News from the Centre – April 2017

A misty morning at the Centre

Hello everyone and happy spring. The snow finally all melted sometime in early March – or maybe it was mid- March – and spring began – nettles, blossoms, new growth. The days are long and much warmer than they were a month ago.

The Centre’s program season began in March with the first Yoga Getaway of the year, with Anila and Brant teaching the yoga classes. It was wonderful to welcome guests back to the Centre. Yoga Getaways continue through the program season, the next one being April 28 – 30. Our resident community is still small, but little by little more people will be joining us.

Jesse and Bri

Registration for our 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training is still open. This residential YTT program in the heart of Salt Spring Island is rooted in the teachings of Classical Ashtanga Yoga and Hatha Yoga.
I invite you to read more about this wonderful program here. There is also a Facebook page called Yoga Teacher Training at the Salt Spring Centre.

The Salt Spring Centre School teachers and students have now returned after spring break. It’s so uplifting to hear the kids’ voices again! They will soon begin rehearsals for this year’s whole school play, held every year in May. Early registrations for next year’s school year indicate that the classes will be quite full next year.

There’s lots of energy on the farm these days. Here is Milo’s update: 

Nettles are up! Spring has slowly found its way to the island and the seasonal race has begun here on the farm. We’ll have about twice as much land in cultivation this year and we’ll be embarking on a huge adventure with our food forest installation in the “upper field”.

The food forest has prompted a major need for planting stock and I have been propagating various berries, nut/fruit trees and support species like a mad man since the first rumour of Spring.

By mid April we’ll be enjoying the first of our Spring greens and roots so plan your visits accordingly 😉

Onward

Articles for you to read…..

This month we share a story from someone who’s been connected to our community for years – in fact since his father brought him to retreats years ago. You may have heard him play tablas at a summer retreat. In this piece Ravi honours his dad: Ravi Albright – dedicated to my father, Matt Albright. I remember Ravi telling me years ago that when he was a little boy, his dad used to read him bedtime stories from the Bhagavad Gita. I’m sure you’ll enjoy his story.

Sue Ann Hamsa Leavy brings us this month’s Asana of the Month – Cat/Cow Pose, a wonderful stretch for the spine. We were fortunate to have Hamsa living at the Centre for a couple of years. She now lives in Asheville, North Carolina where her students are lucky to have her as a teacher.

In the ongoing evolution of the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga life continues to unfold. Evolution brings change, some of it exhilarating, some of it difficult; this is the nature of life in the world. There have been many conversations in the past number of months about what will happen next in this beautiful place of refuge and peace. Those of us who were around in the earlier years were blessed by Babaji’s presence and constant inspiration. Those who have joined us since then have different life experiences and bring new ideas. As the founding group ages, change is inevitable. Pratibha has contributed her thoughts in “Unto the Seventh Generation”. We invite you to join this ongoing conversation.

A reminder from Babaji:
Don’t think that you
are carrying
the whole world:
make it easy,
make it play,
make it a prayer.

Love,
Sharada

Unto the Next Seven Generations

As part of our ongoing conversation about the future direction of the Centre, here are some reflections from one of our far-flung members about managing transitions at the Pacific Cultural Center in Santa Cruz.

The Salt Spring Centre of Yoga

Salt Spring Centre, like Mt. Madonna Center and Sri Ram Ashram, plays an essential role as a beacon of light in a darkening world. These centers help keep our spiritual faith and our hopes for the future alive as we traverse the struggles of daily life: social crises, financial issues, health concerns, career and relationship challenges. We desperately need these places of peace and pilgrimage to remind us of the immense potential of not only the human spirit, but of the spirit of nature and the mysterious force that unifies and supports our human journey. These centers are vital in offering the teachings and the space for humans to work on their self development.

An essential component of Babaji’s teachings is to “Live a Virtuous Life”. To support the practice of this path requires the supportive community (satsang) to accomplish the work as well as to remind us of our intention. SSCY is a blessing as it contributes to the continuance and maintenance of such a sacred space where one is supported in living a virtuous life! With a supportive community dedicated to service as karma yoga, the Centre can continue as a place of summer pilgrimage where we gather to share the deep bonds that have grown up among the spiritual family at Salt Spring Centre. Many of us visit from 2 to 6 weeks, long enough to absorb, soak up, as well as contribute to the life at the Centre.

Three Phases of the Natural World – Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva

Reflecting on the current incarnation of Salt Spring Centre of Yoga leads me to the realization that the many years that we spent with Babaji in building the Centre were the start-up phase. The natural world is said to consist of three phases – creation, maintenance, destruction. These are symbolized by the Gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva in the Vedic tradition. During the years that Babaji performed his annual northern migration to visit Salt Spring Centre, we were in the creation phase – growing, building, molding something new.

Perhaps now we’ve transitioned into the maintenance phase, a time that requires a somewhat different set of skills. Now perhaps preservation becomes the priority – preserving and passing on the precious spiritual teachings, maintaining the physical facility in good repair, and adjusting policies and procedures to meet the needs of a new generation.

The PCC Story

During the last seven years, we’ve been deliberately pursuing just such an adjustment at the Pacific Cultural Center in Santa Cruz.

PCC is the in-town home of the Hanuman Fellowship and Mount Madonna Center, offering yoga classes and a rental venue for spiritual events for Santa Cruz community. A staff of eight resident volunteers provide for the day-to-day running of the Center. The town center operates essentially independently, but at the same time under the attentive wing of the Hanuman Fellowship Board (based at Mount Madonna Center).

In 2010, it became clear that in order to ensure the sustainability of the PCC into the next generation (if not indeed unto seven generations), we would need to engage more of Babaji’s students in its operation. And so a few of us elders began a conversation about what could help facilitate this goal, and within a few months called for the creation of a Sustainability Council. A group of about a dozen people began meeting monthly to scope out what it would take to ensure that our grandchildren would have a place to practice yoga, to gather for spiritual instruction, and to express their own variety of spiritual satsang.

We have continued meeting monthly since then, the group shifting in membership as the months went by. One essential ingredient has been to involve the youngers in our conversation. Many were not interested, or were too busy with their own lives to contribute much beyond their good wishes. Gradually the group morphed into a Steering Committee, a group recognized by the Hanuman Fellowship Board, that serves basically as the management committee for the Center.

Two of the resident volunteers (who happen to be youngers) have been appointed to serve as “Coordinators”, one to oversee the yoga program and one to oversee the rental program. The resident volunteers meet weekly to coordinate the daily tasks of running/operating the Center; the Steering Committee oversees facility maintenance projects, landscaping, and human resource issues. In addition a PCC Administrative Board (appointed by the HFS Board) oversees the finances (such as approving large expenditures and reviewing policies, long-range trends and plans).

In working together, we’ve discovered that innovative developments should be guided and supported by olders and youngers working together. That way, continuity and innovation can interweave so that what is valuable from the past can be integrated into the current needs of those whose karma yoga efforts are actually turning the wheel of daily life.

This three-tiered approach seems to be working for now:
1) Resident Volunteers
2) Steering Committee
3) Administrative Board

Each level carries a certain area of responsibility. Yes, there is overlap, and sometimes urgent discussions as to which ball should be in whose court. But the dialogue continues with the intention that the Pacific Cultural Center will remain a vital, thriving, contributing part of the Santa Cruz Community for years to come. Jai Vishnu – for providing the vision of maintenance of what we’ve created together.

Moving Forward Together

Looking to the future, these beacons of light require tending if they are to continue to offer their gifts to the children yet to come. The elders offer a wealth of experience, seeing the long view, inspiration, and the understanding that the fruit will be needed in the future. The youngers offer energy, exuberance, as well as the strength and endurance to make it happen. It truly does take a village to keep our Centre alive and vital, and that will require continuous ‘honest talks’ to bring everyone’s voice into the conversation.


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.

Our Centre Community – Ravi Albright

Dedicated to my father, Matt Albright RIP

Ravi Albright, part of our Centre Community

I was born at home in Seattle where my father was at the University of Washington getting a Masters in Middle Eastern Studies. I am the middle child of 5,: my brother Abe, sisters Margaret, Annie, and Beth. Our family moved to Sequim on the Olympic Penninsula when I was about 8 or so. My dad, Matt Albright, worked for the Olympic National Park, first volunteering and then working in revegetation where he grew native plants to replant in the park in areas where people had trampled the indigenous plants.

It was through my father than I met Babaji and first came to Salt Spring Centre in the 1990’s. It was Babaji who suggested I start studying tabla after he saw me perform on guitar at the summer retreat.

When I was about 14, I was in a terrible car accident and had to have 9 surgeries. A speeding driver slid out of control in the snow and I was hit in the leg. They didn’t know if I would ever walk again, but I did. During that time I was out of school for a year. Soon after, when I was about 15 I moved down to Mount Madonna Center and starting living and working there on my own.

I went to India for the first time of many, and got into tabla. I studied Babaji’s teachings and started doing Sadhana. I worked on the rock crew, learning masonry, and was the resident tabla player for weekly satsang, kirtan, and retreats. Priya and I got married in 2005, and after my father passed away from cancer in 2007, we moved to Seattle. Priya also grew up in the Mount Madonna Community, and with our combined talents and skills we started a non-profit arts organization, ACIT Seattle, in 2009.

Priya and Lio

Matt

At that time I didn’t know what career I wanted to follow, if I should continue with masonary or maybe become a postal worker. I realized that I wanted to put all my energy into tabla, which had always been there. Right after that we started our non-profit organization, ACIT Seattle.org, where I teach and perform in Washington. We’ve been doing this for about 7 years now.

Ravi with performers at ACIT Recital, 2016

After my parents divorce when I was about 9, things at school got harder. I was not a well-behaved adolescent – I was suspended and kicked out of school more than once. In a way the car accident saved me because being out of school for so long, I started to study guitar which led to tabla. My dad and my mom, Ellen Adams, realized that public school was not meeting my needs, so the idea to move to MMC was a chance to change the direction if my life.

I have always had intense focus on whatever I am interested in, and absolute disinterest in being forced to learn things that were not relevant to me. This has been a mixed blessing, but gives me the drive to practice tabla at least 2-3 hours a day for the last 18 years or so.

Performing with Tejendra Majumdar

Performing with Srivani, 2013

My dad was the biggest inspiration for me in music and life. He was always interested in Eastern culture, philosophy, and music. He could read and write in Arabic and used to tutor in Seattle at a mosque. He played the violin as a teenager and played in a youth state orchestra. He gave up violin though because he didn’t like the pressure of public performance. I think he would be happy to see me performing now with some of the greatest musicians of India.

As a kid I would wake up hearing recordings of Ali Alkbar Khan on sarod or Ravi Shankar on sitar or Ustad Bismalla Khan on shenai, that my dad would blare on the stereo. That is what started my love for Indian Classical music. Later Babaji jokingly named me Ravi Shankar.

My dad also could grow native plants that no one else could, including a type of northwestern red heather that only grows at very altitude. After he passed, they dedicated the Matt Albright Native Plant Center in Sequim, Washington, after him.

I have had many other mentors in the community, Sanatan and Anuradha took me under their wing like surrogate parents. Pratibha sponsored me in my first trip to India and always supported me. I learned rock work from Jai/Sunil and Babaji. I learned electrical work from my first good buddy at MMC, Umesh.

 

Now we have two boys, Matt age 7 (named after my dad) and Lio 17 months. We will support them no matter what they want to do, and give them lots of music exposure along the way. Seattle is a good place for our family and I’m glad we are close to the Salt Spring Centre so we can stay connected with the community where it all started for me.


Ravi Albright is a professional tabla player, Executive Director and head instructor of ACIT Seattle, www.ACITSeattle.org, and Adjunct Faculty at Lewis & Clark College in Portland. Ravi teaches in the greater Seattle area and performs throughout the West coast.

Asana of the Month: Marjaryasana/Bitilasana (cat/cow pose)

Freedom in the pelvis, freedom in the heart. I love this string of movements because it brings breath and motion into the pelvis and the heart. Flowing from cat to cow pose is a great way to warm up the body, ease tension in the spine and build strength in the core.

Benefits of cat/cow pose

  • Improves posture
  • Strengthens abdominal muscles
  • Stretches the spine
  • Massages the organs in the belly
  • Relieves stress

Coming into the Pose

Start on all fours with your knees under your hips and your wrists under shoulders. Spread your fingers beautifully and root down through your hands. Activate your feet, pressing down through the tops of your feet. Feel the inner thighs slightly hug into the midline and engage the core.

This is neutral spine!

This is neutral spine! It is a great position to hold for a few breaths to gain strength and stability in the core. Leading with your sit bones, un-tuck the pelvis, lifting the sit bones to the sky.

This is cow pose!

This is cow pose! Take a few breaths. Notice the release in the pelvis and opening in the front of the chest.

On an exhale, leading with the pelvis, tuck the sit bones under to round the spine.

This is cat pose!

This is cat pose! Feel the back body start to open; relax the head; relax the neck.

Continue to breathe and move the spine between cat and cow. Try to start the movement with the pelvis, allowing the rest of the spine to follow.

Moving Deeper

Looking for more of a challenge? Start by pausing in neutral spine. Take a few breaths to re-establish the connection to your hands and feet. Feel the core engage.

Feel the core engage.

Keeping the neutral spine position, extend one leg back. The foot can be extended on the mat or lifted. If the leg is lifted, flex the foot (this helps to square the hips).

If you are feeling strong and stable here, extend the opposite arm out long.

As you breathe here, notice the length in the spine.

On an exhale, tuck the pelvis under to round the spine, bringing the knee toward the nose.

Flow through a few rounds. Extending and feeling the length of the spine on the inhale. Tucking the pelvis under and rounding the spine on the exhale.


About your Instructor

Sue Ann Hamsa Leavy 

Sue Ann turned to yoga after many years long distance running. In 2012 she moved to the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga to further her understanding of classical ashtanga yoga.  At the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga Sue Ann studied philosophy, yoga theory, asana, pranayama as well as community living.  The Centre is deeply rooted in the practice of Karma Yoga, which speaks to her passion for helping others.

Sue Ann currently lives and teaches in Asheville, North Carolina.  She is constantly inspired and encouraged by the journey yoga has taken her on. Her classes are focused on alignment, postural benefits, and cultivating peace.