The Shadow Side of Self-Proclaimed “Light Leaders” or How I Got Scammed by Epic Academy

Like you, we believe in spreading light, peace and love to the far reaches of the universe. In order to make a massive positive impact, by giving more and reaching more people, the light leaders of the world need to know how to run a business.Amber Sears

The above quote is an excerpt from a promotion for a month-long yoga teacher training course in Thailand with Epic Academy, which was founded by Amber Sears (formerly Amber Zuckswert) (https://epicself.com).

In many ways the internet is the new wild west. People can create whatever shiny, glossy image of themselves or their product and there is no one to check them. What follows is a cautionary tale, based on my own experience.

I flew to Thailand in December 2018 for my long-awaited, month-long, yoga teacher training course with Epic Academy, hosted by Amber Sears. I had been looking forward to this trip ALL year. It provided what I thought would be the perfect combination, bringing together my passion for yoga with my interest in medicine work. On top of this I would have a chance to update and revamp my 10-year-old website. And the final cherry on top: It offered a month of “organic, gourmet, raw + vegan cuisine.” For a foodie like me, it was the description and pictures of the food that were the deciding factor. I thought I would have a chance to get super healthy and maybe even finally become a vegan. (As an animal lover, being a meat eater is an ongoing dilemma.) While I certainly don’t consider myself a “light leader,” this course still called to me on so many different levels!

I did my research and scoured the internet to find out more about this woman Amber Sears, who founded Epic Academy. I listened to her being interviewed; she was smart and funny. She seemed to know what she was talking about and, most importantly, she seemed sincere. I could not find any negative reviews about her or Epic Academy online. What I found out later was that Amber was a whiz with social media and internet marketing and she knew how to manipulate her promotional materials in order to make a sale. I learned about all the manipulation using social media and the internet too late. 

At the time, the course seemed to call my name. But there was one big glitch: It was so much more expensive than other yoga teacher trainings! When I asked Amber about this, she justified the cost with the promise that I would have “an updated, modern and completed website I could run myself by the end of the month.” This in itself meant that the course was “an incredible deal.” I had a website that worked well but it had been at least a decade since I had updated it. Furthermore, Thailand was a country I had always wanted to visit. It was on my bucket list. 2018 had seen the death of two beings I adored: my 21-year-old cat and a dear friend. I decided life was too short and started saving my pennies. I began preparing for what I thought was going to be the trip of a lifetime. Little did I know I had just signed up for possibly the worst month of my adult life!

The yoga teacher training was held at a place called the Yoga House, on the island of Koh Phangan in Thailand. Alongside the training was an Eco Chef training course (also run by Epic Academy). There was a grand total of three students in the yoga course and another three students in the adjoining Eco Chef training. Altogether we made six students. Then there was the staff: Amber; Aly, the yoga teacher; Derek, our business coach; Johanna, the head chef; and Tish, Amber’s righthand woman.

By the end of the first week, it was apparent that this experience was not going to be what I expected.

Remember how I had been drawn to the course by the beautiful photographs of delicious-looking food? In actuality, the food was incredibly bland: very little salt, no sugar or spices. It resembled a diet suitable for a cancer patient. There was none of the fruit or avocados I had seen advertised. When I asked about this, I was told that fruit was “too high glycemic” and the avocados (at $3 each) were “too expensive.” This in itself was outrageous considering how much we were paying. Despite the fact that Thailand is known for how cheap it is, it looked like the kitchen was doing some pretty heavy budgeting that month. Instead of the “rainbow salads” that had been advertised, what we got instead was the same tired salad at least twice a day. It was basically some lettuce leaves with sprouts thrown in and an occasional carrot shaving or two. I so missed the beautiful, colorful salads I make for myself at home! Then there were the portion sizes: We were served child-size portions on plates that looked more like side plates than dinner plates. Again and again, the kitchen would run out of food. I lost count of how many nights I woke up at 2 or 3 a.m. purely from hunger. As an eating disorders expert, I sensed there was some disordered eating afoot. When I found out that the head chef only ate one small (child-size) bowl of food every 24 hours, it just made me wonder!

When I woke up at 2 or 3 a.m. from hunger, I usually couldn’t go back to sleep. This made navigating seven hours of classes the next day incredibly challenging. We were supposed to do our “homework” after dinner, which was when the bulk of our new website development was to be worked on. This involved writing new content and designing the layout and formatting of the website, which is fairly technical. Needless to say, by the evening I was so wiped out from being up since 3 a.m. that the thought of tackling the building of my new website seemed overwhelming. While I was able to get most of my homework done for Derek, the business coach, and Aly, the yoga teacher, the website development suffered. Halfway through the month I saw the writing on the wall and told Amber I wanted to get my old website back. She looked at me straight in the eye and promised my updated website would be complete by the end of the month, with her help. I decided to suspend disbelief and keep muscling through. When the end of the month neared and no one’s website was anywhere near completion, we were then given an option to buy a package of coaching classes from Amber—for another $3,000. I couldn’t believe the cheek of this! Needless to say I did not go for this offer. In fact, NO ONE completed their website that month, for which we were all blamed for “not prioritizing and managing our time well.” Over and over I witnessed how the students would get the blame for any shortfalls of the program.

I rarely saw Amber or the staff take responsibility or make changes based on our feedback—and they got lots of feedback. After a week there I decided I needed to talk to Amber directly about the food situation and waking up at night due to hunger. She listened politely to me and nodded and said she’d look into it, but nothing changed after this talk, absolutely nothing. Another week went by and then I saw a post from Amber on her Facebook wall with pictures of delicious food: “We are eating like royalty here in Thailand!” I had to say something and so I posted: “I’m here in Thailand with you Amber but I’m not seeing food like this. Why would you post misleading advertising?” This, I discovered, was the way to get her attention! God forbid I ruin the shiny, glossy image of Epic Academy Amber was carefully painting for the world. Amber was furious with me and a staff/student meeting was called. I went in shaking like a leaf but stood my ground as I voiced my complaints. Admittedly, the food situation did improve incrementally after this meeting, but I still suffered through many a bland, tasteless meal and still woke up from hunger two to three times a week. At least it wasn’t four to five days a week, so it was an improvement. 

Usually, however, feedback was met with severe pushback. Take, for instance, the first Eco Chef student to complain, after one week at the Yoga House, that she was not learning what she had paid for. She was unceremoniously kicked out with one hour notice to pack her bags and leave. She knew no one on the island, had nowhere to go and, to top it off, had only just found out that her dad had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer two days previously. Heartless. The message was clear: If you complain, you’re out and NO refund. It sent a chill through the rest of us who were already starting to suffer from the lack of adequate nutrition. Then there was the time that I called Amber out on all the false and misleading promises she had made around the website development. She immediately had her assistant cancel my last coaching lesson with her. No refund. Guess I should have known better.

As it turned out, the yoga course was definitely the better of the two courses being offered. By the end of the month there was NO ONE left in the Eco Chef training, it was that bad. Each student has their own horror story to tell, but that’s another article. One thing worth mentioning is that ALL the Eco Chef students I talked to had the same two complaints: They had not learned anything from Johanna (the head chef) and all of them felt like glorified kitchen staff who had paid a lot of money to wait on the yoga teacher training students and teachers. Ironically, I found myself actually feeling grateful that I had ended up in the better of the two trainings! For the yogis’ graduation there was a ceremony with all the staff and the three remaining yoga students. We were asked to dress in white and, sure enough, there was a photographer filming everything. We were asked to give video testimonials, which I politely refused, but the other two yogis did. Everyone was in a good mood. We had finally reached the end. Amber knew how to capitalize on this moment and other moments during the month, using social media to promote future sales.

I came back from Amber’s yoga teacher training course in Thailand unwillingly seven pounds skinnier, with a website in disarray and clutching my hard-earned yoga teacher training certificate. After the experience I’d had I was determined to warn the world about Amber and Epic Academy. However, I found out that because her business is internet-based and has no physical address I could not even report her to the Better Business Bureau. Furthermore, because she does all her courses abroad there really was no legal recourse I could follow. I was shocked and horrified. This article is my humble attempt to “warn the world.”

The hardest part to reconcile within myself when I finally got home was How could this have happened to me? I thought I had a good radar for BS and a decent intuition. How could I have been so misled? This question plagued me and shook me to my foundation. After all, I had been so strongly drawn to do this course with Epic Academy. This is the kind of thing I read or hear about happening to others but it doesn’t happen to me! Well, yes it does, and in the age of the internet it happens in a whole different way. 

Do you follow someone on the internet, perhaps someone who inspires you? Do they share their life with you using photos, pictures and videos about their dilemmas, relationship struggles, hopes and dreams? If so, chances are that you are in someone’s “sales funnel.” A sales funnel is a process designed to convert website visitors into paying customers. In our marketing classes with Amber we were encouraged to post on social media every day to create a sense of trust and familiarity with our audience and to inspire a following. This group, we were told, would later be more amenable to any sales funnel we created down the road because they trusted us. Alas, this is exactly how I ended up in Amber’s course! I “followed” her and it gave me the false illusion that I knew her and could trust what she was offering. 

For example, the best parts of our teacher training course were used as a way of attracting future customers: Any fun things we did during our month in Thailand, like stand-up board paddling, Kambo ceremony, or the cacao ritual, were photographed and usually video-taped. Amber hired a professional photographer to film the best meals, the classes and our graduating ceremony. At the end of the course, we were all asked to provide video testimonials, as I mentioned. She was using us to get participants for the next month’s training in Costa Rica. Amber’s use of social media is targeted and consistent; she posts frequently to keep prospective buyers in her sales funnel.

Why did I stay? This was the question my therapist asked me when I returned back to the USA. I told her that it was mostly because I had paid so much money and I wanted that darn yoga teacher certification! So did the other two yogis in my course. We all learned to put on a brave face and deal with the situation. We even snuck food into our rooms, which was strictly forbidden—and made harder by the cockroaches that then ensued—but we had to figure out how to survive.

Like life, nothing is all good or all bad. There was the occasional good meal which went a long way towards lifting my spirits, or getting out and about on the beautiful island, not to mention doing daily yoga; but these were bright spots in an otherwise bleak month. While everything looked great on the outside, inside the Yoga House the atmosphere was often tense and fearful, but covered up with lots of laughter and a pressure to be positive. In many ways this environment exactly replicated the trauma of growing up in a home with unidentified narcissism: Everything looks so shiny and glossy on the outside but is dysfunctional on the inside. I simply have a high tolerance for this kind of scenario.

So how does one protect oneself? First and foremost, if you’re considering going abroad on a course you’ve seen advertised on the internet, always get a word of mouth recommendation from someone you know and trust who has actually taken the course. If you’re following someone on the internet or social media who has a product to sell, you’re in their sales funnel. The image they create is whatever they want you to believe about them or their product. It’s not necessarily real, however convincing. Amber even admitted, in one of our marketing classes with her, that she got the food images to advertise our course off the internet. 

If you do have the misfortune of landing in a situation similar to mine, I’m so sorry and it’s okay to quit! Honestly, life is simply too short to muscle through something that painful for a whole month. It’s understandable to want to complete something you’ve invested heavily in, but not at the cost of your health and well-being.

I’m writing this three months after my return because I finally feel strong enough to address this ordeal and write about it. In retrospect, I could have taken a lot better care of myself and left after the first week along with the first Eco Chef student to get kicked out for complaining. If it does happen to you, you can do what I did after my return: Dispute the credit card charges on the grounds of false advertising and file a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx). In my case, I have no idea if these last two things will be successful but I have to try. I hope my story has been helpful. Or if you yourself have been the victim of a scam, I hope telling my story has given you the courage to warn others. Writing and talking about how I’ve been scammed is certainly a humbling experience, but if I can warn others, it’s worth it.


Comment on The Shadow Side of Self-Proclaimed “Light Leaders” or How I Got Scammed by Epic Academy

44 Responses to “ The Shadow Side of Self-Proclaimed “Light Leaders” or How I Got Scammed by Epic Academy ”

  1. Sara on July 10th, 2019 6:08 am

    I had a very horrible experience with Epic Academy back in 2015. I went as a “student” of Amber’s and during that time thought I was going to be treated to a month of health and wellness, but instead found myself working for Amber’s retreat with Dashama, having a terrifying Ayahuasca experience that I suffered with PTSD for 3 years after, and also I paid for all of this. I paid to work, to “learn” her social media tactics. Learned during that time how unhealthy amber is herself (didn’t have a period and was also always starving). And now when I go check her page on social media, I simply see that she is aging rapidly. I finally got out of the vegan/raw vegan diet about 2 years after that and my health began to improve finally. Learned so much from that experience but I do wish there were a way to warn anyone so dreamily influenced by her “exciting announcements.”

  2. Ondina Hatvany on July 10th, 2019 10:11 am

    Thank you so much Sara for sharing your experience! Hard to stop someone like Amber from hurting and scamming others. I wrote this article to try and warn as many people as possible but she continues to do what she does… Sigh!

    In any case I appreciate hearing from you…; ) Sincerely Ondina

  3. Sarah G on February 8th, 2020 8:03 pm

    Sears scam alert: It’s true, she’s some kind of criminal when you leave a negative comment on their sites it gets deleted somehow and can’t repost she uses blocking apps. A fraud.

  4. Ondina Hatvany on May 27th, 2020 9:53 am

    Thank you Sarah for posting this observation.
    Amber is a whiz on the internet and knows how to bend it to her marketing purposes. As humans we tend to trust what we see. This is what can make internet advertising so misleading – Be warned!

  5. Josh r on May 15th, 2020 9:30 pm

    Thank you for sharing. I hope you are all well now.

  6. Ondina Hatvany on May 27th, 2020 9:54 am

    Thanks Josh, I’m very well now! Wiser + stronger…; )

  7. katie on May 18th, 2020 12:12 pm

    Not at all surprised to read this. Even through her glossy marketing, Amber reads as a troubled person filled with tension, speaking through an almost unmoving jaw. Interesting the word “narcissistic” is mentioned in your blog here as, well, sometimes they are just obvious to spot.

    It’s kind of sad JP got hooked in here, as he seems like a sweet down to earth guy. I was surprised to see he, often insightful through his humor, is missing the obvious here. Her latest rant is on the conspiracy theories surrounding the coronavirus. Scary. Sounds like you learned some things and good for you for enlightening anyone else considering signing up for something as nightmareish as this.

  8. Christa on July 5th, 2020 7:32 am

    Thank you so much for posting this. I found your article about Amber on Google. What a horrible experience. She should be ashamed.

    Thank you for being brave enough to share so there are less victims of her company’s manipulation.

  9. Alison on July 8th, 2020 5:50 am

    I haven’t experienced Epic Academy or Amber Sears (thank goodness) but I’ve suffered something very similar by another organisation and I want to thank you for taking the time to write this. It’s so important that anyone involved in offering or teaching any kind of therapy or personal development is authentic and genuine and if they aren’t are called out for it.

  10. Twala Biscala on July 18th, 2020 12:17 pm

    Be aware of anyone who cannot receive a genuine concern. If you take a genuine concern to someone and they deny, blame-shift, deflect, minimize, change topics, gaslight, go on the attack, or invalidate your concern, they are someone who is incapable of looking at themselves.

  11. Ondina Hatvany on July 19th, 2020 5:18 pm

    Words of truth Twala!

  12. Ondina Hatvany on August 20th, 2020 1:13 pm

    I couldn’t agree more Mary. Hers was a classic narcissist’s response: Instead of thanking you for the feedback or at least acknowledging it, in true narcissistic fashion she considered it an attack. A narcissist’s ego is always very fragile. Sorry this happened to you.

  13. Mary on July 27th, 2020 12:05 pm

    I’ve been absolutely shocked by this women recently. She claims to be this wholesome person who wants everyone to be equal, happy, and healthy. She is what I would call, purely performative. I had a horrible interaction with her when I sent her an IG message that I’d like to see more support of the BLM movement from her platform. She completely went on the defensive and said I was attacking her, for providing some feedback as an audience of her content. This was in a response to a video she posted of her husband giving a speech on 2nd amendment rights, because they don’t want to wear masks. Talk about wreaking of white privilege. Black people are literally fighting for their right to live, and she is complaining because she has to wear a mask during a pandemic. I won’t be supporting her any longer. I’m sorry that happened to you, but after my observations of her over the last several months I am not surprised at all.

  14. Apollo on September 30th, 2020 10:45 am

    Thank you for sharing.

    I worked with amber in Costa Rica. And she is indeed an abusive narcissist.

    Read about my post on her and JP Sears here.

    https://www.facebook.com/727155181/posts/10164188874065182/?extid=kEgDsSG4FM3gvG5W&d=n

  15. Ondina Hatvany on September 30th, 2020 12:57 pm

    Thanks so much Apollo for posting my article about Amber on your Facebook page! The more people that can be warned the better. You’ve got me following you now..; )

  16. Star on September 30th, 2020 12:17 pm

    Thank you for this! Very important info.! So sorry you went through that & glad you are well.

  17. Lydia on October 1st, 2020 4:03 pm

    I really appreciate everyone sharing their experiences on here. I initially started following JP Sears on IG, just because I thought he had a few funny, cynical videos, and found Amber through him. I was interested in her Costa Rican retreat, so I contacted her and got a welcoming response. I thought it over and decided that I wasn’t so keen on the idea of doing an indigenous retreat of sorts with someone not of indigenous origins, so took a pass on the experience. I also started noticing that JP Sears posts started taking on a weird conspiracy theory tilt, which was pretty weird since I just assumed he was an intelligent guy. But in retrospect, they both seem like they’re fulfilling some need for attention through their social media platforms. Anyways, sorry to hear about the very shitty experiences of being taken advantage of, and thank you for sharing as a warning to others to exercise caution when looking into personal growth retreats and how potentially manipulative they can actually be.

  18. Ondina Hatvany on October 13th, 2020 7:23 am

    Thank you for your comment Lydia. You made some smart choices! I’ve heard similar things about JP. Pity because there was a time when he was pretty funny.

  19. Tara on October 12th, 2020 4:24 pm

    Apollo, how do I read the Facebook post? It says link was removed/broken. Would love to hear about your experience

  20. Ondina Hatvany on October 13th, 2020 7:21 am

    Tara I suggest you contact Apollo directly as I doubt he’ll find your comment here!

  21. Ondina Hatvany on November 9th, 2020 4:54 pm

    Hi Tara
    Good news, looks like Apollo reinstated the link and it now works so you can read his article.
    In case you need the link here it is: https://www.facebook.com/727155181/posts/10164188874065182/?extid=kEgDsSG4FM3gvG5W&d=n

    Warmly Ondina

  22. Tara on October 13th, 2020 7:26 pm

    Isn’t this already the summer 2019 Ezine post with the ducky? When I click the link he shared https://www.facebook.com/727155181/posts/10164188874065182/?extid=kEgDsSG4FM3gvG5W&d=n it says the link is broken

  23. Mo on October 27th, 2020 10:48 pm

    This story is definitely eye-opening. It’s very brave and prudent of you to take the time to write it and share with the public. I very much appreciate that, as I too got curious about Amber via JP. But I am old enough to already be aware that so many people who present themselves as she does, are often the wicked wizards behind the curtain, manipulating people with images of profound wisdom and goodness, when in reality they are masking a lot of darker behaviors.

    Btw, I too am curious about “Apollo’s” FB link but it’s obviously broken, and there’s no apparent means to contact him by just his first name.

  24. Ondina Hatvany on October 28th, 2020 10:36 am

    So very astute of you Mo and yes age with wisdom helps! I’m trying to get a hold of Apollo…. Will let you know if I can get his article reinstated…; )

  25. Ella on November 3rd, 2020 9:48 am

    You’re so brave for sharing this and it is important to warn other people about bullshit retreats!

    Also, sorry to hear about what you had to go through. As others have already mentioned, she should feel ashamed. It sounds like she is immune to feedback and more interested in the superficial success of her business than the health of other people. Sounds like a money-making machine, disguised as a conscious hippie retreat. Yuck.

    I have no personal experiences with her but have been getting the false I-care-so-much-about-everyone-vibe of her Instagram. I mean, why would any healthy person need to display their genuine care all the time? Like it’s so obvious she is playing with it to attract people to her business. If you follow her Instagram she is presenting and idolizing herself as a super performative, super healthy, super happy, totally aware and super caring warrior jungle queen. Kind of weird if you ask me. Usually people like this have something to hide.

    You should get a part of your money back.

  26. Ondina Hatvany on November 3rd, 2020 10:48 am

    Thank you for this awesome, rocking comment Ella! You are a wise soul, catching all this, about Amber, from her Instagram.

    Never got a penny back but it was a priceless lesson so I’ve moved on, hopefully a bit wiser for it..; )

  27. Tony on November 16th, 2020 8:27 am

    Hi to those who can’t see Apollo’s FaceBook post. Hopefully this comes through (credit Apollo, not me):

    Anyone else tired of JP Sears?

    I don’t care who you are…..If you’re spreading hatred, I’m calling you out.

    I used to think he was funny at first but he’s drastically changed over the years. His comedy is just angry and mean now, full of passive aggressiveness and self-righteousness.

    My first red flag about JP was when he made fun of the locals and got RAN out of Costa Rica. Literally.

    Costa Ricans were so offended by him that he got death threats and had to escape.

    And now unfortunately he’s become just another “new-age turned right-extremist hybrid” who’s promoting BS conspiracy theories and bad science.

    I understand that he’s trying to escape his comedy box and wants to be seen as a social activist/freedom revolutionary in order to be taken seriously for the first time in his career….but to put it frankly, he simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about and is just parroting debunked internet documentaries.

    He had ONE video removed from Youtube for violating their policies and he suddenly became a conspiracy theorist and is now right up there with Alex Jones, “fighting for our freedom”.

    This prime example of white privilege was acting like he was being oppressed simply for having one video removed. Cry me a river.

    He bashed the platform that made him who he is, all while selling supplements and sponsorships on it. His videos now reek of “sell out”.

    Fun Fact: Private businesses don’t owe you free speech. Governments do. But I digress.

    JP Sears is in essence supporting the group that was specifically created to get Trump reelected.
    He’s using his platform to spread misinformation under the guise of sarcasm. He literally makes fun of the demographic that made him who he is and has recently turned into the very thing he makes fun of. In the same way he once made fun of Instagram models with big egos that put on a fake image on social media….and then he went on to marry one. But more on that later.

    He hides behind his satire conveniently getting to choose when it’s “just” comedy and when it’s not, based on the backlash he gets. And he’s the king of backpedaling. His comedy is designed to give him the space to say he was just kidding as a way out. But it’s manipulative as hell.

    I’m pretty involved with the media. And I can say that most people in the comedy world and entertainment industry don’t consider him a real comedian. He just found a temporary niche. Unfortunately it turned him into a spiritual snob who is now just projecting the judgements he carries of himself onto others. But people have woken up and there is a mass exodus from his type of offensive humor. People are just over it. He’s lost tons of followers this year and ironically is now the one being mocked.

    Him making fun of people for having emotional reactions while simultaneously offending them on purpose just to bring himself attention….and then making a video about how people are offended over everything…..feels a lot like how an abuser operates. It’s Gaslighting 101 and is designed to constantly put him and his opinions on a pedestal while putting the views and experiences of other people down. He positions himself as an expert on every social issue and thinks his uneducated opinion is worth more than it is. But he just churns out these videos left and right now as click bait for profit.

    His most recent video made fun of homeless people in California suggesting they ENJOY being homeless and are “just camping”. JP is a cisgendered white male who has a history of making fun of poverty in his videos, including the Costa Rica one. He never discusses root causes or adds any insightful commentary or cares about social issues. Instead he spends all his time criticizing the entire world from the outside looking in. Sorry…….but JP is entitled and arrogant and is making a living from making fun of people, including communities of color, and his act is simply getting old and played out. His comments threat is now FULL of right-wingers making fun of the left.

    He’s also anti-science on several different issues.
    He even made fun of people for wearing masks recently….Even though he spent his whole life hiding behind one under the guise of humor. I get it though. Narcissists could never understand the concept of an individual sacrificing for the greater good. But let’s remember that over 1 million people have died from Covid and if everyone took JP Sears non-scientific advice, it is estimated there would have been 40 million dead. JP always touts the 99 percent survival rate but this doesn’t consider the long-term organ and lung damage that many survivors are dealing with after. *He JUST released a video suggesting the Flu more deadly than Covid and it’s a gross display of a lack of critical thinking. If something is slightly less deadly, but WAY more contagious, then it’s simply more deadly. Once again, 1 million died WITH lockdowns in place. The flu happens with NO lockdowns in place and still doesn’t come close to COVID numbers. The flu doesn’t kill 10’s of millions of people anymore like COVID would have if we didn’t do the lockdown. JP is highly irresponsible promoting his anti-science rhetoric. His videos are a slap in the face to the millions of people who lost someone to COVID and the many more who are still suffering from symptoms and long-term lung damage. JP has zero empathy for these people and is down a crazy Qanon conspiracy hole.

    Also…..I STILL care even if it is “mostly the elderly who die”. Do you know the difference between 65 and 75? It’s watching your grandkids grow up. Just think about how much life you’ve lived in the last 10 years and how many memories you made. His lack of empathy or concern is troubling and they’re even having large gatherings in the middle of a pandemic.

    I get that we shouldn’t take everything seriously, but I do believe that we should at least take some things seriously. And him constantly making fun of people is no different than a school bully. He reminds me of that kid who just wants constant attention in class by being an annoying troll. He presents things as jokes, but they’re actually just jabs and come off as condescending. He calls anybody who challenges or criticizes his work a hater and redirects the conversation to make it seem like he’s innocent and spreading love and that they’re all fools who are choosing fear. Oh the irony. This is why you rarely know where he actually stands and that’s part of what is so deceiving about it.

    But he clearly is projecting his own shortcomings onto those he makes fun of and calls “sheep”…..considering that he’s actually the one who got EASILY brainwashed by this terribly edited Plandemic fraud……The same pseudoscience film that claimed that covid is “activated” by wearing a mask. (You can’t make this crap up). And JP promotes this attention seeker Mikka as some kind of hero instead of as the fear-mongerer that he is.

    I hope all of yall take a stand against all these self absorbed new age/right wing hybrids promoting Qanon-backed concepts and who are using their platforms to take advantage of people’s fear and ignorance during these uncertain times.

    *And based on all the hundreds of shares and comments this post has received, it seems like many of you are. So keep up the good work!

    I have to say that I’m in complete shock hearing about all the racist, sexist, and rude encounters so many of you have had with him. Things that I had no idea about.

    I’m sorry but if you want to be a public figure, it kinda comes with the territory. “With great power comes great responsibility”.

    Besides…Is anyone else super bored with the whole mocking people as a form of comedy thing? It’s just not funny.

    It’s literally the exact same formula every video. We get it. Everybody sucks but you, and every element of spirituality is a joke to you. Exploiting life-changing spiritual principles as clickbait just so you can pay your rent. You should be real proud.

    *please note that if you DO have a problem with transparency and public figures who have a platform being called out, then you probably shouldn’t follow me on here (and maybe never use Yelp or review sites ever again for that matter). Because personally, I feel that more people should be speaking out as a service to the collective, even if it leads to bruised egos.

    Personally, I’ve experienced some of the most growth in my own life after I was called out. I’ve actually come to appreciate those moments. But this isn’t about me.

    And I’m not saying that JP is a bad person. But I am calling out his irresponsibility and actions, and how money and fame has clearly gotten to his head.

    It’s just faux pseudo-spiritual psychology being exploited for profits. This isn’t a call to cancel or ban him. You have the right to watch him express his views and I have a right to express why I feel his views are harmful.

    And for the record, I used to be friends with and even have a 1 hour interview with JP Sears. I even lived with his wife in Costa Rica and did her marketing. (She admitted in private to friends that she was only using JP for his fame).

    I share this so you know this isn’t just a random opinion from someone on the outside looking in. This is a repeated direct experience that I, and many of my friends, have had with the both of them. This is all from direct experience over many years.

    It’s sad to say this….but she’s just as narcissitic as he is. And both of them have unfortunately gotten worse with time and have hurt many people.

    I watched Amber abuse her interns and staff during her retreats. Preaching about peace and healthy relationship strategies in public, all while her and her ex-partner, Daniel Jebb Finnerty, physically beat each other regularly. There was tons of physical violence and verbal abuse going on and it was pure toxicity behind closed doors.

    She also preached about healthy eating while she was actively struggling with an eating disorder. This isn’t to shame any of that but to just call out the hypocrisy of these “influencers” being more obsessed with their image than improving their actual lives.

    If this was just coming from me, I’d say to not trust it. Maybe it’s just personal right? But this view is shared by many other people saying the same thing. Not just people online but 100s of people who had direct experiences with the both of them. This post is about warning people and protecting my tribe, even if it’s at the cost of myself being attacked. I’m sure their supporters will say that I’m a jealous hater and call me other names to try to discredit this post. But I know where it’s coming from and the numbers don’t lie.

    The truth is that she has scammed many people, including my friends. Some who lived with her for months.

    You can read about the Amber Sears BS here.

    https://ondinawellness.com/the-shadow-side-of-self-proclaimed-light-leaders-or-how-i-got-scammed-by-epic-academy/

    What’s sad about how she traumatized that woman is that I witnessed something similar in Costa Rica.

    At the end of the retreat, when everybody was already torn down and vulnerable …Amber Zuckswert up-sold them on a random ayahuasca ceremony. Keep in mind that this wasn’t advertised and I would say that 90 percent of the people there didn’t even know what ayahuasca was. They were all asking questions about it and it was clear they never even heard about it or knew how intense of an experience it was. She downplayed it and just said it’s sacred plant medicine that will heal them.

    Most people ended up going with no idea what they signed up for and came out of the Costa Rican jungle completely traumatized. Amber has zero ayahuasca or psychological training and only cared about exploiting people’s insecurities for profit. Kinda like JP Sears. Actually….JP and her belong together in a very twisted strange way. Definitely winners of the “Most narcissistic couple in the new age community” awards.

    Stop putting these toxic people on a pedestal.
    JP Sears. Elliot Hulse. Etc….
    They’re using you for likes and views and only care about money, fame, and validation.

    *I highly recommend listening to the Conspirituality Podcast to get more insight on this whole extreme right and left crossover happening.

    Also….Here’s are a couple good articles to read for further analysis on JP:

    (expired SSL cert warning): https://morefreedomfoundation.com/2020/05/12/awakenwithjp-believes-too-much-media-who-bill-gates/

  28. Tony on November 16th, 2020 8:30 am

    From Apollo’s writeup above:

    “At the end of the retreat, when everybody was already torn down and vulnerable …Amber Zuckswert up-sold them on a random ayahuasca ceremony. Keep in mind that this wasn’t advertised and I would say that 90 percent of the people there didn’t even know what ayahuasca was. They were all asking questions about it and it was clear they never even heard about it or knew how intense of an experience it was. She downplayed it and just said it’s sacred plant medicine that will heal them.”

    This is ABHORRENT. I say this as a person who has employed Ayahuasca in an indigenous context followed by VERY skilled psychotherapy when returning to the states, Ayahuasca is NOTHING to screw around with. It’s been incredibly beneficial to me but how trivially she treats this is absolutely disgusting.

    What the world does NOT need right now is more New Age fruitcakes (much less ones that are alt-right) co-opting Ayahuasca. It’s disturbing and gross.

  29. Ondina Hatvany on November 16th, 2020 10:44 am

    I agree Tony. Very disturbing what you report here.
    Ayahuasca stems from an ancient tradition that needs to be respected. While it is an incredible healing vine, it also has a dark side. Westerners don’t know what they’re messing with when they think they can just use it like a recreational drug. Or worse, just use it to profit themselves, like Amber. Makes me very sad to hear how she’s exploiting this ancient medicine.

  30. ej on December 19th, 2020 7:22 pm

    Thanks for your thoughtful and courageous article. I have recently been listening to the Conspirituality podcast and they’ve had several episodes mentioning JP sears. What a scammer and passive aggressive thug.

    After his embrace of conspiracy theory I uninvited him and I found your article to be thorough and useful to the wellness community. JP sears and Willets currently here in Austin Texas, and for all their bonhomie, are now building a “community” development near austin. Smells like cult.

    Unfortunately like so many online scams, there is no jurisdiction if they occur out of your state or country. the Level of arrogance & con artistry that exists online is unbelievable.

    I wish you well and encourage integrity in this unregulated business. I’ve been in the intuition channel and it took me a good 10 years of focussed training to get good.

    warmly

    ej

  31. elizabeth on December 21st, 2020 9:11 pm

    Just curious why they got ran out of Costa. By the way, excellent article. Thanks for sparing me

  32. Ondina Hatvany on January 5th, 2021 2:04 pm

    I was told that they made fun of the locals, but I’m sure there is a lot more to be told here!

  33. M. Luna on January 4th, 2021 6:55 am

    You all sound like a bunch of kvetching entitled immature whiners. First of all, you blame someone else for YOUR IGNORANCE about what should have been well known things like the vegan diet , vegans and ayuhuasca. Nobody twisted your arm in your choices. You made all these choices, forewarned is forearmed. And handled the situation in a victim mentality manner as well. With judgment like that, nobody is going to ask you for covid advice- get this- 60 million people die every year. I would not even know where to start to enlighten you on the politics , world agendas, and non reported facts which have been available for over a year on the cv situ from scientists all over the world, but JP is addressing important issues, and I doubt his path even belongs in this questionable screed you have here. Shame on you for not owning your choices, and even doing something about them, other than spreading snark online. Will you leave this post up? Oh, no? Well, then you are just as “guilty” as anyone else in an effort to offer a scrubbed up internet image, arent you?

  34. Ondina Hatvany on January 5th, 2021 2:03 pm

    I’m struck by the incoherence of this commentary; it’s such a scramble of accusations! I decided to go ahead and post it as I think it’s good to have various view points so people can make their own informed choices.
    As for my “scrubbed up internet image,” the main difference between me and Amber is that I’m not stealing thousands of dollars from people with false advertising.

  35. Angie on January 5th, 2021 7:24 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I’ve never met Amber or had an experience with her…but, I had a similar experience at a retreat in Australia in 2016 with JP and his friends the Eisenman brothers.
    I still feel icky when thinking about them and the experience. Honestly, it has made me sick to see JP gain so much online notoriety when I know from personal experience what a narcissistic creep he is.
    There were several issues that I noticed with false advertising when I arrived at the retreat. I was told that I would have a shared cabin with one other woman…but, when I got to the place I was put in a small one room cabin with bunk/twin beds with 4 other women. 5 of us were expected to share one bathroom. (I ended up going to the facility directly and paying extra to have my own room)
    We were also promised all meals included…I will say most of the meals were delicious…but, it was a skimpy breakfast and no coffee in sight. We were at a retreat center with no cars and almost an hour away from the closest town. So, it’s not like we could just run out and get what we needed. I would’ve been okay going without…except for the fact that JP and the Eisenman’s knew this and had food and coffee in their own cabins and would come out in the morning and prance around with their coffee mugs steaming knowing that no one else had a way to get coffee. Nor, did they offer to share. On the second morning I asked JP where he got his coffee and if I could have a cup. He said that they made it special in their cabin for them only. Mind you…I was a guest that had paid them to be there!
    On the third morning several of the attendees and I called a cab to go into town for breakfast and coffee. When we returned we were chastised for leaving the area and breaking the sacred circle. It was so weird…like some kind of a mind control thing they were doing with us.
    But, really those were very minor issues that I only bring up because they play into the bigger picture.
    The biggest issue was how they used the retreat to prey on the young women that looked up to them. It was creepy and predatory. Most of the attendees were pretty young women in their 20’s that looked up to them. It got so bad that the girls would go back to the cabins at night and fight with each other over who was getting the most attention from them. JP and the Eisenmans knew this and continued to stoke the fire to stoke their egos.
    I ended up calling them out on it…because their whole thing was radical honesty. But, they couldn’t stand somebody being radically honest with them.
    When I discussed it with JP…he told me that my problem was that I was too smart. I’m not even sure what that has to do with the issue…but, that’s what he said.
    Later, in front of the group he called me out and said that I was obviously jealous because I was older and not getting attention from them the way the younger women were. (I was 40 at the time and one of the older people there) The next morning…they had Diana, Daniel Eisenman’s wife (now ex) come talk to me. She said that they had all discussed my concerns and were convinced that I was jealous and that I needed to work on my problem of jealousy with younger women. I can assure you that nothing was further from the truth. I made several great friendships with the women there that we still maintain years later.
    So many other things that came up wit them…but, I guess I will stop sharing now. I just felt like I had to comment. Your experience with Amber resonated with me and I am not at all surprised the two of them ended up together.
    I have no regrets about attending the retreat or the time I spent in Australia. I met some great people and learned some lessons about how fake and gross some of these online influencers can be. I feel like the experience helped me grow…and I am much better at recognizing these people for what they are now.
    Thanks for sharing your story. More people need to know the truth.

  36. Ondina Hatvany on January 5th, 2021 1:57 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your story Angie so you can warn others. How wonderful that you can still embrace the experience and see if for the growth opportunity it gave you!
    You might be interested in this article Apollo wrote about JP: https://www.elephantjournal.com/2020/12/the-trouble-with-jp-sears-influencers/
    Please pass it around as people need to be warned!

    Sincerely Ondina

  37. E Jean on January 19th, 2021 8:38 pm

    It was really interesting reading your story as well as the comments below. JP and Amber Sears give me really icky vibes. I’m so sorry you had to go through that bad experience with Amber. I recommend listening to the podcast Conspirituality, they discuss JP Sears quite a bit and his narcissistic hypocritical tendencies…. I hope you are doing well and thank you for sharing your story. XO

  38. Karin on January 23rd, 2021 3:52 am

    Thank you for writing about this type of fraud, Im so sorry you had to go through it. Im wondering if you could join with others who’ve had these terrible experiences with Ambers ”classes” in a joint legal action against her? You all lost a lot of money time and had a horrible experience. / best wishes from a lawstudent in Sweden

  39. Ondina Hatvany on January 23rd, 2021 6:40 pm

    Great idea Karin but because Amber does most of her courses and retreats abroad it complicates prosecuting her from the USA. When I got back I tried to get my money refunded through my credit card company. I made a case that I had been misled by Amber’s faulty advertising. I thought I had a good case and other participants (who had paid by check) were supporting me, but even this fell through. The credit card company tends to favor the merchant over the customer. They had all these impossible hoops for me to jump through. I finally decided to call it quits. In the end it was a very expensive learning experience!

  40. Amanda on January 31st, 2021 11:28 am

    I had followed Daniel Jebb Finnerty and Amber Sears got quite a few years. I was interested in attending their yoga retreat but couldn’t understand how they justified their extremely hefty price tag.

    I continued to follow both Daniel and Amber, however the longer that I followed the more my gut instinct instructed me that something was not right with either of them.

    I second guessed my intuition and thought maybe I was being overly critical. After all they both had such a large following and their feedback seemed positive.

    Then I saw that Amber offered an online business course but this 6 month class came with an absurd $10,000 price tag. The online course seemed way overpriced, so I sent Amber a message to inquire about why the price was so high for an online class, perhaps I was missing something, therefore requesting more information on how she justified the cost.

    She verbally and viscously attacked my intelligence, how couldn’t I not see her value? There must be something wrong with me, right? Then she accused me of insulting her and her offering. Needless to say, I was shocked and my initial response was to apologize and clarify that I just didn’t understand the valve of $10,000 for a 6 month online course.

    She ignored and blocked me, then when online and humiliated me by writing a social media post which portrayed her as a victim.

    The interaction told me everything I needed to know about her and her ingenious persona. She and her old partner Daniel are both frauds. Another friend had shared a solar experience she had with Daniel being inauthentic too.

    Lesson learned: trust your gut instincts.

  41. Ondina Hatvany on January 31st, 2021 4:14 pm

    Honestly it’s hard to believe how abusive Amber can be until you get a first hand experience like you have described. Sorry you went through this. Glad you listened to your excellent gut instincts..; )

  42. Nicole Garcia on February 10th, 2021 8:59 pm

    Aloha Ondina, has it really been 3 years? I’m just now seeing this article and your site. I must say that I am very happy you are feeling great, wiser and happy. I’m extremely glad you wrote this and as I read through it the memories come rushing back. That entire experience was definitely one of the hardest and worst experiences I have had especially when it comes to my involvement with health and yoga. I didn’t Realize how messed up all of it was until I was back home and then I became angry. We endured some horrible treatment towards the end of that training and I just didn’t want to believe it was happening to me. Like you, I thought I had investigated and I had a nagging desire to go to this training with Amber, specifically. You explained it all quite well. There are so many things I can mention but if I were to that I would have to write my own article with details explaining why I feel and felt the same way. I’m sorry that things got messy towards the end of that experience. Know it is in the past but if you can ever would like to talk, I’d be thrilled to hear about your accomplishments and side with you on that journey. Sending many blessings, light and love

  43. Ondina Hatvany on February 11th, 2021 3:34 pm

    Thqnk you Nicole for your comment. This means a lot to me as we went through the whole awful experience together! Here’s to our collective healing and being wiser for it…; )

  44. Isla S. on February 12th, 2021 10:59 am

    As someone who has grown up with Amber I can tell you she is an AWFUL person. All your posts or just gut feelings are entirely true! **Aside from M. Luna – but I think that’s because it’s Amber or one of her “friends” making the post. I just wanted to thank you Ondina for creating this blog post to help others and spread awareness of this toxic couple before they dupe more victims. I pray for her child.

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