Reflections on Anusara Yoga Growing Pains

Today is Thursday - the Day of the Guru, and often, it is the most challenging and transformational practice during a week long training with John Friend. Last year at this time, in hindsight, I had one of the most amazing and important shifts of my life...

We have completed the third day of the Anusara Yoga Certified Teacher's Gathering, here, in North Carolina, and have one and a half days to go. There has been much sharing and discussion of important and relevant issues, and it occurred to me, that we are witnessing nothing more and nothing less that an evolution and a process that is historic.

As a former theologian, I recalled the Five Dilemmas in the Institutionalization of Religion by Thomas O'Dea, and it has been interesting to note some parallels to the growth and evolution of Anusara Yoga over a 13 year period.

I present a very brief overview. I strongly suggest looking us this research to really understand the complexities of what is at hand...

There is the Dilemma of Mixed Motivation. In the pre-institutionalization period of a religion, or organization, there is a gathering of disciples around someone who is very charismatic. Gradually, offices and roles arise to support the original vision of the group. However, as this group grows, the motivation for the group may also grow and change, and this can be the source of much conflict.

There is the Symbolic Dilemma where ritual or certain practices develop to support the original charismatic moment and movement. The danger here is that the rituals that evolve and are set in place, may do so in a way that it is cut off the subjective experience of many participants.

There is also the Dilemma of Administrative Order where charismatic leadership sets up a complex legal structure to oversee and run the evolving institution. It can become bureaucratic and unwieldy and thus its running can become ineffective and lead to breakdowns. The challenge is to develop a structure that provides order without being over-elaborated.

There is the Dilemma of Delimitation. In order to have an effect on others, the emerging institution has to deliver a message that its followers can understand and relate to. In the process of doing so, institutions often concretize their message and lose the original spirit of that message.

Finally, there is the Dilemma of Power, which deals with the process of conversion versus coercion of the participants of the organization. As O'Dea noted, an institution, particularly if it is religious or spiritual in nature, has a set of values it seeks to legitimize, and cannot do so without a relation to authority and power structures which is unavoidable.

While O'Dea's study focused on the development of religious institutions, such as Christianity, I find his framework useful to understand the evolution of Anusara Yoga to some extent. In other words, everything goes through stages and growing pains - but it is how we navigate the process that makes the difference.

I have presented a very simplified version of O'Dea's work that doesn't do it justice, more as invitation for others to reflect more on this and explore it further. I know many are unnerved or perhaps confused by what they are seeing, as things grow and change within Anusara Yoga. I, on the other hand, am fascinated to witness what is evolving - but most particularly I am very much touched and inspired by the incredible group of people that have come together to shift the vibration of this planet and who have already made such a difference in the world and in other's lives. In the final analysis, this is all that matters to me.


Christina Sell said…
Thanks for the very useful framework and insight. Most excellent.

And on a personal note,. I loved looking across the room and knowing you as a very kindred sprit. I am grateful for you and all that you offer.
Olga Rasmussen said…
I too, felt you as a kindred spirit! Blessings on you, and all the wonderful work you do!

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