October 24, 2005
The last hours of daylight has me driving up the Kootenay Lake road from Creston to Kootenay Bay through pea soup fog, with intermittent openings of late day, gray sky, gray water, late October stillness and quiet. Of course, being one of the fortunate few of the thirty participants registered for Sharon Gannon’s five day yoga intensive to live close enough to drive to Yasodhara Ashram from home, I have in my typical harried realtor style left Invermere late enough in the day after ‘just one more thing to get done’, that I am now left behind by the day, to arrive in darkness and obscurity. It was my birthday yesterday, all of fifty-two years, and I am calling this week away from home and work my birthday present to myself, a time of rest and renewal after a busy season.
It is a momentous birthday for me, one that has been growing in my consciousness for a couple of years, the last birthday that my mother celebrated with us on this earth before dying the following spring. Her birth date is five days before mine and we had always celebrated them together. We had always known how young she was when she got sick and died, but now, upon reaching the same age as she was, I look to myself, my hopes and dreams for the future, still feeling way down deep inside like the nineteen year old I was when I lived in the West Kootenays and hung around some, lived some, in Crawford Bay, Riondel and Kootenay Bay in the early 70’s, and reflect yet again upon what a supreme ripoff a life cut short at age fifty-two seems to me.
Although my teacher Tamela Hart has tried to prepare those four of us from Invermere for this intensive with Sharon, and stepped up the pace of our classes to develop some stamina, I am not at all familiar with Sharon’s yoga teachings and Jivamukti Yoga, and made the decision to attend based on my own personal situation only, the timing of it being offered to me, for my birthday. Here I am, bringing my self to this lovely quiet place, as I am, looking for what?… A break from packing the cell phone 24-7, putting in many hours behind the wheel of my car and computer, the full time realtor and some time yoga teacher, yoga and dance student. I know that I am also hoping to find some time and space for connection with something immanent, if not a long overdue dream visitation from mom, at least an intimation, an opening of heart and mind to what life could/should be ahead, with gratitude and joy, in the time ahead, whatever that might be, that I am now living that she did not get the chance to.
The Ashram is a light in the foggy darkness and I arrive in the entryway of Mandala House to many people, all women, and am greeted by several I know. What a surprise, to see many others that I know, women with whom I studied the last module of the Trinity Yoga Teacher Development program last year. This is going to be a reunion of sorts as well. The first news is that although I am late, so is Sharon Gannon, her plane held up from being able to land in Castlegar by the same fog I have been driving through this evening. She is enroute by bus from Kelowna now, and will arrive late this evening. Registration, getting settled in Saraswati Lodge above the Ashram grounds, brings us all to Satsang time at 8:00 PM in the Temple.
I’ve never stayed at the Ashram before although I have loved to visit the bookstore when visiting in the area, and have been given the gift of being able to drop in to a morning yoga class and have breakfast afterward in the dining hall of Mandala House. Everywhere are reminders of this being a holy place, with beautiful religious icons and art placed, in alcoves and tucked under trees along the way to the temple, for quiet reflection and meditation. Swami Sivananda Radha’s benevolent presence is felt everywhere, with large and lovely portraits of her placed, in the atrium outside the dining room, in the dining room, pictures of her from the different ages and stages of her life. She was a very striking looking woman.
Although there are art representations of predominantly eastern deities, there are also so many which are familiar and strangely comforting, coming from a background of a traditional Roman Catholic upbringing. Being probably the only little girl of Slovak family heritage in a predominantly Irish, South Vancouver Catholic parish school, my childhood was steeped in the tradition of the church with a healthy dab of Gaelic flavor, presided over by the genial presence of Fr. Hanrahan; ’twas a mortal sin not to wear green on saint Paddy’s day! Before and during the mid-60’s transition from the old Latin Mass to English, I learned to sing the Latin Mass at age seven, and did so with gusto. It was a phonic learning of sounds, not necessarily complete understanding of each phrase of Latin translation, and the Sanskrit chanting reminds me of it.
The incense, the soft, flickering candlelight, the singing, the being comfortable in a sacred place, feels so familiar here, and here and there are beautiful sculptures and pictures of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and it all seems to meld together and fit, and I feel at home. Satsang in the Temple is new to many of us, I think, yet many of the chants in the songbook are similar to those in the Catholic hymnal, especially invoking Blessed Mary, Mother. The architecture of the Temple is similar to that of a geodesic dome, and it has the same effect on sound, so that the chanting and singing coming from the opposite side of the temple arcs up the domed interior space and comes down to light in your ear as though – the sound came from right beside, or behind, or inside, you. The OM sounding from everyone within is a rising, resonating wave of vibrations, heart and mind opening.