News from the Centre – March 2015

Greetings everyone,

February sped by, but brought with it harbingers of spring: the return of the frogs, daffodils and other spring blossoms, and lots of nettles which we have been enjoying at our meals. David is preparing the soil in preparation for the new growing season in the garden.

SSCY-March2015

David working under the big blue sky; the daffodils are here!

SpringNettles

Harvesting nettles in the forest

Shiva Ratri 2015

Shiva Ratri was lovely this year, with quite a few people staying up for the whole night. The focus stayed strong all night. This year there was no ice on the pond, so immersing the lingams was a little easier, although David mentioned that he kind of missed the breaking of the ice.

Farewell and Thanks to Paramita

As everyone is probably aware by now, Paramita has decided that she is ready for a change in her life and will be leaving her position as Centre Director in April. We’re in the process of reviewing applications and will be conducting interviews soon. We will certainly miss Paramita and her calm, caring and very balanced way of dealing with the needs of the Centre. However, life continues to change, and we hope to meet it with grace. Having lived here for many years, I have seen many changes, yet the foundation has remained strong.

Welcoming

We are delighted to welcome Tanner back into the Centre community as a lead cook. We also welcome Tricia, who will be supporting Christine as an assistant housekeeping coordinator.

In this Month’s Newsletter

The “Meet our Karma Yogis” feature has returned, this month introducing you to two of the karma yogis in our community: Marianne Butler and Mark Dadson. You may have seen photos of them in earlier editions; now you can learn a bit about them.

Kenzie, who has been sharing yoga book reviews, this month introduces us to herself. She has been connected with the Centre since 1998, arriving when she was 19 years old – and she is still an integral part of the Centre community. She’s the person who feeds your children during the Centre’s annual community yoga retreats. She’s also a yoga teacher, a mom, a true householder yogi. Please read “Kenzie’s Continuing Love Story with the Centre”.

Also this month, Pratibha offers us “Ego, Attachment and Desire”, with many teachings from Babaji on the subject, beginning with Quiet and peace is the real nature of a being. In this article, Pratibha shares several previously unpublished writings by Babaji. There is lots to absorb here.

Our Annual Growth Spurt is on its Way

The Centre is on the cusp of its annual growth spurt, when the community begins to grow as we move into program season. It won’t be long till Lakshmi returns, along with Jeff and Hamsa, and Julia as well, followed later by more karma yogis.

Applications to YSSI (Yoga Service and Study Immersion) have been arriving since the dates of the program were posted (May 31 – August 31), and interviews will begin later this month. If you know someone who might be interested in spending three months living at the Centre, immersed in the life of a practicing yoga community and working in one of the Centre’s departments, please direct them to our website for more information and an application form.

As the light returns following the dark winter months, may we also shine.

Love,
Sharada

Desire, Attachment and Ego

Baba Hari DassQuiet and peace is the real nature of a being. It is disturbed by our desires, attachment, and ego. As long as the desires, attachment and ego remain strong, the mind will remain disturbed. So one should practice meditation, or any other spiritual practice, to purify the mind.*

Babaji often discussed the three great demons – desire, attachment, and ego – as blocks in the path of our spiritual development. These forces are necessary for our life in the world, but can get in our way when our goal is returning to the peace and quiet of our real nature. Below are some of his writings on the topic:

There are three great demons in life called evils: 1) ego, 2) attachment, 3) desire. Without ego, attachment and desire, we can’t exist. Ego is the main energy. ‘I am, I want, it’s mine.’ ‘I am’ is ego. ‘I want’ is desire. ‘It’s mine’ is attachment.

Desire, attachment and ego is our life. We can’t function in the world without these energies.

Desire and attachment are the field of expression of the ego. Ego alone is only the sense of ‘I am,’ and nothing more. Ego is no different from atman (the Self), except ego is individualized atman, and works through the mind and intellect. If it separates from the mind and intellect, then it discovers its real nature, the Self.

EGO

Asmita (egoism) is an essential aspect of being human. We identify ourselves as existing, and in so doing, we separate ourselves from others, seeing ourselves as an independent entity. Our yoga practice allows us to notice that the same ego exists in each and every one of us, and that all humans share the experience of ‘I am ness’. Shared and separate? A wonderful koan for meditation.

Ego is the most mysterious thing in a human incarnation. It is small in one situation and in the next moment it will be big as a mountain. So one should always keep an eye on the activities of the ego.

The mind’s nature is ego, attachment and desire. The ego expresses itself by creating attachment and desires. When attachment and desires are removed, then there will be no selfish identification. Ego expresses its existence by desire and attachment and the ego always seeks for its self-interest.

Ego is strengthened only by negative thinking and actions. By positive thinking and actions, the ego is weakened.

The ego sounds like a bad word in English. Yet it is all we have. When the ego sits in the mind, it becomes the owner of the world. When this ego separates from the mind, it identifies itself with its true nature, the atman.

A watched thief cannot steal. There is always ego. Without the ego, we can’t live. The ego that traps us in worldliness, that ego should be watched. Self interest in every action and thought is watched.

DESIRE

Desire is essential for our life in the world. Many of our desires are obvious: to breathe, to eat, to sleep, to move, to procreate. Others are more subtle, and only appear in the presence of an object. Others are still more subtle, samskaras such as the desire for recognition, or the desire to return to God. Some desires can lead us onto a wrong path, however, and these are the ones with which we’re encouraged to do battle.

Desire and attachment are expressions of ego. Desire without attachment doesn’t create a reality of anything desired. Without the ego there are no desire and attachment. So ego, attachment and desires are together.

Without desires, we can’t function. But the question is desires that are obstructing our path and desires that are supporting us on our path. We can’t become desireless all at once. First weaken the desires by removing the objects. If there is candy in the refrigerator, the mind will go toward it. If there is no candy, the mind will accept that and the desire will get weaker.
Then the next step is to face it. Facing is only in the mind; it’s a test. In life, you always go through tests. If you are trying to remove some habit or desire, you have to test it.

Desire makes the object, all of the objects that are in your life. The only escape from the trap is to realize that the objects and conditions of your life come out of you, that they are illusions projected by you. So why identify with them?

Limit desires. You have a desire to eat sweets. You don’t watch it and you don’t have a limit. When your mind wants to stop it, then at first you must reduce the quantity of sweets. You put one limit. Then you say, ‘I will eat only certain sweets.’ And then you say, ‘I will eat at certain times.’ All these self-imposed limits will remove that habit. This is called austerity or tapas.

An example of desire without attachment:
A person is craving for ice cream. Ice cream is in his hand and in his mind. Another person gets ice cream because he is thirsty. Ice cream could be replaced by water. Because ice cream was available, he takes it. He goes with no memory of ice cream. The other person leaves with a memory of ice cream because his attachment to the taste created a deep impression on his mind.

ATTACHMENT

When we carry the memory of our experience and crave for more of it, or not to lose it, then we begin to see and feel how attachment blocks our path to liberation, our path to peace. But when our intention is to realize the truth, our desire to reduce attachment begins to sprout. We can begin to replace our attachment to objects with our attachment to God, truth, reality, beauty, peace.

Attachment is a feeling in the heart generated by the ego of ownership. It has nothing to do with your outer activities. You still love your partner, children, friends, but you never forget their mortality. You are not attached ignorantly.

We create our own realties. That reality is ‘I may live forever and all those who are dear to me will be with me all the time.’ It appears very real, and we cover the truth, which is ‘neither will I live forever nor will those dear to me remain with me forever.’ When this truth is understood, the person still functions as before but doesn’t feel the same feelings of attachment as before.
A child is attached to the toy. The toy for an adult has not the same meaning, but the parent still keeps the toy for the child. When we understand the truth, we don’t stop our duties in the world.

You are attached to your family and feel a sense of duty. If you deeply reflect on attachment, you will understand the attachment and desires in the world are separate. We express our attachment in a state of ignorance. We think “the family cannot exist without me.” This selfish tie doesn’t exist if attachment is understood. But the actions and duties will remain the same.

The first step is to develop nonattachment to objects. It will weaken the desires. When attachment and desires are weakened, the ego will lose its control over the mind. Ego is the root cause. But we need steps to lead up to the ego.

* * * * *

The ego appears in millions of faces. All those different faces are based on one ego. Actually, all identifications are the faces of the ego. You don’t need to paint all the faces black. Only remove the ego that is reflecting in so many different faces. In a room of mirrors, one candle light is seen as so many. By removing the real candle, all others will be removed. But how? By surrender to God, by selfless service and by living a virtuous life.

*Words in italics are from the unpublished writings of Baba Hari Dass. All of the writings of Baba Hari Dass are copyrighted by Sri Ram Publishing.


Pratibha Queen

Pratibha Queen

Pratibha Queen has been a student of Baba Hari Dass since 1976. She took yoga teacher training at Mount Madonna Center in 1981, and has been teaching asana, pranayama and meditation for many years. She is also a student of Ayurveda, and is currently offering a series of classes at the Pacific Cultural Center called “Ayurveda, Yoga and You” and writes articles about Ayurveda for the Salt Spring Centre’s newsletter.

Kenzie’s Continuing Love Story with the Centre

KenziePattillo-gradThis is my grad photo from my high school yearbook. It was accompanied by this poem I wrote.

“My arms/Wrapped around me/Wrapped around light/Before it fades/From this corner/Of the world/That I am creating”

I was a poet and an artist; I had lived large for a girl growing up in small town Nova Scotia, and I felt very much on my own. Upon high school graduation I took the bait of a scholarship to a prestigious liberal arts school to study “The History of Western Thought,” rather than pursue my passion at fine art school. By year’s end I felt hopeless and empty, as Neitzche had likely intended. Voltaire’s timely recommendation to “cultivate our own garden” I took literally by joining WWOOF Canada after first year and heading west.

As an itinerant organic farmer, a series of uncanny synchronicities led me to Salt Spring Island and the centre’s organic gardens; learning about yoga was not my motivation for being there, but I instantly felt at home. After my agreed upon two weeks were up, I asked to stay longer and was much obliged.

There were only five of us karma yogis that summer and we were mostly assigned to farm work, and some housekeeping and kitchen work as needed. Though I avoided asana class, as I found it very uncomfortable to be so fully present in my body, I thrived in community, in service and in song. Satsang became my weekly highlight where I found a way to give voice to my longing for union. But what I loved best was getting to know long time community members. They showed by example that a life in pursuit of spiritual goals was valuable and doable, which was a revelation and a profound acknowledgement of my own deepest yearning.
When I met Babaji tears flowed down my cheeks for days, while doing dishes, gardening, eating, singing. It was the inevitable result of the peeling away of layers of the metaphorical onion – bound to make one’s eyes water. I returned east with a new name (Amrita) and a new goal in life. I was going for God.

Kenzie and Gord

Kenzie and Gord

The next four years could be summed up in this poem I wrote during that time for my lover.

I’m going for God/And I’m going for Gord/But perhaps not in that order.

I connected romantically with him (Gord, not God) before leaving NS to attend Kripalu Yoga Center’s three month “Spiritual Lifestyle Program”. I suffered through asana practice but thrived once again in spiritual community. I went on to sit, and then serve a Vipassana meditation retreat, live with Hare Krishnas at a national rainbow gathering, and followed Amma throughout the eastern states before returning to Gord and life in Halifax.

I worked a few years at a macrobiotic restaurant called ‘Big Life Cafe’ and found a few local Kripalu yoga teachers to study regularly with. These were still early days for yoga and vegetarian restaurants in NS. My teachers all taught out of church basements and students signed up for a whole course of weekly classes and were expected to practice at home in between. You came to class to learn yoga, not just do it. If you wanted a sticky mat you bought it from the teacher and they cut it from the roll.

It was challenging to maintain a yogic lifestyle in the world outside SSCY, and I walked down some very shady paths searching for teachers, community and identity. Daily sadhana eluded me, but self- judgement for my lack saturated my days.

I returned to SSCY in 2002 as a karma yogi and to attend the first Yoga Teacher Training offered. My experience at the Big Life Cafe allowed me to serve as a cook throughout my stay and I entered YTT firmly grounded once again in the lifestyle I craved. The training helped fill in the gaps in my last four years of studies and created a practical framework for my continued practice and eventual teaching. My few years of yogic adventures and misadventures allowed me to now recognize and fully trust Babaji as a teacher and see the purity of intention behind his teachings and this community.

When I returned east I started the “Free Range Yoga Society” to offer twice weekly two hour yoga classes for free at the university. I ‘taught to learn’ and my classes quickly filled up. I continued to cook and then bake (organic/veg/vegan) as ‘rightlivelihood’. Still ‘Going for God AND going for Gord’, we moved to NFLD and then Klemtu, BC for his schooling and subsequent employment, and I continued to teach for free to whomever, whenever I could.

I managed to attend the 2004 and 2006 retreats, the latter while feeling quite tired of yearning for life at the centre, and still challenged by living ‘yogically’ while out in the world. During darshan with Babaji, I mentioned my desire to move to the centre and devote my life in service to this community. Babaji did not seem convinced of the appropriateness of this plan. In fact, he teased me about it.

Kenzie growing her own community

Kenzie growing her own community

I didn’t move to the land. Babaji must have intuited that the universe had other plans for me. Gord and I continued our little life in North Vancouver and within months we were growing our own little community. I visited the centre a few times before Arlo Starr Muter was born on July 4th, 2007. That was the last year Babaji was able to attend the retreat and I was grateful to offer Arlo into his arms. It was also the last time I was able to attend the retreat for many years as Silas Oliver Muter was born Feb. 25th 2009 and visiting our families in the east took priority.

Babaji holding Arlo (August 2007)

Babaji holding Arlo (August 2007)

I’m still going for God and Gord, albeit at times imperfectly. I began teaching again four years ago at a cohousing community. Now that my boys are in school I’m teaching as much as I can, while still practicing ‘householder yoga,’ and completing my 500YTT designation.

Though I have finally cultivated the self-discipline to maintain a regular ‘mat-based’ sadhana, I now know more than ever that yoga practice is not just on the mat, but in every breath and every action moment by moment. My gratitude grows every day for my family, my home, and my opportunity to share the teachings of yoga.

Arlo and Silas with Gord

Arlo and Silas with Gord

Though I cannot live on the land, I have found ways to serve the centre. I guest teach at yoga getaways, write for the monthly newsletter and I was the kid’s cook and an asana teacher at the last two retreats.

Arlo, Silas, Kenzie, Gord. ACYR 2014

Arlo, Silas, Kenzie, Gord. ACYR 2014

Life can be messy, and I have never been known to be neat. Perhaps I am not the ideal yogi but my heart is always striving towards the light of truth. I believe that finding the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga and meeting Babaji just as my adult life was beginning has changed my life’s trajectory in the best way possible. By meeting people who have dedicated their lives to truth, service and growth in spirit and community while still living in the world of family and livelihood, I have found role models that continue to guide and inspire me. It is okay to have a seeker’s heart; it’s possible to dedicate one’s life to seeking truth. I’ve found a well-worn path and I am not alone on it. For me this is huge.

Jai Babaji!

Meet our Karma Yogis – Mark

Karma Yogi Mark

Karma Yogi Mark

I first came to the Centre in the mid 80s for a weekend yoga workshop. My friend and I left the program for an evening to see Valdy in Fulford. We got chastised for leaving, but it was worth it. More recently I heard about this place from my roommate, Johanna. I came here about a year ago on a bike trip in the winter and stayed with Daniel and Cristina whom I met through Johanna. That’s when I found out about the maintenance opening and I was interviewed for the position.

I had been working in Vancouver as a long-distance truck driver, driving from Vancouver to Alberta and back. The job appealed to me because it enabled me to work five days a week and have more time for yoga. But driving long distances can be lonely work, and that’s certainly one of the things that drew me here.

I enjoy working with my hands; even as a child I made go karts out of golf caddies. I collected a lot of tools over the years, which languished in a storage trailer for a long time, and I finally brought them here. I yearned to work with my hands in a meaningful way which to me meant community. I enjoy problem solving, working with recycled materials, solving challenges that arise.

My other passion is music. I got into music because my brothers all played guitar and I really wanted to be like them; I thought they were cool. I was the youngest of six children, the next youngest being 8 years older – and my sister was 20 years older. I grew up in a world of big people.

I went to music school in Nelson for three years and was hoping to connect with other musicians, but I didn’t have the confidence. I love call and response kirtan, the shared journey. I sing the Hanuman Chalisa every morning with Christine, a practice I started since coming here. Because Hanuman is the embodiment of selfless service, it is the perfect way to set up one’s day and get into the right spirit.

Once a week I return to Vancouver to visit my soon-to-be 108 year old friend, Gordon. He was my brother’s roommate, and when my brother passed away a couple of years ago, I continued to visit Gordon. He is completely blind and confined to a wheelchair but his mind is brilliantly clear, and I happily spend hours listening to his stories. I’m genuinely interested in the stories he tells, full of Vancouver’s history. When he forgets some of the characters I’m able to fill in the blanks, and he always compliments me on what a good memory I have. I help him at mealtime, getting to the toilet, whatever is called for.

Each time I come back from the city, I’m always warmly greeted. I love the variety of people who come here. I seem to be able to make a connection with everyone and I get into some interesting conversations. The Centre attracts people who are a bit off the beaten path, which I find fascinating and engaging. I like the aspect of teamwork in the community, helping each other with firewood, coordinating the use of the truck, the little ways we interact with each other that scratch beneath the surface, building connection, the medicine of community.

Meet our Karma Yogis – Marianne

KY-MarianneButler

Karma Yogi Marianne

I applied for the Yoga Service and Study Immersion program last year knowing it would be good for me to be in community, to be around people who lived yoga. I had been working non-stop for a long time, spending most of my life alone, and found myself starved of human connection. I also wanted to study: immersion was what I was looking for. I sought the opportunity to practice – really practice – to be forced to face people day after day, and to grow.

It was a great choice! I love the beauty and peace of the Centre, and I’m always happy to wake up here. My work assignment during YSSI was in the office, as receptionist/registrar. Though this would never have been my choice of activity, I’m easy going and was happy to be placed where I was most useful. Had I not been placed in the office, I don’t think I ever would’ve thought to apply for the programs coordinator position which I’m in now. My background in graphic design and programming affords me ease in the numerous technical aspects of my duties, and I’m blessed by the many other quirks and challenges which come with coordinating programs and rentals.

During YSSI I appreciated the regularity of sadhana classes; I believe it’s easier if you practice every day. I am grateful to have the inspiration of people in the community who live a disciplined life and have a committed, long-standing dedicated practice. My favourite thing about being in this community is that we hold each other accountable for living with integrity, for our own practice – with acceptance and encouragement rather than judgement.

My favourite practice is meditation. I’ve practiced asana for a longer period of time and continue to find it enriching, but I find these days that what I can’t do without is meditation. It is grounding. Allowing the mind to settle on the breath is so simple, yet endlessly challenging. No matter how calm or turbulent, I always feel better at the end of the hour; some kind of transformation takes place. Another grounding practice for me is drawing. I’m inspired by visual beauty, but the drawing practice is one of centering and focus; making art is a by-product.

The Centre and its community are so dear to me now. I feel really lucky to have the opportunity to live and practice here for a whole season and am excited to see how the year unfolds.