Our Centre Community: Vikash Markus Knox

Vikash at kirtan at the Centre a few years ago (photo from the Driftwood - local newspaper)

Kirtan at the Centre a few years ago (photo from the Driftwood – local newspaper)

I grew up near Boston, Mass. with one brother and one sister. My parents are Episcopalians (similar to Anglicans). During my confirmation process at the church, I was not able to get satisfying answers to my questions.

Vikash (then Mark), age 6, with his sister

Vikash (then Mark), age 6, with his sister

As a young man, my first inkling of spiritual life came to me in high school, ever since I started to think for myself as a young teen. My interest in spiritual life grew, getting more focussed in my senior year of high school, largely through reading Thoreau. I started to see spirit in nature, seeing nature as sacred, and I rejected the modern, industrial world as a misdirected human endeavour. That was me in a nutshell at the age of eighteen. I took long walks in nature – for three, four, sometimes five hours.

I went to to University in Massachusetts, wanting at first to be a medical doctor; two of my relatives were doctors. After two years I changed to wildlife biology. While at university I met the Hare Krishna devotees. I loved the chanting and the food – and they were able to answer all my questions.

I made the choice after two years of university to live on a Hare Krishna farm in West Virginia. My parents were not happy about my choice, but they respected my freedom to choose. It wasn’t easy for them. Regardless of how difficult it was for them, especially my mom, they still visited me there a couple of times. On the Krishna farm we lived a very disciplined and austere lifestyle. What kept me there for two and a half years was the fact that I felt a genuine spirit of devotion. Eventually, however, the dogmatic nature of the teaching, along with the rigors of the lifestyle, prompted me to leave in 1979.

Vikash's parents

Vikash’s parents

A year before I became a Krishna, I got my draft card. I was fortunate enough to narrowly miss the mandatory draft by about six months, so I didn’t have to go to Vietnam. Instead, the Krishna farm was a spiritual boot camp for me.

After I left the Krishna farm, I went on a two month, 600 mile hike on the Appalachian Trail, from central Mass. to northern Maine through four states: Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, then Maine. This was primarily to reorient myself; I was so inculcated in the Krishna farm that I wanted some time to reorient, to see what my life would be now.

I made a decision to study Comparative Religion at UC Santa Barbara, and do what was needed to establish residency in California. My old roommate from U. Mass. had moved to Santa Cruz, so I landed there and got a job at Staff of Life. After about a year of living there, I saw that there was so much living spirituality around me – Zen buddhists, Tibetan buddhists, master yogis, Native American teachers – I realized that this living spirituality was richer than sitting in a classroom, so I never enrolled in UC Santa Barbara. I did, however, become more interested in Baba Hari Dass. This was in 1983. It took time because I was disillusioned with Hindu gurus; the strong link was the beautiful kirtan.

At first I came to only the kirtan hour of satsang in Santa Cruz, but slowly I began listening to what Babaji had to teach. I found his view far more universal than that of the Krishna doctrine, so around 1986 I started going regularly to the whole satsang.

During my stay in Santa Cruz, I took a year off to travel around the world and spent time in India. I found India to be deeply spiritual, emanating from the land itself, though I was uncomfortable with the chaos and pandemonium of the modern culture of India. I visited with my parents upon my return, and then went back to Santa Cruz.

It was not obvious at first, but I found out that Babaji had a centre in Canada. Also, a friend was hosting a gathering on Salt Spring Island. In 1987 I travelled with a friend from India to Salt Spring where I attended the Celebration of Life at the Salt Spring Centre. I was enchanted by the beautiful grounds and the easy-going vibe of the people at the Centre, and decided I would like to move there. Meanwhile, I returned to Santa Cruz, moved to Mount Madonna Center in the fall of 1987, lived there for the winter and worked in the garden. On the spring equinox of 1988 I moved to Canada to live at the Salt Spring Centre, where I resided for two and a half years, living in the Phoenix Cabin (before it burnt down and got resurrected.). I must say I loved my time living in the Centre community very much, and enjoyed managing the garden.

1988 at the Centre - Vikash fingerpainting with Soma

1988 at the Centre – Vikash fingerpainting with Soma

In the fall of 1990 I was invited to live in a community in Maui. Because I didn’t have legal status in Canada – and because it was Maui – I decided to accept the offer and move there. I got work gardening on Maui and I built a rustic cabin, thinking I would live there for many years. However, towards the end of my stay in Maui, my daughter was born. Since things didn’t work out with her mom, I moved back to California; my daughter and her mom moved to the northeastern US to get support from my parents.

Vikash's daughter, Mahina (probably around age 6 or 7)

Vikash’s daughter, Mahina (probably around age 6 or 7)

I lived for two years in a remote, isolated commune in northern California called River Spirit, where I learned how to turn deer hides into clothing and make fire by rubbing two sticks together.

There were 11 adults and 11 children living there, and eventually I found the small number of adults to be socially claustrophobic. After getting a letter from Sanatan, I thought of Salt Spring and how I had enjoyed my life there. In June of 1998 I moved back. Sanatan found me a small room in Fulford village – a small, cement, basement room in the house Satya was renting. After several more moves, one of which was in Sanatan’s bus, I eventually landed at the “goat shed” on Weston Lake, with a beautiful yard and great landlady, where I lived for over ten years.

Claire and Vikash in front of the goat shed (where they lived)

Claire and Vikash in front of the goat shed (where they lived)

Vikash, Kamalesh, Henri, Sanatan, 2003

Vikash, Kamalesh, Henri, Sanatan, 2003

During these years I learned how to make beads out of rose petals. It came about as a need for livelihood in the winter season as my gardening work was largely over by the fall. After a false start making rose beads, a friend told me about a recipe for them, which I tracked down. I had success with that recipe, and rose bead making has now been my main livelihood for about 13 years. The beads are quite unique, and carry the fragrance of the rose for an amazingly long time. In fact, the term ‘rosary’ comes from the time the Catholics got the beads from the Muslims in the 1500s. The beads originated in India before Christ. I still sell the beads at the Saturday market, and I’m just setting up a website: www.rosepetalbead.com.

On August 22, 2012, I married Claire Ryder and we bought a house together in the south end of the island. My daughter, Mahina, has become very close with Claire’s daughters, Rose and Dorah. Claire and I go to satsang regularly and support the music with voice, me on drums, Claire on harmonium. We also host a Wednesday evening kirtan circle at the Centre.

Vikash and Claire a few years ago (before they were married)

Vikash and Claire a few years ago (before they were married)

Babaji’s teachings and presence over the years have enriched my spiritual life. I receive teachings from other spiritual teachers as well, and find the core message the same – the non-dual path of awakening, which is closest to my heart. I find myself a pretty grateful guy as to how my life has turned out: a great partner and family, a close-knit spiritual community and an extra beautiful environment. I have been a seeker for much of my life, and now I’m a finder! OM SHANTI

Asana of the Month: Ardha Chandrasana

Ardha Chandrasana (are-dah chan-DRAHS-anna) – Half Moon Pose
Ardha = half; Chandra = shining (translated as “moon”)

Ashok in Ardha Chandrasana against a wall

Ashok in Ardha Chandrasana against a wall

I like to add this pose in the middle of a sun salutation or on its own followed by downward dog (adho mukha svanasana) and cobra pose (bhujangasana). Include this standing pose in a morning practice as a reminder of life’s abundance and ones own physical reawakening from winter season.

Benefits include
Balance, core, leg and buttock strength, stretches the spine, chest groin and hamstrings. Improves digestion.

Getting into the pose
Place a hard block at the front-left side of your mat. Start in tadasana (mountain pose) at the front of your sticky mat, with your feet together and arm resting next to the torso. Exhale and step the right foot back approximately 3 to 3.5 feet and turn the foot out to the edge of the mat, with the left foot pointing forward, heels lined up. The left leg is straight and both arms are held horizontally over the legs, keeping the shoulders relaxed with shoulder blades soft, moving down the back. Hip points and chest are facing the side of the mat. At this point, find the legs strong, balance coming up from the inner arches while pressing down through the earth with the outer right heel.

Take the right hand down to the waist as you begin to exhale and extend over the left leg, bringing the trunk over the thigh with equal extension on both sides of the spine. Bending the left knee, take the left hand to the floor (or block) 8-10 inches in front of the little toe and pressing evenly down through all fingers, simultaneously lifting the right leg up, keeping the foot flexed and the leg parallel to the floor or slightly higher so that it creates a straight line from the side body.

Let the standing leg begin to straighten with the kneecap lifting and the quadricep contracted. The right hip should stack over left. Your head is neutral, neck is aligned with the spine and looking to the side. Regulate your balance with the body’s weight more onto the standing leg but the balance controlled from the core, through the limbs. Repeat on the opposite side, take a break in child’s pose or continue through a sun salutation.

Variations on the pose
To deepen the pose, the right arm can extend above the shoulder with the palm facing the right. Turn your gaze up to the hand while lengthening through the torso from the top of the head to the tail bone.

Modifications
Using a Block: Use the block on the side that provides the most support and balance. A block provides 3 sides (or heights) to help reach for the floor. Keep your hand flat to the block with a firm hold.

Using a Chair: Beginners can practice using a chair to understand the pose and the alignment of the pelvis, while balancing on the hand and leg. Place the hand of the standing side on the seat of a chair.

Using the Wall: Position yourself against a wall with the feet 2 inches away from it, then follow through as above instruction. Using the wall eliminates the balance component and helps to develop the alignment of the pose

About the instructor
Peter BarragonPeter Ashok Baragon graduated from SSCY’s Yoga Teacher Training ten years ago  and has been teaching in Vancouver and West Vancouver ever since.  He enjoys teaching at community based centres for the variety of participants and the opportunity to offer different styles throughout the week. Rooted in classical ashtanga yoga and hatha yoga, he also teaches yin, restorative, chair-yoga for seniors and power flow vinyasa. Teaching for him flows from a place of love, compassion and gratitude.

Read more about Peter’s experience as a student of the Salt Spring Centre’s Yoga Teacher Training program.

Other postures taught by Peter

Meet our YTT Grads – Peter Ashok Baragon

Peter Ashok Baragon

Peter Ashok Baragon

Where do you live? What do you do in your life apart from yoga?
I live in beautiful Vancouver, I was born and raised here. I have my own business working with real estate companies as an exterior stager for presentation/sales centres around Metro Vancouver.

What motivated you to begin practicing yoga? How did yoga come to be a part of your life?
The initial motivation was to help stretch out before and after a work-out at the gym, then I began to enjoy the yoga class from the meditative side, the spiritual side. My teacher at the time was very encouraging, and helped me explore this. Eventually the class was more than a stretch class; it became my “everything” class. I found myself wanting to sit quietly more than to move in poses, and Be. Thinking back, I remember as a young child watching yoga on TV and being fascinated with it, and my memory of that program is clear today.

What attracted you to the SSCY YTT program?
I was visiting a friend on SSI at the time, and one afternoon he said, “We have to go and see Babaji at the centre today”. My response was, “Who? …Where?” We would return for asana classes from time to time over the next year and always felt at home at the centre. This is before the YTT program was in place, in the late 90’s. I was encouraged by a yoga teacher to be a teacher, so I looked for a centre/school for my YTT and after months of looking I returned to the place where it all began, SSCY!

What aspect of yoga has had the most transformative effect on your life?
My practice as a whole has helped me see myself, my role as a teacher, and my perspective on the world differently than before I started this yoga. I’ve become more patient, more compassionate, more forgiving, and more open to the experiences that unfold every day.

Please share some memorable moments – or a favourite moment – from YTT.
There were several, but one memory that stands out was that I was one of four men in the group.The class was mostly women; I was a part of the minority and this was source of good humoured remarks. YTTs are mostly made up of women, so to be surrounded with a lot of female energy, I have to admit, had its yin/yang moments.

What can students expect from the yoga teacher training at the Centre?
They can expect a comprehensive yoga teacher training covering all the aspects of yoga, in a fun supportive and loving environment. The student will become a teacher within a family community here. Good friendships are made at the SSCY and YTT.

Do you have any favourite quotes?
I have many… I use them as mantras. Today’s is “allow and surrender”

Read Peter’s contributions to our Asana of the Month series:

Guru Purnima 2013

Join us for Guru Purnima on July 22nd, at 8am, at Salt Spring Centre of Yoga.

Through our ancient Vedic ceremony (yajna), we will honour Babaji and all spiritual teachers. May we renew and rededicate ourselves to all that the teachings inspire within us, to attain real peace.

We offer our gifts from the heart in deep gratitude.

Guru is your own Self which is projected onto a person who is more knowledgeable and capable of teaching. In the beginning an aspirant seeks support from outside, which is given by the teacher. But when the aspirant begins meditating honestly, his or her own Self is revealed as the Guru. Then the aspirant starts turning inward and finds the path, which is shown by the voice of the heart.

If you are interested in offering at the Yajna, or would like more information, please contact Rajani at 250 537 9537 or rajanirock@me.com.

Sharada’s June Update

Happy summer, everyone. Soon it will be sunny and hot – maybe not today, depending on where you live – but it’s coming. The expansiveness of summer means the Centre is in its busy season, and about to get busier. Following are a few of the events that are about to unfold.

This week we welcome a new group of karma yogis into our Karma Yoga Service and Study program. They will be joining the kitchen, housekeeping and maintenance crews, with one person added to the farm team for the summer. It is always inspiring to meet people who choose to live a life of community and service.

l-r: Landscaping consultation, Ryan and Stacey; Tara sweeping the lobby, Van prepping for lunch

l-r: Landscaping consultation, Ryan and Stacey; Van prepping for lunch; Tana sweeping the lobby

While the Centre gears up, the Salt Spring Centre School year winds up the school year. This year’s play – Pinocchio – was a big success; this annual event includes every child in the school. This month the school holds its 5th Annual Art Lottery on June 16, the school’s biggest fundraiser, with great opportunities to come away with a beautiful piece of art donated by one of the many artists on Salt Spring Island.

Coming up on June 14 is the ‘Keeping the Flame Burning’ weekend, which includes our AGM. You can read more about it under the Retreats and Programs on our website, at the top of the home page. The following month we will be celebrating Guru Purnima at the Centre on Monday, July 22 at 8 am. Please read about Guru Purnima under Upcoming Events, with more details coming later in June.

Jeramiah's famous haircut, 1983

Jeramiah’s famous haircut, 1983

There are several articles in this edition that I hope you will enjoy. The Our Satsang Family article this month features Jeramiah Rajesh Morris, who has been part of this family since he was two, living here with his mom. It is full of great stories – hope you enjoy it. Meet our YTT Grads introduces Karen Cabral, who graduated from the Centre’s YTT program a couple of years ago. Preet Heer, who often teaches at Yoga Getaways, offers us Tree Pose in Asana of the Month. These articles give you a fuller picture of people’s experiences at the Centre.

This year’s Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) begins on July 3. It is a 200 hour yoga teacher training, with an in-depth curriculum and a faculty of very experienced teachers. There is still some space left in the upcoming YTT, so if you or someone you know has been thinking about enrolling, now’s the time to do it.

Immediately following the first session of YTT is our 39th Annual Community Yoga Retreat, a special program full of learning, connecting and fun, offering a great variety of classes – plus a program for children, enabling families with children to come. Please read the details under Retreats and Programs on the homepage of our website. If you want to come, I encourage you to register online early for the best value. This newsletter features an interview with Kathryn Kusyszyn, this year’s ACYR Coordinator, telling about her connection with Babaji and the Centre.

Sanatan, Divakar, Sudarsan, Rajani, Lakshmi - some of the Canadians at the May retreat with Babaji; Babaji at the celebration

Sanatan, Divakar, Sudarsan, Rajani, Lakshmi – some of the Canadians at the May retreat with Babaji; Babaji at the celebration

Several people from our community went to Mount Madonna Center recently for the celebration of Babaji’s 90th birthday. I welcome you to read some reflections arising from that special satsang family reunion, in the article called Inspiration and Gratitude. For the moment, here are a few comments from some of our satsang family:

“There was so much love in the room. There was a pouring out of love from Babaji – and people were so gracious, softened. I was almost drunk with love.” – Kishori

“It was like a river flowing with love and gratitude from several hundred people flowing directly to Babaji.” – Rajani

“I think everyone came with love and it went through us like electricity.” – Sudhir from MMC

From Babaji: Love is a universal religion.

Love,

Sharada

Inspiration and Gratitude

Babaji at 90

Babaji at 90

Having just returned from Mount Madonna Center – the Salt Spring Centre’s big sister centre – to celebrate Babaji’s 90th birthday and to connect with many, many brothers and sisters in our satsang family, I am struck by the precious gift of having met a master yogi and been taught, inspired and supported by Baba Hari Dass.

I know that not all readers of this newsletter have met Babaji, and may not understand the idea of devotion to a guru. When asked about it, Babaji wrote:

The aim of life is to live in peace. A guru or spiritual teacher teaches how to attain that peace. The teacher and student relationship is based on faith and trust. A guru who is not trusted by the student is not his or her guru in reality. A guru doesn’t teach much except how to live in the world with truthfulness, with nonviolence, and with selfless service to others. The guru either presents these teachings in words of through the way they live their life.

A teacher is not much of a guide except to show the right path for attaining peace, and to point out that another path goes in the wrong direction. In both cases you have to walk by yourself. The teacher’s duty is finished after simply pointing out the right path.

Babaji has been a guide to many of us, and his teachings continue to guide the unfolding of the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga and all the other projects inspired by him. Many people did a lot of work, but the light that has guided us is grace.

At the retreat there were presentations every day – complete with slide shows and songs – about the many projects that have evolved since the 1970s:

  • Mount Madonna Center and the Hanuman Fellowship
  • Pacific Cultural Center (the town center in Santa Cruz, usually referred to as PCC)
  • Mount Madonna School, with a slide show of the Ramayana productions from the early years to the present
  • Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple at MMC, to which hundreds of visitors come every week
  • Sri Ram Ashram in India (sometimes referred to as an orphanage, although it is actually a home and a family), founded upon Babaji’s dream of providing a home for orphaned and destitute children. This presentation was also a tribute to Ma Renu, who initially sponsored Babaji to come to North America, and worked diligently to support Sri Ram Ashram.
  • the Ashtanga Yoga Fellowship in Toronto
  • Dharma Sara Satsang Society and the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga.

When the retreat began, people began pouring in from all over Canada and the US, everyone instantly feeling a sense of connection. We are all one family; no matter where we are on the path, we all hold the aim of living in peace. We spent the days in Babaji’s presence, swimming in a sea of gratitude and love.

Babaji’s role has shifted with age, but he still serves as a shining example by being present and accepting whatever happens, with grace. He may not remember people’s names, but he still connects with everyone, radiating love and compassion. He remains playful and twinkly, especially with children. At this retreat even some of the adults received candy!

Our job is to continue to show up, and stand up every time we fall.

Work honestly,
Meditate every day,
Meet people without fear
And play.

Keep the lamp lit, walk on step by step. You can’t go astray but will merge in the light.

contributed by Sharada

Asana of the Month: Vriksasana (Tree Pose)

Vriksasana (Tree Pose)

Preet in Vrikasana

Preet in Vriksasana

Vriksa means tree and asana means pose. Vriksasana, tree pose, builds balance and strength and is suitable for all levels.

Practicing Vriksasana helps ground me, especially when I am feeling overly busy and disconnected. The pose reminds me of the importance of finding ‘balance’ in my daily life. Like the tree, connecting to the earth, while also striving and reaching for the sky. I think about the opposing forces of rootedness working with an uplifting quality: a delicate balance between the two.

Preparation
Start in Tadasana, mountain pose:

  • stand with your feet hip width apart, knees slightly bent, arms at your side
  • lengthen up though the spine
  • imagine a string, gently drawing the crown of your head toward the sky
  • allow your shoulders to relax back and down
  • inhale, exhale – bringing awareness to your breath

Bring awareness to your feet:

  • While standing in Tadasana, slowly shift your weight from one leg to the other in a small pendulum-like motion, noticing the weight shifting from one foot to the other, from the inside edges of your feet to the outside edges of your feet.
  • Then slow down the pendulum movement and find the balance point where you have equal weight in both of your feet, notice the inside and outside edges of your feet.
  • You can try this with your eyes closed to really help focus your awareness inside your body.
  • Next lift up all your toes as best you can, and while they are lifted, spread your toes apart, creating space between each of your toes. Then, leaving them fanned apart, bring your toes down to the meet the mat.
  • Do this a few times to create an awareness of the sensation of your body connecting with the ground, awakening the sensation on the bottom of your feet.
  • Then stand in mountain pose, feet firmly grounded.

The Pose

  • With your knees slightly bent, slowly shift the weight into your left foot
  • gently lift the right foot off the ground and press the sole of the right foot into the inside part of your left thigh
  • make sure you are not pressing your foot into your knee
  • As you press your foot into your thigh, you will also want to press the thigh into the foot, cultivating an awareness of the mid-line of the body running through the centre of the torso and between the legs to the ground.
  • Then slowly bring your hands together at your heart centre in prayer.
  • As you press your hands together, press your thigh and foot together again. Feel the connection into the centreline of your body.
  • Root down through your feet, lift up through your chest and crown of your head, feel the sweetness of these opposing forces.
  • To help with balance, try focusing on something that doesn’t move. If your gaze is down, then find a spot on the ground slightly ahead of you to focus on, or you can gaze at something straight ahead.
  • Imagine your feet connecting with the ground, like tree roots into the earth. Feel the strength in your core, like the stable trunk of the tree. Lengthen your spine and reach the crown of your head to the sky, like the long branches of a tree.
  • Remember to breathe here, long and steady breaths, keeping your awareness in your body. Stay in this pose for as long as you feel comfortable.

Coming Out of the Pose

  • slowly bring your arms down along the sides of your body
  • lower your bent leg back to the ground
  • stand in mountain pose, where you started
  • take a moment and close your eyes and feel the effects of the pose. Notice any differences from one side of your body to the other. Notice the sensation of your feet connecting with the ground.
  • When you feel complete, begin again, this time lifting the opposite foot from the ground.
Vriksasana, arms extended

Vriksasana, arms extended

Modifications
1. If you are a beginner, you can consider the following:

  • Balance-stand near a wall to help with balance
  • Position of the raised foot-instead of bringing your lifted foot into the thigh, you can bring the sole of your foot into the ankle area, keep the toe of the lifted foot touching the ground. Or you can bring the lifted foot into the inside of the calf area

2. You can add more challenge to the pose:

  • Extend your arms overhead- lengthen through the arms, while drawing your shoulder blades down your back, clasp your hands together.
  • Position of the raised foot-bring your raised leg into half lotus position
  • Close your eyes – notice how this challenges your balance even more

About the Instructor

Preet Heer

Preet Heer

Preet Heer works as an Urban Planner for the City of Surrey, and also teaches yoga part time from her home studio in White Rock. She did her yoga teacher training at the Salt Spring Centre, and has taught at some of the Yoga Getaway Weekends.

She finds yoga a perfect complement to her busy life. Preet focuses her teaching on the aspect of bringing present moment awareness into each asana, integrating mindfulness with the physical practice. Yoga has been part of her life since she was 9 years old.

“Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.” –Kahlil Gibran

Our Satsang Family: Jeramiah Rajesh Morris

Jeramiah, part of the Centre family

Jeramiah, part of the Centre family

I was born in Florida in 1979 into a family of three sisters and my Canadian mother, Jeanine Paquet (Mamata). We left Florida when I was still a baby, to move to coastal British Columbia. My mother and I, along with her two sisters and their children all lived in a big house in Cloverdale.

the famous haircut, 1983

the famous haircut, 1983

In 1982 my mother saw a posting on a community board in the local health food store about a retreat with Baba Hari Dass on Salt Spring Island. This was the first she’d heard of Babaji, the Salt Spring Centre, and the island … and it was the beginning of my long experience with the Centre.

As long as I can remember the Centre has always felt like my home. After attending that retreat in 1982 my mother decided to move us to the Centre, and we became the first family to live on the property. Shortly after, Sid and Sharada moved into their home along with Nayana and Daya. Mangala came later with Ariel and Caleb, and Maya and Piet lived there for a time with their dad, Marc. My mother and I lived in the main house in various rooms upstairs over the years.

Nayana and I were the best of friends in those early years, and we had the run of the whole land all to ourselves. I would frequently wake up at the crack of dawn before everyone else, run down to Nayana’s house, and steal her clogs (they were made of blue transparent plastic). Well, they were attractive and I liked wearing them! Each time I did this my mother insisted I return them before receiving breakfast. When I was two or three Nayana and I decided to get married, and she wore a twist-tie wedding ring to show it.  I believe we later divorced.

Caleb, Ariel, Jeramiah, 1985 or 86.

Caleb, Ariel, Jeramiah, 1985 or 86.

Growing up at the Centre was like having a very large family, which was a gift to me as most of my family lived across the country and were not a part of my life.

In 1984 I began my first year of school at the Centre School, where I continued on for at least half of my primary education. Back then, there were a dozen or so of us downstairs in a large room, which has now been divided up into KY quarters.

My mother and I moved off the centre property, only to return a few years later for another stint when I was 7 years old. Whether we were living at the centre or elsewhere on the island, the Centre continued to play a major role in my life. I attended school and we participated in weekly satsang and regular retreats.

With Babaji at Blackburn Lake (when we had access to the lake from the Centre), 1986

With Babaji at Blackburn Lake (when we had access to the lake from the Centre), 1986

Of course, as a child, satsang and retreats just meant really awesome extended play time and visits from Babaji! He was like a grandfather to us as children. I remember getting so excited to receive the daily Prasad candy. One time I stood at the foot of the stairs outside of the kitchen – I couldn’t have been older than 3 or 4 – with Anuradha and Babaji at the top of the stairs looking down. I insisted that I hadn’t received my daily candy yet (which I believed to be true). I was devastated when they both agreed that I had already had my candy for the day and denied me any more! I was sure they were mistaken, but Sharada says Babaji always kept track and was surely correct.

I remember there always being so much going on in those early days of the community. I remember epic Halloween parties (there are photos in the library to prove it), retreats, countless festivals, and of course who can forget the original Hanuman Olympics?! Sack races, tug of war, obstacle courses … it was undoubtedly one of the highlights of every year for all of us.

In my later years at the Centre school our classroom was upstairs in the Satsang room and the library (which we called the piano room back then). There were no permanent fixtures in the classroom, only bookshelves on wheels that got turned around for weekend programs. Usha, being the teacher that she is, didn’t need any extra gimmicks!

School photo at Usha's house, 1987

School photo at Usha’s house, 1987

There were about 14 of us as I recall. Usha was an innovative and passionate teacher who brought us an education unlike what most kids would experience in public schools. In particular I remember being taught peaceful resolution to conflict. Each day we would sit in a large circle and Usha would dip into our ‘feedback box’ and pull out any slips that had been deposited by us kids. She would read the slip aloud, and the parties involved were coached on how to communicate their feelings and resolve the conflict with each other.

At lunchtime we would all run around the property with great excitement and complete freedom. We created forts, which soon turned into a full blown village called ‘The Bunny Homes’, complete with real estate agents, shopkeepers, police officers, restaurants and our own currency. Apparently the Bunny Homes still exist today, although the form and location has changed. We would also run down to the creek when it flowed in cooler months. Inevitably at least one of us would fall in each day, and would spend the afternoon wrapped in a towel in class while our clothes dried in the dryer.

When the school bell broke (it was a handheld old style metal bell) Usha would come outside at the end of lunchtime and sing, in her beautiful Usha style, ‘Ding-aling-aling time’. We would all protest and beg for ‘5 more minutes’! Occasionally, but not often, our request was granted.

In 1990 I left the Centre School to attend French Immersion at Salt Spring Elementary. I can recall feeling a little out of place in such a traditional setting, and it took some time for me to adapt to the normal schoolyard bullying and games that simply didn’t exist in our Centre School.

In 1992 we left the island to move to Kaslo in the Kootenays where my mother had purchased land and a home. This began a long gap in time where I didn’t see much of the Centre. I kept in touch with some friends, and occasionally would come back for visits, but we didn’t attend retreats for many years.

It was in 2002 that I re-established a strong connection to the Centre that has endured until today. I had been living in Vancouver attending college and working, and then living in Florida for a year. I moved back to BC at age 22 with a broken heart after ending my first relationship. Being in a state of pain and loss, I began to explore my own spirituality for the first time as an adult.

That year I attended the retreat as a participant and Karma Yogi for the first time. I attended my first asana class with Lila, an elder who taught well into her eighties. I will always remember her words in class, spoken in her gentle German accent, ‘Your body loves to be loved. Give your body love. There are no real excuses. Why wouldn’t you practice asana and give your body the love it wants to receive?’ This was the beginning of what would become a deep and disciplined yoga practice.

During the retreats of 2002 and onwards I reconnected with many childhood friends. In those years Babaji was still attending the retreats, and I did KY on rock crew on all of its many construction projects. I also worked in childcare and dish crew.

School reunion,2003

School reunion,2003

In 2003 I attended the Yoga Teacher Training program at the Salt Spring Centre thanks to a very generous scholarship from a longtime satsang member. This was an incredible education into all aspects of ashtanga yoga as taught by Babaji, and it shaped my yoga practice and my life thereafter. Later that year I traveled to Mount Madonna Centre in California to attend a two-month Karma Yoga program.

Yoga Queen by Babba. YTT talent show, 2003

Yoga Queen by Babba. YTT talent show, 2003

Getting to know Babaji and his teachings took on a whole new form in that period of my life. As a young adult I was eager to learn all that I could from him. It is perhaps the greatest gift of my life to have known him from such a young age: to have sat beside him at mealtime, to have heard his teachings in Gita class, and to have worked with him on rock crew and other projects. Because of this, yoga has always been an integral part of my life and I don’t remember a time that it wasn’t, in some shape or form.

In 2003 I also began a career at lululemon athletica which would span nearly 10 years. When I began it was a small startup company based in Kitsilano with 5 stores in Canada selling yoga apparel.

I began as a salesperson on the retail floor, and I expected to remain for only a month or two! I later became a valued member of the senior leadership team based in the Vancouver head office and traveling across North America. In the early years of the company we created a company culture based on many aspects of yoga, including ego awareness, communication, asana practice and more. My yoga practice and knowledge that I had learned from Babaji’s teachings was a great asset and influenced my leadership at lululemon. Without it, I’m not sure I would have progressed as far as I did with the organization.

By 2010 I was beginning to see that my time at lululemon was coming to a close. I yearned for a life more like the way I had grown up and also more consistent with Babaji’s teachings of living simply. It was a great spiritual yearning that became stronger and stronger, and soon could not be ignored.

Jeramiah7

With his mom, 2003

With Usha, 2003

With Usha, 2003

That same year I met a beautiful yogi. Michael grew up in North Saanich and spent years living overseas and traveling in India before we met. The next year, in 2011, Michael and I were together living in an apartment in Vancouver.

We shared a yearning for a simpler life, and in February of 2012 we moved to Salt Spring Island. Later in the year, I bought a 50-acre organic farm on Starks Road which is our home today.

As we were pulling blackberry brambles and reclaiming parts of our pasture this spring, I was struck with great respect for all of the work that has gone into the Salt Spring Centre over the years by so many people. In the 30 years I have known it, it has truly transformed and evolved in such a beautiful way.

My mother once told me that a guru’s energy can be felt long after his departure from his centre or ashram. I know this to be true at our Centre because I feel it always when I am there. It continues to be a place of peace and restoration for me.

I have great gratitude for Babaji and for the many satsang members who helped raise me. We are family! Thanks most of all to my mother for having the wisdom to take us to this special place.

Love,
Rajesh

Sharada & Jeramiah, 2013. (Jeramiah crouching to be closer to Sharada's height.)

Sharada & Jeramiah, 2013. (Jeramiah crouching to be closer to Sharada’s height.)

Meet our YTT Grads: Karen Cabral

Karen-CabralWhere do you live? What do you do in your life apart from yoga?
I live on Burke Mountain with my daughter and 2 cats, and am employed as a customer service representative for H.Y. Louie. I love the outdoors – preferably when it’s sunny – walking or biking in the many trails near my home.

What motivated you to begin practicing yoga? How did yoga come to be a part of your life?
I began practicing yoga when my daughter was born. I had a lot of back problems from a couple of car accidents in my early 20s, and my daughter was very collicky when she was a baby, so yoga helped me to ease both the pain in my back and my frayed nerves. May practice was sporadic until January of 2002. I quit smoking then, and filled the void of my bad habit with the more life affirming practice of yoga. I was hooked.

What attracted you to the SSCY YTT program?
In 2011 I decided to take my practice deeper and enroll in a teacher training program. I looked at many programs in the Vancouver area but the SSCY program attracted me because I was able to leave my life behind for a short while and focus solely on my studies. They also had what I considered the most skilled and knowledgeable faculty. And Salt Spring Island is very special to me as my grandparents moved there when I was a young child, so I have many precious memories of spending time with them on the island.

What aspect of yoga has had the most transformative effect on your life?
I think, like most people, I started doing yoga mostly as a physical exercise and then started to notice the mental and emotional benefits. As I added more practices like pranayama and meditation, it reinforced and expanded my feelings of ease and peace on all levels. Studying the philosophy and ancient texts has given me the tools to challenge my limiting beliefs and expand my views on life. Now every aspect of my practice feels very sacred to me.

What can students expect from the yoga teacher training at the Centre?
Students coming to the SSCY for YTT can expect to come away with an expanded mind and well-rounded education. The staff has a wealth of gifts and information to share. And the food!!!! I am a total foodie, and I have to say some of the best meals I have had have been at the Centre. Must be all the love that the karma yogis add when they are cooking the meals! Also the friendships and bonds I formed with the other students and staff has been a blessing in my life. Scattered amidst all the hard work and studies, expect to find lots of fun and laughter. I went to SSCY to get a certificate to teach yoga and I came home with so much more – an expanded mind, a healthy body and heart full of love.

Do you have any favourite quotes?
As Babaji puts it so simply,
Work honestly, meditate every day, meet people without fear, and play
I love this quote because it shows we need to have balance in our lives and that play is as important as work.

Notice of AGM 2013

DHARMA SARA SATSANG SOCIETY
NOTICE OF ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

Saturday June 15, 2013
12:00 am – 2:00 pm
at the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga

1. Election of the Board
There will be an election to fill the positions of President, Treasurer, and four other Board members. Nominations for these positions should be submitted to Paramita at the Centre (paramita@saltspringcentre.com) or Divakar in Vancouver (marksraetzen@shaw.ca), by Saturday, June 8, 2013. See item 3 below for eligibility to vote and be nominated.

If you plan to nominate someone who will not be at the meeting, please make sure they are prepared to accept the nomination.

2. Reports
Centre Director, Programs (Yoga Teacher Training, Annual Community Yoga Retreat, Karma Yoga Service & Study, Yoga Getaways and Personal Retreats), Chikitsa Shala Wellness Centre, Farm, Centre School, Financial, Strategic Planning and Vancouver Satsang reports will be presented, including discussion pertaining thereto.

Reports at the AGM should be concise. More extensive written reports should be emailed to Chandra Pamela Rose (pam@paralynx.com ) by June 1, 2013 for distribution to members of the Board prior to the meeting. People presenting reports are encouraged to include highlights in their area over the past year and an outline of plans and visions for their area over the coming year.

3. Voting Members
The Society’s By-Laws provide that persons:
a) shall not be entitled to vote unless they have been a member of the Society for at least 90 days, and
b) shall not be entitled to run for any office unless they have been a member of the Society for at least twelve months, and that
c) proxies, in such form prescribed by the Board from time to time, shall be allowed in voting at meetings of the Society.

4. Membership Renewal
A reminder to those who have not yet renewed their 2013 membership: The fee for the 2013 year is $25.00 per person. Please note that 2012 memberships expired on December 31, 2012.

If you wish to renew by credit card please phone the office at 250-537-2326. Otherwise a cheque can be mailed to 355 Blackburn Road, Salt Spring Island, BC, V8K 2B8. Cash, cheques and credit cards will also be accepted at the annual general meeting.