News from the Centre – June 2017

Hello everyone, and happy summer to you. As I write this the sun is shining and the day is bright; the sky is very blue and the grass is very green. Everything is growing.

The swan by the front fountain (lilacs blooming in the background)

There is lots of exciting news to share in this time of growth.

Mark Classen (aka Omprakash), the president of Dharma Sara Satsang Society, on behalf of the DS Board, is happy to share some exciting news with all of you.

In mid-April of this year, the Board of Dharma Sara Satsang Society formed a committee to find a new Centre Manager. We posted the position online, contacted satsang friends and eventually received about 25 applications. We found that it was difficult to find the diverse skills necessary to fulfill this demanding role. Eventually we chose two candidates with wonderful complementary skills and envisioned that they would work as a management team to guide the Centre in its operations. These two individuals were offered positions as co-managers and will be joining us during the month of June.

We would like to introduce Daphne Hollins, who has retired from a life as business manager in the corporate world and also directed two yoga studios. She is the mother of three children and has a background in trauma-informed yoga, bodywork and community organization. We also welcome Will Yogeshwar Humphrey, who held various management positions during four years at Mount Madonna and trained as a pujari with Janardan at the Hanuman Temple. Will also did his 500-hour Yoga Teacher Training at Mountt Madonna and has a Masters degree in Religious Studies, including Yoga Sutra and Sanskrit.

We are looking forward to their arrival at the Centre and a long and fruitful collaboration.

In addition, here is some news from the Dharma Sara Satsang Society’s AGM earlier in May. Following reports from all Dharma Sara departments, an election was held for the DS Board. We’re pleased to introduce this year’s Board members: president: Mark Classen; treasurer: Bhavani Chlopan, Amy Cousins, Natasha Samson, Meera Bennett, and Ben Poulton. Kirti White and Sean Crabtree are serving as board interns.

Divine Mother kirtan

Here are some photos from the past month that didn’t make it into last month’s update, plus a few current ones. Divine Mother kirtan was held on Mother’s Day. In the garden on mother’s day, 500 strawberry plants were planted. There’s also been lots of grass mowing and raking.

Adam raking in the morning sun

This month is Father’s Day. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads! I hope all the dads are being cared for and loved. One dad spent a couple of weeks here with his not-quite-4 year old daughter – Sean (aka Shyam) and Penny. Penny won everyone’s hearts, and even ended up with a job in the office, involving paper and a stamp pad, working at her very own desk. She was very happy to have a real job!

Penny at work in her office

Melinda and Laurel (known mostly as Lolo) arrived later. What a treat to have a couple of sweet little girls in the community for a while!

Penny and Laurel having breakfast on the back deck

Wonderful Community

There is a wonderful community at the Centre, everyone bringing special gifts. Kaori, one of the lead cooks in the kitchen, led a sushi making party a couple of weeks ago – such fun!

Community sushi making party

Tyler of the maintenance department has completed the installation of several new windows in the program house, along with beautiful new trim. The new windows let in a lot of light, and Tyler himself brings light to whatever he does. The housekeeping team, led by Crystal (and soon to be joined by John) works quietly away in the background keeping everything orderly and beautiful. Others working in housekeeping include Tammy and Jess.

There’s a new IT team working together (Jesse, Sean, Harreson) to streamline computer systems in the office. Jesse is currently developing a customized registration program for ACYR as phase one.

Racquel is the newest member of the office team, being supported by Jules and Bri as they begin their transition out of the office and onto the farm.

The kitchen team – Angelo, Svenja, Ian and Kaori (and others part time) – continue to keep us well fed and nourished with top quality, delicious meals. More and more is coming from the farm each day.

The farm team, headed up by Milo, includes Adam, Shambhavi, Jules, Bri, and recently joined by Martin.

Getting ready to be planted!

The tomato planting team

Here’s Milo’s monthly farm update.

Well someone hit the ON switch for Summer!
The farm is swooning as we pick up our pace and sunscreen our face.

Everything is happening. The soils are dry enough to be worked and seeded. Our starts are eager to tickle wide open fields and we yearn for the rain that’s disappeared so suddenly.

First on the list. We’ve just satiated over a hundred tomatoes seedlings. They’ve been tucked into their new home and covered with cloche in our east field. It’s shaping up to be a lovely year for outdoor tomatoes.

Second. Many many beds of bush beans have been sown with the rumour of rain and our spuds are finally going to taste dirt.

In the coming weeks we’ll be installing a new irrigation system, seeding our little hearts out and hitting the lake!

Happy Summer. Come by for a visit.

Sunday satsang and Wednesday kirtan continue, with some karma yogis participating in leading kirtans, playing guitar, and drumming. Online Bhagavad Gita study continues every Tuesday evening via Zoom. If any of you are interested in joining this group study, please send me your email address and I’ll send you the link. You can reach me at sharada@saltspringcentre.com. For Centre residents there is also regular pranayama and meditation and weekly history and yoga theory classes.

Join us this Summer!

Coming up soon: Yoga Teacher Training begins on July 6. Although it is filling up, there is still room, so if you’re interested please read about this wonderful program on the Centre’s website, and register online.

The 43rd Annual Community Yoga Retreat (ACYR) follows on the heels of the first session of YTT, from August 3 – 7. Dharma Sara’s first yoga retreat was held in 1975 and is still going strong. It’s an amazing opportunity to gather with a community of yoga teachers, students and seekers. There are many, many classes and lots of time to sing and play. There is also a wonderful children’s program.

This Month’s Newsletter Offerings

In this edition we offer you some very inspiring reading.

Amita Kuttner, who was born into the satsang family, shares the story of her life and her connection to both the Salt Spring Centre and Mount Madonna Center. She has been guided by Babaji her whole life, having been a yogi (both serious and playful) since she was little. Her story, ‘Growing up with Babaji’ is a very moving story.

In celebrating the connection among the centres begun by Babaji – Mount Madonna Center, the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga, and Sri Ram Ashram – we are delighted to share an invitation to join Mount Madonna Center for Yoga Diwali India, from October 10-22, 2017 – a perfect time to experience India.

During YTT at the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga a few years ago, Mya Mitchell was inspired when she watched ‘Jewel in the Jungle’,the video of Sri Ram Ashram’s beginnings. She explored the possibility of visiting India for Diwali, and here presents us with a journal of her experiences,‘Love Lives at Sri Ram Ashram’, with many photos. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. If you’ve been thinking of visiting India, you may be inspired by Mya’s story.

From Babaji: “Don’t think that you are carrying the whole world; make it easy, make it play, make it a prayer.”

Love,
Sharada

Love Lives at Sri Ram Ashram

Love lives at Sri Ram Ashram

by Mya Mitchell

Have you ever thought about visiting India and Sri Ram Ashram?

I had thought about but I didn’t realize that it could actually come to fruition until I came across an invite from the Mount Madonna Center in 2015. The dream not only became a reality, it became a life enriching experience on so many levels that is almost too big for words!

The first time I heard about Sri Ram Ashram was while attending Yoga Teacher Training at the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga. We were watching a video documentary called Jewel in the Jungle about the ashram’s beginnings and vision. I remember feeling fascinated and intrigued and as though we had just been let in on a wonderful discovery. Is was through SSYC and the teachings of Babaji that our satsang family had suddenly expanded and we now had this far away place where we could go where would be also be welcomed. A few years later, I found out first hand that this couldn’t be more true.

After talking with Niraja, one of the organizers, I felt welcomed with open arms into the MMC group. This was a very big undertaking for me as I had never really travelled before; in fact I obtained my first passport for this trip! Rashmi, the Ashram’s head mother, is very versed in organizing groups such as ours and instilled confidence that this trip was “totally do-able” for me. I am forever grateful to all of the people who made this trip happen and who supported and encouraged us along the way.

I arrived in Delhi a few days before our group. I had a few adventures on my own,: wandering around Connaught Place to do some sightseeing and shopping, walking around Jantar Mantar, and taking a rickshaw to India Gate and the parliament buildings. I felt comfortable with my driver so I asked him to drive me around on a sightseeing/picture-taking mission. Rickshaws are now my favourite mode of transportation!

I also took an incredible trip down to Agra and saw the Taj Mahal and Red Fort. Be assured that it is truly one of the wonders of the world and should be experienced first hand.

After a few days on my own, I was excited to meet up with my new travelling companions. Many of you have probably had the experience of meeting up with like minded people; it felt like we were instantly connected and we soon felt like new-found family.

We had some great adventures together in Delhi. We were toured by Rashmi to some of the most amazing temples, and experienced Old Delhi in a way that none of us probably would have attempted on our own. We were well looked after the whole time, so we were able to take in the sights (and other sensory experiences) without worrying about ending up in the wrong place.

The next day we were up before the crack of dawn to catch the train to Haridwar. The Delhi train station is something that needs to be experienced to be fully comprehended. It is said to be the biggest station in the country and handles approximately 500,000 people on 400 trains per day! It is intense, fascinating and exciting all at the same time. Again, we had the utmost confidence in Rashmi, who I am sure, has done this too many time to count, and she laughingly assured us that she “hadn’t lost anyone yet”!

What a spectacular way to see the countryside! We saw the landscape from an insider’s perspective as we rode through what seemed like the back yards of little villages, as well as lush agricultural areas with crops and vegetation that we didn’t even have names for. When we finished our ride in Haridwar, some of “our boys” met us and helped us and our bags off the train and onto the school bus. We were almost there!

As we drove down the driveway, we were greeted by the sweetest welcoming committee! Some of the little kids who were not in school crowded around the buses to welcome us home. Their faces were beaming with happiness and curiosity to see these dusty travellers and welcome them to join them for the holidays.

After settling in, we had a chance to get our bearings and venture out to tour the incredible property, including the school, clinic, newly planted crops, the cow barn and the playground. We had an immediate following and were easily coaxed by some of the little kids to play on the swings and be taken by hand to see the new puppies!

We spent our days in delighting in getting to know the kids and sharing in their preparations and traditions leading up to Diwali, as well as our daily sadhana and various wonderful excursions to near by villages and cities.

I often felt like I was in a dream state, as there was just so much to take in and all of it was so joyful and happy. Every morning during the quietest moments of our sadhana, I remember feeling utter peace and joy as we heard the sound of early morning birds chirping and the uplifting sounds of kids laughing in the courtyard below. I will always remember the smell of incense wafting out through the building after the morning arati, one of the many memorable smells of this home.

We had many excursions out to the surrounding areas, where we experienced first hand the ways of life of the villagers. We also toured many colourful temples and sacred places. We were in awe at being present in these places, and in wonder at the extraordinarily intricate detail of the architecture. So much to take in on every level and truly amazing!

We felt honoured to have many cherished experiences playing with the little kids and talking and sharing time with the older ones. One of the qualities of the kids that I noticed was that they always asked how you were doing and if you enjoyed the day’s excursion or events. They genuinely cared and wanted to know; they were very good conversationalists and were very interested in talking as well as listening.

While talking with the kids and staff, we got a sense of the scope of opportunities that these kids have access to. The kids all attend school up to the 12th grade at the school that is part of the ashram property. The school serves the SRA students as well as others from the neighbouring village and students from Haridwar. Many of the Sri Ram students go on to study business, medical or dental careers, to name just a few.

There are many other wonderful opportunities for the kids, such as sports; the Ashram hockey team is well known throughout the country and has won many highly coveted trophies. Every morning there is a crossfit workout where the kids participate in groups according to age, the older kids lead the workouts; they enjoy keeping active and healthy. There always seems to be something going on, whether it is a field trip or sports trip or a holiday celebration – and sometimes all of these things in one day!

As we stayed at Sri Ram, the family was preparing for Diwali celebrations and we were heartily welcomed to join in. We learned about the traditions; each day celebrating a different holiday building up to Diwali. There were older kids coming home from their jobs or college and we also felt the excitement and joy in seeing them home.

We had the pleasure of experiencing a tea party that was put on by one of the Sri Ram Trustees. This was a grand affair that took place in the courtyard and included some delicious foods that were all new to me at the time, such as aloo tiki, a stir fry dish, as well as ice cream treats afterward. The kids surprised us with some dances that they had practiced and prepared specially for our entertainment at the party. They were all dressed up in beautiful colours and were so well practiced, it was so touching that they had done this just for us! The music was enticing and they looked like they were having so much fun on stage that some of us got up and joined them for an all around dance party!

Some of the other traditional preparations for Diwali included making ladoo (sweet offerings) for the special family arati, as well as some creative fun building monuments out of bricks and earth. It was really great to work with the kids on these creations.


We also got to join in on the annual shopping trip into Haridwar with all of the kids. This was an extraordinary event that started with a beautiful tea party. All the kids were given some spending money, and they had all carefully planned how they would spend it. We went in groups with the kids and helped as they made their purchases. It was really fascinating to see what they were interested in: anything from sweet treats, new dolls, scarves, clothing, to getting a nose piercing, and when that was all done some of the kids gave their small change away.

I don’t want to give away too much about the day of Diwali, as I truly think that it is something that one should experience this at least once (if not many) times in life! If I could use just a few words to describe it I would say that it was fantastic, spectacular, joyful and incredibly moving.

I was so impressed that all of the kids knew what to do and exactly where they should or shouldn’t be. They looked after each other and really looked after us as well! I will never forget when I was “saved” from a rouge fire spinning wheel that had flipped on its side travelling toward me and one of the girls gently took my arm and said “watch out didi”. I was mesmerized by the whole thing, and was very touched that I was being looked after without even realizing that I had needed looking after!

One of the last days that we were at Sri Ram there was a birthday party for all of the November people. Birthday parties are held once per month, and everyone feels like a celebrity! I just so happened to be a November birthday person, and I was really surprised that I, along with a few of our trip mates, had also been included in the festivities! It was the most memorable birthday party to date, one I will never forget!


Later that day, as if we hadn’t had enough excitement, we went into Haridwar to experience arati at Hari ki Puuri, one of the most sacred landmarks in Haridwar (if not India); it is believed that Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu visited here in Vedic times.

This was an incredible afternoon; we did a little bit of shopping at Moti bazaar, where they have everything from malas, fabric, food, devotional items and water vessels for Ganges water – really anything you can think of! After this, we got set up in a “prime spot” and waited for sunset when arati begins. Watching the crowds growing and the goings on were absolutely fascinating. When we first arrived there was space all around us, but as the sun went down I couldn’t even guess how many people were there; it was like an ocean of people and the energy was incredible! We watched the beautiful ceremony, full of singing and the glow of the lanterns; it was truly breathtaking. After this we each got a little boat made of a big leaf, which had some candles and flower offerings inside, and we made wishes or set intentions as we let them be carried away by the Ganges.

The last night at Sri Ram, we were treated to a Family Dinner with all of the kids and the family eating together. We had a very sentimental and emotional good bye full of hugs and love. Some of the kids asked us when we would be “coming home” next, which was so heartwarming and really was a testament to the fact that we were being accepted and thought of as family. Love truly lives at Sri Ram Ashram.

It is very hard to explain in words the stamp that this trip – Sri Ram Ashram, India and the people I met – have made on my heart. I feel like my life was truly enriched in a way that would be hard to top. I feel like I left a big part of myself in India, and I crave the day when I can go back. I think that this is a place of such richness on so many levels, that only once you experience it yourself, can you understand and feel with your heart what others are trying to explain.

I highly recommend this trip and experience if you have ever been curious about going to India and Sri Ram Ashram. This is a way to see India like no other, and you will be guided and will feel safe with the group. I really can’t say enough about it in the confines of an article, but I would happy to elaborate or extend any help or advice for anyone who wanted to go!

With much love and reverence,
Mya

Jai Sri Ram! Jai Babaji!

Yoga Diwali India

In celebrating the connection among the centres begun by Babaji – Mount Madonna Center, the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga, and Sri Ram Ashram – we are delighted to share an invitation to join Mount Madonna Center for Yoga Diwali India, from October 10-22, 2017 – a perfect time to experience India.

Growing up with Babaji

Growing up with Babaji
by Amita Kuttner

Amita on the mound with Babaji

I was born in North Vancouver in December 1990 to Chandra Prabha and Satish. My parents had both already been students of Babaji for quite some time, and in fact called him from the hospital to get my name. I first visited Salt Spring Centre of Yoga (SSCY) when I was eight months old, and ate my first Babaji candy! I returned for the Annual Community Yoga Retreat every summer, the occasional Easter egg hunt, and for many of the Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) weeks where my mother taught prāṇāyāma, meditation, and philosophy. Coming to SSCY has always been like coming home; a warm welcome and land that makes me feel deeply at peace and free.

Satish, Amita, and Chandra Prabha with Babaji

When I was little, I would sometimes attend classes on the yoga sūtras of Patañjal when they were held at our house. My mother and I even developed a sūtra board game in the shape of a big spiraling circle. You had to progress from the outside ring of bhoga, and traverse many obstacles and worldly temptations to finally reach the apavarga pinnacle in the centre. (Much regular sadhana involved.)

Amita and Chandra Prabha with Babaji

When I was 13, I got the chance to move to Mount Madonna Center (MMC) in California for school, living in a boarding house with two girls from Sri Ram Ashram in India. It was wonderful, as I got to see Babaji about four times a week. He came to the Center three days per week, and we would visit him in his home on Sundays for dinner.

Four short months after I moved to California, my childhood home in North Vancouver was destroyed by a mudslide. I had just been home for the holidays three weeks before it happened. The mudslide took both the house and my mother’s life, leaving my father in the hospital for six months and with permanent brain damage and numerous physical injuries.

This was incredibly hard to suffer, and Babaji became a parent to me. He always understood and trusted me in ways that hardly anyone else ever has. I am so grateful for having been steeped in yoga my entire life, as it has given me the strength to continue and the presence of mind to have perspective. Things have not always been easy since then. Meditation and mindfulness are what guide me in handling the trauma that I still carry from the mudslide and related issues.

Amita as Princess Sita in MMC’s Ramayana

Babaji and his teachings have meant a great deal to me so far in my life, and not just in dealing with massive obstacles. I cherish having learned nonviolence and compassion from my first days alive, and having been raised in a household that valued kindness and honesty. Over time, I have let my heart grow, and I think that the foundations I received at SSCY and MMC from Babaji have allowed me to develop a healthy balance of compassion and dispassion. We must feel deeply to care for the world and strive to improve it, but in so doing we must not sacrifice our own peace, lest we lose our abilities to help.

Amita with her husband Ramesh

Ramesh and Amita with Chandra Prabha’s parents

Amita is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in physics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She loves to come to Salt Spring whenever she gets a chance.