Our Centre Community: Joseph Ramesh Pallant
I am a fortunate man, to have been born a member of Dharma Sara, and to have grown up visiting the Saltspring Centre of Yoga. My parents Pamela Chandra Rose and Wayne Dinesh Pallant were married in a yajna in White Rock at the first annual yoga retreat with Babaji, and so much of life has flowed from that font.
I received my name, Ramesh from Babaji when I was a few days old. I’d always thought the name’s nuance was simple – “lover (husband) of Rama”, another name for Vishnu. Only found out much later the connection to Narayana, ‘resting place for all living entities’ and so a remover of fear. That attribution resonates deeply for me, as I seek to build understanding and remove fear in this world.
Babaji first held me when I was three months old, in Vancouver, on the way up to the 1978 retreat at Camp Hatikvah in Oyama, BC. I took my first dip in Kalamalka Lake that retreat, a joy I’ve repeated so many times since. I’m told that when I was 15 months old, I started walking so I could follow Babaji around and he wrote, “he knows me”. Also wrote, “he is a thinker”. As a child, I loved to dance dance dance for Babaji during kirtan, something so many of you have kindly reminded me about.
My fortune on the father front multiplied with Allan Rose arriving in my life at the age of three. He and Chandra were married at the Centre, with a great dance in the old barn. The family welcomed Gabriel Vinod – ‘the playful one’. I remember life as happy, living on West 15th Avenue in Kitsilano, Vancouver. Radhika and her mom Mayana lived with us there. We rode bicycles, had Easter egg hunts and bathed in the love of family and Dharma Sara.
Summers at the Center were a joy. I was a monkey in the Ramayana. We could walk the back way to swim at Blackburn Lake, though you had to watch out for leeches. I was always out and about digging for gold and gems. When Babaji would see me, he’d write “any luck?” When I’d been away from the Centre for a few years and came back, the first thing he wrote was “any luck?” At the Retreat when I was seven, I had a loose tooth, and Babaji pulled it out with dental floss. I realized today that in this way, Babaji assisted my manifestation of “luck” via the tooth fairy. At the ferry terminal I went to a gift booth, bought a ceramic cobra and brought it to show Babaji and Ma Renu. I know that my gem hunt was at least partially spurred by the colouring book story The Magic Gem.
Our family moved to California when I was 8 and Vernon when I was 9 to join the Kebzeh community of Murat Yagan. I remember that I wasn’t very cool at school (the “rat tail” hair fashion was lost on these country kids), so I spent my time reading reading reading, and moved over to St. James Catholic School. We weren’t Catholic but the school was very inclusive and the people were kind. Mom figured that I was spiritually aware enough to know what’s what. The Kebzeh community was awesome. Its motto is “one for all, all for one,” a sweet ‘take’ on unity and an active reminder of the role of community. Though as kids we didn’t delve too deeply into the formal teachings of Kebzeh, you know you’re engaged when you’re reminded of the time you said, “Heck, mom, what’s money compared to understanding psychological toxins!” Vernon and the community were a great place to grow up, with a bunch of kids the same age as Gabriel and me, beautiful hills that I mountain biked daily, and the aforementioned jewel of Kalamalka lake.
When I came down to Saltspring by myself for the retreat after Grade 10, I hadn’t been there for a few years. It was such a sweet homecoming. Mount Madonna youth who had been training with Babaji in the “power of pranayama” came up that year and blew us all away with their feats of strength through breath. Seeing your peers crushing glass in their hands, bending rebar with their eyes and crushing 800 pound rocks on their chests with sledgehammers is surely inspiring – and great teenage advertising for the study of yoga. I happily recall the excitement of meeting a whole new group of people my age, and the unique joys of being a teenager.
My love of nature and the outdoors gained ever more tangible form as a student of Earthquest in Grade 11, taught by Barry and Moe Reid. It was an amazing program where we spent one semester in the classroom, and the other outside learning First Nations technology, running, biking, rock climbing, telemark skiing, and kayaking. The beauty and intensity of the program bound us “Questies” tightly in community, always made easier when one is fluent in the practice. We were challenged and ultimately proud gaining an ability to track animals, flake arrowheads, start fire with a bow drill, make cattail mats, split cedar root baskets, and use plants for food and medicine. The great outdoors truly is great, a place of spirit and wonder.
Inspired by Earthquest, I studied Biology and Environmental Studies at University of Victoria. Life, learning and excitement were bountiful through these years, rooted in the student community. Setting out after graduation, I was deeply inspired by my travels to Latin America and went on to do a graduate program in Latin American Management at McRae Institute of International Management.
Among the blessings I’ve received from the Saltspring Centre was its direct role in the discovery of my life’s work in climate change. I was traveling home from the 1999 Annual Community Yoga Retreat on the little ferry with my mom and dad, when mom spotted Dirk Brinkman in a car up ahead. I’d just come back from a disastrous brush cutting season in Northern BC and Papa said, “Dirk runs a good tree planting company – you should go apply.” We spoke, he invited me to come plant next year, and though I ended up teaching Science Venture Camp in Victoria the following summers, the meeting kicked off an association with Dirk that led me to work to tackle climate change.
I wrangled a job with Dirk and his team in 2004, developing reforestation carbon offset projects in Latin America. It was at the United Nations climate conference in Montreal the next year, where I realized I could speak intelligently about forest carbon with any one of the 10,000 climate experts in attendance – and that I’d found my calling. I took the opportunity to finish my graduate program as an MBA in Paris, came back to Canada and started CPS Carbon Project Solutions Inc. I ran the company for 6 years, “turning action into offset”, helping foresters, engineers and technology holders that get and keep carbon out of the atmosphere to turn that benefit into a standardized economic unit (the carbon offset) that would pay for the project to be done. I went on to work with BC’s Pacific Carbon Trust crown corporation to aggregate offsets that enable the government to go carbon neutral. Last year, I accepted an offer to come back to Brinkman and formalize a new division of the company focused on carbon offset development.
A return to Vancouver enabled happy evolution of the relationship with my love, Marcy. We have made a happy home in East Vancouver, and became engaged this spring under a waterfall. My brother Gabriel and his wife Emily live just across town, and their son Asher was born near the start of summer. I feel happy and excited to be near family as life blooms anew. It’s great that we have a Vancouver satsang and meditation with Divakar.
I am grateful to earn my livelihood developing great projects that keep greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere. On-the-ground work is paired with strategic engagement of government, business and civil society to establish smart climate policies – including putting a limit and price on carbon emissions through cap and trade. Climate change manifests a key facet of yoga – that we are all connected, that we are all one. The earth has one atmosphere, and every human’s emission or reduction of greenhouse gases affects every other. Recognizing our interconnected, interdependent nature is the key to both the inspiration and motivation to take the actions required.
Community is a blessing so necessary – the right space to grow in knowledge, service and devotion. The Saltspring Centre of Yoga gives us a place to learn, to love, to inspire and be inspired. We are all so very fortunate.