Reflections on my time at
the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga
by Courtney Christensen
It is not often we get to take a step back and breathe. It is not often we land somewhere that invites us in with curiosity, openness, acceptance, and love. Some places call you to them, when you are ready for the space, when you are ready for what they have to teach. Some places stay with you, long after you’ve left the physical location, long after you’ve began the next chapter.
The more we connect with our own needs, the more we are able to understand the needs of others. The invitation to begin a healing journey started, for me, the moment my feet touched Salt Spring Island, a gentle place where possibility lives. Working for 2 months on the farm, taking pranayama and asana classes, and eating the delicious and nourishing food taught me more than I ever expected.
I learned cucumbers grow on vines, and cherry tomatoes off the vine are better than five cent candy. I learned how to preserve apples in sauces, crumbles, butters, and breads. I learned how much little baby slugs love chicory and how much frogs love the onion and leek field. I learned what the air smells like before rain, when the morning mist will pass and the sun will break through and spill into the valley.
On the land, I learned how to embrace silence, stillness, and to simply breathe.
The experience of alienation, of isolation, of depression, and of anxiety were all familiar companions in my life. In this mode of existential crisis, I kept wondering is this all there is? The normal reward system and social structures left me feeling vulnerable, caught in a bind, confused and ready for something different. I applied for the Karma Yoga program on an emotionally turbulent night during last winter, I felt intuitively this would be the right place to begin the process of self discovery. This would be the right place to come back to that which is hidden in plain sight.
Through each of the teachers and mentors on the land, the practice of yoga became a way to hold space for a different response to my pain and suffering. I found out that I was not alone. That I was supported in loving kindness by complete strangers, by off land Elders I never met, by Babaji and his teachings. Love’s light may have evaded some aspects of our past, it may have been chased away by systems that distort our humanity, but love is our birthright. We are tapping into the greatest power available to us by remembering to bring love with us, no matter where we go. Everything we do to support ourselves is something we do as an act of care, for ourselves, our families, and our communities.
I am still learning that the more challenges I work through, the more I am refining my talents. I am still learning that the more I show up for a situation, the more possibility exists that I may impact it. I am still learning to bring presence to the parts of myself that are hard to bear, and to show them kindness.
I am still learning to act in concert with those around me, and the land and environment I call home. I am still learning how to be curious, without criticism, and without judgement. I am still learning to take steps each day to support this transformation and growth.
We are worthy of witnessing our own beauty, our own unbearable traits. Both the positive and the negative are full of wisdom. We are worthy of witnessing our own journey, and that practice of witnessing and honouring what is in ourselves is one of the most worthwhile practices we can have.
The formal teachings gave us a structure to look at our personal patterns and find news ways of perceiving them. But really, it comes down to people and the connections formed by shared time at the Centre. We are nothing without the community around us. We have to weave ourselves into the web of life with all our relations, human, animal, or plant. If our relationships are authentic, then they are transformative, and these transformative little actions are what can change our world.
We can try, always doing our best but recognizing that we are not in control. Everything in this physical universe ends, but we can surrender to being, to developing our best selves, and to be fully present and alive now.
Partings are always bittersweet as with endings, come new beginnings. I know my journey has just begun. I am filled with profound gratitude for my time at the centre; it was challenging and ultimately empowering.
Thank you for holding space, for encouraging the journey, and encouraging the search for the essential nature of who we really are.
Thank you for providing an example of how discipline creates room for growth, for showing me the interconnectedness between practice and lived reality, and action, for providing safe and fertile ground to trust the process.
Thank you for guiding me to and awakening in me the practice of love.
‘Love everyone, including yourself. That is real Sadhana’. – Baba Hari Dass