News from the Centre – September 2015

Hello everyone,

I hope you are all enjoying these last few days of summer. Lovely as all the sunshine is, we’re looking forward to a bit of rain. In fact, as I write this just before the end of August, the rains have arrived! We may get tired of it after a while, but right now it’s a blessing.

the maple tree on the mound

the maple tree on the mound

marigolds in the garden

marigolds in the garden

at the pond

at the pond

It has been a very busy summer at the Centre, filled with many wonderful people and events. We are pleased to introduce a new group of recently graduated yoga teachers.

YTT grads 2015

YTT grads 2015

One morning just before the last day, students and teachers alike were surprised by the sudden appearance of prop circles in the satsang room – yes, prop circles, not crop circles. There was lots of speculation about how that might have happened – forest gnomes perhaps? We did eventually discover the creative genius behind the sudden appearance, but I’m not giving away the secret.

Prop circles!

Prop circles!

Following YTT the movie, “Awake”, the story of Paramahansa Yogananda’s life, was shown at the Centre. Many people came, and the satsang room was packed! The movie came to us as a gift from two of our wonderful karma yogis, Tony and Donna. As the evening began, Tony played the harmonium and sang a Yogananda song, followed by Raven doing arati to Ganesh. Then came the movie, complete with popcorn.

At this writing, near the end of August, several karma yogis are about to move on to their next adventures. What a creative and loving group of people! Happily a few are staying on through the fall.

karma yogis

Hamsa, Madelaine, Marianne, Alannah, Brandon cuddling on the back deck

Karma Yogis

Meal prep: Raven, Matt, Myriam, Tana

Upcoming Yoga Workshops

Please take note of the two upcoming workshops, Prenatal Yoga with Kashi Richardson, September 18-21, and Yoga for Cancer with Chetna Tracy Boyd, October 2-4. These programs are approved for continuing education credits through Yoga Alliance for yoga teachers. If either of these interests you, I encourage you to register now.

We are excited to welcome Chetna, one of our core YTT teachers, as director of our YTT 500 program. She brings many years of experience teaching yoga at all levels and is also certified as a professional yoga therapist. In addition to her multiple skills, she is an absolute delight to work with.

Yoga Getaways continue through the fall season. They fill up quickly, so if you are interested in taking part, it’s always good to register early.

In this month’s newsletter

As always, there are several inviting articles to read. This month’s story in “Our Centre Community” is by Joseph Ramesh Pallant. Born into the satsang community, Ramesh has been involved in many inspiring undertakings over the years, living his values and contributing to life on this planet.

Pratibha’s article this month in the ongoing series, Ayurveda, Yoga and You focuses on the power of triphala. Please read Triphala – a Magic Formula for the Whole Body.

Kenzie has shared another book review with us, called We are all Walking Each Other Home. It is based on her reading of the book “How Can I Help?” by Ram Dass and Paul Gorman, an inspiring book about our interconnectedness and our natural inclination to be of service.

As we begin the move into the next season, Practicing Gratitude may help us to remember the many supports we have, even in the dark times when it’s a struggle to find gratitude for anything.

With wishes for a smooth transition into autumn,
Love,
Sharada

Practicing Gratitude

babaji-1999It’s easy to be grateful when things are going well, but when we’re struggling, it can be hard to access even the possibility of gratitude. At those times it may be hard to see anything to be grateful for. When we see the glass as half-empty, we tend to see only what’s not working. It takes a big shift to see the glass as half-full. The level in the glass remains the same, but which side do we see? How can we change the angle of our minds so we can see that there’s still something in the glass?

How we walk through life matters. If we continue to see only what’s wrong, our view of life is clouded and we become depressed. The weight of this kind of thinking pulls us down and it’s hard to see up.

If a person thinks the burden of the world is on their shoulders, they feel the weight of the world and in a few years they become hunchbacked. Then one day the person sees clearly and realizes the world exists by itself, but it’s too late. The hunchback cannot be straightened.

The mind always goes through different stages, sometimes negative and sometimes positive. The mind is the creator of everything. You create heaven and you create hell. Both are in the mind.

Byron Katie, in her book, “I Need Your Love – Is That True?” questions our assumptions about life. She turn our habits of thinking around.

She asks:

“Do you know what supports your existence right now?” Then she points out that “your neck and shoulders support your head, the bones and muscles of your chest support your breathing. Your chair supports your body. The floor supports your chair. The earth supports the building you live in. Various stars and planets hold the earth in its orbit. Outside your window a man walks down the street with his dog. Can you be sure he isn’t playing a part in your support. He may work every day in a cubicle, filing papers for the power company that makes your lights come on.

Among the people you see on the street, and the countless hands and eyes working behind the scenes, can you be sure that there is anyone who isn’t supporting your existence? The same question applies to the generations of ancestors you preceded you and to the various plants and animals that had something to do with your breakfast. How many unlikely coincidences allow you to be here!”

Our existence is miraculous. Problems arise when we forget how amazing our existence is, and all we can think of is what’s wrong. Byron Katie refers to this as “the thought that kicks you out of heaven.”

I invite you to take a few moments to consider these questions:
What is supporting you right now? In the midst of whatever challenges you’re facing, what is working?
What did someone do today to contribute to your life?
What did you do today to contribute to someone else’s life?
What happened in the past that has helped you in the present?
What did someone do for someone else that touches you deeply?

The world is not a burden. We make it a burden by our desires. When the desires are removed, the world is as light as a feather on an elephant’s back.

contributed by Sharada
all text in italics 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 and You: Triphala – A Magic Formula for the Whole Body

balanceIt’s been said that if all you do is take triphala, eventually the body will return to a state of balance. And of course, balance is at the heart of Ayurveda – maintaining a balance of the doshas (bio-energies) and the dhatus (the bodily tissues).

Triphala is the classic blend of three (tri) fruits (phala). It’s known as an Ayurvedic essential for your medicine kit, whether traveling or at home. Triphala is comprised of three fruits – amalaki, haritaki, and bibhitaki – that grow on large tropical trees throughout India and other parts of Asia. The formula triphala is made up of the dried, powdered fruits – amalaki (Emblica officials or Phyllanthus embolic), haritaki (Terminalia chebula) and bibhitaki (Terminalia bellirica). Each of the three herbs in the formula addresses or balances one of the three doshas.

Three Fruits

Amalaki, the Indian gooseberry, has high levels of bioavailable Vitamin C; the fresh fruit is unbelievably sour. Biting into one at Sri Ram Ashram, I was shocked that a fruit could be so sour! Amalaki is a cooling and rejuvenative for pitta dosha, helping to regulate blood sugar levels and inflammation; it’s one of the basic ingredients of Chaywanprash, a rejuvenative combination.

Bibhitaki (Terminalia bellirica) grows throughout Asia, but is seldom eaten fresh. It is highly astringent and a bit drying, which helps counteract the watery and heavy kapha dosha. Its diuretic properties helps promote elimination of all kinds.

Haritaki (Terminalia chebula) specifically balances the airy, dry vata dosha. Also known as myrobalan, this nourishing fruit can be eaten as a food and is beloved for its therapeutic properties. Haritaki supports proper elimination and also has anti-inflammatory properties as well as immune-strengthening ones. Its anti-oxidant qualities help support the detoxification process.

Taken as a formula, there is a powerful synergy in how it affects the whole body. Triphala supports healthy bowel function, tonifying the entire eliminative tract. It also strengthens the immune system, helps stabilize healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and encourages detoxification of unhealthy wastes and the production of healthy microbes.

Even though triphala is composed of fruits, it is not considered a culinary herb. It’s recommended to take triphala separate from food, either 30 minutes before or two hours after eating. Triphala can be taken in a variety of ways: pressed into pills, poured into capsules, or taken as the dried powder.

Taking Triphala

When taken in pill or capsule form, be sure to include plenty of water. Begin with a minimum dosage shown on the bottle, and then notice what works for you, increasing or decreasing as needed.

Pay attention to your digestive system responds to triphala, particularly your elimination patterns. High levels of the pitta dosha can increase sensitivity to loose stools, while high levels of the vata dosha can increase constipation when taking triphala. Drink more water; also ensure that your diet includes adequate amounts of healthy oils.

The powdered herb can also be made into a hot tea and taken about an hour before bed. This is soothing for people with a predominately vata constitution, and activating for those with a lot of kapha in their make-up. Take about 1/4-1/2 tsp of triphala and mix with one-half cup of hot water. Stir well and drink. It is surely an acquired taste so drink it down quickly.

Another option is the cold infusion. Take 1/2 tsp of powdered triphala and mix with a glass of room temperature water. Let it sit overnight; then drink the triphala water in the morning, letting the herbs settle to the bottom. After drinking, fill the glass again with water, stir and let it sit all day. Take this water at night before bed (wait two hours after eating) or drink the following morning.

While drinking the cold infusion has beneficial systemic effects, a mouthwash of triphala is encouraged for Ayurvedic dental hygiene.

Yet another method is to mix with raw honey; make a paste with 1/4-1/2 tsp of powder. Since honey is warming, it is said to help activate some of the toxin-burning effects of triphala. Or mix with a paste of honey and ghee. Ayurvedic lore suggests using more honey than ghee if you are trying to encourage detoxification or lose weight and more ghee than honey is you are trying to build, rejuvenate, or gain weight.

Triphala can be taken regularly as an over-all health tonic. It has no harmful effects and is an amazing formula for our long-term health maintenance. One Ayurvedic practitioner told me he has taken it regularly for over 20 years. The magic of this triple formulation offers a powerful support for longevity, as well for overall strength and balance.


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.

“Balance” image by Mish Sukharev under the Flickr Creative Commons license

Our Centre Community: Joseph Ramesh Pallant

 Joseph Ramesh in Estuary - Great Bear Rainforest

Joseph Ramesh in Estuary – Great Bear Rainforest

I am a fortunate man, to have been born a member of Dharma Sara, and to have grown up visiting the Saltspring Centre of Yoga. My parents Pamela Chandra Rose and Wayne Dinesh Pallant were married in a yajna in White Rock at the first annual yoga retreat with Babaji, and so much of life has flowed from that font.

1975 retreat Chandra and Dinesh at cake cutting

1975 retreat Chandra and Dinesh at cake cutting

I received my name, Ramesh from Babaji when I was a few days old. I’d always thought the name’s nuance was simple – “lover (husband) of Rama”, another name for Vishnu. Only found out much later the connection to Narayana, ‘resting place for all living entities’ and so a remover of fear. That attribution resonates deeply for me, as I seek to build understanding and remove fear in this world.

 Babaji and Ramesh

Babaji and Ramesh

Babaji first held me when I was three months old, in Vancouver, on the way up to the 1978 retreat at Camp Hatikvah in Oyama, BC. I took my first dip in Kalamalka Lake that retreat, a joy I’ve repeated so many times since. I’m told that when I was 15 months old, I started walking so I could follow Babaji around and he wrote, “he knows me”. Also wrote, “he is a thinker”. As a child, I loved to dance dance dance for Babaji during kirtan, something so many of you have kindly reminded me about.

Ramesh, Varuna and Dinesh Stick Dance

Ramesh, Varuna and Dinesh Stick Dance

Anand Dass and Ramesh (with 'Beaver') 1986 Santa Cruz

Anand Dass and Ramesh (with ‘Beaver’) 1986 Santa Cruz

My fortune on the father front multiplied with Allan Rose arriving in my life at the age of three. He and Chandra were married at the Centre, with a great dance in the old barn. The family welcomed Gabriel Vinod – ‘the playful one’. I remember life as happy, living on West 15th Avenue in Kitsilano, Vancouver. Radhika and her mom Mayana lived with us there. We rode bicycles, had Easter egg hunts and bathed in the love of family and Dharma Sara.

Summers at the Center were a joy. I was a monkey in the Ramayana. We could walk the back way to swim at Blackburn Lake, though you had to watch out for leeches. I was always out and about digging for gold and gems. When Babaji would see me, he’d write “any luck?” When I’d been away from the Centre for a few years and came back, the first thing he wrote was “any luck?” At the Retreat when I was seven, I had a loose tooth, and Babaji pulled it out with dental floss. I realized today that in this way, Babaji assisted my manifestation of “luck” via the tooth fairy. At the ferry terminal I went to a gift booth, bought a ceramic cobra and brought it to show Babaji and Ma Renu. I know that my gem hunt was at least partially spurred by the colouring book story The Magic Gem.

1988 family pic

1988 family pic

Our family moved to California when I was 8 and Vernon when I was 9 to join the Kebzeh community of Murat Yagan. I remember that I wasn’t very cool at school (the “rat tail” hair fashion was lost on these country kids), so I spent my time reading reading reading, and moved over to St. James Catholic School. We weren’t Catholic but the school was very inclusive and the people were kind. Mom figured that I was spiritually aware enough to know what’s what. The Kebzeh community was awesome. Its motto is “one for all, all for one,” a sweet ‘take’ on unity and an active reminder of the role of community. Though as kids we didn’t delve too deeply into the formal teachings of Kebzeh, you know you’re engaged when you’re reminded of the time you said, “Heck, mom, what’s money compared to understanding psychological toxins!” Vernon and the community were a great place to grow up, with a bunch of kids the same age as Gabriel and me, beautiful hills that I mountain biked daily, and the aforementioned jewel of Kalamalka lake.

When I came down to Saltspring by myself for the retreat after Grade 10, I hadn’t been there for a few years. It was such a sweet homecoming. Mount Madonna youth who had been training with Babaji in the “power of pranayama” came up that year and blew us all away with their feats of strength through breath. Seeing your peers crushing glass in their hands, bending rebar with their eyes and crushing 800 pound rocks on their chests with sledgehammers is surely inspiring – and great teenage advertising for the study of yoga. I happily recall the excitement of meeting a whole new group of people my age, and the unique joys of being a teenager.

My love of nature and the outdoors gained ever more tangible form as a student of Earthquest in Grade 11, taught by Barry and Moe Reid. It was an amazing program where we spent one semester in the classroom, and the other outside learning First Nations technology, running, biking, rock climbing, telemark skiing, and kayaking. The beauty and intensity of the program bound us “Questies” tightly in community, always made easier when one is fluent in the practice. We were challenged and ultimately proud gaining an ability to track animals, flake arrowheads, start fire with a bow drill, make cattail mats, split cedar root baskets, and use plants for food and medicine. The great outdoors truly is great, a place of spirit and wonder.

Inspired by Earthquest, I studied Biology and Environmental Studies at University of Victoria. Life, learning and excitement were bountiful through these years, rooted in the student community. Setting out after graduation, I was deeply inspired by my travels to Latin America and went on to do a graduate program in Latin American Management at McRae Institute of International Management.

Among the blessings I’ve received from the Saltspring Centre was its direct role in the discovery of my life’s work in climate change. I was traveling home from the 1999 Annual Community Yoga Retreat on the little ferry with my mom and dad, when mom spotted Dirk Brinkman in a car up ahead. I’d just come back from a disastrous brush cutting season in Northern BC and Papa said, “Dirk runs a good tree planting company – you should go apply.” We spoke, he invited me to come plant next year, and though I ended up teaching Science Venture Camp in Victoria the following summers, the meeting kicked off an association with Dirk that led me to work to tackle climate change.

Gabriel and Ramesh with Babaji 2007 at SSCY

Gabriel and Ramesh with Babaji 2007 at SSCY

I wrangled a job with Dirk and his team in 2004, developing reforestation carbon offset projects in Latin America. It was at the United Nations climate conference in Montreal the next year, where I realized I could speak intelligently about forest carbon with any one of the 10,000 climate experts in attendance – and that I’d found my calling. I took the opportunity to finish my graduate program as an MBA in Paris, came back to Canada and started CPS Carbon Project Solutions Inc. I ran the company for 6 years, “turning action into offset”, helping foresters, engineers and technology holders that get and keep carbon out of the atmosphere to turn that benefit into a standardized economic unit (the carbon offset) that would pay for the project to be done. I went on to work with BC’s Pacific Carbon Trust crown corporation to aggregate offsets that enable the government to go carbon neutral. Last year, I accepted an offer to come back to Brinkman and formalize a new division of the company focused on carbon offset development.

My photo of Marcy with Allan, Chandra and Magoo - Shaun and Melinda's wedding

My photo of Marcy with Allan, Chandra and Magoo – Shaun and Melinda’s wedding

Emily, Gabriel, Ramesh and Marcy

Emily, Gabriel, Ramesh and Marcy

A return to Vancouver enabled happy evolution of the relationship with my love, Marcy. We have made a happy home in East Vancouver, and became engaged this spring under a waterfall. My brother Gabriel and his wife Emily live just across town, and their son Asher was born near the start of summer. I feel happy and excited to be near family as life blooms anew. It’s great that we have a Vancouver satsang and meditation with Divakar.

Marcy and Ramesh - Joffre Lakes Alpine

Marcy and Ramesh – Joffre Lakes Alpine

I am grateful to earn my livelihood developing great projects that keep greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere. On-the-ground work is paired with strategic engagement of government, business and civil society to establish smart climate policies – including putting a limit and price on carbon emissions through cap and trade. Climate change manifests a key facet of yoga – that we are all connected, that we are all one. The earth has one atmosphere, and every human’s emission or reduction of greenhouse gases affects every other. Recognizing our interconnected, interdependent nature is the key to both the inspiration and motivation to take the actions required.

Family snowy walk in Vernon

Family snowy walk in Vernon

Community is a blessing so necessary – the right space to grow in knowledge, service and devotion. The Saltspring Centre of Yoga gives us a place to learn, to love, to inspire and be inspired. We are all so very fortunate.

Book Review: ‘How Can I Help?” Stories and Reflections on Service

How Can I Help book coverWe are all walking each other home.

‘How Can I Help?’ Stories and Reflections on Service
by Ram Dass and Paul Gorman

The first phone conversation I had with a beloved friend after her mother died was punctuated by a lot of tears on both sides of the line. She had been her mom’s main caregiver during the final few months of her life, and the experience of both caring for and saying goodbye to her mother had been profound and transformative. Amid the tears and heart talk, she mentioned a book that really helped her during this time, and she felt strongly that I should read it. Less than 24 hours later my eyes were drawn to a bright orange book cover on the tiny book shelf at my favourite juice bar as I awaited my ‘Ganesha’s Greens’. Amidst the raw food and vegan cookbooks sat my friend’s book recommendation; ‘How Can I Help’- Stories and Reflections on Service by Ram Dass and Paul Gorman. But of course: that’s how strong our love is.

Ram Dass and Gorman begin by establishing a few key principles, and then circle back to them as different aspects of service are explored. Beginning with the premise that we are all helpers, that compassion is our true nature, and that spontaneous expressions of innate generosity arise when we realize our inherent unity, they explore the barriers to that natural compassion. In acknowledging those barriers, they offer ways to overcome them, while providing deeply moving first person accounts that help place these ideas firmly in the world of experience. Those of us who learn better with concrete examples and/or personal narrative will especially benefit from this aspect of the book.

Ram Dass is a yogi’s yogi (he was even taught by Babaji way back when) yet I don’t recall the word ‘yoga’ being mentioned even once in the text, which makes the book more accessible to a wider audience, while still effectively exploring the practice of karma yoga. Wherever a barrier to effective helping is found, cultivating ‘The Witness’, unjudging awareness, is offered as a remedy. By creating more space to see situations clearly, our compassion for ourselves and others increases, our sense of unity is amplified and the helper and the helped dissolve until there is only helping. But it’s not easy and it takes practice!
The only practice offered in the book is called “opening to pain,” which not only helps us experience firsthand our own reactivity and aversion to suffering, but also offers the foundation stone of the Buddha’s teaching: “He saw that if we could break that link between painful conditions and the reactivity of the mind there was hope of liberating ourselves from the continuous experience of suffering. He realized that pain alone is not the enemy; the real enemy is fear and resistance.” Illuminating our reactions to suffering is also part of cultivating ‘The Witness’ and dissolving our sense of separation through true compassion.

“Through these practices, and our efforts to keep our hearts open in the presence of suffering, we find ourselves more available to whoever we are with. Compassion is increasingly an automatic response. We find a deep quality of love infusing our actions with others. The expression of this love, in turn, becomes increasingly our goal, whatever the circumstances. The more unconditionally we share it, the more helpful it is to all.”

This book is a helpful, practical guide for volunteers, those in the helping professions, activists, and even just friends and families trying to meet each other’s needs. But, this book also reminds us that helping is a deep spiritual practice of devotional service.

“Service gradually becomes an offering, first to those we are with, but eventually to that greater truth or source of being in which we are all joined in love. Helping becomes an act of reverence, worship, gratitude. It is grace merely to have the chance to serve.”

“It is no longer an end in itself. It is a vehicle through which we reach a deeper understanding of life. Each step we take, each moment in which we grow toward a greater understanding of unity, steadily transforms us into instruments of that help which truly heals.”

Every chapter of this book leads us toward a greater capacity to be of service. Certain chapters resonated more with me because of my own experience of helping, yet each chapter led me again back to the realization that true compassion is born of bearing Witness and dissolving any notion of a separate self. Ram Dass and Paul Gorman have served us all well by writing this book. It is truly, truly helpful!

 

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.