Happy New Year! News from the Centre: January 2017

Happy New Year everyone!

Another beginning, another reminder to start anew. Although we can recalibrate every moment, the beginning of a new year is when many of us review our lives and resolve to change our unhealthy habits. Babaji’s recommendation: Do your sadhana every day and be happy.

The Centre began 2017 in a spirit of devotion, with arati, kirtan, and meditation through the midnight hour. Sanatan has been hosting the New Year celebration at his house over the past few years, but the gathering has outgrown his house, so this year it was held in the satsang room at the Centre – a new tradition.

December has been a snowy month at the Centre. Before school ended for the winter holiday, the slope behind the school was a favourite place for tobogganing. Snow is a big hit with kids.

Mayana and Amy (her mom) doing asanas in the snow

During this quiet time of year, projects that can’t be done during program season are being undertaken. As I write this, the kitchen is getting thoroughly cleaned and painted, with new windows being installed. Various upgrades, including more painting, are on the list.

Space, Rajani and Tyler working on kitchen cleanup and upgrades

This Month’s Newsletter Offerings

As we begin another year, here is a reminder about the value of satsang in all its aspects. I hope you enjoy the article “Satsang – keeping the company of truth seekers”, and enjoy the photos of satsang gatherings over the years. See how many people you can recognize!

Pratibha brings us another in the series “Ayurveda, Yoga and You” – this one on “Ayurvedic Oil Pulling (aka Gandusha)”, an Ayurvedic cleansing technique that has become a popular practice of late. Several people have recommended that I try it, but I somehow never got around to it. However, Pratibha has convinced me; I hope it will inspire you as well.

This month we bring you another story in the series about “Our Centre Community.” Aneeta writes about “Finding Community”. When she first arrived at the Centre in 2010, she says she was not quite sure what she was getting herself into. She thought, “I’ll just learn my yoga and do my own thing.” It wasn’t long, however, before she found herself drawn into the midst of a loving, supportive community – and she’s never looked back.

At the Weaving the Generations weekend a couple of months ago, the Saturday evening program consisted of a panel of elders who have been part of this community for generations. They had been asked to consider what pearls of wisdom they might pass on to the next generation. Girija was inspired to continue her reflections in writing, and brings us “Deathbed Reflections”. Good advice about living our intentions, our wisdom, every day.

May we be filled with loving kindness,
May we be well,
May we be peaceful and at ease,
May we be happy.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shantii,

Satsang – Keeping the Company of Truth Seekers

We generally think of satsang as the gatherings where we get together and sing. It is that – and it is more than that. The word satsang refers to both the formal gatherings we hold, when we sing and meditate together, and to our spiritual community, our spiritual family.

Satsang is like a boat in which all passengers are carried away together to their destination. To a boat, no passenger ranks higher or lower. Similarly the teachings of satsang are equal to all. Singing God’s name together, chanting prayers together, performing spiritual rituals together – all of these activities are conducive to our spiritual development.

Sat means Truth. Satsang means being in the company of spiritually minded people seeking Truth.

Our minds are deeply affected by the people with whom we associate.

It is natural for people to gravitate toward people who radiate peace, compassion, love and truth. In the company of such people we are inspired and our own seeds of peace sprout. When we associate with people who live virtuous lives we find that we begin to live more virtuous lives.

A cotton thread can cut an iron bar if passed over it daily. If you work on yoga, yoga will work on you.

I hope you enjoy these satsang photos from Dharma Sara’s early years (1975-1995).

1975 – satsang on the rocks: Sudarshan, Sharada, Soma, Sanatan, Anuradha, Ravi Dass, Aparna, Daya, Lalita, Keshav

This was several years before we began the search for land. This photo was from a gathering at Belcarra Park near Deep Cove in North Vancouver where a couple of satsang families lived. A group of us spent the day there, complete with satsang, sauna and dinner.

1975 – Soma, Sharada, Karuna (and one person whose name I don’t remember)

This photo was taken at the raspberry farm in Abbotsford, BC where a few satang families lived. Every Sunday we gathered there for satsang , singing and spending time together.

1977 Oyama Retreat – Babaji teaching hand mudras

The first yoga retreat was held in 1975 at a camp in White Rock, BC. During the next few summers we held our retreats at a camp in Oyama BC in the Okanagan. Some people you may recognize in the above photo are BND, Mandira and Kalpana.

1982 – first retreat at the Centre – Badri Dass, Shyam (choosing a candy), Babaji

satsang during the annual yoga retreat in 1986

1991 – Sampad and Divakar with Babaji

Joel and Babaji, 1992

satang 1993 – men’s side – Madhav, Om PK, Ramesh, Divakar

satsang 1993 – women’s side – Anuradha, Mayana, Kishori, Anapurna, Bhavani S., Sharada, Chanchala,
Chandra Kala, Bhavani C.

1993 – kids getting candy from Babaji

satsang 1995 – Mark, Ashwin, Purna, Madhav

satsang 1995 – Karuna, Anuradha, Rajani, Mayana, Pratibha, Nayana, Radhika

For many years we were blessed with Babaji’s presence at our annual yoga retreats. Although it’s been a few years since he’s been here, his presence is everywhere on the land. Sunday satsang, Wednesday evening kirtan, ACYR (Annual Community Yoga Retreat), YTT (Yoga Teacher Training) and YSSI (Yoga Service and Study Immersion) continue to strengthen our spiritual foundation and spread the love and the joy of being together as a spiritual family.

Here’s one more photo of spontaneous kirtan on the mound at last year’s ACYR.

Madhav, Kishori, Radha, Harreson, Brian, Raven, Anuradha

Please join us for satsang if you can. If you live in the Vancouver area, you can connect with the satsang community there. Wherever you are, the song commonly known as the wedding song reminds us that “Whenever two or more of you are gathered in His name, there is Love.”

Jai Gurudev!

Contributed by Sharada
All text in italics is from writings by Baba Hari Dass


Sharada-Portrait-2016 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.

Deathbed Reflections

Hello fellow yogis,

My experience at Weaving Generations Weekend last month, November, 2016, was both well organized and inspirational. Although many meetings have transpired over the years, there is always a scent of a fresh and invigorating breeze that has the potential to let the sails up and navigate a new course.

Saturday night, a panel discussion took place on the topic of Deathbed Wisdom. The panel – Sudharshan , Chandra, Raghunath and myself – were presented as The Elders. Each reflected with drops of seriousness, and a good flow of humor, sharing any words of wisdom from our collective deathbed. Once I rose from the dead, I simply wished to reflect further on the subject.

Deathbed Wisdom speaks to me of a finale, my nearing a final moment when a morsel of insight, should I have any, be passed on. If that is the case then I believe I have missed the whole point of Yoga and the teachings. To think, in my maturing age, what inspirational tidbits I should pass on would feel as though I have not heeded Babaji’s words, nor those of the great sages and saints. As an Elder I believe I should be thinking of the Now and how I can share today. Giving wisdom through my actions at every moment is what the teachings have taught me. How can I love, how can I give, how may I care for others while attaining true Yoga? To think ahead to what I will share for my Deathbed Wisdom will surely make me miss an opportunity today.

We saw this way of wisdom, sharing in Babaji’s grace every day. We never had to wait for his Deathbed Wisdom. He was living it every second – as I must also try to do.

I would like to reframe the question by asking, “When I get out of bed today, what wisdom can I share through my actions and thoughts? I need only to think of Baba Hari Dass.

“Unconditional love is universal love.
Universal love is the nature of God.
One who is established in unconditional love has found God”
~ Baba Hari Dass

“If you live joyfully till the last moment you won’t have to worry about death – that will also be a joyful process.”
~ Sadhguru


Ayurvedic Massage Therapist, Ayurvedic researcher and educator
Iridologist, Herbalist, Marine Engineer (recently retired )
Disciple of Baba Hari Dass. Member of the Dharma Sara Satsang Society, BC, Canada

Ayurvedic Oil Pulling (aka Gandusha)

You may have heard about Oil Pulling; it’s become quite the new fashion in some circles! It’s something of an unusual practice, especially the first time you do it, but after trying it once, I was hooked! It gives the mouth not a feeling of freshness, but also has a soothing effect on the whole oral cavity.

Basically, it’s quite simple: swish some sesame or coconut oil around in your mouth for 10-15 minutes, and then spit it out! But coming from the ancient art of Ayurvedic cleansing, you can imagine there’s more to it than that!!

Oil pulling is an ancient, time-tested practice and part of one’s dinacharya (daily practices for health maintenance) in Ayurveda. Nasal cleansing (jal neti) is an example of dinacharya practice that is familiar to many of us from the yoga system. Many of the dinacharya involve oiling – self-massage with warm oil, the use of ghee in cooking, and lubrication of the nasal passages in the practice of nasya. As you know, oil is widely used in Ayurveda both to reduce the vata dosha, and to cleanse and to strengthen various tissues in the body – skin, ears, sinuses, and mouth.

As a cleansing agent, oil pulls toxins from the soft tissue in the mouth; it strengthens the teeth and gum tissue, and refreshes the breath. The practice can be done before or after brushing, flossing and tongue scraping, or you can swish while showering.

Method – How to Practice Oil Pulling

Sesame and coconut oil are the recommended choices of oil. Make sure the oil is organic, cold-pressed, and preferably raw or unrefined. Some practitioners advocate the use of a combination of sesame and coconut oil with a little added turmeric for the most reliable benefits.

Coconut oil has a cooling effect so is most appropriate in warm weather, but if you tend to be over-heated even in winter, feel free to use it then. Sesame oil is warming, so for most of us, it’s the best choice during the cooler seasons of the year.

As mentioned above, you can do this first thing in the morning, before or after brushing and flossing, or any time of day to freshen the breath!

Start by taking 1-2 teaspoons and swishing it gently through your teeth and around the mouth. You can then build up to 1-2 tablespoons as the muscles, nerves and blood vessels in the tongue build up strength. Swish and/or gargle the oil in the mouth for about 10-15 minutes.

Never swallow the oil! As it becomes more fluid, it is easier to swish. When you feel like spitting, do so, noticing the change in the color and texture of the oil. Then rinse your mouth well to flush toxins and bacteria from the area.

After this practice, drink a glass of warm water.

How it Works

Named for the cleansing effect that oils have when applied to the skin, this process uses lipophilic oils, meaning they attract other oils and fat soluble toxins, and act to pull them out from any surface where oil placed. This amazing property to chelate or pull toxins has been employed for centuries during classical Ayurvedic detoxification therapies, such as panch karma.

Over time, oil pulling firms up the gum tissue and removes acids and plaque from the teeth, according to clinical experience and studies. Also, it’s said to gradually whiten your teeth.

In a healthy mouth, certain microbes play a critical role in upper respiratory health, breath smell, healthy gums and teeth and the first immune response for the entire body.
Microbes that contribute to tooth decay and a harmful yeast bacteria seem to flourish in the mouth – particularly in the presence of sugars and starches. These bad bacteria and fungi, when allowed to flourish, can cause a number of health concerns throughout the body.

Oil pulling has been shown to create a saponification or detergent effect that deters bad bacteria and plaque, while supporting healthy gum tissue as a barrier against bacterial exposure to the bloodstream.

Dr. John Douillard has reported on studies that show oil pulling to affect the level of microbial activity in the mouth. He says that supporting a healthy microbial population in the mouth limits the proliferation of sulfur-producing bacteria that cause bad breath! Other studies show that neglected oral hygiene has been linked to poor cognitive function, and risk of heart and artery health concerns in the elderly.

Your New Mouthwash

Basically the proof is in the swishing. Give it a try tomorrow morning as part of your New Year’s resolutions and see what you think. And after a few weeks of regular practice, notice your fresher breath, your brighter smile and, perhaps, a whole new outlook on life! Happy swishing!

~Pratibha Queen

Pratibha Queen

Pratibha Queen

Pratibha Queen is an Ashtanga Yoga instructor and Ayurvedic practitioner who lives in Santa Cruz. She is a member of DSS who attends Salt Spring Centre of Yoga retreats on a regular basis. All quotes above are from the writings of Baba Hari Dass.

Coconut oil photo by Sunny Mama (creative commons license)

Finding Community – Aneeta

When I first arrived at the Centre in 2010, I remember seeing the large green house from the top of the gravel path, foreign and strange to me then. It was early September in 2010, the land was quiet and nobody was around. I saw a wheel barrow and several clothes lines upon which hung aprons and tie dye t shirts…. I remember thinking: What have I gotten myself in to?

My first time wandering around the centre, I stop by Mother Mary, 2010

My 6 years of study at UBC had just ended and I was cut loose into the world. I felt full of dread in those days, with doubts about my use to society. I felt so lost. A series of serendipitous events led me to the Centre. Still, a part of me worried that I had made a mistake and that I should really be at home, working on resumes and trying to get a foot into some proverbial door in this “real world” people warn you about. Two weeks after my arrival, I was working on the farm, singing in the hammock, playing and laughing with my friends, and going about my day to day business with a deeper confidence than I was used to. I felt quite found. And nothing had ever felt more real than this world I was in.

Going on a hike with my Saltspring family

Taking a break from moving hay bales

When I think back to what it was that found me that brought me back to myself during that disorienting year, I realize it was community. Community, and a loving, mindful community at that, had not been part of my earlier experience. I grew up as a religious and ethnic minority in Pakistan, and then moved to Canada as a child, once again a minority. I lived with a slight sense of aloofness to hold me just a little apart from any communities that I happened upon, because I never felt fully accepted or understood.

I believed that it was in my fate to never quite fit. When I arrived at the Centre, I remember thinking, I’ll just learn my yoga and do my own thing, and go. But the Centre would not let me continue the way I had been living: in avoidance of belonging. Within days I begin to realize how much I was longing for community, and I only recognized this after I was embraced into it. Morning breakfast was such a joy, and circle check-ins and gatherings, a new experience. I sensed that I was accepted as I was. Celebrated even! It was new, and exhilarating to feel that exactly how I was, at any given moment, was perfectly permissible and good. People trusted in me. They noticed my presence and my absence. And most of all, they loved me. And this in itself was the biggest healing. I could then love myself more fully. What a gift!

NVC meeting at Sharada’s house

Late night in the dining room with Shayam, Tomoko, and Holger

My sense of spirituality growing up in Pakistan, was mostly taught to me by my mother. My family is officially Parsi / Zoroastrian, but my mother took me everywhere; we went to the aagyari (the parsi temple), Hindu temples, various shrines, mosques, and churches. At these holy places, often I would see very poor and ill people sitting outside. They tended to congregate there because there was a greater chance for being fed. My young heart would break, and inside of those holy places my mother taught me to channel that sadness into a cultivation of love. In the various temples and churches, I saw that there were many different faces of god, and felt the presence of spirit and the divine everywhere. Coming to the centre was a continuation and deepening of this, in a community. Babaji’s teaching about loving one another touched me deeply. I could sense the undiscriminating love in his face, in the portraits that hang in the Satsang room, and felt warmed by it. Spirituality was in the air, in the forest, in the honest moments with friends, the gentleness and wisdom of the founding members, and in the early morning asana practice I would do in the yurt.

My parsi navjote (initiation ceremony) in Pakistan

Being supported at the centre, my angsty mind settled and cleared. I decided to pursue 4 further years of education to become a counselling psychologist. Every day at work, I have the privilege of being present with people, accompanying them through changes and challenges, and sometimes great pain and suffering. When I feel depleted or in need of hope, I think of the people at the Centre and the land, and am reminded of the peace and love that is abundant in us. I try, every day, to see each person that comes into my office as whole, and full of the potential to be well, resilient, loved and loving. More than anything I have learned to do as a counsellor, my spiritual path has taught me to love my clients and to trust that they are whole. This love and regard was something I received at the centre in 2010. Now I am learning to give it without discrimination or fear.

The centre is a guiding light for me, and I believe, for our larger community. As the US elections of 2016 yielded upsetting results, I started to become more aware of my duty as an individual blessed with this community. We have spiritual health, peace, and support, and this allows us to be well, free from the toxicity of prolonged hate, anger, fear and disconnection. As we all move forward in this political climate, I see a need to speak out more, to use the support we have to reach into the darker spaces. As Alt Right groups begin to take more risks in the Lower Mainland, spreading fear, racist propaganda, and hate, any remaining sense of aloofness that I once felt, is dissipating. I am starting to see this city, country and world as my community, and I hope I will be able to use what I have cultivated to resist and, in small ways, change this increasingly fear-based climate. Knowing that the Centre exists gives me hope and strength. My gratitude for everyone who enriches the centre with their presence and work is deep. The centre is my touchstone, my Satsang. And I hope it will continue to be, through my life.

Me and my dear friend Johanna, whom I met at the centre, enjoying the first snow