Cameron Shayne Is So Totally His Body. And Bodies Are Political.
Though the first descriptor in Cameron Shayne’s biography is “philosopher”, this clearly isn’t his true calling. No. What the founder of Budokon is really good at is shockingly gracious physical movement. Lithe and buoyant, he is a marvel of controlled relaxation, and relaxed, floating tensions. I’ve seen few things as riveting as this, which I’m presenting up front here because it discloses the embodied Cameron Shayne that all of his students and associates knew prior to his recent disembodied foray into Ayn Rand Yoga™ apologetics. The rest of us have missed out so far, and it’s just not fair – to him or us:
I’m ashamed to say that it still confuses me that someone with this sensitivity to breath, space, gravity, proprioception, and the subtlest internal conversations between the soft and the hard can orchestrate such a massive socio-political train wreck in about 2000 words. My heart clings to this stubborn idealism – substantiated by the literature of hatha yoga, by the way – that there must be some resonance between a person’s embodied creativity and their intersubjective empathy. Well fuck me, Cameron (woah there — that’s just an idiom) – you’ve proven me wrong, again.
The facts are clear. A week ago Shayne publishes a quasi socio-political manifesto that argues against shared ethical standards for sexual contact between yoga teachers and their students, because “policy made for the marginal few further weakens the capable, by encouraging less critical thinking. This in turn robs people of the opportunity to establish their own code of ethics, rather than obeying social law and/or policy.” His tortured prose is basically saying that when strong people agree to protect weak people, they give up the right to make up the rules to their advantage as they go. O — and that this is a bad thing.
He cloaks this Social Darwinism argument in just-so personal stories in which all of the casual sex he’s had with students is a victimless celebration of the we’re-all-in-it-together journey. He claims that surrendering to authority is both unavoidable but also in itself an act of power. Then he infantilizes people (women especially) who are enthralled by authority, and then claims that everyone is capable of equal consent, and then that vulnerable women will be preyed on by somebody, so why go out of our way to prevent it? He claims no authority for himself, and further claims that the very idea of authority (and by extension, power) is an illusion – and then he signs his article with a Blue Steel pic and a three-inch bio. (His website bio is more fully-engorged.)
Shayne paints all shared ethical standards as “dogmatic”, and repressive of our naturally-arising need to learn something about, oh I don’t know, anything but power. He betrays a breathtaking ignorance of the basic structural and gendered oppressions of our culture. This isn’t his fault, of course, because as he confesses in one comment: “Possibly my blind spot is that I simply don’t relate to being to weak, vulnerable or unaware…”. Isn’t it fun watching someone make a virtue of a complete empathy fail?
In another comment-thread he makes the straw-man argument that “rules do not instill ethical behavior”, when everyone knows that rules are meant to protect the vulnerable, and we consent to them through a complex economy of freedom and the common good. In yet another comment stream he compares sharing sex to sharing food, “just another thing that we do together”, as he says in his post — as if dinner, like sex, holds the danger of rape. He offers no clues as to how his spiritually-memed radical libertarianism could be functional outside of a heavily-armed polygamist commune, or how he can possibly serve those students of his – women predominantly, but also some men – who will now feel unsafe in the shadow of his antisocial politics. He offers exactly nothing but the intimation that we’re all equal and equally confused, and that it’s all no big deal.
In the shitstorm that’s followed the post, Shayne has bobbed and weaved and faked and feinted away from attackers in a way that I imagine makes his martial arts teachers barf a little in their mouths. While his post attracted a flood of predictable ad hominem attacks upon his behaviour, projections into his internal life, and irrelevant go-rounds about the meanings of sex, it also elicited cogent analyses of the politics he’s presented. Of the many examples, Sean Feit stands out:
As a fellow white(ish) male heterosexual (mostly) yoga teacher… I want to push back vigorously against your position in this post. In an abstract ethical world everything you’re saying makes logical sense, but I don’t live in that world. I live in a world where power imbalance, sexism, privilege, and patriarchy in all its forms are all alive and well. The responsibilities for ethical action when in a position of authority are not “antiquated ideology”, but mature responses to the very current reality of social inequity and endemic abuse of power.
And Carol Horton nails the me-bubble ethics of his post to larger trends of neo-liberal bullshit in American (and global) culture, and wonders, sadly, why we should be so shocked when the prevalent narcissisms of our political zeitgeist show up in subcultures like yoga:
Shayne believes that yoga teachers should not be subject to ethical or regulatory restraints that limit free sexual access to their students. (Presumably, this means adults capable of giving formal consent, although these criteria aren’t stressed.) To my reading, his argument (which is echoed in many of the comments) reflects a mixture of two larger streams of thought that are quite influential in U.S. culture: hyper-individualist radical libertarianism, on the one hand, and irrational New Age spirituality, on the other. This, in my view, is a toxic mix: capable of legitimating all sorts of power abuses, while at the same time advancing a twisted logic that “blames the victim” when they occur.
Yoga, like any other tradition, necessarily evolves in interaction with the larger society of which it’s a part. If it didn’t, it would quickly lose its relevance and meaning to most people. Therefore, we can expect that variations of the cultural divides that we experience in the larger society will continue to replicate themselves within the yoga community.
Well whaddya know: Shayne ignores these substantive critiques to focus on deflecting the personal attacks, as if it were more important to defend the marketing of his behaviour than the materiality of his politics. (Economically, it might be a smart move on his part.) In response after response to critics, he picks out whatever character accusations he can find, and deflects them with a canned You-have-no-idea-what-a-good-guy-I-am-and-namaste-to-you answer, as though he weren’t standing in the ring right now with a real challenger who couldn’t give 108 shits what kind of guy he is. He’s being called out on the philosophical ground to which he’s laid claim, but he seems not to see it. Either he’s too self-obsessed to see it, he’s not smart enough to understand it, or he’s willfully ignoring it. Whatever the reason, his constant flipping of attention to further claims about his behaviour is a transparent distraction. Regrettably, it seems to fool many people.
But the challenger is standing there, staring him down. She’s ripped and rippling, and she’s got real questions. Like:
- How do the politics you express create physical and emotional safety for women and men in a classroom situation?
- How especially would you create this safety after having publicly declared “You can’t imagine how many people I teach, on a daily basis, whose bodies read like a book turned open to chapter one: I suck in bed.”
- How would you respond to and serve those women and men who would feel physically, emotionally, and sexually threatened by your disregard for the prosocial ethics we have painstakingly evolved to address power imbalances?
As the days have passed I’ve been wondering: can Shayne really avoid the materiality of his political stance, the materiality of its impact, and the materiality of the substantive challenge to it? How does a person persist in the dissociation of intimate actions from social ethics? As I read each of his replies in the threads, it slowly becomes clear. The neo-Advaita/Law-of-Attraction metaphysics starts dripping like treacle off of every post to the bottom of my screen. Here’s a brief survey of his pseudo-profundity roulette:
We all see what we choose to see in each other.
I cannot make you see me any other way than you choose to see me.
Your perception of my treatment of women and students is what you want it to be.
The physical act of sex is what we mentally make it be.
(Please please make it stop.)
All space is as we see it. Nothing more, nothing less.
No person determines the ethics of another.
All experience is subjective. You wish to make some actions good, some bad. For each person this is theirs to decide… I am not the judge — only an observer.
And on and so before finally, this hyper-subjectivist-but-also-hard-dualist screamer –
I choose to be in the body while being aware that I’m not the body.
And here we have it. You’re not the body? Well now I have some questions! Does a mini non-body-Cameron get up every morning and choose to put on a big buff Cameron-body? Are there several to choose from? Maybe Sunday is tattoo-free day? Is he really choosing? Are any of us “choosing to be in the body?”
If I get a little antsy at times and think about throwing myself under a bus, but then I decide not to just yet, I suppose I could say I’m “choosing” for my body to stay alive. But being alive and embodied is the very condition for choosing to stay alive and embodied by not throwing myself under a bus. The body itself is the a priori condition by which any of us can choose to say anything about whether we’re choosing to be here or not. The “I” that describes the body comes after the body is already there, enmeshed in its conditions, which include its unconscious memory, its social politic and general ecology, and whether it is oppressed by structural predations or not.
This a priori body lies at the heart of privilege: Cameron Shayne’s body is white and male and ripped and abled before it opens its pie-hole with the luxury of being able to rationalize its behavior, invent narcissistic ethics, or declaim any metaphysics. The body comes before the “I”, and it’s not the other way around, unless you want to get hired as the marketing manager for the Chopra Centre and claim that consciousness comes first. (Or Con–scious–ness, as they say, very slowly and with round vowels.) There’s good money in it. But never mind my snark – let’s let Merleau-Ponty sing it a little: “In perception we do not think the object and we do not think ourselves thinking it, we are given over to the object and we merge into this body which is better informed than we are about the world.” (Phenomenology of Perception, 1945.)
Which brings me back to Cameron Shayne’s fab-ab body of beauty and hotness, and what his flesh might know beneath the propaganda of the abstract freedom he’s talking about. His body: which if I’d never read his posts I would want to hug and hold and snuggle up to, to just feel for a moment what that type of strength and floatiness might feel like. Hasn’t he learned, I ask myself, within the economy of his own flesh, the give and take of agonist and antagonist, the songs of tension resolving into agreement, the quivering interdependence of every blood cell and sinew? Hasn’t he learned that the body is not even alone within itself, not to mention independent of the earth and gravity, and that the ten trillion microbes crawling around in his flesh (and shared with the women in his classes) are helping him do each flicker of each vinyasa? If the insane amount of attention and practice that he’s applied to his craft has not completely dissolved his individualistic hubris, what exactly would?
Oh, that’s right – nothing. Because it sounds like he’s been trained from the outset to do the sickest embodied physical practice anyone can imagine while believing that he is something else, somewhere else – just watching perhaps. He’s not the body, understand? Look at that video! Do you see a body there? Well don’t be confused — it’s not Cameron! Look at his publicity photos! Can’t you see it? I mean — see through it? He’s not the body! Stop calling him a body! He’s the Self expressing itself, through, um, something that it’s not.
There’s not enough pot in the world to make this make sense. And it’s such a strange and unnecessary addition to the obvious fact that we are absolutely flesh, sitting as flesh in a fleshy world, and we can’t even close our eyes to imagine the carousels of Vedantaland without relying on the flesh, and we know this is true because if the flesh has a stroke it’s buh-bye to every fantasy. What’s additionally weird about Shayne is that the main part of the flesh is doing this beautiful fleshy thing while the mouth part of the flesh is saying that the flesh itself is unreal.
Anyways, I’m developing this theory that metaphysical fetishes – whether hard-dualist, monistic, or advaitist – are parasitical to the flesh, riding our autonomic constancy without an ounce of gratitude and vampirizing our endorphin rushes to hallucinate their sky-castles. The vast majority of parasites are benign mutualists, but the “I’m-not-my-body” parasite meme confers no benefit to its host, except in times of great trauma, in which it’s really nice that consciousness offers a big red eject button, complete with a spiritual-rationalization parachute.
Actually, the other and more cynical benefit the disembodiment parasite might confer is the feeling that I’m not really my body, so she’s not really her body either, which means that all that’s in the way of us having a good ole no-strings-attached kundalini boinkfest is her delusions of victimization, and my delusions of shame.
It’s easy, really. Convincing yourself you’re not a body very conveniently subtracts the body you actually are from the politics it is always already embedded within. And now we’re really not just talking about yoga ninjas and their vulnerable students anymore. We’re talking about the earth, the oceans, the salmon streams, the old-growth forests, the feedlot cattle, little girls in crumbling factories sewing yoga pants, and everything material we materially depend upon and exploit while pretending that we’re not making a mark, perhaps because our guilt is so heavy upon us we’d rather not be here at all.
I don’t need to travel the world taking stool samples to know that this parasite is everywhere. In Ayurveda if we have creepy-crawly parasites for reals we juice up bitter melon and stir hing into it and chug that shite down for two weeks and it usually clears things up as long as you stay away from sugar and dairy and meat and eat lots of raw pumpkin seeds and maybe take a little castor oil at night. But how do you flush out of the flesh a superimposed idea that claims the flesh isn’t real? That’s a tough one. You’d think a little yoga would do it. But maybe this parasite is so embedded in yoga language that it’s not enough. Maybe chanting Richard Dawkins’ name would help. Om namo bhagavate Richardawkyey namaha. Maybe it takes an accident. Or watching somebody get killed. Maybe hospice work. Or being a nurse. I don’t know.
I think it would take whatever it took to realize in wonder, fear, and trembling that you are surrounded by bodies upon whom you absolutely depend for not only your material life but for meaning itself. To realize you are really here, and so are they, and everything between you is real. To realize that every breath you take and every quality of your gaze upon them means something material to them, because they depend upon you as well, and you must hold that contract, which your bodies wrote together, with the most tender hands.
A pitch-perfect response. Well said.
Excellent! I’m sure CS will show up here with his brand of doublespeak. He is an intellectual fake which is probably what attracts the people who support him. He should cut through the be he spews and just claim, ”I am my dick”.
Perfect, Harriet! “I am my dick and I am a dick”
Selected for Best of Yoga Philosophy.
Bob W. Editor
Cameron Shayne is a teacher on the edge of the “new” yoga, one adapted to a Modern Western Society. His Merge of Martial Arts practice with Yoga changed my life. I’m a better person, mother, partner, yoga teacher & massage therapist because of his practice techniques. I’ve only used his beginners DVD with over ten years of formal yoga practice and 220 hours of Hatha Yoga teacher training behind me. He saved my life & my sense of self worth. I do not care what he does in the bed room…Rodney Yee (also one of my treasured teachers) married his former student… Any one who puts them self “out there” subjects themselves to criticism and judgement…I commend them for having the “GUTS” to do so in the first place. I challenge you, author, to take to the mat with Shayne’s Beginners Budokon practice DVD every morning for a month and see if you do not feel better, look better…and walk through your life just a little more spry and sure footed….Politics are Politics…plain and simple….you will always have the bad with the good reviews if you do anything note worthy in life. Again, I do not care what he does in the bedroom or who with….but what he brings to his mat. He changed my life for the better & for that, I am profoundly GRATEFUL!
Jenny, I’m really glad that you’ve benefited by sweating it out to Cameron Shayne DVDs. But it has nothing to do with my post. I don’t care what he does in the bedroom either, because I cannot: I have no access to it, and I’m trying to encourage everyone to focus instead upon the violent politics he’s pushing. So let’s make a deal: you sharpen up your reading, and I’ll give Budokon a try one day. Sound fair?
I unlike you am not a literary critic, so I will not begin to tear apart your article. However, I will ask, have you been or ever met a victim of sexual assault? Your article doesn’t seem to indicate so, or if you have you seem to lack the signs of empathy that go along with being a victim advocate. I feel that politics are the bane of humanity and while your article may help some to gravitate towards the realm of ethics. I am repulsed by your style, which reaks of personal attacks and lacks the depth of constructive criticism and helpful suggestions as well as supporting rationalizations.
Why don’t you go after a real perpetrator and attempt to help him stop raping people. There’s a few highly successful Yoga teachers and TT’s I can point you too who seem to be interested in publicly dismissing the allegations of rape by numerous women. Unless you think that’s what you’re doing here, in which case you might want some professional training in victim advocacy as well as some counseling to look into what skeletons you have in your closet before you continue to play caped crusader.
What a bizarre complaint.
You don’t need to be a literary critic to read with better comprehension, Justin. This post addresses the politics of Cameron Shayne’s post and its claims. I’ve made no claims about his behaviour: I’m not qualified to do so. I’m not commenting on or dismissing any allegations against him. I. am. addressing. his. published. politics.
Thanks for teaching me about the way of online literary criticism. Here’s some pure literary criticism:
Don’t misconstrue the value of what someone who is writing a a comment on your thread by putting words in their mouth. No where did Jenny claim to have sweated it out to Cameron’s DVD’s. She did mention “he saved my life & sense of self worth.
Seems you only like to play by your own rules too?
Please correct me if I’m wrong here too.
Semantics. Jenny ignored/defended/validated Cameron Shayne’s politics by referring to how great his DVD made her feel. Do you think his DVD is relevant to his politics?
Brilliant and totally relevant. Thank you.
Just to clarify, I read the entire thing. But the following paragraph describes the danger every new or even experienced student faces when appraising their teacher’s authority:
’m ashamed to say that it still confuses me that someone with this sensitivity to breath, space, gravity, proprioception, and the subtlest internal conversations between the soft and the hard can orchestrate such a massive socio-political train wreck in about 2000 words
We sadly frequently measure a teacher’s wisdom by the prowess of their asana. Big mistake.
Thanks for a beautiful — and punchy — summation of the root issues here. I’m a little tired of writing about the popular error of applying misunderstood yogic concepts to sexuality in order to justify one’s lusts, so I’m trying to resist adding more to the bologosphere over this one. But you said everything I might have, and better. Thanks for the quote, and I’ll append here the writing I already (and too recently) did on the subject, looking at a similar conceptual error but in Zen language:
My issue with this blog post is that its 100% a take down of another person and 0% about honoring the practice and making it safe for everyone from teachers who want to sleep with their students. This is a widespread problem deserving of attention and solutions – not just personal attacks.
Plus, in hatha (the lowest form of) yoga we first learn to be in our body and then that we are not our body. And just because Cameron Shayne’s interpretation of this has led him astray, it does not invalidate what is written in the Yoga Sutras, Hatha Yoga Pradipka or other yoga texts that we are not our body. Even Yogi Gupta used to have his students recite a mantra that “I am not my body, I am not my mind.” This is certainly not a defense of Mr. Shayne, but rather of the practice as revealed in the early texts on yoga.
As I stated in my article on this issue last week:
This is a call to action for all teachers and practitioners to support strong ethical boundaries which protect the practice. You don’t sleep with your students nor do you flirt with them. When you see something wrong happening, you call it out.
Its time for us to create, support, and protect a safe environment for students to allow themselves to be vulnerable and allow the practice to transform them—all without any fear of sexual advances or assault—creating conditions which do not allow sexual predators to move in our midst, especially not as teachers.
Sorry Chris, the article is a full-on attack of the ideas in Cameron Shayne’s post. I’m specific about avoiding the red herrings of speculating on Shayne’s internal life or his behaviours. I stick to the text, and then juxtapose it with other Shayne-related evidence. I’m more faithful to the principle of avoiding ad hominem, in fact, than you are in your own push-back post, the title of which suggests that he might be a predator. I have no idea what his behaviours are. What I can be concerned with is the philosophy his post promotes. Calling out the Social Darwinism he expresses is absolutely about creating safe space. As for whether we are or are not bodies, I look forward to discussing that with you in person one day — meaning — in our bodies, moving the mouth-parts of our bodies. And to those adherents of hatha yoga you just demeaned: I apologize on your behalf.
Great response, Matthew. I too noticed that Chris makes the same mistake so many in contemporary yoga and buddhism do: they look at these breaches as simply personal failures on the part of the individual and fail to see or discuss the structural issues that can lead someone to such deluded thinking and behavior. And for that, I respect you being so clear and targeted in your critique. It seems Chris misunderstands what an ad hominen argument is.
This is a misrepresentation of what I wrote in my article and my comments here – Matt and I actually agree on quite a bit here, except on how to deliver the message. If you read my piece, you’d see a call for adhering to ethical standards, not an explanation of personal failures…nor any ad hominem attacks.
thank you for helping Matt and poepsa a second chance at understanding your point of view Chris. I agree with you and Matt on much of what he’s saying as well but feel he’s not actually saying anything constructive and challenge him to clarify what he may perceive as constructive in his article as it seems like all deconstructivity to me, as well as misplaced aggression that should be targeted at accused and convicted rapists.
How bold of you to apologize on someone else’s behalf.
Please direct me to your credentials on social evolution and justice and more importantly your articles written about yoga alliance teachers/ teacher trainers who are publicly defending themselves from allegations of rape.
What about your concern for the safe space that they’re providing?
If you do a bit of research, you’ll see that I’ve written a whole book arguing that the ascetic morality of the Yoga Sutras must be updated to account for our advances in intersubjectivity. I wrote three influential posts on the Anusara scandal. I brought wide attention to the reported sexual predations of Kausthub Desikachar, and I broke the story of Ian Thorson’s death at Diamond Mountain University, founded by “Geshe” Michael Roach. My work there led directly to national media coverage: NYT, Psychology Today, Rolling Stone. I do what I can.
Matt, except in my piece I do not name anyone (and never called anyone a predator) and expanded it to include how such thinking can ENABLE sexual predators in yoga studios writ large. I even made it clear that “While I doubt this was his intent in making his statement on sleeping with students, this perception will be hard to shake…” But you already knew that.
And you’re right, yours is a full-on attack. You not only personally attack Cameron Shayne but in your reply to my comment, you attack me as well. Why the need for bullying tactics?
I just think you could have attacked his ideas without making it so….personal.
And who did I demean Matt? Those who are sincerely on this path and have read the texts know that our true self is not our body.
I’d rather not distract this thread any more from its real topic: taking down Shayne’s politics. I think Frank is right: you don’t seem to understand what ad hominem means. If I’d tried to refute his Social Darwinism by claiming he was a predator or he wasn’t a patriot, that would be ad hominem. I’m not any more shy about using Cameron Shayne’s name to expose the politics he promotes under it than he is in using it to promote his business. Using the name of a public figure does not make it “personal”, but merely coherent. In your own post, you shy away from naming him or even linking to his post, which some might consider to be foul play.
Likewise, I attack your argument above, not your person. As for your seemingly exclusive view on practice, you could start by pluralizing “path”, because the kaleidoscope of yoga throughout history has always included materialists, atheists, skeptics, and those who hold that the flesh is the beginning and end of meaning — some old school hatha yogis among them. We may all be practicing yoga, Chris, but we’re not all doing the same thing, and claiming that we are is far more bullying than taking a strong stand against a toxic political position.
Well stated Chirs Courtney.
Matt you have a way with words, but I think you may want to cultivate your way of ethics and nonviolent communication.
That really is misrepresenting the jest of the back and forth and false in the category of you employing false rhetoric.
In all due respect Mat has clearly stayed within the scope of the statements by Shayne himself and been careful not to venture out beyond (i.e. ad homonym).
To explicitly name somebody or direct one’s attention to somebody’s stated philosophy is neither ad homonym nor a bully tactic and you should know that.
If not, maybe a brush up course in what constitutes honest versus dishonest criticism (i.e. logical fallacies) might be a better use of your energy.
I did not name him so as not to bring any more attention to that position – one which we both disagree with. As I said earlier, I wanted the focus to be on the ideas and what they were enabling in the broader yoga community….but you knew that.
Ad hominem means to attack the person and not the ideas.
By the way, I’ve received dozens of emails from women sharing for the first time their tales of sexual assault at the hands of their yoga teachers…and we’re now working on what the broader community can do to put a stop to it. So I guess I got something right in my approach.
And its funny that adhering to a broad definition of yoga as described in original texts is now to be considered “exclusive” much less “bullying.”
I liked your approach and I think you did a great job, and I’m happy that you’re helping to facilitate change. We’re on the same page here. I know what ad hominem means, and I stuck to the ideas here.
Your definition isn’t broad, I’m afraid. It excludes the materialist position.
I too have been and am a victim advocate and would be happy to know you and collaborate with you.
Thanks Matt and you’re right – its broad, but not broad enough to include materialism which I see as the path to moha samadhi.
Chris, when I talk about (spiritual) bullying, this is what I’m talking about: the presumption that one can know where a particular view or fascination will lead, and to presume that some destinations are superior to others. With Shayne’s politics, the material outcome is clear, so I have no problem connecting the dots.
But to assert that the deep wonderment in material experience that embodiment practices such as asana can provide necessarily leads to delusion is bullshit. I mean bullshit in the technical sense that it cannot be proven, so it is only really expressed to perpetuate the affect of authority or expertise.
I think the main difference between us in this thread is that while we both reject Shayne’s politics, I also reject the dissociative metaphysics that support him, and that you evidently share.
good opportunity for an author that nobody cares about to get his name around the internet by writing about CS.
Please. If I wanted to get my name out, I’d write an incoherent justification for having no code of sexual ethics, while making sex with my students sound liberating for all involved. Oh wait — that’s been done by someone already! Try engaging the substance next time.
You are clearly making a personal attack with this statement, discrediting all the good you might be able to accomplish.
Furthermore you are an author that as Kirk has stated is trying to get your name out by publicizing for CS. I’m sure you’re helping him make more money and become more popular and he thanks you for that.
Did you even read Shayne’s post?
I think it’s a better tactic then posting your writing on that recovering yogi site. Right, Kirk?
You guys talk so much crap! Matthew who do you think you are to judge someone else? God? And Cameron you should stop talking BS. Do you think that you are enlightened? So much saliva and so much time wasted in writting and defending or attacking egos. I’m sick of it,
Apologies, Ana. I hope you’re able to tear yourself away.
Now you’re projecting all sorts of things onto me and what I believe. This is utter nonsense. And when did asana practice become materialism? I’ve been practicing and teaching asana for over 30 years and have studied these philosophies at great length so its really not clear what you mean by asana as materialism. Can you clarify that?
You reject what you call “dissociative metaphysics?” I guess that’s how you interpret Samadhi since with that statement you mean the same metaphysics that are outlined in Sankhya, Advaita, Kashmir Shaivism, and…yoga. Since that is your passionately held position, great – let’s just be clear on that.
In my opinion, asana practice is more “materialist” than anything else because it rides on a continual perceptual i.e. embodied data feedback loop attentuated by the nervous system via the tissues. We know we’re doing it well to the extent that the discursive mind is quiet and raw sensation is pervasive. Really doing asana well, in my opinion, with a depth of “flow”, we might say, directly rejects the “I am not my body” meme.
There are etymologies and usages for “samadhi” that don’t need to refer to the dissociative metaphysics that either separate matter from spirit (Samkhya), or claim that spirit is all there is (Advaita). I’m interested in exploring those less common avenues, because my experience of practicing yoga has never confirmed these essentially theological claims, even when I was told it should.
I admit I’m going in a somewhat novel direction here, but I’ve always been more inspired by the eclecticism of Indian philosophy than by the impulse to turn it into a single thing.
OK, so the idea of asana as materialism is something you just hold as an opinion. Got it.
Meanwhile, as you state above, neither you (nor your teacher) have yet experienced certain aspects of the practice and thus reject them as “theological claims.” So, you’re taking an a la carte approach to the practice – conforming it to you rather than allowing it to transform you.
And yes, there are other etymologies and usages for the word samadhi – they’re just something other than yoga.
Also, “I am not my body” is not a “meme” – its at the very heart of the ancient practice we call yoga.
Since you seem to reject yoga philosophy, what are you teaching? More importantly, who is your teacher?
Here are some key things that people in yoga culture do when they are spiritually bullying (often, it seems, without knowing it)…
1. Position their own opinions on highly experiential matters as though they weren’t opinions at all, or open to debate. This usually involves refusing to engage with the substance of another’s presentation.
2. Quantify certain subjective achievements as litmus tests of authority, as though they could be objectively measured and not retroactively named to suit the narrative.
3. Make up or perpetuate slurs (“moha samadhi”) that mock the subjective experience of others, as if these experiences could be defined or assessed.
4. Pretend the philosophical discourse surrounding those experiences are monolithic and unified rather than dialectic and often self-contradictory throughout the history of practice. The easiest way of doing this is by using the singular forms of “philosophy” or “path”, rather than the plural forms.
5. Challenge the opponent not on substance, but on background, training, and sources of authority. I.e., make what they are saying less important than the authority they presumably need to say it. This is very thinly veiled ad hominem.
Sorry, but I’m not playing, Chris.
But I think I now have a better idea of what’s happening here. Your first complaint about my post claimed that it was a personal attack upon Shayne and not the content of his essay. But at the heart of my attack on his content, I used reductio ad absurdum to critique the metaphysical root of where I think he might be coming from. I suggested that “I am not my body” is perfect psychic cover for his toxic politics. The problem is that you seem to hold this view to be central to your own practice, so I imagine it’s hard to not take my critique personally — not of Shayne, but of you — especially if you’re psychically and professionally invested in that view.
So how about addressing this directly and actually showing how from your view and experience, “I am not my body” does not lead to the dissociative failures of empathy that Shayne is pushing? I’d be interested in that.
As for those many aspects of Indian philosophy that try to frame contemplative experiences as evidence that matter and “spirit” are separate or separable, or that “spirit” alone is “real”, I feel they can wander into theology because they invest in unfalsifiable premises. The existence of “spirit”/”atman”/”brahman” as transcendental realities are simply given as factual, assigned to the qualia of contemplative experience that could be named in a myriad of other ways. After these signifiers solidify into discourse, they are used in an exclusive and bureaucratic economy by which people pretend to be able to assess each other’s internal lives. The social control of orthodoxy ensues, ranging from mild bullying to patriarchal aggression.
The viewpoint you put forward here is somewhere between dogmatic anarchism and dogmatic nihilism. They point to someone who believes in nothing, A belief which furthermore does not show evidence of one who has spent years studying yogic texts and rejected them, but rather of one who rejects them out of hand due to a desire to be contrarian.
In this dialogue, you refer to yogic principles from the texts of sages as “experiential,” “slurs,” or “memes.”
And what achievements have been quantified to prove anything? My reference to my decades of practice and study were not meant to make you feel insecure. Its not clear exactly what your experience is or is not so how can that be a factor, even I wanted to make it one (which I clearly don’t).
And I guess the ancient authorities on yoga philosophy…you know, the ones who passed all of this on to us with multiple lanes on the path to samadhi…are now to be referred to as monolithic? And should we infer that your wanting to have a dialectic with those sages indicates that you see yourself as their equal?
But also, wanting to have a dialectic means the participants want to find the truth, but the intention your responses show here is to be right, and to crush those who hold another view (especially one rooted in the ancient scriptures)…even referring to their viewpoints as “bullshit.”
Challenging such anarchist viewpoints on substance is like trying to nail Jell-O to a tree – especially when its almost entirely contrarian bluster.
And again, what background, training, or authority of yours was challenged? In fact, its not published anywhere to be challenged in the first place so that just doesn’t hold water.
And anyone who understands the metaphysics of “I am not my body” also understands that its no excuse for the kind of behavior CS was justifying since the ahankara, manas, and buddhi, control what the body does…not to mention the soul which in yoga is working to overcome the ahankara, manas, and buddhi so it can cease accumulating karmas and expire the ones its already has. So no, its not “perfect cover” for his “toxic politics” – unless you are unfamiliar with yoga philosophy.
And yes, I am invested in that view and it is central to my practice. But the only view I can decipher in your writing here is of one who rejects this philosophy and attacks with dogmatic fervor anyone who believes in it.
In rejecting and wanting to rewrite and remix yoga philosophy do you see yourself as some kind of aghori?
Do you realize that while aghoris reject society and its norms, they do not reject the practice? In modern India, they serve the poor and sick, caring for lepers and those in need.
So, while I applaud your effort to bring attention to the ethical issue of yoga teachers wanting to justify sleeping with their students, I think your approach here represents either a rejection of or misunderstanding of basic yoga philosophy.
Thanks so much for the dialogue. These are my final remarks here. I wish you best of luck in your future endeavors.
If pressed for a label, I’m a phenomenologist. This would be someone who is mainly interested in (or believes in, if you will) the present experience, bracketed away from the ideas (like samadhi) which are used to describe it, and then position it, and politicize it within social discourse. This is what my charge of “bullshit” is rooted in. I’m afraid you didn’t understand it. Bullshit is actually now a technical philosophical term applied to a claim about something unprovable that is made for the primary purpose of social affect. In this sense, to claim to have experienced samadhi, or that someone else has experienced samadhi, is literally bullshit, because it can’t be proven, and it only happens through a retronymic process: it’s a name applied to an unnameable experience after the fact, which organizes that experience into a story or agenda. I have never said that anyone’s experience is bullshit. I’m only talking about what they claim about it. Please let me know if you’re still unclear about this. I realize it’s a hard idea, and it’s not made any easier by the fact that it’s emotionally provocative.
What text does “moha samadhi” come from? I understand that Yogi Gupta spoke of it.
Wherever it comes from, it’s most definitely a slur, especially as you seem to use it against people who are exclusively interested in the yoga of embodiment.
Asking me who my teacher is is a subtle ad hominem attack from authority rather than a concentration on substance.
I hope you realize that Buddhists have been practicing yoga for about as long as essentialists have. They’re not practicing — nor am I — to help the “soul” overcome anything, because they reject the atman. This is why I don’t think you can avoid sounding like a yoga bully, Chris, until you acknowledge that “yoga philosophy” is plural. We’re both practicing it, we disagree on key points, and it’s been like this from the beginning. Onward!
Yours was a studied, gracious reply. Mine, less so:
This has all been a hoot, but I have to say my favorite part so far has been discovering that on his website, Cameron Shayne has given himself the ironic title of “Kancho.” In Japanese, Kancho is the word for a prank common among schoolchildren, in which you make a pretend gun out of your hands, sneak up on someone, and jab your fingers at their butthole as hard as you can. Which is sort of how I felt reading this article: it was painful for me, I bet Cameron felt pretty cool at first, but in the end we were both a bit embarrassed, and then we got to laugh about the whole thing.
So listen, Kancho. You seem to be sitting atop a pretty big mountain of moral relativism here. I know, I know, like you said, you’re just speaking your truth. But let’s pause for a moment and consider that the notion of “your truth” is a bunch of sloppy nonsense. “Truth” literally means corresponding to objective fact or reality, a notion you explicitly deny: “All experience is subjective” or “[The] act of seeking outside one’s self for answers is folly.” What you have here are a bunch of opinions, dressed up in fancypants phrases like, “The guru is dead” and “There are no victims.” And you’re totally entitled to those. I personally find them hilarious to observe, and look forward to more of them; please subscribe me to your newsletter. And let me be perfectly clear: I’m all for you humping anyone, anywhere, anyway the two of you can agree upon. That’s the rich reward of the fact that we’re all big kids now. Never mind the fact your entire setup is predicated on the fact that in your classroom you’re the boss and you get to decide what is or is not for sale. Try working at Dunkin’ Donuts and every now and again asking a customer, “Would you like a BJ with that?” You’d lose your sprinkle privileges real fast over that.
But here’s where you really lost me: you’ve pitched your tent on both sides of the field. On the one hand, you’ve made a striking number of normative claims about the nature of a common reality–really most of your article consists of statements about how the world is and how humans function. On the other, you’ve adopted this I-am-a-rock-I-am-an-island style of logic that implies no such common reality exists to any degree, and everyone’s experience is so radically subjective that none of us is qualified to assess the values of another. That itself is a huge claim about reality and a big assessment on values. It’s also a fortress of solitude wherein your privileged experience, “your truth,” is rendered conveniently untouchable by outsiders. When someone disagrees, they’re reacting or being dogmatic or “projecting,” a little piece of word-candy you can’t seem to stop sucking on.
An alternate scenario would be that each of us, in our privileged but limited experience has unique but incomplete access to a reality we share to differing degrees. Within that experience, we can discuss and debate the validity of claims to truth, and in that context certain claims are indeed more or less valid based on their ability to more or less completely render a reality none of us can completely perceive individually. That’s precisely the value of seeking outside oneself for answers: by reflecting our own experience back to us through theirs, others can reveal aspects of ourselves we are blind to because of habit, proximity, or, let’s face it, plain ignorance. That’s what a guru, a teacher, a therapist, a friend, a lover, or a hobo on subway who says you look fat in those pants is good for. Oh, you’re still gonna have to do all the work, but it’s nice to have a heads up.
In this scenario, your detractors are reflecting back to you the opinion that you’re wrong about a number of things. On the one hand, I don’t fault you for discounting the opinion of people who don’t know you. On the other, if your article is complete unto itself and as you say “most normal humans share the same mental, emotional and spiritual capacity to critically think,” then your readers actually possess everything required to make a potentially valid critique. You have defended this article simply as a statement of your experience. You have responded as if your awareness of yourself and your experience is always accurate beyond others’ observation. You have responded, in effect, by saying, “No one else a position to tell me I’m wrong about that.” I am responding by saying, “You’re wrong about that too, Kancho.”
Please forgive my lack of tack and compassion.
I do feel you could address more serious, heinous and pressing issues within the context of sex, ethics, yoga and safe space with your writings.
Please feel free to criticize my posts as well as seek guidance to becoming less offensive and maybe even helping to make the world a better place.
Ha! Pot calling the kettle black. Your comments are among the most irrelevant and offensive I’ve read here. I don’t agree with Chris’ metaphysical commitments, but at least he tried (though finally failed) to actually engage in constructive discourse.
These comments above are once again indicative of the lack of truly open, honest critical inquiry in the so-called “yoga community.” It seems contemporary “yogis” couldn’t catch an idea if it were placed in their laps….
I don’t know if I pity or admire Matthew for continuing to hammer away at it when the caliber of actual thinking among yogis is so lazy and lackluster…
You say in your article, “I used reductio ad absurdum to critique the metaphysical root of where I think he might be coming from.” That IS the problem. You can’t know where he is coming from. You can only interpret what Cameron is saying, through your filter of conditioning and level of consciousness, which is all any of us can do. You’re only arguing with your interpretation.
I read his article and came away with a totally different understanding of what he said than you did. Not because I am an Ayn Rand fan or a Libertarian but because there is wisdom in what he is saying. It’s in alignment with the Tao, Shakespeare, and all those spiritual traditions you are suspect of. Perhaps you simply haven’t yet experienced what they point to.
I had inappropriate sexual experiences with several teachers beginning in high school and continuing on until I learned the lessons I needed to learn. Believe me, I’m an expert on the subject of teachers taking advantage of female students. Taking responsibility for my part in it all was exactly what finally empowered me to move through it in a way that helped me truly grow.
I wouldn’t have wanted someone protecting me. I see everything that happens in my life as here to serve my own conscious evolution and help me move through to the end point of love, understanding and compassion.
My path has taught me to have compassion for everyone, including what you might call the ‘perpetrator.’ It takes both sides for ANY dynamic to exist. If healing doesn’t end with forgiveness and compassion for all, it’s not healing.
I understand that everyone is different and some people need help, but life is not black and white and rules don’t always apply to every situation. That was, in part, what I heard Shayne saying.
Righteousness is dangerous. When you feel so completely justified in your opinions, it prevents you from being open to dialogue because you already ‘know’ what’s wrong and what’s right. As Shakespeare said, “Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” That’s not ‘new age’ thinking.
Your article is well-written and you sound intelligent, but it’s seems to me, from what all you say, that you might not be in a position to fully understand where Cameron is coming from. Can you embrace that as a possibility?
In that branch of my post, I am offering a speculation, and I was careful to qualify it with the words “where I think he might be coming from.”
Your focus on that little bit ignores my more substantive critique of what Shayne made perfectly clear in his article, and which he has not retracted despite overwhelming criticism, so we can only imagine that he stands by his Social Darwinist claim that any shared ethics that would regulate any part of student-teacher intimacy are oppressive — an argument that ignores privilege and systemic gendered power imbalances. It’s unconscionable.
I’m glad that you’ve found a way to resolve the wounds of your abuse experiences. As a therapist who works with many abuse survivors, I’ve learned that everyone moves through their experience in a different way. So it makes little sense to judge the “completeness” of a person’s recovery by idealistic standards such as “If healing doesn’t end with forgiveness and compassion for all, it’s not healing.” Many survivors self-regulate and heal and work slowly towards thriving again without forgiving their abusers.
But I’m a little mystified as to why we’re discussing this. Your self-referencing seems to place you in sympathy with the women that Shayne has been intimate with. Your comparison makes it sound like the public concern about Shayne’s behaviour is misplaced, because obviously whoever sleeps with him is partially responsible for the abusive dynamic. Therefore, his former lovers, even if they consider themselves abused — and the rest of us, presumably — should just “forgive” him. Is this your point?
And by the way, Hamlet utters “for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” in Act 2 of the Danish Play, while he is going mad. This expression of absolute moral relativity is intended by Shakespeare as a premonition of his suicidal psychosis.
It’s “new age thinking” to claim that these are words to live by.
As a woman who has experienced the issue we are discussing and worked through all the levels of healing, I thought I might be able to shine some light on the fact that: I think you and the others who are criticizing his thinking, quite possibly don’t understand where he is coming from.
I also come from a martial art background and have studied and embodied through taiji some of the philosophies that (he says) formed his thinking.
I do have sympathy for women who have been abused (and I DON’T know that Shayne has, in fact, abused anyone, as you accuse him) but I also have sympathy for all parties in the dynamic. It’s the play of yin and yang that make up the manifest world and we can’t have one without the other. Once this awareness is embodied, one’s understanding changes.
As a practitioner and teacher of taiji for over 40 years and a counselor who works with people on an energetic level, I know that energy in the form of emotions get lodged in our bodies and creates dis-ease.
Anger, blame, victimhood, etc are toxic emotions and create havoc in the body. True healing is not complete until these emotions are cleared and the energy is flowing freely. Forgiveness is a major healer.
I work with clients and students helping them move through all the stages of healing:
*acknowledging their feelings, actually feeling the sensations of their emotions such as anger, fear, sadness, blame, shame, frustration, and rage. Once they acknowledge and accept their own feelings, a form of empowerment comes.
*Look within to find their part in the dynamic (not to self-blame, but to empower through taking personal responsibility).
*Acknowledge the ways in which the situation has served them.
*Forgiveness of self.
*Forgiveness of other.
Before the process is complete, the energy continues to do harm. Once it is complete, there is freedom, self-empowerment and healing.
All the blaming, shaming, judging, criticizing and accusing of Cameron Shayne is not healthy. It’s not really helping anyone. Focusing on how wrong his thinking is doesn’t make all this toxicity right. In his article, he exercised his right to free speech and didn’t harm anyone.
On the other hand, there is a whole lot of lying and misleading information being slung around about him by righteous people.
Take a deeper look within at what you’re really trying to do here.
BTW: Do you really think Shakespeare meant this line as something to disregard as a madman’s point of view? “Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Do you not see the truth here? From even a slightly awakened point of view, it’s easy to see that all of our stories that cause suffering are mad!
To be clear once again, I have not accused Cameron Shayne of any behaviour. I have focused upon his toxic politics. Inferring anything about his behaviour is a distraction.
The connection you’ve made between your own abuse recovery and Shayne’s politics makes it sound as though his view is okay, because abuse is a mutual endeavour, and that abusing and being abused are all part of the “yin and yang” necessary interplay of the world. I’m sorry, but that is a politics perhaps even more toxic than Shayne’s. Evoking empathy for all parties in abusive situations does not mean we need to make up weak metaphysical excuses for why bad things happen, or it’s-all-good platitudes, or benchmarks for what all victims need to do to be free.
You write as if it’s rude or counterproductive to criticize a political position, which is what Shayne has expressed. I’ve taken the liberty to peruse your website and I can see a little where you’re coming from politically yourself, and why my critique seems so offensive to you. In your work, you seem to come down firmly on the New-Age side of positive psychology, which is generally hyper-subjectivist and completely blind to the privilege that allows a person to think they are masters of their destiny. I don’t need to quote anything more than the page header for your index, which says “Thoughts Create Reality… Think the Good Ones.”
This is a dangerous sentiment, invalidated by beginner’s rationalism, placing ultimate responsibility upon the individual while encouraging them to ignore or simply accept the web of social and environmental factors within which they are completely interdependent. The view is a corruption of the richness of karmic theory, which places individual agency in dialogue with the actions of others, and the movements of the world.
Thoughts do not create reality. The world was here before you thought about it, and you can’t think yourself rich or into love or out of physical danger or into not being born with a disease, and if you think you have it’s because you’ve benefited from resources of social and political privilege you’re not even aware of. In other words, if it’s a view that’s worked for you, there’s a lot of luck involved.
About Shakespeare: he was writing a line for a character in a tragedy. The character is going insane and winds up killing himself and many around him. For Hamlet’s line to become a New Age bumper sticker is some crazy irony.
Hey Matthew –
Once again, you’ve done an excellent job in calling forth what would otherwise remain in potentially unquestioned darkness. Shayne’s article infuriated me to no end – as a woman, as a teacher, and as a believer in safety, boundaries, and ethics – and I’m so grateful you’ve posted a well-thought out and clear response to it. It is a travesty that students can go to a class where the sacrality of the teacher-student relationship is not only questioned but entirely disregarded and the careful power structure that enables that relationship to thrive can be dismantled so callously.
Ugh. That’s probably all I should say for now…lest I dive into a tantrum of sorts.
But, seriously, thank you for always being brave enough to (at least) try to lift some of this dark shit into the light.
Yes, I do believe your thinking and your unique interpretation of what you see does create your EXPERIENCE of reality. And I do place ultimate responsibility on myself for my EXPERIENCE of life. It works for me, but not because of luck. If I see my experience in life as the responsibility of someone else, I’m pretty powerless and at the mercy of a lot things over which I have no control.
I used to see life the way you do and it was a lot of work trying to change the outside world to fit my preferences. It didn’t work well in my marriage either. Now, that I’ve taken responsibility for my own feelings, everyone around me is free to be who they want to be. Wow, what a relief that was for my friends and family.
Do you believe in luck? If there is such a thing, it’s not consistent enough for me to base my philosophy on.
My philosophy and thinking (which, I would call post-rational, if anything) are based on a lifetime of practice embodying the Tao and 40 years of meditation and self-inquiry.
The way you characterize my perspective as new age and therefore frivolous or even dangerous is akin to the way Fox news has redefined the word liberal as foolish and elitist.
We are probably not going to come to any mutual understanding, but before you continue to dismiss everything as new age, that is not complete rationalism, consider the excerpt below:
On Ken Wilbur’s philosophy (an article on leadership by the Forbes Group)
“One of his (Ken Wilbur’s) key findings is that “truth” is defined in very different ways depending on the level of consciousness of the thinker. The way we think is naturally influenced, and constrained, by culture. Who we are, what we think, how we think, and even the level of thought are dependent on society.”
(This is what I think is happening regarding the different ways in which people are responding to Shayne’s article. We are hearing what he is saying from different levels of consciousness.)
(And regarding what you would call new age thinking:)
“Wilber’s central message is that we must evolve our thinking beyond the current focus on rationality (what can be proven to be so by science) to include higher levels of consciousness. He makes it clear that post-rationality is not irrationality or a return to chaos, magical or mythical thinking. Post-rationality includes the ability to think rationally and to access a sense of magic and myth (those things that we know to be true but cannot explain with science) to add meaning and dimension to thought, but the key to post-rationality is the recognition of the centrality of spirit. And with this recognition, we as leaders can significantly contribute to elevating the dialogue on the solution of the world’s problems through our own evolution to higher levels of consciousness.”
In case you want to read the whole article, here’s the link:
The problem is that regardless of how much personal responsibility you take for your experiences, they are still in large part (if not completely) dependent upon your existential web: who is growing your food, whose land are you borrowing (or stealing), whose labour is making your shirt so cheap, what health care you have access to, whose vote in Congress is shutting down your government. You are at the mercy of a lot of things, as are we all. We’re at the mercy of each other, which is where the hyper-individualism of Cameron Shayne, the radical subjectivism that you’re advocating, and the hollow promises of The Secret, fall gravely short. Part of individual responsibility must mean participating actively in shared responsibility, which means addressing questions of power and privilege.
I don’t know enough about Wilbur’s thousands of pages of work to inow whether he supports your radical subjectivism, but I hope he’s more complex than that. But to say I don’t understand what Shayne is arguing because I’m at the “wrong level of consciousness” is absurd, although perhaps we could both book consults with Wilbur to get level-assessed and see whether you’re right.
Forget about levels. Is he or is he not arguing that shared ethical standards around sexual behaviours in a classroom setting are unnecessary and oppressive? That’s the only relevant issue here, and no amount of sugarcoating or obfuscation is making it go away. Nor is he making it go away, by answering these challenges himself.
I’m fully aware of my interconnectedness with all of life and when I see an injustice that I feel I can do something about, I act. But I don’t think idly criticizing those involved or complaining or judging does any good. Action from a place of integrity when authentically moved can be helpful. But action that is motivated by identification with a particular stance is usually done so to strengthen the ego and often doesn’t turn out so well.
Who said anything about hyper-individualist or radical subjectivism? That is where you took the conversation. That’s your labeling from your inaccurate interpretation of me and of Cameron Shayne. Just because you label something (new age, hyper-individualism, abusive, radical, etc,) doesn’t make it so. It just sounds close minded and judgmental. And who said anything about the Secret? There you go again. You need to expand your understanding of consciousness. Everything that isn’t totally rational or in your paradigm is not new age.
I absolutely agree that individual responsibility means participating actively in shared responsibility. I live in a very close community and am extremely active. There are rules and expectations about behavior AND there are situations where the rules and expectations don’t apply.
You make a lot of assumptions with your considerable intellect, casually painting others with broad brush strokes. I read Shayne’s article to say that love relationships between consenting adults in a yoga class can happen in a way that is not unhealthy, abusive or violating. And making rules that would result in a healthy being labeled as sick, perverse or abusive simply seems oppressive. And, he goes on to say, that if it is abusive, it’s the result of two people who are both unhealthy and in need of healing.
You’ve probably noticed with your work that we continue to draw to us, scenarios that were first created by early wounds. Experiences continue to show up in our reality until we are able to heal them. Do you think that regulating behavior (teachers, etc…) will change this fundamental dynamic that occurs in each person’s unfolding? I don’t. I agree with Shayne that if it didn’t happen in the yoga class it probably would happen somewhere else. These things will and must come up in order for our wounds to heal.
We can’t protect each other from experiencing our wounds. We can and should make safe places for them to be discussed, but that usually happens after they’ve been activated by situations in the world.
A healthy woman does not get sucked in to an abusive situation. I would be the first to admit that when I have been drawn into unhealthy situations, I was coming from a place within that wasn’t whole and needed to be activated in order to be healed. We live in an energetic world and we get ourselves into situations that match our energy. Do you really not agree with this?
Are you saying it’s impossible for a healthy intimate relationship to exist between a male yoga teacher and the female student? Of course it’s possible.
I don’t disagree that a code of ethics is appropriate and necessary in a situation in which the teacher is older or really does have power over the student. But yoga classes are not mandatory, most students are independent adults and they are not beholden to their instructors for their grades or livelihood. That’s giving yoga teachers a little too much power.
Yoga teachers are just people on the path like the rest of us. The amount of outrage and controversy over Cameron’s article seems a bit ridiculous to me. He put his point of view out there publicly for all to see and every woman now knows how he feels and is free to go to his class or not. How much more protection does anyone need from him?
If a woman has vulnerability issues with powerful men, she probably wouldn’t go to a male yoga teacher, especially a macho one like Cameron seems to be. Most woman aren’t that clueless. One look at his website and you can see he’s not the gentle, soft, protective type. But that doesn’t make him unethical. He seems ethical enough to me. He puts his stuff right out there. And if you read what’s written about him and compare it to his responses, those ‘against his politics’ sound very small-minded, mean-spirited, judgmental and righteous, while he keeps his cool.
Yoga teachers who label and condemn and shame others are people who don’t feel safe to me. Those who make an identity out of being an advocate for those who are less privileged need the less privileged to maintain their sense of self. Anyone who spends their time finding and pointing out all the injustices in the world and condemning others are the ones who seem suspect to me.
I see. I’m not “authentically moved” because if I were I wouldn’t even think to criticize the stated politics of a public person. And what I’m really doing by taking a stance against an anti-social screed blind to power imbalances is “strengthening my ego”. Got it. And another thing: I’m misreading the libertarian thrust of Shayne’s post, and just making up things he says like:
policy made for the marginal few further weakens the capable, by encouraging less critical thinking. This in turn robs people of the opportunity to establish their own code of ethics, rather than obeying social law and/or policy. After all, beliefs handed down or imposed rather than learned through practical experience are dogmatic at their core and lack sustainability
(which is a direct quote).
Because you seem to be reading some other post by Shayne, in which all he’s trying to say is that love between people is nice — a post which has none of the political implications of “There are no victims” (direct quote) or comparing students to cocaine users — we can stop talking about it.
As for hyper-individualism and radical subjectivity, allow me to quote directly from your site. Maybe you can explain how this is different from the Secret:
Are You Living the Life You Want?
If not, you can be in no time with a little conscious effort. Simply realize that you are the projector. The situations and people in your life are the screen onto which you project your habitual feelings, attitudes and moods.
Tell that to someone with no health care, or a flood victim, or the women that Bikram Choudry has allegedly raped. While a positive outlook is undoubtedly a good tool, it will not account for privilege or lack thereof, and to think it can is a sign that one’s privilege has become invisible. I’m sure you do good community work. But if you are offering some kind of therapy to people that tells them they are suffering because they have a bad attitude, this is a menace.
A healthy woman does not get sucked in to an abusive situation. I would be the first to admit that when I have been drawn into unhealthy situations, I was coming from a place within that wasn’t whole and needed to be activated in order to be healed. We live in an energetic world and we get ourselves into situations that match our energy. Do you really not agree with this?
No, I don’t. Because what you’re saying is that unhealthy women get what they deserve when they are abused. But that’s okay, because they actually really needed to be abused to have their process of healing “activated”. This is blame-the-victim thinking at its most perverse. And if you’re going to say things like “we get ourselves into situations that match our energy” I hope you have an answer for everyone whose babies died today.
All I’m doing is drawing out the implicit politics and logical conclusions from Shayne’s post and your website. If you don’t imply these things, you should really thicken up your copy to address the material contexts and circumstances of suffering. But if you really do mean that unhealthy women need to be abused in order to be healed, then we have nothing more to say.
It seems that your assumptions, caused by your belief system makes you interpret what I’m saying differently than I’m meaning. You may think you know what I’m saying, but you keep going in a direction that leads you astray from understanding.
Consider that the ‘logical conclusions you are drawing out from Shayne’s post and my website’ might be clouded by your belief system and your filter of conditioning, which doesn’t allow you to interpret what either of us are saying as we mean it. You are clearly not responding to what I’m saying but to your interpretation that is not really on point.
For instance, I never said anything like “healthy women get what they deserve when they are abused.” That’s your spin, and by the way, a common misperception about advocating taking personal responsibility.
Taking responsibility for one’s experience in life has nothing to do with blame. You are the one who keeps talking about blame. You are coming from a different paradigm. Blame and shame don’t exist in mine. It simply means looking within for your own part in any dynamic. Not to blame yourself, but to empower yourself.
When my body has some dis-ease, the first thing I do is ask myself what my body may be trying to tell me. I listen to my body. Then before I just try to get rid of the symptom, I work on whatever I intuit that my body is trying to point out. I see the body as a metaphor. It may not always reveal to me what’s not in alignment with my well being but it usually does. And when I first work on the root of the problem, the symptom usually heals and disappears. If it doesn’t, I seek help on the outside. But I would never blame myself for having gone astray or for wrong thinking.
I don’t blame myself or others, period. I see the world differently than you do. And I see everything as gifts to serve my evolution. So I would never say a woman is to blame for her circumstances. I believe everyone is doing the best they can considering their state of consciousness at the time.
Your idea of ‘blame the victim’ shows a misunderstanding of what you’re calling new age, anyway. It’s not about blame, it’s about empowerment. When you can turn within and change something inside, which is really the only place lasting change can happen, it’s empowering. Blaming myself because I didn’t understand or didn’t realize something, or because a wound became revealed through a situation wouldn’t be very self-loving. I’m not that way with myself or with my clients. I work with people who have some serious diseases. Do you think they’d listen to me if they felt I was blaming them for their creating their circumstances? They come to me because I help empower them to do more than just turn their healing over to others and succumb to fear.
There’s no blame in my world, just ignorance of truth. Of course the world isn’t perfect, nor will it ever be. Everyone, regardless of how erroneous their thinking, does what they do because they think it will make them feel better. Just like you and me. If you do harm to others, I would think it was because you thought it was what you needed to do to feel better about life. That’s what motivates us all. We are all led by our desires to feel better, period. Imagine if we took that attitude to the prisons and worked on reform and healing rather than punishment.
Try to understand what I mean by the value in helping others not identify as the victim. It has nothing to do with blame or guilt. Those are old paradigm concepts that we all need to expand beyond if we really want to eradicate war. Identifying as a victim is a completely powerless place that takes you nowhere.
Please read a little Ken Wilber so you can move beyond your idea that everything that is different from your thinking or not completely rational is new age, shallow, radical subjectivism, etc. I used to think along those lines, too. Consider that you might be limiting your thinking by your judgments and quick assumptions.
Again, your quote:
A healthy woman does not get sucked in to an abusive situation. I would be the first to admit that when I have been drawn into unhealthy situations, I was coming from a place within that wasn’t whole and needed to be activated in order to be healed. We live in an energetic world and we get ourselves into situations that match our energy. Do you really not agree with this?
A gentler paraphrase this time:
“Unwhole” or “unhealthy” persons come into abusive situations because they need abuse to help them heal.
It’s circular, self-justifying, and victim-blaming. There are actual victims in this world. Victims of power who must be protected. Perhaps you’ve heard of criminal law. Victims are not simply people who “identify” as victims. It’s an actual condition that actual people are in. We can protect each other and encourage each other towards better positive self-regard, but it’s not all in our heads.
If you don’t mean what you write (and I’m glad that you don’t), perhaps write it differently. My reading is not about conditioning, unless you’re talking about the last 50 years of women’s and feminist studies, and the social sciences in general.
“I’m ashamed to say that it still confuses me that someone with this sensitivity to breath, space, gravity, proprioception, and the subtlest internal conversations between the soft and the hard can orchestrate such a massive socio-political train wreck in about 2000 words.” The assumption that being “in touch with” or “sensitive to” breath, space, gravity, and subtle internal conversations have anything to do with awakening is the false assumption/presumption. Such an assumption is based on the anthethiccal conceptualizations (vikalpa) of the cognitive-consciousness. In fact, “being in touch with breath” or the other “things” (dharmas) is almost a definition of deluion because it affirms the existence of the very things one is supposedly being sensitive to. To affirm the existence of things is to be deluded about the two-fold emptiness of things and self. So a person who affirms sensitivity to “breath” and “subtle internal conversations between the soft and the hard” is very likely to ba a person who will also affirm self.
Thanks. These are really good points.
I appreciate the majority of this article, except the moments where your ego creeps in. I guess we’re all affected to some degree, and in all fairness, Kancho sits in line with politicians and bureaucrats.
Saying things like “there’s not enough pot in the world to make this make sense” is contradictory to Truth, unless your personal truth is that you get stupid and can’t rationalize when you smoke weed. Marijuana is only illegal in most states because a corporation owned by a bureaucrat discovered you could make a fuck lot of money off limiting a human’s ability to expand; why the majority of psychedelic drugs are illegal. Although, as in every other larger community in the world, cultural divides exist within the black market, too.
Suddenly we’re plagued with a polarity of stigmas. We expect people who practice yoga to be “good” while we expect people who do drugs to be “bad.” And if we smoke weed (that is, do drugs—”drugs” according to The Law), then our ability to intelligently discern is drastically diminished, and this goes for everyone. An ignorant Kanchoism, but with awareness comes choice.
Don’t smoke weed if it makes you stupid. Otherwise, don’t slag a gift of Mother Earth to underscore a joke. Ignorance is no longer bliss.
“Moments”? Well that’s very kind. I’m pretty sure my ego is all over this post. 🙂
Hey, ego isn’t all bad. Pretty sure it’s my ego that mostly agrees with yours!
Good article. I get your facetiousness (is that a word?!) At the end of the day it is not o.k. to look at our students as prospective conquests. They have come to class to learn yoga (whether that is asana or philosophy or any of the limbs). We are like caretakers for both the teachings and the students. There must be a safe place for us to practice and learn together, end of! With regards to the “I am not my body” line, in the Tantric approach (which I am drawn to, the philosophy that is and not the sexually free branch), we are everything: our bodies, minds, emotions, consciousnesses, unconsciousnesses etc! To quote one of my teachers who is a Tantric Scholar “Too much Yes is as bad as Too much No”! There should be an ethical, healthy and clear boundary in the classroom. We have to stop using Spiritual Bypassing in its myriad of forms to excuse our behaviours!
This is very well written. I haven’t read all the comments so maybe you answered this, but have you actually taken a live class from Shayne? If you have, you’ll get it and understand where he’s coming from. He’s a great teacher and his energy and ideas come from a very honest place. We can be so closed off and “vulnerable” in our society and I think more openness, lightheartedness, and honesty about sex is needed. Especially from our conscious community. I find it refreshing.
This was once a beautiful, fun and empowering practice. Cameron was once lighthearted, fun and silly. I spent many hours with him and thoroughly enjoyed his company and insightful teaching. I was committed to Budokon and its powerful physical practice. After a few years something changed. A turning point was clearly his exposure to the Landmark forum and a new way to speak to students and teachers. It became formal and manipulative and lacked the sense of humor it once had. His speech was far more combative, intentionally controversial and unapologetic. It lacked the lightness and sense of yogic quality it once had. His attempt at creating a “Mind Science” element to the practice was no doubt influenced (or borrowed) by Landmark Forum and other Self-help programs. I found these teachings to be a frustrating mix of pseudo-science and combative, in-your-face scenarios like “The woman who’s raped isn’t a victim because she chose to be there”. Many of us simply stopped practicing, attending (and scheduling) his workshops and gave up teaching. I no longer list Budokon on my resume and removed any reference to the many years I spent teaching and practicing with him in my bio.
I was in the Budokon program starting in March 2008 but noticed that sometime around 2009 – 2010 the tone of the Teacher Trainings became different in much the same way exbudo has described. There is no way to know what may have caused this change. To add to my frustration, as I did not have direct instruction, the actual requirements seemed to change every 3-4 months, eg. grappling Kata and as I once joked with some practitioners a swearing Kata. I have since went on to get a 200 hr. certification in my hometown which is recognised by the Yoga Alliance and continue searching and training in Martial Arts separately until I can find a good balance of the 2 practice. Looking at the “history” of Budokon via internet wayback machine, there have been a great number of people invested into this practice in the name “Budokon” whom have either left or been discarded in periodical re-making of this practice and while I acknowledge evolution and “living” practices, its still good to have some kind of consistency in form to give the accomplishments some kind of context.
The comments prove 100 percent that yoga does not work…hahaha