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.

Meet Kathryn, this year’s Annual Community Yoga Retreat Coordinator

Kathryn-KusyszynWhen did you meet Babaji?
Originally from Toronto, in 2001 I completed a 250 hour yoga teacher training in the Ashtanga Vinyasa and Flow traditions. One of my respected teachers gave me a flyer for the Ontario Retreat and spoke highly of Babaji. A genuine Indian guru!

I decided to go and be a karma yogi in the kitchen. I became truly captivated by this unassuming man, the story of Sri Ram Ashram, Lakshmi’s asana class and the gigantic outdoor fire for the Yajna ceremony. Waking to pad-kirtan for the first time, I thought angels were singing to me.

There was casual time to be with Babaji and I got brave enough to ask him a question.
“What is our purpose?”
“To find the True Self”, he wrote.
Someone else came along before I could ask him how. Later I learned the answer he would most likely have written: Regular Sadhana, or RS for short.

How did you come to the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga?
In 2003 I completed a Diploma in Holistic Nutrition. One of the criteria for graduating was to find a co-op placement working with food. I came across an SSCY posting for Head Cook for the summer season. Hmm, I thought to myself; there’s the ocean, mountains, yoga, healthy food, intentional community…the decision was easy.

I told my family I was only going for the summer, however, I knew that I would be looking around BC for a more permanent home. Unfortunately my mother was ill and my trip was delayed so I missed most of the season and arrived on Labour Day weekend 2003. It was a hot, sunny day, filled with promises of new beginnings. As soon as I stepped onto the property, I felt I was home. Savita greeted me, showed me my room under the kitchen (now the Daisy Room) and said “You can get the orientation later. Go down to the orchard and meet the other karma yogis.” So I did. Jana (Gitanjali), Auguste, Shanti, Nirmal and Pearl were all harvesting pears and reveling in the glory of the abundant season. someone suggested a swim so we all went off to Roberts Lake. A very promising start indeed.

Things got even better after that and it seemed the stars were aligned to make this part of BC my home. My best friend, Michelle, moved to Salt Spring with her daughter, Bronwyn, who later attend the Salt Spring Centre School.

Living, working and teaching in community taught (and continues to teach) me a lot about myself and how to be in the world. My learning of yoga philosophy deepened, and I established a regular meditation practice. A deep respect for the path of karma yoga developed. The elders I met provided examples of what can result from a lifelong dedication to yoga practices. They also supported me with work and in numerous other ways.

My dad (not really knowing anything about yoga) came to visit and observed “it’s very peaceful here” after participating in one of Sharada’s drawing classes.

Living on Salt Spring had its advantages and disadvantages. The weather and culture differences from Toronto are drastic. That first drizzly grey winter was very challenging. In 2004 I relocated to the South End with my partner and later to Vancouver Island. The pull of Salt Spring is strong and I continued to participate in the Annual Retreat as a karma yogi. Some years I felt outgoing and met lots of people and other years I felt like hiding after a hot day of work.

I’ve worked in the kitchen, dishes, housekeeping, landscaping, garden, teaching asanas and the Children’s Program. What I most enjoy about the karma yoga experience is working with new people from different places. And I’ve learned to be unattached when the sinks I’ve just cleaned are immediately used by an apologetic guest. Being in housekeeping in the camping area is great because when it’s hot I just pour cold water over my head from the hose. One year I woke up with a complete poem about Babaji in my head which I read at Latte Da open stage.

Prenatal YTT, Yoga Getaway and an AGM weekend are other events I’ve attended, at each one meeting fabulous people and deepening my practice in various ways. The friendships I’ve made with fellow karma yogis are a deep and shared experience that is quite unique. I continually learn how different and yet how similar we are to each other.

Most recently I was blessed to attend the New Year’s Retreat at Mount Madonna Center and to see Babaji again. Meeting lots of ‘originals’ from the “Mother Ship” was very illuminating, as was the celebration. If you have yet to go there, I highly recommend it! Be warned, you may not want to leave.

When I was contacted for the position of Retreat Coordinator [for this year’s Annual Community Yoga Retreat], I laughed. They think I can do this? I was flattered and humbled. After ten years of being associated with the Centre, maybe I’m starting to understand what is going on here. Maybe. My intention is to create a fun and nourishing event. It is truly an honour and a privilege to be a part of this satsang. With the wonderful team support and years of tradition to stand on, I am confident we will all enjoy our peak summertime community celebration together.

Register early for the best rates and if you’re a Salt Spring Islander, this includes the half-day islander special. Avoid disappointment by planning ahead. I’m looking forward to seeing you at the retreat. I’ll be the one with the hose.