Our Centre Community: Indira/Uma/Cynthia Bennett

Mason, Meera, Cynthia and Angelica

Mason, Meera, Cynthia and Angelica

A dear friend introduced me to Baba Hari Dass when I was on my way back from my first trip to India in 1977. I had driven a van from London to Kathmandu and had been away from home for two years. I stopped in on my friend at her home in Hilo, Hawaii for a bit of R&R before facing the “real world”. She gave me the Yellow Book for the flight home and I read it all. Later that summer, I came across a poster on 4th Avenue in Vancouver, with Babaji’s face on it inviting anyone who was interested to come to a yoga retreat in Oyama, BC, so a few friends and I determined to go check it out.

Cynthia in India

Cynthia in India

1985 - satsang at the Centre with Babaji. Uma on left, holding Mason.

Satsang at the Centre with Babaji. Uma on left, holding Mason, 1985

When I met Babaji for the first time I felt very shy, even though I felt such a connection with him. I had been exposed to yoga before, TM, at high school, and Iyengar through a friend, however I found his teaching just what I was looking for, a balance of meditation, pranayama and asana, with common sense sprinkled in. I joined the Vancouver Satsang, and when the group started looking for land and moved to Salt Spring Island, I determined that I would move and raise my young family there.

Meera and Babaji, 1985/6

Meera and Babaji, 1985/6

My family was raised on the island with the Centre being the core of our lives there. My children, Meera, Mason and Angelica all spent every summer getting ready for the retreat and the children’s Ramayana. We made costumes, practiced the dances and generally spent a lot of time at the Centre. They all went to the Centre School, and had a wonderful foundation with Usha, Frances and the other teachers. When they tell friends now about their experiences at the Centre, and the people they met and the schooling they had many think it sounds idyllic, and it was!

Mason-Ramayana

Mason performing in the Ramayana, aged 7 or 8

Angelica1

Angelica at the Centre garden, 1992

I also cherish the memories of the other things we did at the Centre back then. Sid used to bring in amazing musicians, and we could sit in the main room and listen to these amazing artists so close. It gave all of us an appreciation being able to see and hear so close to the musicians. There was the Christmas Faire, with all of us hanging out for the weekend with our crafts and wares. There were Satsang dinners, and of course Satsang itself with singing and readings. Way back then Babaji used to come and spend time with all of us on the island. I also had the honor of having Babaji and his entourage stay at my home.

Meera-play

Meera (on left) in Macbeth, performed by Salt Spring Centre School students, 1998

When my grandson Devon was born, Meera and I went up to Santa Cruz to introduce him to Babaji. Of course Babaji stuck a lollipop into his mouth! This has been a tradition with all of my children and of course any of the children who visit Babaji. I don’t know if any my future grandchildren will meet Babaji, however his influence is in all of our lives has been profound and reliable. Therefore, he is in our hearts and that transmission from him to us will be there for them.

meera_oliver_devon

Meera, Devon & Oliver

mason and shelane

Mason & his fiancee Shelane

angelica and david

David & Angelica

Nowadays, I am living in the Los Angeles area, helping my elderly father. I think because of Babaji’s teaching I can see this part of my life through the eyes of a yogi, being of service to loved ones, and having it be a part of my practice. And I have started a business here as well. It is called Devon’s Drawer, after my grandson and my father. I design and manufacture organic and natural outerwear for children. All my kids are involved in one way or another, so I see it as a family enterprise. And Devon gets to try on the items to determine size and fit, and he gets first choice!

Over the years my relationship with the Centre has been one of family, and I always love to come “home”. I moved off the island and away from the Salt Spring Centre some time ago, but I am glad that the foundation years for me and my family was shared with my Satsang friends. I have used Babaji’s teachings in Ashtanga Yoga as a blueprint for my life. I am a beginner after all of these years, still working on perfecting the Yamas, and Niyamas. I feel that yoga for me is a practice of starting over again and again! After all it is a practice.

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6 responses to “Our Centre Community: Indira/Uma/Cynthia Bennett”

  1. Kishori says:

    Oh my friend Uma – I remember all those years – the girls riding horses to the Centre – the Hanuman Olympics at the Centre with our kids and being there when one of your kids was born – I think it was Angelica – it was such a privilege for me.
    One of these days we must get together again – so great you have your own home business.
    love and hugs to all your gang.
    Kishori

  2. Usha (Rautenbach) says:

    Hello Uma/Indira! (either name connects me to your being)
    Fellow-feeling is what came to me throughout reading your account, “Yes, that’s how it was and is” – thank you for that. Lovely to see the photos, past and present.

    And lovely of you to think to bring back to mind what Sudarsan brought to the centre for many years, the Creative Arts (Babaji first named it the Salt Spring Centre of Creative Arts & Sciences – all those performers, musicians and actors. I remember hearing Paul Horn playing by the lake in the early dawn, then popping in to visit our schoolchildren and show them his flute in the basement classroom – as you said, ‘famous celebrities’ experienced at close quarters and as good people, in friendship.

    I remember your ability to design with fabric, a skill and training and inspiration which was made such use of in the Ramayana productions, fabulous creations – how perfect that you are doing so the way you are now! I hadn’t realized that Devon was named after your dad.

    I will also always remember our Community Christmas Gatherings in your home “up in the Cranberry” as the Salt Spring old-timers say; so many of us, of every generation, such good food, and entertainment we all made ourselves for each other – and of course, the vast Christmas tree every year so beautifully decked with decorations, and the slow quiet lighting of the real candles in such profusion.

    I thank you.
    Usha

  3. Chandra says:

    Dear Uma Indira,

    Thank you for telling the story – the beautiful memories and the strong bonds that connect us all. I so enjoyed being at the Visioning session with Meera- it seems there are ties even in the third generation.
    I love the expression you have used to describe Babaji’s influence in our lives as “profound and reliable”. Perfect. Jai Gurudev!

    With love,
    Chandra

  4. Rajesh Kreisler says:

    Aloha Uma, Jai Sita Ram! I remember visiting you in Seattle as I first came to the Centre to explore the possibilities of starting my life there. Yes, it worked! The centre has given us so much. Everything has flowed from Babaji! I even lived in your house way back when and Rajani and I had our civil wedding ceremony there! Great to hear your story and rekindle our friendship from afar. Until we meet again! Rajesh

  5. Parameshwari Osheroff says:

    Hi Uma/Indira/ Cynthia!!!

    My first west coast Canadian retreat was the one in Oyama in 1977. We have been sharing our love for Babaji for almost 40 years. I remember you coming to Mt. Madonna on your bikes before you had children. It has been so much fun to spend time with you and the kids on SaltSpring, Victoria and Vancouver. So many great memories and lots of laughter!!! And of course lots of swimming!!! I love seeing the photos and sharing in the experience. Last year I was able to watch Meera get married on SSI and meet more of your family. And this year I got to see your family home in Los Angeles and hang with your father. Through Babaji we have created a wonderful family, a satsang so rich and full of diversity. Thank you for sharing your story. Reminding us of the wonderful events that have taken place over the years at the Centre. We have been so blessed to have this in our lives.

    Jai Guru Dev!!! Parameshwari

  6. Anna Zach says:

    My dear Uma!
    I loved reading that and even more loved seeing those pictures. I remember so well when on one May? ( the spring one ) retreat you came in with newborn Mason ,breast feeding him. It feels like yesterday and I am now 83. I still hear your voice like if you were here beside me. Here in the mountains in Kaslo, where I am”little bit” snowed in. It was such a wonderful past and reading about it I am completely back right away in the Center. How grateful I am that all that happened in my life! This I am reading on the first day of 2015,what a New Year’s gift for me! Thank you!

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