Count me out of the positivity cult

Published on March 28, 2011 by      Print
facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

By Kimberly Johnson

Okay, I get it. Nobody wants to be a downer — especially a yoga teacher.

Oh no, because a yoga teacher is a model. We model what our students want to get out of yoga.

But does telling people that “everything is perfect,” “we are all interconnected,” or my personal favorite, “it is what it is”—even though people are actually really feeling depressed and terrible—make it so? Last year, a hairdresser I had never met busted out “it is what it is” to punctuate the end of her story. “It is what it is” is the newfangled “whatever.”

Do these phrases really make people feel better? They just piss me off.

After I wrote my last post, “Please don’t call me spiritual,” and then read  “Holding up a big fat mirror,” I realized that I had experienced a similar reaction to that writer after my own post went live. I felt exposed in having posted something and also outed something I wasn’t supposed to. I experienced feelings of guilt, and like I had betrayed some secret code.

That secret code is the code of constant positivity within the yoga community.

In the yoga world, you are not supposed to disagree—even though everybody does—and you certainly are not supposed to be disagreeable. Of course, most people have strong opinions about which kind of yoga is better (their kind) and what the other schools don’t understand, because if they did, clearly they would convert to the right school. The right thing, in yoga, is always the thing that you do. But most people don’t express it openly. Better to feign peaceful coexistence and call it “acceptance.”

However, I have found both in myself and in my peers a lack of courage to engage in truthful dialogue around teaching philosophy and practice. I didn’t have the nerve to tell my friend that she was giving the same dharma talk in every class and it was getting old. No one had the nerve to tell the male teacher to stop serial-dating his students. There is this gaping hole of communication, as if egos are so fragile and every class so personal and precious that there is no room for dialogue.

The feelings of guilt and betrayal I felt when exposing my truth in my last Recovering Yogi article were the tiny echoes of a victim/abuser relationship, where the victim feels protective of the abuser, says things to defend the abuser, and is afraid to speak truthfully about the experience publicly.

There is an irony here.

The tradition of yoga itself is one of fierce debate, Sanskrit battles, and commentaries responding to commentaries. None of it in the least bit flimsy. On the contrary, you had to have some shlokas, some sutras, and some humor at your cerebral fingertips to enter this ring. Not unlike a hiphop duel. A rhythmic battle rife with wordplay and samples, the ancient yogis threw the shit down.

But somewhere along the way, this rigor has been next-to-lost in our contemporary yoga communities. People settle for mixing a little armchair/pop psychology in with a sutra or two and use it as a substitute platform for practice.

A platform of actual dialogue has been critical to the evolution of yoga as a living practice. Dialogue keeps both the speaker and the spoken honest—which is why the debates were between schools, not just within schools. The tradition of yoga commentaries is not just about re-interpretation of text from an intellectual point of view. Yogis understood that rational penetration of a subject does not yield to complete understanding of that subject. So new commentaries were written (think Taimni in the yoga sutras) to offer new perspectives of the path. This is invaluable really: to learn about how many ways there are to live, practice, and meander our way through our dharma to moksha.

Now, I have to say that my yoga philosophy studies have seen more impressive days. Being a single parent has cut into my formal study and practice time, and to be fair, changed my interests quite a bit. My call to action here is not about yoga teachers learning better Sanskrit or studying the texts more rigorously (although not a terrible idea); it’s more about mindful speech based on real experience.

Save the New Age truisms and clichés unless there is some actual connection to yoga and your direct experience.

Ask yourself—did I read this in an Oprah magazine? Is this something I hear over and over again? Does it have any connection to yoga, really? Do I have real personal experience that verifies it? And finally, am I using this experience as a teaching tool or as a way to vent/dump/process? If you answered yes to vent/dump/process—don’t talk. Just don’t do it. Button it.

For instance: “Everything is perfect.”

That is a very simplified translation of the chant “Purnamidam, purnamadah…” But “everything is perfect” is a pathetic fraction of what this Veda really means. And is everything perfect? Do you really get what that means? If you do, then communicate the complexity and depth of it. One way to do that is to addresses naysayers and nonbelievers. Instead of going on and on about how “it is what it is,” address the difficulty in really “getting it.”

The positivity train is a slow road to nowhere. Why? Because just believing things to be awesome doesn’t make them awesome. Repeating to yourself (or others) that everything is perfect when you actually feel like shit just pastes a veneer over what you are really feeling, which then has to get peeled away later. In my experience, the fake-it-til-you-make-it approach doesn’t work. Shellac some positivity over trauma, and you’ve got yourself a grief pain packet waiting for you at some later date. Glue a “yes” onto some definite “no’s” and you get yourself a recipe for unexplained depression.

When it works, yoga is a way into—not out of—these deep places.

For a lot of years, the yoga practice that I practiced was coming to practice and composing myself. I tried so hard to look perfect and together and happy. It took some cosmic dropkicks to penetrate the division I had been able to make between my practice and the rest of my life. Before the tears pushed their way in and I no longer had control.

Teaching people how to be present with what their actual experiences/ feelings/ mental patterns are, rather than bombarding them with bad philosophy, is essential. The destiny talk — telling your students that all their negative experiences are “good,” “supposed to be this way,” “a blessing in disguise,” or “going to be compost for their fertile garden” just isn’t that helpful. We undercut the rich and personal process of making meaning out of our experience by constantly redirecting and rerouting others to the positive on shaky philosophical grounds.

After all, we don’t really know what is going on with most of the students who come to our classes. It takes some humility to remember that.

About Kimberly Johnson

Kimberly Johnson is a yogini nomad who recently put the earth boots on for motherhood. After a lengthy love affair with India, she was relieved to fall in love with Brazil—and a Brazilian—and now lives in Rio de Janeiro with her 3-year-old Brazilian daughter. She leads retreats on the most beautiful place on earth: Ilha Grande, an island with 100 beaches and no cars; leads teacher trainings; and tries not to pronounce Sanskrit with a Portuguese accent. Rearranged by childbirth in every way, she travels, teaches, and learns about what yoga has to do with womanhood.

Visit Kim online at:


Filed under: Platitudes and Tagged:


  1. linda says:

    that’s why my new yoga teaching mantra is “take no prisoners — foo-foo time is over”

    • Kimberly Johnson says:

      i’m done with foo-foo and woo-woo but actually i was never much into them.

      • Monty Renov says:

        Hi Kimberly,

        I saw your post on Facebook, thanks to Alison Rose Levy. We all had a fruitful discussion about ‘forced positivity’ & how it’s become such a stifling cliché, as in “watch out for your negative thoughts or you’ll attract “bad karma”, which doesn’t leave room for a person to encounter & acknowledge what they REALLY feel about things, because they’re afraid of encountering their own hidden negativity, about which they’re already ‘sitting in judgment’.

        The way I expressed it on Facebook was as follows:
        The only time the ‘let’s be positive’ stuff works is when we’ve already faced & dealt with the negative stuff underneath. Otherwise, it’s like putting dog feces in a dessert dish, covering it over with whipped cream, chocolate syrup, fruit, nuts & sprinkles &, then, believing that what we’ve got there in front of us is a bona fide ice cream sundae! (Please excuse the grossness. I used it to generate the necessary illustrative shock! :)

      • Stewart Lawrence says:

        Hey, haven’t you heard?

        “It’s ALL Good!”

  2. nathan says:

    love it! been saying similar things for a long time now.

  3. Let’s Get Real About Positivity | Positivity.Green.Yoga says:

    [...] recently read this post by Kimberly Johnson titled “Count me out of the positivity cult”. While this could be [...]

  4. Joslyn Hamilton says:

    Oh how I love this and couldn’t agree more. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area — the epicenter of the cult of positivity — I am constantly barraged with orders and commands from my “tribe” (yes I am saying that facetiously) to stay positive and never, ever admit if I’m in a bad mood.

    The cult of positivity is basically a new religion. It parades around disguised as an enlightened new age practice, but in reality it’s just another type of prayer.

    Pema Chodron said it best in her book Comfortable With Uncertainty: “Theism is a deep-seated conviction that there’s some hand to hold: if we just do the right things, someone will appreciate us and take care of us…. We are all inclined to abdicate our responsibilities and delegate our authority to something outside ourselves. Nontheism is relaxing with the ambiguity and uncertainty of the present moment without reaching for anything to protect ourselves…. Dharma… is a total appreciation of impermanence and change… Dharma was never meant to be a belief that we blindly follow. Dharma gives us nothing to hold on to at all.”

  5. recoveringyogi says:

    Speaking of dialogue, a blogger named Emily just posted this retort to your article on her own blog:

    Food for thought!

  6. Quinn W says:

    I always love reading your words Kimberly. I’ve been straddling these same ideas lately, both in yoga and in other aspects of life. It comes down to experience vs. ideas. I’m trying more and more to live and transmit from experiences, and not my idea of how experiences should be. It’s the difference between people who practice yoga as a lifestyle and people who practice yoga as life. Neither is bad, but one is more in line with how my practice fits into my life.

    I also appreciate you bringing in the positive aspects of yoga and its ability to teach us to be present to our experiences. Of course I know this is a ‘recovering yogi’ site and there is gentle bashing of the practice and people on our road to ‘recovery.’ But at the same time, there is no need to recover from the true essence of yoga (just the fake it til you make it kind) which is what you were able to weave into this post, and I thank you for that.

    • Kimberly Johnson says:

      Thanks for noticing that Quinn. I am trying to find that middle place where I am fearless to speak my truth about my experience of yoga practice and my navigation of it, and also not “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” I see already that pushes a lot of people’s hot buttons. Like you are either positive or negative, and no one should be negative (God forbid). I think there is a middle way- **awareness without the need to decide what is positive or negative with the courage to have an open heart when we don’t know or understand. I think that is what Joslyn is getting at- that the adoption of a positive “religion” as she calls it, is another thing to cling to. I have no problem with religion actually- although it has not much to do with yoga. Anyway, I love the book “Buddhism without Belief” by Stephen Batchelor. Nice to see you here again Quinn.
      XO Kimberly

  7. Nancy A says:

    Part of the problem is that there is an idea that we all have to agree on one idea of yoga (or one approach). I’m a big fan of suggesting that there is something out there for everyone if what I have to offer is not for you. I’m not classically yogic or vegan or always chanting, nor am I radically new in my approach to yoga. People looking for a teacher that is strict about alignment or quotes the Sutras each class might be disappointed, as would a person who hopes for a fitness style class.
    I have had students come up so many times and tell me what they wished I would do differently and I just simply say “thanks for letting me know, that’s not my approach” and if it becomes an issue suggest other teachers they might try. I’ve had people comment negatively on my posts at Elephant Journal and on my blog. I say bring the debate, but just not on my mat.
    I’m not implying that we as teachers keep things all hunky dorey, just that challenges by students and other teachers really should be conduted elsewhere. I’m not petitioning for positivity like unicorns, rainbows or a rendition of kumbaya, yet I still think a yoga class is NOT the place for a heated debate. My classes are a place to come and breathe and find space, not challenges or conflict. We have enough of those off the mat.

    • Kimberly Johnson says:

      Hi Nancy,

      I am not sure that I totally understand your response. Maybe we can clarify in our exchange.
      I am not suggesting, at all, that there is one yoga or philosophy. Being vegan in my opinion has nothing to do with yoga. Chanting is something personal that if it happens to be your thing, great. If not, great. Yoga is amazing because there are so many elements to it.

      My classes are not dialectics engaging the weak points of other schools and the strength of my method (although I do hear an awful lot of that in other people’s classes. A lot of phrases that go like this: “In blah-blah-blah yoga, we do blah-blah-blah” and make me wanna puke because they are usually just phrases about what yoga is about, but people are so invested in their style and so un-exposed to the bigger picture, that they think their style is the one where “everything is God” or “the teacher does not practice while teaching.” Things that are totally incorrect, historically revisionist and demonstrate a total lack of understanding and respect for each approach.)

      My classes present what resonates for me, what has worked in my experience, and what I think my students need. It sounds like yours do too.

      I also do not share the nitty gritty of my personal life. That is simply not professional- not what my students come for and not what I am offering. I totally agree that opinions about other schools are better left over tea or coffee if someone really needs to have that conversation.

      That being said, I have put a muzzle on myself for a long time, because of what I articulated here, a sense of shame and like I was betraying someone by expressing my true opinion publicly about what I see is a bizarre and off course direction in the yoga community.

      For the record, that being said I am also not in favor of dampening out your natural sparkiness and personality, adopting something that is supposed to be more spiritual in the form of quiet, pensive, and deep.

      Thanks for your comment!

      • Nancy A says:

        Hey KJ.. yes.. I agree my comment seemed kind of “huh?” after I re-read your post (sorry, I was in a sleepy haze). The uber positivity thing isn’t exactly what I preach in my classes… I’d never say I’m woo-woo ( or foo-foo to quote Linda) but I do bring in a sparkle and smile. I detest classes where the teacher is too negative or shares the drama in her/his life. I have my own stuff to work out and I don’t think it’s appropriate. I also cannot stand the all is wine and roses stuff either. However, what I was trying to say is that the idea that yoga has to all be the same is just silly… there are people who need the uplifting and those that want to churn. Neither is better or worse on a scale of “goodness” unless you are directly addressing how the class works for you.

        My issue with a post like this and so many commenting on the state of yoga today is that there is this tendency to put all of yoga in a box: too positive or need less positivity. (I realize now from your reply that was not your intent, but I guess it felt that way to me initially. ) Why not walk away from teachers who bring in a vibe you don’t dig and go to those that resonate deeply with you. I guess I just don’t get why we have to lump it all together.

        The fake positivity spin does not work for me at all, but I know lots of yogis who NEED to hear these things to feel good. Does this make their teachers less effective or them less yogic? Perhaps this was my real question in a very round about confusing way. (no sleep on this end today.. ;-) )

  8. Kris Nelson says:

    Great work, Kimberly!

  9. Matthew says:

    I personally love it when my teacher is a little cranky. It’s rare but it really pushes the class in a new direction: namely away from the faux-utopia (fauxtopia?) many pretend the class to be.

    • Kimberly Johnson says:

      Haha, that’s an interesting way of looking at it. When I was teaching super fulltime, I remember having days when I would be cranky and then have guilt afterward. But it is really important to remember that we are trying to get students attention, to wake people up and to model being authentic/being ourself rather than creating an image of what spiritual is.

  10. Thais says:

    this is a great post kimberly – and it is posts like these that remind us to take everything with a grain of salt. to question the world and everything taught to us. just because everyone says it is so does not actually make it so. having a curiosity and a passion towards yoga means (in my mind) to take everything in and churn out what feels right for us. the dualism of positive and negative both have a space in our world. thank you for sharing and muitos beijos lindinha <3

  11. Carol Horton says:

    Hi Kimberly – Thanks for another great post. Having studied primarily with Ana Forrest, I must say that I have not been exposed all that much to this culture of forced positivity – although enough to completely get what you and some of the other RY peeps are talking about. It all totally makes sense & I could not agree more about the need to get real. If practice in some ways might get harder then, it also starts to get more meaningful, more exciting, and more potentially transformative.

    There is a deep positivity that we can arrive at by going through all the crap. It’s an ongoing process but I believe deeply that it’s possible, and nothing could be more inspiring. True positivity isn’t based on denial; it comes like the phoenix rising from the ashes.

  12. Maira says:

    Hi Kimberly,
    A fierce and probing post about the cult of positivity that dominates not just yogi teachers and their students, but psychotherapy and other healing modalities. As a therapist and life coach, specifically as a therapist, I am put in the position by both my colleagues and clients, that I need to have it all together and that having it all together means that I am happy and positive all the time. I can’t tell you how shocked some of my clients look when I tell them I have bad days, days where I don’t know what I am doing or why I am doing what I am. Or the guilt and self-doubt I feel if I admit to my colleagues that all is not roses and butterflies in my personal life. It’s like my ability to be a good therapist comes into questions.

    On the contrary, I have found that being real and honest with clients but not making it about me, is where they connect and trust me on a much deeper level.

    You say, “Teaching people how to be present with what their actual experiences/ feelings/ mental patterns are, rather than bombarding them with bad philosophy, is essential.” Amen and Word! This is such a radical and almost taboo concept in pop culture and media, yet, it is the foundation for so much growth.

    I always appreciate your radical honesty.

    And thanks to Joslyn Hamilton for the lovely quote by Pema.

  13. adan says:

    kimberly, lot of great points, love the dialog this is opening up ( as w/emily at )

    being real, or trying to, wow, it’s such a trip for me

    sometimes i have to just be in the grief or anger, and other times i really need to get over it

    sometimes the negative is critical and must be faced (or risk repeating or going down with it), yet other times, a few deep breaths, a roll of my eyes, and yea, i was getting way too hyped about it

    who decides? who else? each of us…

    as you so brilliantly close, “After all, we don’t really know what is going on with most of the students who come to our classes. It takes some humility to remember that.”

    thank you so much,


  14. emelie rota says:

    Kimberly, you’ve sparked some amazing dialogue with this article, and I think it takes real courage to speak out on this issue… It seems to me that in many environments (Yoga and beyond) people embrace what they think they should be embracing, versus what they truly connect with. Meaningful happiness doesn’t come from a painted on smile in the face of adversity…. I believe it comes from just being with the hard times, the depression… listening to your body… then asking yourself what might come out of it. Is it possible for a flower to rise from the rocks? Perhaps, but you can’t force it to grow, it has to come in it’s own time. It’s pretty ineffective to build a true practice doing and saying things that aren’t true to self.

  15. Jasmine says:


    I felt kindred connection while reading your post. I’m not sure I can articulate my mind. Although I too cringe at the “positivity” I encounter in some yoga classes/communities and feel as I walk into certain yoga classes as if I’m the shadow herself, I think the greater challenge for myself as a teacher/student and the greater missing presence I witness in the yoga world is that of true uncertainty…of acknowledging how little we know.

    Certainly puts the lid on dialogue, on listening, on witnessing the unknown as it presents itself in each moment.


  16. Jessica Powers says:

    I think the positivity cult has a hold over our society in many ways – little and small, and in fair response to the negative pulse pushing much of our media. It’s a funny, sick duo.

    Back in high school I had a dream about beating the crap out of the teacher who told me, nearly every week, to ‘smile more’ – drove me nuts and made me realize that most people are so unsettled by whatever is going on for them, that they can’t be faced with a hint of dissatisfaction in others. This is backed by the general finding that in circles of socialization the farthest ring from intimacy is ruled by the insincere and thrown away question ‘how are you?’ If we ask because we care, it’s a rarity. More often we are expected to say ‘fine’ and gloss over our reality with all the ups, downs, and flatlands.

    I think there is Pollyanna positivity – useless and needing a nice smack, so thanks for providing it! – and honest positivity that can hold the fact that reality is made of more than one shade of good or bad and that most of life is some kind of grey mix of the two. As a teacher, I don’t want to be on a spiritual pedestal, I want to be a person who happens to also teach. That requires teaching from our experiences, not necessary dragging our students into our mess.

    And now I will go before my prebreakfast ramble begins to make no sense even to myself…

    Cheers for a great post!

  17. Svasti says:

    I too, have issues with the “positivity cult” although it’s not as predominant here in Australia as I’ve seen in the US. However, people use platitudes all the time, not just in the yoga world. I think it’s mostly because many people have no idea what to say to someone who’s in a very raw place.

    My yoga and my path have pretty much shown me there’s no point pretending to be positive all the time. Real life isn’t like that.

    Also, I’ve just been meditating on the following: If you can’t see yourself as non-different from your students or anyone else around you, then I don’t think you are teaching yoga. And if you see yourself as the same as your students, then how can you offer non-sensical positive comments?

    It’s for the best? There must be “some higher meaning”? These statements aren’t helpful and they offer no direct engagement with the person we are saying them to.

    Sure, I can tell you how I think going through five years of hell has ultimately changed me for the better. But if you’d suggested that to me at the time, I might’ve wanted to punch you in the face.

    Ultimately, the positivity cult is just another way of buffering cold hard reality, which isn’t always full of sunshine, rainbows and pretty colours.

  18. Anna Argeropoulos says:

    i really love your perspective, and am right on board with you. for me, this is totally yogic, because it’s about truth.

    i can remember being in my teacher training, and having a mentor who was just not mentally showing up to the small group sessions we were required to have. the four of us in the group complained some to each other, and then decided that we needed to talk to the heads of the program about the situation. it was taken care of, but i felt some subtle push back from one of the program directors, because we weren’t being all hearts and flowers about our experience.

    when i meet with challenging stuff, i normally ask myself, “what can i learn from this? what does this have to teach me?” rather than “how can i spin this in a positive light?” and i am always ready for there to be no answer to those questions… life does not have to always make sense. but sometimes, there is something in my experience i can learn from, and more often than not, it’s something my students can learn from, too (not the nitty-gritty details of my experience, but the broader concepts).

  19. Martha says:

  20. Yogini5 says:

    The positivity in yoga classes accomplishes three things that are great for yoga-as-a-business:

    1. Helps yoga teachers (particularly young ones) live down yoga’s hippie, unshaven, granola legacy and appeal in the NOW to mainstream, possibly corporate types (the ones with buck$ who could buy high-end yoga instruction or spinoffs like massage and retreats).

    2. Helps yoga teachers have a reason to get up in the morning and teach the class.

    3. Foster spiritual dependency on the class (if kicking your butt in class – with and without aggressive adjustments – was not enough to foster actual biomechanical and physical dependency (at the cellular level) on the class– to keep the people coming back to class)

    Pardon my cynicism, but they liked this poor person’s wallet too much.

  21. Jack Bennett | 32000 Days says:

    I think the Dead Kennedys said it best in California Über Alles:
    Zen fascists will control you
    100% natural
    You will jog for the master race
    And always wear the happy face

    audio at

  22. De West says:

    Thanks Kimberly! You are on one! Sharing some of the insights we have talked about (years ago) and putting out for all to see and reflect on. Thank you for using self-inquiry and asking us all to look inside and to ponder this.

  23. linda says:

    I posted this link on my FB page and got almost 20 comments on it.

    all of my classes are private with long-time students so what I say to them is a bit different than what I would say in a public workshop. we actually all go to the same healers, chiropractic and otherwise, and one day when everyone was yakking about what’s wrong with them, physically and otherwise, after almost 10 years of my teaching, I said with a big smile: “after all time time we’re all still fucked up, right?”

    so much for the positivity cult. and have a good day. :D

  24. maya says:

    You might like this, especially this entry called “Have You Ever Been Bright-Sided?” — I LOVE that more people are finally pushing back on the phony, narcissistic messages we’ve been getting sold. To me, the whole “you create your own reality” cult is just an ancient evil repackaged in modern clothing. It also happens to KILL compassion because, don’t you know?, the women in Darfur are getting tortured because of their negative karma. They “deserved” it in some way, which thank god/dess relieves me from having to care, much less actually DO anything…. WTF???

  25. Harleigh Quinn says:

    I love the article, as, being Buddhist, this positivity movement has irked me to no end.

    I only have ONE criticism. I cannot say exactly what is taught in yoga, but dharma is the teachings of Buddha, while Dukka is what we must go through toward our path to enlightenment.

    I do know that Buddha did take many things from his Hindu and Brahman backgrounds, but I feel this may be one that has been utilized backward into the yoga community and misused as well.

    Again, I could be incorrect in this, but ibhave always known dharma to be the teachings.

    Now, of we are speaking of the cycle of, let’s say, yin and yang, then that would be Karma.

  26. Sharon Melesko says:

    Kimberly, thank you for this. Right on the money. My mantra, “Don’t Lie.”

  27. M Petruzzi says:

    Hi Kimberly,

    I enjoyed this post. The sort of “meta-point” here, from my perspective, is that some folks will dive into practices, and use platitudes, and repeat affirmations and chants, without spending the time and focus necessary to explore the mental models, philosophy, and “soul” behind a practice or discipline. Their resulting “implementation” for lack of a better term, can bring often unexpected emotional or physical results, or no effect at all.

    For example, chanting that something is “perfect” using a mental model of a single object or event being complete and incapable of further evolution is one thing (and goes quite against our inner knowing). Chanting that something is perfect with the mental model of the Universe unfolding exactly as its mechanism and spirit allow for, including the empowerment of ourselves in choosing thoughts and courses that bring both what we want, and what we don’t want, is another. ;)

    As our society, minds, and souls ever quicken, I suspect we’ll find it ever more helpful to think and feel things through a bit more when making any kind of choice—including what affirmations, chants, and Yoga classes are best for us. :)


  28. Dawn Dancing Otter says:

    I feel that what is perfect is what is authentic. As a Shamanic Yogini, the journey home has always been about self-spelunking.

    It only makes sense to hide what is really happening if we are concerned about being exposed to the criticism of others (which is a learned fear for most of us). If the fear is greater than the weight of wearing a mask, then one stays well hidden. This is a condition found in humankind, (yoga teachers included!)

    When I expose my truth -how I am feeling or experiencing anything – the perfection in the response reveals the wholeness from which I was holding myself in fear.

    I love that you are sharing in this blog, thank you.

    In Grace,
    Dawn Dancing Otter

    • M Petruzzi says:

      Hi Dawn,

      That’s interesting, I have another blog in the works on the subject of authenticity, because I deal with it so often with coaching clients and when I am training on communication. You write, “t only makes sense to hide what is really happening if we are concerned about being exposed to the criticism of others (which is a learned fear for most of us).”

      I would suggest it also may make sense to consider what is appropriate to share in context of the relationship. What is your relationship to the individual or group you are about to be authentic with? I would suggest this will determine what is authentic in the relationship.

      Approaching authenticity in this way, means that we include consideration of our impact in “expressing our truth.” There is an argument that might go like this: “we create our own reality, so whatever is said, the other person is supposed to hear.” I would re-write it as: “When we co-create our reality, we will also co-create interactions we can learn from, and among those learnings, we may eventually include the awareness of the undesirability of overreaching our sense of appropriateness in our communications, with a rule of thumb that says, “always speak your truth”—unless—part of that truth includes what the relationship is calling for. ;)


      • Dawn Dancing Otter says:

        interesting…though I feel that responsibility is a natural expansion of authenticity. Authenticity, (in my experience) is not the same thing as just saying anything that’s on your mind. My reality includes the connection that I feel with other beings in this journey. As I would not knowingly hurt myself, so would I not knowingly hurt another. And sometimes being kind so to prevent suffering requires me to say things that others find hard to hear. Sometimes others say things to me that are hard to hear. That is not necessarily an unkindness or irresponsible.

        My feeling is that this blog, for example, reveals a lot of personal truth. And the writer clearly feels some sense of safety and also extends friendly invitation to go deeper within the readership.I feel that is a demonstration of authenticity and responsibility.

  29. Carlon says:

    A most refreshing post!

    I have of the found that the criticism of “being negative” is just a way to shoot down people who disagree without needing to make an argument. I find this ironic because I studied Indian philosophy and Indian Yogic philosophers managed to argue with others without being labeled “negative”. Someone actually responded with an argument. Oh, the good ol’ days, I guess.

    • M Petruzzi says:

      Hi Carlon,

      Great point. As I wrote in response to a poster on my site:

      “I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I don’t really care for using the terms “positive” and “negative” to describe anything but electrical charges and poles. LOL. Still, I will continue to use them—though sparsely—to describe what we find desirable, and undesirable (respectively), or what we find expansive, or constrictive (respectively).

      Ultimately, we have to come down to taking responsibility for what we want, and then evaluate all experiences based on what we want. Even when we feel negative, this is actually giving us beneficial information: we are off track in some way—be that separated from our inner guidance, or confronted with something that is outside, or runs against our preferences. What would we do with out the very positive feedback of negative emotion! How would we hone in ever more specifically on what we want, and what will bring us closer to the greater freedom and expansion we are looking for.”

      It makes perfect sense to me that a very positive argument can happen amongst beings who share loving intent, and who are also authentic in relation to the relationship.


  30. Kathleen Thomas says:

    This Rocks. Thank you so much for being SO brave and sharing so diligently your desire to express the real shizzle. I’ll be smiling for days from the imagery I’ve created of the ancient yogis “throwing shit down.”

    Well done and thumbs up for your authenticity and for taking a stand – it’s incredibly refreshing.

    I’m a mom too – of a three year old little boy – and I recently discovered a parenting / communication approach that really blew me away because it takes into consideration (and allows and encourages) the type of really FEELING expression that I think you’re talking about in your final paragraph. After reading some of these new-fangled suggestions, it brought to my attention the shocking extent to which really authentic feelings are sort of quickly and cleanly swept up – beginning at birth! And, the extent to which we actively TEACH our children that this is the way it should be. That they have no right to really feel and express. It all starts so early. In our desire to help them, to keep them from experiencing what we perceive to be more hurt or frustration, we “help” them quickly wipe it away. How different would the world be if instead we were given models to really understand, express and feel the shit out of our difficult experiences?

    Thanks again for this important and eye-opening commentary.



  31. Rock My Soles says:

    Part of being a yoga teacher is stir up students (pardon) shit, not pretending it doesn’t exist or ignoring it.
    Am I in trouble now?

    • Stewart Lawrence says:

      Excuse me – MOST if not ALL of being a yoga teacher is providing a credible wellness service, and that means making sure your students get their $20 worth – or refunding their hard-earned cash. No one’s a guinea pig for some self-absorbed spiritual wannabe’s personal agitation mission – not when there are qualified priests, counselors, and friends available. American “yogis,” especially the yahoos trained in the standard 200-hour spin-dry curriculum, need to stick to the very little they actually know and can provide. And not quit their day job.

  32. Positivity is puny—compared to compassion or love says:

    [...] a few things that have been clarified for me through the exchange of comments from my last article, Count me out of the positivity cult—both here on the Recovering Yogi site and on Facebook walls all over. Thank you to everyone who [...]

  33. inspire :: life is not too short says:

    [...] sort of happy factor that simply isn’t there. Kimberly Johnson wrote about this in her MUY controversial article on what she deems “The positivity cult.” To think that there is always a higher meaning [...]

  34. Mercury in Retrograde is not a good excuse for you to be an asshole to me. | elephant journal says:

    [...] adamantly protest that they can control their own destiny, with The Law of Attraction, a generally Stepford-like commitment to positivity, and a lifestyle dedicated to eating the “right” things and practicing the “right” ways and [...]

  35. rumajahn says:

    Really enjoying this inquiry into the nature of positivity.

    If it’s appropriate, I think being open and honest about one’s mood – sad, grumpy, angry, frustrated etc. to students and colleagues in the ‘community’ suggests integrity. It takes courage and vulnerability to communicate these emotions without indulging, projecting or reacting. Helps build trust, understanding and confidence in relationship.
    Complaining and appointing blame as justification suggests something else.

    Like truth, false positivity carries a vibration that is instantly recognisable and can undermine trust, understanding and confidence.
    I find it a delightful inspiration when the speaker is evidently on a downer though can make light of their heavy emotions.
    Preferable to a forced smile and some vacuous maxim.

    The ability to laugh at one self may be one of the forgotten limbs…

  36. Matthew says:

    A long time ago I visited Venice, California. Had a fling with a woman ten years older than I was. I was dealing with anxiety and when she would ask “what was wrong” I honestly replied, “I am feeling anxious and afraid.” Her reply, “stop feeling negative emotions!!!!” Anytime I wanted to speak what was on my heart I was demanded that I should stop feeling. I told her that fear, anger, and sadness were just as much apart of my authenticity as happiness. She then replied, “your wrong about that.” I then visited her “channler” a highly manipulative woman who was instructing her congregation to stop feeling negative emotion. I then quickly realized what this was. If you demand people not to have fear or anger or grief they will not rise up, rebel, and call out your bullshit. After a lot of controling behavior I had to say good bye to her. But I realized through this experience what a huge shame the cult of positivity is. And how it not only splits off emotions we don’t want to deal with it is the origin of apathy and lacks compassion.

  37. Open letter from a reader says:

    [...] just read the article about the “Cult of Positivity” on your website. I can’t tell you how happy –and relieved—I am to come across a site like [...]

  38. Why R U Here? Explore the ?! @Yogging Heads Toronto. | elephant journal says:

    [...] All too often, however, the yoga community seems bunkered down in a hermetically sealed bubble of “positivity” that willfully denies the many pathologies present not only in the world, but the yoga community [...]

  39. Richard Hudak says:

    Count me out of the negativity sect. I think you set up a straw man caricature of particularly “lulu” New-Age positivity without examining sturdier arguments for life-affirming philosophies. Warmed-over, left-over “original sin” is simply too tamasic for my blood.

  40. Yoga Modern » Has Yoga Created a Culture of Escape? says:

    [...] manifesting negative attitudes about money, and that if they’d only become more positive, The Universe would bless them with all the prosperity they could ever dream [...]

  41. Junk Shops. | elephant journal says:

    [...] actually touching on that, but felt it necessary to address the pitfalls as no one, with all the “cult of positivity” we see in the news and on Facebook now, really touches on that at [...]

  42. THAT BOY AWFHR says:


  43. I am serious | RecoveringYogi says:

    [...] I am not a fan of compulsory positivity. [...]

  44. Revellish Blog » Blog Archive » inspire :: life is not too short says:

    [...] sort of happy factor that simply isn’t there. Kimberly Johnson wrote about this in her MUY controversial article on what she deems “The positivity cult.” To think that there is always a higher meaning [...]

  45. Life is Not Too Short - A Forbidden Life says:

    [...] sort of happy factor that simply isn’t there. Kimberly Johnson wrote about this in her MUY controversial article on what she deems “The positivity [...]

  46. says:

    Hi, that is a great article.

  47. Ayla says:

    This is by far one of the best things I have read anywhere for a long, long time. In fact, I have just stopped reading most things, because I am so tired of the same old same old from other people not much wiser than I. Much more interested now in what my own life experience has to say than yet another smiling guru droning out more Spiritual Materialism.

    Someone I know heard about a raffle being held to fly to Hawaii and meet Ram Dass (one of my favorite yogis – really, especially since the stroke). This person asked me, “What would you ask Ram Dass if you met him?” Without skipping a beat (you’re dealing with a hardcore New Yorker here) I replied, “I would ask him – WTF???” I really would. It’s the only question that matters. And as I enter my fifth decade I realize more and more that most (if not all) answers that can be given to that question are BS. It is not ours to know – and yet it is, and we already do. I guess I have finally come to believe in my heart that all we can really accomplish here is to love the questions themselves, as Rilke observed.

    You are awesome and I hope you will continue to “lançar o merda” for a long time to come!

  48. Rise | Zenarchery says:

    [...] deny that, I suppose. Being an angry person has become deeply unfashionable, these days; when the cult of positivity reigns supreme over (at least) American West Coast culture, a surly motherfucker such as myself [...]

  49. says:

    Wow! This blog looks just like my old one! It’s on a
    completely different subject but it has pretty much the
    same layout and design. Excellent choice of colors!

  50. best baby monitors 2014 says:

    Very good blog! Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers?
    I’m planning to start my own blog soon but I’m a little
    lost on everything. Would you propose starting with
    a free platform like WordPress or go for a
    paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m totally overwhelmed ..
    Any ideas? Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Asterisk (*) marked fields are required

 characters still available (brevity is a form of creativity!)