Fishing on Facebook: A Writing Yoga Memoir, How It All Looks a Year Later


You own everything that happened to you.
Tell your stories.

If people wanted you to write warmly about them

they should have behaved better.

—Anne Lamott

Last night I reread the last two Chapters of my memoir for fun—not to catch errors—and I found myself laughing and thinking, “It’s so good!” (I don’t have a publicist, so please forgive  this momentary lapse in modesty.)

I wrote on my Facebook page, “Laugh if you like, but the way out is through! Don’t suppress your personal stories. Bring them out into the light of day. Write in your journal . . . talk with friends who are a few miles ahead of you on the road of life, find a therapist you resonate with . . . whatever it takes ! Memoirs provide an opportunity for  writers to share aspects of themselves not possible in casual conversation and sometimes not even in a formal therapeutic setting. I’ve learned so much about the human condition from the memoirs I’ve read. Maybe you’ll learn something from mine.”
A few hours later, I spotted the above quote by Anne Lamott. I said to myself,  “Every time the idealistic-yoga-zealot-guilty-goodie-two-shoes-pentecostal-christian-daughter and the writer get in a fight in my head over whether I should say something or not, I’m gonna pull that quote out of my hat!”
Ever since I first published a draft of Fishing on Facebook on the Ojai Post and my blog, suzaji.com, about a year and a half ago, I’ve gotten a steady stream of public comments and  private messages. I’ve heard secrets (from both strangers and friends I’ve known for many years) that they might not have felt safe to confide to me had they not read my story.
  After the paperback edition was published (in April 2012), on several occasions when I’ve walked in the door to teach a yoga class, students have told me that Fishing on Facebook was the most honest memoir they’ve ever read.  (Having read stacks of soul-bearing memoirs, I wouldn’t go that far, but I appreciate that they say this.) None of my fears around “What will my students think?” have materialized. On the contrary, they now feel more free to speak the truth about their own lives and share their own stories. Our social masks are falling away.

Here’s one excerpt from a yoga teacher’s response to my book, lightly edited to preserve her privacy:
Hi Suza,
We met many years ago at your studio. I would love to talk with you about your book. I have had the unfortunate experience of being involved with a yoga narcissist/ sociopath. It has been a long journey of dealing with him, and also with the yoga community embracing narcissism and this guy—and the others like him—and calling it spirituality.
In my case, he is a kirtan singer, welcomed into studios across the country and at yoga conferences to create “spiritual experiences” while being the antithesis of that behind the scenes. Plainly, he is a fraud. But for me to say this publicly—even to warn others—has not been a possibility.
I have had to retreat from the yoga community and watch while people make the choice to suspend their critical thinking and be drawn into what they want to be true.
I feel the yoga community is desperately in need of some self-reflection, looking at the hard things—not simply alienating the con-artists who prey on those seeking true spiritual insight, but questioning ourselves as a whole. Also, some self-defense against narcissists who find easy cover in spiritual disguises. As you know, even strong, smart, savvy women (and men) can fall prey.
Up to now I have mostly retreated from it as I watched yogi after yogi opt for star-power over integrity. It has broken my heart. I have been considering ways to confront this in a larger way within the yoga world as a whole. But I think now that others are coming forward with their experiences it may be the time to do something. (For example, teaching using the yamas* and niyamas *—ethical precepts—for self-empowerment to avoid narcissists. How to change your perspective without giving up your boundaries. Etc.)
As two people who have been around the world of yoga a long time before it was part of popular culture, I think it would be great if we could connect. Would you be open to sharing and hearing more about my experiences and thoughts? Maybe together and with others we could nudge this yoga life back from the “spiritual” precipice to be a bit more grounded. At least, maybe spare a few people from having to go through what we did.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for putting yourself out there so bravely. I know how hard it is, and I appreciate that you have.


****

 

Finding my balance in nature

   A few days ago someone asked, “So how do you tell a sociopath from a real emotionally available man (or woman)?” My response is that at first it may not be easy to tell the difference. Even professionals in the mental health and legal fields can be duped. Anyone who thinks they can’t be fooled hasn’t met one of these charming, often highly intelligent characters, often involved in all kinds of good causes, environmental activism, politics, and spiritual and religious endeavors.

But as far as the dating/relationship world is concerned, had I done a background check on the antagonist in my book I would have seen from the get-go that he was lying about certain aspects of his life. So first thing is check the facts—do not assume anything. Alas, as my book illustrates and as many of us have experienced, when we “fall in love,” we tend to resist the notion that the person looking into our eyes and nuzzling our neck could possibly be lying!
Just now as I was feeding my four-legged menagerie I was thinking I hope people don’t think I’m all doom and gloom with all these writings about relationships that could be interpreted as negative. I can honestly say I’ve never felt more liberated and empowered in my life. I have my moments when I’m weary of having to deal with flat tires, clogged drains, a hovel that’s falling apart, no one to walk the dogs but me, etc., but those moments pass. If there is such a thing as past lives, this might be the first incarnation in which it’s even possible for me to survive on my own and be the master of my own fate. Perhaps singlehood is a golden opportunity that has yet to be fully explored.

 

 
From the Afterword:
So, what have I learned from all this?
I now have a deeper understanding of why women, for the most part, don’t speak out. Or if they do speak out, why they often wait for years, till something pushes them over the edge.
We do not want to risk not being believed. Or being viewed as vindictive. Or appearing gullible and naive.
Society gives the man a pass and asks her, “Why were you so easily duped?” [or the woman, as the case may be]

Our culture tends to blame the victim—”You should have known better!”—rather than holding the liar accountable. We yogis and spiritual types dream of becoming enlightened by chanting, doing our asanas, our breathing
practices, walking in nature, doing good deeds and imagining
love and light.
In years of yoga workshops, meditation retreats and relationship counseling the term “pathological liar” never came up. Yoga and other spiritual practices have the potential for expanding consciousness and giving some semblance
of inner peace, but we are fooling ourselves if we run away from the darker side of life.
All my adult life, the mantra, “look for the good,” has been drummed into me. The problem with looking for the good is that too often we do so at the expense of denying the bad.
Our great psychological challenge, both in human relationships and the wider world, is to see what actually is, without projection, without the veil of illusion, and thus see the mixed bag that all human beings are.
Psychologists point to the universal desire to hear, see, and speak no evil.  The problem with that desire is that we fail to recognize the true nature of people we encounter in daily life. Sociopaths have a mask which is used to fool others and to make themselves, on the surface, look like they are good people.

 
 
For Reviews and to Look Inside the Book:
 
Fishing on Facebook: A Writing Yoga Memoir is available at Made in Ojai, The Rainbow Warehouse, Soul Centered,  the Ojai Library, Barnes & Noble,  other bookstores, and Amazon.com.Notes:*Yama and Niyama are the ethical precepts such as non-violence, non-stealing, and truthfulness set forth in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as the first and second of the eight limbs of yoga.  The practice of yoga begins with Yama and Niyama, and extends into asana and the other limbs of yoga.

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One Response to “Fishing on Facebook: A Writing Yoga Memoir, How It All Looks a Year Later”

  1. Suza Francina Says:

    Dear reader,

    I’m not sure why my blog does not hold the paragraph spaces and other formatting that I insert with great care. Perhaps I made the font size too big. Will try another way, next post.

    Thank you for reading,

    Namaste

    Like

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