cameron shayne

Conor McGregor - Man, Myth, or Legend

When I began studying martial arts at the age of 12, it was not a way out of poverty, or a shot at fame, or a way to get rich. It was because the heroes of my generation fought for something greater than themselves and inspired us to do the same. Wether it was Bruce Lee teaching the spiritual principles of Krishna Murti, or Mohammad Ali fighting with Malcolm-X for the equal rights of African Americans, the heroes of that era were actually heroic. I learned martial arts in order to become a better person, to control my anger, to discipline my mind, and to fight for people who couldn’t fight for themselves. I’ve spent the last 30 years achieving black belts in Yoshukai karate-do, Olympic Style Taekwondo, and my brown belt in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. I was the body-guard for Charlie Sheen, the fight scene choreographer for Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan in Rush Hour 1 & 2, I trained Sugar Ray Leonard and 2x gold medal Olympian Kerri Walsh, and was the first person to integrate yoga, calisthenics and martial arts into a single black belt system called Budokon. I founded Budokon University in 2001 and since then I have seen enough athletes, martial arts and fighters in my day to distinguish between man and myth. 

To witness the rise of professional mixed martial arts and fighters like Conor McGregor, one has to keep a critical eye on what’s real, and what’s show business. This becomes increasingly difficult as the UFC grows more wealthy, which influences fight cards and ultimately the ability of the public to discern between legendary fighters, and legendary personalities. You don't have to know much about martial arts to appreciate a tale of power, fame and fallen heroes, and in the world of professional mixed martial arts, there is one in the making of Shakespearian proportion. This fable with its twists and turns reminds us how quickly we would trade the longevity and merit of legend for the sweet fleeting flavor of fame. With the biggest rematch in UFC history about to take place with two fighters careers and street cred on the line, I couldn’t help but deconstruct this tangled tale. 

Act One  

Conor (The Notorious) McGregor was once a skinny bullied Irish kid who was living off welfare, before becoming the UFC feather-weight champion of the world. He is the fight fan obsession of the hour, who arrives to engagements in his Roles Royce, wearing an oversized diamond encrusted gold watch. He is more than happy to let his over 5 million Instagram followers know just how much his money is on his mind. And like many of his peers, including Ronda Rousey, he believes the outrageous hype that leaps from his own mouth, in Ali like frequency, absent of Ali’s devotion to something greater than himself.

Fighters like McGregor appeal to a generation of people who buy into all that is instant, including fame and success. They need to see that the common person can rise up to be uncommon, even at the expense of integrity. Humans love underdog redemption, but not nearly as much as we love revenge against what we see as privilege. We love the idea that someone is capable of defying all odds because we need that hope for ourselves. McGregor is the new generation of fighter that has captured the imagination of an uninformed generation of fight fans who rather than learning lineage martial arts, troll youtube and idiotically debate topics of which they have no expertise. 

The Myth

McGregor’s absurd rhetoric and his borderline delusional pomposity aren't my reasons for criticizing him. I actually recognize his intelligence, sense of humour and see glimpses of his deep sincerity. He supports gay marriage, he’s stuck by his first training team his whole career, and he is known for treating fans and training partners respectfully. He’s cool, no doubt, but his career and his talent have been a cleverly constructed myth of greatness, rather than an earned place among the best. McGregor does indeed have talent, but like so many pop-culture icons, his potential is stunted by his own success. He isn't battle-tested like a Robbie Lawler, or had to defend his title for years like George St. Piere, or fought for the honor of his style and family name like Rickson Gracie. He has not proven he can withstand diverse competitors, nor has he matured enough as a fighter, or a man. This was painfully demonstrated by his loss to Diaz in UFC 199, his twitter meltdown threatening retirement from MMA, and his dishonest assessment of his loss to Diaz, insinuating he was just about to finish him when Diaz got in a ‘lucky’ shot. Right now, McGregor is more believable on the cover of a PlayStation Game, than facing the worlds greatest MMA fighters.

The Man  

McGregor is undeniably a gifted athlete with great mental steadiness. As a fighter, he is designed for the sport, with a fearless forward assault bereft of an identifiable concern for being damaged. He pressures his opponents with his relentless stalking and a demeanor seemingly impervious to destruction. He is physically agile and well balanced. His strikes and stance work are his assets; skillful at moving forward as he is backward, and being fast and accurate, as demonstrated by 17 wins from knockouts. He’s a south paw with a solid left hand, who confuses the distance and timing of many right handed fighters. His kicking arsenal is limited, but above average by UFC standards.

His head movement is stiff, and isn't even in the same universe as Floyd Mayweather, who he was rumored to fight. His ground game is terribly underdeveloped explaining why all 3 of his losses have been to submission. This fact alone would make him a ground-and-pound punching dummy for George Saint Pierre, who was also rumored to make his comeback in a super fight against McGregor. His arrogance has surrounded him with inexperienced coaches he can control, like John Kavanogh, who can’t develop his weaknesses because he’s busy exploiting his connection to McGregor by writing books suggesting we don’t really lose — we just learn. No John, professional martial arts is not a third grade track meet where every kid gets a participation award. There are real winners and real losers, and understanding the difference is the only way to develop a martial artist. 

Even if his training camp wasn’t too star struck by his meteoric rise to fame, they don’t have experience as top level martial artists to grow a fighter with McGregor’s potential. When McGregor boasts that he would run through the entire UFC fight roster at any weight class, one can only imagine that this would explain why he believes he can waste time with his movement coach, Ido Portal, who has no practical fighting experience of his own. McGregor genuinely believes that saying he is the greatest, is the same as being the greatest. No, greatness is truth embodied, its service in place of self importance. It has no need to be seen or prove itself outside of simply being. Too many young fighters are desperate to be some commercially constructed idea of greatness, when greatness is the person a fighter chooses to be in the face of their own limitations. And McGregor, rather than becoming a leader and innovator, has become an arrogant Kardasian-like personification of pop culture reality TV for MMA. 

The Legend 

What most fight fans don’t realize is that McGregor has dominated the UFC featherweight division at 145lbs, yet he is naturally a 170 pound welter-weight. So to shed light on what some fight fans simply don’t understand, McGregor drops almost 20 pounds and 2 weight divisions, to be the longer, taller, and stronger fighter. In the feather-weight division he has the longest reach of any top 10 fighter, plus the natural strength of a man 20 pounds heavier. Changing weight for fighters is certainly nothing new, but 2 weight classes down from welter to feather-weight is indeed rare, and stacks the cards heavily in McGregor’s favor. This is why his loss to Diaz at welter-weight didn’t surprise me at all. 

The Humiliation

I can honestly say I was shocked by the Jose Aldo loss, but I was completely prepared for the Nate Diaz win. McGregor was not just embarrassed by Diaz, he was humiliated. And by the look of vexation on his face at the post fight conference, he reminded me of a bully who’d slapped the shy kid on the playground, and found himself the unsuspecting victim of his own tyranny. 

First, McGregor’s attitude was beginning to reveal a fighter more developed as a rhetorician, than a pugilist. What was worse than the loss was the unrealized assault McGregor had predicted to unleash upon Diaz in the form of a first round knockout. His attempts to belittle Diaz’s skill by referring to his training of children in BJJ, his bike rides with the elderly, and his soft physical prowess, only served to make the loss that much more embarrassing. 

McGregor claimed he lost to Diaz for several bizarre and contradicting reasons. First, he claimed Diaz was bigger, but at weigh-in, McGregor was 168lbs, and Diaz was 169lbs, which is both close to their natural street weight. McGregor claimed he was out of shape, yet he had been preparing for his light-weight fight with Raphael Dos Anjos for months, meaning it was Diaz who was actually out of shape, as he had no camp, and only 10 days to prepare to fight. McGregor's most absurd claim was that a bigger man takes more power to knock out, which is scientifically inaccurate. It is in fact a matter of where the strike lands and how strong the neck muscles of the fighter are. If a fighter has powerful muscles around the neck, they can protect the head from the rotational force of a hit, which would otherwise cause the brain to short out and go unconscious. 

Translation, McGregor had all the advantage of better stamina, crisper timing, sharper strikes, and all around physical preparedness. So what happened? He bought into his own hype. He’s remained with a training camp where he is the biggest fish in a small pond. He has surrounded himself with yes men who don't want to lose their ride on the Conor McGregor gravy train and admit he needs another level of coaching. McGregor like his predecessor of undeserved fame, Ronda Rousey, are both victims of the social media self delusion that suggests they are in fact as talented as uninformed fight fans claim they are. It’s all showbiz baby, until you get your face smashed in and choked out. 

My Predictions for UFC 202

Leg kicks are the one and only strategy which could clinch the victory for McGregor, a strategy that he seemed to ironically abandon in the first fight in exchange for boxing, and bad jiu-jitsu. With McGregor’s superior kicking skills, and Diaz’s heavy lead leg stances, leg kicks are a sure advantage, which proved incredibly effective for Raphael Dos Anjos when he defeated Diaz at UFC in 2014. 

The second scenario, and the more likely, is Diaz winning in familiar fashion. McGregor’s grappling can’t improve enough in 3 months to stop Diaz’s BJJ black belt ground assault. His camp has brought in some young guns like Dillion Danis to help, but they don’t have the experience to teach the sport BJJ game as it translates to MMA. Second, the level of John Kavanogh’s training camp is too young compared to other seasoned teams like Greg Jackson’s for example. There aren't fighters or coaches at Kavanogh’s that can deconstruct a fighter's game well enough to identify and adjust their weaknesses at the elite level. His camp simply has no track record of developing MMA champions other than McGregor, and up to this point he’s not proven to be very durable. 

McGregor rarely goes past the first round, and clearly has never really trained for it. Not a promising sign for what’s to come against a fully prepared Nate Diaz, who regularly fights five full rounds, and competes in Triathlons for fun. McGregor's general stamina may improve, but three months doesn’t give enough time to improve cardiovascular conditioning to match that of Diaz. A professional fighter with as much kicking, punching and footwork as McGregor utilizes, needs a few more years to improve stamina for a five round match. 

The Wrap Up

McGregor could in fact be remembered as more than just a big mouth if he stopped acting like a celebrity - if he traded his hype for humility, and actually studied martial arts as a science and philosophy. He needs to study a lineage system, trade his gold belt in for a black belt. He has the athletic talent and eye for the fight game, but he needs to change camps and coaches and surround himself with seasoned fighters who can temper his arrogance and sense of entitlement. The reality is that after he fights Diaz, he will be forced to fight Jose Aldo who I predict will beat him the second time. Once McGregor’s mental strength is diminished by two back to back losses all that will remain is another tale of fame acquired too soon, and Conor McGregor’s idea of a legend he has constructed in his own mind.   

Matthew Remski is So His Asshole

photo by Pete Longworth

We all know that every good story needs a villain, and mine is no exception. But this story's villain isn't a serial killer, or a psychopath. Sorry. He's just a really boring as fuck yoga intellectualist who seems hell bent on becoming the moral dicktator of the yoga underworld. This self proclaimed yoga moralist claims to be the gate keeper of yoga’s ethical standards, and the protector of all that is true yoga. This self obsessed, pale pony-tailed super villain, excessively confabulates his mind-numbing musings, while creepily stroking his fluffy white cat - google it. And like so many villains who fall in love with the hero they claim to hate, this villain made his object of obsession little ole me. 

This story begins 3 years ago when I wrote an article that was a real pot boiler. Some people got a little disturbed when I announced that I had dated other consensual adults I had met in my classroom, and thought that it was just fine. I know, stop the presses. This just in: Consenting adult yoga teacher dates consenting adult yoga students - and is honest about it! The yoga illuminati had a field day. Every hyper-sensitive, candy assed harmonium playing, yoga sutra quoting teacher on the planet tried to punch me in my social media balls - and that was just the men. Many yonis, who clearly hadn’t seen a lingam in years, seemed equally as offended that I would be so irreverent, and unapologetic about denouncing the guru complex, and writing an article calling for equal accountability within the yoga community from adults who consensually sleep with their “gurus” and claim to be their victims. 

But wait, insert ironic plot twist. I was never referring to my past partnerships, because I have never had any such accusation leveled against me. Not a single one - ever.  In fact, I outed myself, in my own article. Why? One, because the modern yoga community is a perfect hidey-hole for people stuck in their stories. There is enough white privilege, hyper-femininist, fake, gossiping, two faced, back-stabbing-bitchiness stuffed into a pair of plastic lululemon pants to make the republican party look cozy. And two, like Bernie Sanders, I'm too old to give a fuck about being commercially endorsable, having combed hair, or interested in sucking the cock of corporate yoga. I don't need to pose naked in YJ Magazine in yoga socks to get noticed. I don't need a million followers on Instagram to be marketable. I don’t need fake credentials from a self appointed body of yoga elitists like Yoga Alliance, to be credible. And I don't need to avoid telling my students to get their shit together when they are being arrogant, entitled or undisciplined because I am afraid of hurting their feelings, and losing a “customer”. I curse, I'm crude, I like dick and fart jokes, and I deliberately disturb people who are easily disturbed. I'm not a guru, a cover model, a nanny, or a celebrity. I am a provocateur and movement artist. Feel provoked yet? Don't like my art? Disturbed by my love for myself? Don't love me? Don't worry - It's not your job to love me. It's mine. 

So back to the story. We left off right as our villain, Matthew Remski, was trying to destroy me with his counter article, "Cameron Shayne is So His Body", declaring me the Ayn Rand of yoga. I thought it a compliment, but I really think of myself more as the Deadpool of yoga, with slightly tighter pants. None-the-less, after Remski's article the bloggers started punching my face book face - a lot.  It was ugly, and thoughts of choking Remski until he shit his superman underoos filled my dreams. Fortunately one of my teachers said to me, “ Cameron, revenge is a dish served better cold.” So I did nothing, for 3 years, except tour the world teaching, grow Budokon University into a thriving and respected education institute for mind and movement, and got married to the greatest woman on the planet (who by the way was my student), hashtag #fuckyouremski. Happy ending? Not yet. Slow down, there’s so much more. 

I haven’t even responded to Remski and his failed attempt to destroy the truth before it gets out... shhhh... listen... yoga is NOT a controlled commodity bound by any single dicktator’s ideologies, ethics or values, but rather a lifelong, never ending, exploration of your individual consciousness. And, that liberal and conservative views have failed to serve our community in any other way but divide it.  I have to, even if it’s a little late in coming, remind us all that doing nothing, is often doing everything. But I know how you hate that taoist kung fu nonsense I espouse Remski. So without further backstory I now invite you, the audience, to examine excerpts from Remski’s original article. Enjoy.

“Shayne is shockingly gracious… lithe and buoyant,.. … sensitive to the subtlest internal conversations between the soft and the hard.” Matthew Remski

“What’s additionally weird about Shayne is that the main part of the flesh is doing this beautiful fleshy thing while the mouth part of the flesh is saying that the flesh itself is unreal.” Matthew Remski

“Cameron Shayne’s body is white and male and ripped and abled” Matthew Remski

“Which brings me back to Cameron Shayne’s fab-ab body of beauty and hotness…His body: which if I’d never read his posts, I would want to hug and hold and snuggle up to, to just feel for a moment what that type of strength and floatiness might feel like.” Matthew Remski

Okay Remski, First things first. Do you want to fuck me, or fight me? Do you even know why I triggered such romantic feelings and erotic cravings inside you? I doubt you are aware that your article, which walks an ambiguous line between envious, lascivious, and spiteful, is in fact an embittered love letter? One can’t help but wonder from your own words above, if you wanting to “hold my body, and feel my strength”, is not a yearning unto your own self to feel safe in your own pale, emasculated form? After all your mannerisms and your body communicate a delicate, pervasively soft man, not particularly physically embodied, but rather overtly intellectual and emotional. I intuit that you relate far less to the masculine, and almost exclusively to the feminine, in whose company you feel most safe where you can intellectually dominate and bully freely, as women being patient with toddlers, are far more tolerant of your childish rants. I sense mommy/daddy issues. But let’s not stop there. 

“Shayne paints all shared ethical standards as “dogmatic”, and repressive of our naturally-arising need to learn something about, oh I don’t know, anything but power. He betrays a breathtaking ignorance of the basic structural and gendered oppressions of our culture. This isn’t his fault, of course, because as he confesses in one comment: “Possibly my blind spot is that I simply don’t relate to being to weak, vulnerable or unaware…”. Isn’t it fun watching someone make a virtue of a complete empathy fail?” Matthew Remski

Remski, I admittedly don’t have a relationship with weakness, vulnerability, or lack of awareness, because I see nothing has ever occurred that was unnecessary, regardless of how unpleasant. Shit happens to us all. Horrible, terrible, painful shit, and yet it’s my shit to work through, within myself. I will not be, nor teach my students to be attached to any identity, including but especially that of the victim. I am unattached, not because I am apathetic, but because compassion requires an equal understanding of both the oppressor and the oppressed, though I don't have to agree with the behavior of either. I can protest both of their actions, while remaining neutral, so that both can grow - because everyone has the right to get unstuck. If I investigate one, and not the other, I fail them both. With compassionate and philosophical education, it becomes evident that there are no good guys or bad guys, as they are the same in the eyes of universal casualty. The universe operates, not from mankind’s limited and crude conceptual morality, but rather from natural congruency. Things are out of your tiny little mind’s control Remski - like it or not. 

Modern society, social media and a large part of the modern yoga culture have created a historically unparalleled landscape of privileged talentless critiques skilled at public shame and blame. A breeding ground for people, like you Remski, who refuse to see the part they play in their own stories, and by doing so further the story in others. You tell us that depression brought you to yoga, which at least explains your identification as the weak, vulnerable, victims you claim to defend. The reality is that you aren't defending others, you are defending your self. And we all are. Yet you somehow claim to have the answers for the weaker folks that buy your counterfeit rationale disguised as wisdom. But not me. I see you little boy. Not good enough, not strong enough, not smart enough. Instead of turning your pain into compassion you have become the very thing you claim to hate - a bully. 

You seem baffled and even jealous by how well I understand my own body. But you fail to see I move freely because I am free. Where, as you move as you are, weak, rigid, trapped, and limited, because you are a fragile, bitter man. Your only safety is in being right, and hearing yourself talk. Any person who identifies with the nonsense you rant about in painfully long self published books and essays, is identifying with your pain and your anger - not your talent. 

“Shayne believes that yoga teachers should not be subject to ethical or regulatory restraints that limit free sexual access to their students." Matthew Remski

I agree, and I think you and Donald Trump should build a wall around all the yoga yonis in the world, and save our females from freedom of expression and choice. They’ll be liberated from the burden of having to make adult decisions because they’ll be safely nestled in your pale mushy arms, against your soft man boobs. You suggest we regulate who can date who in a yoga class? You claim we would all be safe if everyone agreed to your moral standards. That strong people like you, will protect other people you label as weak? You wish to set the yoga community standards for safety, creativity, principles and values? What’s clear is that your offer as a strong teacher, to protect the weaker students, is a cleverly disguised arrogant assessment of your diaphanous knowledge. Translation - Vote Remski for Yoga Alliance President. 

"To my reading, his argument (which is echoed in many of the comments) reflects a mixture of two larger streams of thought that are quite influential in U.S. culture: hyper-individualist radical libertarianism, on the one hand, and irrational New Age spirituality, on the other. This, in my view, is a toxic mix: capable of legitimating all sorts of power abuses, while at the same time advancing a twisted logic that “blames the victim” when they occur.” Carol Horton quoted in Matthew Remski's Article

Horton and Remski, would have people believe that free thinking and free moving innovators and creatives in the world of yoga is dangerous. That the US hyper-individualist liberals are destroying good old fashion yogic values and putting innocent yogis at risk of orgasms, critical thinking, and joyful consensual relationships.

You claim to hate the US free market and its corporatization of yoga. But with a biography that raves of free market accomplishments such as books, yoga conferences directorships, teacher trainings, youtube videos, online courses, and elaborate teaching credentials, you reveal the ironic fact that you are that which you claims to hate the most - a free market materialist retailer of consumer goods. A man who opposes a neoliberal free market system, while suckling on its tit like a wide eyed child. 

The ideals that you promote and represent are the worst form of modern neo liberalism disguised as public care, yet is in fact moral fascism. You would have us be more regulated, more governed, and in line with your version of yoga. The problem with this ideology is first, that yoga is a philosophy, not a clinical science. Asana can certainly be taught as a therapeutic application for physical or emotional injury, but so can swimming. Yoga is a personal journey that is as subjective as reality itself.  But you would like us all to believe it's what you see through those contrived round spectacles you wear in your website bio, sitting in front of a pile of books that you are so painfully are trapped within.

“In yet another comment stream he (cameron shayne) compares sharing sex to sharing food, “just another thing that we do together”, as he says in his post —  as if dinner, like sex, holds the danger of rape.”

In the above quote, Remski, you use a tactic even Donald Trump would be proud of, by bringing rape into a conversation about consensual adult sex. Which part of this conversation, where adults get to have varying opinions on sexual morality are you missing? Should we install cameras in our bedrooms so you can monitor our mating habits, as well as our yoga practices, to make sure we are meeting the Remski safety standard? What you encourage is the worst direction for modern feminism. Your logic would have us teaching women that as adults, they can walk into an environment, (yoga studio or workplace), engage in consensual mating rituals, followed by consensual relating, and when things don't work out they way they prefer, they can claim to be the victims of other adults, who should have known better. 

“Everyone knows that rules are meant to protect the vulnerable” Matthew Remski

No, Remski. Rules are mercurial moral norms created by society, and change as regularly as societies leadership. Rules do not protect. Rules enforce. Most social laws and rules are in service of social order and the flow of commerce. If rules protected society we would not be constantly changing them to adjust to the latest trends, leaders, and social fears. Rules are short lived social agreements. By depending on rules, made by the “powerful to protect the weak”, we meet our Orwellian fate. Our government invests billions of dollars a year into rules, via the military complex, police agencies, judicial systems, and prisons, yet we are not safer - because safety is an illusion. And what is worse, rules are paper tigers within a society of undereducated, impoverished, and disenfranchised citizens. Education and intelligence all but eradicate the need for rules and rulers.  

So how do you or I “make” people safe, or loved enough not to become victims of their own choices, you ask? My answer is, I can’t, and neither can you. No one can protect people from themselves. Each person must learn to love themselves, thru their own words, thoughts and deeds. I can do my part by educating, supporting, and understanding, but each person must learn to love themselves enough. Are laws necessary? Yes. Do they stop all unnecessary socially destructive behavior? No. Only the eduction of our citizens as philosophers, scientists and artist, has proven to change humanity. Helping our society understand each others pain, explore each others conditions, and recognize our own self worth, can stop us from raping, murdering, manipulating, or feeding off of each others weaknesses.  

“Then he infantilizes people (women especially) who are enthralled by authority, and then claims that everyone is capable of equal consent, and then that vulnerable women will be preyed on by somebody, so why go out of our way to prevent it?”

What an ironic twist for you to suggest I treat women like children who can’t make an adult decision, when it is your novel idea to police consenting adults with regulatory restraints that limit free sexual access to one another. Prevention is education, not a vagina wall. But why should we be surprised by the ideas of a man who has never lived outside of the internet and a thesaurus. You have created nothing new, nothing innovative, and your entire body of work is a criticism of other people’s endeavors, all published by you, for you, and in service to your low self esteem. You are a man-child who lives in your mind, disconnected from your body, and trapped in a very boring story. So Remski, after 3 years of doing nothing but enjoying life and contributing other people's happiness, your dish of revenge is my happiness served ice cold. 

But wait - I have a different ending for people who love life and find purpose in celebrating others. Hashtag #yourenotadick

When we are happy, moving, breathing, and loving, we take no pleasure in sitting behind a keyboard, fixated on what’s wrong with the world, and other people. Yoga, like any concept that arises from the mind, will disappear with the mind. The process of self inquiry is and always will be a personal and often lonely journey. But in the end we all find our way back to the truth, that our truth is a liar - and always will be. Love CS

Can I Have Sex With My Yoga Teacher?

REALITY CHECK 

Yes - of course you can have sex with your yoga teacher. You can have sex with who ever you want to. You are an adult, with full agency, and freedom to choose for yourself what you need, and want. Freedom of choice and responsibility for that choice is what in fact implies adulthood. What is not so fun about adulthood is managing poor choices, unmet expectations and disappoints in our lives. And there is no place we make up more shit around our disappointments than in our relationships.

So is an intimate relationship between two consenting adults in a teacher student dynamic complex? Yes. Is it morally or ethically wrong? No. And here's why. 

RADICAL HONESTY 

Before I met my wife, most every woman that I have ever been in an adult relationship with, I met doing what I love, and feel most passionate about, teaching. Many of my relationships, and my amazing marriage are the result of relationships with women who I met in the yoga, martial arts community, or in my class. This for many people is unethical, unfair, and unbalanced. I see it very differently. Each relationship is unique in regard to its balance, fairness and ethics. The context of a relationship does not determine its merits, but rather the qualities of the individuals operating within it. My partners were not vulnerable or weak women seeking refuge or healing. They were on the contrary intelligent, capable and powerful consenting adults who made a choice. This essay is offered as an examination of the pro-choice position, and hopes to expose the obvious fact that two consenting adults should have the freedom to exercise personal choices without judgement or condemnation. 

First, suggesting that a consenting adult teacher/student relationship, in any field of study, is social, ethical or even criminal misconduct, is a social opinion, not a demonstrable fact. Only when one person has control over another person's financial future or physical well-being is there even an observable power differential. Social opinion is simply not enough to warrant policing people. It was quite resent that social opinion suggested that black people and women were inferior, and should be subordinate to the white men - so I do not use social opinion as a moral compass. Second, this is a conversation about adults’ personal liberties - NOT rape, sexual exploitation, criminal misconduct, or financial manipulation. No, this is about two consenting adults choosing to interact intimately absent of any leviable power differential other than the title of student and teacher.  

PRO-CHOICE DOES NOT EQUAL PRO-EXPLOITATION

Pro-choice does not imply the abuse or mistreatment of another person. It implies the right to exercise personal liberties on the part of consenting adults. I do not support or promote exploitation of women or men, as students or teachers. I do not support the use of a yoga classroom as a space to seek out sexual partners. It is not, and should not be. Engaging a person sexually, in a deceiving way, is contradictory to all ethics I uphold. Using authority or power for personal gain is in stark contrast to transparency, honesty and consideration of others. I also believe it is absolutely safe and ethical for consenting adults in modern yoga environments to date. Why? Because these same consenting adults can die in war, procreate, and vote. The suggestion that they are competent only until, they enter a classroom, stretch their bodies, and consider that they may be more than a permanent physical manifestation, is contradictory to high standards of reason. 

As a teacher and a student, I emphatically support the freedom to exercise my personal judgment and ethics, as long as they include the careful consideration of others. I also strongly support any yogi who has a personal policy that restricts themselves from dating another consenting adult student or teacher. And I remind both parties to mind your own business. It is not either parties place to manage, police or judge the other. 

Adult students can and do assign meanings to experiences they are having with adult teachers in any field of study, i.e., linking their improved state of mind to the teacher. This projection or transference of feeling onto a person due to circumstances, means that caution and care must be taken by both parties to be clear. And least we not overlook the indisputable point that projection of feelings onto people who inspire us, occurs under numerous uncontrollable conditions.

THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW

The Yoga classroom environment has changed to include different styles, props, and women, as they were once forbidden to participate. The relationship between teacher and student has changed in the west from “guru”, to “certified teacher.” Western teachers instruct and offer knowledge, juxtapositioned with eastern gurus who took on disciples and followers. Traditional Indian cultural values, which promote cast systems, restrictive gender roles, religious ideologies, and guru worship, do not work in the west. Making policy for modern western yoga using transitional Indian yoga values, simply does not work. Orthodox yoga practitioners, who strictly adhere to lineage ideologies, should be respected, as they should respect those who choose an unorthodox approach to yoga.  There is space for everyone's views and practices. But suggesting that the yogic path looks one way is foolishness, as the yogic process itself is conceptual, perceptual, and subjective in every way.  

THERE IS A TIME AND A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING

The yoga sutras, considered the yoga bible by orthodox and more religious yoga practitioners, contain important and relevant philosophy that transcend time and culture. One specific guideline is restraint from sense driven living. It clearly serves the common good when people are not purely sense driven, yet we are all driven by the urge to be safe, loved and accepted. The problem stems from one yoga practitioner assuming they can judge another person's actions as right or wrong. Drinking a glass of wine, eating good food, being socially accepted, and making love, all stem from senses. There is clearly a time and place for all urges and senses including sex. I personally see the classroom as a place to practice humanity, discernment, and joy. I do not see it as a place to act on sexual urges, but it is unreasonable to suggest that sexual energy is absent within a classroom as people are intrinsically sexual.  

I do however believe that consenting adults, in western yoga classrooms, have the right to conduct their private lives, including intimate relationships, outside of the classroom without interference and judgment. Adults need to learn to be competent students by discontinuing blind devotion of teachers, projection of accountability, and seeking outside of themselves for ethical and moral guidance. I argue that we do not need a book, a law, or a

WHY WE ARE ALL ATTRACTED TO TEACHERS 

People are attracted to skill, talent, and charisma inside or outside of a yoga class. If the teacher or student possess these qualities they are naturally going to be attractive. A musician, dancer, lecturer, or an artist performing can inspire the same feelings that a dynamic teacher can. All are provoking emotion and feeling. I am personally attracted to anyone who is skilled at their craft. 

However, attraction does cause me to lose sight and application of my personal ethics and values. These are however, my ethics and values, and should not be adopted by anyone. As independent agents operating without force or pressure due to career or financial consequences, an adult teacher and adult student are fully capable and accountable individuals. 

Also, I believe if a female yoga teacher were attracted to a male student, there would be much less biased proposed, as there would be an assumption that the male would have enough sexual agency to resist his teachers advances. Also, suggesting that a female student cannot engage a male teacher with as much competency as a man, discredits the intellectual and emotional power of all women.

DATING YOUR GURU

When you deconstruct the differences between the “yoga guru”, and the “certified yoga instructor,” you find stark contrasts that many people are simply collapsing into one archetype. The guru model clearly demonstrates several problematic power differentials. In order to have a yoga guru, a student must seek a religious teacher, surrendered to his or her authority, and be initiated into a specific discipline. Sex or Intimate relationship between these two suggests a complex dynamic to say the least. I believe it would be extremely difficult for the student to see the guru as an equal in or out of the yoga classroom.

The western yoga teacher, in contrast, is holding a casual space for people to come and go, with no commitment, or agreed religious or spiritual discipleship. Yoga certainly implies general spirituality, but this does not suggest people are in danger because they can date in this environment. Gurus or teachers dating students carries a high risk of conflict of interests. However, whether you or I agree to its merits, there is no controlling consenting adults intimately engaging one another. In fact, partners meeting in yoga class is quite common.

Also, I recognize that some men see women as sexual objects and not as people. Some men behave in a manor that travels the scale from disrespectful to criminal. That however, cannot be controlled by policing a yoga class, but rather by teaching yoga practitioners to cultivate self awareness in order to develop intelligent ethics and values. When students stop seeking a spiritual leader to follow blindly, and teachers stop encouraging discipleship, things will inevitably change. 

STOP THE GURU COMPLEX

Western yoga teachers must stop trying to play the role of guru, enlightened being, or one who possess a commodity on truth. We don’t. We are as limited, challenged and deep in it as our “students”. In most cases we are the ones with the greatest pain, seeking hardest for the answers. Students need to stop believing that teachers possess something they do not. A true teacher is always guiding you back to your own universal wisdom and truth, which we are all endowed with. We have nothing special to offer, other than being able to ask questions that further and ultimately direct you back to yourself. 

Only when teachers stop encouraging co-dependent followers, by providing them with answers, and start cultivating independent thinkers and competent yoga practitioners will people be relatively safe from each other, in a yoga class.

The Marriage Myth

A BRIEF HISTORY OF MARRIAGE AND RELIGiON 

Marriage is not a story, myth, or miracle originating from the bible. Just as America adopted Christianity as a form of corporate influence, marriage as a concept was claimed by the church, and reinterpreted numerous times over. The miseducation of Christians begins with the church's claim that marriage originates in Genesis, the first book of the Bible. When in fact it does not mention the term marriage at all, nor reference it in a way that any person today understands marriage.  

Genesis 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23 The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman, ' for she was taken out of man." 24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

This statement as it reads clearly and directly narrates a man and women uniting as a couple. As we all know, men and women do not become one flesh in the literal sense, but rather figuratively, sexually, or through their off-spring. This verse does not specify why they should join, nor does it say they join for love, joy, companionship, children or any other reason we currently marry someone. 

THE EARLY DAYS

Marriage as a custom or ritual has been around long before the church or organized religion. Marriage is an ancient institution that predates recorded history or law. Early marriages were used as strategic alliances between families. They were territorial unions, or what we would call these days, corporate mergers. They lacked all the things that most of society today understand as marriage. Those things being love, sexual attraction, companionship, and desire for children. In ancient times marriages were practical, business dealings that rarely involved the children’s consent or approval. The majority of all marriages were also between first and second cousins, further demonstration of convenience and human geographical necessity. In the Bible, the forefathers of Christian, Jewish and Islamic faith, Isaac and Jacob married cousins and Abraham married his own half-sister. Today this is illegal in many US states. 

POLIGOMY 

Just as American history avoids discussing its founding fathers as slave owners, the Catholic church avoids its founding fathers polygamists views. Monogamy is clearly central to modern marriage, but polygamy was quite common throughout prerecorded and religious history. From Jacob, to Kings David and Solomon, to Muhammad, religious men often had anywhere from two, to thousands of wives. This is also illegal in most US states. 

MODERN TIMES 

It wasn’t until 1215 when the Catholic Church, declared that partners had to publicly post notices of an upcoming marriage in a local parish, simply to cut down on illegitimate marriages. Until the 1500s, the Church accepted a couple's word that they had exchanged marriage vows, with no witnesses, or corroborating evidence needed. As time passed so did economic and social changes allowing for individuals to have more control over their destinies thus resulting in less arranged marriages. Slowly but surely marriage started to become optional, and socially acceptable as a way to express love rather than convenience.  This is another clear change that has occurred in the church's relationship with marriage.  

NOW

In the 1950’s the idea that men and women were more equal in regard to their roles within marriage, popularized. Divorce which at this time was 20%, slowly but dramatically increased to 50% by 1970’s. This demonstrates the incredible shift in societies definition of marriage, making way for gay marriage. Because we now see marriage as the result of mutual sexual attraction, love, companionship, and shared effort in the home, we are no longer concerned with who makes that commitment, but rather, that those qualities are present for a marriage. We also recognize when those qualities are not present, that we have just cause to dissolve this agreement without public ridicule. 

Marriage has simply changed and continues to change with us. We do not have the same lifestyles, science, social structures, global awareness or cultural diversity of our ancestors. The founders of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths, never claimed ownership, or universal creative authorship of marriage until now -  when they feel their grip and influence on humanity slipping away. 

REALITY CHECK

It seems the church is just fine with it's numerous and dramatic changes to their definition of marriage, as long as they don't include gay marriage. This could be for the fact that each of these religions holy books site homosexuality as "abhorred, and detested"... or simply because the church bases its understanding of the universe on myths, stories, and implausible theory. What ever the case, to believe that humanity is doing anything, in a purist manor, from two thousand years ago, is equally as foolish as doing something simply because it was done that way two thousand years ago. It is time to start using facts, evidence, and education as a means to guide society, rather than beliefs, and superstition.  

Photo by: Ines Männl Fotografie

 

Baking Gay Cake

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM & PUBLIC SERVICE 

The U.S. Supreme Court has now ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry and that states must license a marriage between two people of the same sex. Citing her religious beliefs, Texas State, county clerk Katie Lang, initially said her office would not grant same-sex marriage licenses citing freedom of religion. What Lang, the Pope, and any other humans stuck in an Elizabethan time capsule need is not a good chastising, but rather a good education.

SEPARATION OF CHURCH & STATE 

Jefferson wrote, “…legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” 

And this is where Katie Lang and others believing that they can use religion as a grounds for refusing public services, are dead wrong. She has misunderstood the US constitution in believing that her religious beliefs give her the right to deny, or interrupt services that she, as an agent of the US government, offers. In simpler terms, her job is to carry out the laws of the US government. It is now a law to provide gay couples with a marriage certificate. If Katie Lang, because of her religious beliefs, fails to do her job, and interferes with this couples due process, she fails as an agent of the US government to do her job. 

This is fine, but she needs to resign her position, as her beliefs are interfering with her ability to carry out the law, and serve the people who pay her salary. 

My opinion: If you refuse to do your job, because you do not like the agreements in place at your workplace, you are working at the wrong place. Possibly Donald Trump is hiring? 

Photo by: Ines Männl Fotografie

Fake Yoga Teachers

Recently I received a question from a teacher: 

“I have just finished my teacher training and I am reluctant to teach yet because I feel like a fraud... And your posts make me feel even more like a fraud!! Who am I to teach yoga? I mean who is anyone to teach it right? I really enjoy your posts they are great! So... I would love some advice.”

Who is anyone to teach yoga? 

The first obstacle in the way of teaching yoga, zen, or martial arts, is thinking that these are more than concepts. Yes, a person's concept of yoga or martial arts can be taught, but what these arts are designed to reveal, is unteachable. All we can ever share is a process, not the outcome. When we stop all the doing, selling, and talking about yoga, we realize that yoga simply IS whatever we find over and over again. It is impossible to spot a yogi, or yoga, or yogic action. We can spot a person doing things we individually believe are yogic or non yogic, but this would be missing the point of conception. 

All identifications such as yogi, teacher, guru, and student are concepts of the temporary mind. Modern yoga movement classes, are simply movement classes that try to sell society the concept that this is in fact yoga. Some agree, some disagree. Society depends on agreed perceptual conception. We all agree that a red light is in fact a red light, and so we stop. if we didn't it would be chaos on the roads. Yet philosophies such as yoga, zen and martial arts, are just that - philosophie. They require the student to stay in a constant state of curiosity, and inquiry. They reach no permanent conclusions. So we must first discontinue the act of "teaching" yoga as an externalized product, when in fact it is a process of internal inquiry. 

The second obstacle in the way of teaching, is me. And by me I mean the egoic, impermanent, false me, in the form of, I am this, or I am that. I am a teacher, I am student. I am a man, I am a woman. This is only a temporary concept of me. This me is easily convinced, and persuaded this way and that. Believing in this one day, and that the next. Behind this temporary ever changing material construct lies the energy that animates all matter. So the very question of who am I to teach anything, is simply answered by first realizing who is the I that teaches? 

If “I” is not the mind (perception & conception) then what is left when all perception and concepts cease? Only the permanent energy that animates the impermanent material world . 

There is no need for teachers or students. Teacher implies one who knows more, and student implies one who knows less, but knows what? Information, data, concepts, which change all the time, useful one day, and useless the next. The only thing worth knowing is I am. Everything else we see, and believe, are fluctuations of the mental state. So in the relative sense, my perception can teach your perception temporary knowledge. So the real gift is in sharing the knowledge that the body is temporary, and all of the bodies problems are temporary. The permanent you has no problems. 

In the relative sense there is very much the concept of “me” teaching “you”. 

In relative terms this simply means that my personality and brain are going to share something with your personality and brain. This is a fine relationship, but it has several natural problems. One is that teaching is only possible if there is a willingness to learn by someone else. A transmitter is only transmitting when there is a receiver. An essential outside force (student) acting upon the origin of action (teacher) to give it this identity. In simple terms without the student, the teacher cannot act as a teacher at all, as teaching requires studentship. This means that the student makes or creates the concept of teacher in their own mind, leaving the reality that one cannot call oneself a teacher without having someone refer to themselves as that teachers student. 

So we are only teachers in our minds, or in the minds of our student. This self appointed identification, like all identifications, becomes a trap. 

This relationship is co-created by both parties. Just as money is worth what we collectively agree it's worth - so is a teacher to a student. And we all know, we just plainly make that up it's worth as we go. And so we make up that our teachers are failing or mistreating us. Or that our students are burdening, or disappointing us. Or that either party is responsible for the other parties happiness, or progression. 

If we are going to free the student and ourselves from these concepts or identities, we first have to stop encouraging their creation. 

You can not teach a person anything. You can only inspire a willingness to learn. And to that what unfolds has been inside all along. You moving one object from here to there, and showing another person how to do this, is in fact sharing. Sharing information, knowledge, and understanding, are all parts of a natural urge in apes. Which is how we made it to this point. The identification of one person as a teacher, and the other as a student, is how the human brain complicated what was once a process of singular awareness, into an experience of duality and individualism. These new found identities, and our ability to see into past, present and future all create confusion through unmet expectations, and interrupted intentions on a daily basis. 

Why do I teach? 

First, it took me almost 30 years of “teaching”, to answer this, but not without plenty of internal and external conflict along the way. My first answer, was for the benefit of humanity. After that was properly kicked out of me by the realization that humanity doesn’t need me, I came at it again. This time it was to benefit myself. Much closer, but still this concept supposed that I could still act upon humanity, regardless of who it was benefiting, or who was cooperating. Then I arrived at I teach because it is natural for me to do so. This got me out of me, me, me, but it continued the concept that I could in fact teach something by acting upon it. That I was still able to do something to, or for someone else. It was not until the final stage of my personal journey that I arrived at the realization of “I am”.  

What I learned from “I am” is that I don't in fact teach anything. I share things. 

What is the difference? Teachers need students, and as a result develop attachments. Sharing in contrast, has no attachment to outcome, or expectation of reciprocity. Does this mean that there are no structures or agreements between someone sharing something with another? No. You can exchange time, wealth, and objects. However, neither party in the relationship needs anything from the other. There is an exchange bereft of expectation or attachment to outcome. Neither party is in charge of the others destiny, fait, or wellbeing. Some may argue that this would disrupt social norms formed around these concepts, and that they would prove failures to the learning environment. But I see that they allow for freedom of real learning as I feel no pressure, or obligation to behave any other way that honestly. I give them what I have to give, absent of the pressure to have all the answers. I love them with all the love I have, without needing them to stay or go. I correct them with transparency and directness, without being concerned about loosing their business. I interact with them as an equal, rather than feeling the need to be in charge of there destiny. 

What do I share? 

Simply share yoga and zen as there are - nothing but questions, and more questions. Sure you can share the process of yoga as defined by lineages, but these are concepts that come and go. I exist before, and after the body, the memories, the senses, the beliefs. Share the space for people to sit and ask the question “who am I?” Share the message that, “I am,” so that attachment to, I am this, and I am that, dissolve and with them suffering.  When we see the difference between what is permanent and what is temporary, all suffering ceases to be. 

So to answer your question, “who is anyone to teach yoga?” My answer is no one. Simply educate by asking questions, not by having answers. 

Photo by: Pete Longworth ( www.petelongworth.com )