News from the Centre (May 2014)

Hello everyone,

As I write this the sun is shining and there are blossoms on some trees, swelling buds on others. Lots of pollen, too! Because we’re in a valley, in one of the multiple microclimates on this island, the flowers start blooming here just a bit later than some other places on Salt Spring.

flowers in front flower garden

flowers in front flower garden

We welcome Lakshmi back

We welcome Lakshmi back

We welcome Lakshmi back to the Centre after her winter stay in California. She reports that Babaji is doing better than when I saw him in December. You can see this in the recent photos posted in the Babaji Health Update. He turned 91 this spring.

Sue Ann and Jeff will be returning this month, Sue Ann to serve as Karma Yoga Coordinator and Jeff to work in the garden with David – and undoubtedly to help in the kitchen at times. It will be great to see them again.

Karma Yogis

Karma Yogis, Tana, David and Raven

The Dharma Sara Satsang Society is holding its Annual General Meeting on Saturday, May 3 from 1:00 – 3:00. There will be reports on all activities of Dharma Sara, including all the departments of the Centre. This is an opportunity to learn about the many areas of DS and SSCY that you may not know about. After the reports, there will be an election of DS Board members. Everyone is welcome to attend. unnamed-2

This summer we will be celebrating our 40th annual annual yoga retreat! Piet Suess, of Hanuman Olympics and Latte Da Stage fame, has undertaken to be the ACYR (Annual Community Yoga Retreat) coordinator. Keep the August long weekend in mind; you will be hearing more!

May is a busy month at the Centre School.The May Day celebration that Usha inaugurated when the school began back in 1983 continues, with the children wearing garlands of flowers and dancing around the maypole. The youngest simply hold the ribbons and walk around the maypole in a circle, trying to remain more or less evenly spaced as they walk (a big challenge for 5 year olds!) The older kids weave the ribbons around the pole in a beautiful pattern. Later this month (May 23, 24, 25), the students will be performing their annual school play, the story this year being The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Satya and her tipi

Satya and her tipi

There are several special features this month that I hope you will take time to read. “Our Satsang Community” features Satya Gauthier, who was closely involved with the Centre for many years in the 80s and 90s into the early 2000s. Her daughters, Sammy and Leala grew up here and lived with their mom at the Centre, part of the time in a tipi. Both girls went to the Centre School and performed in the Ramayana, a huge production for which Satya made many, many fabulous costumes!

I would also like to introduce another long-time satsang family member. Folks who were around in earlier years will remember Sudha, although more recent arrivals won’t have met her. Many of you will have met her son, Mischa, though, since he’s been coming to summer retreats regularly for the past few years. Sudha has been part of the satsang family almost from the beginning, but hasn’t been able to visit the Centre for a number of years, having become disabled by Parkinson’s Disease. However, her mind is sharp as ever as is her sense of humour, and I’m honoured to be able to share some of her writing. The piece she’s contributed is page one of an alphabet book for adults, called A Glossary of Terms in the Life of a Disabled Person. It is definitely worth reading; it will open your eyes to many gifts we take for granted.

Saraswati Glenda Garcia has contributed the Asana of the Month: Hanumanasana or Monkey Pose.The posture she has chosen is inspiring, largely because of the teaching that goes with it. She invites us to take a leap into this pose, possibly finding strengths within ourselves we don’t know we have. Saraswati teaches both at our Centre and Mount Madonna Center.

Pratibha has once again shared a teaching about Ayurveda, this one about exercise for your dosha. Exercising your True Nature prompts you to move, but not in the same ways for everyone. I invite you also to read “Life Improv 101”, a teaching about living life with an open mind and an open heart. And it’s a reminder to lighten up.

Happy May everyone.


Life Improv 101

babaji-febnewsLife would be so simple if we wanted what we have and didn’t want what we don’t have, but that’s not generally the way we operate, is it?

The Rolling Stones pointed out, back in 1966, that “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might find you get what you need.”

How do we know that what we get is what we need? We know because that’s what’s happening, it is the reality of the situation. This doesn’t mean we give up on the possibility of change, but it does mean we have to start by accepting that whatever it is that’s happening is the current reality. Then, whatever the situation, we are more likely to be able to relax into the present and respond wisely.

If we understand the truth that attachments are a mental construct that causes pain, then we can be sane and live in the world peacefully.

Surrender to God’s plan and everything will be okay. Surrender is also a fast way to get dispassion. If you really surrender it is the fastest way. You have to accept that there is nothing you can do. Then surrender to your samskaras and accept your limitations. It is a test. There are some karmas that we have no freedom to change except by how we react. They are bearing fruit. Lose $100 and get miserable, or lose $100 and don’t care. Either way, you have to lose $100.

Life unfolds as it does. If we have to lose $100 we can be miserable or we can carry on with life and take the next step. Babaji says: You have your duties and responsibilities to the world and you can do them with a smile on your face or you can have a sad heart and tears in your eyes. It doesn’t make any difference to the world but it makes a difference in the way you feel.

Many years ago when my daughter took a class in improvisational theatre, she told me about three rules of improv that she had learned. It turns out these are pretty good rules for life in general.

  1. No blocking: This is what’s being offered to you in this moment. Denying it or not accepting it simply doesn’t work. It cuts short any possibility of change, growth or connecting with another person, with a situation or with yourself.
  2. No wimping: Wimping is being unclear, not dealing directly with what’s at hand, or saying a half-hearted yes. This response muddies the waters. There’s no commitment in it, no forward movement. Nothing changes.
  3. Say yes: Yes doesn’t mean you necessarily agree with or like the situation, but it’s saying yes to the reality you’re faced with, yes to life with all its messiness and mystery. Yes allows for all kinds of possibilities that don’t exist if we’re blocking or wimping.

Nonacceptance of life causes discontentment and that is pain. If we accept ourselves as we are and surrender to God, then we will love everyone including ourselves. Life has four stages: birth, growth, decay and death. Everyone who takes birth will pass through these four stages. If we understand and accept this, then we will not be afraid of life.

Wish you happy.

contributed by Sharada

All text in italics is from writings from Babaji.

A Glossary of Terms in the Life of a Physically Disabled Person

Sudha Photo Sudha, a dear friend and satsang sister, who has been a student of Babaji’s from the early days of our satsang, has been unable to visit the Centre for quite a number of years because of the challenges of living with Parkinson’s Disease.

Although her body is affected, Sudha’s mind is sharp as ever. I am very pleased to be able to include some of her writings in Offerings; she has so much to teach us about surrender and acceptance of what is. Babaji told her, God has given you the courage to face your disability. Live with a positive frame of mind, help others and go on living happily.

Here is page one of a book she hopes to complete, an alphabet book for adults about life in a disabled body.

ABLE-BODIED: I now have words like able-bodied in my vocabulary. Before this physical disability became part of my life, it never occurred to me to describe myself as “able-bodied”. I just was. I walked. I ran. I jumped. I knelt. I sat down and got up and sat down again, as many times as I wanted. I sat at the dinner table and ate with my family. I sat on the couch and visited with friends. I got up and went to the toilet as many times as I needed, without anyone else being involved. Not only did no one need to help me to the toilet, they didn’t even need to know when I went. It was “none of their business”. In those days, I actually had my own personal business that no one else was involved with.

I had so much, yet did not realize what I had. I did not actually understand what it means to be able-bodied, nor what it means to be physically disabled. I couldn’t. Without first-hand experience it would be impossible for anyone to imagine all the losses, big and small, that a physically disabled person experiences every minute of every day. It amazes me that I had to lose something so precious before I could fully appreciate its significance in my life.

I try as much as possible to live in the present moment and focus on what brings me joy today. Once in a while, I am overwhelmed with a profound sadness. At these times everything I do brings back memories of my healthier, able-bodied days.

Sudha has been given a difficult practice. I am grateful that Babaji encouraged her to write. In a letter he sent to her, he said: Pour out your inner beauty in divine language for people to read what goes on in you. Your writing will be an expression of art with multiple meanings. May God bless you.


Our Centre Community: Satya Gauthier

Satya, part of our Centre community

Satya, part of our Centre community

Where to start? Fast track forward to when I was first introduced to the Salt Spring Centre. It was Heather Martin, my midwife then, as I was pregnant with Sammy, who brought me from Vancouver to satsang one Sunday in the spring of 1982. I had no knowledge of Babaji’s teachings, though I did know a young couple in Vancouver, Radhika and Shyam, whom I enjoyed spending time with, and they spoke of their love for Babaji.

So there I sat, on the floor of the satsang room, not knowing anyone except for Heather. I didn’t know what the chants meant, how to follow along, or how I could participate. What I did know is that a river of tears was rolling down my face. I remember being deeply moved by the energy in the room, the harmonium and beautiful voices, the altar with all of the flowers, pictures, and arati vessels, and the love that filled my entire being. I knew inside myself, though much had to happen first, that this is where I had to be.

I was living in Kits with Michael, Samantha and Leala’s dad, and Heather was my midwife for both of their home births. The tremendous blessings of my two beautiful daughters has had the greatest impact in my life. Their presence, and my responsibility to protect them and give them my best that I could in all ways, guided my choices. So when they were around 2 & 4 years old, we moved from the city to Salt Spring. I had to learn how to drive a car for the first time since there were no buses and everything was so far apart. I had met Jacob and Maicha, now Yeshe, in Kits through Radhika and Shyam. Cyrcee, then SunMoon, was already doing acrobatics in the back yard “gym” that Jacob had set up. She was around six years old. They were very helpful to me when we all ended up on the island, and we became instant friends. Sammy and Leala are still very close with Sundaura and Cyrcee, and visited the family in Maui last winter.

The Salt Spring Centre community warmly welcomed me and my kids. Soon after we moved to the island, I was offered a place to rent at Uma and Rameshwar’s house, where Babaji, Ma and Karuna would stay for both the Easter Spring Renewal and the summer Community Retreat. We had to move out of course!!! And then Anuradha and her cleaning crew, myself included, would go at it and clean that place until it sparkled. We lived in that house for about four years, part of which was with Mamata and Jeramiah. The kids played well together and love each other to this day.

Satya and her tipi

Satya and her tipi

Then I was inspired to live without electricity! And drag my kids along with me!! Ah those wonderful, crazy ideas that bubbled up!!! And were acted upon!!! So I found a professional tipi maker here in Victoria, bought what seemed like mountains of canvas in Vancouver, and spent an entire weekend sewing a tipi on a treadle machine. Lisa Lloyd allowed us to put up this beautiful white canvas on her farm and gave us a five acre piece that was fenced off from her few pet cows.

Sammy and Leala thought this was the cat’s meow. It was a beautiful and powerful space, and living that close to nature was quite a special time! I could walk through the bush on a new moon and never go off the trail. The kids and Gabriel, Subhadra’s son, made a little tipi of their own out of blankets and wood they salvaged from the forest. A full day’s work that was – and a source of creative entertainment for weeks.

Satya, 1991

Satya, 1991

After a couple of years living at Lisa’s we were accepted to move the tipi onto the land in the big meadow past the school. It became a topic of education in the school, and one year all the kids helped to erect it, me talking them through the process. The field was a beautiful place to live. Mamata, Sammy and Leala would wander off in the three-foot tall grass and make fairy rings where they would spend hours in creative play and story telling. One morning when I was getting up, I went outside of the tipi to greet the day, and there was Babaji!! Alone!!! We saw each other and with a big radiant smile, he waved at me. I waved back wondering how disheveled I must have looked!! What a beautiful sight was he in his white robes against the dark green forest. He was out for his morning brisk walk. And nobody had followed him! Small miracles happen.

Guru Purnima - Satya & Anusri, 1995

Guru Purnima – Satya & Anusri, 1995

I never wintered over in the tipi. I loved nature but I was not that much of a diehard. So outdoors in May and back indoors in October. Man it was hard to have artificial light after living with the natural cycle. I couldn’t stop doing stuff and sometimes found myself still up at midnight. Sorted that out pretty quick with early rises.

It was the best setting for Sammy and Leala to grow up. So much safety, freedom, space, support, delicious foods – and the school was seconds away. And after school, it was endless tending of The Bunny Homes under the cedar trees at the school.

sewing costumes for the Ramayana (upstairs in the unfinished school building), 1988

Sewing costumes for the Ramayana (upstairs in the unfinished school building), 1988

Theatre was a big deal at the school, and I can’t share parts of my life at the SSC without talking about the Ramayana. This was the highlight of summer for the kids, the talk and excitement of which actually started way before summer and went way into fall after it was all over. Babaji sure had us all busy in so many departments and facets of creative expression. I found myself in the sewing department in a flow of costume production that was unlike anything I had done before – or since. Costumes costumes costumes: Maicha, Uma and I (and others) made costumes for monkeys, demons, jungle tribes, belly dancers, as well as capes, sashes, tunics, dresses, armours. It all just flowed, and Babaji was orchestrating the whole thing. The energy for Ramayana was exciting! The first year that my kids were in the play Leala and Mamata were the littlest monkeys, I think aged 4 & 3 respectively. Susheela as one of the directors of 100 + kids that year told me that Leala had said to her “you’re just trying to control me” when she was trying to do some blocking with the monkeys. So cute! Sam had roles in the Guha tribe, belly dancers, and maybe even a demon one year. Good times, they were!

Blowing the conch, 1992

Blowing the conch, 1992

There are many stories to tell about our fabulous times at the Centre, but I will jump ahead for now and talk about another life-changing episode, one that still serves me well and consumes much of my time and energy. I had an interview with Babaji some 17 years ago. Really?! I thought I would ask about a career as I wanted to be engaged in a career path before the age of 40. I had three ideas: linguistics, making customized tarps and awnings as a business, and before I could say anything more Babaji wrote on his chalkboard, “get your nursing”!!! I had to look behind myself to see if someone else was in the room!! I had never thought of nursing. Maybe Babaji knew that my mother was a nurse and my father a doctor. What was I supposed to do? I went to GISS – yup, high school! – and took some prerequisites as well as an art class, just to keep it fun. I was in art class with Nayana, Kirsty, Farishta, and OmPK was the teacher for part of the semester. I was privy to quite the stories in that class of grade 12 students I’ll tell you!! And then I was accepted into the nursing program. And that’s what I still do as a career. I have questioned my sanity at times, but that too passes and I carry on.

Leala, Satya, Sammy

Leala, Satya, Sammy

Sammy is happily married to Colin. I call him a prince! She is currently taking YTT right now, and I’m so proud of her. Leala has spent the winter in Grand Cayman Island working on a visa and learning at the University of the World. She loves to travel, and I’m glad she’ll be home by the end of May. She will work on Salt Spring this summer.

Satya's daughters, Leala and Sammy

Satya’s daughters, Leala and Sammy

When I think back, my time at the Centre was kind of like country finishing school. Hahaha!! I learned so much about community and relationships, responsibility, accountability, determination, leadership, focused intent, and the beautiful teachings, life path and purity of heart that Babaji has taught me. And what a tremendous blessing to have Babaji directly shaping our lives through his example. Jai Gurudev!

I remember vividly several life-changing events from over the years, the profound experiences at the SSC being very high on that list. I am forever grateful to Babaji and the satsang for the love that was extended to me, Sammy and Leala.


Exercising your True Nature

As the sky clears and the weather warms, the spring flowers burst out in all their colorful glory. And we all feel the pull to spend more time outdoors. With that urge may come the desire to get back into an exercise routine. Our body yearns for more movement, whether outside, on the yoga mat or at the gym!

Ayurveda teaches us that along with different diets for different doshas, we can each benefit from an exercise routine that takes account of our basic constitutional nature. (If you are uncertain about your Ayurvedic body type, please refer to the article What’s my Type for more details.) Whether you are vata, pitta or kapha predominant, everyone’s body benefits from exercise, not only the movement we all experience in the course of everyday life, but the regular and systematic type that stretches and strengthens all the muscle groups of the body.

Regular exercise not only tones the muscles, but the internal organs as well. It strengthens the heart and lungs, increasing blood flow to the whole body. Along with drinking plenty of water, this assists the body to perform its regular detox routine. Following are some basic guidelines for each of the three body types. If you are dual-dosha predominant, try to find the balance between the your two predominant.

Exercise for our Vata Nature

Our vata nature tends toward spontaneity and variability, so to nurture its balance, we can choose an exercise that is slow and regular. Tai chi, walking, gentle yoga are all recommended. Aerobics or fast walking that will aim to build up a sweat can also benefit vata dosha; vatas tend to be cold, so generating heat helps to balance our vata nature. Running and jogging are not recommended for vata, as they put pressure on the joints, which are often an area of weakness for vatas. In your enthusiastic zeal, remember to push the body only gently, avoiding the pain zone.

A leisurely salutation series (sun or moon) in the warm spring air would be about perfect! Following the salutations, a few balancing poses plus a long restorative shavasana (relaxation pose) could complete your practice. Staying warm is important so be sure to cover yourself for the relaxation practice.

Sustaining a regular practice is a challenge for vata, so try for a routine that you can do every day. Try for at least 20-30 minutes on a daily basis to help vata stay healthy and well balanced. And always listen to your body, heeding the signals to slow down and pace yourself.

Exercise for our Pitta Nature

Our pitta nature tends to want to push itself, exploring the margins of how far, how fast! This works best when we balance that with the wisdom of when to back off! Swimming, yoga and walking are all recommended exercise forms for pitta. If you enjoy running, make sure to only run in the cool of early morning or evening.

Salutation series are also suitable for pitta, but limit the number of repetitions to 75% of your capacity. Pushing too far will overheat the body, resulting in increased pitta rather than the balance we’re aiming for. Spinal twists that put pressure on the seat of pitta in the abdomen are recommended, as are forward bending poses that develop an attitude of surrender.

Pitta is the heat-generating factor in the body, so be sure to avoid exercise that overheats the body. Also be sure to include a cool-down period when you have finished your exercise routine. Drinking plenty of water during exercise periods will keep our pitta nature cool. And remember, no pushing!

Exercise for our Kapha Nature

Those of kapha nature tend to avoid exercise. They prefer more sedentary activities, like watching TV or chatting in a cafe. And yet the kapha body type is designed for exercise! Kaphas tend to be physically strong, with good endurance. It’s really their motivation that needs a push!

Kaphas’ metabolism tends to be slower than other body types, so building heat is actually a benefit. Fast walking, vigorous sun or moon salutations, anything that gets the blood pumping and the heart rate up will help keep our kapha balanced. Back bending and standing yoga poses are especially suitable for our kapha nature.

A regular running practice would also be appropriate; kapha joints tend to be well muscled and also well lubricated so they are better able to withstand the repeated impact of running and jogging. Workouts that produce a sweat will help keep kapha’s metabolism burning strong.

The best advice for kaphas is simply to just do it! Just get out there and get moving. If you need to start small, okay, but make a commitment to regular exercise and keep at it. The benefits are life-long!

And in fact that is true for all of us! Make the commitment to regular exercise and just do it! Whether its gentle stretching yoga postures, a quiet walk in nature, a weekly trip to the gym, or dancing to some favorite tunes in your living room, we can all benefit from adding movement to our life!

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:

Asana of the Month: Hanumanasana

Hanumanasana – Monkey Pose

step 4


Hanumanasana is named after the monkey-god Hanuman, emblematic of physical strength, perseverance and devotion.

As told in the epic Indian tale known as the Ramayana, Hanuman is called upon to help Lord Rama rescue his beloved Sita from the grasps of the Demon god Ravana. This pose represents Hanuman’s courageous act of love and devotion for Rama, as he leaps over the ocean to the island Lanka to rescue Sita.

Like Hanuman, we may often face tasks that we think we can’t possibly accomplish or overcome. This pose challenges us to find strength within ourselves we might never have known we had. It invites us to take a leap of faith into believing in our own strength. For Hanuman, his unwavering devotion allowed him to direct his whole heart and mind to the task, and through this concentration, his hidden potency emerged and empowered him.

Take the leap of faith with this pose and perhaps you will discover hidden powers within you!

Be sure to warm up hips and hamstrings before embarking on Hanumanasana. This pose may be contraindicated if you have hamstring or groin injuries.

1. Start in Downward Facing Dog. Step the left foot forward in between the hands and lower the back knee to the ground. Make sure your back knee is behind your hips. If you find this to be too much pressure on your back knee, you may want to place a blanket underneath it. I like to keep my back toes tucked under to make sure my lower leg stays aligned. You can experiment with placing the top of the back foot on the floor.

Step 1 a

Step 1 a

Step 1 b

Step 1 b

Step 1 c

Step 1 c

2. Bring your hips towards your back heel, stretching the front leg. Flex the left foot to point the toes skyward (Make sure not to hyperextend by reaching through the heel). You can stay here for Ardha Hanumanasana (Half Monkey Pose).
Option: fold over the front leg by hinging at the hips.

Arhda Hanumanasana

Arhda Hanumanasana

3. If continuing on with the pose, begin to inch your left heel forwards as you stay anchored thought the back foot and knee. Pause when you feel a stretch and breathe length into your hamstring. This is where faith in yourself really pays off: be patient and allow your body to melt into the stretch. Keep inching your foot forwards to gently open your hamstrings.
Modification: while in Ardha Hanumanasana (step 2), place some cushions, bolsters or blankets underneath your pelvis. As you straighten the legs, release the pelvis onto the bolster.
Tip: Be sure to keep your spine long. Maintain your pelvis in alignment by making sure to keep the back knee pointing down and the front knee pointing up. You may not be able to get as deep of a stretch but you will maintain alignment and maximize the effects of the pose.

step 3 a

Step 3 a

step 3 modification

Step 3 modification

4. If you find yourself in a full splits, great work! Your faith and devotion have paid off and you have conquered Hanumanasana. Keep energetically drawing the inner thighs towards one another, keep your spine long, and breathe. If you want to come into the full pose, lift your arms above your head and interlace your fingers, releasing the index fingers to point skywards. Lift your chest and lean back slightly.
Variation: fold over the front leg.

step 4

Step 4

5. Stay in Hanumanasana for up to one minute. To come out of the pose, slowly and mindfully, press your hands to the floor, turn the front leg out slightly, and slowly return the front heel and the back knee to Arha Hanumanasana. Step back into Downward Facing Dog and repeat on the other side.

Meet Saraswati Glenda Garcia

GlendaGarcia_Headshot2Drawing from her training in Classical Ashtanga Yoga and from revelations of her personal practice, Glenda shares her knowledge of Yoga with the intention of helping others cultivate awareness and peace. Her teaching style emphasizes union of body, breath and mind, regardless of the level or intensity of the practice. More than just movements on a mat, Glenda’s classes emphasize proper body alignment, subtle body dynamics, breathing exercises and active meditation techniques. She incorporates aspects of Yoga philosophy into her classes, allowing for a wholesome experience that is beneficial to the health of body, mind and spirit. Glenda is a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT 500), a Registered Dietitian and a Certified Rolfer® Structural Integration Therapist. Her deep understanding of anatomy, physiology and kinesiology is evident in her teaching style.

Glenda is a dedicated community member of both the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga and Mount Madonna Center for the Arts. She continues to enrich her yoga knowledge through study, practice and teaching on a daily basis.