News from the Centre – April 2015

Hello everyone,

Although eastern Canada is still snowed in, it is officially spring. With apologies to our friends on the east coast, here is a lovely photo of spring at the Centre.

Centre-daffodils

Program Season begins

This month marks the beginning of our program season. The first Yoga Getaway of the year toward the end of April is fully booked, but there are more coming, so check our online schedule.

Christine and Mark singing; Evening arati at the Hanuman temple

Christine and Mark singing; Evening arati at the Hanuman temple

Ongoing events include Sunday satsang, Wednesday evening kirtan and daily chanting of the Hanuman Chalisa.

New Beginnings

April is a month of new beginnings in our community. Several people who were here last year are returning and new additions will arrive in the not too distant future, joining those of us who have been here through the winter season. Also we are delighted that Amaresh, with his years of experience and knowledge, is now coming to the Centre regularly to help in maintenance.

Karma  Yogis Tana and Tanner

Karma Yogis Tana and Tanner

Annual General Meeting 2015

In a month’s time, on the afternoon of Saturday, May 2, the Dharma Sara Satsang Society (DSSS) will hold its Annual General Meeting (AGM) at the Centre. Dharma Sara has many projects on the go, the biggest by far being the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga. We welcome all who are interested in learning more to become a member by simply clicking ‘join’ near the bottom of the homepage of our website and following the prompts. More details about the AGM will be sent to DSSS members, and we hope to see you here.

This month’s newsletter Offerings

Continuing the tradition of sharing the stories of our Centre community, this month we introduce you to Growing up at the Centre by Meera Bennett. Meera grew up as part of the Centre community and a student at the Salt Spring Centre School. I have many memories of Meera in her earlier days, many of them involving her endless reading and and her serious questions, but also her playful side and her great giggle. Having spent so much time here as a child, Meera now comes to the annual community yoga retreat with her husband and little boy.

Kenzie has again contributed another probing book review on a subject that would not have occurred to me – Yoga Fiction. Kenzie finds gems wherever she looks. She is a seeker of truth, finding inspiration all around her.

An additional gem this month is Chandra Rose’s article, Honouring the Return, the path of re-entering the world after a transformative experience. Chandra describes what Angeles Arrien, a cultural anthropologist and exceptional teacher, calls “tracking the four rivers”, a way to take time to reflect on our experiences to absorb their meaning.

A request from the Dharma Sara Satsang Society

The Centre is built on the foundation of Karma Yoga, and has been sustained for decades by hundreds of volunteers. We are grateful to the DSSS members and wider satsang community who have supported and continue to support the Centre. The following is a request from the DSSS Board.

The Salt Spring Centre of Yoga is run by a team of dedicated volunteers, karma yogis and senior students. We do not receive any funding from government. The Centre has been viable since its inception in 1981 because of donations of time and skills by many volunteers to run our programs and care for the facilities. Financial donations are also needed. For SSCY to continue to host weekly satsang and kirtan gatherings and to provide excellent programs and classes, we need to generate a portion of our income through fundraising efforts to help pay for basic operating costs.

It is easy to help!
· Leave a donation cheque written to Dharma Sara Satsang Society in the box provided in the lobby.
· Place a cash donation in box provided.
· Come to the office and make a donation by credit card, cash or cheque.
· Go to www.saltspringcentre.com, scroll to bottom of page and hit the DONATE button.

Your contributions make a positive difference to the ongoing health and viability of the Centre. Thank you for the many ways in which you offer your time and skills as well as financial contributions. Your support of the Centre is greatly appreciated.

“Peace of mind, peace on Earth” – Baba Hari Dass

We look forward to seeing many of you in the upcoming months.

May we be filled with loving kindness,
May we be well,
May we be peaceful and at ease,
May we be happy.

Love,
Sharada

Honouring the Return

15897915815_657ffd4e49_zAfter you have been away on an adventure, a yoga retreat, a course or even a holiday, how do you reconnect with your ‘village’ upon your return? Have you experienced in yourself or noticed in someone else the pain or confusion of not being witnessed when there has been a deep, even transformative experience? This is a topic we raise with students and karma yogis who come to the Salt Spring Centre for awhile and then are preparing to go back to their families, their workplace, and their communities. You look much the same; you sound the same, yet inside you feel moved and changed and are often unsure how to communicate in a meaningful way about the stirring shift in your consciousness.

While at Mount Madonna Center for the New Year’s Retreat this year I was reminded of what Angeles Arrien calls ‘Tracking the four rivers’, a powerful framework for reflecting on transformative experience, both privately and publicly. Angeles was an internationally renowned cultural anthropologist and extraordinary teacher. Sadanand, a founding member of MMC, hosts an annual Chautauqua conference, along with Mount Madonna School. Angeles has been a key facilitator for Chautauqua, and that is where I met her. Angeles died last year and I have been thinking about her often.

On New Year’s Day Sadanand was reflecting on the huge contributions that Angeles has made to learning in community. He invited us all to try this approach of tracking the four rivers when we returned to our ‘villages” after the rich experience of the New Year’s Retreat:

Invite a few friends over, prepare some food and ask them to bring their curiosity. Suggest to them that they ask you these particular questions about your time away: “How were you delighted? How were you surprised? How were you challenged? How were you deeply moved and transformed?” To answer these questions we have to go deep, revealing to ourselves and our companions the change in our awareness, and the new gifts we have discovered and bring back to share.

In study sessions at the Salt Spring Centre we have found this to be a potent way to reflect and track the rivers of energy in our bodies and minds and to witness more of one another’s process. Upon returning to the SSCY village from the retreat, I invited our study group over to my place for an afternoon tea, letting them know ahead of time about the questions. The first question I was asked was “What challenged you?” And we went on from there. We gave time and focus to each question and response, allowing space for real reflection. The beauty of this process is that it required of me to ask myself these questions in preparation for the more public asking. It was a means to deepen my relationship with myself and then to deepen the connection with my friends. It provided blessed encouragement to honour the significance and joy and motivation that arose from the journey. That is important.

Two others from the group have gone away on special journeys and have returned to us, the village, and we have asked them the questions, and we deepened our understanding and unity as we witnessed their experience and growth, their pain and happiness, and their renewal.

As a parent I can’t help but wonder if there were opportunities I missed when my children returned from international adventures or wilderness immersions. Perhaps I asked questions like, “Did you have a good time?” “What did you learn?” “Are you happy you went” “What were the people like?” After describing the sites, there may have been no easy way to bridge to the profound feelings and emotions that were such a big part of the experience. I know that better questions can increase the chance to reveal essential truth and to acknowledge the sacredness of growth and change.

As an educator I have found that one useful tool is Kolb’s cycle of learning. It describes these aspects of learning:

  • Concrete experience
  • Reflective observation on that experience
  • Abstract conceptualization
  • Active experimentation

In our time and culture we have a tendency to move rather quickly and often ignore or shortchange the step of reflection. It takes a bit of time and requires us to listen deeply within. I see though that with this framework for curious inquiry and reflection upon return from a journey, we can track the rivers of energy, creating meaning with one another and within ourselves. We are all enriched in the process.

I’m curious to know if you will try it.


Chandra playing a game with Babaji on New Year's Day

Chandra playing a game with Babaji on New Year’s Day

Chandra Pamela Rose is a long-time devotee of Babaji’s and student of yoga. She is a member of the Panchayat and a board member. She serves as the education administrator of the YTT program at SSCY and is on the teaching faculty. Chandra has taught classes at MMC and has a strong connection with Sri Ram Ashram.

“Standing on the edge of a cliff” image by Abhishek Maji (creative commons attribution license)

Our Centre Community: Meera

Growing up at the Centre

Family photo from my wedding which was at Jeramiah's farm!

Family photo from my wedding which was at Jeramiah’s farm!

When I was six, we moved back from Seattle to our house on Salt Spring, about ten minutes away from the Centre, part way up Mount Maxwell. After our move back, the Centre became a constant fixture in my life – from spending the night at the Centre for Shiva Ratri when I was six, to attending almost every single annual family yoga retreat (I’ve missed approximately four in my life) – we were Centre regulars.

Meera and Babaji

Meera and Babaji

My first memory of both Salt Spring and of the Centre is of meeting Sammy (then Gauthier-Depledge, now Vendargon) late summer 1989 in the Centre parking lot. We were both six, and were both attending first grade at the Centre School in the fall. I don’t remember the details, but remember deciding Sammy was a friend. Many years later, we are still friends, so my instincts were good!

Meera, grade 1, playing angel Gabriel in the Centre School's Nativity play.

Meera, grade 1, playing angel Gabriel in the Centre School’s Nativity play.

First grade at the Centre School was wonderful. Usha taught us to read, write, and solve interpersonal problems by talking about it in a group circle instead of resorting to the rough justice often meted out in elementary schoolyards. Sharada taught us Art, and taught the older kids. I made a number of friends in first grade at the Centre school who remain friends to this day, including Jeramiah Morris, and Sammy.

Meera riding her bike by the barn as it's being demolished, 1989

Meera riding her bike by the barn as it’s being demolished, 1989

I participated in my first protest at the Centre during first grade: all the kids protested the barn being torn down. We had a busy market in the barn selling hand made items (mostly “burritos” made of salal) in exchange for brick dust (the currency of choice), and removal of the barn was an insult to this burgeoning market economy. Unfortunately, as is often the case with direct action, our protest fell on sympathetic ears but the barn still was torn down.

Anuradha and Meera, Halloween 1986

Anuradha and Meera, Halloween 1986

Ram

Meera as Ram, Sammy as Sita and Mason as Lakshman, Haloween 1989

Another (retrospective) highlight at the Centre was Halloween of either 1989 or 1990 when Sammy, Mason (my brother) and I dressed as Ram, Sita, and Laksman for Halloween. The costumes were a hit at the Centre, but very confusing to our elderly neighbours. Mostly, the neighbours couldn’t understand why I was painted blue (I was Ram).

Meera, grade 8 or 9

Meera, grade 8 or 9

I left the Centre school after first grade to attend almost every other school on Saltspring, both alternative and otherwise. I returned in grade 7 or 8, and was put into Ompk’s (Mark Classen’s) class. This was lucky for me, but probably unlucky for him as I was peaking in terms of teen snarkiness (sorry Om PK).

Centre School production of Romeo and Juliet 1997. Meera as Friar Laurence, Shawnna as Juliet.

Centre School production of Romeo and Juliet 1997. Meera as Friar Laurence, Shawnna as Juliet.

Whether or not I was attending the Centre School, I participated every year in the annual Centre production of the Ramayana. The players were all kids, but the production was organized by dedicated adults at the Centre. The Ramayana provided entertainment and structure to the long summers on Salt Spring: I graduated from being a little monkey, to playing Guha when I was 16 or 17 in one of the final productions of the Ramayana. Each year the Ramayana got more and more extravagant, and more fun.*

Little Devon

Little Devon at satsang at the Centre, retreat 2014

The latter part of my life at the Centre has revolved around attending the Family Yoga Retreat every year. I now bring my husband Oliver, son Devon (3 ½), (and new baby this year) to the Retreat. Seeing Devon running around the Centre grounds makes me nostalgic for my idyllic childhood. The Retreat is also an informal family reunion, where I can see all my Centre family who I often don’t see for the rest of the year.

Much love to all my Centre family, and I will see you at the Retreat this year!

*I’m not volunteering to put on the Ramayana this year, just in case anyone asks.

Bring on the Yoga Fiction – Book Reviews by Kenzie

Continuing the theme of ‘yoga books not found in the ‘Yoga’ section of the library’, I present to you two works of ‘Yoga Fiction’. Though I read all sorts of books, I turn to fiction when I want to take a little vacation from my life and inhabit a completely imaginary one that is well crafted and engaging. Yet I admit I was slightly skeptical of the idea of yoga fiction, especially when also touted as chick lit, meaning “genre fiction which addresses issues of modern womanhood, often humorously and lightheartedly” (Wikipedia).

YogaFictionBooks
But, honestly, I loved both of these books. In fact I read both again six months later and enjoyed them just as much the second time around (a poor memory really helps with this). These books conjure worlds I can easily imagine myself inhabiting, or at least as a fly on the wall. I was able to suspend disbelief and simply experience the stories not only because they are about all things yoga, but also because of (rather than in spite of) their ‘chick lit’ genre. I AM a modern woman: I should more often approach my yoga with humour and light heartedness. And yet because they are about yoga, they go deep. Both of these authors have obviously mined the depths of yoga themselves or this yogi would have found their work disingenuous.

Both books offered some yogic wisdom at the start of each chapter. ‘The Yoga Teacher’ had simple silhouettes and lyrical descriptions of asanas that then wove themselves thematically into the following chapters. In ‘Enlightenment for Idiots’ it was either a quote from a yoga guru, often hinting at the real teacher behind the fictional one about to be encountered, or a pose description that lent itself to the unfolding story. I think this speaks to the truism that you ‘work on yoga and yoga works on you’, and that this practice does not stay neatly on your yoga mat but follows you out into your world whether you like it or not.

‘The Yoga Teacher’ is set in London, England and Grace is an Astanga yogi and pharmaceutical sales rep. Throw in the turmoil caused by her partner dying, her new boyfriend’s drama and a chance encounter with a psychiatric doctor with similar misgivings about the pharmaceutical industry, and you’ve got a recipe for major life change! As this is a work of fiction I’m tempted to not give too much away, but, suffice it to say, she does dump her boyfriend, quit her job and head to a yoga teacher training in the States. The irony is not lost on her that she is heading west, not east, to study yoga.

Anyone who has completed a YTT likely recalls the sharp contrast between who they thought their classmates were at the start of training compared to who they revealed themselves to be by the end. The author, Alexandra Gray, shows through Grace’s character that this is as much about our own innate biases as it is about yoga’s cumulative effect of peeling away the layers we use to project our ideas of ourselves onto others, thus allowing us to simply being who we are. She also explores that awkward limbo of a thirty-something woman who is not so sure which ‘camp’ she belongs in: the young, single, childless twenty-somethings or the more experienced (and less drama-oriented) over thirties.

The second half of the book follows Grace back to London to make her way as a teacher. When her yoga teacher offers her a position at his studio without pay she casts her net wider to make a living. She grows into herself as a yoga teacher by embracing the opportunities that come her way, teaching patients referred to her by doctors who have no more solutions, and as the ‘hired help’ to London’s rich and famous.

‘Enlightenment for Idiots’ has a similar story arc of a young woman/yogi in a tumultuous relationship choosing to make radical change and using yoga to reimagine herself into the future. But in this book, the scope of exploration is wider and humour is used to great effect. Amanda, living in LA, has a degree and a series of dead end jobs. She writes travel ‘For Idiots’ books to pay the rent and is offered the job of going to India to write a book about how to find enlightenment – ‘For Idiots’ of course.
I suspect any travel log of India would be fascinating, but seen through the eyes of a Western yogi who must track the elusive ‘enlightenment’ while sending chapters back to her editor regularly about her progress makes for an infectious read. Amanda visits gurus and ashrams that overtly hint at their ‘real’ counterparts- Amma, Sri K Patabhi Jois, Satya Sai Baba, as well as straight up places of spiritual pilgrimage: Mt. Arunchala, the Ganges River, Rishikesh, Mysore and the cave where the Buddha was said to have meditated, as well as the tree where he gained enlightenment. She finds the ideal travelling companion in a red-headed, dreadlocked, celibate sadhu who always speaks of himself as “we”. He offers a counterpoint of stillness and perspective to offset her frantic search in the face of a plot twist I dare not share in hopes you will read this book!

I really fell for Amanda. She has an honesty and wit that feels refreshing amid the overly serious tenor of many seekers. The way the author shares Amanda’s inner dialogue shows insight and familiarity with how we all fall into the ego’s trap of creating a narrative of our lives from the outside in and then suffer when reality fails to mirror our own mental constructs. There is a vulnerability in sharing such private thoughts that I think only a work of fiction truly allows, and thus I was able to feel more emotionally invested in Amanda’s unfolding story.

These are stories to get lost and found in. They offer beauty, depth and an honest glimpse into a contemporary woman’s experience of life through self-inquiry and subsequent transformation. They also realistically explore the intersection where yoga practice meets life and both consequently become enriched and enlivened. Plus, in case you haven’t already, you get to attend a yoga teacher training and a pilgrimage to India.

Bring on the yoga fiction!

 

KenziePattillo
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.