Cyndi Lee Interviews Matthew Remski about Working Through the Abuse Crisis in Modern Yoga and Buddhism (+ transcript)

Notice: This interview is part of the Yoga of Healing and Awakening Summit, a free online event featuring essential depth teachings and daily practices for your body, mind and soul. This recording is a copyright of The Shift Network. All rights reserved.


Announcer: 00:00

Welcome to the yoga of healing and awakening summit, a free online event where you’ll discover essential depth teachings and daily practices for your mind, body, and soul. Share these visionary masters and esteemed practitioners with your friends and family and join us on Facebook at The Shift Network. And now your host, Cyndi Lee.

Cyndi Lee: 00:24

Welcome everyone. We’re so glad that you’re joining us and today I’m really pleased to introduce my special guest and friend, Matthew Remski. Matthew Remski is a yoga teacher, industry consultant and author of nine previous books including Threads of Yoga, a remix of patanjali’s yoga sutras with commentary and reverie, and the survivor of two cults. His work has been pivotal in illuminating the shadows of globalized Yoga and Buddhism and showing that disillusionment and critical inquiry can be gateways to mature spirituality. Matthew, thanks so much for being with us today. Welcome.

Matthew Remski: 01:08

Thank you so much, Cindy. Thanks for the welcome. Thanks for inviting me to do this. It’s a pleasure to meet you finally.

Cyndi Lee: 01:14

Yeah, maybe some day we’ll meet each other in real life. Exactly. So you sent me your recent book, All is coming, which I read and I’m familiar with. And I would say that you’re doing some very specific work right now in the Yoga and Dharma communities that I don’t know if anyone else is doing, both uncovering of variety of abuses and abusers that may or may not have been widely known. And also what I was especially moved by and encouraged by was that you’re pointing away forward, that you’re doing really crucial work in giving us a path forward and what seems really yogic and really Dharmic to me is taking quote-unquote poison and transforming that and working towards Buddhist principles such as non-harming and Buddhist principles such as clarity and compassion. And so that’s kind of a long statement, but I’m wondering if you could talk about that.

Matthew Remski: 02:27

Well thank you first of all, but I’d have to say that it’s really a privileged position to have been able to take a number of years to put this book together, but it really sits on the shoulders of especially women who have been in smaller forums, generally talking about power abuses within the younger world and the Buddhist worlds for a long time. So the people who have been very influential to this project include, Donna Farhi who has done a lot of coverage of the yoga world and especially the Iyengar world. And then the survivors themselves who began to step forward, including the first person who really alerted me to the severity of the abuse history within Ashtanga Yoga, my friend Diane Bruni here in Toronto…

People like Diane and then the people who were able to give testimony for this book, they’ve been holding these stories and their responses to them and their own ways forward for a long time. And so the book is really capturing the crest of a wave. I’m really grateful for, for all of the work that’s gone before me. And as far as a way forward goes, I do have some proposals that come out of the research, and listening that I’ve had to learn to do to the survivors of sexual abuse within yoga communities, but also from my own experiences as a cult survivor and my review of the cult analysis literature.

So yeah, there’s the sixth part of the book, a workbook actually for critical thinking and community health. And I have the sense that it is possible sometimes to turn poison into a kind of goodness. But that’s hard one. It takes a lot of care. It takes a lot of social networking; it takes the empowerment of survivors through listening to their stories, really carefully platforming them and making them the center of any kind of reform movement. So those are pretty key ideas to me. Continue reading “Cyndi Lee Interviews Matthew Remski about Working Through the Abuse Crisis in Modern Yoga and Buddhism (+ transcript)”

The Unbearable Smugness of “I Got Mine-ism” Amongst Cult and ex-Cult Members

The Smugness of "I Got Mine-ism" Amongst Cult and ex-Cult Members

I’ll preface this post by saying that, in accordance with the clinical research, I do not believe there are strong correlations between prior life experience and the likelihood that a person will join or stay in a cult (or “totalist”, or “high-demand” group.) What follows is a speculation, based on memory and anecdote, on why people who are already inside such a group may be more prone to the kind of enabling and moral harm that Facebook friend Joseph Teskey has described to me as “I got mine-ism” (IGM).

IGM is a defensive strategy by which a member who has not (or believes they have not) directly experienced abuse or institutional betrayal within the group deflects stories of abuse within the group by immediately self-referring, saying things like: “I don’t know about other’s experience; I find/found the teacher/teachings to be profoundly helpful in my life.” The statement is usually couched within an unwillingness to act on behalf on victims or mitigate future harm. Continue reading “The Unbearable Smugness of “I Got Mine-ism” Amongst Cult and ex-Cult Members”

Guru or Guide: What’s the Scope of Practice? A Second Response to Christopher Wallis

Guru or Guide: What’s the Scope of Practice? A Second Response to Christopher Wallis

Christopher Wallis responded to my response to his article on guru-abuse prevention – check his comment here. We’re having a cordial exchange about an important topic — how strange for Yogaland! — and a lot of folks have seemed to appreciate the themes explored so far, so I’ll respond again. Wallis was kind enough to direct message with me to clarify certain points, so I’ll refer to those as well.

In my previous post, I offered a positional statement:

I’m writing here as a non-Indian yoga practitioner who has interacted with echoes of the Indian guru-shishya system that have been borrowed, adapted, appropriated, or manipulated during the globalization phase of yoga.

I’ll expand that to say:

I’m not qualified to comment on the content of Wallis’ religio-philosophy, so I’ll confine my focus to what he says about its pedagogy. My content ignorance may blinder me to some subtle mechanism of integrity that’s second nature to him. Or it may be a strength, insofar as spiritual content so often obscures the structure of material relations. I don’t know. Also: I’m writing as a two-time college-dropout who cycled through two cultic environments and spent the better part of the last decade healing from it in part by informally researching what cults are and how they work, and the last few years formally researching the shadows of yoga pedagogy for a book that started out as being about injuries but every day is becoming more about the embodied effects of patriarchy in modern yoga and how people reach out of them. I’ll let Wallis share as much about his own background relationships beyond his formal bio as he wants, but for now it suffices to say that we come at the guru problem from very different angles, which makes friendly dialogue all the more useful. Continue reading “Guru or Guide: What’s the Scope of Practice? A Second Response to Christopher Wallis”