News from the Centre – June 2016

Greetings friends.

May is turning to June and the Centre land is buzzing with bees as the air continues to carry the sweet scent of freshly blooming flowers. Just as we settle into Spring’s expansive rhythms, life force seems to shift into a whole new cadence and we once again must find a way to join in the dance. As it is with nature- so it is with life at the Centre.

By May’s end we said goodbye to four of our long term residents. David and Melissa left in early may, while Dee and Tana are freshly away from us. We are sad to see them go but trust they will visit and know this will always feel like home. Oh how we wish them well! Angelo and Karen, who will be joining the YSSI (Yoga Study and Immersion) program, came early to assist us in our May programs. It has been such a pleasure having them! We also had two karma yogis join us; Tom, who came for our April Yoga Getaway and never left(!) and Carmen, a wwoofer (Worldwide Workers on Organic Farms) from Australia, who has been a much needed help in our garden.

Dharma Sara AGM 2016

Out on tour of the Centre at our 2016 AGM

The Annual General Meeting weekend also happened in May, and it was a blast! It was truly heartwarming to see so many familiar faces come out and connect with each other and the Centre community. Dharma Sara Satsang members toured the Centre property and learned about the new happenings in the Farm, Chikitsa Shala and around the land. Speeches and reports during the AGM were filled with gratitude and joy. As we say farewell to the outgoing board members, we are grateful for their wisdom and input, but also very excited for the new Board and future of the Centre. For more details, read Sharada’s article about the AGM in the newsletter.

May finished itself off with a huge Yoga Getaway (42 registered and a waitlist!) and the beginning of YSSI, which grows our joyful community by twelve more souls. The residents are excited to see our numbers increase and we are talking about the stages of group development; forming, storming, norming, and performing. We look forward to the fresh energy and extra hands as we roll into program season. Enrolment for one of our dearest programs, Yoga Teacher Training, continues to grow and we are still accepting applications.

But, as much as things change, some things don’t seem to change at all. These photos are from earlier this month when Raghunath, Ramanand and Sid (Sudarshan) made brunch for the community – Sid’s classic ‘Wild Tofu Surprise.’ The soundtrack was The Grateful Dead, just like the old days. It was a big hit.

Sid's Tofu Surprise

Sid’s Tofu Surprise

The music just plays on and on here. Our shiva kirtan album has arrived and is on sale through our Jai Store and also on iTunes. Our kirtan books are also available for purchase. Edition 1 has complete translation of all kirtans and unpublished writings from Babaji about kirtan singing, while Edition 2 also has the diacritical marks added to the kirtans, which tells how to pronounce the Sanskrit. In related news, our last community dinner, until the fall, will be held June 5th after satsang.

Kirtan song book

Kirtan song book

This month Salt Spring Centre School will wrap up it’s 2015/16 school year with a camping trip to Hornby Island. Throughout the year a couple of new initiatives helped bring the Centre and the school closer together. Raven has begun teaching a weekly meditation class for parents along with several classes a week for the children, and Milo is also working with them in the garden. Salt Spring Centre School is a truly magical place based on these principles: We care for feelings. We care for bodies. We care for things. We respect learning for others and ourselves. We will miss the sound of children playing on the land and look forward to their return after summer holidays.

This Month’s Newsletter Offerings.

“Become a child. If you love them it’s easy. You were and are a child. A tree grows from a seed and the tree never separates from the seed. We don’t have to pretend to be a child; that nature is always in us.”

Babaji has always encouraged us to play, and what better opportunity to do so then with all of the children at our Annual Community Yoga Retreat. Johanna Peters, who runs the children’s programming at the retreat, offers us a reflection on just this in her article ‘Community Practice and Staying Young at Heart‘ by sharing her own experiences alongside Babaji’s teachings on the subject.

Willow, who also works in the children’s program at the ACYR, shares her story with us in ‘Our Centre Community’. Willow’s own children attended Salt Spring Centre school, and she is very committed to bringing the Centre and the School closer together.

With YTT only a month away, we bring to you again ‘YTT Reflections’- a question and answer piece that allows alumni to reflect on their training and the impact their experiences at YTT have had further down the road. Thank you Adam Burt for so graciously sharing your experiences with us this month.

Kenzie has once more written a yoga book review. As a yoga teacher, she is always on the lookout for appropriate poems to share at the end of her yoga classes. She read ‘Love Poems from God’ with a particular agenda in mind, and found exactly what she was looking for.

Our final article in this month’s newsletter is by Sharada. The AGM weekend was such a wonderful “mini retreat”; full of sweetness, friendship and celebration. She wanted to share some more details and A LOT of photos. As Sharada continues to recover from her surgery, we continue to sing the healing mantra for her day after day.

Warmest regards,

2016 AGM Weekend Review

The weekend of May 6-8 was so much more than an AGM. Friday evening started off with stories about the satsang in the early days. That theme continued on Saturday morning with readings from notes of early meetings with Babaji – and lots of stories from people who were around in those days.

Members of the Dharma Sara board

Members of the Dharma Sara board


Milo explaining the worm composting structure and process during our tour around the land


Milo and Om PK talk about the features of the new addition on the farm on our tour around the land


Raven taking a moment to share about the Kitchen and to lead us in a blessing for the new season


Checking out the newly build and part under construction cabins for our staff accomodations

After brunch there was a tour of the land to see some of the things that have been happening here in recent months. Milo gave a farm tour and introduced the new tractor, and Piet showed folks the new building projects. In the afternoon reports at the AGM filled us in on all aspects of the operation of the Centre, the Vancouver satsang, and the Centre School. The new DS Board was announced: Mark Omprakash Classen – president; Jules Higginson- treasurer; Amy Cousins – secretary; Natasha Samson and Bhavani Chlopan- members at large. You can meet them officially here.

Celebrating the life of our satsang sister, Janaki

Celebrating the life of our satsang sister, Janaki

Saturday evening was dedicated to celebrating Janaki, with kirtan and stories of remembrance and appreciation of our beautiful satsang sister. Raghunath had created an amazing photo display of Janaki and her family. It was an evening filled with joy, tears, laughter and a strong sense of loving community.

Beautiful preparation of the Divine Mother offering Sunday afternoon

Beautiful preparation of the Divine Mother offering Sunday afternoon

And that wasn’t all! Sunday was Mother’s Day – a day filled with kirtan in praise of the Divine Mother. The satsang room was packed with people, with more arriving for a wonderful community dinner and more kirtan in the evening. Raven reports that there were about 150 people here – like a mini summer retreat – and a prelude to ACYR on the August long weekend.

Jai Gurudev!

Book Review: Love Poems from God

Love Poems to GodLove Poems From God

Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West
Translations by Daniel Ladinsky

book review by Kenzie Pattillo


They can be like the sun, words.

They can do for the heart
what light can
for a field.

-St. John of the Cross

I began shaving for my yoga students. There I said it. I was 35 years old and had never shaved anything, ever, but I did this for them. Why? It’s the same reason I seek poems about God without the word ‘God’ in them to share at the end of my yoga classes. I want the yoga classes I teach to be completely accessible, without any triggers that might ramp up my students’ left brains and take them away from their own present experience of yoga. (This is also the reason that at rec centres I don’t ‘om’ before and after class, though at studios I ‘om’ to my heart’s content).

Now, one might think that looking for ‘God’-less poems about God in a book titled ‘Love Poems From God’ might be a fruitless (and somewhat ironic) endeavor, but I beg to differ. I had previously discovered that Daniel Ladinsky’s translations of the poetry of Hafiz in ‘The Gift’ offered a healthy handful of poems for my use. ‘Love Poems From God’ proved to be just as full of such divine seeds to plant in the fertile, post-savasana soil of my students open hearts and minds.

Admittedly, I turn to this book often for my own solace and nurturance, and I draw deeply from all of the poems- ‘God’-less and ‘God’-full. Ladinsky has once again done an inimitable job translating a diverse range of poetry into a contemporary feeling anthology that traverses the spiritual traditions of East and West, as well as great swaths of time! By book’s end, what is made plain are two things- it’s all the same God, and it’s all about LOVE.

Though some might critique the author’s translations as too contemporary, he preempts such judgement with this quiet rebuttal in the introduction:

“In studying the lives of these wonderful saints, I can’t imagine any of them saying “no” if they were asked if we could freely adapt their words to a few bluegrass tunes or whiskey soaked jazz. I think they might shout, “Go for it baby; set the world on fire if you can, kick ass for the beloved with some great art.”

Included in the book is a short biography of each saint before there poetry appears. As spiritual aspirants, we are often encouraged to read about the lives of saints, and Ladinsky offers just enough information to contextualize the poetry that comes after while whetting the reader’s appetite for learning more about each of these god-intoxicated individuals. Ladinsky writes:

“I chose these great twelve figures to work with because of their ability to help us know our own sacredness, and because of their skill to awaken us to the wonder- and thus gratitude- of the common.”

So I offer you now a few “God”-less poems about God.


So amazing this choir of
socks, shoes, shirt, skirt, undergarments,

earth, sky, suns, and

no wonder I too, now,
sing all

-Rabia (717-801)



I was sad one day and went for a walk;
I sat in a field.

A rabbit noticed my condition and
came near.

It often does not take more than that to help at times-

to just be close to creatures who
are so full of knowing,
so full of love
that they don’t

they just gaze with
marvelous understanding.

-St. John of the Cross (1542-1591)



When you recognize her beauty,
the eye applauds, the heart stands in an ovation,

and the tongue when she is near
is on its best behaviour,
it speaks more like light.

What does light talk about?
I asked a plant that once.

It said, “I am not sure,
but it makes me

-St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)



I know about love the way the field knows about light,
the way the forest shelters,

the way an animal’s divine raw desire seeks to unite with
whatever might please its soul -without a single
strange thought of remorse.

There is a powerful delegation in us that
lobbies every moment for contentment.

How will you ever find peace
unless you yield to love

the way the gracious earth
does to our hand’s




Such love does
the sky now pour,
that whenever I stand in a field,

I have to wring out the light
when I get

-St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226)



All day long a little burro labors, sometimes
with heavy loads on her back and sometimes just with worries
about the things that bother only

And worries, as we know, can be more exhausting
than physical labor.

Once in awhile a kind monk comes
to her stable and brings
a pear, but more
than that,

he looks into the burros eyes and touches her ears

and for a few seconds the burro is free
and even seems to laugh,

because love does

Love frees.

-Meister Eckhart (1260-1328)



I wanted to be a hermit and only hear the hymns
of the earth, and the laughter of the sky,

and the sweet gossip of the creatures on my limbs,
the forests.

I wanted to be a hermit and not see another face
look upon mine and tell me I was not
all the beauty in this

For so many faces do that-
cage us.

The wings we have are so fragile
they can break from just
one word, or

a glance void
of love.

I wanted to live in the cloister of
light’s silence

because, is it not true, the heart
is so fragile and shy.

-St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380)



In my travels I spent time with a great yogi.
Once he said to me,

“Become so still you hear the blood flowing
through your veins.”

One night as I sat in quiet,
I seemed on the verge of entering a world inside so vast
I know it is the source of
all of

-Mira (1498-1550)

Ladinsky does us a great service by uniting these many voices within the pages of ‘Love Poems from God’ through the medium of his formidable skill as a poet and translator.They each prove in their own way that a divine union with God is possible, which seems to be at the root of  Ladinsky’s intention behind this book. He says it better than I ever could when he writes,

“That concept, that sublime, divine experience of union with God I believe has existed since humans could conceive of time…To dismiss the possibility that the divine can speak through women and men is to limit God…Through their poetry, their lives, and their prayers, God played for us his music, which can still be heard today, hundreds of years later, for what a party the soul aflame ignites.”

This is my kind of party.


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.

Our Centre Community: Willow

The Story of my Life – in a Nutshell

Born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, I had a very SWEET childhood filled with lots of love, family, water fights, ice cream cones, a best friend, swimming at the farm, tree climbing, snowball fights, scraped knees, skiing, and family – worth mentioning twice. There were some nasty thingies too but I won’t talk about them here.

When I became a TEENAGER I started questioning things like, systems, authority, rules, societal norms, relationships, and the behavioural approaches to all of them. I could be found in the ‘occult’ section of bookstores regularly and, although unlabeled, became an environmentalist.

I spent a ton of time walking, had boyfriends, my best friend had a new best friend but that was okay because I had a Group of amazing girl friends. My folks had separated, we’d moved a couple of times and then I had two experiences that mattered. First, I was a vehicle through which spirit talked to my seriously troubled friend. Sorry to say I don’t remember a thing. It was life changing for him but it took a while to fully feel the impact it had on me. Second, I received from spirit the name WILLOW (before that I was called Andy – which I still like). I was 18 at the time but didn’t start using Willow until I was about 32 years old.

About the time “WILLOW” replaced “Andy” and Kai taking delight in his new baby sister.

About the time “WILLOW” replaced “Andy” and Kai taking delight in his new baby sister.

About the time “WILLOW” replaced “Andy” and Kai taking delight in his new baby sister.

As a young ADULT my questioning became deeper and more introspective. I went to Europe to see wonders, worked in banking, and went to Uni. While in England, on my 19th birthday, I had a life changing metaphysical experience. It was cool, weird, beautiful, awesome and seriously powerful. It’s very hard to put into words these types of experiences. Some fireworks went off (personal literal ones) and I sort of floated across the room and just stood in front of my now husband, Marty. It took us 9 years of letter writing and growing up in our respective countries before we got together. He’s awesome.

Celebrating our 10 year wedding anniversary in Samoa 2005

Celebrating our 10 year wedding anniversary in Samoa 2005

So we married, and two AMAZING souls decided to join us on this journey. Kai in 1997 and Shael in 1999. They are my greatest joy, teachers, source of anxiety, playmates and travel partners. We spent 3 months at Mount Madonna Centre because I was teaching yoga in NZ but feeling spiritually isolated. It was wonderful to be with Babaji and the community at MMC which was warm and inclusive. They suggested we give SSCY a try so we did! We fell in love with SSCY and with the Centre School. We lived at the Centre for three years from 2006-2009. It was a time filled beauty, hard work and lots of major Centre transitions. Our most obvious contribution is Sage House where we lived in 283 square feet while building the addition.

Kai & Shael at Cathedral Cove in New Zealand 2004

Kai & Shael at Cathedral Cove in New Zealand 2004

Kai breaking ground on Sage House Marty, Ameresh & Phil on the roof

Kai breaking ground on Sage House

 Marty, Ameresh & Phil on the roof

Marty, Ameresh & Phil on the roof

Look at their eyes. I see Love and Happiness. Babaji was so wonderful with Kai and Shael – They are under the maple on the Mound 2008

Look at their eyes. I see Love and Happiness. Babaji was so wonderful with Kai and Shael – They are under the maple on the Mound 2008

Kai and Shael attended SSCS (Centre School) during which time I joined the Board as a DS representative. I continue to serve on it and am delighted to be part of the movement to bring the School and the Centre closer together again.

I look forward to serving in the Children’s Program at Retreat again this year. Hope to see you all there!

With love and gratitude to be of service to, and share in, a beautiful practicing group of humans.

Community Practice and Staying Young at Heart

When someone starts yoga, he or she thinks they should be very serious. Then they develop pain and go crazy as a result of their yoga. When you develop seriousness you cut yourself off from others. Yoga doesn’t say hide in a corner. Don’t feel you are old. For God, all are children, and children always play. ~ Babaji

If you’ve never attended one of the Centre’s Annual Community Yoga Retreats, you might not know what makes it such a special experience. While there are many elements that make it special, for me what really sets it apart from other retreats is the presence of families and children.

Depending on where you live and the kind of lifestyle you maintain, joining others in an intergenerational community for an extended period of time to focus on yoga and togetherness might be a rare experience. It revealed for me a new world of possibility and a way of being together that I’d never really felt before.

The last two summers I’ve had the privilege, and sometimes challenge, of being involved in co-ordinating the kids program. I have experienced first hand the unique element that kids bring to retreat. The retreat offers many opportunities for silence, reflection and personal study, yet there is also an element of community and relationship that invites a different kind of practice. A community retreat can challenge us to weave contemplation into the fabric of togetherness and family, and to start living our inner-realizations in a relational context.


Babaji stresses the importance of allowing whatever life brings us to be our practice. So I suppose sometimes practice looks calm and still on the outside, and other times it might look quite active, even at times chaotic. If we restrict our practice to times of silence and stillness, we may be missing out on some of the richest opportunities for growth.

Children can be great teachers in that they embody such a diverse range of expression, and you never know what to expect. Sometimes they can be infinitely sweet and insightful, at other times bursting with emotional turmoil and upset. In these moments, there is an opportunity to meet whatever arises, either with resistance or open curiosity. While it can be easy to avoid or ignore some of the emotional turmoil that arises internally, it is difficult, often impossible, to ignore this expression in a child. In this way, relationships, and in particular relationships with children, can challenge us to face the unsettling parts of ourselves with compassion and curiosity. Children also have a delightful way of connecting us to our inner freshness, and keeping alive a way of seeing that can get lost as we grow-up.

As Babaji says:

Become a child. If you love them it’s easy. You were and are a child. A tree grows from a seed and the tree never separates from the seed. We don’t have to pretend to be a child; that nature is always in us.

To me, Babaji’s teachings really are about the yoga of life. Whatever stage of life we are in becomes our practice. Family life can be like this as well.

Your children make a world of your family. God and the creation are not separate. To love God we have to love God’s creation, which is visible and can be identified. Your family is a miniature form of this vast creation. If you serve your children, you are serving the whole creation.


The beauty of retreat, and in particular a community retreat, is that we create a little microcosmic universe together. We have the opportunity to serve each other, to see each other more deeply and to find common ground.

Don’t separate yourself from social activities, but do your sadhana regularly. The world is an abstract art. Everyone sees it as they want to see it. It is a garden of roses and it is also a forest of thorny bushes and poison oak. You don’t need to stop seeing your friends to seek the truth. You have to see the truth in everything, including your friends, family and society.


In this way, community retreat gives us the opportunity to deepen and to widen our practice. It has offered me some of the most challenging moments, and some of the most exquisite. But life is like that, both challenging and exquisite. Children know this and live this truth honestly, without trying to pretend it is different. I love that about being with them, and, just like yoga, they teach me how to be with life just as it is, and not to take things too seriously.

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 that 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.

Contributed by: Johanna Peters


Buddings Bio PhotoJohanna became connected to SSCY through a series of serendipitous events that allowed her to work at the centre as a karma yogi. She remains connected to the centre and Babaji’s teachings by attending Satsang in Vancouver, and has learned the most about the true spirit of karma yoga through her work with children. Combining her love of yoga and working with kids, she had the privilege of co-ordinating the kids program at this year’s Annual Community Retreat. The centre continues to be a place of spiritual nourishment, inspiration and connection for Johanna, and the support it provides has allowed her life to blossom and flourish in the most unexpected and delightful ways.

Adam Burt’s YTT Reflections

YTT graduate, Adam Burt

YTT graduate, Adam Burt

Where do you live? What do you do in your life apart from yoga?

My name is Adam Burt. I live in St. Albert, Alberta. I live a fairly active lifestyle. Apart from yoga, I enjoy cycling, hiking, climbing, longboarding, playing street hockey, and in the winter, snowboarding and snowshoeing. I currently work at a rock climbing gym and teach yoga at several different places.

What motivated you to begin practicing yoga? How did yoga come to be a part of your life?

I began practicing yoga when I was in grade 11. I played rugby throughout high school and always seemed to be incredibly sore from the last game or practice, no matter how much stretching I’d do on my own time. One day while shopping with my mom at Costco I came across a set of Yoga Now DVDs. Having heard very little about yoga, but knowing it involved increasing mobility and decreasing muscle tension, I was instantly intrigued. As soon as I returned home I got on my gym clothes and set up in the living room, having no clue that my life would change forever. That first 50 minute practice incorporated breathing, stretching and mindfulness; three things I’d never imagined could be so connected. After that first practice I was sold. I went out and bought a yoga mat and began practicing on a regular basis. I very quickly began noticing changes in my body and my mind. I was no longer constantly aching and sore. I didn’t need to take 3 advil before every game anymore. I felt more alert and aware of my body and my mind. Concentration came more easily and my breath became easier to control.

What attracted you to the SSCY Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) program?

Several years after practicing yoga on my own, I began attending a studio. At this point in time, having watched my only brother succumb to brain cancer and going through a difficult break up, I took my practice to the next level and began going to classes every day, sometimes several classes a day. I believe yoga saved me from slipping deep into depression and self medication. Knowing first hand the benefits of yoga, I began thinking about doing my 200hr YTT to learn how to spread the joy of yoga to others. I knew I didn’t want to do my training at home, where there would be far too many distractions from everyday life. Having a strong connection with the West coast, particularly Vancouver Island, I began searching for somewhere to do my training, preferably with a condensed program and as secluded as possible. SSCY was the first site to come up and the more I read about the program the more excited I became. I’d heard a lot about Salt Spring Island but had never actually been there. I knew without a doubt this was where I needed to go for my training.

What aspect of yoga has had the most transformative effect on your life?

Yoga has transformed my life in many ways. It began with a physical transformation. The fitness aspect is what originally drew me to yoga. I learned to release stress in the body, thereby increasing strength and mobility. Once I started attending classes in a studio with a real teacher in front of me, I began to explore other aspects. To be honest, at first I was pretty skeptical about all this talk of ‘prana’, and the ‘Om’-ing and ‘Namaste’-ing. But after a while I actually started listening to what the teacher was saying and a lot of it made perfect sense to me and related almost eerily to my life. The spiritual portion of my yoga practice is still relatively new but I am constantly learning more about who I am and what I need to do to contribute positively to the world around me.

Please share some memorable moments- or a favourite moment- from YTT.

My favourite moment at YTT is pretty difficult to pinpoint. I feel like my entire time there was my favourite moment, but if I had to choose, I would say the talent show at the end was a definite highlight. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed that hard before in my life. The bonds that were formed during our training were solidified that last night as we laughed and reminisced about what we’d learned and how our lives had changed.

What can students expect from the yoga teacher training at the Centre?

New YTT students can expect to be welcomed with open arms. Never have I been anywhere that made me feel as welcomed and loved almost instantly. Every person I met there was a kindred spirit and a loving soul. Every instructor had a unique point of view and a wealth of knowledge to share. Any questions I had were thoroughly answered. And to boot, the food was amazing. After my first 2 weeks, having not set foot off of the property, I was sad to leave but excited to take what I’d learned into the real world. Salt Spring Centre of Yoga is truly a second home to me now and I can’t wait to return!!!

We are now accepting applications for YTT 2016.

JULY 3 – 16 & Session 2: AUGUST 7 – 17
Both sessions required.
Get all the details here.