Ponderings by a few karma yogis at the Centre
Here are the prompts people were given to stimulate some reflections about their lives at the Centre. You may want to consider these questions yourself (perhaps with a little revision to fit your life).
- What have been the highlights of your time at the Centre so far?
- What have you learned – about yourself, yoga practice, living in community?
- What teachings and practices have inspired you?
Three of our current karma yogis have shared some of their reflections about how their experiences of living and working at the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga have contributed to their lives and their outlook on life. It is my pleasure to introduce you to Jess, Jesse Burton and Arron Redford.
The highlights of my time at the Centre have definitely been the connections that I have made with everyone living on the land, as well as visitors to the land. This sacred place is beautiful in that it really helps you cultivate meaningful and loving relationships with people that extend beyond a level of acquaintance to true friendship in a very short period of time. In addition, the meals that are served here are absolutely phenomenal! I have learned a lot about eating vegetarian – much more than I ever could from a recipe book or a website. It has really expanded my tastebuds and shown me that so many different foods can taste delicious with few ingredients, as well as healthy and organic components. I never realized that chocolate cake could taste delicious with less sugar and be completely vegan!
What have I learned? This question is tough one, not because I have not learned anything, but because I have learned so much in a short period of time. I could go on, but I don’t want to monopolize the newsletter. One of the most important lessons I have been learning is the range of techniques and methods to reduce my stress and anxiety. My meditation practice has broadened so much that it has really become a daily habit and practice, that I miss if I do not do it. There are so many individuals around you in your community that have dealt with similar issues or problems who have different techniques for handling them, that you really do have a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips to help if you have the courage to open up and be vulnerable.
I’ve been especially inspired by the practice of pkranayama, and the importance of breath work. Coming from a respiratory therapy background, I have learned a lot about the science and importance of respiration before the coming to the Centre; however, until coming here, I never really understood the energy associated with pranayama and what one can truly cultivate inside oneself. This has been something that I have added to my meditation practice and will continue to develop.
I have always felt at home wherever I go, not because of the place but because of the people. The centre is a perfect reflection of this. When I arrived, there were only a few of us, and as the spring came so too did the yogis. Whether here for a short time, a season or otherwise, the people who come through here have all contributed to that feeling of home in their own ways. It is difficult to point out specific highlights of my time so far because the experience itself has been the highlight.
I don’t know if six months is a long enough time to fully understand what it is that I have learned from being here. I think perhaps this is because, in a lot of ways, I don’t feel as though I have “learned” so much as I “am learning” every day. I am learning that Karma Yoga feels very much in alignment with the way I want to exist in the world. I am reminded daily that learning to live in harmony with people in community is far more rewarding than it is challenging, even when it doesn’t feel that way, and I am learning that every effort that I put in to living in harmony with myself significantly improves my harmony with others.
Maybe it’s called a practice because you will always be learning. You wouldn’t expect to get better at painting, playing a guitar or playing a sport without practice, so how can you expect to get better at being present if you don’t work on it every day? Imagine how good life might be if you could live in the moment more often – If the past and the future were just part of your peripheral view instead of the centre of attention. What if all you need to do is to honestly give yourself a part of your day to practice? I enjoy asana, pranayama and meditation during the time that I give to myself every…most days. The only thing that I have found to be more important than the practice itself is to forgive myself when I don’t do it. This isn’t to suggest not to care if you do your practice or not, but to remember in every moment that you are doing your practice for you and that the more you do it the more you will get out of it. If you don’t do it sometimes that’s ok; just start doing it again now. Because now is all there really is.
What I love about the Saltspring Centre has stayed basically the same, but deepens each time I am able to return. I first started coming here in 2003 to sing Kirtan at our Sunday Satsang. I still love singing and the stillness of mind and state of peace that giving my complete concentration (dharana) to the songs brings to me. I love our Housekeeping (HK) check-ins and the feeling of freedom, safety and trust I feel in the laundry room to speak openly and honestly from my heart.
When I saw Babaji in 2012 it was the first time I had ever heard him use the words faith and devotion in relationship to these practices. I have spent my time here this summer revisiting that concept in my asana and meditation practice, in kirtan, at arati and while reading the scriptures and stories of saints and teachers. When I first started my practice I was very concerned with “getting it right”, mostly in regards to my asana, pranayama and meditation practice. The opportunity to share my practice with some of my peers is teaching me about self-acceptance and compassion.
Instead of always trying “getting it right”, community teaches me to “let go” and “surrender to what is”. I don’t have children, but I think the concept is probably similar to what we experience in community. I might think that it is okay to treat myself a certain way, but when I see myself saying something to someone else (my child) or treating someone else (my child) in a certain way, I can see how it is harmful and I want to try and change my thoughts, speech, actions.
“In this practice of surrender to God (Ishvara pranidhana) as one of the niyamas, the devotee’s ego of being a performer, enjoyer, or sufferer is gradually reduced. Consequently, the mind of the devotee naturally flows toward God (Ishvara) without any obstructing thought waves.” ~ Babaji. Sutra II:45
Divakar’s Theory class on pranayama and the subtle body was very inspiring and reinvigorated my passion, faith and devotion to my practice. This was a rare and highly valuable opportunity to deepen our understanding of the concepts of the vayus and nadis — subtle energy channels in the body and how we can work with them. I have so much respect for all of the teachers who have dedicated their lives to carrying on the teachings of Babaji. They have completely transformed my life. I cannot imagine my life without them.