Dear Mr. Dana,
I’m writing to you as a concerned reader of Rolling Stone, and a former employee and current practitioner of Dahn Yoga. I am also writing as someone who trained, lived, and worked in the Boston Dahn Yoga Centers with many of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit currently pending against the company and other defendants. I now work for the publishing company that produces Ilchi Lee’s books, so I definitely have a vested interest in the article you have published.
Rolling Stone is an icon in our culture. What you say has weight, even with critical, discerning, and intelligent people. I really appreciate the personal perspectives and the exclusive insights that Rolling Stone provides in its stories. They make the story engaging and really come alive. And I understand that since the plaintiffs came to you first, that you would be most interested, attracted to, and sympathetic to their story. I also know that you can’t fit every bit of information available into one magazine article. Also, the words “cult” and “lawsuit” help sell magazines. The press so far around the lawsuit against Dahn Yoga, Ilchi Lee, and other defendants has primarily focused on the perspective of the plaintiffs, with some “the big organization denies everything” thrown in to give a semblance of fairness. This situation is a testament to the sad state of the media today. Despite what you have published I’d like to share with you another side of the story than the plaintiffs portray—a side that they once shared actually. And a side that is equally compelling in a different way.
To give you some background information, I took some of my Dahn Yoga training with Nina and Liza Miller, Alana Lee, Ariadne Nevin, Julia Simonson, and Alexa Krieger. I’ve lived with Alana, Ariadne, Michael Starace, Lily Christian, and Karina Rosario. I took workshops at which Heather Cleary and Heather Simeral were trainers. I worked at Lucie Vogel’s center for 4 months from December 2006 to March 2007, along with Cherie Mar and Lily Christian, and briefly with Meredith Potter.
I don’t know if you can imagine my dismay when I heard about and then read the claims in the lawsuit. Because I knew them and talked to them, even after they left Dahn Yoga, I was very aware of their opinions and feelings, both when they were involved and when they left. Understandably, there was a progressive change. Understandably, there is a time of searching and transition, and even pain, when you leave something you put so much energy into. I never held any resentment toward them or anyone else who has left, and generally we all respected each other’s opinions. But then, at some point someone decided Ilchi Lee and Dahn Yoga were such a pox on humanity that they needed to be destroyed. Hence they filed a lawsuit and started the real war—that of the media. And that is where we can’t agree to disagree. Fortunately, the weakness of their claims became apparent when 8 out of 10 claims in the lawsuit were dismissed.
My position is that Dahn Yoga is doing a lot of good in the world. People can debate about methods—for profit, non-profit, general aid, helping one person at a time. But to me, it all boils down to: there’s a lot of good in this company—too much for disagreement, cultural misunderstanding, and even accusations as serious as sexual assault, to destroy.
I’ve read the stuff on the internet, I know what it was like to work in the Dahn Yoga centers in Boston and take the training, and I’ve talked to many people both for and against the training and the system. I’m no less informed than the plaintiffs. And yet, I’m still here. Doesn’t that make you ask why? Aren’t you a bit curious? Would you really take the label of brainwashing and accept it and generically apply it to the many thousands of people who happen to agree with Ilchi Lee’s philosophy? That doesn’t sound critical, skeptical, or intelligent to me.
I can feel absolutely positive that at every step in my training and my decision making that I weighed the pros and cons, that I knew what I was getting into and what it would cost. Doesn’t it mean anything that with open eyes I chose to stay when others have left? I am a Cornell University graduate who majored in Neurobiology and Behavior. I worked in a neurophysiology lab for four years at Weill Cornell Medical College and attended a master’s program in Health Communication at Emerson College. My friends and family can confirm that I’m an intelligent person. Why then, are my choices less worthy then theirs? Why then is something I agree with and believe in being labeled as dangerous, scary, and delusional?
One reason may be that it just doesn’t look the same on the outside as most other things in our society. The Asian system of training and growth is very different from our Western concepts of “the way it should be”. So it seems, if you don’t want to get married, have kids, and make as much money as you can, you’re crazy and someone must be manipulating you? If you think that you need a lot of people working together to make any kind of difference in the world, you’re part of a cult? If you believe that there is hope for the world and want to contribute what you have to a group that gave you that hope, that tries to help people be stronger and happier and loving on an individual level as well as a global level and provides a supportive network to do it, you’re all naïve and crazy? You must be brainwashed!
As far as money is concerned, I never took out a loan and then just handed the money over to the company. I did use loans to pay for Dahn Mu Do School and Dahn Healer School because I wanted to take those programs sooner rather than later. But I knew what that meant for my personal finances and decided it was worth it. No one pushed me. They made suggestions, and then I decided what I wanted. I take full responsibility for it.
Well, if you want edgy, how about people having the guts to stand up for hope and love in the world even when it’s not popular, even if the world thinks that they’re crazy and points fingers at them and calls them a cult? You’re Rolling Stone. Write about the revolution in consciousness that is taking place around the world and of which Dahn Yoga is a part. Isn’t that more exciting than “disgruntled employees vs. a cult”? Isn’t that going to help the world more than a supposed expose` about sexual assault and “brainwashing”? I dare you to look deeper than the surface, to use your gut, and to follow your heart.
Much of the information you report contains distortions as well as outright lies. The plaintiffs say we were encouraged to cut ties from my family. Actually, they and I kept in touch with my family. I went to NY to visit during holidays. I would call my mother as often as I did before I started my Dahn training. When she died, I went home for the wake and the funeral and received a lot of support from my fellow instructors. The regional manager said that I should not take instructor training unless I “made harmony” with my family first. While I went home to visit, for one holiday the Dahn Centers in Boston even invited all of the instructors’ families to get together for a party. It was before my time, but at one point Dahn Yoga encouraged and gave extra money for instructors to save to give to their parents, and I know people in Boston who did that. Actually, it’s still a policy in Korea.
Those of us who have worked for Dahn Yoga have received a lot of personal and intangible rewards in return, rewards that are not talked about when ex-employees complain about instructors “volunteering” too much time. And the managers in the centers are given a lot of latitude about how they use their time. The difficult part of working in a Dahn Yoga center, in my opinion, comes from trying to create a successful business—especially one based on holistic health that is not supported by most insurance companies and depends on people’s discretionary income and commitment to putting in the work to heal themselves. But I don’t think that is strange, suspicious, or wrong. Dahn Yoga employees are rare and amazing people. Your reporter should have taken the time to find out more about them.
I am sincerely disappointed that you did not look at this story through more than one lens. I trust that the writers and editors on your staff are flexible and creative enough to do that, but have sadly chosen not to.
Dear Mr. Dana,
You recently wrote an article about Dahn Yoga describing it as, among other things, a “cult.” I find this very disturbing because your report is one-sided and biased. It focuses on those people who decided to leave their jobs and stop their yoga practice because of their feelings about Ilchi Lee or the ethical standards that are expected of Dahn Yoga employees. The key point is that they decided.
Dahn yoga is not a cult. In the two and a half years that I have practiced Dahn yoga, I have lost 45 pounds, recovered flexibility in my knees, and joints, regained my intestinal peristalsis so that I no longer suffer from constipation or sinusitis. I manage my moods with greater patience and insight. My self esteem is healthy. I have a willingness to try new activities, even tasks that are not in my comfort zone. I have worked diligently to reclaim my health. I am grateful for the competent recommendations that have resulted in the ongoing improvement of my health.
All told, my experience with Dahn yoga has been very positive. Through this training, I have changed my physical, emotional and mental health. Traditional allopathic medicine offers health through medication. As we know medication has side effects. To me that’s not acceptable. Simply stated, Dahn yoga is very effective. Practitioners see real improvement in their health from day one. Unlike traditional medicine there’s no masking and managing symptoms. Dahn yoga works!
Frankly, it’s rather insulting that you base your entire article on the experience of disgruntled employees whose many complaints and charges are patently untrue. Would you even consider writing an article about a disgruntled employee who worked for Rolling Stone magazine without talking to a staff manager? I doubt it. It seems to me that Jade Harrelson et al want a lot of attention and a lot of money and they’re willing to lie to get it. And you appear to be the go-to guy.
Albuquerque Dahn Yoga center, NM
My name is John Thompson and I am a manager at a New Jersey Dahn Yoga center. I am writing now in response to your story about something which has great personal meaning for me–Dahn Yoga. I am disappointed that you did not do a balanced piece. You missed out on many interesting and amazing stories about Dahn Yoga and its practitioners.
I would like to share about myself to Rolling Stone, as I have been a 30+ year reader of your magazine. Before working for Dahn, I was a professional symphonic double bassist for 25 years, the last 15 of which I spent as a member of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. When I began my path at the Dahn Yoga center, I was not a college-aged youngster looking for a job and career, but a seasoned professional in the prime of my career. I was an instructor at William Paterson University and worked alongside such renowned artist as the late James Williams and Mulgrew Miller. I was a bass and cello coach for the Greater Newark Youth Orchestra and also was a mentor to many of these young, talented musicians. And, I was an active recording engineer and collaborated in recording projects with musicians in New Jersey, North Carolina and Tennessee. Additionally, as member of the American Federation of Musicians for twenty-five years, I was a union activist who negotiated CBAs, and when necessary, represented and protected my colleagues before our employer. I love being a musician and I am very proud of the things which I have had the privilege to do as a musician.
As a young musician, I was very influenced by the work ethic and spirituality of players like Carlos Santana, John Coltrane and the Allman Brothers–people covered by RS and very influential in the late ’60s and early ’70s. However, I also copied the drug abusing lifestyle of many of these same musicians. As a young teenager, my constant companion was the RS Rock ‘n Roll Reader, edited by Ben Fong Torres. My aesthetic as a player and a person was set by these early musical role models.
By age 40, I was not in great shape physically and I recognized that my personal life was stagnant. This is when one of my bass students, Kermit Driscoll, ten-year member of the Bill Frisel Trio, introduced me to Dahn Yoga. I was very surprised that in my adulthood and well into my career, I actually found a spiritual practice which satisfies my deepest yearning and one which reflects the desire from my youth of bringing healing to myself, the society and the planet. I am now the most physically healthy that I have been in my whole life. I wake up every day happy and grateful for another chance to contribute to society and consciously engage in my personal growth. And, I am no longer plagued by the loneliness and emptiness which I tried to fill with outside stimulation. When applied sincerely and diligently, the Dahn Yoga practice can bring huge benefits to a person–this has been my experience and this is why I spend my time for my own practice and working for Dahn Yoga. I am just one among many thousands of Dahn Yoga practitioners worldwide who can share how much healing and positivity Dahn Yoga has brought to my life.
I do not see any useful or beneficial purpose in writing about a group of miscreant former employees. Among them, Lucie Vogel is known to have operated a ponzi scheme, which cost Dahn Yoga hundreds of thousands of dollars and negatively affected the lives of many people–including the lives of many of the plaintiffs in the now mostly-dismissed lawsuit against Dahn and Ilchi Lee. And among this group are some who embezzled money from Dahn–I have seen the evidence first-hand. Why would one wish to share their story when there is a much more compelling and positive stories to tell?
Of course, Rolling Stone Magazine is free to write about anything it chooses. And as a consumer who is seriously interested in the musical world, I will also exercise my choice when reading about the music industry and patronizing advertisers. I will choose that which is positive and which brings healing to our humanity and our planet.
BR Holistic Healing
Dear Will Dana,
I understand that you have the freedom to write whatever you want, but don’t you have any standards of journalism and fair reporting? The article entitled “Yoga Cult” in your February issue was not only severely biased against Dahn Yoga, it was filled with inaccuracies, slander, and outright lies. What kind of fact checking is required by your editorial team? Are you in the business of investigating issues or are you simply a puppet, repeating the story from only one side?
I’m not excited about bashing two former friends, but in your report you repeat word for word the stories from Amy and Ricardo. I’m writing to tell you that those stories are not true.
Amy Shipley and Ricardo Barba were not the victims of any mind-control or subversive indoctrination. They both chose to be active in Dahn Yoga in order to fix problems that already existed in their lives and ultimately to contribute positively to the world. Amy was a recovering drug addict who had self-esteem problems stemming from being abused by family members when she was a child. Amy was intelligent but tricky, and irresponsible. She abused herself and sought the same kind of treatment from others. Ricardo was unfocused and arrogant, failing to show up to work for regular shifts and talking instead of doing anything while on the job. He was involved with many different women at the same time he was supposedly with Amy. Amy was hurt by his cheating and many times she expressed the desire to move on without him.
Amy was the kind of person who would say or do anything to get by. Before Amy or I had even become involved with Dahn Yoga, I happened to share an apartment with her as a temporary roommate in Chicago. At the time Amy was working part-time jobs and deciding what to do with her life. She was dating an older man and getting money from him. At the same time she was seeing another man. She was not doing drugs heavily when I knew her, but she told me about almost dying from an overdose a few years before when she was in high school. At the end of our time as roommates she decided to travel to Central America and she left without paying her rent. I didn’t hear from her for a few years after that, I expected never to see her again.
But then one night she showed up at a Halloween party we were having, dressed as Marilyn Monroe. I was shocked, but pleasantly surprised to see her. We ended up hanging out and she became a regular member at the Dahn Center.
To make a long story short, Amy spoke intelligently and passionately about her desire to become a Dahn master and continued taking trainings. When she started teaching class I could feel the bottled up emotions and self-doubt inside her. But she kept saying “This is what I want, I can do it!” So she kept teaching, taking trainings, taking more responsibility. She would guide other people with such intense passion. Sometimes I wanted to tell her ‘slow down’ but that was Amy, always going 100 mph. And she did well, becoming more confident and sincere, teaching class better, until finally she became a Master instructor.
Being a Dahn Yoga instructor is not the easiest job in the world, but it’s also not the hardest. I would routinely take breaks during the day or on weekends, see friends, go on dates. Amy did too, but she harbored such intense guilt and self-criticism. Guilt and self-criticism are not the kinds of feelings promoted by Dahn Yoga, contrary to what the plaintiffs allege in the lawsuit. Those are the kinds of feelings that one may get after being sexually abused by your relatives and verbally abused by your father, as Amy was. Wherever she went, she brought that kind of self-abuse with her.
Suddenly one day I heard that Amy left and went with some obsessive anti-Dahn guy named Andrew. Amy told me all about Andrew before she left, how he was attracted to her, called her, even planned to come take her away, and kept harassing her with stories of Dahn Yoga being a cult. Amy told me that she knew it was all bullshit and he just wanted to have her. But then she left, and soon enough she was saying the same things. I know Ricardo was hurt by Amy’s decision to leave with another man.
I can’t blame Amy too much even though she betrayed those of us who she worked with. I don’t think she ever really understood why she felt so guilty, and if she did it’s long since been obscured by a philosophy of victimization instilled by Lucie Vogel, Steve Hassan and other anti-Dahn organizers. The repeating of her twisted story in your magazine seems downright malicious. I’m not sure what the reporter’s motivation was, but I think your magazine should be more responsible about what actually gets put in print.
To: Will Dana, Managing Editor of Rolling Stone Magazine
My name is Danielle Gaudette and I am an employee of Dahn Yoga. I have been reading Rolling Stone Magazine since I was young, as my father is a bass player and always had me involved in the music world. We also always appreciated your articles that explored more than just music, and generally held the image and reputation of Rolling Stone Magazine in high regard.
However, you have published a negative article on Dahn Yoga and that is very upsetting to me. In fairness to all the readers, I had expected that you would provide a balanced story.
It’s all very sad and difficult for me to address. I have been working for Dahn Yoga for 7 years and practicing it myself for 10, and for 6 of those years Lucie Vogel herself was a friend with whom I worked very closely. For a long period of time she was even my roommate. It was the most painful period of my entire life when she turned her back on our friendship and began to gather all of my fellow co-workers and students and turn them all against me. It may sound dramatic, but it was the biggest shock of my life to find out that she was spreading a lot of false rumors and negativity behind my back about me and actively turning others against me and Dahn Yoga. And as I watched her do it, I could see she really had lost the picture of reality. She had twisted and manipulated everything she had once known, including other people, and she was just drunk with power.
Lucie always had a strong and domineering character. However, she never had a good sense of responsibility. She often told me “My mind is so corrupt – I could never be as pure as you.” And all of it culminated into a day in our apartment when I literally begged her to stop turning everyone against us and to please work together to help each other when she said, “I’m sorry. My middle name is James – it means ‘to destroyusurp’ – and that’s what I do. I like to destroy things.” And that was one of the last times I ever spoke with her. She had always told me she was very jealous of my position as an assistant regional manager and she wanted to have that position, but I never thought those feelings would lead her to cause such hurt.
I am concerned about any misunderstanding that Lucie may have experienced while we worked together. But I wish I could resolve that with her once and for all, instead of witnessing her continuous attacks against me and so many others with this media game that she is playing. Lucie always wants to win something – and as she said herself, her way of winning is to destroy. If you, Rolling Stone Magazine, participate in this young woman’s game, it is a loss for hundreds and thousands of people who are receiving benefit from Dahn Yoga all over the country and even the world. Furthermore, it is a big loss of respect for you because it shows that you too have fallen into her manipulative trap.
For this reason, it is a real tragedy that you did not consider and present the other side, allow Dahn Yoga and Ilchi Lee to really present themselves, and let the public decide for themselves. I was willing and happy to share my experiences with your reporter, because I believed that Rolling Stone was brave enough to expose the truth, and uphold the admirable reputation that my father and I have had for it since I was a young girl. Sadly, I was mistaken in my belief.
Regional Director of Boston- Area Dahn Yoga Centers
Hi, my name is Arthur Babakhanov. I know Rolling Stone to be a well known and widely read magazine. I myself read it often, so when I noticed that you had published a negative article about Dahn Yoga that could be based on false information, I felt compelled to write to you.
I have been practicing Dahn Yoga for 8 years, and I am currently the instructor and manager at the Brookline location in Boston. Dahn Yoga has truly transformed my life. I have tried many other practices and found that the benefits I experienced from Dahn Yoga, I couldn’t get anywhere else.
I knew Lucie Vogel for a long time when she was a member, before she became an instructor employed by Dahn Yoga. As a good friend, I knew that she always wanted to control and manipulate people, and that’s exactly what she’s doing now. People like Lucie or Liza Miller used to be so devoted to the practice; and to see them spreading so much false and negative information in various public arenas makes me really angry.
When Liza left the company, she wrote a letter to all the instructors in Boston explaining that she was not leaving in anger and that she felt good about her choices. But not long after she left, I could see that she had been approached by Lucie. I was saddened to see how Lucie manipulated her. They have been telling so many lies, it’s impossible to count them.
I love Dahn Yoga. It has made me a better person. The growth that I have experienced through Dahn Yoga motivates me to improve my relationships with my family and friends and enables me to help them.
Lucie Vogel, in her own form of madness, might say that Dahn Yoga is a cult. It’s not a cult at all. I feel more freedom in my life now than I ever have before. I do not consider myself to be some “brainwashed” lunatic incapable of making my own decisions or without other opportunities. In fact, before my employment with Dahn Yoga, I had a great job as a professional computer consultant. But I feel no regret about changing my career, because I feel so much more satisfied with the job I have now.
Dahn Yoga and its affiliates actually have around 3,000 employees worldwide, but it’s basically just one person, Lucie Vogel, who got angry, embroiled 26 other people in a lawsuit with unrealistic promises of money, and made a huge mess.
With your readership, I know that many people will be reading the article about Dahn Yoga, and it might be their first exposure to it. It is highly unfair for them to have a negative perception of Dahn Yoga as a result of your publishing a biased article based on false information. I am disappointed that it appears you made no attempt to investigate and get to the truth.
You could have gotten the full story about these people and what happened from some of the instructors in Boston who knew them well, but no one contacted us. When we offered we were told the reporter was not interested in our stories. I am surprised that you did not want to give the American public a fair and balanced story. I hope this letter will be reprinted so that the public can begin to hear what your reporter left out.
Based on our records and witnesses, we have additional detailed information about the lawsuit that was recently filed against Dahn Yoga and its affiliates by Andrew Myers. He was a member and part-time employee at the Alexandria, Virginia location. Andrew was a “Dahn Center Intern” when he left and did not achieve the status of full instructor. His claims principally relate to money he paid for trainings and consultations during a ten month period. His claims are not only similar, but also related to those of the plaintiffs in the Arizona lawsuit. In particular, our sources tell us that there was a romantic connection between Andrew Myers and Amy Shipley and that Amy quit her job with Dahn Yoga because of Andrew’s urgings. This connection was disregarded by the Rolling Stone reporter when she told Amy’s story.
An additional point of connection between Andrew and the other plaintiffs is their common use of so-called “cult expert” Cathleen A. Mann. Dr. Mann’s writings include an article denouncing the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step program as a “cult.” In addition to providing a statement for the Press Release from Andrew Myers’ law firm, Dr. Mann also provided a Declaration supporting several plaintiffs in the Arizona lawsuit, including the claims of Jessica “Jade” Harrelson. That statement by Jade was later shown to contain false information and was repudiatedwhen the plaintiffs filed their Second Amended Complaint with the Arizona court.