Yoga in Ubud, Bali ~ The Worm in the Fruit

2019 in Ubud, Bali:  The strange fruit of Yoga sours, bloats and swells on the vine as this town heaves with goddesses, shaman, healers, vampires, food addicts and scams – is it time? can we admit it yet? That there is a worm in the soul of our yoga story?

Once upon a Time, on a paradise island, word of a healing fruit brought travellers from far and wide to seek the eight-limbed tree bearing wisdom of human goodness, health, clarity and peace of mind in troubled times.

But this story is not for children. This story is rated VAMPIRE.

This story is about how good things can be made rotten by silly people in leggings, and cynical people who ride with the worm, and how the fruit of knowledge is being deliberately poisoned by ordinary people under spells of greed, vanity and lust which they have cloaked in yoga.

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Mmm… marketing images for Yoga courses – but this just is NOT Yoga.

~ * ~

….sigh….. Yoga Teacher Trainings…. I’ve done five now, and many “immersions” too.

Despite the raised eyebrows of my ‘real-world’ professional friends, who warned me all along that this was going to end up a disappointing fiasco involving unscrupulous entrepreneurs, sham healers and dangerous narcissists, I have always had faith in Yoga.

Why? Because it makes sense.

To care for your body, to discipline the mind, to learn equanimity, to exercise restraint, to study, to learn how to live in a respectful, accountable, active and kind way. And because my own culture has lost that ability, and I wanted to learn from another.

I set out to find where that might lead, buoyed by instinct, and perhaps something like fate, and the beautiful hopes of my mother, who also hoped all along, that the mystic path was laden with sweet fruits, and encouraged me to find them, to bring them back for others.

Yoga became a serious focus for me in 2008 when I paused a successful writing career to dedicate myself to studies of the ethical, moral, health-giving pillars of Yoga, and I remember in the beginning, my one yoga friend in Sydney giving me a copy of the Bhagavad Gita and saying… “just hold on, these courses always bring up your ‘stuff.”

That’s true.

What she implied, of course, was that Yoga; the physical practice, the meditation, the philosophy, might cause suppressed issues or negative traits, or weaknesses or difficult tendencies to get triggered or irritated. And that would be a good thing, in the safe hands of Yoga experts. And that I should trust them, and stick with it, and sometimes suspend my judgement, and even my instincts.

It is because of this assumption that I was then, and many are now, taken advantage of, deliberately bullied, injured and exploited by people who abuse the status of Yoga Teacher and gaslight their students, or lure them into sex, drugs and pyramid schemes.

It is because Yoga promises to ‘re-wire’ us that students are vulnerable to being persuaded that abuses or trust issues are their own fault, or are actually good for them.

It took me five years to realise this. And I have Psychology training.

It took me three years to grieve it.

Two to sit, in the wilderness, thinking it all over.

And now this year, to start the lonely walk back into the Yoga story, to tell it as I have seen it, for the benefit of others, and hopefully bring accountability, limits and transparency to the vast league of incompetent and unethical teachers who have infiltrated the yoga scene.

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Ubud’s Walls of Shame.

From the start, I loved Yoga. I loved moving my body, exploring its strengths and weaknesses, stretching, pushing, relaxing, exploring. I loved the benefits of breathing techniques, mantra, the reading and the meditation. But from the start, I did not like a lot of what was going on around me.

The boob jobs, the bulimia, the vanity, the Instagram poses, the snobby vibe outside classes at Yoga Barn, the cliques, the injuries, the bizarre food fetishes, the bullying, the swearing, the goddesses, and the lectures – on things like sex, death, grief, shamanism, leadership, gynaecology and love, which the so-called yogis who were teaching, didn’t seem to have the smarts, or the morals, to understand. But who made US$thousands, every week, to packed rooms at Yoga Barn, teaching.

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There is a lot that could be said about the exploitation of visitors to Ubud by yoga entrepreneurs involved in pyramid schemes and illegal psychotropic plants.

Who was I to judge?

Judgement is bad. They said. Judgement is mean.

That was a good insurance policy for them, and a bad one for all the students, who were too scared from the start to dare say what was chillingly obvious; that these people were becoming corrupt, and nobody was going to stop them.

Everybody knows here, that if you criticise, you will be ostracised. Or worse. That is why, after I have posted these stories, most people contact me to ask me first: Are you safe?

That is because anybody who has been here awhile knows: that things are most certainly not safe at all.

This, for example is how the owner of the biggest yoga school in Bali, Meghan Pappenheim, writes about me on public forums because I have made this and other criticisms of sexualisation and exploitation of students by yoga teachers in Ubud.

You can see the thread here, about this post. 

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Her response to questions about integrity, pyramid schemes being networked through Ubud’s yoga teachers, accidents and bullying has been to mount a public hate campaign. Not against those who abuse Yoga, or students. But against me, personally.

In threads on her own wall, and online in Ubud Community, she spent days ridiculing me as a ‘failure’ and a ‘bitch’, for these questions, and then produced this image of herself and posted it on Facebook.

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Owner of the largest Yoga and Spiritual healing school in Bali, Yoga Barn, Meghan Pappenheim, creates a self portrait during a public bullying campaign launched after this blog post.

Can we assume this reflects her attitude to Yoga, then?

I suppose it could explain the quality control at Yoga Barn.

Is this what ‘spirituality’ has produced in Ubud? Is this the actual reality of the healing arts and ‘female leadership’ workshops they sell? This is what is offered up as public discourse by one of the most influential and wealthy entrepreneurs in ‘healing’ in all of Bali?

I have to ask then, and maybe you should too: Is this the true face behind the mask of yoga in Ubud?

By writing, what I want to open up is a conversation. But that is is apparently, The Last Thing that is allowed.

I had no idea this was an unwritten law in modern yoga land, nor that I was getting mixed up with people like when I signed up to be taught about spirituality, and trained as a teacher in Ubud.

I bought in to the heavy overlay of marketing, spirituality and healing that these people use to make their money. Marketing which is all about a new earth, a better humanity, a solution to illness and anxiety – marketing, actually, which is about anything that can make a buck.

Meanwhile, Yoga  teachers here who have been selling themselves as high vibe and bubbly have become precarious cult figures in Bali and around the world for no other reason than that they had the mates to enable it. And the silence of the crowd.

It is becoming increasingly clear that these people, especially the women, have used their access to thousands of students and massive marketing lists to run lotus pyramid schemes across Oceana, seduce students into sex, drugs and a general mess of delusion here, and in other countries, raking in $millions as well.

All this under the cover of yoga.

All this going on in schools around Ubud.

And nobody, anywhere, putting a boundary on it to protect their students or their customers.

The most ambitious teachers, who mostly began as scuba divers and backpackers, never were trained by actual, pedigree yogis. They didn’t need to be. Allied together, mostly via Yoga Barn, and Bali Spirit,  the biggest spirituality enterprises in Bali, they became larger than life. Untouchable. Able to invent workshops, lectures, yoga poses and techniques out of thin air and sell them for upward of $250US for an afternoon sessions drawing in upward of 20 to 30 other students – they teach with no credentials, and no accountability.

Some of which has lead to disastrous accidents, or more minor problems, like injuries, or falls, or emotional breakdowns, or to whispers among more educated students who began to see that the Ubud gurus were lacking.

Most have become intoxicated with limitless opportunity for influence, huge followings, zero leadership at their work places, or boundaries anywhere – with notions of superpowers, shamanic abilities, earning power, unlimited influence and the spoils of easy pickings, every where, every day in Ubud.

One yoga ‘goddess’ told me she wrote an entire women’s leadership and healing program over a weekend on the Gili islands, with zero actual depth skills on those subjects, and sold it at Yoga Barn for a return of more than US$60,000 over the several years she milked that niche.

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Another, this one, Emily Kuser, for example, began speaking to packed rooms in Ubud about death, but had such an anxiety attack about her incompetence to do so, that I was called out as a consultant for an emergency session one night to assist her on philosophy and ethics.

I warned her then that she was out of her depth. But I suppose the money is intoxicating.

Tell us, Emily Kuser, how are you now qualified to teach about Death? And Sex? And wealth? Do you sleep at night, knowing you are drawing vulnerable people into a deeply personal conversation you don’t actually have the skills to host?

How have you progressed since I saw you shivering in Ubud, overwhelmed and ashamed that you had dared to sell tickets to an afternoon lecture about these things, which you knew you had your own serious issues with?

On wealth creation: what is your comment about ponsy schemes run through yoga networks in the yoga world? On death: what is your comment on head injuries, abuse and anxiety caused by ‘healing practitoners’ in Ubud?

Do I have to book in to your retreat to be able to ask you a question? How do you claim yourself as an authority on these matters, while refusing to be accountable for your reliability in the public domain?

Is this right? Is this ethical? Is any of this actually Yoga?

Tell us. And I will gladly publish your insights here.

Where are you? Yoga teachers? Where do you stand?

Was any of this, I wondered, painfully, really the best that Yoga had to offer?

Was this Yoga at all?

~ * ~

It’s very distressing to go home, secretly, day after day in Ubud, and fret and wrestle about deception in plain sight. I experienced that for years.

The remedy in Ubud, among the many people I know in the spirituality industry is to gossip behind the scenes, but never admit the hoax. Because that would upset the flow of dollar. And nobody wants that.

The end of distressing or awkward conversations here is to exile or ostracise anybody not totally following the yoga line. Freeze them out. Shrivel their supply to resources. Make them lonely.

In my own weird way though, this all became my own full time spiritual experience here. I remembered my friend with the Bhagavad Gita… I remembered about my stuff, I let it come up.

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Nevermind the depth; nevermind the grammar.

The ‘stuff’, mostly, was a slow-rising moral panic about the background messages around losing weight, becoming pure, making money, being beautiful, aspiring for a goddess image, and the mental and metabolic hell of trying to believe that one can become fit to educate others, and influence their souls and destinies after 200 hours of what really amounts to an awful lot of cheap aerobics and mumbo jumbo in most yoga teacher trainings.

Ubud became, after 2008, and because of all this, a breeding ground for cashed up Occidental vampires and predators, dressed up as mystics, gurus and goddesses. Many of whom use those labels to seduce their students, each other, and host increasingly corrupt workshops as the competition escalates.

Many of whom began to trade in ‘sisterhood circles’ that were really pyramid schemes, sucking $millions from tourists. Or dressed up as shaman to trade in ayahuasca.

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Mmm.. nope. That also is a fail, Yoga Barn. Because Yoga is about simplicity, modesty, leadership, and using this sort of image to sell courses is… also Not Yoga.

These sorts of people now run the influential and lucrative yoga, cafe, breathwork, sexuality and women’s healing scene here, and have free reign to pollute the souls of thousands of new arrivals with this crap… as well as pick their pockets.

They creep into other markets, like leadership, trauma, grief, birth, parenting, death… anything they can see a niche in, to trade on.

I was at a workshop here last month where a twenty something digital nomad was telling budding entrepreneurs how to google search new markets, invent products for them and  work social media to flog them. This is a headfirst dive into disorder and deception. And the yoga industry has role modeled all this.

There are some commentators who say it’s all just an innocent mistake, or growing pains. But those who have been here longer know full well that none of this is happening by accident.

These are consciously operated, cynically driven cash dollar enterprises ruled by a networked clique who cross-pollinate the business, employ and protect their own mates, ostracise their critics and live beyond the law.

In other words, what’s going on here, is like a cult.

All the iffy sex, financial abuse, gaslighting, ambient violence, drug use, secrecy and delusions of superiority that go with cult culture are alive and well, and advertised on noticeboards, everywhere in town – with no evidence anywhere, that shoppers should beware.

Emotional abuse is known as Tantra, financial scams are known as Lotus schemes, bullying is known as ‘tribe’, eating disorders are known as fasts, detox, veganism etc, psychological abuse is known as education, trauma bonding is known as yoga teaching, orgy is known as dance, drug sessions are known as medicine work, and ostracism is undisguised high school level politics… that’s how you break the code of Ubud’s cult-ure.

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And all of this has led to the easy herding of the vulnerable into traps hoaxed up by Ubud’s inner circle and enabled by schools who validate them.

Yes, I and others have seen too much in the dire halls of Ubud yoga.

~ * ~

I have seen owners of lucrative schools smash blind drunk, chain smoking, wearing bindis, pretending to be gurus as they mock and ridicule their own clients.

I have seen Ubud yoga teachers off their heads on LSD, arranging the sexual exploitation of tourists. I have seen an ex-convict, dressed as a Swami, given a public venue to teach from and use to scam vulnerable young seekers out of their inheritance. I have seen prostitutes remake themselves as healers and mystics, then destroy marriages, including their own.

I have seen yoga teachers suck up hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit or donations from this community and others, while the true needy of Indonesia starve, and those who rescue animals beg for $10, and local artists and entrepreneurs shrivel from lack of support and seed money.

I have seen ‘the tribe’ join forces to shame and exclude outsiders. And I have seen high profile people here get away with overt abuse of plant medicines, pyramid schemes, fake claims of guru, wisdom, shamanic, sisterhood, womb healing, wokeness virtues…. and spit acid in the eyes of anybody who dares to admit that they are seeing through it.

In short, I have seen worse behaviour than I ever saw when I had an active profession among people who were eating chicken nuggets, drinking beer and watching Netflix in tracky daks.

In double short, those most dressed like yogis, who claim Yoga status in Ubud are those most likely to be dangerous sociopaths.

How did we get to here?

~ * ~

In my own case, all this caused dissonance. I didn’t have the filter to see it for what it was at first.

Outright, in plain sight, completely conscious con was not on my list of possible realities.

I wanted Yoga to be real. And I was willing to believe, at first, that my difficulties were my ‘stuff’, and that I should admit that what I thought I saw was really a projection, or my own warped sense of reality.

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Yoga.. as a way to influence us toward eating disorders, vanity, self adoration, and other silly things.

Everybody here is passed that Kool Aid.

Everybody here is invited to drink the delusion juice and dance with the Worm.

Rewards for signing up, suspending judgement and joining in are belonging, status, beauty, sex, dollar and ecstasy.

All you have to do is trade in your common sense. And we do.

Because we think that Yoga is better than common sense.

And Bingo! That’s where the whole thing collapses.

~ * ~

In my own case, ethics, nightmares and accidents pestered me into the mystical adventure of Killing yoga, so that Yoga might Live, in my own life, and others’. This is a mystic path of snapping out of guru delusion and getting back on the path of sensible self authority described in the great book, If you Meet The Buddha on the Road, Kill Him.

Perhaps it is next level.. the way to escape the Ubud Worm is like the way to escape the dragon of old… slay it metaphorically, leave a trail for those who follow.

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“When a man dwells on the pleasure of sense, attraction for them arises in him. From attraction arises desire, the lust of possession, and this leads to passion, to anger.
From passion comes confusion of mind, then loss of remembrance, the forgetting of duty. From this loss comes the ruin of reason, and the ruin of reason leads man to destruction.”
― Bhagavad Gita

My critics, who are owners and participants at these wayward schools, always attack my character; they never defend their ethics or their practices.

I have other crusades too, like assisting street animals, and supporting writers – crusades are ok, when they are based on fairness and inclusion and safety. I recommend them. And so does Yoga philosophy.

The very essence of Yoga, and the foundation myth of the practice, I believe, is the study of Arjuna and Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, on their chariot headed into war against their own kin and teachers, under the flag of Yoga.

This is what I am doing by writing: I am riding into battle, my aim is to help Kill yoga, so that Yoga might emerge…

…. out of the gooey cacao trainwreck of sex pots and sleaze bags and addicts and silly goddesses who ran away with it to their greasy nests in Ubud.

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Mmm… no… that’s not Yoga. And that’s not ‘empowerment’ either.

Many others, who know what I know, stay silent, slink away, or perpetuate the cycle, with a certain level of disrespect for the incoming avalanche of innocent new recruits.

For some of them, the lure of the Worm in the yoga bud is a dream come true: a way to engineer an image fit for influence, admiration, sex, dollar and the status they yearn for but have not really earned. So they shut up, sign on, sip the Kool Aid, and start to teach.

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They know that if they can ‘look like yoga’, they can sell yoga – so they drape themselves in lycra, tattoos, sacred instruments, feathers, groovy wristbands, sacred geometry knickers and squirrel skin waistcoats – practice their aloof, superior goddess and shamanic pouts, work out for a month, and easily play at a game rigged so that the worst rise to the top.

Among ‘the worst’ are influencers and entrepreneurs. They run businesses preying on those who seek the true benefits of Yoga; the sick, the earnest, the vulnerable – and expose them to fake healers and bad teachers.

It is becoming ever more predatory.
And ever less accountable out here.

Women who trade on sex and ludicrous ideas of embodying the goddess.

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Men who lick at their nectars, and prop up their weak masculinity on the thighs of ‘empowered women’ who want their adoration, but not their dignity or freedom.

Yoga, can i remind us, is a philosophy and a way toward peace of mind.

Yoga is based on Ahimsa – non-harm. Not by physical injury, nor by ostracism, by deception, debt, drugs, body marking, or persuasion.

That is the opposite of all this seeking, hunting, craving and glamour.

Yoga is the end of image making, not the source.

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Yoga is the threshold that asks you to shut up, give up, work hard and enter your humanity.

It is not a technique for engineering your superiority, improving your odds in the hunt for dollar, sex or power, or disguising your addictions.
These things are not Yoga.

Yoga is courage. Yoga is honesty. Yoga is accountability. And answering for your self.

But what we have now, everywhere in the yoga industry, is a total reversal of wisdom.

A veiled craft promising salve for feelings of hopelessness, inadequacy, anxiety, grief or shame, but which actually undermines students’ virtues, trust and hope for a true experience of Yoga itself.

Yoga was designed to lessen the tension, to smooth the ripples, to teach the sorrows of quietening, and how to apply them to compassion, ethics and health – a rare and hard medicine.

But is is being used to increase craving, widen divides, encourage elites and overt vices.

As the years roll on, and the dividends of what is being offered here begin to yield, it is scorchingly obvious that we are reaping a bitter harvest.

I wonder if we have bred the worm in Ubud, instead of the holy fruit.

I wonder if the rest of you, who witness this, and know this is true, will speak and help to change things?

I wonder if those who disagree will turn up to show the true benefits of the Yoga they claim to teach, and join in on actual conversation to debate me, instead of just sledging me off on social media?

And I wonder what we are going to do about this.

September 18, a note from the author.. in the days following this post, as I expected, two things happened. Firstly, I was exposed to relentless public bullying and ridicule by Yoga Barn, some of which I have collected from their social media and posted in the comments here. Secondly.. the other schools and teachers observing said nothing. Except for one, who acknowledged the  importance of this post, and another who said they knew what I have written is true, but will not comment publicly for concerns about their business. Beyond Ubud there has been a lot of support, comment and willingness to explore the subject by other prominent teachers. I will write what i have learned from them soon.


43 thoughts on “Yoga in Ubud, Bali ~ The Worm in the Fruit

  1. I was in Ubud exactly a year ago and stayed for one month. Took daily classes at Yoga Barn. From the beginning I saw what a clique of European wanna be yogi’s rules the place. I did not feel welcome in that vibe but it was such a beautiful center, I was taken with the exotic location and dragon fruit smoothies and such a wide variety of classes. I have to admit I was impressed with the level of teaching the asana’s and enjoyed it, however I made no friendly connections and never seemed to “fit in.” Now it makes perfect sense to me. Luckily didn’t become too involved in any deep workshops or trainings. I’ve spent a lot of time in India and I could tell most of Yoga Barn, was not spiritual, just a good show.

  2. People ‘eating chicken nuggets, drinking beer and watching Netflix in tracky daks’, now that incriminate…I mean resonates with me!

  3. Bravo! What a fantastic article thank you for taking the time and enormous effort to write this! It is spot on. I take a retreat to bali each year. I’m an iyengar yoga teacher and have taught for many years.. I’ve see all of what you’re talking about go on. It’s not only in Bali but is happening to yoga in general but it’s even more insidious in Bali, with Yoga Barn definitely questionable in its efforts to be authentic. One of my students thought there were some ‘pretty good’ teachers there. Thanks again, everything you say is true, and needed to be said.

  4. After this post, again, the owner at Yoga Barn and Bali Spirit, Meghan Pappenheim, resorted to instigating a hate campaign against me on social media.
    You might find that incredulous?
    I would think anyone would raise an eyebrow at a yoga school ceo choosing, s a strategy for criticism, public insults and bullying.
    But..
    As I am trying to warn, it’s rotten here in Ubud.
    And it’s in plain sight.
    These comments inspired by pappenheim, on public forums, under her influence….
    Julie Dharma… Jade Richardson go home and get some help – you are just another crazy western fuck who has no real connection to Bali – sucking the guts out of it for your angry self serving ego – you are not a yogi far from it – your a sad little person who hasn’t made it and obviously can’t accept their failure
    Jade Richardson go home and get some help – you are just another crazy western fuck who has no real connection to Bali – sucking the guts out of it for your angry self serving ego – you are not a yogi far from it – your a sad little person who hasn’t made it and obviously can’t accept their failure

  5. Meghan Pappenheim….. #yupahuh. jade…. cslling a spade a spade.. keep it coming, babe. were all here for u., the audience is here reading with bated breath. good thing you mentioned the yoga barn 100 times in ur article. excellent for the search engines (wink)

  6. Meghan Pappenheim….. Jade Richardson but YOU ARE UNFIT to make a comment. thats the silliness of it all, Jade. you are a NOBODY. hugs!

    .. Pappenheim’s strategy is to attempt to red flag me over into what appears to be a personal battle between her and I.
    I suppose.
    Then she can use her large circle of employees and networks in a sort of Lord of the Flies event.
    Hardly noble.
    But the people more interesting to me, are her teachers…. where are they?
    Hiding under her skirt.. the great empowerment guides of Yoga Barn… all unaccountable.
    If you’re looking for Yoga.. it’s not here.

  7. Meghan Pappenheim writes…. Jade, honey, your issues are all about YOUR disire to play in thr playground. Its not everyday i meet someone who has taken 5 YTTS and cant get a steeady job teaching….

  8. Mattias Kajellsson Jade Richardson many yoga teachers, life coaches, shamans etc etc are talking a lot, without saying anything… The terms are usually a bit vague, like “they say all decease can be cured by water and rest” (quote actually heard in yoga class)… I’m thinking there are some illnesses that cure isn’t working on, but is it the teacher or the teachers teacher, or the person believing the statement who did wrong? Sound healers claiming to be able to rewrite DNA, pointing to some article in scientific american. When reading the article reveals that sound healing is elongating telomerase (part of the DNA) but not really rewriting any of the “active” parts of it, and the elongation is more a function of relaxing for an hour or so than the effects of the sound… So about as effective as a walk in the park, or yoga nidra or some other relaxing technique. Even talk therapy is grouped with the results in the article if I understand it correctly… Is it Click baiting gone AFK? Is that a problem only in yoga world, or more general problem? Doesn’t make it less of a problem though 🤷‍♂️ The problem might be seekers shutting off the critical thinking. Might also be ruthless people in conspiracy to earn tourist money… But then again, Bali is tourist-country, and the scam starts with the SIM card dealers and taxi people at the airport. But maybe there should be warning signs in the arrival hall. There used to be in Surabaya that said “A lone child is a tragedy, not the highlight of your vacation” with a picture of a white man holding a little Indonesian girls hand in a luxurious hotel elevator.

  9. Mattias Kjellsson Jade Richardson I’d love to hear what the people you talk about in the article has to say. You don’t need to spend a long time in Ubud to see the essence of what you’re talking about though. People selling hope to seekers. Not sure if it’s all run by some conspiracy of corrupt and evil people though 🤷‍♂️ Maybe, but it may also just be people being people, and… Choose a guru after studying him or her for 12 years. Take a look at the gurus guru, and their followers. Simple stuff like that. Too many charlatans with a few breathing exercises up their sleeve in this world, not only in Ubud.

  10. Denton Hockey… Yoga Barn financial partner….

    Jade Richardson where is the bullying except from you? Seriously?

    One person said they wanted to kick you in the shins? You can’t handle that? Aside from that I don’t see anything but legitimate shock at your incoherent ramblings and utterly unprofessional sharing of private information from clients. I had no idea you claimed to be a shrink prior to your illustrious writing/coaching career. It all makes more sense now.

    You’ve lived in this small town for years and roped hundreds of people into paying for your courses and ‘expertise.’ How is it possible that after so much time and so many ‘clients’ not a single soul speaks out in support of you? That doesn’t strike you as odd?

    This is the umpteenth Jade-centric rant on here and they all follow this same sad pattern. It’s you against the world and you know best. Is that satisfying?

    This is the best written summary so I’ll just paste it here for you in case you missed it. I notice you didn’t respond.

    Thanks Sam Berkow:

    Jade – It seems like you have blurred the lines between OPINION, COMMENTARY & REPORTING. Your article is a structural mess…. filled with anecdotal reports without specifics. Opinions and judgments without explanation.

    You label pictures used to promote yoga studios and events as “NOT YOGA”, yet offer little or no explanation. A post that addressed specific problems with specific photos might be a better vehicle to address the underlying issues.

    I could easily see how there are LOTS of problems trying to run a yoga studio as a business, and how many people who are seekers are flawed (as most of us are)…. leading to many of the types of behaviors you claim to have witnessed (without stating facts). I am bewildered as to why you are offended by people claiming to try and follow a clear path and failing to do so!

    I am NOT sure why you would ‘out’ someone you were called into help – that seems HORRIBLY UNPROFESSIONAL, UNCOOL and certainly NOT YOGA! Shameful!!!! If I understood yo9ur rambling explanation, a woman was teaching classes and was overcome by anxiety… you were called into help… one view you might have is: WOW!! It’s great that you were asked to help and could. However, naming and shaming that person in an article is DISGRACEFUL! Perhaps instead of trading barbs in these comments, you might take a moment to write her a heartfelt apology…..

    You are certainly entitled to write and post whatever you want! But from your article and comments in this thread, you might want to take a few deep breathes and ask yourself what you are so mad about, and ask yourself who anointed you the keeper of the true Yoga Flame…..

  11. Just on this point, which is a fair question, I suppose. I did and do a lot of yoga training, and have taught in Bali, Ecuador, Thailand, Australia . However, I do not need to rely on teaching to make my living, so my trainings are also a way I can serve my own practice, instead of converting it into income. At this stage, while I am asking questions about yoga, it does not really seem appropriate for me to teach. That would put people into a conflict. I am also reviewing what I have learned in Ubud, and seeking perhaps better quality guides. Which I am finding. And will be able to share about, and am sincerely grateful for.
    The repeated idea, seeded by Meghan, that I am jealous.. is a clever way to discredit me, I suppose.
    But why would she think I was jealous?
    Is it because I am supposed to be jealous? Are here teachers aiming to make others jealous? Do they think we should be jealous?
    This is odd. And this, once again I would say, is not Yoga. It’s a deliberate attempt to cause harm.. which is a breach of the basic practice.
    Of course, my opening a hard conversation could also be seen as a way to cause harm.. but Yoga, as I see it, is the practice of doing hard things, so that when hard things turn up in life we can meet them with calm, clear, steady action – or inaction – whichever seems appropriate for the benefit of the whole.
    In this case, little harm may have been possible if the issues raised were simply discussed, instead of turned into a public lynching arena by Yoga Barn.

  12. Perhaps it would be more fair and more honest, Denton, if you disclosed your personal and financial interests in the circus I am criticising?
    Then we could take your comments with the appropriate cup of salt.

  13. And today, WONDERFUL news – another woman opens up and admits that she has been involved in illegal Lotus Pyramid Schemes conducted by Ubud’s elite Goddess Yoga tribe..
    This is beautiful to see…
    Telling the story is healing the story
    Telling the story is how we can make a better one…

    ANSHU SING
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/UbudCommunity/permalink/2597587590298560/

    Its not easy to admit mistakes.. but today I write this post because it may help someone else make a better decision.

    Almost six years ago, my life was in big big turmoil, everything about my life was changing, i was unsure of myself, I was seeking emotional connection, deep friendships and craving authenticity. At that time, a friend who I trusted deeply approached me with a promise to give me all that i was seeking along with learning about leadership and financial benefit..so called lotus circles/Goddess circles.

    It was sold to me as a way for women to help other women so women can realize their dreams and we uplift each other. The philosophy resonated and i signed up under the oath of secrecy. I wondered about why make it secret if its so amazing, but it was told to me that we must protect the privacy… I signed up without doing a complete due dilligence. And then began having the weekly circle calls.. Within a few months I finally understood it.. and decided to leave. I realized that I am supposed to recruit women to keep the circle going and it was not something I was willing to do.

    To cut the long story short, as you can imagine the bitter end of losing hard earned money, shame, embarrssment and feeling stupid that I didn’t even want to think about it for many years.. I looked at it as a bad investment decision.

    I know many many women who have lost money and feel the same as me.. humiliated, embarrased, ashamed and also fearful to raise their voice to stop such a scheme as it means losing friendships and risk getting ostracized by their tribe and community.

    Today I post this in my attempt to put a stop to this pyramid scheme disguised behind love, light and women empowerment that preys upon women who are in a moment of vulnerability seeking connection and also raise awareness.

    Dear Women – instead of trying to make quick money using other women, let’s share our gifts with the world with authenticity and honesty.

    Following article is well written article about it..
    https://medium.com/…/the-math-behind-womens-empowerment-lot…

    If this is not enough then please know that goverments are investigating this and working to put a STOP to this scheme..

  14. Hi Jade. Ubud business owner here. You are a terrific writer and communicator! I enjoyed reading your article, it’s very entertaining, and I know a lot of people in this community are reading it and talking about it.

    This article speaks to a lot of things that likely need changing, and many who have lived in Ubud would agree with the underlying sentiments shared here. Yes, it would be great if teachers were more qualified. It would be great if prices were affordable for all. It would be great if we all knew how to navigate complicated lines of intimacy and sexuality in a healthy manner and to explore our boundaries, but just far enough to satiate our need for safety also.

    A few things I would point out about this.

    1. You are referring to unrelated events, with unrelated people, and weaving a narrative as if they are all conspiring together to do all these terrible things, together. In reality, all the things you are referring to are separate events, with separate people, who all might know each other perhaps only as acquaintances. What does someone getting burned in a fire, or falling on concrete, have anything to do with a pyramid scheme and an orgy? Who would you cast the blame on for all these separate events? The way you are writing this manipulates readers to cast blame on the owner of the Yoga Barn, and a few other yoga female yoga teachers. From those I have spoken to in the community, the response to this article has been pretty unanimous; we agree with your sentiment, but do not agree with your decision to name and cast blame on specific people in this. That feels motivated by something different and personal which might be helpful to leave out of your influential writing.

    2. Change starts to happen when people get specific. This article is far too non-specific for this to inspire anything that would pass for real change. Specificity brings change, specificity brings action. Journalism brings change through this specificity, diligence, which shines a light on specific things that can be changed. Muckracking like this happens initially. Then, real change comes when someone decides it’s important enough to get really specific about what the issues are, and how both sides can make changes in a way that leads individuals to transcend their perceived differences. You are being quite unspecific in this, yet you are using specific individuals names. As an objective reader, that makes me deeply question your intention behind writing this. It actually detracts from the really great parts of this article.

    I hope you keep writing articles because you are really talented. And I hope you spend more time digging into each of these stories that matter to you, to the point where you can get to some specific recommendations for how the people involved can adjust their approach, which will be helpful to you, helpful to them, and helpful to the community. I know these people. I, too, honestly don’t respect many of them, but I know they are all mature enough to hear valid and well-intended feedback. They are adults.

    It’s interesting to consider that the most powerful statement we can make is with our presence; what we choose to do with our time. Given the literally endless possibilities of where you can spend your time– for example, you could live in India or Hawaii or rural Kansas, you could be volunteering somewhere, or running a business, or teaching yoga in prisons — you have chosen to live in Bali, in Ubud, and apparently spend a good deal of your precious presence at the Yoga Barn, around these individuals. Are you not a participant as well, if not but perpetuating it with funding from teacher training and yoga classes?

    On one hand, you are making the statement with your presence that you would like to spend your time in Ubud, amongst these people. On the other hand, you are also making the statement in this article that it’s a terrible corrupted place. There are thousands of people living in Ubud who, like any free-willed, sovereign individual, circumvents all the issues you have raised by simply…not going to these places or being around these people. We all have this freedom. We all have the choice to move our business down the road to another yoga studio if we really wanted to, or to rural Kansas, don’t we? Who is holding a gun to our heads making us come to dance on friday night, or testing the waters at a tantra event? This is a difficult truth. It’s very easy to condemn popular businesses. But they are big because we like and need them. We must not exclude ourselves from participation in their wrongdoing if we are reliant on them also, if not but as a social outlet.

    I have lived in Ubud for a while and I choose not to be around many of the practices you refer to because they don’t benefit me. However, there still exists an ability to appreciate that for another human, at another time, what they share might be helpful in the right context.

    Yoga Barn and none of the people you are talking about are perfect. I sense that if you were in the position of any of those you are condemning here, you would have a different lense on the situation. And vice versa. It might be beneficial to explore that directly with those people, and I hope you use your skill in writing to highlight and inspire specific, actionable change.

    With respect.

  15. Jennifer Richardson.. in public conversation on pappenheim’s Facebook wall, with me constantly in cc;
    What is with all this vitriol Jade? In all the diatribe not one actual fact, just nasty innuendo. At first glance you seemed like a volcano about to erupt, but I got the scale wrong … it’s just one ugly big boil. I wonder, what was the initial microscopic irritant that caused this gigantic festering infection. Couldn’t you just prick it quietly and let all the nastiness drain away somewhere where we don’t have to read it?

  16. Meghan Pappenheim on why Yoga Barn management feel they are not accountable for what goes on at Yoga Barn…
    FROM OUR OTHER CHAT:
    Jade Richardson Meghan Pappenheim instead of demonstrating your high school level of smartass retorts, why don’t you address the issues raised?
    Meghan Pappenheim Jade Richardson, I don’t know how many times I need to explain to you that your issues are NOT my issues. In my opinion, there are way more important things to deal with in this world than debating the personal accountability of expats in ubud. Everyone who reads this is most likely over 18 and can take of themselves, they don’t need you or I to create a template for them.

  17. Sam Berkow… on Meghan Pappenheim’s hosted platform of retributive attacks on me on Facebook:

    Sam Berkow Jade Richardson Your a very sad person. No shame. No consideration that in the face of MANY people disagreeing with your comments, you have NO DOUBT that you are right and everyone else is being deluded by Meghan and others.
    Talk about listening to the streets!!! SEVERAL people mentioned that your outing of someone you claim to have ‘helped’ was wrong. You justified your actions with some dubious claims that by teaching again, this person broke some agreement’. That seems dubious at best!
    JADE – GET HELP!!! You are not the YOGA POLICE. Your repeated claim to represent a group beyond yourself WITHOUT identifying any group or organization is a clear sign of your distorted view of things. (ref: We….).
    Or better yet, open your own YOGA Studio that: uses only YES-YOGA pictures in its ads, hires only PERFECT instructors, and engages in perfect business practices at all times. Its VERY easy to throw stones (something you seem to enjoy, and that seems very NOT YOGA). I am sure we would all love to see you make UBUD the center of the perfect universe!! Until then, perhaps you might want to consider writing posts that are less SNIPPY and CHILDISH!

  18. Thank you, Anon,
    A very refreshing comment, and the ONLY one of hundreds here and on social media that has asked steady questions.
    I will reflect on the things you have said and asked, and I hope others will also.
    I think I might reply to you in a Post, over the next few days.
    That way I can air the various questions and also the abuse that has ensued from these posts.
    I will let you know, and look forward to a dialogue that leads to clarity and to improvements, and to accountability too, because as you and everybody in town here knows, Meghan Pappenheim has arranged a public lashing of me over this story and my questions.
    This is, I imagine, the sort of treatment that silences or intimidates other critics.
    Shameful.
    Or is it a cry for help?
    If it is true, as it seems to be, that Meghan, as CEO of Yoga Barn, and Bali Spirit and all the rest, has total freedom and feels entitled to Bully and Intimidate others, without censure, and in full plain sight, as a representative of the Yoga world, and who makes immense profit from exploiting ‘spirituality’ enterprises in Ubud, and oversees a massive enterprise as she does so, then I am afraid that yes, it appears obvious that we DO HAVE A VERY BIG PROBLEM in this community. Possibly even bigger than I had first thought.
    I am sure I am not the only one who sees this?
    But if I am wrong here, please – somebody, explain it to me, how this is ok?
    I dont think we can ignore this behaviour, as part of the unfolding of the issues in Ubud’s yoga circles.
    The events leading to Nik Wood’s injuries, the emerging conversation on millions of dollars being drawn out of tourists in pyramid schemes hosted by Bali yogis, fund raisers soaking up vast amounts for ‘tribe’ members, drugs, sexual misconduct, etc etc… these are cultural problems in the yoga scene of Ubud, as we all know, and bigger than any one person or venue.
    What could have been inspiring, before I made these comments, which most everybody agrees are long overdue, was some sort of leadership, boundary keeping and self regulation among the yogis, or the schools – as these things, surely, are just not ok.
    But everybody watched, and nobody did anything, and now it’s really no good acting shocked.
    Because, as you say, we have all known about these things for a long while now.
    Yoga Barn, presumably, is not of particular interest here… but, in relation to my raising the topics, Yoga Barn appear to be willing to partake in overt bullying at an executive level, and even inciting crowd violence against me, which has had the effect of drawing a lot of focus on them. Perhaps this is a good thing.
    If what Meghan is doing in harassing me every hour, day and night, reflects the soul of Yoga Barn.. well, I am willing to take that treatment if only to allow a public display of what is going on in there, apparently.
    It appears to be a little Maverick, to say the least.
    Their teachers seem to have a ‘leadership strategy’ of marketing themselves far and wide to sell workshops, but refusing to entertain questions, unless they serve their own ends… ALL of them ignored my requests to discuss Yoga, leadership, Shamanism and ethics before I published, which could have changed everything – this is, basically, in my view, a fertile scenario for corruption, and for a culture that might breed exceptionalism.. which is what I and others are saying we have experienced here in Ubud. But there are others, at karma House, for example, and the Marcel Hof crew, and all the ‘influencers’ who only seem to ‘influence’ towards what suits them, and the ayahuasca and kirtan crews, who are all perhaps a little out of bounds in all sorts of ways.
    What to do? What to do? What to do?
    These are serious issues, and I think the response to my posts so far, proves the validity of my concerns.
    anyway, that’s a lot of words.. I will think on it and take counsel and get back to you. Thank you.

  19. I avoid Ubud “ city “ now because of that culture. I am a size 18 woman , now 50 . I think I look a little younger but my body tells me otherwise! I would like to do yoga but the Insta has me covering my ample curves and hiding.
    I’m sitting in my home listening to birds made happy by the rain, preparing for a flight to Bali this morning….to me, that’s yoga.

  20. I spent a LOT of time in ubud and quickly found I enjoyed the crypto mob at hubud more than the yoga mob. They were grounded, smart, fun and welcoming. … and devoid of the sceney attitudes of the yoga mob. But What really disturbed me in ubud was the latin dance scene. It was truly horrendous. A severe lack of men to dance with, women BUYING men for the eve so they can’t dance with anyone else, and a very cold, unfriendly crowd. After almost a year of “trying” to dance (rarely were there men to dance with) I had made ZERO friends (and I’m a very friendly and social person). The complete opposite of a health latin dance scene, and what I experience in australia. The most offensive people were the locals. The yoga mob were similar, but i did meet some people and attend some events with joy. Seems the vortex takes over people’s egos there, somehow …. may the light shine bright.

  21. Aishah Macgill: I’m someone who has also seen the flip side of the yoga meditation scene over the past 35 years. Yoga in the west is great to see however it is a McDonald’s version in some cases. Ridiculous claims are being made. Predators sexual and financial, pedos , , rip off artists, salvation enlightenment con people, hangers on, all kinds of people hide behind the curtain. I’ve had plenty of people come to meditation classes I’ve run just to get info to use in their classes. People who abuse their wives husbands and children are out there so called healing with mantras bowls sound etc. Urban Shamans are proliferating at break neck speed some with good intent some not. Buyer beware.

  22. Tammy FireFly: Yeah been seeing glimpses of this entire drama. Makes me sick to my stomach really.
    What’s happening to the community. Bunch of spiritual BS and way to much drama for Bali… poor locals corrupted by western baggage and bashing. I’ve been coming to Ubud for almost 8 years and it’s never been as bad until the last time I went. It felt fake, corrupted by “spiritual” drama queens and kings. I felt caged, my sanctuary, home away from home for my own inner “peace” was even worse then my own home in Las Vegas. I find more peace here then I did in Ubud. Fake richest all bashing each other.
    NO INTEGRITY left… and very well said Jade…

  23. Caveat emptor indeed. A universal caution. Only snake oil salesmen (and women) would prefer you to fall unquestioningly for facile patter. So is singing out “fire!” if you see one. Only pyromaniacs with the matches are going to object to the that.

  24. Mathew Pepler: As always, great writing Jade Richardson…honouring your courage to speak the unspeakable and admire the way you roll back the curtain of illusion to let the light shine in, revealing those in dark places who shy from the glare of exposure…having witnessed firsthand the exploitation of the vulnerable across the new age, tantric & medicine scenes, it doesn’t surprise me that the yoga scene is any different in being infiltrated by predatory and parasitic energies.
    We are all human and to deny or refute the victim/predator dynamic within is to set ourselves above our fellow beings, in my experience, very few people have integrated this particular shadow, let alone had the courage to own it within themselves. I know for me, it was massive to look back and see where I’d engaged in that behaviour and how I’d cloaked it in spiritual bypassing and love and light justification. Thanking you for your honesty in sharing this piece, knowing full well there would be assault from every quarter, true journalism is indeed alive and well.

  25. You wrote this article with a strong power. What a courage it takes you. Thank you very much for this very well documented master piece.

  26. Thank you.
    I hope it opens a useful dialogue.
    Though so far… apparently the yogis will teach for money, but will not talk openly about who they are and what they offer.
    I find that, among other things, weak.

  27. To Jen Richardson, in reply .. Apparently, not all Richardsons are created equal.
    I love this comment, because what it reflects, which most of you wont know, is how Yoga Barn use their paid staff to come out in attack.
    This gives the appearance that neutral observers are criticising my post.
    But that’s not true.
    Because Jen Richardson, among most of the outspoke critics of this post, is mates with Meghan Pappenheim, and earns a good dollar from her at her yoga events.
    So, I ask again.. is this Yoga??
    Is this what passes for a grown up dialogue?
    Or is this the true face of Ubud’s ‘spirituality’ business?
    And where are the yoga teachers????

  28. Sophie D: Hello Jade

    I just read with interest and despair (because of the situation bit your words) your recent post from 2nd September.

    Thank you for your courage in speaking out and in bringing to light important issues that have too long been swept under the proverbial yoga mat.

    I lived in Ubud briefly in 2016 and whilst I loved some aspects, it was this elite and fake part that did not resonate with me.

    On a brief visit back in June I participated in a class of one of the teachers you mention and I was pretty appalled. I consider myself to be emotionally stable and secure but it pained me to see those who were clearly going through some personal issues look up to this person like they were a guru or god.

    As healing practitioner myself, I have struggled to know whether to let these things pass or to speak up, for fear that if I speak up I would simply look like I was jealous or competitive.

    I thank you once more because through your own courage to speak up, it supports others like myself to not allow these incidents to pass us by.

  29. Thank you, and really – thank you – for your comment and the acknowledgment that it takes courage to say what is obviously so here.
    Why is this?
    How can this be?
    That people in the ‘spiritual community’ have made is feel dangerous to dare to ever criticise or even question them?
    As you can see, I have been roundly attacked by Yoga Barn here, it is what is required, I suppose, to prove my case – but – isnt it also evidence that these people are so used to getting away with overt abuse and bad leadership that they dont mind coming out directly, in public, with their point teeth and bullying.
    I find it a tragedy – when what COULD have happened here was Good leadership, ethical teaching, true compassion and safe hands for the millions who have come to Ubud seeking direction, empowerment, health or wisdom.
    Instead, they have been devoured of their dollars and their trust by a swarm of the most ruthless self-infatuated vampires to have sprouted from a yoga mat anywhere.

  30. Yes. Thank you for this. This voice is much needed. A brave voice is always difficult in abuse cycles but most important. Also, It’s difficult as many leave the Yoga because of such negative untrue representation of Yoga. A well deserved and spoken article… again thank you

  31. Thank you. Yes, I think, given the Yoga Barn’s public response has been to call me crazy, deluded and a bitch – that this story is probably well overdue. Their stated policy is that they DO NOT vouch for their teachers and that buying in on Yoga Barn classes and workshops is strictly buyer beware, with ZERO professional qualifications required of teachers, and Zero management of their offerings or behaviour. Including luring students into drugs, sex and pyramid schemes. This, Meghan Pappenheim says is all part of being a ‘grown up’. I think the police should be involved, to be honest.

  32. Meghan Pappenheim, owner of the Yoga Barn, when asked the direct question:
    How do you feel about teachers at your business luring students into pyramid schemes, illegal drugs, sex and sustaining injuries?
    Replied:
    Meghan Pappenheim to Jade Richardson…. I guess it’s kinda like this. Yoga studios all around the world have a variety of teachers and teachings. In the same way that Book shops all over the world have a variety of books with a variety of writings. In both cases it’s up to the buyer to sample the merchandise by reading the intro paragraph and then decide if they want to actually experience more. In both cases it’s up to the customer to decide if the teacher or auther is worthy of their time even further or if they feel that the teachings or writings are bullshit or fruadulent, fact or fiction. At the end of the day the impression is subjective. In the same way I might never want to buy book by a certain author whom I think is fruadulent you might never want to take a yoga class by a teacher u feel is fruadulent. It’s a simple
    calculation.

    I think, if this is the actual attitude of Yoga Barn, and that their courses include “Shamanic Healing”, “detox” “advanced trainings for teachers,” and other promises to educate and provide medical and psychological support – that matters are truly about NEGLIGENCE.
    I think this is unbeliebably recalcitrant of this business, and I think authorities should look into them.
    Meanwhile, I strongly APPEAL to you – PLEASE find better quality teachers, medical advice and psychological support. It is obvious that this institution, among others, is willfully unsafe.

  33. For a start, you would think that the business owner would not want the bad energy or the name of the business becoming sullied due to teachers that have their own agendas. I hate the thought of an unquestioning Yoga Barn attendee being taken advantage of.
    As a business owner, surely you’d want alignment with your own business values ? This lack of control leaves them completely open to questioning about their ethics. Seems like the $ definately rules.

  34. When I was in Bali a year ago hanging out with expats over the age of
    50, they called Bali Spirit Fest “The BS Fest.” And they refuse to ever step foot in Yoga Barn.
    This article brings light to their opinions. I knew it had a really bad vibe, but didn’t realize it went this deep.

  35. Hello. I am glad I read your article, very interesting.

    I am traveling to Ubud for my honeymoon soon.
    I was considering paying a visit to New Earth Haven (or Akasha Restaurant & Juice Bar) in Ubud, but kind of had a feeling that this place is a little “cult-like”.

    So I started to do a little research concerning cults in Ubud, which led to this article. Now I know for sure I am going nowhere near Yoga Barn.

    Could you tell me what your opinions are on New Earth Haven, and also Swasti Eco Cottages, if you have any information?

    Thank you very much in advance.

  36. It’s actually quite simple Yoga means union…union of the self with the divine within and without us…the physical asanas are designed to help us get a healthy foundation for this experience…what is called Yoga now should be called gymnastics or circus training…it has become a cause of creating separation….my body is better than yours, I can do better more complicated asana, I have done more teacher training than you or in some other paths Ive taken huge doses and tripped out more than you etc etc it has become food for the ego creating separation from others but reality is that true yoga or any true path creates non duality, no separation from others, from nature, merging with divine consciousness- seeing and experiencing the divine that is within yourself and permeating everything…an experience beyond just ‘peace of mind’ while still retaining individuality . If you look at the people who originally introduced a lot of yoga into our culture around the seventies it was about consciousness…finding and operating from pure consciousness within, as you pointed out many of todays teachers have certificates but little true life experience, when true trauma happens and no one really escapes the universal spotlight turning on them and dealing out some thing that questions the depth of their understanding and strength of their practises that is when their truth is examined. The path to pure consciousness is often made complicated and the thought it is out of your reach or far away is propagated so that you will spend more and more money chasing this delicious experience, the truth is it is waiting for you , their is no distance between you and it, you can make your search simple or complicated and convoluted and always remember that the truth that gurus and teachers deliver is eternal and free to everyone do not get caught up in the person delivering that truth..respect the teacher but identify with the truth…ask if they are genuinely empowering you or just empowering themselves through your relationship.
    May you all find and experience the divine and pure consciousness of your true self and then watch a wonderful new way of viewing the world unfold, as the song goes: May the longtime sun shine on you, all love surround you and the pure light within you guide your way home.

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