News from the Centre – February 2016

Sunrise at the Centre

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re enjoying the winter season, wherever you are. On Salt Spring Island, although it’s still winter, signs of spring are in the air – or at least in the ground. In some places on the island crocuses are beginning to bloom and trees are beginning to bud. We know it’s just the beginning of February, winter is not yet over and we could still get more cold weather, but the seasons are turning and the light is returning.

There is plenty of light at the Centre. In addition to the ongoing yoga classes, Wednesday evening kirtan and Sunday satsang, full moon yajnas each month (check the calendar for dates), the resident karma yogis are studying the Yoga Sutras with Chandra and Nonviolent Communication with Sharada.

Karma Yogis, from l-r: Raven, Kishori & Cailin, Arpita, Tana &  SN, David.

Karma Yogis, from l-r: Raven, Kishori & Cailin, Arpita, Tana & SN, David.

There will be a few new people joining us this month in various roles: Jules and Brianne in the office in the roles of office manager and operations manager, Amy as Yoga Service and Study Immersion (YSSI) coordinator, and others coming soon for the maintenance and farm departments. We are excited to welcome these new community members.

Applications are coming in for the 3 month Yoga, Service and Study Immersion. If you or someone you know is interested in the opportunity to live in a yoga community for the summer, please check the website for details.

The Centre’s Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) is coming up later in the summer. There are many YTT programs available, but very few residential programs with a faculty experienced teachers focusing on all aspects of yoga.

A new program being offered next month is the Ayurveda Spring Cleanse Weekend on March 18-20, taught by Dr. Manjiri Nadkarni, assisted by Girija Edwards and Rajani Rock, both Ayurvedic practitioners. This is a perfect opportunity to study Ayurveda, the ancient system of healing from India, and apply it directly to your life.


Annual dragon parade at the Centre School

The Centre School will celebrate the Lunar New Year on Tuesday, February 9, beginning as always with a dragon parade accompanied by many children with various noisemakers. For more information about what’s going on at the school, check the Salt Spring Centre School website.

This Month’s Newsletter Offerings

MythsOfThe AsanasBookAs always there are several interesting articles to read. This month Ishi Dinim shares the story of his connection to the Centre from 1998 to now. If you were at ACYR last summer, especially if you were here with your children, you would have enjoyed seeing all the kids so happy with the kids’ meals prepared by Ishi and Catherine. I saw a few adults enjoying it, too.

Kenzie shares another inspiring book review this month, Myths of the Asanas by Alana Kaivalya and Arjuna van der Kooij. The book links the asanas (postures) that so many people are familiar with to ancient myths from India, and draws us from the physical practice of asana to yoga’s deeper meaning through myth and metaphor.

We have been very fortunate to have met and been inspired by Baba Hari Dass. Babaji has made it clear over the years that it’s not the physical presence of the teacher but the teachings and the practice that matter. I invite you to read The Role of the Teacher, The Role of the Student. We have been given the gift of this ancient wisdom. It’s up to us to do our part.

Guru is one who is higher in knowledge
and capable of transmitting that knowledge
by words, action, or just by being.
But the real guru is the pure consciousness
that dwells in the heart of everyone.


The Role of the Teacher, The Role of the Student

BabaHariDassWe have many teachers throughout our lives, beginning with our parents, even if they’re not particularly skilled at parenting. As children we begin to learn about life in the world, and based on our experiences with family, school, friends and the culture we live in, we develop ideas about what life is like. These ideas, which harden into beliefs, influence the way we navigate our way through the world.

A spiritual teacher teaches us not about the world, but about ourselves, about possibilities we had never considered, and ultimately how to free ourselves from our limited awareness. It’s a reverse process of learning to get out of the world we’ve created in our minds.

In the “spiritual marketplace” of the internet, there are many teachings available from many teachers. How do you choose? By all means, listen to the teachings and see if you feel an affinity for a particular teacher.

Babji writes that the relationship between student and spiritual teacher is based on faith, trust and devotion. If you have faith in a person who is on the spiritual path, whose life is a model for you, whose teachings are acceptable to you, whom you can trust, and for whom you can feel devotion, that person is your spiritual teacher.

People often ask, “Do I need a guru, a spiritual teacher?” Babaji says, it’s not impossible to attain enlightenment without a teacher. Ramana Maharshi did it without a teacher. You can learn to drive without a teacher, but it’s wise to learn from a teacher and not take the risk of knocking the car here and there in the process of teaching yourself.

The aim of life is to attain peace. A guru or spiritual teacher teaches how to attain that peace. The guru teaches how to live in the world with truthfulness, with nonviolence, and with selfless service to others. The guru either presents these teachings in words or through the way they live their life.

The understanding of love, God, or nothingness can’t be taught by words, correspondence, or by reading books, just as sweetness can’t be described. A teacher or guru can only point toward a tree and say, “Look, there is a bird sitting on a branch. The guru’s duty is finished and the student’s duty begins. He or she tries to see the bird, moves his head up, down sideways, and sometimes asks, “Where is the bird?” The teacher again points a finger and says, “Look straight along my finger.” The student finally sees the bird. The act of seeing is within, and one only needs to use his or her vision in the right manner.

Doing the practices the teacher has given us is our job. Babaji says I can cook for you but I can’t eat for you. In the video “One Track Heart”, Krishna Das talks about the practice of chanting the names of God. He says “It’s like anything else – you’ve got to do it. You don’t do it, nothing happens.”

Babaji makes that clear: I don’t claim that i can give enlightenment. I say that anyone can attain it by their own effort. As long as we are not responsible for cleaning out our own garbage, we carry that garbage with us everywhere we go. No one is going to clean out our garbage for us; we have to do it ourselves.

That’s our work. We are given the gift of the teachings and it’s our choice whether or not we do our homework.

Sogyal Rinpoche, in his book, “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying”, writes about the guru.
“At the deepest and highest level, the master and the disciple are not and cannot be in any way separate, for the master’s task is to teach us to receive, without any obscuration of any kind, the clear message of our own inner teacher, and to bring us to realize the continual presence of this ultimate teacher within us.”

Babaji in his concise manner, says: God, guru and Self are one.

In striving to achieve peace, we have work to do:

For the spiritual level – sadhana
For the household level – job, health, responsibility
For the social level – friendship, compassion, etc.


babaji-newsWork honestly
Meditate every day
Meet people without fear
And play.


contributed by Sharada, with gratitude to Babaji
quotes in italics from writings by Babaji

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.

Our Centre Community: Ishi Dinim

Ishi Dinim, part of our Centre Community

Ishi Dinim, part of our Centre Community

My name is Ishi Dinim. Baba Hari Dass gave me the Sanskrit name Ishan. I was first introduced to the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga in the summer of 1998, by my then partner Maya Suess, a lifelong member of the community. We were immersed in a three month Karma Yoga experience which was part of a government exchange program – community service for university tuition. I was attending Emily Carr University fulfilling my photography degree and striving to learn how to survive as a creative person.

This was such an exciting time to be introduced to the Centre’s unique intentional communal living style. The routine and preparation before the yoga retreat was a great time to learn how the Centre functioned and to build relationships with the characters living in and around the land while gardening, cooking, building, playing, practicing, swimming, talking and learning. The transition from the smallness of pre-retreat time to having hundreds of new people joining us on the land was energizing. The influx of new personalities allowed for new friendships – and the occasional conflict.

Meeting Babaji for the first time there was definitely a cosmic zap. I was instantly drawn to his wisdom, playfulness and calm strength. As I look back to my twenty year old self I’m reminded how impactful and profound getting to spend those formative years being introduced to Baba Hari Dass’ teachings, and having the privilege to meet and work with him, has been to my development as a person. As a very skeptical young man I was wary of having a guru; I’d heard of so many negative stories of guru worship gone wrong. Being surrounded by well-intentioned spiritual seekers every day created a safe environment to delve into yoga philosophy and practice. I never felt pressure or expectation to accept Babaji’s teachings or be somewhere on a “path”.

IshiDinim2When my partnership ended with Maya, after a couple years, I was despondent about what would happen to my connection to Babaji and the SSYC community. As much as I felt accepted and a strong desire to continue learning there, I was torn by feelings that it wasn’t “my” place. I pushed past my uncertainty and realized that the generosity of spirit that thrives in the community is available for all comers, new and old.

There are too many people connected with my time at the Centre to name each person. Many have stopped coming or have passed away or are waiting to return. I don’t remember the names of all the folks I crossed paths with but I do cherish the memories we shared. Rock crew, kitchen adventures, basketball and volleyball, photographing, not-talking and talking a lot, Ramayana, so many dishes, rainbows, shooting stars, lake swims: I’m so lucky to be full of these memories.

Ishi's family

Ishi’s family

As I remember it, I continued returning year after year, returning by myself, with family members, and eventually with Catherine, who is now my wife. Over time I felt that the culture was subtly shifting towards stricture and being too rulesy. This feeling combined with starting a new career in 2007 began a long drought in my attendance at the Salt Spring Centre, although I made a few visits down to the Mount Madonna Center during that time.

My career as a film and television cameraperson consumed my life and conflicted with the timing of the retreat. I couldn’t rationalize prioritizing my life differently and I stayed away for what felt like a long time. I spent many years yearning to come back and “spiritually recharge” while I depleted myself on many different levels aiding in the production of meaningless entertainment. It took a lot of soul searching but when I finally decided to walk away from my camera career, it occurred to me that I would again have an opportunity to attend the retreat, amongst other new opportunities.

Ishi and his family

Ishi and his family

In my absence I had gotten married, created two amazing daughters and experienced several of life’s transitions. It was 2014, the 40th anniversary retreat, and I told myself that if I couldn’t make it to that one then I probably never would. Catherine and I decided that we wanted to come back and see what we’d been missing and connect with whoever was there. Once again it was a good choice to push past my doubts and return to the centre. It has done my heart good to come back and rekindle my relationship with such a wonderful place and community. Returning to the centre as a grown-up with a family has been incredibly rewarding. Seeing the joy in my children’s experience of this magical place and connecting and reconnecting with people is a real gift. Now, I again look forward to being a part of this vibrant community and helping it continue into the future. I’ve learned so much and I look forward to learning and sharing so much more.


Book review: Myths of the Asana

Myths of the Asanas

The Stories at the Heart of the Yoga Tradition
Written by Alanna Kaivalya and Arjuna van der Kooij

Book review by Kenzie Pattillo

“Yogic myth has a genius to clothe the infinite in human form.” Eknath Easwaran

MythsOfThe AsanasBookThe authors of ‘Myths of the Asanas’, Alanna Kaivalya and Arjuna van der Kooij, use the asanas (yoga postures) as a means of turning us towards the true goal of yoga by way of myth and metaphor. “The myths point to a higher state of consciousness. They depict the travel of the soul from ignorance to illumination. Their goal is to take us from the illusions of our ego centred existence (samsara) to the reality of liberated existence…” Especially in the West, where yoga is offered as primarily a physical practice, this book shows that a closer look at the poses themselves offer a means of moving the practitioner closer to truth. As Manorama so eloquently writes in the epilogue,

“Myths of the Asanas’ offers the reader an opportunity to journey into this metaphoric link that exists between the yoga pose and its myths. When one engages an asana, one can explore not only the literal pose but also the depth contained in a pose’s story. This fluid linking between the ancient and the modern gives the student of yoga both a window into the profound yogic path as well as a manageable lesson to practice with.”

BookReview-PadmasanaBecause I bought the book with the intention of applying its contents to my teaching, I was briefly disappointed to find a lot of the poses offered are quite advanced. I teach mostly beginner and multi-level classes and many of these poses I will not have opportunity to teach. But what I have found is that even the most unattainable, pretzel-like poses are based soundly in truth that can be applied to other, more attainable ones. For example Padmasana (lotus pose) is not easily achieved by many yogis but by reading about the lotus growing from Vishnu’s navel opening  to reveal the sound of ‘Om’ thus causing the creation of the universe, one can realize it’s not just about the pose. Onward the text reveals the metaphorical significance of the lotus flower and brings it full circle back to the posture as a seat for meditation and ultimately enlightenment by way of the term ‘avidya’ and Patanjali’s yoga sutras.

“The journey of this sacred flower reflects the journey of the yogi. We are rooted in the earth, absorbed by the endless cycle of births, deaths, sicknesses, tragedies, celebrations, bills, apartment leases, and family relations. The yogi knows this muck as the dirt of avidya, the great mistake of identifying ourselves with something other than our divine nature…The promise of yoga is that eventually, through enough nurturing and determination, we will surface above the water and realize our full potential.”

This was just the first pose in the book! Every pose explored by the authors leads the reader from posture, through myth, into metaphor until the deep, profound intention behind the practice is once again revealed. Every pose exposes the potential for transformation of consciousness.

BookReview-WarriorPoseSometimes the myths themselves seem rather inexplicable, yet Kaivalya and Kooij manage to elevate them. For example, the myth attached to the warrior poses (Virabhadrasana) is shown to be about our own struggle against our reactive mind and how to maintain an uplifted outlook (chitta pranadam) by introducing yoga sutra 1.33,

“In order to preserve an elevated state of mind, be happy for those that are happy, cultivate compassion for those that are sad, feel delight for those deemed to be lucky (virtuous or righteous), and experience indifference to those perceived to be wicked.”

Sure, Shiva sent Virabhadra to cut off his father-in-law’s head when his wife Sati appeared to instantaneously combust. But he made it right: he replaced Daksha’s head with a goat’s head…(?) Apparently even god’s make somewhat questionable decisions sometimes.

“It is not easy being a warrior, especially one who is constantly fighting against a reactive mind…Warrior poses are a reminder that ferocity exists not only to destroy but also to allow us sufficient strength to achieve integrity, compassions, and a loving state of mind.”

‘Myths of the Asanas’ offers explanations to many Sanskrit terms I’ve come across in my yoga studies, yet by reading this book I feel they’ve finally sunk in. Terms like abhinivesha, avidya, chitta pranadam, dristhi, guna, guru, isvara pranadana, jivanmukta, karma,  lila, maya, nadam, namaste, om, sadhana, sadhu, samasara, Shraddha, siddhis, and yoga nidra (just to name a few) are all introduced and explained seamlessly and effectively.  I actually hoped there was a glossary of terms at the end of this book so I could test myself! Coupled with an index, this could be an excellent textbook and a very effective approach to teaching yoga philosophy and history at a teacher training.

Kaivalya and Kooij are concise and not effusive in introducing ancient yogic texts from which many of the myths originate or the metaphors are expounded. The Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, Yoga Sutras, Mahabharata, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, and the Vedas are all contextualized within yoga’s long history. I imagine a reader new to yoga could feel well informed and satiated while gently encouraged to explore these background texts when they feel ready. I was surprised that there wasn’t a bibliography at the book’s end referencing particular translations of these ancient texts. A great translation can make all the difference and obviously a lot of research went into the writing of this book.

BookReview-balasanaI’m still contemplating how and when to share the bounty within these pages when I teach. For my beginner students, there is time within class to explain the significance of Anjali mudra, Namaste, ‘Om’ and Savasana as they are consistent parts of a yoga class that might seem inexplicable to those unfamiliar with yoga.  The more physically accessible poses such as Balasana (child pose), Tadasana (mountain), Gomukhasana (cow’s face), and Dandasana (staff pose), could allow for some deeper explorations, as they are often held for more than five breaths.

I feel strongly that ‘Myths of the Asanas’ could be very valuable to both yoga practitioners and teachers, and all lovers of myth and metaphor. This book acts as an accessible guidebook, graciously offering to lead the reader from the physical realm of asana to the infinite realm of truth. Alanna Kaivalya and Arjuna van der Kooij have created an exceptional and unprecedented contribution to the contemporary study and practice of yoga.


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.

News from the Centre, January 2016

Happy 2016, everyone – another new beginning, another opportunity to re-dedicate our lives to what matters most. So many major world events have happened in this past year, life continues to unfold, and here we are.

Currently many people in our satsang family, including most of the Centre resident community, are at Mount Madonna Centre, our sister centre in California, to bring in the new year at the Annual New Year’s Retreat. On the third of January, the Centre office will reopen. Meanwhile, life is relatively quiet here. Winter solstice has passed, and slowly the days will lengthen and the light will return.

Cars packed, heading to the ferry on the way to Mount Madonna. Top row: Brendan, Kyle, Brandon, Raven, Blair. Bottom row: Marianne, Cailin, Tana

Cars packed, heading to the ferry on the way to Mount Madonna.
Top row: Brendan, Kyle, Brandon, Raven, Blair. Bottom row: Marianne, Cailin, Tana

Please keep checking our website for upcoming events and postings because it won’t be long before the Centre is in full swing and programs will resume. Satsang continues throughout the winter, so come sing with us!

Donations for Sri Ram Ashram

One of the many projects inspired by Baba Hari Dass is Sri Ram Ashram, a home for orphaned and destitute children near Haridwar in India. You may make tax deductible donations to Sri Ram Ashram through Ram Yoga. Click here for details.

New book by Babaji

For those of you who have been waiting for another book by Babaji, here is some exciting news. The third volume of Srimad Bhagavad Gita (chapters 13-18) has been published and we will have copies soon. Meanwhile I hope many of you have been enjoying the first item in our digital store – the kirtan album recorded at the 2014 ACYR. If you haven’t yet seen it, do check it out on our website.

In this month’s newsletter

This month’s asana article – Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, also known as bridge pose, is by Marianne Butler, who has served as our programs coordinator for the past year. She also teaches regular yoga classes at the Centre. She notes that this pose boosts the immune system and lowers stress levels; who doesn’t need that?

Arpita Jessy Rose shares the story of her connection to Babaji and the Centre in ‘Our Centre Community’. Arpita was born into the satsang family, did YTT here when she was only 17 (our youngest YTT graduate ever), has served as a karma yogi here several times and is currently living at the Centre till the spring.

Joseph Ramesh Pallant, another member of our satsang community who has been active in environmental issues for many years, recently returned from the Paris climate talks. In this issue he shares with us his observations and reflections in ‘Paris, Climate Change and the Bhagavad Gita’.

Life at the Centre’ introduces you to many of our karma yogis, all of whom have answered the questions: What is important to you about being here at this time? What is your focus? and What are you learning? Although readers of this newsletter may not live in a spiritual community, these questions are useful for all of us to consider as we consider the choices we make in our own lives.

May 2016 be a year of abundance and peace for all.

Wish you happy.


Life at the Centre

some of our winter resident community

Some of our winter resident community

The opportunity to live in a spiritual community is a great blessing. It is also an opportunity to learn about yourself, what is important to you, and how to live with other people. Many years ago, when Dharma Sara Satsang Society purchased this land that came to be known as the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga, Babaji instructed us to create a place where people could come and experience peace.

Human beings are tribal by nature. They know for their survival they have to be supported by each other, so like-minded people get together and make their own tribe. The tribe creates rules and a community is formed.

I recently interviewed several of the Centre’s current winter community karma yogis, asking these questions:

What is important to you about being here at this time?
What is your focus?
What are you learning?
Whatever your living situation, I encourage you to reflect on these questions.

The importance of spiritual community

A sense of family is established by working, playing and eating together.

In the community, the main rules are to establish a sense of family, partnership, support and selfless service. The spirit of the community is rooted in selfless service.

To serve others with no selfish motive is sacrifice. To give what others need with no strings attached is charity. To live a disciplined life is austerity. Sacrifice, charity and austerity together in action is called Karma Yoga.

Mark: The Centre is like a beacon to the greater community on Salt Spring. Being here on the land clears my head of negative thoughts. There’s a quiet peacefulness.

Kyle: This is a beautiful place to solidify my practice.

Dee: All these years I’ve been looking in all the wrong places. I’ve been seeking something all my life, but didn’t know what it was.

Raven: What’s important  is the possibility to engage at every level in the light of Babaji’s teaching, to receive support for the ever-deeper inquiry, and to contribute meaningfully in supporting others in these endeavours.

Tana: I’m part First Nations, and the tribal model is really important to me. I’m more content here than I’ve ever felt in my life.

Shawn: I want to give  back to a community that’s given me a lot in my life. I’m looking forward to doing karma yoga, to give back to Babaji.

Blair: I’m developing a sense of community, strengthening relationships with the resident community and the extended community on Salt Spring and elsewhere. In this beautiful place of community, there’s not much more we need in life.

Supporting each other and the community

Each member of the community is supported by the community physically, psychologically and emotionally. Everyone works for the good of the community, and the community works for the good of everyone.

Mark: I feel part of something bigger than myself. I’m away part of every week, and it’s so heartwarming every time I come back, knowing there’s a place for me.

Blair:  My aim is to help find sustainable and comfortable means to help support this beautiful centre in creative ways with heartfelt intention.

Kyle: In response to the question, “What are you learning”: What am I not learning? There have been people I’ve not gotten along with in different situations. Here I’m learning how to navigate, learning how others think. Everyone is willing to talk and work together to build healthy relationships

Blair: A big part of what’s important to me now is learning the kirtans and Sanskrit pronunciation.

Mark: I love the playful spirit. People share with each other, and the honesty with which people share so deeply about their challenges in life is refreshing to hear. It helps me embrace my own struggles.

Support for sadhana

Purity in thought, purity in speech, and purity in action bring divine presence in the heart.

Do your sadhana every day and be happy.

Dee: My personal practice is figuring out who I am in my heart. This is  all new to me. Everyone here is helping me figure out what matters; I don’t have to go anywhere else to seek the truth. It’s all within me.

Kyle: I’m focused on karma yoga, meditation, seeing what’s going to work for me long term –  pranayama, asana, meditation.

Mark: Kirtan is amazing! I love it!

Tana: Everything relates to practice. I’m learning equanimity. I was introduced to that by the practices, from the elders here. This community needs elders and youth.

David: Winter is part of a complete cycle, extraversion to introversion, loud to quiet.

This time of year offers an opportunity for reflection.  This applies in my life and the season – bringing balance to my life. I’m learning that quiet, silent, introspection, patience, and  inner awareness through spending time alone is valuable for growth. In that space I find stronger dedication to daily practice. Taking that time for myself encourages and gives energy and momentum to regular sadhana.

Reflections by Piet, our Centre manager, about life at the Centre at this time

This time at the Centre is very special. We are in a time that I consider to be the tip of the second wave of energy and devotion to this place and this mission. Succession is happening, and energy is building, part of the natural process and cycle. I try to keep my mind tuned to the 30 years that came before and the 30 years that lie ahead, and find myself here at this time. This is the best time in my life to be fully here again, and I am finding that all my training in life and career are put to use in my current role.

My focus is on community – not just the residents here at the Centre, but also the satsang on Salt Spring Island and beyond. It extends out to those only reachable by the internet and those we have not yet met. My focus is on how we strengthen the connections that already exist, making them more open, caring and giving, as well as cultivating those relationships that are beginning to show themselves. My focus is also on what we do here and how we fit into the world around us, to live in harmonious relation with it.

I’m learning a lot about myself, how I think and move and how my actions affect the community. I am learning so many lessons every day, in every moment, that it is hard to quantify. I am learning what it takes to be in this role and what is needed from me – and there is so much more to learn.

I am also learning how to have a deeper connection with the natural elements around us that provide for us and offer us so much just by their very existence. I have been in cities for a long while, and though I’ve returned here every summer, I have not lived within so much natural abundance for quite some time. I am very grateful to be here now.

babaji-newsWork honestly
Meditate every day
Meet people without fear
And play.


contributed by Sharada, with gratitude to Babaji
quotes in italics from writings by Babaji

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.

Paris, Climate Change and the Bhagavad Gita

Self Portrait at DawnWhen pondering humanity’s role and responsibilities in addressing climate change, we see the issue touches many elements from the teachings of yoga. At the most basic level, our shared atmosphere reminds us that we are all one. Every carbon dioxide molecule we emit travels around the world as part of the air, destabilizing the global climate by increasing the insulating value of the atmosphere. In the same fashion, every molecule of CO2 that we can keep out of atmosphere benefits us all. Though the impacts of climate change may manifest differently in different places – a deeper drought on Salt Spring Island or a harsher monsoon in Haridwar – Earth’s climate is being changed by the actions and inactions of humanity.

Chapter 3 of the Bhagavad Gita (on Karma Yoga), instructs us to “Perform your obligatory duty; for action is superior to inaction.” There are actions, or obligatory duties, prescribed for individuals. They include five duties including duties to yourself, your family, your community, your country and towards the earth. “Duties toward the earth, such as caring for the soil, water, and plant and animal life. If nature is harmed by pollution in the air, water, and earth the whole universe will be negatively affected.” When one does not perform obligatory duties, it is a form of inaction, which Lord Krishna says is not desirable for those who are active in the world.

Clearly, climate action is warranted, if not for contemporary self-evident reasons, then because the Baghavad Gita tells us so. Last month, I joined representatives from the world’s 196 countries in Paris, as they gathered to negotiate a framework for global action on climate change. My climate work developing emissions reductions projects draws its imperative from this international work that places a value on getting carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Similar to my experience at the 2005 COP11 in Montreal, and 2009’s COP15 in Copenhagen, this 21st UN Conference of the Parties (COP21), was a beautiful, two week cacophony of inspiration, collaboration and insight as 40,000 people focused on the goal. This time, we got the outcome we needed, in a great success for multilateralism, as all of the countries of the world set aside their differences to settle on the Paris Agreement.

Key tenets of action in the Paris Agreement include:

Keep temperature rise to 1.5 degrees

The nations of the world agreed to “hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels” in order to give us the best chance of maintaining a stable climate. This is the overarching task of our work on climate change, and provides a clear goal. There is power in this clarity, and in the same way that committing to a yoga practice won’t have us achieve enlightenment all on its own, we’re going to have a much harder time without making such a commitment.

Intended Nationally Determined Contributions

Ahead of Paris, countries prepared and submitted their own individual mid-term targets for climate action, called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). One could consider these to be “marching orders”, on how far, how fast, and by what routes action will be achieved. By having each nation commit to action rather than accept an externally imposed target, it is easier for a nation to hold itself to account. In a similar fashion, each yoga aspirant must choose for themselves the practices, observances and sacrifices they are willing to make in their current practice, building perseverance and warding off hopelessness at the distance of the end goal.

Finance for developing countries

The Paris Agreement reiterated the commitment from developed nations to help finance climate mitigation (getting and keeping greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere), along with adaptation (adapting to the climate change that is already happening) in vulnerable, developing countries. Setting a floor of $100 billion per year in funding, this manifests the duty of action towards community, helping those in need become more resilient to the climate tribulations coming their way.

Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcomes (ITMOs)

This concept of an ITMO, launched in Paris, is exciting because it builds a framework for nations to increase their contribution to fighting climate change by collaborating to reduce emissions in other countries around the world. By clarifying the way that mitigation actions are recognized, a bigger tent and more ambitious action can be built, enabling the momentum and collaboration we’ll need to overcome the daunting challenge of climate change. ITMOs are interesting to ponder in the light of yoga, because on one hand, they represent the opposite of karma yoga, selfless service, for by their nature, they allow for the accounting of positive actions. Viewed from a different angle, ITMOs are the essence of Karma yoga, for by helping others (reduce their emissions), we help ourselves (in meeting our emissions reduction goals – and ultimately halting climate change). What a blessing to the climate practitioner, that the nuances of a global climate accord may help us ponder nuances deep within yoga.

What does it all mean?

When seeking to understand the meaning of COP21, and the international climate change process, it’s critical to recognize that this conference had a very specific purpose – to set an agreed upon, international framework to guide and monitor progress. Paris is not the action. You are the action. The Gita alone does not bring enlightenment, but rather sets the aspirant up with inspiration and direction that one must act upon themselves. It’s the same reality for Paris and climate action. Though much of the commentary on COP21 has surprised me with its negativity, I realize that people were hoping for a silver bullet that would solve this crisis in a flash. The reality is much more grounded in our understanding of the yoga practice. The Paris Agreement sets up a framework for action, but we will only beat climate change through the regular sadhana of climate action on all fronts today, and long into the future.

So we seek places in life where we may more fully carry out our duties to the earth. Perhaps your highest contribution is in the meditative diligence of reducing your own footprint. Or it may be to teach yoga, build community, and help others achieve peace. In addition, consider where there may be specific actions you can take at work, in your city, or among the community of nations to keep more greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere. After all, as Lord Krishna instructs Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, in response to our duties, action is better than inaction. The whole universe will be positively affected.

Joseph in sweater on ferryActive in the carbon market since 2004 and a life-long seeker of environmental solutions, Joseph Ramesh Pallant is passionate about the role of business in solving climate change. Building pioneering emissions reductions projects, developing strong standards, and helping society understand the role of carbon markets fill his day-to-day.

image: “Self Portrait at Dawn” by Jorg Reuter, flickr creative commons license

Our Centre Community: Arpita Jessy Rose

Present day 24 year old Arpita with Pussywillow in the motorhome on the Centre soccer field

Present day 24 year old Arpita with Pussywillow in the motorhome on the Centre soccer field

I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love Babaji, because I was born into the Satsang. My parents, Padma Diana and Purna Doug, met at the Centre sometime in the 80’s, and I came into the picture in 1991. As a child I didn’t think about Babaji’s role as a Guru, but his presence was deeply comforting for me. I could feel the wisdom he brought to the community, and the love. He felt more like a grandfather than a teacher, and I thought of him as part of my family.

Baby Arpita being held by Babaji

Baby Arpita being held by Babaji

I remember when Babaji would give candy to me and the other kids. I was one of the shy ones, and I remember him sometimes holding onto the candy and playing tug-of-war with me, maybe to help me break out of shyness. I remember once when he did that I cried because I was so shy. I loved him very much, but was also afraid of him. I could sense how deeply he witnessed me, and though I longed to be witnessed completely, I was also afraid. Even at such a young age, he was working with me on unraveling ego.

We lived in Seattle until I was 4 and then moved to SSI for a few years. I went to the SSC school and made mischief on the land with Sarah and Ceilidh. I have always looked back on those times as being the happiest and freest of my life.

5 or 6 year old Arpita out on a hike with her dad on Salt Spring

5 or 6 year old Arpita out on a hike with her dad on Salt Spring

When I was six in 1998, we moved to Texas and I went through the school system there. I missed Salt Spring and Babaji very much and cried a lot for years. Although we were apart from the satsang, I always felt connected inside. We would occasionally receive updates about the changing lives of satsang members and the Centre, and mom would teach weekly classes out of a big beautiful room in our house.

In my teens, mom started teaching at a studio called Yoga Yoga in Austin, and started inviting me and dad to go to the classes. I had entered the angst of teenage-hood at that point and refused to go, although I always held a feeling of faith and devotion in my heart, knowing that one day I would start doing yoga myself.

When my parents divorced, I was filled with grief, confusion and anger, and was having a lot of trouble staying focused in school and feeling well in myself. Mom suggested that I start doing yoga and dad bought me an unlimited class pass to the yoga studio in our neighborhood. During my last year in Texas, I enjoyed a healing ritual of driving to the studio after school and practicing asana under the guidance of wise, loving teachers.

When I was 17 in 2009 I moved to Niagara Falls to live with my mom and grandmother. Grandma Sadie was dying that summer, and mom didn’t want me to witness that for some reason. She asked me if I would like to go to the Centre to take YTT. I had already known for a while that I wanted to teach yoga one day, but I hadn’t dared to hope that it would happen so soon. I said of course I wanted to! Dad generously paid, and mom shipped me off a few days later.

I had visited the Centre for one family retreat when I was 11 or 12, but it felt like a very long time ago. I stepped onto the land and felt like I had finally come home. Seeing all the old satsang members who were like aunts and uncles was nourishing and healing after having been away for so long. YTT was very intense since my practice and I were both so young. But I opened and learned as much as I was able to, and by the end I felt like a sponge that had been joyfully squeezed out and filled back up again with sweet, bright nectar.

I co-taught with mom in Niagara Falls during my last year of high school, and taught on and off during my gap year before university. At Quest University I taught weekly and sometimes more, to my peers and even to my university tutors. Teaching my peers was helpful for me in building confidence, and I started to find my own rhythm and voice in teaching, and to love it more and more.

For the last few years I have been attending Quest University Canada in Squamish, studying the question, “What is the role of embodiment in healing from trauma?” And also, “What is the role of embodiment in spirituality?” These studies have informed my understanding of yoga and my teaching, and also been informed by yoga philosophy.

In 2013 I took a Women’s YTT with Sara Avant Stover. I learned about the different forms of practice that are best for women during different phases of the menstrual cycle, pelvic floor health for women pre- and post-pregnancy, prenatal and post-natal yoga, as well as women’s circling and female leadership.

I spent the last few summers on Hornby Island, living on a small meditation retreat centre called Deerheart Sanctuary. I lived in the woods, mostly in solitude, doing my practice in the quiet, beautiful yurt by the creek. The women who started Deerheart, Michelle St. Pierre, became a spiritual teacher to me. Her love, stillness, intense presence, and embodiment of womanly grace, fierceness, love, and wise sensuality inspired and changed me deeply. She also introduced me to Adyashanti (via audio-tape), who continues to be a potent spiritual teacher for me. Michelle passed away in 2014, and I am still grieving her passing. I could have learned so much more from her had she stayed alive longer. Now the Centre is run by my dear friend, Kira Anderson, and I know that she will give blessings of love, stillness, safety and wisdom to everyone who goes there.

I have learned things from lots of different people from different systems of thought and practice, and each one has been important on my path. Babaji, though, will always be my first teacher, my spiritual grandfather, the father of this sacred, beautiful community. In 2012 I went to MMC with mom for New Years and got to see Babaji for the first time as an adult. He gave me some big truth bombs in answer to some of my questions, one of them being to encourage me to punch a young man who was bullying me at university! I never did punch him, but his advice has continued to percolate through my consciousness as a reminder to stick to what I know is true and important, and speak up about it with courage.

When I was 4 or 5 I asked Babaji for a Sanskrit name and he gave me the name Arpita, which he translated as “servant to others.” I loved it. It felt beautiful and powerful. I soon forgot it, but occasionally asked to be reminded until I could remember it myself. When I took YTT I started going by Arpita. The shift was indeed beautiful and powerful. I felt seen and respected in a way I hadn’t before, and that feeling helped me to heal and move on from some habits and self-perceptions I had picked up that were harming me. I went by Arpita full time for 6 years. When I went to India in 2014, I was getting a lot of attention for being white with an Indian name, so I decided to go by Jessy again for a while. I found that there were some parts of me I had disowned during the name change, so it felt good to embrace them again. Now that I’m back at the Centre, I’m going by Arpita again, while feeling like both names are my names whenever I want to use them. Arpita, though, is the name of my heart.

That year I was on maintenance

That year I was on maintenance

I stayed at the Centre as a KY during the summers of 2009 (in between the two YTT blocks), 2010, 2011, and 2012. I worked mostly in housekeeping, with the occasional dish and kitchen shift, and failed wildly one year in maintenance. This year, 2015, is my first winter here, and I am enjoying working in housekeeping and scanning old Babaji Q&A’s into the computer system. I am overjoyed to be living in this loving, bright, silly, supportive community in my motorhome with my elderly cat, Pussywillow. Thank you, Babaji, for bringing these blessings into my life.

Found a snake in the garden while on mauna in 2012

Found a snake in the garden while on mauna in 2012

Jai Babaji!

Asana of the month: Setu Bandha Sarvanagasana

Asana of the month: Setu Bandha Sarvanagasana

bridge-lock all-limbs pose, commonly known as Bridge / Little Bridge

Versatile, accessible and hugely beneficial, Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (setu bandha for short) is integral to my asana practice.

This pose boosts the immune system and lowers stress levels. It is front-body lengthening and back-body strengthening. And – crucial for the winter-time – it serves to stabilise and reset the body.

Setu bandha is suitable to practice at anytime of day, and during any part of your practice. Work with it gently; the structural and energetic effects will really flourish if the mind and body are relaxed. The pose can take a number of different expressions, from the more restorative to the more strengthening; be aware of what’s going on in your body and choose the most appropriate form for you today. If you have neck or shoulder issues, it’s an especially good idea to work with an experienced teacher.

Setup: Laying Foundations
Have a block at hand

Lie on your back with your knees bent, soles of the feet on the ground. The architecture of the pose begins with the feet – place them mindfully, ensuring they are parallel, at the width of your hips, and positioned so that your knees are stacked above your ankles.

Take a few deep breaths to relax the body and focus the mind, and spend a moment here to feel your spine on the mat. Notice three points of connection between your back and the ground: Your sacrum, your shoulder blades, and the back for your head. Between these three key points, visualise the space – like mini bridges – in your cervical spine (neck) and lumbar spine (lower back). I encourage you to press down gently through the back of the head – this will strengthen and protect the neck. Breathe expansively – feeling the torso inflate and deflate three-dimensionally.

Setu bandha is a four-limbed pose; the arms playing an essential role in its structure. Experiment with arm-positions to maximise ease and stability in your shoulders and really cultivate a sense of grounding.

As you prepare to transition into the pose, position the arms in one of the following ways:

* 45° from the torso, palms face down or palms face up.


* Parallel to the torso, elbows bent, fingers reaching towards the sky, and palms facing each-other.


Transitioning-in: Root to Rise

Taking your awareness back to the feet, press down through the big-toe mound, the little-toe mound and the heel of each foot. This triangular structure will keep all sides of the legs engaged and the pelvis even – protecting the lower back. Simultaneously press down through the upper arms and the hands (if they are touching the ground). Concentrate on establishing an even pressure through your four limbs.

At the end of an exhale, draw the lower abdomen in and tuck the pelvis slightly, lengthening the lower back. As the inhale begins, root down through your foundations (including the back of the head), and gradually lift the spine off the ground. At the top off the inhale, pause briefly, feeling a lift behind the heart.

Flowing with the Breath

As the exhale begins, widen the shoulder blades and gradually lower the spine until the sacrum finds the ground again. At the end of the exhale, re-engage the lower abdomen, and repeat the lift beginning with a pelvic tuck. Flow like this for a number of breaths, lifting on inhale and lowering on exhale.

Practicing the transitions will help the body learn the correct alignment and build the strength needed to hold the pose comfortably. The flow is also a beautiful practice in and of itself, and will serve to reset the body structurally and energetically. Try to cultivate a calm and spacious energy, moving mindfully, and allowing the inhale to carry the lift and the exhale to carry the lowering.

Holding the Pose

When you’re comfortable enough to breathe easily through these transitions, I encourage you to explore the subtleties of the pose with a longer hold. There are a couple of arm variations you can work with here:

* Drawing the shoulder blades towards each other, roll the tops of the arms underneath the torso. Lengthen the arms toward the hips and maybe clasp the hands underneath the lower back.


* If you have a strong practice and your body proportions allow, you might also experiment with holding the ankles in the hands, creating traction to lift into a deeper back bend.


Remember the arm position serves to create ease and stability in the shoulders, and the neck should feel spacious at all times. If you feel discomfort, ease off.

Exploring Tensile Strength

In setu bandha, the spine is suspended like a bridge. There is a tendency at first for strong gluteus muscles to hold too much of the form. As you practice rooting evenly through your limbs, the gluteals will ease off, and you can start to notice the gentle engagement of the entire backline of the body. Keep the idea of lengthening in your mind. Watch out for the knees splaying out; the intention is for the legs to remain parallel. If you work mindfully with your feet (rooting through big-toe mound, little-toe mound and heel simultaneously), your legs and pelvis will stay nice and even. If your body needs help remembering this, a good practice is to hold a block between the inner thighs. For an added bonus, you can squeeze the block, encouraging the deep core muscles to engage and support your lower back.


Exploring Expansion

Setu bandha is a wonderful position to open through the front body, including the fronts of the thighs and hips, the chest and the heart.

As much as the hips lift away from the ground, think of lengthening the knees away from the hips. As you root down, let the shoulder blades lift behind the heart and let the chest expand towards the chin as you inhale. Throughout the pose, and particularly when lowering down, notice the space being created between each vertebrae of the spine.

Supported versions

If your leg muscles would appreciate some help, or you’re looking for a restorative option, using a block under your pelvis is a great option. Position the block so that the sacrum rests flat on it. Experiment with the height of the block to avoid any pinching in the lower back.

2015-12-26(6) 2015-12-26(5) 2015-12-26(4)

An alternative is to take more weight through your arms by holding the backs of the hips in the palm of the hands. This one requires more open-ness in the shoulders as your elbows will need to be stacked under your wrists.


Leg variations

When you’ve established a comfortable balanced energy in holding setu bandha, you can start to experiment with lifting one leg. I love this variation because it’s a wonderful reminder to return the attention again and again to rooting. To begin, position your arms in the supported version; hold your hips in your hands firmly. Root down through elbows and one foot, and on exhale draw the other leg towards your chest. Take a breath here to calm the mind, then on exhale straighten the lifted leg, lengthening through the sole of the foot.

2015-12-26(2) 2015-12-26(1)If you have the stability, feel free to release the hands. With the leg in this position, the lift and expansion of setu bandha is accentuated. This Eka Pada (one legged) variation gives an added challenge of balance, necessitating refinement in the rooting of the foot and in the tensile strengthening of the body. Exhale to transition out, bending the leg in towards the chest and then mindfully placing the foot back down. Repeat on the opposite side.



After and between sets of setu bandha, relax the legs in a gentle supine twist and/or supta baddha konasana (reclined cobblers pose). Your hips and sacrum might also really enjoy ananda balasana (happy baby).

Cues for further play

You can use setu bandha to prepare for deeper backbends, as it will help you get comfortable with your pelvic positioning and open up tight quadriceps and psoas muscles. It also fits beautifully into a shoulder-stand flow. Wishing you happy and grounded explorations!

Motivated by a love “Marianne"of movement and a craving for peace, Marianne has been practicing Yoga regularly since 2009. Drawing on her experience of a rich variety of styles and teachers, she encourages her students to develop internal awareness as they move and breathe through carefully designed sequences. She completed her 200hr Hatha Yoga Teacher Training and an advanced workshop in Sequencing with Joy Morrell, a teacher with a passion for anatomy and a wide open heart.

Marianne came to the Salt Spring Centre in 2014, where she’s studied and taught asana and pranayama, as well as exploring the practice of Karma Yoga through serving in Programs Management. Continuing to deepen her practice, Marianne is currently undertaking Cathy Valentine’s Vijnana Yoga Apprenticeship.

Donations for Sri Ram Ashram

sri-ram-ashramSri Ram Ashram, (literally “home” in Hindi), is located in the northern state of Uttaranchal, on 16 acres of rural farmland near the town of Haridwar. The Ashram, founded in 1984, was inspired by Baba Hari Dass. To learn more about this wonderful home for abandoned and destitute children, visit their website.

Supporting Sri Ram Ashram is a way of showing our appreciation for the many gifts of teaching that Baba Hari Dass has given us.

It may not be too late to make a tax deductible donation for the tax year if dated by December 31.

In order to receive a receipt for tax purposes in Canada, donations to Sri Ram Ashram may be made through:

Ram Yoga
6479 CONC.2 RR3
Stouffville, ON
L4A 7X4