Excerpt from Eric Paskel’s Facebook Live chat, November 11, 2019,
originating from the Taj Bekal Resort and Spa in Kerala, India…
I took a group of 28 students to India. The first eight days were spent at the Vedanta Academy. What a ride it was! It was the introduction of 28 folks to what it’s like to really look in the mirror and to find out what a real yoga day and a yoga practice is all about. From 4 a.m. to 9 p.m., it’s non-stop and only 30 minutes of that time period is devoted to asana; physical yoga. I watched 28 people go out of their minds because their warped ideas of what a yoga practice is; what yoga is all about, is so f**king off. Then I watched those same 28 people bring it together. They fought like true warriors and walked out learning a ton and being deeply touched.
Today, I want to talk to you about the New York Times article, “How Did I Get That Yoga Story? You Really Had to Be There”. I have been in conversations with people for the past year regarding a really big article coming out about the sexuality, the state of being victimized or being a predator, in the yoga world. It was going to be a kick-ass article that really unveiled the whole lot. Something happened and all we got was this bullshit little article involving two yoga people.
I won’t mention their names because, if I talk dirty, or what you think is dirty about other people, you’ll say “that isn’t yoga”. So I’m stifled. If I don’t say anything about it, then I’m just another person that is being silenced when I know of the atrocities, not only of what these two people have done, but of many others as well. But if I talk about them, then I’m either gossiping or bad-mouthing other yoga people. That doesn’t make me a yogi. If I don’t talk about it, then my silence doesn’t make me a yogi. If I talk about it in a certain way, it will seem like I’m better, when I’m really not. So all I can say for those of you judging me is, “go f**k yourself”.
Let’s start with some very basics. The assumption in our profession, and even if you are not in the yoga profession, can probably still be applied. In yoga, there is an adult teacher and an adult student. That assumption is terribly wrong. I have never met a teacher that is an adult. Well maybe a few here and there. But they are in the minority.
Everyone is a child. So you have to understand that your teacher is a child and you have to understand that you, too, are a child. So when two children meet, shit can go down, as long as there is no adult supervision. So it should not come as a surprise, that one of the guys in the article happens to be one of the oldest yoga teachers and has made yoga very popular. By the way, if you love him, if you have trained under him, I’m sorry if I am offending you. But his beauty to you and what he has done for you, does not mean that he hasn’t done what he did to other people. You have to come to grips with that folks. He might have provided a lot of good for a lot of people. But he also stepped over major lines for many people.
I’ve been sexually abused, physically abused, verbally abused. It doesn’t mean that those people did not have good qualities. It does not mean that they did that to other people. The same with that other dude that they are talking about in the article. Not that he was so bad. There’s many things he’s done for numerous people in lots of ways. In fact, I love them both dearly. But it does not mean they aren’t doing f**ked up shit. We have to take that into account.
Let’s go back to the child assertion. You have two children. It does not matter if you are a new yoga student or a continuing yoga student. You have to assume that the person you are learning from isn’t necessarily a bad person. They just don’t know any better.
You have a responsibility, first and foremost, as individuals. The onus for everything is on the individual. It’s not on the teacher. I’m not getting on a pulpit saying, “how dare these teachers”… The first thing that we have to learn in life is that you are responsible for yourself. You have to figure it out. Do we want to get into a group and cry about what a shame it is that so many teachers in high levels do inappropriate things? Sure we can do that. But after that, we still have to take care of our crap and move on.
Please understand wherever you are in your life, you are responsible. You make yourself. You mar yourself. It’s your job to become an adult. You were born with the ability and capacity to do so. As much as we need teachers and their teachings, you still have to think and protect against some of the eventualities that will happen when you open yourself up to other people and make yourself vulnerable. Now that being said…f**k you to the two people in that article. F**k you to all the people that did not speak up. F**k you to the writer that made it about “should you ask for permission”. “Should I ask, hey Gideon, hey Jamie, hey Angela, is it okay if I adjust you?” What the f**k! Yoga is about adjusting yourself!
The problem is that nobody knows what yoga is. Yoga is not about standing on your head. It’s about getting your head out of your ass.
It’s okay to do physical yoga. It’s a good workout. It keeps you supple and toned. It wakes you up. You are doing karma yoga to your body. If you understand that you have the gift of sight, and feeling, of movement and breath, you can tie in some bhakti yoga and become devotional. If you are doing hatha yoga, you’re moving and the tone is set correctly. You can even be doing jnana yoga because you are thinking at a higher level. Your thoughts go beyond your physical body.
But let’s face it. That’s not what these yoga classes are about. They are about sensual indulgence. Everybody just wants to “get off”. The teacher there wants to give you an orgasm, because it feels good to make people “come”. But that’s not our job.
So a giant F**K YOU to those guys! I have witnessed things. But it’s up to you folks to report and make yourselves heard. It ain’t up to me. I wish I could. But it would send me into a whole other realm with you that I do not want to get into.
All I can tell you is that you need to take responsibility for yourself. Teachers, you need to fess up, own up and get your own help. The dynamic is fascinating. If you take someone who’s familiar with abuse and bring them to a yoga class with a teacher, or anyone in their life, that is abusive, if they are used to abuse, they will take it.
Some people love it! Love to be adjusted and have their body parts touched; their breasts, their vaginas, their penises, their balls, you name it. Guys and gals get excited about that. As a teacher, if your students like you getting close, and are responsive in a certain way, you have to question that. Those of you who are teachers, and are going farther and touching those parts that I have talked about and pressing up against people and saying, “people like it”. There is something wrong with them, if they like it. There is something wrong with you, if you are doing it.
What is the goal in yoga? It’s for people to adjust themselves.
Just the other day I broke one of my very own rules. I had a student in class. I gave tons of verbal instructions. I went by and literally took my index finger, and just touched her, saying “tuck your tailbone under” and walked by her. After class she wrote on Facebook, “…this was a great yoga class. But if you have ever been sexually abused, don’t go.” Thank God, the yoga studio I was teaching at videotaped the class. They videotape everything. The owner called her in and showed her the video and asked, “what do you see?” And the student said, “I saw Eric take his index finger and poke my spine.” The owner showed her the letter and asked why did you say “he grabbed my ass”?
That’s the whole point. I broke my own rules. That’s what somebody felt. That’s how dangerous it is. That’s how f**ked up people are when they come to your class. You have a responsibility and as stalwarts of this profession, you have to admit, if you are grabbing a person from the opposite sex, same sex, whatever sex you like, and are pulling on them, it creates all kinds of fantasies in their heads, including the teacher’s.
I’m here to tell you to be careful. Watch out for yourself. You can’t control what anyone else is doing. But you can make damn sure that you speak up for yourself.
In terms of adjustments on the whole, we should never be having this conversation, because they are not necessary. Ultimately, if certain adjustments are needed for some particular reason and somebody really wants them, you have to be so discerning and understand where this person is coming from. You have to know them well. They have to know you. Then and only then should you make some adjustments.
But you also have to think about other options. Why can’t you model? Why can’t they use the wall? Why do they have to learn this anyway? What’s the point? It’s not like touching your toes creates enlightenment. It’s not like doing handstands creates enlightenment. It’s not like a good adjustment saves you from injury. It’s not like it will make you a better person.
It’s the worst time in the world to ever do something serious as a teacher. The worst time in the world to convey truth and real transparency. And to introduce to human beings what it’s like to be really human. It’s the worst time. You will just offend and offend and offend.
I was in my hometown of Detroit a month or so ago. I was teaching a class, making jokes, being real jovial. Then I mentioned something like, “I shouldn’t have said that or I will get shot. Half of the people who live in this area have guns.” Two people were so offended that I said, people had guns. It’s just f**king insane.
I’m not telling you what to say. I’m suggesting that you need to be grounded and be an adult. Then you can rise above this crap that is going around you, whether you are in the yoga world or not. Secondly, you have to understand the psychology of people coming into your class. If you are a teacher and you want to be popular, go screw yourself. That’s not what teaching yoga is about. Teaching yoga isn’t about having students like you. If you are a teacher, you are here to hold the space.
Never, ever, put yourself on a pulpit. There is not one teacher I have ever met, including myself, that is any better off than any single student. It’s like splitting hairs. So I’m a little less stressed than you. Half the things that bother you no longer bother me. Big deal! I still have stress levels. I still have anger on levels. I still have judgment, greed and selfishness on levels. I still have fear and anxiety levels. But I am not better than you.
It’s like running around in a village where everybody is blind and you have one eye open. Big deal!
I was so fired up about the New York Times article. The article was generally about adjustments and inappropriate adjustments. What it really boiled down to was that the teacher should ask for the student’s permission before they do any adjustments. If the student says “yes”, that still doesn’t mean you should adjust them. There are some sick puppies in class who are dying and craving to be touched. That is not your job. Your job is to help them love themselves. Your job is to help them become self-sufficient and independent, not codependent. And you sick people do the opposite.
So go ahead. Turn the music on. Give the people a good sweat. Tell some jokes. Read a few fortune cookies. Or read out of whatever poetry books you read from. Say a few uplifting and inspiring things and then shut up and get out. That’s a good yoga class!
You have no business doing anything else. Then lines are clear. Boundaries are clear.
I just took a group of yoga teachers and people to a place that’s truly sattvik, where they are deep in study and reflection and nobody can handle it.
Another topic of contention is people calling relaxation techniques; meditation. There is nothing wrong with sitting and chanting. Nothing wrong in counting through your mala beads. There is nothing wrong in imagining that you are walking up a ladder and there is the sun and your favorite person is up there. You open your eyes and see your favorite person and that makes you relax. There is nothing wrong with those things. But that is not meditation. That is short term relaxation that does not convert into long term transformation.
What you call meditation is nothing more than a short term technique. Which is great, as long as you know it is short term and it cannot turn into long term transformation. That is impossible. It is impossible scientifically.
Anybody who thinks, has any brain at all, could dispel this notion in one second. How this is dispelled is by using science. The subtle controls the gross. Does the puppeteer control the puppet? Or does the puppet control the puppeteer? Think about this for your own self. Your body is the puppet. Your mind and intellect are the puppeteers. Your mind and your intellect are controlling your body. That is more subtle than your physical body. More subtle than your breath, is your mind and your intellect. Your breath is part of your gross body. Your gross body consists of your organs of action, perception, elimination, reproduction and your five senses. Your subtle body is what drives your gross body, which is your mind and your intellect. When you call yourself a meditator, all you are doing is using mental, emotional techniques. Using your breath or visualizations can, for a moment, calm you down. That is fine. But it’s not meditation.
For example, do the clouds really block the sun? Where do clouds come from? They come from the sun! The clouds are gross. You can see them in front of the sun. It looks like they are blocking the sun. But the clouds cannot block the sun. The sun is subtle.
When you drink a glass of wine, you relax. You calm down. But did you change? No! You changed your state temporarily. But if you drink wine every single day, do you create long term transformation? No. What do you create? You create alcoholism.
It is unbelievable how little thinking we do. Now that we have defined what meditation isn’t, and by the way this is trouble with the two teachers mentioned in the New York Times article. They are both highly focused on the physicality of human beings. One of these teachers is into vipassana meditation. You sit there and torture yourself in silence and nothing changes. All you hear is the roaring of your mind. Eventually when you sit there long enough, the mind calms down, temporarily.
You can only grow through knowledge. You can’t grow by just sitting there and observing your mad mind. Who needs to sit for ten days at a time observing how crazy their mind is? You should know that in one second. Can you tie a monkey down in a chair and expect that it will no longer be a monkey when you let it go? No!
Meditation is a state that you transform into by practicing the three yogas. Eventually, by practicing jnana yoga, your thoughts throughout the day rest in your highest values and they rest outside the material world. So all that you are thinking about is what is permanent rather than what is impermanent. What’s immoveable, rather than moveable. Some of you already can’t even handle this.
Your heart is your seat of emotions. By practicing bhakti yoga, two things happen. One, you understand the futility of your actions. No matter what you undo, you’re screwed. Two, you have a reverence, a devotion for your hearing, your sight, your smell. Everything that you contact, you see the divinity in it.
On a physical level, you serve. You have an attitude of being of service. You are thinking about others. Any ounce of agitation at all is caused by selfishness. If you have any agitation at all, its married to selfishness and unfilled desires. No ego. No problem. You completely obliterate the ego.
On an emotional level, you are full of love and gratitude.
On an intellectual level, your thoughts rest beyond the material world into a whole other realm. Then you become meditative. You are in the world, but you are out of it. You’re gone. You are acting amongst people. You are laughing. You are crying. But nothing is there. You are completely detached and evolved. From that space, you have no desire other than to meet your true self. That is the only desire you have.
You don’t desire people to like you. You don’t get bothered if people don’t like you. You don’t desire a new house, a new kitchen, etc.. You don’t desire a new yoga retreat. You don’t desire anything other than to know your true self. Once you know that true self. Once you are there with no other thoughts. Then you sit there in the seat of meditation, focusing on that one thought, tuning into the vibration and the sound of aum until that disappears. Then you cross the line from this transient world to the transcendental.
Who do you know that is even close to being there? Not me. Not even close. Not even in the ballpark. Not even in the state. Not even in the country.
Read over what I have written multiple times. Once you have thought about things that have been said. Once you have tried to answer your own questions and are stuck by what I have said, or you really want to know what I am saying; there is a blueprint for the next 25, 30, 45 years of your life, before you die, to follow. That is, if you really want to know the answers.
The onus of every practitioner is on them. It is not on the teacher. If you have a question, if something doesn’t sit right with you, the teacher’s job is not to answer your questions; or to help you make sense out of things.
It’s the teacher’s job to hold a space for you. It’s the student’s job to figure it out. When you can’t, then you throw yourself at the teacher. Even then, it is not up to the teacher. It’s not about telling you things that you like to hear.
If you are interested in growing, you are going to have to hear things that you don’t like to hear or don’t understand. You have to be able to wrestle with that. That is what builds your intellect. You can study all of the books you want. You can learn all the knowledge you want. You will never grow. It’s just more intelligence. What we need is an intellect. The responsibility is on you to dig into yourself; to grapple and struggle for answers. Then and only then, can you ask the questions.
I am happy to help clarify and answer questions. I am happy to talk. But I won’t engage in senseless talk because you have been emotionally, physically or sexually abused. You will twist things up in your head because of that trauma and want to label what I say and do.
It’s your responsibility to grow. Not your teacher’s. Not anybody’s. Having said that, once again, you are not off the hook.
Those people suffered in that New York Times article. They suffered greatly. One is dead. One is alive. But he might as well be dead, because he is dying inside.
Hope this helps!