Happy 2018! News from the Centre

Hello everyone, and happy new year,

While we have much to be grateful for, we know these are challenging times for many people all over the world. As we watch the news it’s easy to be pulled into disturbing stories and react to them. We want to stay informed and engaged, yet to keep our balance and sanity, we need to remember our aim. Babaji says: Be humble and seek for divine grace. Don’t get agitated by things you don’t like, don’t get attached to things you like. Sit in peace within and without. This peace is the divine light. Keep a calm mind and contemplate the divine light.

The Centre’s residential community will begin to grow again this month as karma yogis who have been travelling return to the Centre. Welcome back to winter to those who have been visiting warmer places.

Since you will receive this email at the beginning of January, our New Year celebration will already have happened. At this writing, though, we’re looking forward to bringing in the New Year with prayer and kirtan. We continue to send our gratitude and love to Babaji, and we also send our love and healing prayers to to Keiko, our fabulous graphic designer, whose mum recently passed away.

Lettuces in our winter hoop-house!

A corner of the farm in the winter

Last day of school before the holidays

Although the weather is cold (and currently snowy), we are still enjoying food from the garden. The winter squash is sweet, the greens (even lettuce!) growing in the greenhouse (aka hoop-house) are delicious, and the canning and preserving done during harvest time add to the deliciousness of our meals. The inspired bread bakers in the community have kept the bread basket full.

On the horizon…

Join our community

Are you interested in becoming part of a spiritual community and deepening your understanding and practice of yoga? If so, our upcoming Residential Karma Yoga Program may be for you!

Our Program will offer opportunities for:

  • Sadhana
    – Instruction in asana, pranayama and meditation
    – Theory classes on the many paths of yoga
  • Seva
    – Helping to provide a sanctuary for personal and spiritual development here at the Centre
    – Serving within our organic farm, kitchen, maintenance, housekeeping and landscaping areas.
  • Satsang
    – Dedicated time for gatherings and community development
    – Living, working and practicing in a supportive environment with like-minded individuals

We will start accepting applications early in January for our April 2018 intake. The program will run in 10 week sessions. Check our website for more details!

Stay tuned for new website

Our updated website will be up soon, making it easier to find the information you’re looking for.

*New* Winter Yoga Getaways

Although our popular Yoga Getaways have generally not begun till spring, this year they begin in winter, the first two coming up shortly: January 19-21 and February 9-11. After a quiet December, life at the Centre is about to power up.

In this month’s Newsletter

As part of the Our Centre Community series, meet Marianne Butler. Here she tells the story of her journey from anxiety, movement, and addiction to work, to deliberate lifestyle changes leading to yoga and finding balance, finding herself.

Places like the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga are keepers of the light that support us in our aim of finding peace and living in harmony with life. The ancient Vedic prayer beginning with the words “Common be our prayer” reminds us that we all share the same longing for happiness and peace, although we may express that longing in unskillful ways. What is it that keeps us apart when what we really want is love and belonging?

Always remember your aim, which is to attain peace (God).
Develop good qualities in your actions and thoughts, such as honesty, compassion, and love.
Be nonviolent.

May this year bring us together in love and harmony.

Love,
Sharada

Common be our Prayer

Living in harmony with each other

Common be our prayer
Common be our end
Common be our purpose
Common be our deliberations
Common be our desires
Unified be our hearts
United be our intentions
And perfect be the union amongst us

This ancient prayer from the Vedas points us in the direction of peace and harmony.

Although differences between people can create separation, deep down we all want the same thing. Everyone wants to be happy. Where we get stuck is that we have different ways of getting there, and that’s where disagreements arise. What if we could recognize what unifies us rather than what divides us?

I read a story about a woman who was playing with her two grandchildren, a little boy of four and his six year old sister. She had made a tent with a blanket strung over a couple of chairs, and all three of them climbed in with a basket of toys. The 4-year old pulled a red paper heart out of the basket and said, “This is mine!” His 6-year old sister said, “No it’s not! I made it, so it’s mine!” “Yeah, but I found it so it’s mine!” In an inspired moment, their grandmother said, “Looks like we have a dilemma. Do you want to play the solutions game?” Neither of the children knew what the word ‘dilemma’ meant, but they were intrigued by the idea of a game.

The game is simple: Each of the kids gets a turn to propose a solution, with the grandmother orchestrating the turns. The game, however, can end only when they come up with a solution that works for both of them.

Little brother went first: “I found it and I’m going to keep it!” Grandma asked him, “Is that your solution?” YES! “Okay, let’s see if that solution works for your sister.” Turning to big sister, she repeated little brother’s solution and asked, “Does that solution work for you?” NO! Then grandma asked, “Do you have a solution?” Same kind of response: “I should have it because I made it.” Their wise and patient grandma asked, “Is that your solution?” Yes. “Well, let’s see if that works for your brother.” At this point little brother was holding the paper heart in front of him with both hands, ready to tear it in two. Grandma: “Is your solution to tear it into two pieces and give one half to each of you?” Little brother grinned and nodded YES. At this point big sister was also laughing, so grandma asked if that solution worked for her. YES! So simple. I wish it were so simple for adults.

It’s not always so simple for children either; it helps to have a wise guide. A few years ago I brought several puppets to the Centre School’s kindergarten class to help resolve some issues that had arisen. The puppets had problems with each other, so we played the solutions game, with the children proposing solutions. It didn’t take long before they found solutions that worked for the puppets who had the dilemma. Later in the day, the kindergarten teacher overheard children saying to each other, “We have a dilemma. Let’s play the solutions game.”

What is it that keeps you and others apart? What is it you both long for? Chances are you want the same thing. That thing isn’t really a thing; it’s more like what’s most important to you? What, if it were present, would bring you into harmony?

Here are a few guidelines from Babaji to help us navigate the path to unity and harmony:

To find fault with others becomes a habit. But if we are capable of finding our own faults in everyday activities, we can really progress. In fact, what we see in others are our own weaknesses and faults. Everyone becomes everyone else’s mirror but we don’t want to accept our own faults, so we do not use these mirrors to improve ourselves.

Express love and kindness in your words and actions in dealing with others.

Look for good qualities in others rather than looking for their shortcomings.

The flow of energy in the body is blocked when the mind indulges in anger, hatred and selfishness. Keep your mind pure and you will see how easily the energy moves.

Thich Nhat Hanh says, “When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well you don’t blame the lettuce. You look into the reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or our family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them they will grow well, like lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and arguments. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no arguments, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that your understand, you can love, and the situation will change.

Always remember your aim, which is to attain peace (God).
Develop good qualities in your actions and thoughts, such as honesty, compassion, and love.
Be nonviolent.

Cultivate a sympathetic heart, humility in dealings and selflessness in actions. If these are practiced with earnestness and sincerity, then you will win the game of life.

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.

A Story

A Story

by Marianne Butler

The view from my bedroom window, 2017

Today is the winter solstice. My thirty-fifth winter in this life, my fourth on Salt Spring Island. How did I end up here?

View from the top of the 108 steps in my home town, Macclesfield.

I was born and bred in the north-west of England, living with my parents and sister in Macclesfield -’silk town’ – until I began university in 2001. My childhood environment left me with strong legs, much resilience to rain and a prejudice against wealthy people. I don’t remember it as a happy time. I do remember feeling free when I was walking – especially in the hills. I remember feeling peace when I was drawing with a torch, bunkered-in behind my wardrobe. I remember finding endless satisfaction in organising nik-naks into tiny boxes, colour-coordinating clothes and re-arranging ornaments on shelves. I frequently had migraines and abstract nightmares which I still haven’t found the words to describe. I experienced daily anxiety around eating and socialising, avoiding both wherever possible. I remember being repeatedly tripped-out by the concept that I was this person with this name in this body.

My older sister, Jayne, my Mum, Linda and little Me in our kitchen in Macclesfield, 1983

Like many teenagers of the 90’s I heard about Yoga via the mediums of Sting and Madonna. By then I was obsessed with movement, dreaming of being a dancer or an aerobics teacher, and practicing pilates from library books. Life had become much more manageable for me since I started secondary school and my Mum stopped pushing me to have friends or eat hot meals. In fact, I forged a few deep friendships then with people who are still among the best I know. The natural desire for acceptance arose in me. I stopped resisting life and became overall much more light hearted. Key memories from this time include my friends and I being begged to stop singing in class by our Maths teacher, re-enacting hollywood witchcraft in the park, and very intentionally training ourselves to drink strong black coffee.

Me, front centre, with my secondary school form group, 1994

When I was 14 I got my 1st steady job, cleaning hotel rooms for £1.50 per hour. I loved it and spent most of my free-time budgeting to buy pretty things and sugary drinks. That year I also read the first book that made me feel the tingle of truth: In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat.

When I turned 17 my Mum told me there was £100 put aside for me to start driving lessons if I wanted. I hated cars and I wanted to be thin. I chose to spend the money on a 12-month gym membership. Over the years that followed it became obvious to me that when I exercised regularly I was happy and motivated, and when I didn’t I was depressed. I vowed to make my body strong and to enjoy it, rather than condemning it for not looking good enough.

My A-Level physics teacher told me that I could breeze an engineering career, because I was a woman. He also told me I should follow my heart. I felt the sentiment of that statement, but I didn’t know what it meant. I was baffled about how to choose a career. Coming to the conclusion that the purpose of University was to expand one’s mind, I opted to study humanities, enrolling in a Visual Culture Degree at the beautiful and prestigious University of Nottingham. I remember taking a bus to see my sister in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne shortly prior to this, and catching a glimpse of the Angel of the North. I was moved to the core by that sculpture, and I think I wanted to understand how Art worked. Two years later I left Nottingham and enrolled in Art college in Newcastle.

A glimpse of powerful beauty in Anthony Gormley’s sculpture

After much academic wriggling around, funded by bar-work and fuelled by tea and gin, I eventually graduated with a BA in History of Modern Art & Design. In my undergraduate dissertation I wove together theories of water, memorial, hyper-reality, myth and quantum mechanics. It was well received and I felt somewhat satisfied to have reconciled my thoughts on life. I also felt pretty disillusioned with academia, disappointed in the secondary education system, and more resolutely convicted to the truth to be found in visual beauty. I felt pretty sure I wanted to become an Art teacher.

Me with my Nanna, Lily, a lighthearted woman with sparkly blue eyes, 2006

Fast forward to 2006, I found myself teaching English in South Korea. Desperation during my first month there led me to read a book left behind by the previous teacher: Chicken Soup for the Soul. The penny dropped for me. I couldn’t feel peace if I was struggling day to day in a role which I didn’t enjoy. I needed to align my life direction to a more natural path. It was that year that I learned what introversion is, on an online forum for teachers. More pennies dropped. I vowed to honour my physiological need for quiet.

A fun visit to a Buddhist monastery in South Korea

Life in Korea evolved into a really fun one. Two Canadian women in particular became my good friends. A seed was planted. In a year of teaching English, I saved enough money to buy a laptop and an online certificate course in Web Design. I started the course the day after I returned to the UK, and completed it during various stints of living in Australia and Asia. In 2009, I started a New Media internship in London. The years that followed saw much professional wriggling around, fuelled by coffee and cigarettes, offset by a growing Yoga habit.

Me with some digital team-mates in East London, 2011

I lived happy and busy years in London. I filled my days with work which sent me right into the flow state, spent my evenings learning from amazing Yoga teachers, and my weekends visiting galleries with friends. In 2012 I started an MA in Graphic Design, and began to research Movement Visualisation. I fell in love with the work of Rudolf Laban and was delighted in its applicability to Yoga. At this point I was practicing pranayama and asana six or seven days a week, with occasional kirtan, trekking all over the city to access different classes. I was inspired and motivated. I had a found a movement practice, and a framework for describing it, which seemed to offer an endless resource of joy.

Me with some friends in a fun cafe in North London, 2012

By the beginning of 2013, I was recognising signs of exhaustion. Over-worked, under-nourished and hyper-sensitive, my nervous system was breaking down. So, 29 years old, tired and overwhelmed, I retreated to the North East with the intention of building a less stressful life on the coast near Newcastle. Later that year I fainted in a meditation class. Unfortunately it was a standing meditation, on a concrete floor. I fell like a tree, and face-first.

My hearts home, Northumberland coast, 2013

Fast forward to Spring, I’m 31. My broken jaw had healed perfectly and my asana practice was stronger than ever. I was also the loneliest I’d ever been. Heavy hearted and desperate to be saved. I had read enough about Yoga to know what was going on. So, I stopped choosing wine and chocolate. I started meditating every day. I journaled relentlessly, researched volunteer Yoga opportunities, and a plan emerged.

At the end of May 2014, having secured a working holiday visa, I flew to Vancouver, spending two jet-lagged days in the city before catching the ferry to Long Harbour to begin YSSI at the Salt Spring Centre. I hoped to find a strict yoga program, the company of kindred spirits, perhaps a way to heal my addiction to work. I was most excited about sleeping outside for three months. I wanted to rest and focus and prepare myself for the Yoga Teacher Training which I was intending to embark on in the Fall. I must’ve loved that summer because I ended up extending my stay, ultimately taking a year long position as Programs Coordinator.

Hugasana: Olivia and I blissed out after Leslie Ormiston’s beautiful class, ACYR 2014

During my time in YSSI I remember feeling long moments of bliss, and of peace. Wednesday kirtan and Sunday Satsang were pretty electric that year, and I had fun experiences of all kinds. There were too many gems to mention, but my favourite practice from the Centre was that of the hand mudra sequences. Perhaps what really captured my heart for so long was the inspiration I found in the lives of the residents and elders. It seemed that everywhere I looked were sparkly eyes, rock solid integrity and another magical story about the 1970s. There were elements of cultural discord for me, of course. But the friends I made at the Centre, and the respect I felt for the elders, convinced me that I never wanted to leave.

Me tormenting Sita in the Mini Ramayana, ACYR 2014

I know that the philosophical teachings of SSCY have influenced me more than I know. I’ve received a lot of them via the medium of Sharada, and when they come to my mind, they are usually in her voice. My favourite is something to do with a game of golf in India, and gave me a useful ‘mantra’ for 2015: “Play the balls from where the monkeys dropped them”. That year for me was chaotic and intense. And yet, I never failed to be amazed at how profoundly peaceful most visitors would feel after just 20 hours of a Yoga Getaway. I came to understand the Centre as an arena to practice being grounded amidst the storms. A wise friend told me “if you can learn to handle the stress here, then you’ll be able to handle it in the rest of the world”.

Me being dressed as Sita for the Mini Ramayana, ACYR 2015

Well, that’s a work in progress. I’ve realised recently that I am my own monkey. Dropping golf balls all over the place, trying to pick up the thread. I’m currently completing my 3rd Yoga Teacher Training program in three years, a study which has continued to bring me back to sanity. I love movement, and that is still my primary driving force. I balance that with the stillness of Meditation. I’m grateful to SSCY and its teachers for helping to solidify (for want of a better word) my Meditation practice. I thrive on quiet, and that is still my greatest desire. I’m grateful to SSCY for giving me a beautiful way to balance that with the buzz of group kirtan singing and ceremonies.

Sue Ann and I pretending to be serious for our teacher headshot, ACYR 2015

I’m also grateful for meeting my partner, Brandon at the Centre! We’ve shared a 2.5 year adventure since the 2015 ACYR Ramayana, and he’s the reason I still live on this crazy island.

Brandon being painted Ram for the Mini Ramayana, ACYR 2015

During my years on Salt Spring, I’ve developed an increasingly deep love for my friends and family in the UK, as well as the country itself. In particular I’ve grown an understanding for my Mum, her faith and spiritual practices, and the choices she’s made because of them. Both my parents were committed Christians, and my Mum spent the past 15 years working as an Anglican Minister. I think this has also influenced me more than I know. I never liked or wanted Christianity – though I loved to sing at church as a child – its stories were so far away from my experience of truth, too figurative and dripping in patriarchy. But recently I saw, on flicking through a few books on my Mum’s shelf, that if I look past the names, the philosophy was essentially yogic.

Sita Ram dressed up for Halloween, Salt Spring, 2016

I don’t expect to stay on Salt Spring for many more years, but I suspect that SSCY will remain lodged in my heart and psyche forever, and I will cherish the moments when I cross paths with my friends and teachers from there.

A treasured snapshot of a beautiful SSCY friendship, Victoria, 2015

News from the Centre – December 2017

Hello everyone, 

December is here: the time of winter solstice, Christmas, Chanukah, and other seasonal celebrations of light; and, here in the Pacific Northwest, rain – lots of rain (except for one day of snow in early November that was gone the next day). That’s what makes this part of the world so green. November was a busy month, but December at the Centre is a quieter time. Our resident community is small, with a number of people taking this time to visit family or to travel.

lunch around the wood stove – Marta, Jessica, Sharada, Hope, Ellie, Racquel, Larry

Marta and Jessica

Om PK on the tractor

Shyam and Yogeshwar filling potholes

Larry pounding the gravel

Satsang, kirtan and full moon yajnas continue throughout the winter. You can see what else is happening on our website, our Facebook page and Instagram. And here’s a note from the IT team:

New Look in 2018

Announcing the launch of our new website!

The website has been redesigned to improve user friendliness, simplicity and appeal. In addition we have changed our colour palette to reflect the evolution of our centre and environment.

Stay tuned for our new look in 2018!

Seeking Maintenance Coordinator

We are still looking for a maintenance coordinator, so if someone you know is interested in contributing their skills while living in a spiritual community, please ask them to check the job posting online and fill in an application.

Centre School Celebrations

Moments from the Celebration of Light (photos by Jan Mangan)

Toward the end of November the Salt Spring Centre School again hosted its annual Celebration of Light (aka Advent). Usha led school families, folks from the Centre and the wider Salt Spring community in songs of light as the children walked the spiral of cedar boughs and stars to light their candles, a reminder to keep the light in our hearts burning in this dark time of year.

On December 2, the school will be hosting Winterfest at the Centre. This is a family event for the Salt Spring community, with craft tables for the children in the satsang room and a concession with delicious vegetarian lunch options and sweet goodies for sale in the dining room. If you’re on the island, and especially if you have kids, do come by.

In this month’s Newsletter

I know you will enjoy Melinda Quintero’s story, A Journey to the Centre. She writes, “I grew up in suburban Los Angeles and had a fairly uneventful childhood. I rarely made waves or strayed from the straight and narrow path. I believe the most rebellious thing I accomplished was convincing my family to allow me to go to university in New York City.” That is the beginning of a fascinating story of how life led her on many adventures, and eventually to the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga – and more, but I won’t give it away here. Read it for details and photos.

Here is a special treat for the holiday season brought to you with love from Bri and Rebecca: Sourdough Bread. This is a love story about bread baking, complete with instructions for making sourdough bread at home for your family and friends. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

In the midst of this festive – yet also sometimes dark and lonely – season, we can all use a little reminder about the gifts life has given us. Please read A Light on the Path, a reminder that we can all come home to our own true Self. Keep the lamp lit, walk on step by step. You can’t go astray, but will merge in the light.

As those following Babaji’s health updates from Hanuman Fellowship likely know, this fall season has brought a significant decline to Babajjis physical activity. For more information, please read more here.

Wishing you a joyful and peaceful holiday season.
Love,
Sharada

Nonviolence in the mind and unconditional love in the heart bring eternal peace.

Babaji Update (December 2017)

As those following Babaji’s health updates from the Hanuman Fellowship likely know, the fall has brought a significant decline to Babaji’s physical activity. He is sleeping more, eating less, and needs much rest. In his brief time awake Babaji is alert and his eyes remain kind and responsive. His physicians say this change is normal and to be expected, and they continue to comment on the excellent care that Babaji receives.

As Babaji’s health continues to decline, many of us are asking about preparations to honour him at the time of his passing. Please know that all will be informed by the website providing updates on Babaji’s health*, by email**, and by text via the Hanuman Fellowship Emergency Text*** system, in the event that Babaji leaves his body. (See below for contact information.)

There will be a number of observances at Mt. Madonna Centre following Babaji’s passing. In addition, plans are being put in place here at the Salt Spring Centre to honour Babaji with prayers and ritual observances for the 13 days following his eventual passing. These include 12 days of tarpaṇam offerings, as well as a traditional śhrãddha ritual on the 13th day after Babaji leaves his body. SSCY will also provide spaces for reflection and meditation, as well as opportunities to gather and remember Babaji and the many ways he’s touched our lives. Please check the SSCY website for further details in the event of Babaji’s passing. Jai Sītā Rām!


* visit www.babaharidass.org

** call the MMC Reception Office (408-847-0406 ext 7) or email reception@mountmadonna.org to ensure that you’re on the email list

*** text START to 831- 226-0245


 

A Light on the Path

In the midst of the busyness and turmoil of daily life, do you sometimes forget that there’s something you can do to bring more peace into your life? This is a reminder that there is a path leading to peace and freedom.

The elders/senior teachers in this community were blessed with the rare opportunity to meet a teacher, Baba Hari Dass, a master yogi, who shared with us the classical teachings and practices of yoga, providing a light on the path. The process of following this path is one of unwinding, gradually stepping out of the world we’ve created in our minds and returning to the peace and beauty that already exists within us. The teacher’s role is to guide us on this journey.

A question that always arises is: What about me? I didn’t get to meet Baba Hari Dass. Do I need a guru? Here’s Babaji’s answer: 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. A guru doesn’t teach much except how to live in the world with truthfulness, with nonviolence, and with selfless service to others.

The guru offers us wisdom teachings and practices, and it is up to us to follow them and do regular (meaning daily) sadhana, spiritual practice. Whether or not you’ve had the good fortune to meet your teacher, you still need to practice. The teachings and practices themselves are the light on the path.

All answers are inside us and we have to realize them by ourselves. When one realizes that knowledge can be attained through one’s own sadhana, one’s own Self becomes the guru. Everything becomes clear step by step.

It’s not always a straightforward path. Those of us who’ve been around for awhile have made our share of wrong turns. The trick is to look at the kinds of choices we’re making, and shift to a different route. We (all of us, including you) have sufficient wisdom to move toward Truth.

Sogyal Rinpoche, a teacher in the tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and author of the book, “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying”, asks, “Who is the outer teacher (the guru)? None other than the embodiment and voice and representative of our inner teacher. The master whose human shape and human voice and wisdom we come to love with a love deeper than any other in our lives is none other than the external manifestation of the mystery of our own inner truth.”

Faith, devotion and right aim are the three pillars that hold up the spiritual life. I don’t claim 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 on is going to clean out our garbage for us; we have to do it ourselves.

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.

Keep the lamp lt, walk on step by step. You can’t go astray, but will merge in the light.

Wish you happy and success in your search for God.

Contributed by Sharada
All text in italics 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.

A Journey to the Centre

A Journey to the Centre

by Melinda Quintero

I grew up in suburban Los Angeles and had a fairly uneventful childhood. I rarely made waves or strayed from the straight and narrow path. I believe the most rebellious thing I accomplished was convincing my family to allow me to go to university in New York City.

My father and I at 11 months old

Me at perhaps 8 years old

Nothing in my safe suburban life could have prepared me for what I would encounter there on the morning of September 11, 2001. I had moved to New York as a freshman in college just two weeks before. Nowadays, it is difficult for me to believe that I was in Manhattan that morning, trying to squeeze in just a few more minutes sleep before walking to class. My experience that day set the tone for several long and difficult years for me in New York, where the darkest shadows of humanity and myself seemed to hover around each corner. I would frequently walk to the World Trade Center site at night, climb a scaffold and stare into the gaping gash in the City’s heart. In this way, I watched the World Trade Center progress from being a pile of twisted and smoldering steel, to a bare and very deep hole, and eventually a construction site bustling with life like any other. This metamorphosis mirrored my own personal change and growth through those years. I felt that because I was in New York on that day, I carried some sort of depressing badge of honor.

During my year in Florence, Italy

Only by leaving New York could I shed some of that weight. At a certain juncture in my life, I could see my path unfold before me: Buy apartment, keep same steady job, die in same apartment. I felt there had to be another possibility. And so, I packed up my life in 2010 with plans to go to India and, quite frankly, not come back. Of course, life didn’t go quite as planned.

In university, I created major for myself combining religious studies with world literature. This allowed me to take classes on Christian theology and Indian classics, Chinese modern literature and post-colonial African politics. I was trying to look at the big spiritual questions of identity without actually having to expose my vulnerability as spiritually curious. I was continually drawn to sacred spaces in New York and on my travels in western Europe and West Africa.

Trekking in the Dogon Country of Mali

I began practicing asana thanks to the inspiration of a cubicle neighbor, who led me to the Bhakti-saturated yoga studio where I would eventually complete my yoga teacher training and join a retreat to the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar in 2010.

My first dunk in the Ganges

Requisite show-off asana photo in the Himalaya above Dharamsala, India

In New York, I was an editor for a travel guidebook publisher and worked on our Vancouver and Victoria guidebook. The book mentioned Salt Spring as a possible side trip, so I looked into it. The first time I came to Vancouver and Victoria in 2007, I regretted not being able to visit this intriguing little island. A few years later, as I was packing up my New York life, I knew that I also wanted to live in a yoga community somewhere in North America. I Googled “karma yoga Canada” and found the Salt Spring Centre. Here was my chance to finally visit Salt Spring and participate in community life. The course of my life then dramatically changed again. My stay as a KY was a mere six weeks, but within that time I became friends with my future husband, Shyam.

My first KY season—and trip to the Treehouse!

Meals on the deck at the close of the summer, Shyam and I side by side, not by accident

Shyam and I continued our friendship after my KY program ended. That friendship turned into a long-distance relationship and eventually I came back to the Centre in the winter to live with him in the Sage House before we embarked on our life together in Europe.

Visiting the Centre in the winter

I met Babaji at a Mount Madonna New Years Retreat and he gave Shyam the Jai fist-pump of approval over our relationship. Two years later we held our wedding at the Centre under the maple tree on the mound, with Sharada “officiating”. That summer, I worked as a KY for a month while simultaneously planning our wedding with my mother-in-law, Lakshmi. Shyam and I wrote our vows with Sharada, a task which proved to be one of the most difficult writing and editing projects I’d ever undertaken. One of our vows was to “honor where we met and reflect it in our home and life”.

Sharada officiated our wedding ceremony

From our wedding; as is typical, I am serious and Shyam is making fun of my seriousness

Shyam and I enjoyed nearly two years of living in Krakow, Poland, and traveling around Europe. Living together in a very foreign place, far from our main network of friends and family, was exhilarating and liberating, terrifying and trying. Our relationship was made stronger for it.

Trekking in the Polish Tatras Mountains

We moved back to the U.S. after finding out I was pregnant with our first child. After four years of living in southern California, we made the big move to Salt Spring in the summer of 2017, choosing the island, the Centre and the community as the bedrock of our life. Over the summer, we tented with our two daughters on the land for several weeks while I supported the ACYR kids’ program team and served a co-coordinator for the brand-new Family Program for retreat guests with children under three years old. The Centre community graciously welcomed our young children into the fold. My two-year-old daughter says, “All our friends live at the yoga centre.” I am lucky to be able to attend satsang and kirtan regularly, and to pitch in on work party days.

Our glowing little family

Living at the Centre during that transition out of a New York state of mind truly was a blessing. Being tasked to sweep the Satsang Room or chop leeks in the kitchen was a huge relief after years of unsatisfying city life. However, the greatest spiritual gift the Centre gave me, and that still resonates with me today, is that with all the darkness, struggle and heart-wrenching confusion in our human internal and external worlds, people still come together at the Centre to meditate, sing and serve purely because they believe that such simple things are important. No matter how dark the world seems or how far the abyss appears to stretch, the Centre endures purely because the community believes it should. The Centre holds due to the grace and energy of the people whose lives it has touched. I am thankful to be one of those people.

Sweet Sourdough Love

The Salt Spring Centre of Yoga abounds with precious gifts: the opportunity to learn and practice teachings that bring profound peace; the abundance, comfort and beauty of the land; and the unique and talented folks that it attracts. Other important gifts are the human connections that form, which can be deep and based on a shared passion and curiosity.

One such connection has been formed around a passion for homemade sourdough bread.

Although I had yet to make a loaf of sourdough bread myself, late this summer I was inspired to start my own sourdough starter. After consulting numerous websites and blogs, I found a method that worked for me. The starter was a success! Then, a marvellous thing happened; Bri, the resident sourdough bread baking yogini, offered to bake some bread together.

The first couple of loaves we baked were delicious, and quite dense. We continued to practice and noticed as the weeks went on the sourdough starter grew stronger the more we played with and used it! The enjoyment of the bread we baked, and the interest to continue to bake and perfect the loaves continued to move us forward in our experimentation.

First loaf with brand new starter

A spark had been lit and curiosity within the community grew. Many yogis wanted to take part in the experimentation process. Before she left the land embarking on a new adventure, Bri organized a playshop to share her sourdough bread making wisdom, which was a hit – several more yogini bread bakers were born!

Following is an outline of how the yogis at the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga are baking up bread to nourish our community! Feel free to join in the play by making your own loaves of sourdough bread. Keep in mind that bread culture is a vast and deep wealth of knowledge and technique. Many things affect the outcome of bread including humidity levels, altitude, temperature of the kitchen…even the baking equipment used! There are also countless bread bloggers sharing the methods that are working for them. This is the recipe we are finding works for us!

Speaking of recipes, we must give credit where credit is due. Some of the sourdough bread lovers out there will undoubtedly know of Chad Robertson and his cult status among bread lovers. We follow (for the most part) Chad Robertson’s Country Style Bread recipe from his first book, Tartine Bread. You can find this recipe online. You can find his book in the Salt Spring Island library, and if you live off island, your local library will likely carry it, too. It is worth a read as it is full of tips and tricks that he passes on to beginner bread-makers like us.

Happy baking!

Love, Bri and Rebecca

“For is there any practice less selfish, any labor less alienated, any time less wasted, than preparing something delicious and nourishing for people you love?”
Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation

Sourdough Bread

makes two loaves

Making the starter: Allow at least a week or two for this step. This was an absolute experimentation for me and I honestly combined several methods. You can try Chad’s method mentioned above or you can try other techniques such as the one I incorporated by Maurizio Leo.

Basically, start with equal parts room temperature chlorine-free water and flour – 100 grams water and 100 grams flour. Mix together with a wooden spoon (yeast does not like metal!), pour into a jar, cover lightly and place in a warm location, like on top of the fridge. Feed the starter at least once daily by discarding all but 100 grams of the starter and then add equal parts flour and water. There should be bubbles forming; the size should grow and it starts to smell and taste sour. Don’t be surprised if you start to form a strong bond with your new living starter! When your starter is strong and acting predictably, store in the fridge between bakings and feed weekly (if you are baking weekly).

Bubbly starter

Making the leaven: The night before making your bread (or 12-14hours before) mix 200 grams of flour and 200 grams water with 1 tbsp of your starter and place in a warm spot to ferment.

Bubbly and airy leaven

Float test: after rising 12-14 hours your leaven will be very airy! It should float. Test with a spoon full on leaven dropped into a bowl of room temperature water. When it floats it is ready to use. If it doesn’t float, continue to let it ferment another hour or so, and perhaps move it to warmer location.

The leaven is ready when a spoonful floats on water

Making the dough: Mix 200 grams of leaven into 700 grams of warm water. Add 600 grams of white flour with 400 grams of whole wheat flour into the water/leaven mixture. Different flours and humidity levels will change the water ratio. Start with the recommended amount and slowly add more as needed – just enough to incorporate all the flour into the bread dough! Mix together by hand. Dough at this stage should feel sticky and look unformed. Let dough sit for 30 minutes. (Keep the remaining leaven as this becomes your new starter, which you’ll feed as usual and store in the fridge until you are ready to bake again).

Hope mixing in the leaven.

Sticky unformed dough

Adding the salt mixture: Dissolve 20 grams sea salt into 50 grams warm water. Mix into dough by hand. Don’t be afraid to really incorporate it by squishing and squeezing the dough. Get your play on! Adding salt after a 30 minute rest period allows for the flour to absorb all the water. After adding the salt let the dough sit another 30 minutes.

Measure out your ingredients with a kitchen scale to ensure accuracy.

Mixing the salt into the dough, by hand.

Folding the dough: By this stage the dough will start taking form. It is amazing how quickly this happens. With a wet hand reach under the dough and gently hold the edge at one of its corners. Then stretch it up, and fold it over the rest of dough. Repeat this three more times on each corner of the dough. Flip the dough so the fold seams are on the bottom. Let the dough sit at least 30 minutes before your next fold. It is best to continue this process for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or 4 to 6 more times. Notice how the bread dough continues to change and hold its shape! Notice the texture and how the dough easily peels off the bin, if it is sticky or not. Getting to know your dough in this way will only improve your bread in time.

Marta folding the dough.

Marquis folding the dough.

Notice the different consistency of the dough from the first mixing.

Shaping the dough: Transfer dough to a surface, sprinkle the top of your dough with flour and cut into two equal pieces. We love using a bench scraper for cutting and shaping. This handy little tool is worth picking up if you plan on making bread often. Working with one piece at a time, flip the dough over so the floured side is on the bottom. As before, fold the dough onto itself by stretching up the corners. Ensure that the floured surface stays on the outside. Flip the dough over (fold seams down) and shape into a round by spinning and shaping with the bench scraper.

Cut dough into two. This recipe makes two loaves.

Bri shaping the loaves.

Shape the rounds by spinning the dough while you slide the scraper under the bottom.

R-L: Jess, Kaori, Ellie and Rebecca having fun making bread at the playshop.

Proofing the dough: Line two bowls or proofing baskets with a tea towel and dust with flour. We use a blend of wheat flour and rice flour mixture at this stage. Any flour works at this stage and rice flour helps to make your crust really beautiful. We just grind up white rice in our Vitamix. Let dough sit for three to four hours in a warm spot.

Loaves resting in the proofing bowls.

Baking the dough: Place two cast iron pots with lids into the oven and heat to 500F for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the pots from oven and place the dough into them. Use a sharp knife or razor to score the top of the loaves. Place the loaves into the pots, reduce the oven temperature to 450 and bake for 20- 25 minutes with lid on, until the crust is just starting to turn brown, then continue baking 20 minutes without the lid until the bread turns a beautiful dark golden brown. Remove from oven and cool the loaves. Listen to the symphony of sound that the crust creates. Cut into quarters for slicing and share with the people you love.

Scoring the top of the dough just before it goes in to bake.

Gorgeous sourdough loaf.

Some extra notes: We love following Chad’s basic bread recipe, and it is very time consuming! There are countless other sourdough recipes out there that take way less time to prepare. Find one that suits your lifestyle needs. Sourdough bread is really delicious and it is the most nutritious way to consume gluten. There are many bloggers out there manipulating Chad’s recipe to make for quicker bread with the same results. Before Bri left we tried making bread by making folds every 10 minutes for up to 4 turns, with a 24 hour rest period in the fridge as our bulk fermentation. Then we let the dough come to room temperature (about an hour) and continued on in the regular steps. This seemed to work well!
Lately the bread yogis have been getting creative! Adding olives, fruit and nuts…even making cinnamon buns! The play and learning never ends!

Sourdough can be used for cinnamon rolls, and even makes a delicious pizza crust.

News from the Centre – November 2017

Hello everyone,

At this chilly time of year we are still being treated to sunny days (alternating with rain). Here are some photos of apples just before harvesting and flowers still abloom – but not for long.

While we’re on the subject of the garden, here’s…

Milo’s farm update:

What a gift those soaking rains have been! Our irrigation has been tucked away in preparation for hard frosts to come and the fields are harvested of their bounty. The Food Forest was planted in a fantastic flurry by a group of wonderful volunteers. Trees and shrubs stretched across nearly two acres are settling in for the winter and will be off to a flying start come Spring. I hope ya’ll like raspberries! Lots of time spent on the tractor these days as I finish up a few tiny ponds for critter habitat and water retention as well as a series of paddies for rice trials and small grain production!

Our minds and hearts now look forward rainy days and a cozy winter of rest and contemplation. (Come on by for a cup of tea.) So many lessons learned this year. Thank you all for the support and smiles; it’s been a wonderful ride. Onward.

Seth and Martin – work party cleanup

Milo and Yogeshwar bringing in the apples

Sunflower seed heads

Squash galore

 

Much of the farm abundance has been transformed into treats for the winter by the ‘processing team’. Here are a few of their yummy creations to date: applesauce, pear sauce, apple and pear butter and jam, salsa verde (made from green tomatoes), green ketchup (really!), and hot sauce.

Salsa verde and green ketchup!

We had a wonderful Diwali celebration in the yurt a couple of weeks ago. Diwali is the celebration of the return of Rama and Sita to Ayodhya. Rama (universal consciousness) and Sita (individual consciousness) are reunited at the end of the Ramayana performances that we’ve done over the years, with the help of Hanuman, the embodiment of devotion and selfless service. Together, they return to the kingdom of Ayodhya where the people in the city light their way with candles. In Salt Spring’s version, we place tea lights in paper boats and float them in large bowls of water. We used to do it outside, but after getting rained out a number of times, we decided it would be lovely to be in a warm and cosy space.

Diwali celebrations

As always, kirtan continues on Wednesday evening as does satsang every Sunday afternoon. Sunday evening has become yoga sutra study time, with Yogeshwar teaching this weekly class. If you happen to be on the island you’re welcome to attend any or all of them. There are also ongoing classes for the karma yogis at the Centre. In recent weeks, Usha led a class about the history of the land and Dan Jason taught a class about seed saving and food security. Om PK led us in an Ed Camp, an opportunity to share and brainstorm ideas, and we also spent an afternoon making prayer flags.

Our prayer flags

In the midst of all this fun, cooking, cleaning and outdoor work continues.

Racquel, Olga, Kaori under the mighty maple on the mound

New Opportunity: Maintenance Coordinator

At this time we are looking for a Maintenance Coordinator to join the karma yoga resident community. If you or someone you know has maintenance skills and experience and is intrigued with the idea of doing that work in a spiritual community, please check the posting on our website.

Seasonal Celebrations at the Centre School

The Salt Spring Centre School hosted their annual pumpkin walk at the school the evening before Halloween. Parents and community members joined the kids to walk the trail and see all the lit-up jack-o-lanterns carved by kids and parents, and vote on them in categories ranging from cutest to scariest.

At 6:00 pm on November 28, Usha will lead the school community, the Centre community and guests in the annual Celebration of Light (aka Advent). Each child, from youngest to oldest (including former students who come back to celebrate with us), walks a spiral of cedar boughs and stars while carrying an apple with a candle in it. In the middle of the spiral they light their candle from the candle in the centre before proceeding back through the spiral to place their apple and lit candle on one of the trays around the circle. While this is happening, everyone is singing songs of light from various traditions, led by Usha who has done this every year since the beginnings of the Salt Spring Centre School. It is a beautiful and uplifting event.

Upcoming Programs

On the weekend of November 24 – 26, Chetna will be teaching Yoga for Cancer, an experiential workshop for yoga teachers. This workshop is approved for continuing education credits through Yoga Alliance and is approved for 17 elective credits towards Mount Madonna Center’s YTT 500hr training.

This Month’s Newsletter Offerings

Here are a couple of articles for your enjoyment.

Continuing the series about people in our centre community, this month I’m pleased to introduce you to Racquel Marshall, someone you may have spoken with on the phone if you’ve called the office to register for a program or ask about the Centre. Racquel, our office manager, keeps things running smoothly in the office and is an active part of our residential community. Through her many adventures – beginning in India, with a number of years in Dubai and various other places – she found our community. I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading “Higher Love” and seeing the photos of her adventures.

Spiritual teachers regularly remind us that peace can only be found in the present, yet how often are we really present? It’s so tempting to fantasize about how we’ll get it all together…..someday, or getting stuck in a reaction to something that happened in the past.  “Choosing Peace”  offers some gentle suggestions to support us in coming back to this moment, the only moment in which true peace is possible.

Also in this edition, here are some “Questions and Answers with Babaji”. These particular questions and answers come from a 1994 edition of this newsletter, long before it was delivered electronically. A number of years later someone asked Babaji whether the quality of our questions had improved over the years; he replied, “Same questions, same answers.”

As soon as a person starts thinking, “I want to be a better person,” that is the start of yoga.

With wishes for a peaceful autumn and a warm entry into winter,
Love,
Sharada

Choosing Peace

Most of us spend a lot of time dreaming about the future. Sometimes we fantasize that at some point in the future we’ll have it all together, we’ll have what we want, and we’ll finally be able to relax and be happy.

I’m sorry to spoil the dream, but remember that this is a fantasy. You will never manage to arrange things so that you get all the things you want and avoid all the things you don’t want. The game is rigged.

It never works. You can’t find happiness in outer objects because everything is changing, mortal, and unreal.

The good news is that you can do something about it – not by rearranging your life, but by and adjusting how you respond to life. Babaji calls this changing the angle of the mind.

What do you find yourself dwelling on? Notice if those thoughts bring you peace or agitation and dissatisfaction. When you watch the habits of the mind, you may find they tend to revolve around what’s not right, what’s not working. Once you notice, you have a choice. If you find you fall down the same rabbit hole over and over again, you can choose a different route.

Our habitual responses are so familiar that there’s almost a kind of comfort in them. “That’s me getting so worked up. It’s because I’m right..….” Somebody does or says something we don’t like and we immediately feel offended, hurt, angry. If we remain stuck in that response, the result is disconnection and misery.

Your mind is the creator of everything. You create heaven ad you create hell. Both are in the mind. Yoga sadhana deals with the mind.

You are in bondage by your own consciousness and you can be free by your own consciousness. It’s only a matter of turning the angle of the mind.

One way to weaken the power of your habitual thought patterns is to focus on their opposite. For example, if you notice yourself reacting to a situation with anger, take a moment, breathe, relax and have some compassion for yourself. Once you’ve been able to soften your heart and bring some kindness to yourself, it’s so much easier to let that compassion flow out to others, including the person whose actions triggered your anger response.

The ability to notice the cause of your anger develops when the mind is pure. To purify the mind, a disciplined and virtuous life is important. When the anger is burned down by positive life, in time it will become dormant. Why do we get angry? We defend our existence. We don’t just exist; we exist with lots of desires. If any desire is obstructed we burst with anger. So the root is not very far if you dig. Just watch the rising desires and treat them as binding thoughts. Binding thoughts are any that block peace.

One way to open the heart is to pay attention to the many things in your life that serve you well. What’s not wrong? Keeping a gratitude journal helps turn your attention to the people and things that support you every day, including your very existence. Gratitude is an easy way to shift negative thinking.

Here are a couple of quotes to remind us to see the goodness in our lives:

“There are only two way to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle; the other is as though everything is a miracle.” (Albert Einstein)

“If the only prayer you say in your life is thank you, that would suffice.” (Meister Eckhart)

Life is not a burden. We make it a burden by not accepting life as it is. We desire everything. If we don’t get what we desire, we feel anger, depression, and pain. If we do get it, then we get attached, jealous, and discontented, which again causes pain. So the root cause is desire. If we put a limit on our desires, there will be a limit to our pain. Gradually we can reduce the limit, and one day the desires will be decreased so much that we will not even think about them. That state of mind is peace.

Om shanti, shanti, shanti

Contributed by Sharada
All text in italics 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.