News from the Centre – April 2016

Hello everyone,

Although there are still some chilly early mornings, spring is in full bloom on Salt Spring, with trees and flowers blossoming.

Springtime at the Centre

Springtime at the Centre

Our residential community is also blooming. Some people who have arrived over the past few months include Shawn (programs), Amy (YSSI), Jules (office), Bri (operations), Harley (maintenance), Milo (garden), with Kitty arriving shortly to join Milo in the garden.

Lettuce plants in the greenhouse.

Lettuce plants in the greenhouse.

Here’s a lovely farm update provided by Milo:

Spring is peeking out from the frost curtain and our freshly pruned orchard is budding with life.

The greenhouse is packed to the gills with eager seedlings, and construction has begun on a monster worm bin that will be processing all of our kitchen scraps.

Honeybees are on the horizon here as we gather materials for hives and cultivate flower filled sanctuaries in all corners.

A beautiful tractor has joined the family here at the Centre, inspiring wonderfully drastic shifts in our crop field layout towards the natural contours of the land, allowing us to pacify rainwater into a tool for fertility and away from its erosive potential.


off to work - David, Milo, SN, Raven

Off to work – David, Milo, SN, Raven

Soon we will be bidding farewell to David and to Tana, who will be heading off on new adventures. David has played a very important role on the farm over the past few years, coordinating planting, weeding, harvesting, and all the other work that goes into growing food – not to mention all the other things he’s done here, from cooking meals and washing dishes to snowshoeing paths when the snow was deep a couple of winters ago – a kind-hearted and hard working man! Tana has also been here for a few years, coordinating landscaping (mowing, pruning, keeping everything beautiful) along with many other tasks – cooking, doing dishes (dishes being the universal constant), cleaning, pouring her heart into whatever she does – and singing! We wish both of them well and send them off with love – and hope it won’t be too long before we see them again.

New Look for our e-Newsletter

If you receive the newsletter in your inbox, you will have noticed that we’ve changed our look – hope you like it. Please let us know what you think; we’d love your feedback. If you’re reading it on the blog on the website, this won’t make any sense to you because it looks the same there as always. Either way, the content is the same. If you would like to receive the newsletter in your inbox, you can sign up easily using the form at the bottom of our website.

Announcing our New Kirtan Album


We now have a second kirtan album! – Shiva Kirtan, recorded at last summer’s ACYR! You can listen to and download a digital copy of either album on iTunes here.  To order a Shiva Kirtan CD, email

A Wonderful Ayurveda Cleanse Weekend

 Dr. Manjiri Nadkarni in the kitchen

Dr. Manjiri Nadkarni in the kitchen

We began our program season last month with the Ayurveda Cleanse weekend, an excellent program led by Dr. Manjiri Nadkarni – with so much immediately applicable information! Everyone who attended was inspired – and we also got to enjoy delicious Ayurvedic meals. We are planning to bring Manjiri back for another workshop soon with more Ayurveda programs following. Watch for it on our website.

Now Accepting Applications

The Centre is currently accepting applicants into the Yoga Service and Study Immersion program (YSSI), a wonderful opportunity to connect, learn and deepen your understanding and practice of Classical Ashtanga Yoga and become part of a loving spiritual community. The YSSI dates are May 29-Sept 1. Visit our website for more information and the application form.

Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) is beginning to fill up, but there’s still space. If you’ve been thinking about a yoga teacher training, I invite you to look into the Centre’s program here. It is a residential program, taught by an outstanding faculty of 20 experienced teachers. The foundation of this YTT is classical 8-limbed Ashtanga Yoga and Hatha Yoga – and it’s here at the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga.

AGM – May 7, 2016

Coming up on May 7 is Dharma Sara Satsang Society’s Annual General Meeting weekend, filled with events for Dharma Sara Satsang Society members. The AGM is from 2:30-5:00 on Saturday afternoon, May 7. If you’re not currently a member but would like to be, it’s not too late. You can join or renew here. Voting will be electronic again this year; DS members will receive a letter with more details. For more information, you can contact Natasha at

This Month’s Newsletter Offerings

Adding to the ongoing introduction to Our Centre Community, Mischa Pavan Makortoff shares his story. One of a number of second generation people, children of the founding members, Mischa was born into the satsang family. He and his family came to the Annual Community Yoga Retreat (then known simply as “the Retreat”) every summer, and in the past several years has become actively involved again. I’m sure you’ll enjoy his story, a journey through “the old days”.

Kenzie has written this month about Yoga Nidra, the practice of complete relaxation. Although it is different from sleep, it is as deeply soothing as a restful sleep as it calms the nervous system. Included in the article are links to a couple of Yoga Nidra guided meditations. If you’ve heard about Yoga Nidra, but never had the opportunity to experience it, you can lie down on your mat and let yourself be guided through it. Relax.

The Seasons of Life focuses on the stages of life we go through. Not all lifespans are the same, but the natural progression of life is birth, growth, decay and death. This is not a morbid topic; it is the natural cycle of nature. The life force in nature continues regardless of the stage we find ourselves in. We’re all on this journey together.

From Babaji: Wishing you happy and healthy.


Seasons of Life

Babaji with kitten“Turn! Turn! Turn!” is a song made popular by the Byrds in the 60’s, the lyrics of which come from the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. The chorus says, “To everything – Turn! Turn! Turn! – there is a season – Turn! Turn! Turn! A time to be born, a time to die………”

The seasons of life include all aspects of life. Everything in nature is born, grows, lives for a period of time, and dies. It is an endless cycle, with death prompting growth.

Life’s essence is absolute, omnipresent and immortal. Death is but a change of form. Human beings, animals, the vegetable kingdom, the mineral kingdom – all are alive. They take birth, grow, decay, and die (change form). When one form changes into another form it is called death, although the life force still exists in that form. For example, as soon as a plant dies, a second form takes birth and starts to decay it. When it is completely decayed, a third life force starts working. The cycle of change of forms goes on and on, but the essence of life is always there – it is immortal.

The birth of a baby is experienced as a joyful occasion – a celebration of innocence and complete presence. As they grow, babies explore the world using their senses – feeling, tasting, smelling, seeing, hearing – an adventure of discovery. By the time the baby reaches the age of 2, the ego of individuality has begun to set in, and parents may start hearing “No!” “Mine!” Thus begins the experience of separateness and suffering (although, of course, there are many moments of play and joy!).

As children grow, their views of the world develop. Through play, school, and family, gradually moving toward adolescence, they begin to strive for independence, finding their place in the wider world. In the process, adolescents often experience this as a time of struggle – with parents, with external authority in general, and within themselves.

As adults, the focus changes over the years to other roles. Early adulthood expands life’s options – possibly continuing with further study, finding a job, trying to choose a career path, looking for a partner, wondering how go about being a grown-up.

The period of adulthood stretches over many years. During that time, life’s themes may include work, relationships, marriage, children, responsibilities. In this culture, it can be a time of stress – a familiar story of too much to do, not enough time, not enough money, not enough sleep. As a result, sometimes relationships break down and health problems arise.

At some point in the process, people may begin questioning why things are the way they are: why life is hard, why there’s suffering – and the spiritual search begins.

This is life. It includes pleasure, pain, good, bad, happiness, depression, etc. There can’t be day without night. So don’t expect that you or anyone will always be happy and nothing will go wrong. Stand in the world bravely and face good and bad equally. Life is for that. Try to develop positive qualities as much as you can

Life is for learning and the world is our school. Doing your homework every day brings liberation.

Eventually, everyone will die. This is not morbid. This is the natural cycle of life.

Birth is seen as a moment of happiness and death appears as a great tragedy. But both are two ends of the same rope.

Birth, growth, decay, and death are the laws of nature. Those who truthfully accept the laws of nature live in the present and die in the present.

Every second of our lives is like a seed of grain, and time is a hungry bird eating every seed very quickly. When the grain is finished the bird will fly away. So worship God, surrender to God, and attain peace.

Contributed by Sharada
Text in italics is from writings by Baba Hari Dass

Sharada-headshot-2016Sharada 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: Mischa Pavan Makortoff

Mischa Mark, part of our Centre community

Mischa, part of our Centre community

Born Mischa Pavan Makortoff with my middle name given by Baba Hari Dass after I was born, I grew up with my parents Sudha “Theota” and Phil in the Vancouver area. We lived on Barnston Island when I was born. My mom is a very spiritual person. My dad loves sports and I got my love of sports from him. Both my parents value family and community. My mom became involved in the Dharma Sara Satsang society several years before I was born. In Dharma Sara she found family, community, friendship, and her spiritual teacher, Baba Hari Dass. When my mom met my father, she brought him into the group. So when I was born, I was already part of the extended family!

Left: Front: Harvey Lajeunesse, Phil, Mischa, Narayan Groves. 1988Right: Harvey, Mischa, Phil. 1988

Left: Front: Harvey Lajeunesse, Phil, Mischa, Narayan Groves. 1988; Right: Harvey, Mischa, Phil. 1988; Back: Unidentified and Vidyadar

Above and below are pictures from our wonderful Vancouver Satsang. The pictures are from the 1988 Dharma Sara Christmas Party and I was 7. The Christmas party was one of my favourite satsangs of the year!

Devendra, Divakar, Ramanand, Madhav. 1988.

Devendra, Divakar, Ramanand, Madhav. 1988.

As I began writing my article so many fond memories came flooding back! The retreat! Many of my fondest memories at the centre were during retreat time. I would join mom and dad for days of action packed fun and mischief at the centre! As an only child, coming to the centre to play with kids my own age was a blessing! What fun we had! Some of them I still cross paths with regularly and occasionally. My mom was involved with all sorts of things at retreat time. When I was an infant, my mom brought me over to the centre regularly during the year. I was told that I ran into the sandbox to play with the other kids.

Oh yes, Babaji! Oh how all us kids enjoyed following Babaji. Adults and kids would circle around him, and as kids moved closer, Babaji would toss candy to us! Candy was always a huge draw or us kids as the adults asked Babaji questions and he replied writing on his chalkboard. Babaji was huge supporter of “play.” Playfulness in humour, jokes, skits at talent night, and theatre performances. Play in terms of sports, games, and the Hanuman Olympics!!!

As a kid walking around “the land” it seemed so huge. You could walk a long way in every direction. I have a fragment of memory from the 80s of walking with others through the back of the property to swim at Blackburn Lake. During retreat time with hundreds of people spread across the property it was fun to see people everywhere I walked.

It was fun when Babaji led the community in a large work project during the retreat. It was exciting to see many people working together to accomplish a shared objective. Many of my memories of these projects are from when I was a child. I remember Babaji leading a group in moving a woodshed. It was near the trees where there is now a house for staff off the edge of the volleyball court. In the early 90s during one retreat, the big project was reroofing the main house. Lots of adults and older teenage boys were on the roof for hours each day. They were transporting material to and from the roof via truck, wheelbarrow and any means. As I was too young to be on the roof, I enjoyed watching from a distance.

Oh, and who can forget time spent in the childcare program! I have one memory when the childcare was in the basement of the program house. We were watching a Pink Panther video with Inspector Clouseau, so funny! I think there were some men “in charge” that shift.

Mischa, 1991, Mount Madonna Centre (Huge tree stump!)

Mischa, 1991, Mount Madonna Centre (Huge tree stump!)

In 1991 when I was 9 my parents and I took a road trip down with many stops, including Mount Madonna Center for a retreat and Hanuman Olympics. It also felt like home. It was a great feeling being welcomed into 9 on 9 volleyball games with men, women, and kids of all ages. Being taught volleyball on the fly was such fun! I met the Aguirre boys – Jai, Toby, and Emile. I met Yogi and a bunch of other teenagers who were tons of fun! The older kids constantly included the younger kids which made me feel welcome in volleyball and other activities!

Left: Babaji, 1991. (Middle) Right: Mischa (sitting)

Left: Babaji, 1991. (Middle) Right: Mischa (sitting)

Then a couple of years later, many of those teenagers I met at Mount Madonna came to the Salt Spring Centre retreat performing their Power of Pranayam! Bending re-bar, having rocks split with a sledgehammer over a person’s chest! Wow, they were impressive – that was a major highlight that retreat!

Mischa (2nd from right), 1991, Mount Madonna Centre. (That was a big heat of sprinters)

Mischa (2nd from right), 1991, Mount Madonna Centre. (That was a big heat of sprinters)

The Hanuman Olympics was often the highlight of my retreat each year. It enveloped the entire front field. To a kid it seemed massive, to the scale of the Olympics I watched on TV at home. When he wasn’t on the field watching an event, Babaji would spend time sitting in the shade, in the tent on the front field and watch the Hanuman Olympics from there – for what seemed like hours to a small child! Oh, how Babaji supported the Hanuman Olympics! It was males and females from infants and through the generations up to the elders. Everyone wore their team colours and the team leaders’ fostered a sense of community on their teams. Some years, team leaders wrote the names of the participants on large sheets of easel paper and taped it to the side of the house. Everyone was eagerly awaiting the games!

Mischa, Rajesh Kreisler, Mamata? 1991 (Rajesh, so our team won the Hanuman Olympics!)

Mischa, Rajesh Kreisler, Mamata(?) 1991 (Rajesh, so our team won the Hanuman Olympics!)

There was a large obstacle course which always began which a gigantic wooden clown face – maybe 12 ft high? Sprinting, long distance running, high jump, long jump, and the sack fight are at the top of my mind. Also the water balloon toss duo event which often ended up with people throwing the left-over balloons at one another afterward. From the age of 9 and up I joined cross country running and track and field at school. I felt at home during the Hanuman Olympics and always looked up to the older boys and the men. As a boy I recall the suspense leading up learning how Divakar and the organizers were setting the age groups each year. I loved competing and I loved watching others compete. Hearing your gender and age category called to the start line of an event over the loud speaker would bring an adrenaline rush.

Mischa, 1991. (1st & 2nd place ribbons, a great day!)

Mischa, 1991. (1st & 2nd place ribbons, a great day!)

There was an Indoor Hanuman Olympics in the early or mid-90s. It was raining so hard one year that the Hanuman Olympics could not take place outdoors! So the adults organized an indoor Olympics. You didn’t know that musical chairs was an Olympic Sport? Well it was at the Salt Spring Centre indoor Olympics! It was competitive too!!

A huge thanks to Divakar and all of the many staff who organized the Hanuman Olympics and prepared the front field and grounds every year! I recall my dad ran the long jump some years in the 90s and Surendra Barber ran the high jump. As kids we jumped on the high jump mat before, during, and after the Olympics – Ah, what fun. What would the Olympic be without music? Madhav and the band were on their stage singing away for what seemed like hours! I recall Madhav singing “Let it be” during one of the last large scale Hanuman Olympics in the front field (1998 or 1999).

The Staff Kitchen was one of my favourite places during the retreat. It went through a period as a seed house and a garden office. Things have a way of coming full circle as it is now a KY kitchen. I had so much fun hanging out in the staff kitchen in the evening! It was always a diverse group with kids, teenagers, adults, elders. With Canadians, Americans, and folks from elsewhere it was a great place to learn about life. We played cards, talked about every topic imaginable, drank tea, and snacked on toast and whatever food was available. In the late 90s I entered the staff kitchen very early one morning during the retreat and RPD “Chai Baba” was brewing his legendary chai. That chai hit the spot after limited sleep!

The Talent Nights during the retreat were so much fun! Lots and lots of skits and laughter. In those years the talent night was in the satsang room of the main house and Babaji would sit in his usual place against the pillar near the front of the room. I remember Divakar as a hilarious emcee. Sid, Sanatan, Anuradha and many of the others entertained us annually with skits and songs – that brought down the house full of laughter.

How could we forget the basketball tournaments? I remember the first big basketball tournament at the centre was in the mid- 1990s. It was on the half-court in front of the entrance to the school (this was before the full court existed). There were many Americans up from California and the big work project that year was “The Garden House.” Jaggadish Wolfman and Sanatan were some of the organizers. I was riveted to the action and watched many games each year. We were treated to such a high calibre of basketball for several years! I thoroughly enjoyed watching and I played a few years as well. During the games, sometimes tensions ran high with no referee, and some people lost track of the score. While watching the games form the balcony of the school I began calling out the score to Jaggadish during the game when he asked for a score check. I felt a lot of pride when Jaggadish told me that I kept a good score. He would regularly check the score with me during the games. Sanatan sometimes captained a team of all-Canadians and I remember the rivalries with the Americans.

1999 was a special summer for me as my Mom and I did karma yoga at the centre and lived on the land for several weeks. I reconnected with Piet and Caleb. My mom and some of the other adults said the 3 of us used to play together when we were small. I hadn’t seen much of Piet and Caleb in the intervening years aside from a rare meeting in the playroom of the Vancouver Satsang (near Oak & W 7th was it?). The 3 of us had lots of adventures that summer and many more since then. In the Ramayana I was Lord Vibishan, and it was special to perform in front of Babaji. Rehearsing and performing was so much fun, as I also acted in high school plays. My mom helped out with the Ramayana by sewing costumes, among other things. I met Ishi that summer, and so many other people.

Mischa dressed as Vibishan in the Ramayana, 1999

Mischa dressed as Vibishan in the Ramayana, 1999

Every kid who attended retreats in the 80s and 90s remembers the Pad Kirtan. Madhav “Jerry” DesVoignes sang Pad Kirtan during the retreat for many years. With his wonderful voice he would serenade us to wake us up in the morning. I often tried to sleep in or go back to sleep but I had fragments of memory that I was actually awake for a moment before 6am!

In 2000 I graduated high school and started at university. This began a period of several years in which I did not attend an entire retreat. I came to a few retreats and only stayed a few days at a time. A few years previous my Mom was diagnosed with Early Onset Parkinson’s disease. From that time on, her health gradually got worse until she had to get around in a wheelchair. I attended some of the retreats when Mom was in a wheelchair with Dad and other members of our care team.

During this period of absence from the centre, I took summer courses at University three summers in a row. Although that was fun, I knew there were things missing from my life. While I was finishing my undergrad at university, mom decided to stop attending the retreat. During this period Anuradha and others encouraged me to return to the centre and attend retreats again.

The 2008 retreat was the first retreat which I attended fully since 1999. Familiar faces welcomed me like family and it felt like home. I have been attending every year since. 2009 was an especially fun retreat with Piet bringing the full quintet with Chris, Bennie, Jeremy, and Matt. Those dish pigs shifts on the brunch crew in 2009 & 2010 were so much fun! This was back when dishes were still in the main kitchen. Five members of those dish crews are pictured below.

Bennie Schutze, Mischa, Matt Ellis, Jeremy Schutze, Tobias Aguirre (Somehow we all squeezed into my 96 Carolla with a guitair and lots of gear. Every was scrunched!)

Bennie Schutze, Mischa, Matt Ellis, Jeremy Schutze, Tobias Aguirre (Somehow we all squeezed into my 96 Carolla with a guitar and lots of gear. Everyone was scrunched!)

Although Babaji does not attend the Salt Spring retreat in person, Babaji’s spirit and influence are present at the centre. I am lucky to have been born into this community with Babaji as the guiding light. I look forward to being a part of the Centre for many more years!

Yoga Nidra: Let Yourself Be (and Listen)

yoga-nidra-unsplashAs our daily routines slowly transform through different stages of our lives, our daily sadhana (yoga practice) must adapt accordingly.

Now that my children are in school full time and I am teaching back to back yoga classes most evenings, yoga nidra (yogic sleep) has become a non-negotiable part of my sadhana.

I admit my savasana (corpse pose) has never been strong (or long) when practicing at home. I can guide my own sadhana up until that point, but I need external guidance to relax deeply. I initially began playing an audio recording of a yoga nidra practice during my savasana to add length and depth to the practice. My restorative yoga training had given me opportunity to experience and offer this practice within the context of restorative yoga; however, the more I consistently practiced yoga nidra, the more I realized its value as a standalone practice for deep healing and profound states of conscious relaxation.

My initial exploration came about as I practiced many different yoga nidras based solely on how much time I had until school pick up once I’d completed my sadhana. There are yoga nidra practices available that range from 20 minutes to eight hours (the latter specifically for insomnia, the former how long I typically have to spend lying on the floor). I was only familiar with the script I’d been given in restorative yoga training, but I quickly learned that there are variations to the offering of the practice that have different intentions but equally effective outcomes. I’ve redistributed my prana, explored my chakras, travelled into space (maintaining a golden umbilical cord to my body), communed with my personal deities, experienced thought waves as bodily sensations, expanded my pranic field and more, all within the framework of yoga nidra.

The Practice of Yoga Nidra

For those unfamiliar with yoga nidra, let me explain the basics of the practice. The practitioner lies on the floor in savasana (though you can sit in a meditation posture as well) and listens to a teacher (in person or recorded) guide them through the practice. There are eight stages: initial relaxation (internalization), affirmative resolution (Sankalpa), rotation of consciousness, breath awareness, manifestation of opposites, creative visualization, repetition of initial Sankalpa, return and closing (externalization), with room within this framework to adapt the practice to an individual’s needs or to explore a specific theme.

Wikipedia explains yoga nidra beautifully:

“Yoga nidra, or “yogic sleep” is a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping, like the “going-to-sleep” stage. It is a state in which the body is completely relaxed, and the practitioner becomes systematically and increasingly aware of the inner world…. This state of consciousness is different to meditation in which concentration on a single focus is required. In yoga nidra the practitioner remains in a light state of pratyahara with four of his senses internalised (withdrawn) and only the hearing still connects to the instructions. The yogic goal of both paths, deep relaxation (yoga nidra) and meditation, are the same, a state called Samadhi.”

The Origins of Yoga Nidra

In its present day manifestation, yoga nidra is a relatively new yoga practice, but it’s origins are ancient. The modern method was developed by Swami Satyananda Saraswati in the 1940’s, based on the ancient tantric ritual of “Nyasa” where mantras are internally or externally placed on different parts of the body to purify body and mind in preparation for meditation. The chanting of mantra and rotation of awareness harmonizes the nervous system, balances pranic flow, and renders the mind one pointed to induce pratyahara (sense withdrawal) in preparation for dharana (concentration) and dhyana (meditation). Satyananda felt strongly that this was a practice the modern world needed, and that, if the mantras were omitted, its transformative potential could still be maintained, and this highly complex and advanced technique would become accessible to people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.

The Benefits of Yoga Nidra

There is so much more that can be explored in relation to yoga nidra, though this knowledge is not needed to do the practice. Seen through the lens of the koshas (gross, causal and subtle bodies), yoga nidra leads the practitioner systematically through each sheath, and, with grace, one arrives at Anandamaya kosha- bliss! Seen through the lens of states of consciousness, one is intentionally led from conscious mind (Jagrat), through subconscious mind (Swapna), into unconscious mind (Sushupt) and, again, with grace, one arrives at superconsciousness (Turiya). Through the lens of science, recent studies have concluded that the practice of yoga nidra can significantly reduce symptoms of stress and therefore help and/or prevent stress related illness, as well as reduce the severity of symptoms related to PTSD and adult onset diabetes. It’s also been claimed that the practice can eradicate deep rooted psychological problems, cure insomnia, awaken the faculty of intuition, and increase the memory and learning capacity of students.

I love everything about yoga nidra. I love its ancient origins and its recent incarnation as a practice accessible to all. I love creating an affirmative resolution (Sankalpa) and seeding it deeply into my subconscious to one day bear fruit. I love listening to a recording I’ve never heard before and being taken on a journey I’d not been expecting- like to deep space! I love how the practice recharges my batteries and allows me to face the second half of my busy weekday, present, rested and calm. I love how even on the hardest days I can still will myself to lie down and listen. I can let myself be. And that has made all the difference.

Here are links to two yoga nidra practices I’ve listened to many times:


Kenzie Pattillo
completed her 200 hour YTT at SSCY in 2002. She is a householder yogi/mama living in North Vancouver and currently teaches hatha, yin and restorative yoga in her community and at yoga getaways at the Centre.

As an E-RYT 200, and having recently completed her 500 hour YTT through Semperviva Yoga College, she looks forward to joining the YTT asana faculty this summer at SSCY.