A service for teachers of yoga and Buddhism (and affiliated organizations) who share history and content with abusive groups and want to move forward with transparency and integrity as they continue to share their real skills and values.
The research and inquiry tools in the workbook that concludes Practice and All is Coming emerged out of six years of personal entrapment in yoga-related cults and fifteen years of recovering from that experience. Six of those recovery years of have been spent researching cultic dynamics in yoga and Buddhism groups, during which time I’ve had hundreds of conversations with current and former group members.
Many of those conversations were also formal interviews for the journalism and writing I’ve published on the Ashtanga, Iyengar, Shambhala, and Rigpa organizations.
What I’ve learned is that many people in the contemporary yoga and Buddhism worlds struggle with a core paradox:
Almost everyone who has professionalized into these industries was trained in an organization that harbours a history of abuse or cultic dynamics.
How are they to digest this fact? How are they to honour what they have learned, while refusing to bypass the harm that came to others? How will they support the victims of institutional abuse, while reforming their institutional learning?
These questions are addressed in the PRISM method, presented as the heart of the PAAIC workbook.
The acronym carries a message: however we define yoga and other spiritual practices, practitioners report a broad spectrum of experience with communities of practice. Commonly, only the most positive and transformative experiences are reported, as they elevate the communities. PRISM suggests that we bear witness to the whole spectrum, so that wounds do not remain hidden.
The intention of the PRISM method is to foster transparency and safety in practice communities. It asks practitioners of yoga and Buddhism who wish to professionalize as teachers and mentors to:
- Pause to reflect on the idea that each yoga method and community carries both value, but also, potentially, a history of abuse;
- Research the literature on the method to find and understand that history;
- Investigate whether the harm has been acknowledged and addressed;
- Show how you will embody the virtues and not bypass the wounds of the community;
- Model transparent power sharing and engaged ethics for future practitioners.
As my cult analysis work has become more widely known, I’ve consulted with dozens of ex-members of high-demand groups about how PRISM might be applied to their individual cases. The details of these exchanges remain confidential. In general, however, I can say that the resulting re-orientations reflect many of the elements of Uma Dinsmore-Tuli and Nirlipta Tuli’s ground-breaking transparency statement regarding their changed relationship with Satyananda Yoga.
In most cases I’ve done this on a volunteer basis. As the demand for this work grows, I’m offering this consultancy professionally.
How I Can Help
Through online or phone calls, email support, and providing targeted resources, I can help individuals, businesses, and schools:
- Think about and articulate the paradox of being linked to a high-demand group through education or relationships.
- Explore issues such as false attribution (whether the value one assigns to a high-demand group actually comes from it), and privilege vs. merit in assessing why one was harmed less by a group than others.
- Help clients articulate the value that they themselves brought to their practice, apart from what they learned from the group.
- Help find new resources for supporting and communicating the value of one’s practice, if former resources are now suspect or disenchanted.
- Walk through what a transparency statement might look like in the client’s particular circumstance.
- Help outline and edit a transparency statement.
- Consult on ways to validate and, where appropriate, support victims and survivors of the group to which the client belonged.
- Consult on policy, procedures, training competencies, and accountability structures going forward. This is crucial, insofar as a key after-effect of high-demand membership is unfamiliarity in seeking outside resources. Here, my experience consulting with Yoga Alliance in several areas provides good background.
What I Cannot Do
While it may feel emotionally activating to discuss one’s past, this consulting service is very strictly not therapy. I can however, refer clients to therapists who work with those who are recovering from high-demand groups.
I will not help anyone produce a statement that minimizes survivor experiences, or deflects from personal or institutional responsibility.
I am not a mandated reporter. However, I will pause any conversation that discloses criminal wrongdoing and immediately advise the client to pursue criminal justice pathways.
I will only work with sincere clients who show real willingness to take concrete steps towards greater transparency and student safety. I will end any contract that feels like an exercise in brandwashing.
- Each contract will be individually detailed within a standard agreement that outlines informed consent, scope of practice, and privacy commitments.
- All correspondence remains confidential.
- Fee: 135 USD per hour, flexible.
For further inquiries, or to book a service, please email [email protected].
Names redacted for privacy.
“We belong to a non-profit organization that had limited knowledge of the resources that we could use to demonstrate our compromise with integrity and transparency to the world. Matthew Remski has helped us to embarque in a process that has been both painful and gratifying as we face history, learn from it, and use these experiences to better our organization and show the ways in which we guarantee the safety and wellbeing of our participants. Finding materials and adequate terms to reflect the feelings in our hearts was made much easier by Matthew’s insights in our multiple conversations. The journey for us has only begun, and we are very grateful to Matthew as he has helped feel accompanied and reassured in every step of the way.”
“I’ve spent the last 11 years reflecting on the time I spent in a cult with so much confusion and many mixed emotions. Most of that time I’ve wanted to forget about it and distance myself from it publicly. Working with Matthew has helped me clarify and reframe my past to be able to move forward into the future without shame. I am someone who both appreciates the experiences I had in the cult, and looking back sees the deception that was at the core of it, and the harm that others experienced. My process with Matthew was a mixture of deep listening, psycho-education, co-writing, and reframing that has been more helpful to me than $3,000 worth of therapy. I feel empowered to continue teaching with integrity and to hold a deeper sense of understanding the greater forces that are at play in the student/teacher relationship.”
“Matthew very effectively supported our team as we confronted a yogic system steeped in endemic abuse that has also been a source of support, livelihood, and healing for many who were not active participants in the original abuse. This paradox is very challenging to negotiate and requires guidance from someone who is clear sighted, historically cognizant, and compassionate. Matthew was able to offer all of these things along with a very skillful way of clearly holding the historic abusers accountable but also asking those of us who, while not participating in the abusive dynamics themselves, currently have something at stake in the maintenance of these unhealthy systems and are therefore less inclined to thoroughly question them. Matthew was able to help us find a way to recognize how not fully condemning the abusive system that we have inherited actually perpetuates the unhealthy dynamics of secrecy and gas-lighting that keep these systems alive. Being able to call abuse by its true name without equivocation is the key step to moving forward and Matthew was a critical catalyst in this process.”
“With immense care and respect, Matthew helped me see more clearly the systems of power, domination, and trauma in which I have been complicit. He broadened the context of my understanding beyond ashtanga and an abusive organization in which I had spent many years, to see that these types of systems are both widely spread and predictable in many ways. This, in itself, helped my move through shame and toward generative change. Matthew offered feedback on writing pieces that helped me provide leadership for my community, as well as speak truth to power in a way that would not reproduce the hurt out of which I was growing. All along the way, Matthew was gentle, caring, and considerate, and he provided resources and perspectives that have both empowered and informed my work in radical ways.”