Editor’s note: This post was submitted to us from Maryl Baldridge, an Anusara-Inspired Yoga Instructor from Washington D.C. who attended John Friend’s 3 day workshop – The Dharma of Relationship on Feb 12-14th.
In my body, in Miami
Most of you don’t know me, but I wanted to offer my experience here with John.
I am taking an internal and personal approach to my description, rather than attempting to be objective, I have been trying to stay very present to my own body and process as I witness what is happening. I hope that as you read my process of orienting my own experience, it will invite you to also create more space and presence for whatever has been occurring in you for the past weeks. I am writing in the present tense so that I can access my internal experience more easily, and so that you can hear it more clearly.
I arrive at the center and I am lost. I am aware of a missing magnetism that I usually feel when I attend these events, a pull to the location. Today I feel no pull. I do not know where I am.
I find my way to the room. I walk into shamed silence. My mind pulls my body to the past, to funerals where the death was shameful, suicide or drunk driving. People are grieving, people are angry. Nobody knows what to do. I feel a compulsion to connect, is anyone here! I meet a familiar face, my breath returns, when I see the sadness in his eyes my heart sinks. I am aware of how much more deeply wounded many people have been by these events than I have been. I cannot compare my grief to theirs, I am humbled by the magnitude of their pain. I am aware of a desire to offer comfort, to fix, and a deep knowing that this uncomfortable feeling is not supposed to go away right now. I settle my feet to the floor and remember I have been uncomfortable before. I can stay centered now. I feel grateful to be here, steady enough that others can lean on me if they need to.
John walks into the room. I feel my body lighten. I am amazed by this response. I am comforted by his presence, and he has disappointed me. But I am very familiar with these two realities existing in me at once. I recognize a deep sense of gratitude that I am not really at a funeral. John is still alive. I feel hopeful in recognizing there is still time for change.
John speaks. I realize how many expectations I had about what I would feel at this moment. I realize this because I am not experiencing what I would expect to experience. I am crying. My body feels the presence of a person in deep pain. I am witnessing a man see himself fully for the first time. I am aware of the profundity of this moment, and of its vulnerability. I am aware that this evokes different responses in each witness. There is a part of me that is afraid my tears will be mistaken for blind sympathy. I want to please the others in the group, I want them to know I am disappointed too. Then I remember, there’s nothing I can do to change this reality. I have to allow witnesses their own reactions, and I am calmed in this knowing.
I hear John speak of shame. His words summon ghosts in my heart, the many many stories I have heard of sexual shame. The power of this force in my life, in this world, hits me with the weight of thousands of years. I see what is occurring in front of me now. I see it occurring in small circles all over the world. I see it occurring for thousands of years.
I hear john speak of being “weird.” I hear him attempt to joke. “I was always a weird guy.” I see how this laughter comforts some. Enrages others. I empathize with both responses. I want to explain to John not to use humor right now, and I want to explain to the group how this only reveals how scared he is, I am torn in what I imagine is a scene where misunderstanding is happening. I catch myself being pulled out of my body, I recognize that I do not know what my own response is. So I imagine a 13 year old boy in a wiccan ceremony. I feel scared and alone.
I hear John speak of his Dad, almost in passing. I have not heard much of this before. I experience him as becoming disoriented as he speaks of how ashamed his father would be. DISHONOR. This word carries a darkness that hollows my chest.
We go to our mats. John does not teach. I feel selfish for hating this. I do not want the other teachers to teach. I know what they are doing is “right,” and I scold myself for caring only about myself, my practice, my needs. And I am also aware of a truth in having come here to heal, and my faith in John’s guidance in helping me with that. I am lost in confusion about why my mind cannot convince my body that John is not trustworthy anymore. I am lost in confusion about why he has to be trustworthy to teach me this practice. I am remembering Campus Feminists’ Alliance, where we decided we would do everything by consensus. I feel like I am again stuck in a four hour meeting that will result in no decisions because we have decided hierarchy is wrong. And then I remember how healing it was for us, this group of women, to come together and make our own rules. We did not care about efficiency at that point. And it worked, I healed in this circle. I remind myself that there may need to be a lot of inefficiency for the sake of healing before John can teach again. I feel forgiveness for everyone who wants consensus even though it is disrupting my agenda. I understand.
Bill Mahoney arrives in the afternoon. He is not making jokes. He looks at us and I feel my tears again. This time its different. This time its because I see him looking at us, and I see that he is witnessing pain. I feel the weight of his words, “I am here to support the community.” He is telling us that this is not a small situation. He is saying, John is in trouble. This is what I hear. He is here to offer healing in the disguise of a lecturer. I see in his eyes he knows something we have yet to even fathom. And I see in his eyes acceptance for all that is. I feel safe in his presence.
I email my counseling professors when i get home. In their responses i read sadness. this is a very very sad situation, they say.
I wake up anxious. What am I doing here? What is wrong with me that I am involved with something like this? What does this mean about me? My body is tight in my harshness and judgments of myself. I feel nervous and wrong. Shame. I catch it and then it softens. I remember that so many people who I love are feeling this about themselves right now. No, my heart whispers, you are not crazy. It is very hard to trust this.
I arrive at the training. News that the teachers have left weighs heavily in the room. I think of Harry Potter movies, Hogwarts after Dumbledore dies, and I am so irritated that a children’s movie would pop up in relationship to this adult situation, and then I am aware of the children in all of us who are in the room too.
There is little to do but move. I am so grateful to move with John’s guidance. My body is in a lot of pain. As if I can feel the connections of a community I did not realize I was so connected to being torn from my back.
Manoj speaks in the afternoon. In his voice I feel his loyalty to John. I feel he doesn’t want to speak. I feel none of us want to listen. I feel everyone wants to lay on the floor and cry. I recognize how much I am projecting my feelings on to everyone now and wonder if its because I am trying to imagine connection where it feels there is none. We practice again and I am grateful. In savasana I go somewhere far away.
I thank John before I go, I tell him I needed him to be here this week, and I am so grateful that he came. I tell him that many men have done disappointing things, in the world and in my life, and few of them will stand in their shame and remain present to the relationships with people who need them. I say this knowing how abandoned many people feel by him, and I am sad that this is my truth when others do not feel supported. I am struck by the humility in John’s eyes and when he speaks with conviction of his determination to change, I experience these words as carrying truth.
I come home and talk to friends on the phone. Lives are unraveling everywhere. I sense urgency in every voice. I feel no urgency in myself. This discrepancy is mysterious and I recognize that I am blessed to be in the space I am where I have time to process. How can anyone in the real world take the time to process? This is always the question I have about life.
I wake up with a sense of doom. I feel that Anusara is over. I am surprised by the magnitude of sadness this brings me, as I have had so many complaints about Anusara. It is the pain of witnessing such a violent ending. A sense of finality fills my body. I arrive at the training. I see John and I feel anxiety. I watch his movements, erratic, I see his eyes darting. I am watching a person in the aftermath of trauma. I want to root his ankles toward the ground. He speaks in circles, philosophizing and intellectualizing his experience until he is finally oriented enough to speak from his own experience, my chest relaxes a little when he finally arrives in his body. As he speaks, many words come. “I don’t know what I’m going to do,” is all I hear.
Many people speak. Attempts at encouragement. The Brazilians want him to stay! Some want to comfort him with reminders of endings being beginnings – the philosophy he has taught us. I am aware of a delicate community longing for its leader. And I am aware of a need in myself to stop. I want to stand up and freeze time and say firmly, “ENDINGS ARE BEGINNINGS BUT THEY ARE ALSO ENDINGS. WE HAVE TO STOP NOW AND LET WHAT HAS ENDED END!”
I see a leader on the stage attempting to comfort a grieving crowd. I think of the exploitation of humanity that is often involved in being a leader. I think of the frustrated sense of powerlessness often involved in being in a crowd. Again I see the whole world in this room.
We move. We do backbends. I go in and out of being able to feel my body at all.
The afternoon begins with questions. We are all lost. We move again. In savasana I am far away again. John places a chocolate on our mats for Valentine’s day. Another small gesture sure to evoke many different responses. I imagine a cynical voice saying something like, “what, he thinks he can give us a dove chocolate and we’re going to forgive him!?!” I am surprised to find tears in my eyes again. I feel so humiliated for him.
I come home and look at facebook. I read a report of 3 days in Miami. I hear nothing of my experience in it. I decide to write. ~ Maryl Baldridge
For a more complete overview on what’s been happening, please visit: Anusara Controversy: Overview and Timeline
Creative Commons photo via Flickr by miamism