The Love Songs of J. Brown Yogi

The Love Songs of J. Brown Yogi

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
— Eliot, “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

J. Brown makes transparency in the yoga biz bittersweet. He consistently points to the sorrow in the shadow of yoga marketing: perpetual change, impossible economics, anxious upselling, getting older, seeing through the dross, living with pain.

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“But He’s Not Erect”: Rationalizing Videos and Lies

"But He's Not Erect": Rationalizing Videos and Lies

This post might mark a shift of this blog into firmly opinion-column/commentary territory, as a lot of what I’m working on now beyond book projects is mostly higher-stakes investigative journalism, and when I publish on a corporation like Jivamukti, for example, it needs to be on a U.S. site with a U.S. server, because libel laws in Canada are pretty stiff. Here I can be sued on the premise that I’ve harmed a company’s reputation, even if the reporting is accurate. Because the major paying publications in the U.S. yoga world have turned down these articles and I have no independent liability insurance I’m grateful to Be Scofield at Decolonizing Yoga for taking them on.

I’ve published four articles on the now-settled sexual harassment case against the Jivamukti Yoga School. One about what the plaintiff actually had to say after the school essentially called her a liar, one on how JYS and other yoga groups use silencing tactics when complaints emerge (including the failure of the Ashtanga world to address the open secret of their guru’s sexual harassment), one on how the case has provoked a powerful discussion about the need for trauma-sensitivity training in yoga culture generally, and a fourth on how JYS and Michael Roach, the charismatic and controversial American Buddhist leader, exchanged both form and content from 2003 to 2012.

This post is about a side-issue that’s emerged in the online dialogue surrounding these articles. Continue reading ““But He’s Not Erect”: Rationalizing Videos and Lies”

How I Teach Yoga Philosophy

Well first of all, as with Ayurveda, I don’t really teach. How could I? What – do I know something? Not really. Even less as I get older. But I have gathered a ragged bouquet of question techniques that range from musings to proddings to provocation. Gentleness is key, because the discussion has to explore and penetrate belief, which is sometimes all a person thinks they have in defense against despair. Musings are good icebreakers for where we are frozen; provocations require familiarity and trust. Continue reading “How I Teach Yoga Philosophy”

His body is a golden string your body’s hanging from: Leonard Cohen and the disgraced guru

an excerpt from Cohen Koan, first published on yogaforsmartpeople in May of 2013 — thank you Tracey.

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I believe that you heard your master sing while I lay sick in bed. In the late 90s I opened a magazine and saw a picture of Leonard Cohen sitting beside his teacher Joshu Sasaki Roshi, both of them zen blank-and-stern in brown-black robes, bone-white rings at their left breasts. In recent years I had lost track of his biography, and had no idea that I was mirroring it, thirty-five years his junior. I cut the picture out and put it on my altar next to a picture of myself with my very own crazy Buddhist teacher – Geshe Michael Roach. Cohen’s zen uniform had a kind of continuity with his grey-blue suits, and perhaps the gabardine his father had worn in the Canadian Army, or the racks of suits Cohen would have seen hanging in his father’s haberdashery. Renunciation and militarism for him have always seemed cut from the same cloth, en vogue. Continue reading “His body is a golden string your body’s hanging from: Leonard Cohen and the disgraced guru”

śruti and smṛti: intertextu-orality, phenomenology, and the so-ham behind the swan

(This post is a draft of a section from the introduction to a work-in-progress called Yoga Philosophy Digest: three core texts for students, in which I’ll be trying to present the most helpful reading and contemplative strategies for students who wish to navigate theBhagavad Gītā, the Yoga Sūtra-s, and the Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā. Any and all feedback is appreciated.)

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Negotiating the anxiety of influence (threads of yoga ephemera)

An excluded section from threads of yoga.

There is a Oedipal subplot to this book that I would like to make transparent. It’s been fuelled by a subconscious drive: by definition, I won’t be able to tell the whole story. But I think I have some idea of how I’ve loved and hated Patañjali, how I’ve wanted to steal his fire, strip his book down for parts and bury him – but then, still dream of him in my bones. I’m at least partially aware of how this desire is but one shade of my general feeling within the grip of history and language. Continue reading “Negotiating the anxiety of influence (threads of yoga ephemera)”

A few pages from an abandoned novel, circa 2003

Sunday morning, this beautiful empty winter in Wisonsin Dells. Neon vacancy signs in front of a hundred 50s motels go pastel in the crystalline sun. A few old pickups outnumbered by leased minivans prowl the parkway towards church or a sleepy buffet of powdered eggs and maple-flavored corn syrup. Matchbox-flimsy roller coasters cut cubist arcs against the frigid blue, icicles glinting from the cross-ties. The outdoor water parks are barren but for their enormous cartoon sculptures grinning down at summer’s absent children, and across drained blue pools like bedpans of molded plastic, kidney or pear-shaped, the twigs and leaves and beer cans gathered around the drains in frozen halos of inconsequence. Transports hum on the interstate behind the Wal-mart and Home Depot at the town limits. There is everything to buy, but spending begins again in spring, in preparation for Memorial Day, which should be called something else. Continue reading “A few pages from an abandoned novel, circa 2003”

Mic Check: how the Occupy movement is creating empathy through communication

Of the countless intersubjective graces unfolding in Zuccotti Park and around the Occupy world, the “human microphone” is recapturing something as old as human learning. This is something sacred: a repurposing of voice, ear, and content that may serve no less than the re-membering of a more coherent human consciousness. Continue reading “Mic Check: how the Occupy movement is creating empathy through communication”

notes on bhakti: up the down staircase

The power of the ‘divine’/’human’ dream is that each perspective beckons the other. The micro is not broad enough, and the macro is too distant. The mind seeks pleasure in the transitional zone between the two, its pleasure deepening as its focus widens or narrows in a surge of learning. Becoming god is ecstatic, being god is not. Becoming man is entastic, being man is not. It is not enough to see that the categories of human and divine are dependent and intrinsic. The categories seduce only where they meet. The child does not play on the slide by resting at either the top or the bottom. Continue reading “notes on bhakti: up the down staircase”