Yoga: John Friend Teaches Us That We All Cast Shadows, by Parvati Devi
Recently, the scandal swirling around yoga teacher John Friend gave rise to many cynical articles by journalists convinced there was little good in the yoga scene.
Scandals in the yoga scene are nothing new. We could cite here pages of stories depicted in ancient yogic texts such as the Mahabharata and Ramayana that illustrate the twisted acts of human folly while on a spiritual path. Yet the media, spearheaded by journalists that are clearly not impartial reporters doing thorough research, seems to proudly point fingers at seeming rot at the root of the sacred, while conveniently ignoring the fact that scandals are created by imperfect humans, not the eternal divine.
Human ignorance is as old as man. When we lift up humans to the realm of gods, they are bound to fall. We do it to our movie stars. We do it to our politicians. We do it to our spouses and friends. And we do it to our yoga teachers and leaders. If we make someone an angel, they will eventually become a devil. If we lift them up, the force of gravity will make sure that they will come back to Earth so that we make peace with shadows.
We all cast shadows. There is not one person on the planet whose darker side does not dot the Earth in some way under the light of the sun and the moon. The higher up we grow from the ground, the deeper the shadow we leave behind, the more humility we must have to embrace the dark, and the more likely our ego will try to go awry if left unchecked.
We live in a word of duality and opposites. We can see from nature that what goes up also comes down; that if there is night, there is also day; hot counters cold; that which opens can also close; that which resists can also flow. Why then are people so surprised to find that those in the limelight have darker sides just as we do? Why do we hold such high hopes for people to only have light and be without dark?
It does not matter if a person promises eternal life, attests to be the best yogi ever or preaches the way of the holy. If they are not a fully realized master, they will cast a shadow. Whether or not they are in touch with it or in denial about it, it is there. And it is up to us to use our discernment to see only part of the picture, or look deeper to see more fully.
At our core, unless we are fully enlightened, we all are uncomfortable in some way with our shadow. There are parts of ourselves that we do not like, and certainly that we do not want others to see. When we are presented with the possibility that we may avoid doing the work in our own dirty basements by following a shiny leader on a path to the promised land without turmoil, we sign on the dotted line and project perfection on a limited individual in an imperfect world. We are bound to be disappointed. Disillusionment is just the collapse of illusions that we needed to humbly see beyond in order to evolve. Disillusionment is an act of Grace.
Parvati Devi is the editor-in-chief of Parvati Magazine. In addition to being an internationally acclaimed Canadian singer, songwriter, producer and performer, she is a yoga teacher and holistic educator, having studied yoga and meditation since 1987, and developed her own yoga teaching style called YEM™: Yoga as Energy Medicine. Her current shows, “YIN: Yoga in the Nightclub” and “Natamba”, bring forward a conscious energy into the pop mainstream.