• Answering What I Can | Bernadette Birney: It's about yoga (sort of)

    Answering What I Can

    I’ve never actually been in earthquake but the last week–and especially the last 24 hours–are what I imagine it would be like. It certainly feels like the very foundation upon which I stand has been rocked.

    I’m writing this post to address the deluge of emails and messages I’ve received in the last 24 hours. Thank you for the support. You–the community–have opened up your arms to create a safe landing for my leap. Thank you! Thank you!

    If I could personally respond to every request for a phone call, or an email, I would. The requests for more information about “sex therapy” are greater than I can handle alone as one person without any kind of administrative staff.

    I understand that you require more information to decide the truth for yourself. I know that you need to know what to tell your students. I commend that. This is not the comprehensive story. It is simply the part that I know. I am holding nothing back but the names of the women involved.

    This is what I know:

    1. What makes you believe JF has been using “sex therapy” to “heal” students?
      A) His own casual admission to a trusted colleague who shared the disturbing conversation with me.
      B) Independently, a second colleague–who has been very close to the situation for a long time–spoke of identical events.
    2. Will you tell me who these colleagues are?
      No. I encourage them to come forward in talking about “sex therapy” but it is ultimately their decision.
    3. How many instances of “sex therapy” are there?
      I have no idea. Specifically, I know of one. That single instance is enough for me to say, “No! I will not in any way be party to this!”
    4. Do you personally believe that the instance you are aware of is a form of sexual abuse?
    5. Will you tell me the name of the woman who received this “sex therapy”?
      No. This situation requires extreme sensitivity. I refuse to cause her, or any other woman, more harm by exposing her.
    6. Do you personally believe that the “sex therapy” is more pervasive than the single instance you are aware of?
    7. Do you believe further investigation is required about “sex therapy”?
    8. Did you express your concerns about “sex therapy” to the committee? 
    9. Did you express to the committee your concerns about a lack of transparency on the subject of “sex therapy” to the greater community ?
    10. Do you urge any woman who has received “sex therapy” to come forward?
    11. Is the community taking any measures to support these women in coming forward? 
      Yes. The NY, NJ, CT Trikula is working to provide therapists experienced in working with sexual abuse to donate their time to any woman who needs or wants support. I will add that contact information to this post as soon as it becomes available.
    12. Is it frightening to publicly address the subject of “sex therapy“?
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    25 Responses »

    1. Thanks for posting these comments; these new phrases are making my guts churn. I hope to learn more about the occurrences.

    2. Thank you for your bravery in standing up for these women.

    3. Just came across your site as I was looking for more information on all this. Really respect your directness, openness, and honesty. Blessings to you and a sincere hope, and real sense, that you will continue to enrich people’s live through yoga for many years to come.

    4. Thank you for your honesty and courage. I feel sick hearing about this, but so glad that you are posting this information for those of us who don’t have the same relationships and connections. Someone totally unrelated to Anusara yoga posted this James Baldwin quote on her facebook wall today: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” I don’t know you, but my heart reaches out to you as you stand in your truth and makes these difficult choices.

    5. Bernadette – we’ve never met, but we’re close. Have you posted a link to this page on either of the FB pages for Anusara teachers? While your truth is still two degrees removed from the actual knowledge and truth that lies with anyone directly affected by John’s actions (my inference from your post), these are the kinds of details that give credence to your earlier posts and will, I hope, move the conversation forward … big time. L.

    6. THANK YOU for standing up for truth, transparency, and honoring our inner wisdom. Too often, we women are taught to look outside of ourselves for validation, which can leave us ripe for victimization. Thank you for speaking up and following your heart. Thank you for being a Truth Teller. You honor Yoga, and you honor your fellow women. Namaste.

    7. “Do you personally believe that the “sex therapy” is more pervasive than the single instance you are aware of? Yes.”

      Why? What evidence is there to support this?

      Thanks, Bern.

    8. I just wanted to echo the previous statments, thank you for standing up for these women and for what is right.

    9. Bernadette – thank you for your postings. I admire your courage and honesty…as well as your humor!

      I wish for you what you obviously already have – strength, guidance, wisdom, and joy/love in abundance.

      When I first started hearing about all this, I wasn’t aware of the “sex therapy” incidents. However, now that I am informed to the extent that I am – I think JF needs to kick in some hard, meaningful cash to those he harmed so that if they require any kind of counseling, they will be funded.

      Money alone will not undo what has been done, but it can help support recovery. I read elsewhere about JF himself seeking retreat and recovery. He is not alone in this. HIs actions have impacted most assuredly the women and families directly involved…but over time, also the entire yoga community.

      Personally – it gives me great pause for self-inquiry as I ask myself, as a male yoga teacher in a predominately female yoga student environment – why do I teach yoga? what am I teaching? how am I teaching? how does my teaching affect others for their benefit? how may I be of greater service for the benefit of all? how much is my own ego getting in the way of this service?

      My view on yoga teaching is that it is a sacred trust that must be earned, not just once, but every time the teacher and student enter the studio and every time that teacher encounters others – whether on or off the mat.

      We’ve only begun to see the effects of all this. Some say that karma has a triple-rebounding effect. Blessings to JF on his path and blessings to us all as well.

    10. jerry nelms – nicely put. Bernadette – you are too be admired being so open in all of this. Siri – in all fairness she has never said it was anything other than her personal opinion, to which we are all entitled. personally i believe that moral and ethical lines have been crossed, consenting adults or not.

    11. This is a very responsible treatment of a serious issue.
      What I have read and heard does not in any way
      resemble what I know as “therapy.” Instead, it
      should be filed under “abuse of power.” Capital
      A for Abuse.

    12. Thank you. I’ve been grateful for your clarity and forthrightness from the start, and this post just cements that feeling. People do need to speak the truth if any of this mud is to settle and I admire your bravery and willingness to shed light on this painful, complicated situation. Kudos to you. Your light is very bright! Thanks for all that you’ve done and are doing.

    13. I have always been guarded when the term “Kula” is bantered about like it’s some “lighthearted goup” this may be TMI for your liking–http://www.kalirising.org/2009/03/31/refuge-and-regeneration/
      even mentions Douglas Brooks not getting the term correctly

      • Thanks for your comment. Douglas is one the leading Sanskrit scholars in the world. My understanding is that he reclaimed the word kula from unsavory obscurity.

        • I really don’t think we can imagine the extent of what Tantra or Kula truely is here in our culture. To us, these are pop “cool” terms that are bantered about lightly. I suspect JF was exploring tantra to the full extent of it’s roots.
          I’m NOT saying that’s a “bad” thing. Just really eye opening for our naive culture.

    14. Thank you, Bernadette!

      Your courage to express yourself so clearly is contagious. I hope more and more people catch the wave of integrity and are able to speak their truth
      So often women compete so much with other women for a man’s attention that they forget their ‘sisters’. They forget to support each other fully.

      I wish for the yoga community stronger female bonds that bring a new wave of being into the world. Much loving kindness and peace can be achieved with more women in roles of leadership.

      Thank you for doing your part in standing up for women that may have been hurt in this situation. Your actions and speaking up help prevent possible harm to others in the future.

      Good job.

    15. If more people knew this there would be less folks claiming this is all happening because people put him on a pedestal.

    16. Thanks Bernadette for you honesty and awesome integrity. Love and Light to all, K :)

    17. Thanks for posting this. As always I respect and admire your courage and integrity throughout it all.


    18. Serious alllegations that you claim from a third party. If you are wrong you could have a lawsuit on you hands.

      Maybe you should let the women come forward and contact the legal authorities to hande the situation correctly.

      • After alot of contemplation wish to offer you apology Bernadette. I have read all your posts and recognize the truth in your words. My emotional entanglement in Anusara has really clouded my judgement recently and there has been some revelation in my awareness now. Again I hope that all those effected will find healing and renewed connection to their yoga.

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