Meet our Karma Yogis: Becca Chaster

Karma Yogi Becca, Summer 2013

Karma Yogi Becca, Summer 2013

I’ve worked on the housekeeping team for the past 6 weeks here at the Centre. Before coming to Salt Spring, I was working as an academic advisor at the University of British Columbia (UBC) – needless to say, cleaning showers and stripping beds has been quite the change from pre-Centre life!

I now realize (hindsight being, as ever, 20-20) that I was looking for a change from my Vancouver life and especially the chance to explore a more spiritual lifestyle, something I had never really allowed myself the time and space to do. I was also coming to a crossroads in my life with my recent decision to stop work and return to school to do a Master’s in Urban Planning at UBC, I wanted to “get out of” or “get beyond” myself in some way, as I had really struggled internally to finally arrive at the decision to go back to school. The Karma Yoga Service & Study program seemed the perfect fit.

Six weeks, when broken down into the number of days, hours, minutes, and seconds, relative to everything else we are fortunate enough to do in this life, didn’t seem to me that significant. I am amazed, however, at how much I have learned and benefited from my time as Karma Yogi here; “volunteering” seems hardly the right term, since I feel I got so much more than what I put into this experience.

Living and working in community is a bucketfull of life lessons in itself, and a spiritual community adds another rich, complex layer to the learning. There are so many wise and wonderful people living at the Centre, and the community is open, accepting, and caring. I have gained a deeper sense of myself (or Self with that capital “S”), one not defined as I would previously, by my name, age, gender, friends, family, demographics, or physical surrounds. I have adopted a gentler and more compassionate attitude towards this self and towards others. I have and, I hope, will continue to develop a daily Yoga practice — one that is not simply comprised of stretchy bendy sweaty poses as was my definition of Yoga before coming to the Centre. I have learned to listen to my body instead of exclusively my mind, and to understand that I do not have to let my thoughts and emotions define me. I have practised silence and have found it to be one of the most calming and centering experiences. I have also swum in freshwater lakes and the Pacific Ocean, and biked and hiked and meditated and yoga-ed and danced and sung and slept under the stars to my heart’s content. I have, in short, become a better human being during my brief time here and am truly blessed to have been able to share this time and space at the Centre.

Meet our Karma Yogis: Crystal DeShazo

Karma Yogi Crystal, Summer 2013

Karma Yogi Crystal, Summer 2013

I had just returned from an adventure in California, teaching yoga and soaking up the sun. In September I started driving up the coast to Canada to visit family, not knowing what I was going to do next. When I was visiting my family in Missouri, I got an email from a friend in Vancouver who wanted me to come back to Canada; she kept sending me links to job opportunities in Canada. The Centre’s KYSS program was one of them. I immediately knew this was more than a job posting, so I did a lot of research which solidified what my heart was telling me. I didn’t care what department I’d be in; I just wanted to be here.

When I first arrived in June I had some trouble finding a place in the community – an experience that was new to me. Once I realized it didn’t have to happen immediately, that it would happen in its own good time (or not), I surrendered and let the universe be in charge, and I felt right at home.

One sentence by Rumi sums up my experience: “I lost everything and I found myself.” This place has a way of mirroring your truth to you, whether you want to see it or not, and I chose to be awake.

I’m so grateful that I’m staying for the fall season. Putting the pieces of the puzzle may be a lifetime’s work, but I sense that I’m starting from a better place, learning to trust. I want to live my life from love rather than fear.

Meet our Karma Yogis: Geraldine Hutchings

Karma Yogi Geraldine, Summer 2013

Karma Yogi Geraldine, Summer 2013

I’m sixty-six years old, officially retired last year. I decided that I wanted to travel extensively while I’m still able to do it. I felt I was stagnating while living in Vancouver, following my routine but not meeting new new people. I’ve found that the best part of travelling is meeting new people. Everybody is interesting and has stories to tell. Seeing the sights is a bonus.

Due to my arthritis, I like to practice yoga to maintain flexibility and range of motion. I applied to come to the Centre shortly before leaving Canada for Europe. I gave up my apartment because I’m living on a fixed income and couldn’t afford to both travel and pay rent, and my priority was to travel.

In applying to come to the Centre, I wanted to be part of the community, to work, contribute to the community and meet new people. I’ve done volunteer work in the past, and have alway found I get more out of it than I put into it. The experience has always been positive.

In my time here at the Centre, I’ve gained an appreciation for the spirit of cooperation, and above all, the friendships I’ve made here – all the love I feel to and from others. Dealing with everyone’s personalities has been a struggle for me; I’ve learned that I have to develop more patience. I think I was closed when I first came here, and I’ve opened up. How can you relate to people in an honest way when you have a wall up? It feels so much better to be open with people. I was much more prickly when I came here, but my edges are beginning to wear away.

Meet our Karma Yogis: Annie Richard

Karma Yogi Annie, Summer 2013

Karma Yogi Annie, Summer 2013

Before coming here I was working as a technician in a community college, in a sustainable agriculture program in Peterborough, Ontario. I did administrative tasks on the computer, grew food on campus and took care of the greenhouse; I basically helped the program run smoothly.

I had never done yoga before, but felt the call for inner adventure. Remembering something a friend had said about her experience volunteering in a yoga community, I did a google search for volunteering or work exchange in a yoga community in Canada, and found this place. Julie’s response to my inquiry was so caring and sincere that I chose to apply here.

My experience of working in the kitchen at the centre has been wonderful – definitely one of the best kitchens I’ve ever worked in! Also, during my time here, I found and developed a personal spiritual practice. Discipline and commitment have become a big theme in my life and on my path. I’ve met people here who are living from the heart, not just talking about it, in a way I hadn’t experienced before.

I first came here to have space for myself and see what was next. I got my first sense of Home, the truth within myself. Now I’m returning, feeling inspired to keep the light burning, to take the teachings home and live them.

Meet our Karma Yogis: Jutta Marie Christensen from Copenhagen, Denmark

Jutta and Skootch, Summer 2013

Jutta and Scooch, Summer 2013

I woke up one morning; it was cold and snowing outside and I just knew that it was time.

I wanted to change something, wanted to find something. It wasn’t because I didn’t like my job or the way I was living. I just knew there was more to explore. I wanted to deepen my yoga practice, and I wanted karma yoga to help me find home, to find my Self.

I thought of going to Bali – or Nepal, Thailand, South America, India or the US. I had thought of going to Canada before, but not in a serious way. That changed during a conversation with a friend. Then I simply googled karma yoga and Canada. The Salt Spring Centre of Yoga came up right away. I was enchanted. I didn’t have any past experience living in a community and I didn’t have any expectations.

I had practiced many styles of yoga over the years. Then in 2012, I went to India to deepen my practice – and came home as a certified hatha yoga teacher with a huge passion for teaching yoga. I discovered that yoga is so much more than asanas and breathing techniques. I wanted to go deeper and this was the perfect time.

Living at the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga has taught me so much more than I ever believed possible – a new world, energised by love and compassion. Everybody in the community makes space for each other so that everyone can grow and develop their spiritual path at their own pace, with one common interest – to make a home in a community where karma yoga is the essence of the spiritual growth. I found my way home, with help from mother nature and all the beautiful souls in this community. I found support, understanding and so much love, and I’m so grateful. I found it inside myself and I recognized it in everybody else, both inside and outside the community.

The hard thing about leaving this community is that I probably will be living too far away to come visit my “new” family for Sunday satsangs – but the beauty is that I’m able to tune into my heart and from that place in my heart, connect with everyone, wherever I am.

Suddenly Copenhagen doesn’t feel so far away!

Meet our Karma Yogis: Jeff Fisher

Karma Yogi Jeff, Summer 2013

Karma Yogi Jeff, Summer 2013

I was looking for an experience in which I would have an opportunity to live and work in the same place with people who were also interested in living and working together. Before I came here, I was working in an office doing tech. work for an internet company. The hours were flexible and the work was part time, but nevertheless my work was disconnected from my life. I came here seeking integration between my work and my life, and I can say at this point that I have found that. My work days and my days off don’t feel very different. I don’t spin my wheels here in the way I often did in the city, where I’d be looking for something and not finding it.

I truly appreciate that spiritual practice is a priority for the people who live here. In my previous life it was a struggle to carve out time for myself – many distractions and competing priorities. Also key is that we live together in community, sharing our meals, sharing our work, sharing in our play time; this has been a great source of support for me.

This is the first community I’ve lived in, and it’s been both a challenge and a gift. All the interactions with people in the community have exposed me to myself. My tendency in the past has been to seek solitude, to take time to recover from the world and prepare for the world. Here I’m starting to learn how to be at ease in the world.