Sharada’s New Year’s Greetings 2014

Greetings and Happy New Year!

Life at the Centre is very quiet in mid winter. Later this month, the resident community will begin growing again, but for now it is very small. We meet for meals in Sage House rather than the main program house. Scooch, the Centre’s resident cat, will be delighted when there are more people and more laps to sit on.

Meal circle at the Sage House

Meal circle at the Sage House

Babaji continues to radiate sweetness. The latest update on his health, as reported in this newsletter, includes some recent photos. Although Babaji’s age is definitely showing, so are his beauty and love. I hope you enjoy the photos.

Altar

Altar

There are several articles in this month’s edition of Offerings that I think you will enjoy. January’s ‘Our Centre Community’ features Raven Hume, who has been connected to the Centre for about ten years. Many of you know him through satsang; here is an opportunity to learn about his background and the path by which he arrived at the Centre.

I invite you to read ‘Finding God, Finding Peace’, focusing on both the intentions we set for the new year and a reminder of why we’re here in the first place, prompting us to bring our minds and hearts back to the place of peace that we all recognize as the centre of our being.

Pratibha has shared another Ayurveda gem this month – ‘Winter Wellness Routine’, full of practical advice for thriving in the winter as well as suggestions for when you have a cold. Jenny Collver, who has spent many years at the Centre, from her early years helping Usha in the Centre School, later as a YTT student and, in recent years, as a yoga teacher at the Centre, has contributed the Asana of the Month article – Dhanurasana (Bow Pose).

Yoga classes will resume again in the week of January 6th, and of course satsang continues every Sunday. The Centre School will be back in session January 6th, so there will again be the sound of children playing.

Dharma Sara’s AGM will be held at the Centre in the spring (April or May). The date hasn’t yet been determined, but please note that in order to vote you need to have been a member for 90 days, so now is a good time to join, or to renew if you are currently a member.

Our popular karma yoga program – KYSS (Karma Yoga Service and Study) – is being enhanced to include more emphasis on study, workshops, mentorship and self study. There will be deeper immersion into all aspects of yoga, with many teachers, including several of our YTT teachers, offering classes. This new program – YSSI Yoga, Service and Study Immersion, running from June 1 through August 31 – will replace KYSS. Details will be posted on our website in February. Those who have already applied for KYSS will be notified about the program change, and given the option change their applications to YSSI.

With best wishes for a peaceful new year,
Love,
Sharada

Finding God, Finding Peace

Babaji

Babaji

The beginning of a new year is a time to reflect on how the past year has gone and to resolve to make some changes in the one that’s just beginning. Generally our resolutions have to do with losing weight, starting an exercise program (again) or committing to some path of action. The new year can also be a reminder to ‘come back to where you once belonged’ (Beatles, circa 1967), asking the big questions: Why am I here? What is my purpose in life? Who am I?

In the Sufi master Rumi’s ‘Table Talk’; (quoted in ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying) there is the following passage:

“The master said there is one thing in this world which must never be forgotten. If you were to forget everything else, but were not to forget this, there would be no cause to worry, while if you remembered, performed and attended to everything else but forgot that one thing, you would in fact have done nothing whatsoever. It is as if a king had sent you to a country to carry out one special, specific task. You go to the country and you perform a hundred other tasks, but if you have not performed the task you were sent for it is as if you have performed nothing at all. So man has come into the world for a particular task, and that is his purpose. If he doesn’t perform it, he will have done nothing.’ Sogyal Rinpoche goes on to say ‘The task for which the “king” has sent us into this strange, dark country is to realize and embody our true being.”

As we flounder on our path to realizing our true being, Babaji reassures us: Everyone makes mistakes in life. That’s the way people learn. If one says, “I am a sinner, I am not worthy of attaining liberation,” then one can’t progress. Liberation is for sinners. Liberation is not for those who are already liberated. So counting your sins and doing nothing will not do any good. Don’t dwell in the past and don’t worry about the future. Just make your present positive and peaceful.

Liberation is waking up from the dream of ourselves as separate, individual egos, each with our own story of who we are. Whether one talks about realizing one’s true nature, Self realization or finding God, the awakening is the same.

In answer to the question, “How do I find God?”, Babaji answered: Open your heart in front of God and your prayer will be heard. A yogi searches for God in the world and says, “This is not God…..this is not God…….this is not God,” and thereby rejects everything. As soon as God is found, the yogi says, “this is God…..this is God…..this is God.” God is seen in everything, and everything is accepted.

There is a lovely story in the book “One Hundred Wisdom Stories from Around the World”, compiled by Margaret Silf, called “God in Hiding”:

“A legend tells how, at the beginning of time God resolved to hide himself within his own creation.

As God was wondering how best to do this, the angels gathered round him.

‘I want to hide myself in my creation,’ he told them. ‘I need to find a place that is not too easily discovered, for it is in their search for me that my creatures will grow in spirit and in understanding.’

‘Why don’t you hide yourself deep in the earth?’ the first angel suggested.

God pondered for a while, then replied, ‘No. It will not be long before they learn how to mine the earth and discover all the treasures that it contains. They will discover me too quickly, and they will not have enough time to do their growing.’

‘Why don’t you hide yourself on their moon?’ a second angel suggested.

God thought about this idea for a while, and then replied, ‘No. It will take a little longer, but before too long they will learn how to fly through space. They will arrive on the moon and explore its secrets, and they will discover me too soon, before they have had enough time to do their growing.’

The angels were at a loss to know what hiding places to suggest. There was a long silence.

‘I know,’ piped up one angel, finally. ‘Why don’t you hide yourself within their own hearts? They will never think of looking there!’

‘That’s it!’ said God, delighted to have found the perfect hiding place. And so it is that God hides secretly deep within the heart of every one of God’s creatures, until that creature has grown enough in spirit and in understanding to risk the great journey into the secret core of its own being. And there, the creature discovers its creator, and is rejoined to God for all eternity.”

Babaji says: Searching for God outside is like looking for your son who is sitting on your shoulders. Our search for God outside is simply a method of finding God inside.

God is not somewhere else; you are God. You are God and you are in God. It’s simply a matter of acceptance. Accept yourself, accept others and accept the world. You will see everything is full of love and love is God.

contributed by Sharada

Winter Wellness Routine

hot tea - marco arment

The Vedic sages understood that the great rhythms and forces of nature—the alternation of day and night, the rhythmic cycle of the seasons— affect our wellness, as do the seasons and cycles of this human life. Living in tune with nature, they taught, allows us to also be in tune with our individual constitution which comprises three subtle energies of vata (movement), pitta (digestion and metabolism) and kapha (structure and lubrication).

The Best Ways to Adapt to Winter
Staying healthy all year long requires living in harmony with these natural cycles, adjusting to changes in the environment through the food we eat, the type and amount of exercise we do, the herbs we ingest, and so on. While you can’t control the weather, you can control these factors, which either build your health, vitality, and resistance to disease, or wear you down. Ayurveda’s view on winter, the kapha season, includes the weather factor.

In winter, the sky is often cloudy and grey, the weather is cold, damp, and heavy, and life moves more slowly. When balanced, kapha supplies strength, vigor, and stability to both body and mind. This subtle energy is responsible for lubricating the joints, moisturizing the skin, and maintaining immunity. But in excess, it can lead to sluggishness, mucus-related illnesses, excess weight, and negative emotions such as attachment, envy, and greed.

In general, we should follow a kapha-pacifying routine in the winter. But dry, cold, windy weather can provoke vata, too, and can lead to arthritis, indigestion, and other problems. So to keep both vata and kapha balanced when temperatures drop, here are a few lifestyle suggestions:

Morning routine

Ayurveda suggests waking up a bit later in the winter (7 a.m.) than you would in other seasons. Upon rising, scrape your tongue to remove the excess kapha and ama; then brush your teeth. Next, drink a cup of warm water to stimulate the movement of the bowels. And treat yourself to a quick massage. Rub warmed sesame oil all over your entire body (it’s heating and good for all body types in the winter). Let the oil soak in for 5 to 10 minutes, then take a hot shower and rub the skin vigorously as you dry off.

Conclude your morning regimen with pranayama, meditation and asana. A few rounds of kapal bhati or bhastrika will help stoke your inner heat. Surya namaskara (sun salutation) and poses that open the chest, throat, and sinuses remove congestion in the respiratory organs. Kapha balancing poses include the fish, boat, bow, locust, lion, and camel poses, along with the shoulderstand.

After morning sadhana, it’s important to eat a nutritious breakfast. If you don’t feed your digestive fire in the morning, it will dry up bodily tissues and provoke vata. Enjoy a bowl of oatmeal, barley, cornmeal, or buckwheat (or a mixture) mildly spiced with cinnamon. An hour after breakfast, boil 1/2 teaspoon of fresh or powdered ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, and a pinch of ground clove in a cup of hot water for 5 minutes. Drink this tea to increase your digestive fire, improve circulation, and reduce excess mucus. (Skip the tea if you have an ulcer or another inflammation-oriented problem).

Exercise (Even Indoors!)

Dr. Lad suggests that if we don’t want to brave the cold, then we can join a gym, do a workout video, or use the exer-cycle to increase circulation. Soak up sunlight, too. Walk outdoors when the sun’s out or sit by a window to bathe in early morning sunlight. Sun rays relax the muscles, produce vitamin D, soothe Seasonal Affective Disorder, and help the body maintain healthy sleep rhythms.

Dietary Guidelines

In response to cold weather, the body constricts the skin pores and superficial connective tissue to prevent heat loss, which directs the heat away from the peripheral tissues and into the body’s core, including the stomach. Agni (and, therefore, your appetite) becomes stronger in winter. However, if kapha or vata are provoked, agni burns low, leaving you more susceptible to colds, poor circulation, joint pains, and negative emotions.

Incorporate more whole grains, dairy products, steamed root vegetables, warm soup cooked with ghee), and spicy food into your meals. Because your appetite is heartier in the winter, eat more protein—beans, tofu, eggs—and if you’re not a strict vegetarian, chicken, turkey, and fish. Add warming spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper to promote digestion. Drinking a few ounces of sweet or dry wine with your meals will stoke your agni (digestive fire), improve your appetite, and increase circulation.

Avoid cold drinks (they aggravate both kapha and vata); choose hot water instead, or hot tea, and occasionally, hot cocoa or chai.

When a Cold Comes On

Ayurvedically speaking, colds are a kapha-vata disorder. The body builds up an excess of cool and moist kapha qualities, resulting in congestion and a runny nose, and at the same time it may suffer from excess vata, which reduces agni, leading to chills, loss of appetite, and poor digestion. Here’s help:

  • Stay Warm. Avoid cold drafts, wear warm clothes, and don’t forget to wear a hat outside. (Grandma was right: more than half of the body’s heat is lost through the head.) Also, cover your ears and neck to keep vata and kapha in check.
  • Ginger. Ginger is the best remedy for colds. Drink ginger tea, take a bath infused with ginger and baking soda (put 1/3 cup of baking soda and 1/3 cup of powdered ginger into a hot tub and then soak the body from the neck down), or try a ginger steam treatment. (Boil one teaspoon powdered ginger in a pint of water. Turn off the stove, put a towel over your head, and inhale the steam through your nostrils for about 5 minutes. This will help relieve congestion and soothe dry membranes. Also include 500 mg Vitamin C daily during the cold winter months. Drinking hot water several times a day removes toxins from the system and speeds up your recovery time.
  • Use Natural Nose Drops. Lubricate the nasal passages and relieve the irritation and sneezing of a cold with nasya. Lie on your back, face up, with a pillow under your shoulders and your head tilted back, so your nostrils are facing the ceiling. Put 3 to 5 drops liquefied ghee in each nostril and gently sniff the oil upward into the nose. You can do nasya in the morning and night (on an empty stomach and at least one hour before or after showering).
  • Reduce dairy products. Strictly avoid dairy products when you have a cold, including yogurt, cheese, milk, and ice cream, until your congestion clears up.

May your agni stay strong, your immunity high, and your spirits bright!

Peace,
Pratibha

Pratibha Queen

Pratibha Queen

Pratibha Queen is a yoga instructor and Ayurvedic practitioner, who attends Salt Spring Center of Yoga retreats on a regular basis. Feel free to email with any questions that arise as you engage in health practices to support your yoga practice: pratibha.que@gmail.com.

 

[Hot tea image by Marco Arment]

Our Centre Community: Raven Hume

Raven, part of our centre community.

Raven, part of our centre community.

In 1991, I was living in Vermont as an undergraduate student and college hockey player when I started to hear tell of “a yogi who was living up in the hills nearby.” My friends would return from visiting with him with soft, glowing eyes, warm hearts and kind laughter. Despite being a musclebound jock, I still had a huge soft spot, and their smiles and radiance spoke to a deep part of me. They would tell me about how he took them into his tiny house, how it had a wood burning stove, how his family was there and there was “macrobiotic food” cooking away. I was entranced, but somehow couldn’t generate the avenues to make it up there. If I recall correctly, I even tried to find the place, asking around at the corner store in the area where I thought he lived – to no avail. Ultimately, I had to content myself with learning from my friends one of the techniques he had taught them. It was called, “alternate nostril breathing.” I graduated without meeting this man, but these were the first glimmerings of my practice of yoga and of a particular magnetism which I ended up finding out more about only recently.

I’ve always had an appreciation for radiance. When I was three or four, I remember walking up the driveway of our suburban Toronto house and seeing the neighbours walking down theirs. Something about them was radiant and peaceful and moved me enough to tug at my mother’s sleeve and communicate a wondering. It must have been something along the lines of, “wow, what’s up with them?!” Because she looked at them, then me and said, “oh… they don’t smoke or drink.” It wasn’t really a comment about smoking or drinking per se, but rather said something about discipline, about the possibility of living an alternative life… a life of radiance… the possibility of not “running with the herd” as Andrew Cohen would say at a later time. To this day, I recall my young mind saying, “when I grow up, I’m not going to smoke or drink.”

Early darshan with a Saint. Me and my brother Billy.

Early darshan with a Saint. Me and my brother Billy.

We lived the suburban dream of commuting to achieve success in school, playing on sporting teams to achieve the Christian ideal of the healthy body, and periodically attending churches to achieve, perhaps, a moment of relative peace, relative beauty, relative community. But behind the scenes, there was something lurking. As one of my current heroes, Charles Eisenstein, writes, “I (like many others) felt a wrongness in the world, a wrongness that seeped through the cracks of my privileged, insulated childhood. I never fully accepted what I had been offered as normal. Life, I knew, was supposed to be more joyful than this, more real, more meaningful, and the world was supposed to be more beautiful. We were not supposed to hate Mondays and live for the weekends and holidays. We were not supposed to have to raise our hands to be allowed to pee. We were not supposed to be kept indoors on a beautiful day, day after day.” I remember a small placard in the change area to our suburban swimming pool.

Behold the fisherman
He riseth early in the morning,
He waketh the whole household.
Many are his preparations,
Bountiful his expectations,
BUT
He returneth late in the evening,
Smelling of strong drink,
And the truth is not in him.

Reciting this aloud at eight years old seemed to bring a certain delight to my family, and an avenue of self-expression for a certain background anxiety for me. What was it about our preparations and expectations that was ‘driving us to drink?’ I began to see that “the truth” was powerful and important.

A highlight of my youth was brief exposures to nature through my father. Each summer, we would go on camping trips in North Ontario. Sometimes to a river near Georgian Bay. Sometimes to a beach on Lake Huron. Just the other day, spreading the grass mats out for Arati at the centre, their scent took me back to this beach. I could feel the sand between my toes… smell the apple fritters my dad brought back from the local bakery… feel the sun and wind of Lake Huron. Swimming in those waters, smelling the pines, feeling the sun and hearing the sounds of the forest at night would plant the seeds of connection to the elements and to ecology, a relationship which has been crucial to my awakening and healing.

The beach on Lake Huron.

The beach on Lake Huron.

In the ninth grade, our English teacher had us read “Siddhartha,” by Herman Hesse. The most compelling thing about it to me was the way it introduced the sound: “Om”. Something in me intuitively understood and resonated with it. Our homework was to create a “book cover”. Mine was the word “Om”, stylized, with a person walking down a path into the “O”.

Fortunately, during that time, I saw the beauty of life and nature, because by the time I reached 16, like most teenagers perhaps, I was feeling an immense amount of anguish and pain. In the midst of striving to “be somebody” in academics and on the hockey rink, as Charles writes, “the Age of Aquarius had morphed into the age of Ronald Reagan.” I was surrounded by the mid-eighties messages of hyper consumerism and the rise of the corporate state. Gordon Gekko’s “greed is good” speech in the movie “Wall Street” was not necessarily being seen as a recipe for failure. Moreover, my burgeoning love affair with the natural beauty of Northern Ontario was up against ever increasing evidence of despoilment and the ravages of industry. The spiritual bankruptcy of my surroundings seemed complete.

I was indeed very fortunate, because in the maelstrom of inner turmoil, two things happened. One was that I heard the most beautiful sound outside. It was a small bird, and its chirp was astonishing. It seemed to show me that despite appearances, there is a beautiful, benevolent force and existence at the core of life that is imperishable. The other thing that happened was that somehow I had the insight to realize that one day I would die naturally – that one way or another the pain and anguish would have an end, and that that day would come soon. I made up my mind that if the pain was going to stick around, tempting me to deny this imperishable beauty I had discovered, then just to spite it I would live with it. I would “just allow.” I seemed to have come upon a version of the insight, “this too shall pass.” This was the best thing I could have ever done. I found myself able to move on. It was perhaps the beginning of the realization of the power of surrender.

In my late teens, I fell in love, but was perhaps doubly confused and frustrated, not only when the relationship didn’t last the apparently necessary move to university, but also when the love I was feeling didn’t seem to engender a matching level of integrity, truth and honesty. I found myself asking, “what does it take to live a life of true love and affection?”

Armoured up.

Armoured up.

It was at this time that I started to hear about the yogi in the hills, and while I was working to attend to my academic duties, I also fanned the flames of a creative revival of sorts: I started a rock band with some friends. After two and a half seasons, I left the hockey team. I took up “big brother” service with a young boy in the neighbourhood. I wrote poetry. I explored dance and theatre. I managed to explore some courses which hinted at the possibility of true freedom… true peace, true affection… I studied Thoreau , Shakespeare, and many others whose work hinted at transcendence and the Creator at the heart of nature. I saw the beginnings of the enquiry into true nature – into release from suffering, into the “fullness of life,” but nonetheless, graduated with a sense that something was missing.

I had an opportunity to teach English at a secondary school just outside of New York City, but decided to turn it down. Something in me knew that I had more to discover. On the plane ride out west that fall, through a bizarre coincidence, I sat next to a man who at the end of the flight said to me “You should check out J. Krishnamurti… I think you’ll like him.” The library in Whistler had one text by the man: “Education and the Significance of Life.” Very quickly, his message began to become clear: all conflict on the planet has the same source – a search for “psychological security.” I was immediately captured and astonished. Why don’t they teach this stuff in college, I wondered? Krishnamurti’s work supported my first headlong dive into the realization and practice of true-nature, of Self, of Yoga. The fullness of life which I was seeking was to be found in exposing the falseness of the idea of the “personal, psychological ME.” He wrote: “The self is made up of a series of defensive and expansive reactions, and its fulfilment is always in its own projections and gratifying identifications. As long as we translate experience in terms of the self, of the “me” and the “mine”, as long as the “I”, the ego, maintains itself through its reactions, experience cannot be freed from conflict, confusion and pain. Freedom comes only when one understands the ways of the self, the experiencer. It is only when the self, with its accumulated reactions, is not the experiencer, that experience takes on an entirely different significance and becomes creation.”

I got the message, and was entranced by the grace and skill with which he led his life and spoke with people. I embarked on a journey of studying his work very deeply, and despite his harsh critique regarding the manner in which the west was adopting “Eastern spirituality” and Yoga, I simultaneously moved into the insights and practice of Patanjali yoga.

For eight years, I spent my winters in the mountains, finding enough work to “pay the rent” as I deepened my practice and study. I was a builder, a taxi driver, a daycare worker, a lift operator on the mountain. My summers were spent in Ontario as a wilderness camp guide, director, and coordinator. The health, healing and vigour that I was discovering through leading a “simple life close to nature” found my appreciation for natural beauty growing. I began to see the power and importance of a certain conscious austerity. True to my childhood vow, I found myself neither smoking nor drinking – not a sign of integrity in and of itself, but an expression of a deeper focus, a deeper calling and urgency. My youthful hunch of a certain “wrongness” – a certain lack of truth – was finding its sources. I came to see, like my hero Charles, that our culture’s apparent wealth and security was merely “a bubble built on top of massive human suffering and environmental degradation.” He goes on to say, “… as my horizons broadened, I knew that millions were not supposed to be starving, that nuclear weapons were not supposed to be hanging over our heads, that the rainforests were not supposed to be shrinking, or the fish dying or the condors and eagles disappearing. I could not accept the way the dominant narrative of my culture handled these things: as fragmentary problems to be solved, as unfortunate facts of life to be regretted, or as unmentionable taboo subjects to be simply ignored.” We all have a need for integrity, for truthful, loving action. I could see that the solution for me lay in living and understanding yoga and the liberation teachings to the core.

In attempting to live a life which was vulnerable to truth, I lived with a tension. Krishnamurti’s words regarding yoga rang in my ears: “It’s about unitive consciousness, not all this other racket.” And yet push seemed to be coming to shove. My enthusiasm for wilderness guiding and life in a sporty ski town seemed to have taught me all it could. It was time to move on, but to what? In the summer of 2003, I was burning. Everyday I would sit, somewhat embarrassed, in between two cabins on the shore Alta lake in Whistler, obviously having a crisis. Feeling the burn of “not knowing.” Finding the breath. Letting the mental noise pass by like so many clouds. The scent of the mountain wildflowers was intoxicating, the fluff from the cottonwood trees was blowing over me like warm snow.

Alta Lake, Whistler. Great spot for a crisis.

Alta Lake, Whistler. Great spot for a crisis.

Despite my fear that I was getting involved in “all that other racket”, I decided to do a yoga teacher training, and stumbled upon one in the Kripalu tradition – a tradition with which I had had a good deal of experience. During the training, and with my new circles of friends in the city, I started to hear about the “Salt Spring Centre”. A friend of mine said, “you could go there.”

I decided to go, was accepted, and was immediately impressed by the kindness, inspiration and creativity of the people whom I began to meet. I found a home for my enthusiasm for study, practice, and for serving and supporting people in theirs. I began to explore Babaji’s written work, and there was an Eckhart Tolle video group in the yurt every Monday evening. A consistent invitation bubbled through it all: Attaining peace through the “perennial teaching” – the teaching of “true nature.” The teaching of the Self which exists despite thought, imagery and thinking. At one point, Eckhart questioned, “what does it mean to be enlightened?” He said, “it means you are very present.” Like Krishnamurti, Babaji wrote, “violence and ego consciousness can’t be separated. So long as there is individuality to be defended, there will be violence.”

When at long last the day arrived when I would see and meet Babaji, I was working in the kitchen and was told that I would see him out on the mound, under the maple tree. Washing dishes at the sink, I peered out towards the mound and saw him sitting there. A feeling of relief and delight washed over me. Instantly I could sense that he didn’t need anything from me – that he didn’t have any psychological agendas, that he wasn’t stirring up any drama – any racket. I could see that he wasn’t pushing anything away, wasn’t living in any ideas, and wasn’t living in any expectations. He was simply “very present.”

Since that day, over nine years ago, I have had the great fortune to be able to serve regularly at the centre. With Babaji’s support, my principal aim has been to attain peace – to be in my deepest spiritual enquiry, my deepest warmheartedness, and to support others in being in theirs. Meeting and working with Babaji has been a delight. I’ve returned year after year to be a resident and to work primarily in the garden and kitchen. I have also enjoyed regular participation at satsang, kirtan evenings, yajnas and celebrations. In that time, I have consistently received warmth and support from the many people who are inspired by Babaji and who mirror and embody his selflessness. The Sattvic climate generated by the people and practice at the centre and the focus on cultivation of positive qualities has supported my deepest values and awakening. I am so grateful to all who have done ‘the work’ of being kind. The work of supporting and holding space for Yoga and Self-realization.

Working with Babaji and the rock crew on Babaji's most recent trip to Salt Spring.

Working with Babaji and the rock crew on Babaji’s most recent trip to Salt Spring.

So there is a punchline to the story of the yogi who lived up in the hills of Vermont. A few months ago, I found myself reminiscing about those times (over twenty years ago!) and I thought, “hmmn… what was that fellow’s name again? Prem something… Prem Prakash!” On a whim, I “googled” his name and found that he had continued his teaching career and had started a yoga school. I looked at his bio and was delighted to see that his Guru is none other than Baba Hari Dass! So as I turned my youthful attention to the possibility of a life of meaning, Babaji’s grace was instantly there, calling to me from across the miles through the radiant eyes, smiles and hearts of some students of his student. May we all surrender to our love – to living the teachings – and know the effect our simple exchanges have on each other as we fall into grace – into the fullness of life.

Performing Arati in the Temple at Mount Madonna.

Performing Arati in the Temple at Mount Madonna.

Asana of the Month: Dhanurasana

Dhanurasana – Bow Pose
as taught by Jenny Shanti Collver

Dhan

Dhanurasana pose

Dhanurasana is a back bend which requires flexibility in the shoulders and thighs.

Benefits
Bow Pose energizes the body and counteracts the effects of too much sitting. Stretching the front of the body increases blood flow to the digestive tract, enhancing the efficiency of the liver, intestines and stomach. Contracting the back of the body stimulates the kidneys and adrenals.

Logos (shape, essence)
The pose arches the body backwards into the shape of a bow as the arms reach back to the ankles, resembling a taut bowstring. Vishnu is often depicted with a bow in his hand, which is said to represent the five senses. The arrow represents our feelings, shooting out into the world.

Entering the Pose

  1. To prepare the body for Dhanurasana, practice Salambasana (Locust), Bhujangasana (Cobra) and Balasana (Extended Child’s Pose).
  2. Fold a blanket into quarters and place it on the mat. Lie on the blanket, resting on your forehead.
  3. Lift one leg a few inches off the mat and extend it back. Repeat with the other leg. The legs are slightly more than hip width apart. The belly feels long on the mat and the pubic bone is comfortable on the blanket.
  4. Focus attention on the sacrum, pressing down on the top of the thighs and the lower abdomen. As you bend the knees, reach back to grasp the ankles.
  5. With an inhale, keep pressing the top of the thighs and the lower abdomen onto the blanket and lift up, opening the chest as the shoulders pull back and the knees rise off the mat. Keep the neck long and the face soft. The front of the shoulder joint is vulnerable in this bound pose, so mobilize the shoulder blades out and up. Use knee extension to deepen extension in the hips and spine. When the feet and hips are in a line and the toes are flexed, the knees are safe. Don’t allow the knees to bow out.

Releasing the Pose

  1. Exhale, relax and release the bow. Lengthen both legs, bend the elbows, stack the hands and rest the forehead straight down on the hands for a few breaths.
  2. Repeat the pose, staying up for 2 breath cycles, releasing on an exhale. Gradually increase the number of slow breaths you spend in the pose.

After the Pose

Roll to the back, bend the knees into the chest and gently roll side to side, massaging the lower back.

Modifications

Modify with a strap

Modify with a strap

  1. If the shoulders or quadriceps are tight or the knees are sore, try half bow. Lie on your belly and extend the legs back and both arms forward. Bend the right leg, flex the right foot and reach the right arm back to grasp the ankle. Inhale and lift the right shoulder and the head, moving the right heel away from the buttock. Keep the left arm and leg extended, pressing them into the floor. Hold each side for 3 breath cycles.
  2. Try a diagonal bow pose by holding the right ankle with the left hand, then holding the left ankle with the right hand.
  3. Or use a strap. Place a strap under the ankles as the legs extend back and you lie on your face. Place one end of the strap into each hand, keeping the legs hip width apart. Bend the knees and flex the feet. Hands are on the strap, as close to the feet as is comfortable. Inhale, press the top of the thighs and lower abdomen onto the blanket, and extend the tailbone towards the feet to broaden the low back.
  4. Inhale move the shins away from the buttocks and rise up. Exhale and relax down. Repeat, increasing the number of breaths in the pose with each repetition.

Cautions

Don’t practice bow pose in the last two trimesters of pregnancy. Also, this pose might be uncomfortable for nursing mothers. Get advice from your doctor if you have diagnosed disc disease or spondylolyis.

About Jenny Shanti Collver

Jenny-Collver

Instructor, Jenny Shanti Collver

Jenny Shanti Collver has been practicing Yoga since 1973 in Vancouver. She worked at the Salt Spring Centre School as Usha’s assistant from l987 to 2002. She obtained her 200 hour RYT at the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga in 2007 and taught yoga for a few years at the Ganges Yoga Studio. She studied Restorative Yoga with Judith Lasater in 2007, and is certified to teach as a Relax and Renew trainer. Jenny worked with Cathy Valentine in 2012, completing her 500 RYT in the Traditional Yoga Apprenticeship in practice and teacher training.

For the last few years, Jenny has been teaching yogis from the Salt Spring community, karma yogis and yogis on personal retreat at the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga. The study of Yoga asana and the aging yogi is Jenny’s most recent study.

She lives on a small farm on Salt Spring Island, where she raised her two daughters, Arianne and Melaina. For many years she has raised angora goats (whose hair she dyes, spins and weaves), donkeys, dogs and cats.

Sharada’s December Update

Hello everyone,

Life is quiet at the Centre now that we’re into our non-program winter season. Our community is once again small, and we sit together around one table at meal time.

Our winter sky

Winter sky

It’s dark by 4:30, and here in the country where there are no streetlights, flashlights are a necessity. We are fortunate to have a wood stove to keep us warm and cozy, especially when the power goes out, which is a pretty common occurrence whenever the weather is stormy. No snow yet, but who knows?

Arati continues at both the Ganesh and Hanuman temples, our dedicated temple crew having been inspired by a recent visit to MMC for further study and practice with Janardan.

Raven doing arati

Raven doing arati

If you check Babaji’s health updates, you will see that his condition has stabilized. Although he’s not writing anymore, he still twinkles and his love is palpable. Later this month Mount Madonna’s New Year’s Retreat will carry on, for the first time without Babaji’s physical presence.

Toward the end of November, the Centre hosted the Centre School’s annual advent celebration of light that Usha initiated in the earliest years of the school; this tradition honours the many cultures that hold celebrations of light. Usha still guides the singing as the children walk the spiral of cedar boughs and stars. Next week the school will hold its annual Winterfest, a seasonal event for families, with craft tables for the children, music by local musicians, a wonderful concession with lots of goodies and a raffle draw for the many prizes that have been donated.

Advent2013

Usha leading the Advent celebration of light; Sisaye lighting his candle

This month we will again hold our annual winter potluck and gift game. The gift game is known as the non-attachment game because there’s no guarantee that the gift you pick will remain yours at the end of the game. This event is a wonderful opportunity for the satsang community of Salt Spring to come together as a family to share food and to play. If you will be on the island on Dec. 11 and would like to join us, please contact Sharada for details (sharada@saltspringcentre.com).

We have several special offerings in this month’s edition. Pratibha has shared another informative Ayurveda article, called ‘Keeping Kapha Content’, including a recipe for ‘Immunity Soup’ to support us in the cold winter months. December’s ‘Asana of the Month’ is warrior 2 – virabhadrasana – contributed by Tricia (Hari Priya) Ramier, one of the Centre’s excellent YTT teachers. The feature ‘Our Satsang Community’ returns this month, with an article by Diana Padma Bridges, a member of our satsang since the 70’s, who has lived and worked at the Centre at various times over the years and remains closely connected.

Please read also ‘Connection and Belonging’, reminding us of the importance of staying connected – to ourselves and each other. Also included in this issue is a beautiful reflection on the oneness of life, by Johanna Peters, called ‘The Universe Reflected in One Grassy Knoll’. Thank you, Johanna, for the lovely reminder (and for bringing us a taste of summer sunshine in December.)

As we move through this season that’s often filled with busyness and stress, here’s a reminder from Babaji: The best way for a householder to live a spiritual life is to serve their family with a feeling that God is in them. Contentment, compassion and tolerance are to be practiced in all acts of life. In this way life will get purer every day and peace will be attained. Wish you all happy.

Love,
Sharada

Connection and Belonging

Baba Hari Dass

In this dark time of year (for those living in the northern hemisphere), many people, in the midst of holiday celebrations, find this a time of disconnection and loneliness. Regardless of our life situations, in this season of parties and presents, we may feel isolated, all the while longing for connection. It’s all too easy to hold ideas of how things ‘should’ be, and then feel disappointed when they don’t turn out that way.

Many years ago when I wasn’t sure about my place in the community, Babaji told me, “You make your own place.” I had a story about myself – that I was shy, I had nothing to offer, I wasn’t worthy, etc. Believing that story kept me from what I really wanted, which was a deep sense of connection and belonging. Whatever stories we’re telling ourselves come from our sense of ourselves as separate beings who somehow don’t make the cut or don’t fit in.

In fact, we are not separate, independent beings. All of life is interconnected. Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh talks about interbeing; we all “inter-are” in the deepest sense. Another spiritual teacher, Albert Einstein, says,

A human being is part of the whole called by us “the universe”, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few people nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison.

It is up to us to take a step out of that prison, first of all by recognizing that it is self-created, and then challenging our habitual thought patterns. Babaji reminds us, Good and bad are only a creation of our own mind. If we make an ugly picture of the world in our mind, then we see the world as ugly. Elsewhere he says, You are in bondage by your own consciousness, and you can be free by your own consciousness. It’s only a matter of turning the angle of the mind.

In the book “The Gift”, translated by Daniel Ladinsky, Sufi mystic and poet, Hafiz, says

Admit something:
Everyone you see, you say to them,
“Love me.”

Of course you do not do this out loud;
Otherwise
Someone would call the cops.

Why not become the one
Who lives with a full moon in each eye
That is always saying,

With that sweet moon
Language,

What every other eye in this world
Is dying to
Hear.

We all want to love, connect and belong. When we momentarily forget, let’s remind ourselves to come back to what’s most important to all of us. Stop, breathe and enjoy the gifts life has to offer. Happy winter season, everyone.

contributed by Sharada

Keeping Kapha Content & Immunity Soup

dosha-and-five-elementsDuring the winter season, when the days are shorter, the air is colder, and the earth is wetter, kapha dosha tends to increase and accumulate in the body. Kapha’s nature tends to be cool, wet and dense, and when these qualities are also reflected in our environment, kapha naturally increases.

In winter, the body needs more fuel to keep itself warm, it’s true, but the universal truth of “eat what you can digest” holds true as well. If we increase our warming grains (such as millet and barley), eat dairy products moderately, and include digestive spices in our cooking, we can keep kapha content. If on the other hand, we overindulge in cooling, moist and heavy foods (think pizza and ice cream), the body can become heavy and sluggish; the mind can feel lethargic and depressed.

To help keep the body strong and fit through the winter months, here’s a recipe for “Immunity Soup.” While definitely not recommended for monks (due to the garlic and onions), for most modern yogis this soup will offer a boost to the immune system that will gently help ward off colds and flu.

Several ingredients help make this soup so powerful. Shitake mushrooms are well known for boosting immunity and have an anti-viral effect as well. Many of us know garlic to be a natural antibiotic, and of course our dear friend ginger provides an anti-inflammatory effect.

Astragalus root, a Chinese herb with powerful immune-enhancing properties, adds a pleasant sweet taste when simmered in soup. Astragalus root is available in Chinese herb stores, or several places on-line. Pregnant or nursing women should not use astragalus root. Nor should those diagnosed with an “autoimmune disease” (such as MS, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis). Also, avoid using astragalus if you are taking immune-suppressing drugs.

Immunity Soup

Ingredients
Makes about 6 cups (3 servings)

  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves, mashed
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 2 oz shitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 large carrot, thinly sliced diagonally
  • 2-3 pieces astragalus root (about 7-8 inches total)
  • 5 cups mushroom (or vegetable) stock
  • 1 tablespoon tamari or low-sodium soy sauce
  • Salt (optional)
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions

Directions

  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger; sauté until soft and translucent. Add the shitakes, carrots, astragalus root, and mushroom stock. Bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
  2. Add the tamari and adjust the seasoning with salt if needed. Add the broccoli florets and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. (Kale is another lovely addition to this soup.)
  3. Remove the astragalus root pieces. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the scallions before serving.

Plenty of fun physical activity also helps keeps kapha content. Be sure to include ice skating, skiing, laughing and dancing as part of your wintertime routine as well!

May all be happy, healthy and holy!
– Pratibha (pratibha.que@gmail.com)

Pratibha Queen

Pratibha Queen

Pratibha Queen is a yoga instructor and Ayurvedic practitioner, who attends Salt Spring Center of Yoga retreats on a regular basis. Feel free to email with any questions that arise as you engage in health practices to support your yoga practice: pratibha.que@gmail.com.

 

[Dosha image source]

Our Centre Community: Padma Diana Bridges

Padma, part of our centre community

Padma, part of our centre community

My grandmother was my first guru. I learned rhyming prayers to bless everyone I knew each night, that doing good leads to happiness and mischief to sadness. I couldn’t hide anything from her because she was a gifted psychic. She knew my hidden thoughts and still loved me – so precious. I wondered why my Catholic grandmother would often tell me how wonderful Jewish people were (much later I would learn a family secret – that her husband who died young was a non-practicing Jew tired of his dark-haired family being ostracized in Sweden).

My father was also my teacher. A somewhat cynical, yet very ethical atheist, he would ask me lots of questions about what I thought and wouldn’t let me simply take things on faith. I didn’t appreciate that my grandmother had to confess her psychic abilities because it was believed that such gifts were from the devil. Nor did I appreciate the criticism that atheists received. I longed for the peace that existed between my father and grandmother, to come together in a spiritual discipline that could applaud these and all different natures – majorities and minorities. Although different than his, my father respected my grandmother’s beliefs and agreed that I be brought up Catholic and attend Loretto Academy, a private Catholic school. My classroom window overlooked the Niagara River just before it plunged over the falls.

Padma competing in Oyama canoe races

Padma competing in the canoe races at the 1978 Oyama retreat

Loretto was where I met my spiritual sister, Varuna. Although sincere, my incessant questions in religion class were disruptive. Varuna was a protestant and wasn’t required to go to religion class, but she wanted to learn about religion, so the nuns arranged for Varuna and me to go next door for private religion classes. Next door was a Jesuit seminary that trained priests. We had private classes with Father Keith and we weren’t required to memorize dogma. He asked us to examine our hearts and minds and discover the truth for ourselves. He told us to examine our dreams for clues to our unique spiritual path. When I told him about a dream where I sat peacefully on the floor in a room with no furniture, he said I had a contemplative nature and directed me to read The Lives of the Saints.

A few years after high school, Varuna excitedly called to tell me she had discovered that the place I was dreaming about was a yoga studio. I believe it was 1969 when Varuna took me to a Kundalini yoga class in Toronto and it certainly seemed a lot like my dream. I started searching out all kinds of yoga classes, loved the practices and in 1974 took Yoga Teacher Training with Swami Vishnu Devananda in Paradise Island, Bahamas. After that I taught yoga classes in Vancouver community centres.

I think it was 1978 while I was working on the Queen Charlotte Islands that Varuna told me that I must see Baba Hari Dass who was meeting people in the back of Jai clothing store, as I would be visiting Vancouver for a short time when he was there. I remember opening a door in the back of Jai that made a horrible squeaking sound and looking inside and seeing about 40 people on the floor meditating quietly with Babaji at the front. I didn’t know what to do, because no matter if I came in or waited outside, the door would again squeak…….so I decided to enter.

There I was – enveloped in powerful meditative energy, face-to-face with Baba Hari Dass – experiencing that same peaceful feeling I had with my grandmother – of being known deeply. I had met my Guru.

At the Centre, 1986

At the Centre, 1986

That New Year I went to Camp Swig near Santa Cruz for a retreat where I would see more of Babaji. Soon after the retreat my grandmother died. On her passing I experienced a horrible feeling of being alone in a worldly world. I needed someone wise in this world to guide me……so I wrote to tell Babaji that he was my guru. Babaji wrote back and told me I should move to Vancouver to be close to the satsang. Thus began my wonderful adventure with Baba Hari Dass and Dharma Sara Satsang.

Although I’d studied quite a lot of Yoga already, learning from Babaji was especially wonderful. He answered the question beneath the question I thought I was asking, giving me even more to ponder. I loved the practices of asana and pranayama, but wasn’t drawn to meditation. I remember asking him why we should meditate if we didn’t really want to……and he told me to try it out and experience why myself – the perfect answer for someone unimpressed with dogma!

Here are some of the factoids encountered while traversing this river of spiritual discovery called life – :

I spent 1980/81 living in the Euclid Avenue Toronto Ashtanga Yoga Fellowship satsang house while studying massage therapy.

I returned to Vancouver in 1981 and practiced massage at Dharma Sara’s Holistic Centre on 4th Avenue, where we held yoga classes and satsangs. On weekends we city folk, would often go over to “The Land” (The Salt Spring Centre for the Creative Arts and Sciences as it was then known) to reclaim it from blackberry bushes.

Eventually I lived in the Laurel Street satsang house with AD, Kalpana, Maheshwar, Shivani and others. Those were the days of Yogaerobics classes, where I lead fast-paced yoga moves to Madhab’s music and then we’d gab for hours after.

One of our gab sessions led to an idea for one of the first programs at Salt Spring Centre. We called it “More than Skin Deep”. It was a weekend where participants would get massage and natural facials, but also learn yoga. Participants liked it! – although a few things were dropped. Cold water hydrotherapy wasn’t a big hit. The name soon became Women’s Weekends and they were held for quite a few years and eventually transformed into today’s Yoga Getaways.

It may have been 1982 when I dropped off a press release and brochure to the Vancouver Sun…..resulting in a two-page article with colour photos of our Women’s Weekends. It brought lots of people to the program.

I think it was 1984 when I moved to Salt Spring and took part in a government grant where I learned computer skills and then worked developing and servicing programs – a very fun time – hard work too – creative – fine-tuning our programs and giving people, especially over-worked women from the mainland, that special time to relax and revitalize. Many returned to our annual and semi-annual yoga retreats.

A group of amazing people came together to serve the people in the programs – the Health Collective. As a resident of the land, I coordinated the Health Collective during the program weekends. Before Chikitsa Shala was built, we used little spaces all over giving massage, swedan, reflexology and facials. We would also work at retreats and for islanders, and fundraised to purchase the yurt years ago when Craig offered to sell his prototype to Salt Spring Centre for the cost of materials.

In 1985 I bought a small house on Salt Spring and planned on staying put.

In 1986, Doug from North Carolina came to the Centre to visit his friend Ambika, but she was off-island at the time. I married him, sold my Salt Spring house, and followed him to the US where we experimented with householder yoga for 20 years. Ultimately we decided this style of yoga was too difficult.

However, we discovered a very joyous aspect of householder yoga with the birth of our daughter Arpita. Although we were living in Seattle at the time, (1991), it was wonderful to have the satsang snuggly delivered from Salt Spring for Arpita. Raising such a bright, spirited and creative child was a privilege and a rewarding challenge.

Jessy Arpita, 1993

Jessy Arpita, 1993

Padma and Arpita (still called Jessy), 1997

Padma and Arpita (still called Jessy), 1997

Padma and Arpita (Jessy), 1997.

Padma and Arpita (Jessy), 1997.

For kindergarten and first grade we returned to Salt Spring, and Arpita attended school at the land (the Salt Spring Centre School) and I again worked for programs. I wish I had taken a picture the day Arpita, Ceilidh and Sarah took mud baths and came streaking by the program house during a Women’s Weekend – a creative new spa treatment! Alas, no software jobs for Doug resulted in our moving to Texas in 1998. I missed not seeing Babaji or Salt Spring satsangis for a long time. I studied Traditional Chinese Medicine in Seattle and continued studies in Austin, Texas, eventually receiving my MS in Oriental Medicine.

In 2008 I returned to Niagara Falls to be with my mom during her last year. My life had always been so busy – working, actively involved in yoga and family life. All of a sudden I was focusing on what was important to my mother and all the day-to-day simple things of just being with someone who appreciated each day. I think that wonderful time helped me learn a little more about appreciating everything that comes to you – both happy times and difficult times. One thing we know for sure – they all pass.

Padma and fellow centre community member Kishori, 1998

Padma and fellow centre community member Kishori, 1998

In 2010 I spent about six months at Salt Spring Centre again involved in programs. This time I was happy to be sharing that karma yoga experience with my daughter, Arpita. It’s wonderful that she also finds joy in karma yoga at Salt Spring Centre.

These days I find myself living in Niagara Falls, in the house that my father built the year I was born. I find satsang with a number of groups – many Buddhist. I spend Sunday nights doing vipassana meditation, Thursdays with the Thai Buddhists, Sunday mornings doing tai chi and qigong at the Chinese Buddhist temple. Wednesdays I study Vedanta with the Chinmaya Mission and Fridays and take a Yoga class at the Hindu Samaj. There are lots of Asians in Niagara Falls. I teach meditation courses through the local university’s Continuing Education and the occasional yoga workshop, mostly to my clients. I really feel that Satsang is important. Dharma Sara used to be my sole satsang…and now it takes several groups to fill that need.

Last New Year, Arpita and I were at Mount Madonna. Babaji wrote me a note saying that when I’m at Mount Madonna I should do a certain practice, but wherever I find myself, I can practice the way they do there. It feels so wonderful to know that Babaji has always understood me and leads me through this world with such wisdom. I have been very blessed to meet him and all the wonderful people of Dharma Sara. In Texas I lived on Tumbleweed Trail. Sometimes I feel that I’ve tumbled through life in a somewhat nomadic way. Perhaps I will again find myself spending a lot more with the wonderful people in Dharma Sara.

The Universe Reflected in One Grassy Knoll

Tricia-Ramier

An ancient tree holds the grounded energy of this place. Its roots grow deep and wide, connecting all of us who are here, and reminding us of our eternal connection with all living things past, present, and future–stretching out into infinite space. The warm sun soothes and touches our skin, lighting up this little grassy mound that feels like the centre of the universe. The rays of light, though invisible, become fully tangible when they make contact with the body. This is a place where there is no need to define where we are in relation to anything else. It is a place where time and space have no relevance or meaning, and the eternity of the present moment is all that can and will ever be known. It is a place where the concreteness of the physical world merges with the no-thingness of the divine.

My hands caress the grass beneath me and feel the life contained in each thin blade. How beautiful to have my body supported by this living, growing carpet! I am but one of the countless life forms that this small grassy knoll supports. Beneath me the grass and dirt are teeming with insects and microorganisms—each one a unique and complete universe unto itself. This place reminds me how tiny and insignificant I am, and at the same time I am reminded of my own infinite expansiveness. What is it about this place that reflects so much truth and beauty?

Looking up, I see others just like myself, experiencing the same joy that I feel. The sweet sound of laughter drifts over to me. I have never heard a sound more perfect and wonderful in my life! The farm yogis cross in and out of the bountiful rows of vegetables, covered in mud and reveling in the joy of witnessing the fruits of their labour in full bloom. It seems to me that each day they become more and more a part of the land that they work with their bare hands. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day they started to grow roots and shoot up towards the sky in exalted liberation–joining earth to sky, heaven to earth.

This place has stamped its memory into my being, and returning there in my mind awakens my body and my senses to experience it again as if for the first time. What I love most about this place is the way it makes me feel so alive. Like every cell of my body has come to life and is humming with the effervescent sparkle of being. The simplicity of the moment uncovers all of life’s beauty and depth. I am overcome by it.

The rustle and movement of the people around me bring time back into my experience, and I am reminded that I have a job to do. The kitchen calls. There are vegetables to be chopped and hungry yogis to be fed. But as I move to go, to return to the world of time, duty and productivity, the quality of this timeless space remains, and I am reminded of its permanence.

Even as I return to the mundane tasks of everyday life, I recognize the truth of this place within myself. I know that what it has revealed to me cannot be lost because it exists at the core of my very own being. It remains within me wherever I go, and its perfection calls me back to myself whenever I forget to see the magic and beauty around me.

Buddings Bio Photo– Contributed by Johanna Peters

 

Johanna became connected to SSCY through a series of serendipitous events that allowed her to work at the centre as a karma yogi. She remains connected to the centre and Babaji’s teachings by attending Satsang in Vancouver, and has learned the most about the true spirit of karma yoga through her work with children. Combining her love of yoga and working with kids, she had the privilege of co-ordinating the kids program at this year’s Annual Community Retreat. The centre continues to be a place of spiritual nourishment, inspiration and connection for Johanna, and the support it provides has allowed her life to blossom and flourish in the most unexpected and delightful ways.