“…and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.” —Joni Mitchell
Talking About My Generation…
You get up every morning. What happens? A week goes by. A month goes by. A year goes by. You get up every morning for 18,274 days and 50 years have gone by. The year 2019, marked many 50th anniversaries for me: I have studied Yoga and Zen for 50 years. I have been a vegetarian for 50 years. I graduated college 50 years ago. My father passed away 50 years ago.
The year 1969, was an historic year for a number of reasons: the moon landing, the Woodstock Festival, The Beatles album “Abbey Road,” the Vietnam War, Stonewall, the first 747 airplane, the first ATM machine, the first Wal-Mart opened, and the PBS station launched.
We All Have A Story
We all have a story. Here is mine—the short version!
My grandparents came from Russia through Ellis Island in 1904 and settled in Milwaukee and Omaha. My grandfather was an Orthodox Jew. I have a twin sister and two older brothers. My father was a psychiatrist and my mother was a pianist. I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. I was raised Jewish. I had a Bar Mitzvah, confirmation, and I married a nice Jewish girl.
The New York Integral Yoga Institute
I graduated from Columbia University in New York City in 1968, at the height of the student protests and the Vietnam War. I was drafted. At the same time, I was accepted into the Peace Corps. I filed as a conscientious objector, however, my draft board would not let me go out of the country, so I served two years of alternative service as a New York City welfare caseworker. It was at that time that I started to live and study at the “Uptown” New York IYI, as the Integral Yoga Institute on 500 West End Avenue was known back then.
In 1970, the “Downtown” IYI (227 West 13th Street, where it still is today) opened, and I became the Executive Secretary. This was an exciting time to be at the IYI and to be around Swami Satchidananda (whom we called “Swamiji,” at that time). The organization was in an embryonic stage with so much activity and with so much potential. Many of us were in our twenties—young, naïve, yet enthusiastic.
In 1969, there were major events in the new and fledgling life of the IYI: Swamiji opened Woodstock, he spoke at a sold-out “concert” at Carnegie Hall, the first Integral Yoga Retreat (at Annhurst), the founding of YES (the Yoga Ecumenical Seminary—Swamiji’s first interfaith organization), the first issue of Integral Yoga Magazine, the opening of Integral Yoga Natural Foods and the IYI bookstore. There were efforts to expand Integral Yoga by opening centers in San Francisco, Dallas, New Jersey, Connecticut, Montreal, Detroit, and Boulder. It was all happening!
My first Yoga retreat was at Ananda Ashram in Monroe, New York. I was greeted by Joan Suval (amazingly, she is still at Ananda Ashram after 50 years!). It was a positive weekend, the first of many retreats over the years.
When I started studying Yoga, like many of us, I had fully expected to become a Swami. After all, Swamiji was our role model. Why wouldn’t we want to follow in his footsteps? Well, that didn’t happen for me! Padma and I were married in June 1971 at the NYIYI, with Swamiji officiating. There were two other young couples (Aikya and Balaram, and Grace and Barry) also married during that ceremony. Quite an event!
During this period, I started graduate school in philosophy at the New School. I also had part time jobs driving a NYC taxi and teaching math at a Yeshiva in Brooklyn. Padma worked for Peter Max, as did a number of other IYI students.
Padma and I then moved to Seattle in 1972 to start careers and a family. We continued to offer Integral Yoga programs and to host Swamiji in the Pacific Northwest.
In July 2019, as if no time had passed, I was at Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville for the first time since the dedication of the Light Of Truth Universal Shrine in July 1986. How does time pass by so quickly? Yet, everything seemed so familiar.
Can’t Find My Way Home…
For the month of July 2019, I served at the Ashram as a Karma Yoga volunteer. I served in exchange for room/board/programs. I was housed in the men’s dorm, in a bunkbed, that was very adequate and comfortable. I had a daily routine of meditation, Hatha Yoga, Karma Yoga, study, and free time. My Karma Yoga assignment was a mix of kitchen prep and clean up, housekeeping, the farm, and the office. Everything from cleaning the refrigerator to chopping bok choy. Life at the Ashram is an interesting mix of Yoga camp, hut trip, and retreat with elements of solitude, silence, and community.
Since retirement, I’ve been trying to allocate one month each summer to go on retreat, to take a break, and to renew my spiritual practice. The summer of 2018, I spent a month as a volunteer at the Tara Mandala Tibetan Buddhist Retreat Center in Colorado. For 2020, I am considering volunteering at a Zen Retreat Center in either California or Oregon.
Many Rivers To Cross
During my stay in Yogaville in July 2019, there were so many wonderful highlights over the course of the month. Here are just a few: the fireflies and the cicadas in the evening summer sunsets; Guru Poornima weekend; reconnecting with longtime Yoga friends; enjoying the four generations of yogis at the Ashram; making new Yoga friends; fasting and silence on Thursdays; perusing the shelves at the Integral Yoga Distribution Center; enjoying snacks at Mandala Market and Nirvana Café; losing a few pounds (does that mean I’m enlightened?); shopping at Integral Yoga Natural Foods in Charlottesville; swimming in the LOTUS Lake; making the pilgrimage up and down the steps to Kailash; visiting Monticello and New Dominion Bookstore in Charlottesville.
This was a time to reflect, a time to practice, a time to a part of the Ashram. I am truly blessed with such wonderful and supportive family and friends and sangha.
Q & A
As with many of us, I had a number of interesting reactions when I told friends and family that I was going to spend a month at the Ashram. Some of them just shrugged or rolled their eyes. Some asked why. Some asked questions. Here is just a sampling of their questions.
Q: What is an ashram?
A: An Ashram is a place and a community for spiritual practice and study.
Q: Who is “Guru Dave?”
A: Sri Swami Satchidananda is a renowned and beloved Yoga master. Out of respect, we call him “Gurudev,” which means beloved teacher. He has been the spiritual teacher of thousands of students all over the globe.
Q: Why do they call you “Silva?”
A: Actually, it’s Siva. At some point in our Integral Yoga journey, we can request the blessing of a Yoga name. The significance of the name is to highlight spiritual aspects and to encourage spiritual goals. In my case, Siva means auspiciousness. It also means ascetic.
Guru has many meanings: teacher, guide, master, mentor, spiritual leader. For me, even after 50 years, I continue to focus on some of the simple aphorisms from Gurudev. He had such a wonderful gift with language, particularly English.
- A peaceful, easeful, useful life is the goal of Yoga
- Do good, be good
- No appointments, no disappointments
- When the student is ready, the Guru appears
- The entire life is an open book—read it
- It’s very simple: a healthy body aids a peaceful mind
- The moment you understand yourself as the true Self, you find peace
- Let us all dedicate our lives for the sake of the entire humanity
- Truth is one, paths are many
- Peace comes not from doing, but from undoing; not from getting, but from letting go
- Let us accept all the different paths as different rivers running toward the same ocean
- You are the cause of your own joy or your own misery
- The light is within. It is already there. Take your time to see it.
- Who will be the happiest person? The one who brings happiness to others.
- Never give up, nothing is done overnight—don’t give up hope, even after many failures
- The greatest victory you can win is over your own mind
- Love all, serve all
- Live in the golden present
With A Little Help From My Friends
There are so many at the Ashram that I would like to thank for making this retreat opportunity possible. The Ashram is a beautiful venue with beautiful souls: Rev. Premanjali and Rev. Kumari for making the initial arrangements; Brother Arjavan and Rev. Bharati for being such gracious hosts; James for being an ideal roommate; Sadasiva, Satya, Shanti, Vijay, Margabandhu, Amma for being part of my Yoga family for 50 years; Devendra, Ranjani, and all of the Hatha Yoga instructors for such great early morning classes; Shakti for the wonderful Karma Yoga assignments; Ananda Devi for her radiance and constant encouragement; Richard, Jay, Aria, Prashanti, and all of the wonderful cooks (I learned so much in the kitchen); All of the wonderful Swamis, many that I have known for many years; Swami Asokananda and Rev. Rudra (my good friends from the NYIYI); my family and friends for their support and encouragement and patience of my practice; my loving wife, Marcia, who was so generous with my time away from home and for supporting my activities. And, of course, to Gurudev for guiding me along the path for the past 50 years. Thank you!
About the Author:
Barry Siva Wick currently lives in Colorado Springs. He had a long career as a computer engineer at Boeing, Digital Equipment Corporation, and Raytheon. Siva and former wife, Padma have children and grandchildren in Denver and San Francisco. At age 50, Siva completed the Ironman Triathlon; at age 60, Siva served in the Peace Corps; at 70, Siva received two new knees and two hearing aids. At age 80, Siva plans to do the Kailash pilgrimage and to volunteer at Dharamsala. Siva has long been active in the Colorado Springs community as a volunteer. Siva is currently married to Marcia, who is a writer. They met on a weekend for blind skiers. Siva became her ski guide. Marcia also has guide dog, Viviane, and has children and grandchildren in Denver. Together, Siva and Marcia have enjoyed skiing, swimming, triathlons, hiking, climbing, travel, family, and friends.