Burnaby Mountain and the Practice of Satya

Mountain Landscape

Photo courtesy of Lou Palmer

by Andy Sinclair

Yoga, for me, is a path into spirituality. When I first began to study it, I learned about the eight limbs, or branches, of ashtanga yoga. That was interesting. However, I mostly wanted to learn about the third limb, asana – the postures. I loved being effortful and physical and it was a revelation to observe sensations from a more constant place. Oh, how I was disciplined in that aspect. There was not a lot of room for anything else.

The other night, after watching the evening news, I instinctively reached for my old yoga student manual and dusted it off. I wanted to look up the yamas, the first limb, which I remember only in a fleeting and fuzzy way. I went to the yama called satya.

Satya: Truthfulness of speech, thoughts, deeds. Practice: Honesty, owning feelings, loving communication, assertiveness, giving constructive feedback, forgiveness, nonjudging, letting go of masks.

When I think of how to be more truthful, I am reminded that yoga is a practice and not something you just do or don’t do. Truthfulness is a challenge. In that spirit, I offer my practice.


In Canada, the Texan energy company Kinder Morgan (“a company run by shareholders for shareholders,” according to their website) has applied to the federal regulator, the National Energy Board (NEB), to be allowed to build the TransMountain Expansion Project pipeline, which will run from Edmonton to Burnaby. (This is a major project that will involve 994 km of new pipeline and 193 km of reactivated pipeline.) Marc Eliesen, a former CEO of B.C. Hydro and a former Suncor board member, withdrew as an intervener in the public hearing process saying that it “has become a farce, and this Board a truly industry captured regulator.” He concluded that “continued involvement in the process endorses this sham and is not in the public interest.”

Kinder Morgan cut down 13 trees in the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area in September. Now, despite massive, peaceful, on and off-site opposition, including from the mayors of Vancouver and Burnaby, they are boring deep into the earth and moving forward with their survey work. At last count, more than 60 protectors of the land had been arrested by the RCMP. In addition, five residents and one citizen group are being sued by Kinder Morgan for $5.4 million for trespassing in the area of the conservation area where the survey work is being done.

To summarize, a company that wants to make a lot of money for its investors has convinced the federal government that it should be able to cut down trees and drill into a conservation area in order to prepare to build a massive oil sands pipeline, and the people protecting this land (and protesting against the pipeline) have been arrested by our own police forces, or sued by the company. Canadian residents are paying in policing and court costs so that a big energy corporation can exploit us.

Kinder Morgan, like any energy company, points out that they give back (in fact, their Code of Business Conduct and Ethics lists “Honesty, Integrity and Respect for People” as Kinder Morgan’s values) through taxes and job creation. According to the economist Robyn Allan, from 2009 to 2013, TransMountain’s combined federal and provincial Canadian corporate tax contribution averaged $1.5 million per year. Kinder Morgan has also projected that the pipeline will create 50 direct full-time jobs.

That’s not a lot of money or employment for a country of 35 million people. To earn it, we tear up a lot of rock and trees, we expose our land and water to spillage that can never really be cleaned up, and we further an oil sands excavation process that we know is contributing to climate change.

We do this. Or we allow it.

There is much to reckon with here: the shame that comes from having previously looked away, and from not doing enough now; the fear that comes, especially given new surveillance revelations, from speaking out against the powerful forces of industry and government; even the unpleasant feelings that come from sharing this information with friends and colleagues who interpret the situation differently.

In the face of this shame and fear and unpleasantness, and inspired by the brave people on the mountain, I can complete the circle and return to what I’ve learned on the yoga mat through asana: that these feelings can be merely observed and need not interfere with taking action.

Andy Sinclair lives in Toronto. His first novel Breathing Lessons will be published by Véhicule Press in March 2015. 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Ecology and Environmental Issues, Ethics, Featured, Leadership, Nature, Peace, Peace, Justice, and Equality, People

Author:Wood Lake Publishing

At Wood Lake Publishing we are passionate about supporting and encouraging an emerging form of Christianity, which is rooted in ancient wisdom and attentive to the movement of spirit in our day. Visit us online at woodlakebooks.com


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