed to hear that he cheated on his girlfriends repeatedly, lied to so many about his dealings and whereabouts as certain relationships ended and others began. For them, this is irreparably difficult, extremely sad, and truly the breakdown of a deeply-set paradigm in their lives both personally and professionally, with potentially far-reaching financial implications.

Even for us, the ones who knew some (but none of us really knew all of it), it felt terrible to see, from both sides: How could he? But then we realized, how could we? We were oftentimes complicit — some of us enabled the liar to lie by lying for him ourselves. There were these strangely uncomfortable, spooky moments in the past few years, to be sure; I was asked to help cover up one big personal lie for John, which ultimately needed to be cleaned up on my end. There was some fairly erratic teaching and seemingly incongruous commentaries as well. Shortly after the time that John unveiled his new philosophical model of “Shiva-Shakti Tantra,” there was also a shift in the business model, it seemed: We were notified that we’d all be obliged to give him first creative say in any products we made going forward and then 10 percent of any revenue we generate from said products. It felt strange; this wasn’t how it was when it began. It felt desperate and wrong.

When we explored the legality of it all, it was clearly flawed and didn’t stand up. And, with all due respect, I never felt connected to the Shiva-Shakti Tantra at all. It felt manufactured to me. I stayed because of the history, the quality of my education, and most of all, my fear about losing my standing in the yoga world. The night I called John to resign, back in October 2011, my first apology was for letting that fear rule my world, for staying for the wrong reasons, when true integrity would have had me leave long before.

John seemed threatened, sad, unsure and at times, unsteady. Several of us tried to talk to him about it, only to be met with denial and even sometimes anger, which in many cases drove us, in our own personal ways, into old patterns of wanting to please our “parents”: backtracking, questioning ourselves, adding to the mounting pile of lies, assuaging him so we could stay in his good graces, feel safe, and keep our lives in order. That part might be the saddest part, and the part about which I’m personally most sorry, this repeating of family patterns in this professional context.

Holding Out For Healing

I love the methodology of Anusara yoga. I’ve spent over a decade learning this graceful technology of the body and articulating the voice of my heart; both understandings are gifts for which I will always be grateful. Even though I resigned my certification those months ago as a means of separating from the aspects for which I don’t stand, now I stand for forgiveness, and the possibility that John can deliver, one by one, the necessary well-wrought apologies. That he can true up his past and truly heal — in honor of his family, his school, his teachers, and his students. May he become an example of burgeoning integrity for all the world to see.

Whether we left for fiduciary reasons, political reasons, or this misconduct; whether we felt constrained by the requirements of class sequence and content requirements or simply didn’t connect authentically to the new philosophy, all of which were true in part for me, the bottom line is that many of the finest teachers in the land have had a hand in this ever-evolving dialogue. There is so much possibility now; all of these well-trained teachers are fully empowered and amongst the best in their craft. We should all be proud of the education we’ve received, and commit to sharing it, collaborating and cultivating more spacious conversation.

A couple of final notes, thank you for reading this far:

YogaDork, with all due respect: That salacious, desperately sensationalized voice with which you wrote the article “breaking” the story about John was not amongst your relevant contributions to the yoga world thus far. It was painful to watch you make light of a man’s life like that, in the name of “news.” I will not be contributing any more to your page until you release a true apology — both to John and to the teachers who’ve spent years learning from him. He is another human being, albeit with some highly questionable choices, but your heartless articulation did nothing but harm your own credibility.

Finally, while this may seem elementary and too-sweet, the four-eyed dweeb in me really wants to share this. A dear friend compared the teachers John has trained to a handful of glitter. Imagine one big breeze, the glitter goes flying far and wide, thereby spreading all of those distinct, sparkling voices everywhere. Superbly trained teachers, these beautiful, fallible, dedicated humans are sharing potent understandings of alignment and attention all over the globe.

Find one, and take some time to study with them.

For more by Elena Brower, click here.


30 Days of Gratitude – Day 11


 30 Days of Gratitude – Day 11

♥ A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.  ~Phyllis Diller


Today I am grateful..:

  1. that I have the luxury of a vehicle – it makes it a lot easier to travel across the length of the state.
  2. for my father Arnold Arons. He always makes the effort to visit and create time to share, even when he is slammin’ busy. This year he’s been my biggest sounding board and emotional support.
  3. for smiles on baby faces. It’s so easy to drop completely into the present when you gaze into the rapt twinkle of a little ones’ eyes.
  4. for these lists – helping me find appreciation when I wake up feeling empty of gratitude.
  5. for Bodhi Shine’s (my son) incredible generosity of spirit. I love how freely he gives of his possessions and how much joy he takes in serving others. He has always been like this.

– and to change the list format up a bit:

Cashier Gratitude

i am alive in the soft but persistent twinkle of eyes that meet mine
souls recognizing each other
dancing in the heart space
over the checkout counter at Whole Foods Market

Yes! Healing can happen in time with the beep of the scanner
recognizing my celery
recognizing ourselves
when all else is stripped away

leftover peelings of pre-juiced fruit
our bodies such
our eyes tell the story

And you. You recognized me –
and I – I saw you
as we spoke of yoga and surf
smiles melt the barrier of skin, politics, preferences
ideas of you – me – separation.

Later, I’ld become that orange,
carrot, kale, apple, pear –
remembering your beaming grin as sweet green juice
journeys from tongue to belly

swimming in organic vegetable nectared bliss
warmed by a gaze radiant with love
reflected in Agni – blazing digestive fire

There is power in sincere presence
shared with smiling strangers
over scanned salad greens
while slipping through seconds in soul space.

Thank you for this briefest of meetings.