Keep the Light Burning

It helps to come back to the ‘why’, the reason we started in the first place. The ‘what’ could be anything – whatever it is you do and think about – your career, your current job, your relationship, your friendships, an organization you’re involved in. It may have unfolded as you envisioned, or it may have turned out differently. Why did you choose it in the first place? What keeps you doing it?

The Centre started with Babaji’s directive to ‘buy land’. Those of us who gathered around Babaji trusted his vision. Each of us had our individual dreams and visions of what the Centre would look like; mine was of community; others saw it as a yoga school while yet others saw it as a big project that needed a lot of work. It became all those things.

Underneath all our ideas of what the Centre should look like was the aim of building a place where people could come and find peace. The intention was to be keepers of the light.

What keeps it going? The light is in the teachings and the practices given to us.

Spiritual aim is like a compass that points toward God. No matter how much the compass is turned around, its direction never changes.

The aim of life is to attain peace. A guru or spiritual teacher teaches how to attain that peace. The guru teaches how to live in the world with truthfulness, nonviolence, and with selfless service to others. The guru either presents these teachings in words or through the way they live their life.

In the beginning an aspirant seeks some support from outside. That support comes from a teacher. When the aspirant starts meditating honestly, then their own Self is revealed in the form of a guru or teacher. The aspirant starts listening to the inner voice and finds the path, which is shown by the voice of the heart.

The teachings include not only asana, pranayama and meditation, but also developing positive qualities, building right conduct (living by a moral code like yama and niyama), right livelihood (honest work), closeness with family and friends, helping others and contributing to society.

To keep the light burning in our own lives requires the willingness to live by our values and convictions, even when times are difficult. When the light is flickering we are called upon to stay true to what is important.

God is Love, Light and Peace. Those who love God wholeheartedly receive the gift of love from God.

There are many methods, but the key thing is to do them. For daily living, the most practical is karma yoga, selfless service. The practice of karma yoga provides purpose and meaning, and it helps others, thereby supporting the world.

Although karma yoga is usually understood to be merely a path of action, it is truly a path of inner development. There is no difference in actions that are performed with or without Karma Yoga.

The difference lies in the attitude with which the actions are done. Karma yoga is a practice of doing what needs to be done with a spirit of contribution to others without expecting anything in return. The aim is to become aware of and to reduce our attachment to the fruit of the action, including the subtle rewards of recognition and praise.

We start where we are, keeping in mind the goal of finding peace. Many years ago when I was waffling about making a decision, Babaji told me, “Stick to your convictions.” It took quite a while to figure out what my convictions were, or indeed whether I had a any; daily practice continues to keep me on track.

Everyone wants to be happy and to live in peace. Sometimes our actions are aligned with that intent, and sometimes we forget and lose our way for a while.

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

In dark times, it is important to remember that there are sanctuaries that hold the light of spiritual teachings and practices that can rekindle faith and hope. Don’t give up; let’s keep the light burning.

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.

Remember Your Aim


This story is called ‘Remember Your Aim.’ It takes place in Santa Cruz; the year is 1981. My karma yoga task for the day is to typeset the “Wings of Breath” songbook, a compilation of kirtan lyrics that’s being prepared for the satsang. The typesetting equipment is at Babaji’s house, about a half hour’s drive up into the mountains of Bonny Doon. And I am in Santa Cruz, without a car.

But there is a bus that goes within a mile and a half of there, and the bus runs every 2 hours, so I’m game. Even though it’s February and the sky is grey, and temperature is chilly, and the wind is picking up, I’m still game. Typesetting is my gig, and who turns down a chance to visit Babaji’s house?

Of course, no one will be home. Ma has driven Babaji to MMC for the day and she won’t be home until mid-afternoon. But they’ve trusted me with the location of the key (underneath the mat in front of the front door, for heaven’s sake!), so I bundle up, hop on the bus, walk the mile and a half up hill to their house, and let myself in.

The house is heated with wood, and because there’s no one there, there’s no fire going, so the house is chilly, but still, workable. So I set to work with the typesetting. After a couple of hours I made a cup of tea to warm up my finger-tips as well as clear the brain. It’s painstaking work – typesetting – so it was slow going, but I carried on.

Around noon, the rain started, lightly at first. And sometime later, Ma came home with the groceries; we greeted one another, and I began to pack up so I could catch the 4:00 bus down the hill. The next one wouldn’t come until 6:00 and that’s after dark in February; with the rain coming on stronger, I wasn’t looking forward to the walk to the bus stop in the rain.

As I was packing up, Ma came in to the work room and offered me a ride to the bus. My heart burst with gratitude; not only would I not have to walk in the rain, but I’d get to sit in Babaji’s seat in Ma’s car. What a great blessing!!

Driving down the hill, Ma and I chatted; she was always a gracious conversationalist and when she asked me something about my life, and I opened up and told her some troubles or other (the details have long since fled), and we continued our chat as we waited for the bus to arrive. I must have been sharing some difficulty with her, for she said, sort of out of the blue, “Remember your aim, Pratibha, remember your aim.”

Just then, the bus appeared in view from around the curve, so I gathered my things, gushed thanks so much for the ride, and headed out into the rain. She waved goodbye as I stepped onto the bus, and whoosh, our ways parted.

But her words ‘remember your aim’ resounded in my mind. Around and around they revolved, all the way down the hill, past the fire station, around the curves, through the tunnel of trees, over the bridge, as I pondered, ‘well, what is my aim?’ “Do I have an aim?” Not really, I thought. Life seems to simply amble along; stuff happens; then some other stuff happens. “Does a person need an aim?” “Do other people have aims?” “Why don’t I have an aim?” You all know the kinds of questions that the mind ask when something seems puzzling!

And as the weeks and months went by, the question would arise from time to time . . . What is my aim? What would my aim be if I had one? Does a person need an aim? Do I need an aim? What is my aim?

And then one morning, instead of concentrating on my one-pointed meditation, a memory popped into the mind. A memory of the first Dharma Sara yoga retreat at Oyama, back in 1976. (It was the second retreat, actually; the first one had taken place at White Rock the year before.) Babaji was sitting on the dock in Lake Osoyus. He’d just completed an interview with a group from New Directions magazine, based in Vancouver. I hadn’t been invited to the interview, but happened by to listen in (and just to be near him) and no one had asked me to leave!

They’d asked Babaji the usual questions about his background in India, about why he’d come to America, about yoga and meditation, about life in the world. As they were packing up their equipment, I crept closer and found the courage to ask, “Babaji, if you had only 2 words to say to the people of the world, what would they be?” He glanced at me, looked down at his chalkboard, paused only a moment and wrote, “Attain Peace.”

And that about sums it up! “Remember your Aim . . . Attain Peace.”


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.

Dressing for Dinner

Dressing for Dinner

dressings and sauces

Here are some more recipes from the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga kitchen to bring some zest to your meals. The first two of this month’s recipes come from our first cookbook – Vegetarian Recipes from the Salt Spring Centre.

Uma’s Barbeque Sauce

2 cups finely chopped leeks
⅓ cup olive oil
3 – 5 ½ cans of tomato paste
2 cups water
2 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. Allspice
1 Tbsp. chilli powder
½ tsp. mustard powder
¼ tsp. sea salt
2 Tbsp. tamari
¾ cup lemon juice
¼ cup honey

  • In a saucepan, saute the leeks in olive oil.
  • Add the tomato paste and water, then mix well.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients, and simmer gently for a few minutes.
  • This sauce is great with tofu cutlets or vegeburgers.

Raghunath’s Ginger-Paprika Dressing

1 piece root ginger (walnut sized)
1 cup olive oil
1 ½ tsp. honey
1 tsp. sea salt
¼ – ½ cup vinegar
2 Tbsp. tahini
1 ½ tsp. paprika
Freshly ground black pepper to taste.

    • Peel and grate the piece of ginger.
    • Blend all ingredients and chill.

And now some recipes from our second book, The Salt Spring Experience.

Donna’s Maple Balsamic Dressing

1 cup olive oil
⅓ cup balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp. Bragg’s
3 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. Dijon mustard

Blend all ingredients. This is a popular salad dressing at the Centre.


Miso-Ginger Dressing

¼ cup chopped leeks
1 cup olive oil
½ cup balsamic vinegar
1 rounded Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
4 rounded Tbsp. miso
1 tsp. honey
1 rounded tsp. tahini
1 cup water

In a blender, combine until smooth.


Parsley-Dill Dressing

3 Tbsp. chopped leeks
3 rounded Tbsp. tahini
1 cup olive oil
½ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup minced fresh parsley
½ cup minced fresh dillweed
1 tsp. tamari
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp pepper
1 tsp. honey
1 cup water

The fresh herbs are what brings this dressing to life.
In a blender, combine until smooth.


Mushroom-Feta Topping

A yummy topping for toast, grain, or steamed veggies.

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup chopped leeks
5 cups chopped mushrooms
1 Tbsp. tamari
1 cup chopped tomatoes
½ cup minced fresh parsley
¼ – ½ pepper
1 cup crumbled or grated feta

  • Saute the leeks in olive oil until they become soft.
  • Add the mushrooms and tamari. Saute briefly, then add the tomatoes, parsley and pepper. Cover the pan and simmer until the tomatoes are cooked in.
  • Add the feta and mix it in. Cook very briefly and serve hot.

Bon appetit!

Photo by Breville under a creative commons licence

Asana of the Month: Goddess / Fierce Angle poses

Deviasana (goddess pose)
aka Utkata Konasana (fierce angle pose)

Finding softness in structure and symmetry

Goddess Pose is a lateral standing pose with effects explicitly beneficial for pregnant women, but most definitely applicable to all. This beautiful tall and wide squat improves circulation, makes space in the pelvis, and offers a really balanced strengthening toning of the legs, torso and arms.

It is not difficult to understand why Goddess also goes by the name Fierce Angle. At first encounter this form might appear to be all about right-angles and quadricep strength – fierce indeed. But I love to practice and teach Utkata Konasana as an opportunity to explore the act of surrender. In any standing form, when the legs are truly grounded, the upper body can be free, tall, a vessel for breath and life force. I find the symmetry of this particular standing pose offers a relative simplicity, a kind of framework which provides a clear visual idea of the skeletal and energetic alignment involved.

I’ll explain 2 options for working with the pose. Both can give you a lovely balanced opening of the hip and pelvic girdles. Start out with the flow, developing fluidity, and when you feel comfortable with the alignment of the pose, settle into a longer hold.

~ Please avoid this pose if you have recent or chronic injury to the hips, knees or ankles. As always, work with a yoga instructor or physiotherapist if you’re not sure.

Starting Out

I recommend beginning your exploration of Utkata Konasana with a simple flow.

  • Begin in a wide stance, with your toes pointed out. The angle of your feet depends on the structure of your pelvis. To ensure that your knees do not twist, bend them slightly and check that they follow the same angle as your feet. If they don’t, then adjust your feet.
  • Once you’ve placed your feet with intent, take a moment – a breath or three – to feel the ground.
  • Scan your spine with your mind’s eye, noticing its natural curvature.
  • With your pelvis in a neutral position, press the soles of your feet into the ground and allow a gentle energetic lift through the crown of your head.
  • Relax your shoulders.
  • Inhale to stretch through fingers and toes into Star Pose.
  • Your arms can reach out as you take-in a radiant breath. Visualise the energy originating at your centre and moving out through all 5 limbs (the 5th is your spine).
  • On exhale, visualise the energy drawing back into your centre, as you bend your knees into Goddess.
  • Work with the legs for a few breaths, inhaling to radiate out to straight legs, and exhaling to release into bent knees.
  • When you feel ready, include the movement of the arms (and fingers): radiating out on inhale, drawing into cactus-arms on exhale.

As you practice this flow, you will increase your ability to relax the spine, so the only change in the shape of the body is the bending of the knees and elbows. Work with that intention, allowing the knees to bend as little or as much as your pelvis allows.

Settling In

When you’re ready for a more challenging version of Utkata Konasana, explore a long hold (this can be anything from 3 breaths to 1 hour).

  • Set yourself up intentionally, noticing the alignment of your knees, and the ease-fullness of your spine. Although your limbs won’t be moving as they were in the Star-Goddess flow, energetically you will be moving in a very similar way.
  • As you inhale, you might notice a radiating of energy from your centre, and as you exhale you might notice a gathering of energy into your centre. The energetic movement is horizontal through the elbows and knees and simultaneously vertical though your feet, hands and spine.
  • Press your feet down and visualise the weight of your body spreading into the ground in all directions. Allow your spine to lift through the crown of your head, as your tailbone releases straight down. After some breaths the large leg muscles will start to ease and the smaller stabilisers will wake up. Your legs will become enlivened, and relaxed.
  • You can achieve a similar easeful-ness in your arms by visualising your elbows drawing away from each other, and your fingers gently reaching up.

Feel those horizontal and vertical lines of energy across the front and back of the body. This is where you will find a balanced energetic toning and the strong symmetrical structure of the pose will make way for a soft surrender.

Sequencing

To warm up for Utkata Konasana, choose some circular hip movements, and some gentle neck and shoulder openers.

After practicing Utkata Konasana, use an inversion to reverse the flow of blood and prana in the legs. (Legs up the wall or Viparitakarani Mudra would be ideal.)

Utkata Konasana works beautifully in a standing flow, especially paired with Star-pose. (Chandra Namaskara is a great place to start).

Feel free to get creative with your arm positions!

And remember:

  • Neutral pelvis (not tucked, not tilted).
  • Tall spine (shoulders above hips, ears above shoulders).
  • No knee twisting (knees follow the angle of the feet).
  • Inhale out (radiate), exhale in (gather).
  • Firm roots (feet to pelvis).
  • Steady breath

Alignment tips

Try using a wall as an alignment guide: Rest your sacrum and back of your head into the wall. Or, sit on a swiss exercise ball. In both cases, the legs can take the wide squat form, without having to hold your body weight. You can then focus some attention on your spinal alignment, and experience what it’s like to feel simultaneously supported and relaxed in the legs and pelvis.

About your Instructor

Marianne Butler

Motivated by a love of movement and a craving for peace, Marianne has been practicing Yoga regularly since 2009. Drawing on her experience of a rich variety of styles and teachers, she encourages her students to develop internal awareness as they move and breathe through carefully designed sequences. She lived at the Salt Spring Centre from June 2014 until December 2015, studying and teaching asana and pranayama, as well as exploring the practice of Karma Yoga through serving in Programs Management.

Marianne completed her 200hr Hatha Yoga Teacher Training and an advanced workshop in Sequencing with Joy Morrell, a Nelson-based teacher with a passion for anatomy and a wide open heart. In 2016, she completed 300 hours of yoga training with Cathy Valentine on Salt Spring Island and is currently undertaking an advanced Yoga Therapy training at Ajna Yoga in Victoria.