I’ve worked on the housekeeping team for the past 6 weeks here at the Centre. Before coming to Salt Spring, I was working as an academic advisor at the University of British Columbia (UBC) – needless to say, cleaning showers and stripping beds has been quite the change from pre-Centre life!
I now realize (hindsight being, as ever, 20-20) that I was looking for a change from my Vancouver life and especially the chance to explore a more spiritual lifestyle, something I had never really allowed myself the time and space to do. I was also coming to a crossroads in my life with my recent decision to stop work and return to school to do a Master’s in Urban Planning at UBC, I wanted to “get out of” or “get beyond” myself in some way, as I had really struggled internally to finally arrive at the decision to go back to school. The Karma Yoga Service & Study program seemed the perfect fit.
Six weeks, when broken down into the number of days, hours, minutes, and seconds, relative to everything else we are fortunate enough to do in this life, didn’t seem to me that significant. I am amazed, however, at how much I have learned and benefited from my time as Karma Yogi here; “volunteering” seems hardly the right term, since I feel I got so much more than what I put into this experience.
Living and working in community is a bucketfull of life lessons in itself, and a spiritual community adds another rich, complex layer to the learning. There are so many wise and wonderful people living at the Centre, and the community is open, accepting, and caring. I have gained a deeper sense of myself (or Self with that capital “S”), one not defined as I would previously, by my name, age, gender, friends, family, demographics, or physical surrounds. I have adopted a gentler and more compassionate attitude towards this self and towards others. I have and, I hope, will continue to develop a daily Yoga practice — one that is not simply comprised of stretchy bendy sweaty poses as was my definition of Yoga before coming to the Centre. I have learned to listen to my body instead of exclusively my mind, and to understand that I do not have to let my thoughts and emotions define me. I have practised silence and have found it to be one of the most calming and centering experiences. I have also swum in freshwater lakes and the Pacific Ocean, and biked and hiked and meditated and yoga-ed and danced and sung and slept under the stars to my heart’s content. I have, in short, become a better human being during my brief time here and am truly blessed to have been able to share this time and space at the Centre.