The Hypocrisy of (some) Yogis

Here's what I experienced last holiday season (written around Christmas 2007). I didn't have a blog back then, so had no place to share this.....now I have a home for this "story". Thanks for reading it.

A disappointing awakening.

I follow, as best I am able, the Yoga Sutra laws of life (yama) and rules for living (niyama); and I am appreciative of those who serve and have served in the military. I recently learned that some in the yoga community believe these to be mutually exclusive.

I enter this holiday season with a heavy heart. The holiday email card I sent to my yoga friends and contacts provoked hostility, threats and complaints. The message I sent from my yoga retreat center of "season's greetings" to all and "thanks and wishes for troops, veterans and their families to be safe and healthy" was heard by some (who chose to respond) as "support for murderers", "shameful", "evil", "supportive of unsustainable lifestyles", "war lover" and other words I consider even less pleasing. 5% of those I'd emailed many times previously about opportunities to take discounted yoga vacations, reported my holiday card as spam. Another 20% of those who received the email card unsubscribed to my newsletter.

My disappointment from this experience is not from loosing potential customers for the retreat center. Rather I learned a bit about my own naiveté and an uncomfortable lesson: some who consider themselves "peaceful, loving, non-violent" are selectively so. Teachings of the Sutra and most Eastern and Western religions do not teach us of a god or universe who picks and chooses to whom well-being is wished. We are taught to love all beings, even those with whom we disagree and of whom we disapprove.

So is my lesson here to omit mention of individuals who have served our country in all yoga marketing materials? Is it to develop a thicker skin and "let it go" when I am called a "war lover"? Is it to try to explain to those who do not support troops that the troops are worthy of our love and prayers too? I'm not sure yet what to do with this information. So I'll do what I often do I am troubled; curl up on the couch with my fiance, Scott, and talk it through. And Scott, a United States Marine Corps Veteran of several foreign conflicts, will give me a hug and tell me to "just breathe".

To wish safety and health to the boys, girls, men, women who put themselves in harm's way does not equate supporting war or a particular political party. It means wishing loving kindness (ahimsa) and contentment (samtosha); specifically to those who may have trouble feeling loving and content this holiday season. Some who responded felt similarly and have inquired about how they can help in my initiative to make the yoga retreat center handicapped accessible for wounded veterans. These yogis and yoginis were the minority.

As I write this, two days before Christmas, I continue to receive a flurry of "unsubscribe" notices from my yoga email contacts – should I conclude that not all humans deserve safety and health or just that I did a lousy job of communicating this intention? You decide, my full email holiday card text is below.

To those of you who wished upon me death from war….I wish to you and your loved ones, ahimsa and samtosha. Namaste and happy holidays to all.

Full text of my email that provoked anger and threats:

Subject: Happy holidays and thanks to troops and veterans

Season's Greetings

Thank you to all troops and veterans around the world.

Wishing you and your families a safe and healthy holiday season.

12 Comments:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

What a disappointment to read how some people reacted to your season greetings. No matter what an American's politics might be, they ought to realize that those who serve in the military are taking responsibility for all of us. And it's unbelievable that some people would not support the healing of veterans.

Hope you're not too upset by the reaction you got.

Anonymous said...

This is a tricky one. On one hand your audience is probably 99.9% anti-war and many of those highly sensitive to it and anything/anyone related to it. A yoga website is the last place they would probably expect to find any blessings to troops, etc.

On the other, I have to agree that the troops and veterans deserve support and compassion from their country. As a product of the Vietnam War with an American father who was an officer and a Vietnamese mother, while I do not support nor condone the Iraq war, I do feel it is our duty to support and bless those that are risking their lives for us. Many of them are not even on the front line killing anyone and they have innocent families at home as well. They are just doing what their government is telling them to do and want to come home. Also, people in the military and their families and supporters can be yogis too! I taught a group of military housewives whose husbands were in Iraq and it was a very heartfelt class as you can imagine.

Anonymous said...

Yes it sounds like you didn't make your intention clear enough for these people. In hindsight perhaps it would have been better if you stated your relationship to your partner in the military. Otherwise it just looks kinda random and some people obviously mistook you for supporting the war and not just the troops.

G4 said...

Bravo. And Bravo again. I received an email requesting yoga teachers to write a chapter for an upcoming book, so I came here to check you out.

Regarding your holiday emails - I am there with you. Where's the love and acceptance? You know... If the dove is symbolic of peace, maybe she needs her feathers ruffled a little in order to remember how to fly.

Fight the good fight.

namastehon said...

Many "yogis" have not practiced or studied enough to remember the story behind the Bhagavad Gita - Lord Krishna tells the warrior Arjuna that he MUST fight and then teaches him the practice of Yoga so that this warrior can learn non-attachment to the results of his actions.

this study would also be of use to the leaders of armies, who tend to send their warriors into battle for egotistical reasons; those of us who would like to see armed conflicts become a thing of the past must always keep in mind that soldiers are trained to obey orders without thinking while it's the leaders who put them into harm's way.

The Ramayana is very instructional on this point - when Hanuman rescues Sita, Sita tells him to spare the lives of the cowering demons who had been torturing her as they were only doing what their leader, Ravana, had ordered....

Florian said...

Thank you for the thoughtful comments and feedback. I debated for a while whether to post what I'd written or keep it private and I'm glad I posted it...

Anonymous said...

I find it funny that people such as Cynthia McKinney have the right to claim that Israel attacked her. Isn't she supposed to be the Huffington Post be all and end all to the yoga community. Just a question. Who would Cynthia McKinney ask to defend her if she was attacked by the another country? Again this is the hypocrisy of Yoga, we want now when we want it. Another confused yogi....

Florian said...

Anonymous...I'm afraid I am not familiar with the Cynthia McKinney reference and I don't follow the Huffington post - so I don't have much insight from which to respond. Thank you for taking the time to post.

Anonymous said...

The Hypocrisy of Yoga could be the title of my book, how yoga destroyed the last four years of my life.

The Hypocrisy is much deeper than you think.

Asia said...

Good for you. Some of the worst behaviour I've seen in people has come from those who claim to know the way to kindness and love. I've also had backlash from the yoga community for supporting yoga becoming mainstream. It was as though I were laying their children out to slaughter. I fully support your position, and I fully support your right to the freedom of speech (and their right to their freedom to disagree) exercised in a country that's free because, when necessary, military force made it so.

Florian said...

Asia - thank you for your comments and for your bravery in going up against resistance in bringing yoga "mainstream". I'm happy yoga is mainstream, or I probably never would have learned about it. Hari om! Deb