Starseed sanctuary in Savoy sows light
Satyana Ananda knows that sometimes after destruction, light returns.
Sometimes a terrible thing can end in a miracle.
Transformation is part of Ananda's mission as director of the Starseed Sanctuary, an interfaith healing and retreat center she has operated from her home in the Berkshires since the late 1980s.
All along, Starseed has been a struggle: A struggle to find a place, to stay on the land and to create a haven for healing energy.
Originally from Ohio, Ananda was raised Catholic and practiced devoutly until the age of 26, when she found Hinduism. She had been living in Boston with her husband and three children when they founded Survival Co-Op and World Union Center, where she sought to introduce people to the benefits of yoga, meditation and natural foods.
It was the early '70s.
"There was a moment when we all gathered in one room to make a prayer before we ate, and in that moment that energy channeled through me, and I began to speak the blessing. People from all walks, all spiritual paths, were there. There was an incredible spirit of oneness," she said.
Though the Boston center lasted only about a year, it sowed the seed for her life's work.
"It took another decade before we found this place," she said.
During that time she trained in all aspects of natural healing arts, and she explored her development as a lay minister within the Unitarian Church.
When she found the 130-acre property in Savoy, she knew she'd found her center.
And over the years her center has grown from within. With a spacious carriage house that is used as a spiritual center, and a main dwelling featuring a large, open-style farm kitchen, dormitory-style accommodations for groups and individuals.
She runs many kinds of programs for people in transition. People who are searching for answers from within.
"What I do here at Starseed involves leading ceremonies on equinoxes, solstices and other key energetic times," she said. "I lead other ceremonies as well: weddings, rites of passage, retreats. We are doing more and more personal guided retreats where people come for a day or a week, or sometimes longer. We find out what they need, and then we provide it. It's a holistic retreat. We line them up with food, movement, emotional, body, energy balancing, earth-based healing, spiritual direction and life coaching."
She's also facilitated a popular program for women ages 50 and beyond called "Coming to the Well."
"My life purpose is founded in my coming from the four root races: African, Native American, European and Asian. Part of my purpose is to create an environment, a sanctuary and experiences where people can feel that we are all one. That we all came from the same place and that we are all connected," she said. "Starseed is that sacred container where healing can take place.
"It's not just one aspect of healing. Not just physical, not just emotional, spiritual but also mental ... so all of the bodies get addressed."
Groups of like-minded people have also rented Starseed's peaceful retreat house for their own wellness and spiritual programs. But occasionally there have been problems.
"We once had a group of men here from New York City who were doing a kind of vision quest," she said. "I didn't feel as if they were taking care of the land, and I asked them about it. They had a fire one night, and the next day, after they had left, my husband and I saw smoke. The whole field had burned up to the woods."
She was devastated and couldn't look away from the fire's damage. So she began to sweep away the ashes.
Her husband joined her, and soon they found a rose quartz stone among the ashes, which had been engraved with the word "miracle."
"And that's what I decided it was, a miracle. Š especially after we swept away the ashes and found these beautiful stones just over there," she said. "We call them our Grandfather Stones. When you sit with them, you sit with your ancestors."
Ananda and her husband eventually separated, but her daughters are helping her to achieve the next phase for Starseed.
Her youngest daughter and her husband have joined Ananda as partners, to help transition from a retreat center to include more of an intentional community.
Ananda envisions land stewards who will take a few acres of land to start an agricultural program -- perhaps a CSA that will grow food and medicinal herbs.
Her plan includes interfaith meetings in council format where contributing members make decisions about all aspects of the center from planned housing to sanctuary maintenance, trail building and agriculture.
But ultimately, her goal is to give light to the community.
"I see a lot of people who come here who are at a crossroads," she said. "They are in crisis, and they need to make an inner shift. And what they need is to connect with the spiritual part of themselves. In nature they can feel their oneness, the beauty and the perfection of nature. Being in that energy field opens them to the work we do together. It expands their experience of the world."
Multicultural Bridge and Berkshires Week have partnered to create a column and a blog that will share voices and stories from all corners of the county and the world.
Meet a professor of languages from South Sudan, a mother from Peru, a rancher from Becket and many more neighbors, at www.berkshireeagleblogs.com/onthebridge.
For more information about Starseed, visit www.starseedsanctuary.org
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