• Dropping My End of the Rope | Bernadette Birney: It's about yoga (sort of)

    Dropping My End of the Rope

    Last night, when I was still at work on a project with an international colleague at 11:30pm, she emailed, “Don’t you U.S. people ever sleep?”

    “I seem to have become a workaholic,” I wrote back.

    In the midst of the crisis, right before the second wave of resignations, I set up a Facebook group for Anusara teachers who wanted to connect with the community. I literally couldn’t approve the requests to join that came in from around the world as fast as they came in. They just kept coming–and coming. At the time of this writing there are 1, 106 members of the group.

    Initially, I’d thought the Facebook page would be a place where certified teachers would converse but requests like this poured in:

    “I’m an Inspired teacher. Can I join the group?

    “I’m in the certification process. Can I join?”

    “I’ve completed 2 Anusara teacher trainings. Would it be okay to let me into the group?”

    “Yes,” was my answer every time. “Yes, absolutely. You are welcome here.”

    I had had quite enough of exclusivity.

    Some of the conversation happening on that page was pretty gritty. It wasn’t long before a secondĀ  group, limited to licensed teachers, was set up. I was removed from that one–without comment or door prize–about 40 minutes after resigning. Fair enough, I guess.

    Post-resignation, I collaborated in the organization of yet another Facebook group for teachers who had resigned. It was the place I wished I could have landed after “jumping”. It felt so comforting to come together there, and to know that life outside the walls of the organization that had given me my first sense of belonging did not–as I’d feared–have to mean going it all alone. I knew firsthand what other teachers who were “jumping,” might be experiencing. I wanted provide as soft a landing as possible.

    I was pretty much glued to the action on those pages in the wake of the resignations. Conversation got pretty hairy. Personally, I felt an obligation to transparency.

    Having a community split into Those Who Are in the Know and Those Who Are Not in the Know is divisive and is, as I see it, a huge Part of the Problem. So, I felt obliged to speak up for myself, and for my community. I felt compelled to speak out against too much unquestioned authority invested in one person for too long a time. My conscience obliged me to point out that in addressing the problem there has been too great a distance between words and actions.

    The obligation I felt to speak up was partially self imposed, and partially the result of all the correspondence that poured in. I am committed to a yoga that heightens my reception, and perception, of my own moral compass. I am equally committed to a yoga that pulls my head out of my own navel to look beyond just myself.

    God knows that kind of yoga is seldom easy but I sleep well at night. (Sort of. I mean–I totally would sleep well if not for a lifelong history of insomnia. You get my drift, right? I am trying to say that my conscience is clear.)

    I have now said what I have felt compelled to say. My decision to resign was thoughtful, and my own. I do not regret it, and have little interest in persuading others to my point of view. Rehashing with increased vehemence begins to feel at best pointless and at worst disrespectful. Questions that I have asked–yes, admittedly unflinching, difficult, pointed questions–have provoked accusations of hatefulness on my part.

    Sigh. Maybe I should expect that it comes with the territory but it is wearisome. For the record, I do not hate John Friend or Anusara yoga. I have, in fact, devoted a good chunk of my life to helping both flourish.

    Personally, I will believe that the re-organization of Anusara, Inc. is possible when I actually see actions and words reflecting each other, but I might be wrong. I could be wrong in deferring to the sage voices of the business wizards who say that re-organization without a dormant period for the brand is a mistake. I hope that I am wrong. I wish my family of origin the very best.

    IĀ  also do not foresee any circumstance under which I am going back. Never say never but, at the time of this writing, I can not imagine it.

    I am not invested in pulling anyone who doesn’t want to come along with me. I am dropping my end of that rope. What feels most useful to me right now is to draw my energy and efforts in, in order to orient them to re-imagining my future.

    Already, I have ideas about what I might want to do, and who I might want to work with. Already, I have had ideas–and conversation–around a loose consortium of teachers with whom I share an ethos, and who are committed to excellence. Already, I have ideas about re-thinking a yogic education, what it could look like, and what it no longer looks like.

    I’m mobilized to collaborate, to stretch, and to evolve as a teacher and human. It’s keeping my up until midnight, and it’s thrilling.

    It’s like the entree I didn’t order but that wound up being exactly what I wanted.

    Announcements coming soon!



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    13 Responses »

    1. Well done Bernadette! I’m proud of you. :)

    2. Beautifully said, Bernie. I look forward to the future.
      “This was always going to be. This was never not going to be.” ~ Hafiz.

    3. Blessings to you! You have been of great solace to me during this time of upheaval.I have never felt clearer as I made my decision to resign. But my heart is broken. However I move on and I trust that the future will be more radiant and free than I have ever imagined. And I hope to find you there!

    4. maybe this is what I was waiting for…

    5. I want to reiterate what I said in an earlier comment. I could not support you more strongly. I am most grateful for your pursuit of the truth in this matter. If we are not committed to truth — on and off the mat — then our practice will grievously flawed. If we are not committed to awareness — on and off the mat — then we risk injuring ourselves, and harming others.

      I am not a teacher, but a student. Ironically, I only learned of the scandal because I wanted to begin deepening my own practice, and I was googling “John Friend.” I still want to deepen my practice, but, fundamentally, that practice will be based on truth.

      Yours is the response that I might have hoped for from my own teacher, and I hope others will follow your example.

      “Light is the best of disinfectants.” Louis Brandeis.

    6. I’m glad that you are feeling so excited, and I’m sorry that you are being accused of things that are not true. I’ve had that same frustration!

      I”m really interested to see what your ideas for teacher training are. I like that Anusara (inc) had higher standards than most schools, but I am still finding that the modular system of training is often lacking (this is a general statement, not necessarily with any given Anusara teacher, or the training in general).

      Likewise, I’m finding many of the basic YA standards and schools therein to not be adequate training. There are schools, of course, that are excellent — but it’s hard for the average “buyer” to really know the difference.

      I’ve taught teachers in the apprenticeship model in the past — and the number that I trained and “certified” (I don’t care much about certificates; i care if people are capable of doing the job and feel capable of doing it) is under 20.

      The apprenticeship model is an intensive form, and most of my apprentices were with me for several years (as students) before starting training, and then it was at least 2 years before most of them were and felt capable of teaching.

      So, I just opted to let it go for now. Most of my students here are new to yoga (one year or less of practice, though some have more), and so they aren’t ready for training anyway. Likewise, apprenticing people is a time-intensive process for both parties, and as such can be very “expensive” even if it is done via seva-exchange (which is my preference). I simply do not have the time to give over to training someone right now.

      Instead, I’ve been focusing on continuing education for newer teachers, and creating a practice and study group where teachers in our area can work together and puzzle things out and question and grow together. It’s sort of a professional development forum, I guess. And, it will be seva/exchange as well — which is nice. Keeps the costs down for everyone!

      I’m excited to see how it goes.

      And I’m excited to see how things go for you all!

    7. I have so appreciated all of your efforts to be clear, to speak out, to git those skeletons out of the closet for all to examine and learn from, a different sort of anatomy than perhaps we thought we were signing up for. It IS like that unexpected entree — so grateful to you for savoring every bite and sharing your impressions. I ‘m sorry that this craziness happened at all, but not sorry when I witness just how amazing, how big some people are growing right now, like you, stepping fully into their bad-ass selves. Go, sister. You make me so proud. XO

    8. <3 I hope to learn more from you. You rock.

    9. You asked and here it is!
      My new article came out on Bay Shakti tomorrow. For those of you that read the other two–it follows. IF not, but if you ever had a broken heart and felt a bit duped–I think you will like it!
      Here’s the link: http://wp.me/pJv0e-6PzFS
      This is my teaser for you , my friends! Love, Michelle
      “There obviously is a strong urge to protect him by those who are in the habit of doing so, but this protection is not truly love. Love is a verb: it asks us to take action for those we love. This kind of reflection, when our friends and family really hold up a mirror without distortion, helps us reach back into our fullness.”

    10. Looking forward to your next chapter! there is need for reflection and even grieving but the dissolving of a dis-functional organization is creating new and exciting alliances – this fracturing is creating MORE.


    1. A Splendid Awakening | The Considered Kula
    2. Yoga Coalition: A New Community for Post-Anusara Teachers. | elephant journal

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