News from the Centre – August 2015

Hello everyone,

When this month’s newsletter arrives in your inbox (if you subscribe), we will be in the midst of our Annual Community Yoga Retreat (July 30 – August 3), our 41st consecutive retreat. The first one, in 1975, was at a rented camp in White Rock, BC. After that there were a few in the interior of BC. Eventually we bought this beautiful piece of land, and the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga was born. We still offer many of the same classes and activities we did back in the early days: pranayama & meditation, asana, kirtan, stick dancing, talent shows. Styles change, but the foundation remains the same.

1977 retreat

At the 1977 retreat

2014 retreat

At the 2014 retreat

Soon after ACYR the second portion of YTT will begin, and on the 19th of August another excellent group of YTT students will graduate. One of this year’s YTT students is an avid birder and photographer. He took some great shots of a couple of Barred Owls that were hanging out by the school playground.

August-barred-owl

barred owls – photo by Adam Burt

Our summer group of karma yogis in the YSSI program will be here till the end of August. They bring so much to the community, and we will be sorry to see them go.

Some of the kitchen crew (Dee, Tony, Tanner, Matt, Julia, Karen)

Some of the kitchen crew (Dee, Tony, Tanner, Matt, Julia, Karen)

Meanwhile some additional karma yogis from Mount Madonna Centre have driven up to help create a fabulous Ramayana performance on the Saturday evening of the retreat.

ramayana

Ramayana 2014

The garden has been producing abundantly, and our farm stand is up and running. We’ve been eating wonderful salads greens, zucchini, cucumber and chard. It won’t be long before fresh tomatoes from the garden will be added to the list.

Tony in the garden

Tony in the garden

Dinner is served!

Dinner is served!

In this month’s newsletter

I invite you to get to know another yogi in the Centre’s community. Jules Higginson did YTT at the Centre the first year we offered it and, fortunately for us, decided to stick around. Although she lives in Victoria, she remains actively involved, mostly behind the scenes. I’m sure you will enjoy her sweet and quirky story, Coming Home.

In her ongoing Ayurveda, Yoga and You series, Pratibha offers us Maintaining an Even Keel – Understanding our Mental Temperament. This month she talks about understanding our mental makeup from an Ayurvedic perspective, and finding balance in our lives.

Having had the great good fortune to live at the Centre all these years, I continue to appreciate the blessing of living amongst others who are committed to living a virtuous life based on spiritual teachings and practice. Whatever situation you’re in, you might find it helpful to read The Company We Keep.

The comments function is once again working, so please share your comments on any of the articles you read. We love reading them, and often write back. It’s a simple way to stay in touch – that and comments on our Facebook page.

May we all find peace and joy in our lives.
Love,
Sharada

The Company We Keep

mahesh_0192We are strongly affected by the company we keep. Some people, environments and activities bring out our best qualities, and some have the opposite effect. Think about what happens to you when you spend time doing things that you know affect you negatively. Do you find yourself falling into old, possibly unhealthy, habits? Does your mind become agitated? How well do you sleep and what kind of dreams do you have? Compare that with the experience of spending time in nature or with people who love and support you. Feel the difference.

Our minds are deeply affected by the people with whom we associate. If we regularly associate with people who are aware only of the gross body and physical pleasures, our minds will grasp their thoughts and will become deeply imprinted by them. As a result the mind accepts everything received by the senses as real, and the Self, which is beyond the senses, is rejected; neither truth nor love is experienced. On the other hand, one who engages in satsang develops higher consciousness and gradually eliminates the fruits of ignorance such as mental worries, pain and depression.

Why are we attracted to situations we know are not good for us? If we’re lonely, bored or depressed, we want a break; it’s quite natural to want to get out of suffering. In book 2 the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali describes the afflictions all humans are born into. The fundamental affliction is ignorance of our true nature.

In this state of ignorance, it is quite natural to be attached to external objects which provide any kind of pleasure since one has lost inner peace and happiness due to the bondage of the soul in ignorance and egoism.

At the time of failure, when depression sets in, don’t desert your devotion to your spiritual aim. Then you will succeed.

We keep hoping that life will get better, but our habits keep us spinning on the rotating wheel of vasana-karma-samskara (desire-action-imprint on the mind). We want something, take action to get it (even if the action is only in our thoughts), and this, over time, creates a habit that is likely to repeat – and so it goes, round and round. We’re always looking for experiences that will bring us happiness, avoiding those we find painful. Attraction and aversion are like the the two antennae of our ordinary consciousness: I like this, I don’t like that; this looks like pleasure, that looks like pain . Unfortunately what looks like pleasure doesn’t always turn out that way.

You are in bondage by your own consciousness and you can be free by your own consciousness. It’s only a matter of turning the angle of the mind.

Switch the mind or learn by burning the fingers that fire is hot.

In our attempts to make positive choices, we take a few steps forward and then fall into our old patterns. What then? Get up and keep moving forward. Babaji tells us: Face, fight and finish. The fight is against our conditioned habits that are holding us back. The key thing is not to give up.

Desires can be overcome by controlling them; we have to put a limit on desires. By limiting our desires they will change.

In one of the ancient yoga texts, it is said that there are four gates or doorways to liberation: self-control (meditation), contentment, self-inquiry, and seeking the company of spiritually minded people. Being in the presence of people who radiate peace, compassion, love and truth, we feel nourished. In the company of such people we are inspired, and our own seeds of peace sprout.

It can help to spend time in a community of spiritual seekers, but know also that there are wise and loving people in every walk of life. And remember: The person you spend the most time with is you, so keep supporting yourself in developing the very qualities you want to be surrounded by.

A person who is aware of developing positive qualities is a real yogi.

If we continue to develop positive qualities, our lives will change, and the light in us will shine out to others.

– contributed by Sharada

all text in italics from writings by Baba Hari Dass


Sharada-headshot

Sharada Filkow, a student of classical ashtanga yoga since the early 70s, is one of the founding members of the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga, where she has lived for many years, serving as a karma yogi, teacher and mentor.

Ayurveda, Yoga & You: Maintaining an Even Keel

flickr-cc-constant-progressionMaintaining an Even Keel: Understanding our Mental Temperament

If you’ve ever tried to sail a boat, fly a kite, or surf the ocean waves, you have a sense of what it means to keep ‘an even keel.’ An ability to focus, to hold the mind steady in the moment, while also perceiving the ever-changing conditions, are essential in any sporting endeavor we choose. Holding the mental balance among the uncertain waves of life requires the same qualities: moment-to-moment attention, a willingness to make split-second adjustments, and a sense of light-heartedness that allows for playfulness in the midst of whatever comes.

Understanding our mental make-up can help us to maintain the balance that allows sattvic, or positive, qualities to emerge in our life. Looking at life through Ayurvedic eyes, we notice the continuous process of balancing the doshas (vata, pitta, kapha), which helps maintain our positive health during a long and active life. We get hungry; pitta goes up; we eat; pitta goes down. We get sleepy; kapha goes up; we sleep; kapha reduces (but increases when we oversleep!). We go dancing; we express our vata; we practice restorative yoga; vata goes down.

But Ayurveda also considers the balance of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas in a person’s constitutional make-up. These three cosmic or maha-gunas are the forces of nature that guide and direct all of creation. They also reflect in ourselves as mental qualities or mental doshas.

Sattva is the force of purity, of consciousness, of balance on the cosmic level. On the personal level, this force shows itself as inner peace, in a sense of contentment and tranquility, and in the ability to give and share love (both human and divine). The sattva quality is sometimes referred to as ‘the serene sage.’

Rajas is the cosmic force of passion and activity. Its nature is movement; it’s the energy of creation that vitalizes the serenity of sattva and challenges the static nature of tamas. As humans, a rajasic type will seek stimulation and satisfaction through the senses, indulging in sense pleasures. When out of balance, rajas manifests as ‘the mad-monkey mind.’

Tamas is the cosmic guna of stability, inertia. This is the force of cohesion that keeps planets in their orbits and suns in their galaxies. On the personal level, we see tamas expressed in the stability of our meditation seat, as well as in a state of withdrawal from the world (which can manifest negatively as depression). When out of balance, tamas may look like ‘the lazy log.’

Since we are living, sentient beings, these great cosmic are operating within us all the time. Rajas activates us; tamas slows us down. The cycles and rhythms of nature attest to the fact of this constant change, constantly monitoring and regulating the balance. So in learning to hold our mental/emotional balance, all three of these factors must be considered. When we are able to balance our rajasic and tamasic tendencies, sattva guna is able to manifest more fully. We can readily see that these mental doshas are a place where yoga and Ayurveda intersect.

In exploring and understanding our mental nature, let’s take a look at how the doshas and the maha-gunas intersect. See how many of your own characteristics show up in different columns!

Sattvic Qualities Rajasic Qualities Tamasic Qualities
Vata Creative, inspired, artistic, intuitive,clarity, lightness Nervous, anxious, fearful, worrisome, overactive Depressed, addicted, bogged down, confusion
Pitta Clear thinking, perceptive, focused, understanding Angry, passionate, resentful, judgmental, controlling Violent, vindictive, competitive, vengeful, aggressive, hurtful
Kapha Nurturing, generous, patient, forgiveness, compassionate, love Attached to things and people, stubborn Attached to pleasure and sense experience, lethargic, dull-minded 

Now, most all of us sense that thoughts exist in the mind, and feelings in the heart; we see thoughts and emotions as separate. In the Charaka Samhita, however, it is said, hridaye chetana sthanam, which means, “the seat of consciousness is in the heart.” The heart and the mind are intimately connected, because the heart is the seat of consciousness. From this perspective, even though the emotional heart feels and senses more in the realm of the body, emotions are actually processed through the mind.

How do we maintain a balanced approach to our life, enjoying the good times, and not surrendering to the negative emotions that can overwhelm us and derail our positive intentions to lead a virtuous life? Ayurveda teaches us that mild emotional imbalance can be counteracted with simple guidelines for creating a more profound connection between the heart, mind and consciousness.

One way we work toward this is to strive to increase sattva while reducing rajas and tamas. The practices of yoga help to support the sattvic qualities, keeping the mental doshas intact and serene. Our daily sadhana (whether it’s 10 minutes or 2 hours) helps to maintain the peaceful state of mind that maintains a balance between the rajasic and tamasic tendencies in our nature, and ultimately strengthens our sattvic nature until all we are is holding the bliss of the bodhisattva state. Sattva Buddhi (pure mind) – Bodhisattva –- mental peace.

Babaji often reminded us: Love, truth, peace, beauty, reality, God – all are the same. Developing these positive qualities within ourselves will help train the mind to keep the mental balance that nurtures and sustains our each and every moment. Wishing you success in each moment.

– pratibha


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.

“Sails” photo by Constant Progression via Flickr creative commons

Coming Home – Jules Higginson

As a kid, I connected more easily with animals than with people. People were confusing, animals I could understand. My dad worked as a veterinarian and over the years I got to care for dogs, cats, horses, a 3-legged calf and a camel. I think spending time with animals can give you a better connection to the world, a clearer understanding of the components of physical and mental health and that caring for animals can be great karma yoga practice.

This photo establishes a future pattern: my cousin goes on to become a model, while I become ever more committed to the wearing of funny hats. The horse’s name was Dusty and he was marvelous.

This photo establishes a future pattern: my cousin goes on to become a model, while I become ever more committed to the wearing of funny hats. The horse’s name was Dusty and he was marvelous.

I began learning about yoga in Victoria when I was 28. I had decided that I needed a more effective way to work with anxiety and depression and I had a sense that my body might be the right tool for the job.

Offering lettuce to the chicken

Offering lettuce to the chicken

It was challenging for me to work with the intense self-consciousness that came with being in my body. I was lucky to have an exceptionally patient and inspiring teacher named Amy Nold, for the first 4 years of my practice. Her emphasis on breath-work, inspired by Donna Farhi, was the key for me in understanding how to work with anxiety. Her classes were a refuge for me and she taught me to cultivate this place of refuge within myself.

After the first 2 years, she asked me if I would teach part of a class. I responded in real horror; “only if I could be behind a sheet so no one could see me!”

She also knew when I started coasting in my practice, and kicked me out (lovingly!) to go and take more challenging classes.

I had attended several weekend getaway retreats at Salt Spring and loved the home-y atmosphere and the cheerful warmth of the community. In 2010 I attended the YTT 200 program. I learned so much about anatomy, Ayurveda, pranayama, meditation and even found myself singing “Om Jai Shri Ganesh” in the shower, much to my surprise.

Throughout the program I had a sense of wanting to serve; my fellow students, the teachers, the Centre itself. I became a member of the Dharma Sara Satsang Society and decided to attend board meetings to see where I might be useful. After serving in numerous ways on the board, I am so happy to see how the SSCY community has grown and evolved. Fears met, challenges overcome and the love and inspiration of Babaji still strong. Insurance, limited housing, tax regulation, all the operational challenges seem to pale during arati or kirtan or a quiet morning of mauna (practice of silence). This balance seems reflected in Babaji’s quote: “The world is an abstract art. We see it as we want to see it. It is a garden of roses and it is also a forest of thorny bushes and poison oak.”

Lately, I am most inspired by the relationship between the senior members of the community and those in their 20s and 30s. The sincerity and understanding that can be exchanged between those separated by years but united in the practices is a wonderful testament to “faith, devotion and right aim”.

Hanging with small friends

Hanging with small friends

I think my favourite quote from Babaji comes via Kishori. When she asked Babaji how they could possibly do all the work that was needed to establish and improve the Centre land and buildings, he said: “Work, work, work, then Kirtan.”
(Now there’s a guy who understands his audience!)

Jai!

Jules

With dog named Zoe

With dog named Zoe