Sharada’s October update

Hello everyone,

October is here – the month of Thanksgiving (in Canada), the celebration of bountiful harvests shared with family and friends, and also Halloween, an opportunity to don costumes and roam the streets with young witches, fairies, superheroes and monsters.

Jack will have left to join Julie in Colorado by the time you read this. We will miss him here, but we can’t compete with Julie. David Stewart, one of last year’s farm yogis, has taken the role of farm manager for the next season. He arrived in time to work with Jack and learn the ropes of managing the farm. Jack feels very confident in David’s ability to take on this role. When asked for comments, Jack described David as a ‘pirate clown farm yogi.” Those who know David will understand. Although it’s a loss having Jack leave, we’re delighted to have David back on board.

Jack and David

Jack and David

The Hanuman and Ganesh temples have become the focus of revitalizing energy in recent months. Candles have been lit and prayers said each morning at these temples since Babaji installed them – as they have at  all the other altars in the garden area – but recently a great interest in devotional rituals has developed among a few of the karma yogis. Under Rajani’s guidance, they have been learning and practicing arati at both the Hanuman and Ganesh temples, and the spirit of devotion is in the air.

after arati

After arati at the temple: Christine, Tana, Rajani, Raven, Ben

The Centre’s residential community, although smaller than it was in the summer, continues to work, practice and play together, as Babaji told us long ago: Work honestly, meditate every day, meet people without fear and play. A series of discussions on community living on Tuesday evenings has been followed by an 8 week Non-Violent Communication series. The many other class offerings continue: Living Yoga, kirtan, satsang, meditation and asana. We’re hopeful that Bhagavad Gita classes will resume after Shankar recovers from minimally invasive back surgery at the end of September. On Thanksgiving the Centre will host its annual community gratitude circle and potluck – the best vegetarian potluck on the island. We have so much to be grateful for!

Nayana, Piet, Maya. Halloween 1982.

Nayana, Piet, Maya. Halloween 1982

I invite you to to read Piet Suess’ story in Our Centre Community. Piet, of Hanuman Olympics fame, has been part of this community since he was two years old and already stepping into a leadership role. We’re also featuring more of our karma yogis this month in the article called “Meet our Karma Yogis.” This month you get to meet Sue Ann, Ben, Leah and Zoe. It is a delight to spend time with these inspiring people.

This month’s Asana of the Month – Supta Padangusthasana or reclining big toe hold – was contributed by Julie Higginson, known to many of us as Jules. She is on the Centre’s YTT staff, serves as treasurer on the Dharma Sara Board, and manages to entertain us with her wit even when discussing ‘matters of consequence’ .

We introduce you also to a very recent YTT Grad, Tana Dalman, a karma yogi at the Centre, who completed her YTT training here in August and has begun to teach here. Tana also happens to be a dedicated karma yogi who, among other things, undertook to head up the dish crew at ACYR this summer, a daunting job that she did with joy, singing throughout.

You will enjoy this month’s Ayurveda article, Stoking the Fire, by Pratibha, our satsang sister from MMC, this one with recipes for helping us deal with the cooler weather, practical tips for all of us. I invite you also read Letting Go, about the struggle to let go, to surrender to God in the midst of our daily lives.

Apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah; Fall Fair entry

Apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah; Fall Fair entry

It’s wonderful to hear the sound of children playing outside the The Centre School again. School has been back in session for a month, and it has been a busy month indeed. I had the honour of celebrating Rosh Hashanah (Jewish new year) with the children again during the first week of school. The kids, some as young as 4 (almost 5) shared their thoughts about the many things they’re thankful for, and reverently – in silence – placed offerings of special objects from nature on the altar we created. We ended the celebration in the traditional way, sharing apples and honey – for a sweet year. The next big event was a school family potluck. Following Salt Spring’s big Fall Fair, the school celebrated, as it does every year, its own Fall Fair, with the kids bringing animals,vegetables from their gardens, baking, and various collections – just like the real fall fair, but smaller (and no rides or candy floss).

A very happy Thanksgiving to you; may you have much to be thankful for.
With wishes for a sweet year to all of you,
Love,
Sharada

Letting go

babaji-1999As an old song from the 50’s says (taking liberties with the lyrics a bit), “Letting go is hard to do.”

Babaji teaches that surrender means letting go of our identification of being the doer – Thy will, not mine. This is what is meant by Ishwarapranidhana, the last of the yamas and niyamas. It’s the final letting go. While we may hold surrender to God as an intention, as long as we’re still identifying as these separate, individual beings, it’s hard to let go; in fact it’s the idea of ourselves as separate entities itself that we’re being called to surrender. Babaji says:

When we don’t keep the ego of being a doer, we surrender our ego to that supreme power, which is explained as supreme consciousness, supreme existence, and supreme bliss, the absolute Lord of the universe. Then all the coverings of ignorance drop away from our heart and there remains only pure love, a universal love in which no differentiation, no judgement, and no discrimination exist.

Most often – let’s face it – we want our way. We don’t want to let go of our identity as separate beings. We tend to cling to our individual conceptual world and we don’t want to give it up.
It’s not that we don’t try; all the spiritual practices are about the gradual wearing away of the sense of separateness and thereby recognizing the unity in all life.

How then do we work with this in our daily lives? We all want to live in peace, yet most often we’re so caught in our own personal stories that it’s hard to find a way out. Let’s look at our experience of daily life.

When we face a difficult situation in our lives, we have our habitual ways of responding. Sometimes we’re able to say, “Okay, this is what’s happening. I’ll face it honestly and deal with it wisely and compassionately.” Sometimes. More often we respond with some variation of “This shouldn’t be happening”, and we can come up with many ways things “should” be different, often involving other people changing. Sometimes we blame ourselves – “I shouldn’t have gotten myself into this”, “If only I had or hadn’t done…..”.

We can use our challenging situations as an entry point to awareness. A recent theme in my life of late has been my mind’s response to pain in my body. My body experiences pain and my mind adds a layer of suffering because I want the pain to go away. I have a desire to surrender to what is, to God, without judgement, but at the same time I see myself having judgements of my inability to let go. This adds another layer of self-imposed suffering.

There’s a fine line between letting go and giving up. Giving up can take many forms. I have noticed my mind’s habit of shifting between resignation and taking action. “There’s nothing I can do. I give up” is resignation that can lead to depression. “I’m going to fight this” is probably a more useful response because there’s some movement. However, it may be in opposition to or in denial of the current experience. Both these responses are based on seeing ourselves as separate, dealing with something that’s happening to ‘me’, something ‘I’ don’t like. More effective – but difficult – is to accept that whatever is going on is what’s happening, and be present with it, allowing the natural wisdom inside us to respond clearly and open-heartedly. That is surrender.

Wayne Liquorman, in his book, “Never Mind”, tells a story about a man who falls over the edge of a cliff and, half way down, grabs a branch. He yells up, “Help! Can somebody help me?” A voice calls down, “I’ll help you.” He says, “Oh, thank goodness somebody’s up there. You’ll help me?” The voice says, “Yes, I am God and I will help you.” The man says, “Wow! What a relief! Okay God, what do you want me to do?” God says, “Let go.” The man yells back, “Is there anybody else up there?”

It’s a funny story because it’s how we live. We don’t like to surrender; we’d rather look for something easier. The way the word “surrender” is commonly used, it implies giving up, failing, losing. We’re used to living in an ego-based world in which some are winners and some are losers.

Letting go is completely different. There are no longer two worlds – my world, my story, and what’s true, which is that everything really is okay. The problem arises when I argue with it. It’s still my job to do what I can to heal this body; the tricky part is when I want a particular outcome which may or may not happen. Letting go is surrendering to what’s happening, full stop. This can get pretty subtle; there can be a preference for a particular outcome, but with no insistence on it. Holding onto wanting things go our own way is the glue that keeps us locked into our story, and therefore into suffering. If we could see the situation from outside our personal experience, we might have some compassion for our predicament as we our struggle to free ourselves while we hold on tight.

As we face whatever situations bind us in our struggles, we can – when we remember – take steps to dissolve the glue of attachment to our stories, our sense of separateness.

Life is not a burden. We make it a burden by not accepting life as it is. We desire everything. If we don’t get what we desire, we feel anger, depression and pain. If we do get it, we feel attached, jealous and discontented, which again causes pain. If we put a limit on our desires, there will be a limit to our pain. Gradually we can reduce the limit and one day the desires will be decreased so much that we will not even think about them. That state of mind is peace.

The future is unknown. Whenever we walk toward that unknown, we carry a lamp. In worldly-minded people, that lamp is the ego and in spiritually-minded people, the lamp is divine presence. Both are walking toward the same unknown, dark space; one is afraid and the other is fearless.

contributed by Sharada

Our Centre Community: Piet Suess

Piet Suess, part of our centre community

Piet Suess, part of our centre community

Dear Salt Spring Centre of Yoga,

I am truly blessed to have you in my life – to have known you growing up and to call you home when I am there.

Some time in 1981 the property was purchased and the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga was born. A few months later I decided to be born nearby.

After being born onto the island, my next task was to find some good people and friends and adventure. This I did thanks to my mom commuting to work in Victoria and my dad moving to the yoga centre. My sister and I followed. However it had taken me much longer than I had originally intended, and I was now the ripe old age of two. Looking back, perhaps having developed better motor skills and body control was a necessary step in being able to appreciate what the yoga centre had to offer.

Nayana, Piet, Maya. Halloween 1982.

Nayana, Piet, Maya. Halloween 1982.

Having found the appropriate location for my adventures, I gathered together some like minded individuals whom I could enlist in the games and projects that were soon to begin. Caleb Corkum was a frequent visitor at the centre, and my most constant collaborator. We had met in our earlier development, at half a year old. Now at the yoga centre we undertook many treacherous missions together and eagerly sought out darshan with our guru, Babaji, whenever he visited. We also quite enjoyed the candy with which he saw fit to train our hand eye coordination. Two other key individuals that accompanied us on our journeys were Mallika Hutchings and Naomi Jason, whom we found to be enlivened with the same adventurous spirit which drove Caleb and me.

Caleb & Piet (note the boots) on the back steps, 1984

Caleb & Piet (note the boots) on the steps at Sharada’s house, 1984

On the land there used to be an old hot water tank on its side that had an opening just large enough for small nimble beings to crawl into. The inside had bars running across, perfect for sitting on and pondering the deep questions of life, in near darkness with a contemporary.

According to Usha, Caleb and I would be playing in the sandbox near the big tree and swing, (which is now a garden and a baby tree) and we would get called in to her class to demonstrate for the older children what exemplary listening and attention looked like. We well understood that this was a simple task when our minds were set to it. Of course we did our best to help out the taller kids. Besides, with Usha leading class, there was little cause to get distracted. I was an eager student and participant in the Salt Spring Centre school’s naissance as a near-naissance myself.

Piet on the rope swing, circa 1984

Piet on the rope swing, circa 1984

Piet with Usha, Advent ceremony, circa 1985

Piet with Usha, Advent ceremony, circa 1985

Most of my time was spent self-determining around the land, playing in the forest or labouring on self-assigned work projects; like painting a fence or pushing a box of carrots off the deck. Fortunately my father had more distracting things to worry his mind than what it was that my sister or I were doing. During this time of naissance for the yoga centre there was occasionally much heaviness on the minds of the parents and builders of the land. I am told that in the mornings when I came downstairs on my father’s shoulders and found everyone in the kitchen, clearly needing some lifting of their spirits, I would try to help out. I was oh so blonde at that age and tiny and round in the face, and I would spread my arms and say ‘Good morning everyone!’ as boisterously as I felt would make a difference. This period of time was one that has left an indelible mark on me and I always feel oh so blonde and fortunate to have been blessed with such rich guidance, freedom and adventure.

Piet on the back deck with Babaji, circa 1984

Piet on the back deck with Babaji, circa 1984

At some point things changed, as they do, and I no longer lived at the yoga centre, though I visited often. Eventually my family moved to Vancouver where I began to forget how wonderful a day could be, and started to learn the many complications that people create for themselves. I visited the centre less and less. With the confusion of public school, city life and the social complexities of elementary, and then high school, I stopped attending the summer retreats. Fortunately Babaji’s teachings had been firmly planted in the earth of my being, and my desire to be there, and the memory of those days were close to the surface.

Having attended very few retreats throughout my teenage years, I was now graduating from high school, having done a lot of theatre. My sister Maya was on the phone with Sharada discussing the upcoming Ramayana. I thought to myself that it would be fun to maybe play Hanuman at some point eventually, and with that I was promptly handed the telephone:

“Hi Sharada.”
“Hi Piet, do you want to come to Saltspring and play Rama?”
“I do!”

And I did. In 1999 Caleb and I returned for the summer and we had fun living once more on the land and rehearsing, then performing the Ramayana. It was an incredible return for me, I was welcomed with open arms, and it made me feel at home again. I turned 18 at the Centre that summer, and for the following years I attended the retreats faithfully, eagerly participating in the rock crew projects and taking photographs. I always made sure to bring anyone that was close to me, to share in the experience. Since 1999 I don’t think I’ve missed one (maybe one) summer community retreat. I moved from dish-pig to dish-manager and then beyond. Many have said that the dish crews under my gentle reign were the most fun and desired shifts during the retreat. Or at least I just said that just now. The Ramayana in 1999 was the last year in which that play was done on Salt Spring; as well it was the last year that the Hanuman Olympics was done.

Piet as Rama, Ramayana dress rehearsal (so no makeup), 1999

Piet as Rama, Ramayana dress rehearsal (so no makeup), 1999

In 2010 I was casually asked if I’d like to be involved in organizing the Hanuman Olympics and help bring them back. I said yes. A while later, I happened to Google my name as I do every few hours, and found a newsletter for the ACYR which proclaimed that the Olympics were back headed by Piet Suess and his band of Karma Yogis. I was surprised, but happy to have a work project that I could spearhead on the land once more. Of course I enlisted Caleb for the task, and also my brother Max who had become just about as regular at the summer retreats as I, since his first visit as a two year old. This was also-also when my reign as dish Übermeister ended and the board saw fit to create a new dish-room in my honour to signify my departure. Or so I like to interpret it.

Almost immediately after the Ramayana of 1999 I went to the Vancouver Film School to study New Media (digital arts) and after that packed a suitcase for New York City. There I began my career in film. Outside my career on the land, I have built a career in film that has taken me to many wondrous and treacherous parts of the world. I have adventured and done projects with like minded individuals and seen many cultures and hot water tanks. After a two and a half year stint in LA I recently made my way up to stint in Victoria, via a two month stint at Mount Madonna Centre.

Max and Piet

Max and Piet

Through all of my work, the teachings and values that were absorbed in my early years have guided and informed me. The self-determination afforded me at the Saltspring Centre, and the unwavering moral compass of the teachings of Babaji, have been the fertile soil from which my accomplishments have blossomed. I continue to create media with socially conscious relevance, carefully choose what I involve myself in, and try to uplift everyone’s spirits.

Coming back to the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga truly is like coming home.

Stoking the Fire: Spice up your Autumn meals

As the summer sun recedes and the autumn winds bring chilly rain, consider your digestive fire. During the warm summer months, our bodies need less fuel to warm us, and our digestive juices can take a bit of a holiday. As the weather cools, our bodies call for more warming foods and we may need to bring some heating digestive spices into our diet.

indian-spicesAyurveda places great emphasis on agni, the fire principle, which manifests in the body in overall warmth and in the power of digestion (physical, mental and emotional), as well as in our vision, in our blood and skin. When our digestive agni is strong and balanced, we feel energized and clear, light and centered.

To kindle your digestive agni, here are a few common heating spices that are already available in many of our kitchens:

  • Ginger can be used fresh or powdered. This pungent herb is stimulating and counteracts intestinal gas and bloating. Ginger makes food lighter and easier to digest. Grated fresh ginger with a little salt and lime juice can be eaten to boost our agni. A tea of powdered ginger mixed with hot water may be taken with honey to alleviate colds and congestion.
  • Black pepper is another pungent heating spice that kindles agni. It increases the secretion of digestive juices and stimulates the appetite. Pepper is especially effective in helping to digest high protein foods such as cheese, meat and eggs. It is said to contain five of the six tastes: pungent, sweet, salty, bitter and astringent. Use in cooking or at the table.
  • Cinnamon is an aromatic stimulant that is both pungent and astringent. Cinnamon also stimulates the digestive fire and has a natural cleansing action. It’s perfect to mix in with your morning cereal. It is also helpful to stimulate sweating and relieves cough, congestion and colds.
  • Cayenne pepper is very heating, so use with caution. Cayenne helps to reduce the heaviness of food and makes it light, palatable and easily absorbable. Especially helpful when cooking dry peas and beans, cayenne strengthens digestion and causes sweating.
  • Cumin seeds are aromatic, with a pungent and bitter taste. Roasted in ghee for a few minutes, the seeds add flavor to kitcheri (rice and beans cooked together) as well as to your favorite vegetable dish. Cumin aids the secretion of digestive juices and improves the taste of food.

A few other tips for improving digestion include:

  1. eat only when hungry
  2. eat fresh foods, freshly prepared
  3. sit quietly and offer a prayer before eating
  4. minimize raw foods (especially in cool weather), and
  5. walk 100 paces after each meal

All this talk about food is making me hungry! Must be time for breakfast. Bon appétit!

– Pratibha

Pratibha at her 70th birthday celebration

Pratibha at her 70th birthday celebration

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.

Asana of the Month: Supta Padangusthasana

Supta Padangusthasana or Reclining Big Toe Hold

When introducing your students to a challenging balancing pose, try taking it in a reclining, or supta position first. This allows a student to build familiarity with the actions of the pose before adding balancing to the equation. This posture builds the actions for both ardha chandrasana and padangusthasana.

Benefits
Supta pandangusthasana stretches the hips, thighs, groins, hamstrings and calves. It can help with sciatic and lower back pain.

Oct-yoga-1

Coming into the pose

  • Begin by aligning the short edge of your mat with a wall and have a strap ready.
  • Lie on your back on the mat, with the soles of your feet pressing evenly and firmly into the wall.
  • Bend your right knee and hug the thigh in towards the chest.
  • Bring the strap around the ball of the right foot and hold the strap with the right hand as you straighten your leg, moving the sole of the foot towards the ceiling.
  • Extend the left arm out along the floor at shoulder height.

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  • Extend firmly out through the soles of the right and left foot, keeping both legs energized.
  • Holding the strap in the right hand, allow the right leg to lower out towards the right side.
  • Focus on keeping the left hip and thigh pressing down towards the mat.
  • If the left hip lifts, support the right leg on a block, chair or adjacent wall until the left hip settles down towards the mat.
  • Continue to press out actively through the soles of both feet.

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  • To come out of the posture, lift the right leg back up towards the ceiling, then bend the knee, release the strap and hug the thigh towards the chest.
  • Come back to your starting position, with both feet pressing evenly and firmly into the wall before taking the left side.

Modifications
Use a chair, block or adjacent wall to help support the leg opening out to the side.

About the Instructor
Julie Higginson has been practicing yoga since 2001 and completed her teacher training in 2008 at the SaltSpring Centre of Yoga. She teaches classes at the Royal Roads Rec Centre in Victoria and assists with yoga getaways and YTT at the Centre. She currently serves on the Dharma Sara Satsang Society Board as treasurer.

Meet our YTT Grads: Tana Dalman

YTT graduate, Tana Dalman

YTT graduate, Tana Dalman

Tana graduated from the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga’s YTT program in August, 2013. As a new graduate – and a karma yogi at the Centre – she has begun to teach yoga classes to the other karma yogis at the Centre. Tana’s life is guided by spiritual teachings and practices, which she delights in sharing with others.

What motivated you to begin practicing yoga? How did yoga come to be a part of your life?
In the beginning I practiced asana to warm up for my martial arts training. When I came to the centre to live and serve in a healthy community, my passion for yoga was ignited.

What attracted you to the SSCY YTT program?
I was attracted to the YTT program at SSCY because the course was based on Baba Hari Dass’ teachings. The teachings of Babaji were handed down over several decades to founding members of SSCY. The instruction seemed to be a complete overview of the classical Astanga Yoga system, not just asana.

What aspect of yoga has had the most transformative effect on your life?
Pranayama and meditation has had the most impact on my life; there is a stillness and a steadiness that is with me throughout my day. Also, the principals of yama and niyama are a foundation for a virtuous life.

What surprised you the most about the practice of yoga? How has your understanding of yoga deepened?
Shat Karma was very suprising, fun and funny. Yoga is a life way;the deepening of devotion and faith continue to grow inside me since I began learning all these practices. I believe the eight limbs of Astanga Yoga have something to offer every type of person regardless of race, creed or background.

What can students expect from the yoga teacher training at the Centre?
To receive a complete comprehensive instruction of the eight limbs of Astanga Yoga or as much as you can possibly fit into a 200 hour course.

How has your practice evolved since completing the YTT program? Are you sharing yoga in your community? If so, what inspires you to share the practice?
My body posture is automatic and correct in my poses.
I am sharing my yoga with my community; as Babaji says, “Teach to learn”. I feel like I just got here five minutes ago, and I’m fully immersed.

Where do you live? What do you do in your life apart from yoga?
I am from Vancouver and staying at the Centre as a Karma Yogi. As a First Nations person I participate in native ceremonies. For many years I worked with high risk youth as an outdoor instructor, and in the winter I worked as a dog sled guide.

Meet our Karma Yogis: Sue Ann Leavy

Karma Yogi Sue Ann, Fall 2013

Karma Yogi Sue Ann, Fall 2013

Before I came to the Centre I was living in San Francisco, getting my Masters degree in Public Health, having previously gotten a teaching degree and spent time teaching kindergarten and fourth grade. I was working at a yoga studio, doing a bit of work exchange for classes. That was my first real experience of yoga. The studio’s focus included spiritual, physical and community experiences.

My first experience of community came earlier, from the age of 5 when I began spending 10 weeks every summer living on a ranch, which I did till the age of 20. On the ranch we all lived and worked together to keep the ranch running and keep the animals healthy. I ended up teaching horse riding and vaulting (like circus riding). Because of that experience, I came to know I wanted to live with other people in community – and it worked out perfectly that this opportunity became available just when I was ready to leave my city life.

The first part of my stay here was more challenging than I had anticipated; I wasn’t expecting the impact that changing everything in my life all at once would have – leaving the city, living in a tent, going from university to housekeeping. Also, I’ve spent so many years with my best friends, many of whom I’ve known since kindergarten, and this was the first time I’d gone somewhere where I had to find my place without them close by. I came here with Jeff, my partner, but I didn’t know anyone else. Having to listen to myself and find my comfort in myself has been the biggest growth. It took longer than I expected, but I’m learning to trust my own wisdom.

Life at the Centre has opened my eyes to what’s possible. Now I really want to do a Yoga Teacher Training, and I’ve been introduced to meditation, which I had never done before. I’m also learning I don’t have to be perfect at everything and can relax into myself. Jeff and I have been here since June, and I’m thankful we are able to stay till the end of the season in November.

Meet our Karma Yogis: Ben Poulton

Karma Yogi Ben, Fall 2013

Karma Yogi Ben, Fall 2013

Physical sports injuries drew me to yoga because I had heard it could help with past injuries. In the fall of 2009 I started practicing with a teacher in Whistler, BC, who played the harmonium and opened her classes with a prayer and shared a spiritual reading. Earlier, I had explored various spiritual paths, but not for years. Once I started to feel the depth of the classes I was now taking, devotion arose; it was touching something deep inside me.

In the winter of 2010 I started thinking I needed to learn how to grow my own food, so I went online and found the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga’s posting for a farm yogi. I wasn’t accepted because I lacked experience, but I was still really drawn to the Centre, so I looked through the website again to see if there was another way I could be here. There was a posting for a skilled carpenter, and I was accepted for a month long period. After a couple of weeks, one of the farm yogis cancelled and I was asked if I’d like to work on the farm. Unfortunately I had already committed to work for the summer. After my one month stay, I was asked if I could stay on as a carpenter, so I stayed for the next two weeks till it was time to go to work elsewhere. I kept coming back and in 2011 ended up staying till the end of October.

In the winter of 2013 I came to the Centre as a KYSS participant for the first time, working in the kitchen. As it happened, I’ve been able to stay, working in the kitchen and maintenance, and now I have the good fortune to be able to stay till the end of the season, November 15. During the first KYSS term I felt an opening in my heart that I hadn’t felt for a long time; that’s why I had kept coming back. During the time I was away, a yearning started to develop for depth of devotion, practice and service to others.

Last winter, having worked hard to earn money, I was able to commit to my life as a snowboarder; that was the focus of my devotion. As soon as I quit drinking and doing drugs when I was 28. I started devoting myself to a mountain lifestyle and to take my snowboarding more seriously. Seven years of that didn’t fulfill me. Last winter, I was in the best physical shape I’d ever been in and I had the financial resources to pursue snowboarding, but somehow that wasn’t enough. Continually pursuing desires just led to more desires.

I had a little personal check-in with myself and I realized that I wanted the openness of heart I had experienced here, and that’s when I applied to come back one more time. I wanted to serve in whatever capacity was needed; my focus was to be of service. Out of that arose devotion. Bhakti has blossomed in my heart. Having a daily practice is changing patterns I never thought could change – but something is changing. There are moments of relaxation and peace when everything flows easily.

Meet our Karma Yogis: Leah Hughes

Karma yogi Leah, Fall 2013

Karma yogi Leah, Fall 2013

In 2010 I lived and travelled in Mexico for 10 months, as a volunteer teaching basic literacy and math skills to kids. During that time I learned Spanish. In the spring of 2012 I graduated from UVic with a major in Anthropology and a minor in Hispanic Studies.

After graduation I walked the Camino – 820 km across northern Spain – with my mom, something she had wanted to do for a long time. We met people from all over the world. I love to travel, so when I got back from that trip I went to Peru for six months, where I volunteered with indigenous weaving communities to revitalize the textile tradition, using all natural dyes and hand woven alpaca wool. Although I’m fluent in Spanish, I travelled with a translator since the weavers are mainly women who speak only Quechua.

In the summer of 2012 I met someone who had spent time at the Centre, and this remained at the back of my mind. During the winter I applied to come here because I’d been wanting to deepen my yoga practice after having done a work exchange at a yoga studio in Victoria. I also wanted to be back on the coast, on an island and on a farm.

I am in the KYSS program, with the good fortune of being in the only summer farm position at the Centre. I will become an official farm yogi for the month of October. I didn’t have much farm experience when I arrived, so every day was a new learning opportunity. I find it very satisfying working on a farm in a community where the food we grow is prepared and served to the community every day, and to see the complete cycle of the food, knowing the labour that went into growing it. It gives us a sense of connectedness to the food we’re eating, and an appreciation for the abundance of the land; Harvest days are very exciting – and fun!

Part of what drew me here was to be able to explore yoga off the mat, from people with a lot of wisdom and a lot to teach, in classes and in daily interactions. I’ve gained so much from my time here.

Meet our Karma Yogis: Zoe Lee

Karma Yogi Zoe, Fall 2013

Karma Yogi Zoe, Fall 2013

Prior to coming to the centre I lived in Victoria where I received my Diploma in Indigenous Studies from Camosun College. This is the second time I’ve participated in the Karma Yoga Service & Study Program. One of the reasons I feel I’m so drawn to the Centre stems from my deep appreciation for yoga philosophy, which coincides with much of the knowledge I gained in my studies at Camosun, such as our inherent interconnectedness with others, the importance of respecting the land and its resources, practicing non-violence, and so much more.

It is difficult to pinpoint the most meaningful experience I’ve had at the Centre because so many moments are enriched with joy, creativity and contentment. There have been many pivotal realizations I’ve come to, thanks to inspiring discussions on spiritual philosophy; those moments when everything just seems to make sense leave my soul feeling deeply fulfilled and at ease. I have had the privilege of meeting and working with some of the most open-hearted people I’ve ever known, and with whom I’ve shared many beautiful moments.

I have learnt many lessons by living in community, especially about interacting harmoniously with people from all walks of life. By practicing yoga I’ve come to feel more in touch with my higher self; I’ve cultivated a stronger sense of self-worth, and each day that I practice I feel more in tune and at ease with the world around me. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to have given me a richly holistic understanding of yoga that I trust will positively influence my practice for many years to come.