Where to start? Fast track forward to when I was first introduced to the Salt Spring Centre. It was Heather Martin, my midwife then, as I was pregnant with Sammy, who brought me from Vancouver to satsang one Sunday in the spring of 1982. I had no knowledge of Babaji’s teachings, though I did know a young couple in Vancouver, Radhika and Shyam, whom I enjoyed spending time with, and they spoke of their love for Babaji.
So there I sat, on the floor of the satsang room, not knowing anyone except for Heather. I didn’t know what the chants meant, how to follow along, or how I could participate. What I did know is that a river of tears was rolling down my face. I remember being deeply moved by the energy in the room, the harmonium and beautiful voices, the altar with all of the flowers, pictures, and arati vessels, and the love that filled my entire being. I knew inside myself, though much had to happen first, that this is where I had to be.
I was living in Kits with Michael, Samantha and Leala’s dad, and Heather was my midwife for both of their home births. The tremendous blessings of my two beautiful daughters has had the greatest impact in my life. Their presence, and my responsibility to protect them and give them my best that I could in all ways, guided my choices. So when they were around 2 & 4 years old, we moved from the city to Salt Spring. I had to learn how to drive a car for the first time since there were no buses and everything was so far apart. I had met Jacob and Maicha, now Yeshe, in Kits through Radhika and Shyam. Cyrcee, then SunMoon, was already doing acrobatics in the back yard “gym” that Jacob had set up. She was around six years old. They were very helpful to me when we all ended up on the island, and we became instant friends. Sammy and Leala are still very close with Sundaura and Cyrcee, and visited the family in Maui last winter.
The Salt Spring Centre community warmly welcomed me and my kids. Soon after we moved to the island, I was offered a place to rent at Uma and Rameshwar’s house, where Babaji, Ma and Karuna would stay for both the Easter Spring Renewal and the summer Community Retreat. We had to move out of course!!! And then Anuradha and her cleaning crew, myself included, would go at it and clean that place until it sparkled. We lived in that house for about four years, part of which was with Mamata and Jeramiah. The kids played well together and love each other to this day.
Then I was inspired to live without electricity! And drag my kids along with me!! Ah those wonderful, crazy ideas that bubbled up!!! And were acted upon!!! So I found a professional tipi maker here in Victoria, bought what seemed like mountains of canvas in Vancouver, and spent an entire weekend sewing a tipi on a treadle machine. Lisa Lloyd allowed us to put up this beautiful white canvas on her farm and gave us a five acre piece that was fenced off from her few pet cows.
Sammy and Leala thought this was the cat’s meow. It was a beautiful and powerful space, and living that close to nature was quite a special time! I could walk through the bush on a new moon and never go off the trail. The kids and Gabriel, Subhadra’s son, made a little tipi of their own out of blankets and wood they salvaged from the forest. A full day’s work that was – and a source of creative entertainment for weeks.
After a couple of years living at Lisa’s we were accepted to move the tipi onto the land in the big meadow past the school. It became a topic of education in the school, and one year all the kids helped to erect it, me talking them through the process. The field was a beautiful place to live. Mamata, Sammy and Leala would wander off in the three-foot tall grass and make fairy rings where they would spend hours in creative play and story telling. One morning when I was getting up, I went outside of the tipi to greet the day, and there was Babaji!! Alone!!! We saw each other and with a big radiant smile, he waved at me. I waved back wondering how disheveled I must have looked!! What a beautiful sight was he in his white robes against the dark green forest. He was out for his morning brisk walk. And nobody had followed him! Small miracles happen.
I never wintered over in the tipi. I loved nature but I was not that much of a diehard. So outdoors in May and back indoors in October. Man it was hard to have artificial light after living with the natural cycle. I couldn’t stop doing stuff and sometimes found myself still up at midnight. Sorted that out pretty quick with early rises.
It was the best setting for Sammy and Leala to grow up. So much safety, freedom, space, support, delicious foods – and the school was seconds away. And after school, it was endless tending of The Bunny Homes under the cedar trees at the school.
Theatre was a big deal at the school, and I can’t share parts of my life at the SSC without talking about the Ramayana. This was the highlight of summer for the kids, the talk and excitement of which actually started way before summer and went way into fall after it was all over. Babaji sure had us all busy in so many departments and facets of creative expression. I found myself in the sewing department in a flow of costume production that was unlike anything I had done before – or since. Costumes costumes costumes: Maicha, Uma and I (and others) made costumes for monkeys, demons, jungle tribes, belly dancers, as well as capes, sashes, tunics, dresses, armours. It all just flowed, and Babaji was orchestrating the whole thing. The energy for Ramayana was exciting! The first year that my kids were in the play Leala and Mamata were the littlest monkeys, I think aged 4 & 3 respectively. Susheela as one of the directors of 100 + kids that year told me that Leala had said to her “you’re just trying to control me” when she was trying to do some blocking with the monkeys. So cute! Sam had roles in the Guha tribe, belly dancers, and maybe even a demon one year. Good times, they were!
There are many stories to tell about our fabulous times at the Centre, but I will jump ahead for now and talk about another life-changing episode, one that still serves me well and consumes much of my time and energy. I had an interview with Babaji some 17 years ago. Really?! I thought I would ask about a career as I wanted to be engaged in a career path before the age of 40. I had three ideas: linguistics, making customized tarps and awnings as a business, and before I could say anything more Babaji wrote on his chalkboard, “get your nursing”!!! I had to look behind myself to see if someone else was in the room!! I had never thought of nursing. Maybe Babaji knew that my mother was a nurse and my father a doctor. What was I supposed to do? I went to GISS – yup, high school! – and took some prerequisites as well as an art class, just to keep it fun. I was in art class with Nayana, Kirsty, Farishta, and OmPK was the teacher for part of the semester. I was privy to quite the stories in that class of grade 12 students I’ll tell you!! And then I was accepted into the nursing program. And that’s what I still do as a career. I have questioned my sanity at times, but that too passes and I carry on.
Sammy is happily married to Colin. I call him a prince! She is currently taking YTT right now, and I’m so proud of her. Leala has spent the winter in Grand Cayman Island working on a visa and learning at the University of the World. She loves to travel, and I’m glad she’ll be home by the end of May. She will work on Salt Spring this summer.
When I think back, my time at the Centre was kind of like country finishing school. Hahaha!! I learned so much about community and relationships, responsibility, accountability, determination, leadership, focused intent, and the beautiful teachings, life path and purity of heart that Babaji has taught me. And what a tremendous blessing to have Babaji directly shaping our lives through his example. Jai Gurudev!
I remember vividly several life-changing events from over the years, the profound experiences at the SSC being very high on that list. I am forever grateful to Babaji and the satsang for the love that was extended to me, Sammy and Leala.