News from the Centre (January 2015)

Happy 2015, everyone! The darkest day has passed and the light is beginning to return. I hope you’ve all enjoyed the various winter holidays (Solstice, Chanukah, Christmas and any others you may celebrate).

One of the traditions at the Centre is our annual winter potluck and gift exchange (aka non-attachment) game. There were 38 people in the circle this year, including 5 children who took an active part in the gift game, with Benjamin being our self-appointed number checker (making sure that the person choosing a gift was next in line).

The pond in winter

The pond in winter

Christmas week was quiet on the land, with most folks going off to visit with their families. Winter is the best time for resident karma yogis to take time off – and it’s also a good time to get projects done because we know it won’t be long before it’s busy here again.

The altar

The altar

Although it’s cold outside (maybe not compared to where you live!), it’s toasty warm in the satsang room, and sastang fills up every week. Each Sunday we raise our voices in praise and celebration. If you’re in the neighbourhood, please join us.

Mark at satsang

Mark at satsang

David, Mark and Christine

David, Mark and Christine in the kitchen

There’s lots of richness in this month’s newsletter. Pratibha continues to share her wisdom in “Ayurveda, Yoga and You: Antidotes to Stress and Anxiety”. This is something we can all use! Pratibha is immersed in both Yoga and Ayurveda, and is a brilliant – and fun – teacher.

The Journey Home” (part of the “Our Centre Community” series) this month features Johanna Peters, who first came here as a karma yogi several years ago, and stayed connected. If you’ve come to the Annual Community Yoga Retreat in the past couple of years, in particular if you’ve come with your children, you will know Johanna as the coordinator of the kids’ program. Perhaps you’ve seen her on Latte Da Stage with her ukelele and a bunch of kids.

We’re introducing a new feature this month: yoga book reviews. Kenzie Patttillo introduces us to two books: “Stretch – the Unlikely Making of a Yoga Dude” by Neal Pollack, and “Warrior Pose – How Yoga (Literally) Saved My Life” by Brad Willis (aka Bhava Ram), stories of present-day seekers. Kenzie is another yogi who came here initially as a karma yogi many years ago before taking YTT, and who is an excellent teacher and writer.

At the beginning of a new year, we often reflect of our lives, and sometimes make new year’s resolutions – which we may or may not follow through on. “Not Taking Things Personally” is an invitation to do some deeper self-reflection, to understand what’s working, what’s not working, and why – and what we can do about it.

Please note that information about the Yoga Service and Study Immersion program, along with application forms, is posted on the Centre’s website. The program runs from May 31 – September 1, 2015. Applications have already begun to come in. Yoga Teacher Training program information and applications are also posted, and registrations have been coming in for some time. The website is a great source of information about everything that goes on here. The Centre’s Facebook page is also full of interesting news, updates and inspiration.

May this new year bring you peace.

Nonviolence in the mind
and unconditional love in the heart
bring eternal peace.


Not taking things personally

babaji-1999As we begin another year, it’s helpful to do some self reflection. What’s going well in your life? Where are you struggling? That’s the first question; the second one can be more challenging. In the part of your life that’s difficult, why are you struggling?

It’s all too easy to blame others for our problems. We’re generally very skilled at that; somebody does or says something we don’t like, and we think that’s why we’re unhappy. Some are more used to blaming themselves: “That was a such a dumb thing to do; I should know better.” The problem with both those approaches is that they don’t work. They keep us stuck in the same old struggles.

We go through life wearing a special pair of “me” lenses through which all our experiences are filtered. Because we’re wearing them, we believe that our experience is true. However, that’s not so. Other people have their own “me” lenses and see things from their perspectives. Anybody wearing “me” glasses is not seeing the truth. It is possible to take these glasses off, but it takes work. First of all, we have to consider that we are probably wearing them.

We live in the imagination of others. When we see a person, we don’t see the reality of that person – we see only our projected desires, which is our imagination. In this way, as long as we have not realized the truth, we all live in the imagination of each other.

We come into this world with built-in tendencies – samskaras – over which we have no control: our genetic pool, our families, the people we meet, the schools we go to, etc. People treat us either with kindness and gentleness or with impatience and irritation, and we may think we’re the cause of their feelings; they may even say so: You make me so angry……. or happy…….(or frustrated or proud or….). Although we may believe it, it’s not true.

In response to some action, someone might feel angry, but the cause of the anger was not what the person did. Anger arose because it’s that person’s habitual or built-in response to stress, often from some past suffering. The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote: “If you knew the secret history of those you would like to punish, you would find a sorrow and suffering enough to disarm your hostility.”

We live in our own dream world, and other people are actors in our dream; they live in their own dream worlds in which we are actors. We don’t really see each other; we see a reflection of ourselves. None of it is personal; taking things personally makes life difficult for us.

A kind of experience accepted by the mind is called pleasure, and when that experience is rejected by the mind it changes to pain. Pleasure and pain are self-created illusions.

Pleasure and pain are nothing but the mind’s acceptance and rejection of experience.

To get out of the ping-pong game of pleasure/pain, we need to develop awareness.

By becoming aware of how desires control our actions, samskaras become thinner and thinner until they are transparent.

Only when we’re able to step out of our self-created dramas – by removing our “me” glasses – can we see the truth. Awareness develops by practice. When we find ourselves caught in one of our traps, we can ask: Is this true? Is this happening to me (that is, is it personal?) or is it just happening? Life happens; the only choice we have is how we respond to it. Each time we step out of a trap and look honestly at our own response, we strengthen the practice of truthfulness and compassion.

Peace in the mind, love and compassion in the heart bring the scattered world into one reality.

Taking things personally makes life difficult for us. Let’s take off our “me” glasses and live in peace, with ourselves and with others.

May we all awaken to the wonder and beauty of our lives.

contributed by Sharada
all quotes in italics are from writings by Baba Hari Dass

Ayurveda, Yoga and You – Antidotes to Stress and Anxiety


A cup of chamomile tea can help to relieve stress

We’ve all heard that stress has a wearing effect on the nerves, the emotions, and even on the strength of our immune response. Relationship challenges, job insecurity, climate change, or simply waiting in line at the airport can trigger a stress response, sending debilitating hormones racing through our system. From a medical perspective, stress can trigger anything from allergies and asthma to headaches and indigestion.

Over time, the effect of too much stress can contribute to high cholesterol, ulcers, diabetes, obesity, and heart problems. From an Ayurvedic perspective, stress also disrupts the inner balance of the doshas – vata, pitta, kapha – the three forces that govern our health on a subtle level. Here are a few stress-reducing tips based on yogic and Ayurvedic principles that each of us can include in our daily life.

Self-massage with sesame oil is a time-tested way of bringing the force of vata into balance. Before you shower in the morning, warm 2-3 tablespoons of sesame oil and rub liberally into the body. Then do your usual morning routine: jal neti, oil pulling, teeth brushing, tongue-scrapping routine as you wait 10-15 minutes for the oil to be absorbed into the skin. Follow this with a nice warm shower that helps to drive the oil deeper into the tissues. The soothing effects of abhyanga will be felt all day long.

Meditation gives the mind a rest. Sit in a comfortable meditation posture with your head, neck, and spine aligned. Observe the natural flow of your breath. Then practice meditation as desired, either focusing the mind one-pointedly, or simply observing the flow of thoughts, while holding our attention in the present. Meditation helps us to connect with our true nature as peace or pure consciousness, a place where stress has no place.

Yoga Postures to Relieve Stress
Shoulderstand (sarvangasana), plow pose (halasana), half spinal twist (ardha matsyendrasana), locust pose (shalabhasana), and lion pose (simhasana) are all helpful to access and release any deep chronic stress patterns that may have slipped into our life.

Ayurvedic Herbals
Ayurveda offers a variety of herbal teas in its stress-busting team. Chamomile, of course, but also tulsi (also known as holy basil) and angelica all encourage a relaxed state of mind. Or mix equal amounts of brahmi, bhringaraj, jatamansi, and shanka pushpi. Steep 1/2 teaspoon of this mixture in 2 cups of hot water for 10 minutes. Drink 2 or 3 times throughout the day.

What is contentment?
When all mental demons subside,
then the mind sits in such a peaceful state as if it owns the whole world.
Contentment doesn’t come in a packet from outside;
it develops by accepting life and by working towards our self-development.
-Baba Hari Dass

Manage Your Mind
Be mindful when you become aware of stress slipping in. Notice if the stress you’re feeling is over something you can change, and something you can’t. If you can do something about it, then do it! If there’s nothing you can do, then accept it and move on. When stuck behind a truck waiting to make a left turn, as the traffic is rushing along on your right, there’s nothing much to do take a deep breath and relax! Dr. Lad suggests, “By staying in the present moment, you will fall in love with your life. Then anything that touches you—even stress, anger, anxiety—becomes meditation.”
Book II, verse 33 of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras advises: “The mind becomes serene by the cultivation of feelings of love for the happy, compassion for the suffering, delight for the virtuous and indifference for the non-virtuous.” When we cultivate serenity, compassion, delight and indifference, there’s no room in the mind for anxiety and stress!

Emotional Release
Crying is a great stress reliever, especially if you have stored up sadness and grief. As the tears flow, let any unresolved emotions simply roll down your cheeks and out of your life. Laughter is good medicine, too. Even if you are angry or depressed, just begin chanting: ha ha hee hee ho ho. Soon, real laughter will come…and with it, a joyful release of tension all through the body. The practice of ujjayi breathing can also help release our long-held emotions.

Ginger-Baking-Soda Bath
A soothing hot bath is a relaxing way to end a stressful day. Adding one-third cup ginger and one-third cup baking soda, along with a dollop of sesame oil, has additional vata reducing effects. Ginger enhances circulation, while the baking soda helps to alkalinize the system; both help to balance the effects of external stressors. Put on some relaxing kirtan music while you soak. And prepare for a sound sleep.

Restorative Yoga
Practice shavasana (lying on the lap of mother earth pose) for 10-15 minutes each day. Visualize the muscles softening, melting into the floor. Let the breath be full and deep, breathing stress out with every exhalation. Activating the parasympathetic nervous system with the full yogic breath brings us to the resting/digesting state, releasing all the stressors inside and out. When you notice the mind wandering, bring it gently back to the breath. One student said recently that shavasana is like pressing the reset button on a computer; it brings us back to ourselves.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.


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

Photo of chamomile flowers by Chiot’s Run via Flickr Creative Commons license

Our Centre Community: Johanna Peters

The Journey Home

I have a sense, if I look far enough back in my experience, of being a child — of existing before all the seeking began, before all the stories of ‘me and my life’ took hold, and the freedom and wonder inherent in that open not-knowing. It seems to me, that the rest of my life and all the actions I’ve taken, have been an attempt to return to that innocent freedom, and in a big way my discovery of the Salt Spring Centre and its community has supported me on the journey home.

Growing up in Calgary, despite the cold winters, I had a rich array of activities to keep me engaged and connected, including going to the mountains most weekends to take advantage of the snow and learn how to fly down icy slopes on two long, narrow slats.

At Panorama Mountain Village, contemplating the view.

At Panorama Mountain Village, contemplating the view.

I had a lot of wonderful, enriching and sometimes challenging experiences growing up. I learned about music, acting, horse-back riding, writing. I learned about drinking too much, kissing boys and awkward high school parties. I learned a lot about social norms, human behaviour, who I should and shouldn’t be to fit in. But even amidst this rich array of experience and learning, it still felt like there was something missing. Something that was essential to me, that I couldn’t find in all these experiences, as diverse and exciting as they were.

This sense of seeking more and questioning my purpose was particularly strong as I neared the end of high school and felt the upcoming unknown that was life beyond high school. Longing to embark on a journey of self-discovery, but unsure how that might look, I followed the more traditional path, applying to different universities and eventually deciding to move to the west coast and study at the University of Victoria.

Uncovering the wild beauty of BC’s forests.

Uncovering the wild beauty of BC’s forests.

The grace present in that choice, which I was completely unaware of at the time, is so clear to me now.

Life on the west coast opened up my experience in a brand new way. I fell in love with the trees and the ocean, and started to find myself more and more in the peace and beauty of the natural world. My friendships began to take on a more authentic feel and I started meeting people who were asking the same questions I was asking: Who am I? What is the point of all of this? What are we doing here?

Even my studies reflected these questions as I studied eastern religions and learned about teachers like the Buddha, Gandhi, Krishnamurti and even contemporary teachers like Eckhart Tolle. I learned many years later that the professor who referenced all these thinkers lives on Salt Spring island, and I’ve since run into him many times on the Skeena Queen ferry. Go figure.

As I neared the end of a rich and varied university experience, I was faced with another transition point, and this time it was so clear to me that more schooling wasn’t going to help me find the answer to those essential questions that kept following me around. I didn’t know where the answers were going to come from, but I was open to the discovery.

In 2010, grace and a series of serendipitous events led me to the Salt Spring Centre and the karma yoga program.

Arriving at the centre for the first time in the summer of 2010 felt like coming home.

A view of the centre from Blackburn Road.

A view of the centre from Blackburn Road.

Finally, I was in a place where my own search for truth was reflected in the people, land and experiences around me. It seems to me, that past a certain point, our life is really about unbecoming. Like ice melting, the layers of conditioning peel off to reveal the open radiance of that conscious awareness that we are so much connected to as children. That state of being fully awake. As Babaji says, “Dream is real as long as you are asleep. Life is real as long as you are not awakened.”

Taking a lunch break on the mound with Aneeta and Shyam, summer 2010.

Taking a lunch break on the mound with Aneeta and Shyam, summer 2010.

Though I currently find myself living and working in Vancouver, I continue to remain connected to the centre and its community, returning to the land often. My connection to the centre has, and continues to transform my life in profound and surprising ways, as the uncovering that took place there begins to trickle into other areas of my life — work, family, friendships.

I think the greatest miracle of all is in the discovery that the joy and peace that I found to be fundamental to my being while at the centre, can be unveiled as the very basis of our existence in any moment, any experience, any place. It is, if we look close enough, the very fabric of life itself. This discovery has been the centre’s and Babaji’s greatest gift to my life. And I am grateful that it is there to remind me what matters whenever I forget.

Double downward dog with my little cousin. My love of working with kids and sharing yoga with little ones begins...

Double downward dog with my little cousin. My love of working with kids and sharing yoga with little ones begins…

At ‘work’. Making magic potions with some of the kids at the daycare where I work.

At ‘work’. Making magic potions with some of the kids at the daycare where I work.

August 2013 and 2014 I had the privilege of co-ordinating the Kids Program at the Annual Community Yoga Retreat. Here Genevieve guides us in a family yoga class.

August 2013 and 2014 I had the privilege of co-ordinating the Kids Program at the Annual Community Yoga Retreat. Here Genevieve guides us in a family yoga class.

In 2013 I complete a Rainbow Kids Family and Kids Yoga training.

In 2013 I complete a Rainbow Kids Family and Kids Yoga training.

Exploring the beautiful grounds at the Mt. Madonna Centre where I meet Babaji for the first time.

Exploring the beautiful grounds at the Mt. Madonna Centre where I meet Babaji for the first time.

A blessed life. Celebrating a birthday with some of my dear centre family.

A blessed life. Celebrating a birthday with some of my dear centre family.

August 2014, with my parents in Germany where my brother got married.

August 2014, with my parents in Germany where my brother got married.

Enjoying the sweetness of summer.

Enjoying the sweetness of summer.

Book Review: Stretch by Neal Pollack & Warrior Pose by Brad Willis

‘Stretch – The Unlikely Making of a Yoga Dude’ by Neal Pollack
‘Warrior Pose’ – How Yoga (Literally) Saved My Life’ by Brad Willis AKA Bhava Ram

In the last sixteen years, I’ve read almost all the books in the yoga section of each of my local libraries, and I’ve finally had to begin looking further afield for my yoga-related reading fix. This is what I’ve learned: not all yoga books are in the yoga section!

As an aspiring yogi, I’ve often been encouraged to read the lives of saints, and I have! But now I am coming to see the value of reading about the lives of present day seekers, whose experiences often parallel those of my myself, my students and my peers, on this path of yoga. Here I review two books I found in the memoir section of my local library.

Neal Pollack’s ‘Stretch’ is undoubtedly much lighter fare than Brad Willis’ ‘Warrior Pose’, and treads on much more familiar ground for most western yogis in the 21st century. In his twenties, Pollack experienced great literary success which built up his ego, identity and career around a certain cynicism and self-deprecation that left him reeling when his career nearly imploded because of his own self destructive and egocentric behaviour. The pain of losing one identity and finding a new one – in parenthood and middle age – sent him to yoga.

He started, like many, in a fluorescent-lit gym, on a borrowed mat, in a crowded and bewildering class, but even then knew he’d found something precious: his best self, a self he’d not known since high school, and a self he wanted to be again:

“…(T)he whole concept of finding my best self went against everything for which I stood. It even sounded stupid…Nevertheless I had to put that cynicism aside, at least partially, because I found myself wanting to go deeper into the yoga…In the walk of life, I’d stepped into a big pile of yoga doo, and nothing could get it off my sole. Or my soul”.

Pollock takes the reader on a journey into yoga that is occasionally cringe-worthy, often laugh-out-loud funny, and heartwarming throughout. He is an earnest seeker, and yoga continually meets him where he is at. As he pursues his best self, he is again and again thwarted by his, shall we say, less than best self. As he makes his way through the Ashtanga primary series, he shares with the reader his insights into yoga philosophy, as it relates to his everyday life. He explores the Yoga Sutras, especially the idea of avidya (ignorance of our true nature, leading to suffering) as it relates to sex and bramacharya: “In other words: Have sex, sure, but stop seeing it as a game or a goal. Go about your sexual business ethically, causing as little harm to others as possible.”

His path becomes more interesting when he takes part in a 24 hour Yogathon for charity, which leads to his becoming a writer for Yoga Journal. He covers the Yoga Olympics (“the idea of a yoga competition seems as absurd as the idea of competitive prayer.”), a Yoga Journal Conference, Wanderlust Festival, and interviews many master teachers in their home studios. The description of the tantrum he throws at a Jivamukti studio in New York City nearly brought me to tears of laughter. He bumbles through it all with self-deprecating humility and humour, but also fresh eyes and a desire to glean deeper truths from an often times circus-like atmosphere that, on the surface, seems anathema to the true goals of yoga.

Like many of us, his practice crystalizes when he finds a teacher he truly resonates with and takes pains to study with. There are some beautiful pages of discourse between him and his teacher about the first Yoga Sutra, ‘Yogas citta-vrtti nirodhah’,
which culminates with how best to react when one steps in dog poo, both literally and figuratively. In ‘Stretch’, Neal Pollack carries his practice into all aspects of his life, and in doing so, shares with us his growing insight, knowledge and transformation.


‘Warrior Pose’ is a much more intense journey from darkness to light. Brad Willis was a prominent foreign war correspondent who risked life and limb to report on the treachery and sufferings on the front lines of foreign combat, in hopes that sharing the truth would bring about change and help people. At age 35, he broke his back and left it untreated because he didn’t want to risk his career trajectory. He suffered years of chronic pain, alcohol and substance abuse, until, at age 50, he found himself permanently disabled, with stage four throat cancer and months to live. His family staged an intervention, and, once drug-free, he found himself in an experimental outpatient program called the Pain Centre, which offered holistic therapeutics to manage chronic pain.

The first two thirds of the book chronicle his journeys abroad and his descent into darkness. They are well written, honest, and compelling. Throughout these parts of his story I couldn’t help but notice the seeds of spiritual growth that were planted along the way: witnessing the indomitable spirit and miraculous recovery of people facing profound trauma, loss and injury; the gift of a golden Buddha in a secret shrine in Vietnam; the advice from Father Joe to “find your soul”; and the timely pleading of his son to just “get up Daddy”. These seeds all begin to grow in the fertile soil of yoga practice, and, inevitably, bear fruit.

The final third of the book follows Willis through physical therapy, JinShin Jitzu, and bio feedback, the latter of which has a profound effect on him. “I begin to realize something that never occurred to me before: It’s not just my physical body I have to heal, it’s my thoughts and emotions as well”. Eventually he is allowed to add yoga to his schedule. His mobility is severely limited, so his practice is primarily restorative, but he commits to it fully. He practices whatever he can after hours – reading yoga books, practicing pranayama, meditation, chanting mantras and singing bhajans. He feels he has found a systematic approach to healing body, mind and spirit, and he repeats to himself daily the affirmations “Stand in yoga” and “get up Daddy” to cement his conviction.

When the Pain Centre closes unexpectedly, he returns home and builds a ‘cave’ in which to practice twelve hours a day. He eventually finds a local teacher and studio to support his asana practice. He attends a retreat (unnamed but obviously Mount Madonna Centre) to learn the purification techniques of shatkarma, and returns home to begin many months of rigorous self-purification, in a final bid to cure his cancer within the time he’s been given to live.

Four months into his yoga practice, Brad Willis’ broken back is healed, and his cancer is in remission. He shares profound insight discovered through deep suffering and firm, unwavering commitment to healing himself. Two passages that best describe this follow:

“…my first step into yoga wasn’t at the Pain center …It wasn’t the epiphany when I entered the yoga room…It was nearly four months earlier, on the morning I found my family downstairs and the intervention began. That is when I began to face myself, realized I had lost control of my life, chose to let go of all resistance, heard my inner voice telling me the truth about what I had become…I had no idea this was yoga. But it was.”

“Yoga has taught me that a fundamental principle in life is that energy follows intention. When we create a strong intention and really believe in it, the world magically seeks to support us. People who think positively and have faith in something are vastly more likely to manifest it than those who feel doubtful and negative. It still takes great devotion and hard work, but it always starts with the mind”.

Neal Pollack’s memoir is equal parts hilarious and irreverent, but still informative and life affirming. He traverses the contemporary western yoga landscape and takes us along for the ride. Brad Willis offers a dramatic journey from darkness to light, and documents the transformative potential yoga holds. Both authors expose the true heart of yoga – still beating after all this time.

Kenzie Patillo

Kenzie Pattillo completed her 200 hour YTT at Salt Spring Centre of Yoga in 2002. She is a householder yogi/mama living in North Vancouver, B.C. and presently teaches yin, hatha and flow yoga in her community. En route to completing her 500 hour YTT designation she has recently begun practicing one on one restorative therapeutics.

News from the Centre (December 2014)

Hello everyone,

December is here: a quiet time that is also full of celebration. Here at the Centre, the residential community is again very small, part of the cycle of life here. There’s still lots of work going on, but there is more opportunity for practice and inward focus.

A clear winter sky

A clear winter sky

There were several special events here in November. The Salt Spring Centre School held its annual Celebration of Light (aka Advent Celebration), begun more than 30 years ago, led by Usha who began this tradition and still leads us in songs of light.


Sharada’s grandson Ezra lighting the candle


Sharada lighting the candle

The Dharma Sara Satsang Society also held a special event a couple of weeks ago, a visioning gathering for all DS members, called Dreaming our Future: Community Vision World Cafe. Om PK, Jeramiah and Saraswati led us in a wonderful day of sharing ideas and fun, with electronic connections for members who weren’t able to get here. If you would like to be more involved in events such as this, and in Dharma Sara in general, we invite you to apply for membership.

Vision Retreat participants: Piet, Jeramiah, Caleb, Meera, Ariel

Vision Retreat participants: Piet, Jeramiah, Caleb, Meera, Ariel


Visioning in action

On the 19th of this month we will hold our annual winter vegetarian potluck and gift exchange game, known around here as the non-attachment game; you pick a gift, but don’t necessarily get to keep it. Although it’s mainly local satsang folks who take part, if you’d like to join us, please contact Sharada (sharada [at] saltspringcentre [dot] com).

Other events are ongoing – satsang, kirtan, Bhagavad Gita study, asana classes – and of course we continue to be nourished by delicious meals, including many ways to cook squash, which was particularly abundant this year.

Our Centre Community introduces Indira/Uma/Cynthia Bennett, a longtime student of Babaji’s who lived for many years on Salt Spring with her family. Cynthia contributed to the Centre and Centre School in many way over those years, and still comes to our Annual Community Yoga Retreat when she can.

Prathiba has sent us a sweet treat for the holiday season: Sweets Without Sugar, with wonderful recipes included. Enjoy!

At this time of year, as the days grow shorter and the nights are colder, I invite you into a calming inward journey in “Turning Inward.” In this spirit, here also are a couple of poems by Sudha Soleil.

With wishes for peace to all,

Turning Inward

Babaji photos

Each season (of nature, of life) brings its own beauty. Later this month marks the official beginning of winter, although we’ve been moving toward winter for several weeks. In this part of the world, the days have become shorter and by late afternoon the darkness is setting in; this is an invitation to turn inward. Along with the rest of nature, we can take this time to slow down, to settle into ourselves and reconnect with the sacredness of life.

There are many ways to reconnect with the sacredness of life, and sharing celebrations is one way, but we also need quiet time to do our inner work. If we want inward time in this busy season, we have to choose it.

Whenever I go out the door or start any work, I never forget to remember God.

Winter is a naturally quiet time of year, a time when nature rests: plants are dormant, animals hibernate. We too need rest – not just physical rest (although that too), but resting our overly busy minds. Many of us are drawn inward by music, art or being in nature. Traditional spiritual practices focus on ritual, chanting and other practices, especially meditation.

The fifth limb of the 8-limbed system of classical Ashtanga Yoga is pratyahara, withdrawing the mind from its preoccupation with the outer world. This practice is the bridge between the outer world and the inner world, leading to meditation.

Pratyahara is practiced by repeatedly pulling the mind back from going outward.

There are many methods that support pratyahara, including mantra (repeating sacred sounds), nada (listening to inner sounds), japa (repetition of mantra or a name of God), puja (worship), tratak (gazing) and kirtan (chanting). These practices help still the mind, supporting us in reconnecting with the peace that already exists within us.

In the beginning when we practice pratyahara we have to avoid objects of pleasure in order to save ourselves from creating a desire to have them. This is called austerity (tapas). But when we master pratyahara, then we can live in desires without desire. We observe all social rules, but our mind is not attached to anything. Our balance becomes so perfect that we can function in the world without a thought of balancing.

Sometimes our lives seem so busy that we can’t imagine taking time to slow down and turn inward, but this shift doesn’t need to take a lot of time. Turning inward is an attitude of mind, a recognition that we need we need rest and peace in order to reconnect with the sacredness within and around us. Our inner well-being then radiates out to others. May we all find peace and balance in this season and throughout our lives.

Om shanti shanti shanti

contributed by Sharada

Our Centre Community: Indira/Uma/Cynthia Bennett

Mason, Meera, Cynthia and Angelica

Mason, Meera, Cynthia and Angelica

A dear friend introduced me to Baba Hari Dass when I was on my way back from my first trip to India in 1977. I had driven a van from London to Kathmandu and had been away from home for two years. I stopped in on my friend at her home in Hilo, Hawaii for a bit of R&R before facing the “real world”. She gave me the Yellow Book for the flight home and I read it all. Later that summer, I came across a poster on 4th Avenue in Vancouver, with Babaji’s face on it inviting anyone who was interested to come to a yoga retreat in Oyama, BC, so a few friends and I determined to go check it out.

Cynthia in India

Cynthia in India

1985 - satsang at the Centre with Babaji. Uma on left, holding Mason.

Satsang at the Centre with Babaji. Uma on left, holding Mason, 1985

When I met Babaji for the first time I felt very shy, even though I felt such a connection with him. I had been exposed to yoga before, TM, at high school, and Iyengar through a friend, however I found his teaching just what I was looking for, a balance of meditation, pranayama and asana, with common sense sprinkled in. I joined the Vancouver Satsang, and when the group started looking for land and moved to Salt Spring Island, I determined that I would move and raise my young family there.

Meera and Babaji, 1985/6

Meera and Babaji, 1985/6

My family was raised on the island with the Centre being the core of our lives there. My children, Meera, Mason and Angelica all spent every summer getting ready for the retreat and the children’s Ramayana. We made costumes, practiced the dances and generally spent a lot of time at the Centre. They all went to the Centre School, and had a wonderful foundation with Usha, Frances and the other teachers. When they tell friends now about their experiences at the Centre, and the people they met and the schooling they had many think it sounds idyllic, and it was!


Mason performing in the Ramayana, aged 7 or 8


Angelica at the Centre garden, 1992

I also cherish the memories of the other things we did at the Centre back then. Sid used to bring in amazing musicians, and we could sit in the main room and listen to these amazing artists so close. It gave all of us an appreciation being able to see and hear so close to the musicians. There was the Christmas Faire, with all of us hanging out for the weekend with our crafts and wares. There were Satsang dinners, and of course Satsang itself with singing and readings. Way back then Babaji used to come and spend time with all of us on the island. I also had the honor of having Babaji and his entourage stay at my home.


Meera (on left) in Macbeth, performed by Salt Spring Centre School students, 1998

When my grandson Devon was born, Meera and I went up to Santa Cruz to introduce him to Babaji. Of course Babaji stuck a lollipop into his mouth! This has been a tradition with all of my children and of course any of the children who visit Babaji. I don’t know if any my future grandchildren will meet Babaji, however his influence is in all of our lives has been profound and reliable. Therefore, he is in our hearts and that transmission from him to us will be there for them.


Meera, Devon & Oliver

mason and shelane

Mason & his fiancee Shelane

angelica and david

David & Angelica

Nowadays, I am living in the Los Angeles area, helping my elderly father. I think because of Babaji’s teaching I can see this part of my life through the eyes of a yogi, being of service to loved ones, and having it be a part of my practice. And I have started a business here as well. It is called Devon’s Drawer, after my grandson and my father. I design and manufacture organic and natural outerwear for children. All my kids are involved in one way or another, so I see it as a family enterprise. And Devon gets to try on the items to determine size and fit, and he gets first choice!

Over the years my relationship with the Centre has been one of family, and I always love to come “home”. I moved off the island and away from the Salt Spring Centre some time ago, but I am glad that the foundation years for me and my family was shared with my Satsang friends. I have used Babaji’s teachings in Ashtanga Yoga as a blueprint for my life. I am a beginner after all of these years, still working on perfecting the Yamas, and Niyamas. I feel that yoga for me is a practice of starting over again and again! After all it is a practice.

Sweets without Sugar



Yum, cookies. Yum, ice cream. Yum, chocolate mousse. Yum, yum . . . sugar! How many times a day do you reach for some sugar? With your coffee or tea first thing in the morning? With your breakfast, as jam on your toast? For a mid-morning snack, as a sweet roll or donut? And at lunch, how often is sugar part of the menu? By mid-afternoon, are you ready for a protein bar with another 9 to 29 grams of sugar? And then for dinner . . . dessert . . . before-bed snack?

Many of us have tried kicking the sugar habit over the years; one person I know goes on a sugar fast every once in a while, and somehow it always creeps back into the diet. Especially during the winter season. Have you noticed how it starts around Halloween, with trick-or-treat candy; continues through the Thanksgiving/ Christmas/ Hanukkah/ holiday season; arises again for Valentine’s Day, and again at Easter in the early spring? Every holiday has come to be associated with sugar sweet treats. Our culture inundates us with sugar for nearly half the year!

Now in Ayurveda the sweet taste is considered one of six essential tastes that are part of a balanced diet. (The other tastes are sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent.) Sweet food is nourishing, building of tissue, cooling, energizing, and delicious. Babaji would always given the children one candy, telling the wary moms that ‘sugar helps build their bones.’ Natural sugars include milk and rice, as well as honey, molasses and maple syrup! We don’t often think of milk and rice as being “sweet,” but from our body’s point of view they are! And we need them to stay healthy . . . but only in balance with the rest of our diet.

For many of us, however, the sweet taste can also be addicting and that is where the trouble begins. When we encounter the “high fructose corn syrup” that is part of so much processed food these days, the body reacts by wanting more. Consumption of excess sugar is a contributing factors to many diseases that are rampant in our modern world – diabetes, heart disease, obesity, to name a few.

So here, for your nutritional and gustatory enjoyment, are a few sweet treat recipes, that contain only natural sugars: a kitchari sweetened with squash, carrots and raisins, a fruit crumble with natural fruit sugars, a chocolate dip made with spinach and sweetened with dates, and a protein bar based in almonds, coconut and milk sugar.



¾ c. basmati rice
¾ c. split mung beans
1 small delicata squash
1 c. chopped carrots
1 fennel bulb
1/3 c. cashew pieces
1/3 c. flame raisins
2 T. coconut oil
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cardamom
1 tsp fennel seeds
¾ tsp coriander seeds
1 piece fresh ginger
Handful of flaked coconut (optional)
1 can coconut milk
½-1 bunch fresh basil

1. Sauté fennel, coriander seeds and fresh ginger in coconut oil, until seeds start to brown and pop.
2. Add the drained rice and beans, and sauté for a few minutes until rice and beans are fully saturated with ghee and spices, then stir in the cinnamon and cardamom powder.
3. Add the coconut milk plus 1 can of water, and bring to a boil.
4. After ten minutes or so, stirring occasionally, add the carrots, chopped squash, fennel, raisins, cashews and coconut flakes. Bring to a low boil, covered and stir occasionally.
5. Cook until rice, beans and veggies are tender and it has thickened to desired consistency.
6. Stir in freshly chopped basil just before serving.

Serves 4-8 for breakfast or lunch, particularly enjoyable in fall and winter.



4 cups fruit (apples, apricots, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, peaches, pears, or mangos)
2 cups apple juice
¼ cup raisins
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¾ teaspoon coriander powder
⅛ – ¼ teaspoon dry ginger powder
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2-4 teaspoons honey (optional) or apple concentrate
Topping: 1 cup fruit juice sweetened granola and 1 tablespoon shredded unsweetened coconut

Wash fruit. Berries can be used whole; other fruit chop into 1 inch pieces; measure. Pour apple juice into medium-sized saucepan; heat on medium. Put chopped fruit, raisins and cinnamon in juice in saucepan, cook over medium heat for 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Add coriander, ginger, lemon juice, and honey; stir. Spoon into individual serving bowls and top with granola and coconut. Serve hot or cooled. Thanks to the The Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amadea Morningstar.



2 cups baby spinach
1-½ cups vanilla soy, hemp or almond milk
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup dates, pitted
2 T natural non-alkalized cocoa powder
2/3 cup raw almonds
½ teaspoon alcohol-free vanilla extract

Place all ingredients in a high-powered blender. Blend until very smooth and creamy. Serve as a dip for fresh fruit such as strawberries, bananas, apples, orange sections, pears, apricots or pineapple.



2 cups almonds soaked over night, then dried
1/2 cup flax meal
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup nut butter
1/2 cup coconut oil (melted on low heat)
2 T maple syrup
Vanilla to taste

Process together almonds, flax, coconut into a course meal. Add the rest of ingredients. Press the mixture into a 9” by 13” pan (or 8” by 8” if you want it thicker). Refrigerate to firm the mixture. (Optional: Melt some dark chocolate, smooth over top and chill once again.) Cut into bars and enjoy!

Please remember that even with natural sweets, the guiding principle is moderation. Have enough to satisfy and share the rest with others! And make sure the other five tastes receive their rightful place in your balanced diet. Bon appétit!

Pratibha Queen

Pratibha Queen

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

Cocoa powder image by Jayca

Sudha’s poetry

Poems by Sudha Soleil (aka Theota Makortoff)

So many words,
Too much talk,
Now let’s try silence

speaks of feeling, seeing,
and sharing the air.


Encourage gratitude
Courage shimmers beneath
Pure present is eternity
Have faith
The profound challenge