This is on behalf of the fat kids, the black ones, the weak ones, the women, the boys who didn’t like rugby, the girls who weren’t pretty enough. It’s for the young men hazed as apprentices, the workers bullied by bosses and rivals, trapped by their mortgages and fear. It is for everybody who is being made to feel shamed, anxious, sad and lonely by the thousands of ordinary people who know how to get away with it.
It is for the ones who were sniggered at, teased, left out or laughed at. It is for all of us, isn’t it? Is it time yet? Can we stop this curse of silence as we stand by and watch bullies and meanies crush our own good souls!
I have been forced to edit this post, and to remove images and names by administrators of local sites who have been threatened, or fear legal action.The yoga teachers involved refuse to comment or to allow any mediation. I remain banned from classes.
How many of us know that feeling? It is somewhere between shock, shame and anguish. The feeling of being singled out for punishment, or made an example of. Of being hunted down by the pack, which works its way in silence, or of being king hit by a person with power – it feels something like grief. .. it is like a part of you dies.
There is an epidemic of bullying, and of suppression of the stories of the bullied and abused. In Australia, you could argue that depression, suicide, domestic violence and misery are amounting to a national disaster. From the top to the bottom rungs of this society there’s no secret that bullying is costing us happiness, safety and lives. But still, in general, we agree to say NOTHING.
The WA State Police revealed in 2009 that one out of five officers who leaves cites bullying as a reason. In the same year, The Daily Telegraph warned that Australian schoolchildren were heading neck-first into a national epidemic of bullying. The paper reported that
Aussie “kids were at greater risk of more intense and frequent bullying, as well as psychological problems including anxiety and depression”
in an article that showed our children cried out louder than any other kinds in the world about bullying!
International research shows that at least 200 million people young people are bullied a year, but the figures on adult bullying are much harder to find, because adult bullying is a social taboo. What we do know is that bullying leads to depression, anxiety, suicide, crime, isolation and drug addiction.
We also know that one person kills themselves every day in West Australia!
We know that, according to health outreach project, Beyond Blue, “Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. In Australia, it’s estimated that 45 per cent of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime.”
In any one year, around 1 million Australian adults have depression, and over 2 million have anxiety. And we know that bullying is a key player in this distress and suffering – but we are still afraid to talk about it.
Here in remote West Australia the big shouting matches are all conducted by tv and facebook. People get very hot over the race debate, the immigration issue, sports dramas and whatever is served up as the outrage of the day, but when the problems affect us directly? When they are on our doorsteps? The medicine here is called ‘suck it up’.
When I arrived in the small surf town of Denmark a year ago it was the town CEO and the Senior Engineer who were wrestling in public over bullying and campaigns of ostracism and intimidation. As if they were the only ones! What I’ve seen since is that where power, money and influence are concerned, mud wrestling is allowed, and I want to know what a village of good, educated people are going to do put an end to homegrown acts of meanness and pack war.
So far, this little story of mine has been allowed to fester, and I have been shunned for airing it. But it’s time we said NO to social violence, and I am hoping that this example might open a way for us to get there together, and for a new reality of openness, leadership and COMMUNITY HELP toward peace.
On May 9 this year I was banned from yoga classes in the little town of Denmark, West Australia.
I was accused of spreading evil, of undermining society, spreading malicious lies and working covertly to pour a ‘poisonous cup of toxicity’ around town.
How could this happen? What was this all about?
I had been in the remote southwest Australian surf town for a year, visiting my mother, writing, hiking and quietly offering two gentle yoga classes a week by donation at the Surf Club. I had met a few yoga teachers there as a student in their classes, raised almost $400 for their charities by volunteering on a roster to teach Saturday Community Yoga, and was writing occasional up-beat stories for the local paper.
Other than that, my life in Denmark was extremely quiet.But on May 9 I was included in a thread of emails that knocked me sideways and has taken me weeks to digest.
By telling this little story I want to put a voice to one of the thousands of tales of every day violence dished out by ordinary adults in communities everywhere. I want to speak out on behalf of all of us who are bullied, intimidated and ostracized by regular people, who get away with it.
I want to pull back the curtains on routine meanness that has become so normal in life that the most common response from those who witness it is to sigh, flinching from their own wounds, and pretend it isn’t happening. And then distance themselves from its casualties to avoid catching the infection.
This is a mundane violence that depends on the shame and silence of its victims, and the refusal of others to step in, speak up and say no. It is the root of much greater evils we love to get upset about; racism, sexism, domestic violence, animal cruelty, corruption – things we can conveniently blame on ‘other people’ but which we constantly nurture as a fact of ordinary life.
I want to say what we all already know: that bullies are not only in the tower, in government, business, schools and sports – they are very much at the table. All our tables. And it’s time we threw a light on this, and said no.
As it turned out, well before May 9 I had already been quietly deleted from the roster of volunteers for the town’s charitable Saturday classes by another teacher, who has threatened legal action if I name her, so let’s call her N.
Secretly, N had been writing emails for months to most of the yoga teachers in town, trying to achieve a quorum to have me banned from teaching and also from being able to practice yoga in Denmark. She was accusing me of many things, and avidly working to turn the town’s teachers against me. Why she was doing this is still unclear.
By May 9, another teacher, (who refuses any help to solve this issue and has been on the war-path threatening legal action against me for blowing this whistle, so let’s call him T) who calls himself an ‘intuitive healer’, decided to join the hunt. He sent an email message to high profile yoga teachers in town – all women – announcing he had banned me from the yoga page he administers, blocked me from facebook and accused me of being evil, toxic, divisive, undermining and ‘not worth his time’.
I was then blocked from the Denmark Yoga facebook page and restricted from being able to advertise my own classes. I was banned from attending the community class I had been practising at each week beside my mother as she took her first steps onto the yoga mat.
T was also on a crusade against yoga outfitter, Lululemon, and refused to teach
students wearing the brand or using their mats. He forbid them in his classes, made strong claims about racism and ethics, and was expelled from the local Recreation Centre – for discrimination.
At my own classes, the topic was raised and I took the position that I would teach yoga to whoever turned up, in whatever they turned up in. This was sometimes difficult, because as my classes grew N had taken to randomly removing the yoga mats and props from the hall to undermine my sessions.
When I posted online that I had no clothing bans at my classes, and had enjoyed teaching, despite the obstacles, T saw his chance to ostracise his competition, make an example of his critic and display his power.
He wrote this message to most of the yoga teachers in town about me…
I have had to block 11 people so far and will continue to do so, it’s not rocket science to be nice!
Not gonna drink from that toxic cup of negativity!
Jade is causing division and has hurt people along the way, I will not waste anymore time on her or her toxic web of words. “..I don’t want any more to do with her as I don’t have the time to waste with her lies and deceit.Got better things to do with my time.
T, Intuitive Bodywork, Yoga ~ Dance ~ Healing
He has never said what I did that was so negative or hurtful. But he said his ostracism of me was an act of Yoga.
He received this reply from one…
I completely DISAGREE with you blocking her from facebook, T. If it is a space for folks to share different aspects of yoga, I feel Jade has ever right to express both her love and the barriers she has experienced in our community. She did not call people out specifically and ridicule them to the public. She was simply expressing the lessons she learned through her practice – yoga is not always pretty, as we know. I am not saying that I agree with what she wrote – we know that some referred directly to you, T. HOWEVER, we don’t have to agree in order to support one another. I don’t agree with all the actions you all do and I am sure you all don’t agree with me, but I love and support you all – no exceptions! I would NEVER unfriend or block you for expressing how you feel (although I do hope you would call me instead of writing it on facebook).If there are people, like me who feel this strong ripple happening in our community – let’s plan a time to get together and discuss. Emails can only go so far and can often lead us down a path of misunderstanding. I propose a sat after the community class to meet up in the next 4 weeks. Let me know what day works best for you.
It came to nothing. The writer was told that T could block me if he liked, and that this was non-negotiable.
N, finally having an ally in her campaign against me, publicly admitted what she had been up to for months, feeling no doubt, validated in all her sneaky efforts.
Of the dozen women invited into the discussion, 11 watched on in silence, providing the tacit approval for these actions, and one blew the whistle by adding me in cc. When I wrote to the group asking for a reprieve, an explanation, assistance – I was met with that deafening silence that is the curse of the pack.
Here is my appeal to them all, to which I received No reply. While this is a minor story in the scope of things, I am determined to air this, to stand up and say what we need to put a voice to – that bullies thrive on silence, and in order for true peace, we need to agree that this stuff needs to be mediated and harmonised for ALL OUR SAKES.
This has all been very sad.Last week’s emails and bans and exclusions of me from activities and group forums were very upsetting, but I learnt last time, in December, that not much was gained by trying to communicate and ask for peace.This is the bleak flower of the way things have been since I first reached out to make friends with those of you on the yoga path here, to introduce myself, and join what I thought was a community. I truly hope this dark bloom will bare wonderful fruit, as this has been a year of very strange energy to cope with alone in a new town.Since I arrived under-handed, mean and now outright nasty public communications from some of you who present yourselves as leaders in this yoga circle have been my main experience of those who teach ‘yoga’ in Denmark.I have taken consecutive group hits from those of you who have spoken out against me, even though I still don’t understand my ‘crimes’. And a very loud vote of No Comment from the many others who watch but have said nothing.In the beginning, when I was under the impression that there was so much to gain by sharing, and was excited to meet and learn from so many yoga teachers in one place, I reached out specifically to N and T, who were pointed out as the go-to people for new arrivals.I started attending classes in May, and introduced myself to N with this message on facebook on August 19, 2015Hello! Good morning : ) Hope you’re having a happy pregnancy? I saw you all at the beach on Sunday – what a beautiful few days we’re having! I just wanted to touch in with you, and let you know that I am planning to offer some yoga classes in town now that I am staying on longer. I really hope that will be ok with the yogi crew, and am looking forward to adding what I can to the offerings here in Denmark. I don’t want to go ahead without agreement and a blessing from those already offering here, so am asking if this would be ok with you and the crew, and if I need to make a request to join in?We met, she said everybody was free to teach, and told me there were some deep issues between the yoga teachers. Apart from offering to sub and to host a friendly gathering if that might help, I kept a low profile.I met T and his wife not long after. We had tea at their place where I suggested perhaps the collective could host a movie to build goodwill in town and encourage students, or perhaps we could meet in a relaxed way to build good spirit between us. T told me not to bother, that the ‘community’ had never been a community, and that it was every man for himself. He made a comment about magic being a problem, and I still wonder what he meant by that.There was an upset in December when I subbed some spots and lead the two Christmas classes which were previously canceled. Despite agreeing that this was a good idea, and giving the go-ahead, N apparently was very unhappy about this and caused a serious upset over it, into which she dragged many others, who I thought made strong comments very inappropriately. Nobody at this or any time since attempted to solve this or any other issue that arose.As a result of all this, and in order to avoid further bitterness from teachers, I did not offer classes of my own in Denmark until 10 months after I arrived.Apart from attending several other teachers’ classes, and being able to practice alongside my mum at the Saturday class with other teachers (which has been a great joy), I have spent very little time with any of you. Which is sad, really.I have had a far more generous welcome here and been shown greater kindness by the fishermen and the surf dogs than by anybody who teaches yoga in Denmark.As such, I think it’s fair to wonder if some of you who have strong opinions of me may be projecting more about your characters than mine.In response to this latest round of negative actions toward me by T and N, and a second wave of public attack and criticism, I am making this reply to try to clarify how we got to here from my point of view.I am taking what action I feel I must to protect myself and soothe what ripples this has caused around me, my family and those students who may choose to practice with me.To T, I suggest with respect that you might consider, perhaps, reflecting with a mentor? We met only once. I practiced perhaps 3 times in your class last winter at the Rec Centre, and have had no contact with you in any meaningful way for more than nine months. Your comments and actions against me are either invented or based on a case of which I am unaware, and your recent actions and emails have been, frankly, violent.If you are angry because I posted that I have had challenges as a teacher here, and that I have learnt from these, it makes me wonder about you ~ is it your position that you will tolerate me as long as I am silenced? As long as I never dare speak even a whisper of my actual experience? If so, this verges on creepy, and I wonder why you care so much about the evils of LuluLemon, while you happily enable discrimination and nasty politics under your nose right here in town.I am aware that your conflicts are rippling out wider than just whatever you think is wrong with me, and have had students join my class very upset about your behavior lately. As a yoga teacher, you appear to be projecting an example of intolerance and arrogance that is not in alignment with the philosophy, and doing more harm to your causes than good. I support your ideas about LuluLemon (and Apple Mac, Nike, Nestle, GE, Haliburton, etc etc) but am sad that your approach is so unilateral and hard edged that you do not inspire support.N, you have been nipping at my heels and looking to turn as many people against me as you could from the start. I have quietly taken your ongoing small acts of sabotage, your constant undermining of my class, and your gossip. I have tried to call a truce many times. I have emailed you with no reply. I have called you, but you do not answer, and I have been to see you, at which times you have assured me that as is well. You show one face to me and another elsewhere, and you have spread dark stories and misinformation about me, but now you are going too far.Blocking me from the Denmark Community Yoga page and then pretending it was a technical error (which you did not fix) was a good example of how you seem to have done things. Cutting me from the volunteer list to teach the ‘community class’ without telling me was mean. Giving me permission to use the props at the Surf Club, then removing them without telling me put me in a very awkward position, and put my students at risk.Agreeing I should buy blocks, straps and some additional mats to add to the Surf Club props (which I did) in exchange for using the existing mats and blankets was a positive note, but you reneged on that arrangement and took your props anyway.Banning me from activities at the Surf Club, and publicly announcing it is not only malicious, it is illegal.Unless this is retracted and there is a public apology, I will be contacting you through my lawyer and the Surf Club’s anti-discrimination charter about this shortly.Both of you may need to consider why – really why – you are taking these sorts of actions, and ask yourselves why even the ordinary Civil Law does not allow teachers or organisations to exclude, ban or ostracise others for their choice in clothing or over personal grievances in this country. In such cases there are penalties for individuals and fines for the venues who host them. There must be a better way!How and for what benefit have things been allowed to go this far?I am sad for you both that you seem to need to find and publicly persecute ‘an enemy’ for whatever reasons you may have. This is the opposite of the ethics of yoga. It is an abuse of your position in the community, and has resulted in widespread unhappiness. It reflects a deep unevenness of mind and emotion that is sad to observe and for this I offer compassion.For those who have watched these two rounds of very nasty emails, and been party to the trickling out of mean gossip and said nothing, you could consider the words of Martin Luther King, who said,all it takes for violence to flourish is for good people to say nothing.Peace is the heart, the soul, the way and the fruit of the practice. There are times when we are all a long way from that, as part of our journey. I think quietness, refuge in the texts, reflection on the Yamas and Niyamas, are more powerful choices at those times than the impulse to lash out and harm others. This is not the same as the ‘deep commitment to staying out of it’… to leave others to fight their own battles.This is why our society rejects bullying and discrimination as a way to respond to conflict. This is why, after six months of stewing, this problem has surfaced again, and we have all been dragged into it, again.As Iyengar writes in Light on Yoga, the great treasure of the practice is Santosa; contentment, harmony, joy. The essential ethic of Yoga is that we reach this bliss through peaceful action, and not through war or the satisfaction of harming others.The basic first step for that is a tranquility of mind, a poise of soul that transcends conflict with others and is founded in ahimsa – the deep commitment to align to our graces and do no harm.I had mistakenly hoped that, as a yoga teacher in Denmark, there might be opportunity to share, connect, learn and give along the higher branches of yoga ethics. If I made an error, it was perhaps in over-estimating what was possible and what was welcome among the teachers.I truly hope that somehow all of this will provide the grace for a beautiful shift, for peace and unity to emerge between us all. If there is anything I can add or do to support that, and which does not harm me further, or damage my practice and my relationship with my students and family, then I respectfully welcome your requests and suggestions.
This is the medicine of social violence; the dark meditation of the bullied.