A Visit to Sirius Community in Shutesbury, Massachusetts...
Sirius community was founded in September 1978 by former members of Findhorn Community in Scotland wishing to establish a similar community in their American homeland. Its foundation is spiritual, but in a non-sectarian manner that allows for each person to find their own way to the heart of all beingness and reality. The shared expression reflects reverence for all Life and willingness to live in accord with this intention as much as possible. We thus employ ecologically sustainable methods of living and a consensus-style governance process, striving to honor all that is.
Below you can find a category for each of the four pillars of our four-fold purpose here at Sirius: spiritual, ecological, communitarian, and educational.
Our spiritual basis reflects awareness of a Divine Presence underlying all things. We regard this Presence of many names as the essence of who we truly are, and as supreme provider of the insight, inspiration and guidance that calls on us to awaken from purely material dreams.
In non-sectarian fashion, we access this guidance through individually chosen spiritual practices, an through group meditation processes addressing conflict, decision-making, and governance.
Foundation in Shared Meditation Practice
Meditation is the essence of our shared practice – the core component of all our major shared processes – often, but not always, also the core component of our individually chosen spiritual practices. We thus learn to sit in silence, attending to the universe’s Supreme Intelligence, directly experience its presence as both underlying all things and residing within each of us as unique soul expressions. This experience requires no belief in the religious sense, but only the patience and intent necessary to learn any skill. The non-material aspect of reality thereby becomes experientially accessible, and therefore within the realm of that which is directly known. This is possible because, as we discover, our own hidden essential nature is precisely of this non-material realm and not of anything material.
Spiritual Support Facilities
We have several distinct facilities established to support spiritual growth. In addition to our Meditation Sanctuary and the Octagon Meeting Room, where we hold daily morning meditation, we have constructed a rustic refuge for personal retreats into the side of a hill only a few minutes walk away through the woods, not far from our other buildings. The Retreat House lacks plumbing and electricity, but the woodstove and candles provide plenty of warmth and light for solo retreatants, who may sleep in separate quarters nearby. Because it is built into a hillside, it stays cool even in the summer, and remains quiet except for the sounds of forest wildlife.
The Phoenix House Labrynth was built over a period of years as a meditative walking tool. The arcs and turns were first marked with twigs, ribbons and switches. Standing before the entrance before walking into the center, each walker would lift a rock from a pile provided and carry it into the labyrinth for placement. it has now been further decorated with statues and crystals. Feelings of profound peace have been reported by many walking its path.
Supporting Varied Practices & Paths
We strive to honor the highest in every spiritual path. Our members and guests practice a wide variety of differing faiths and rituals. During any season, we therefore may host retreats of Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Celtic, Wiccan, Druidic, Jewish, Muslim, or Goddess worship orientation. Some of these retreat group have been annual visitors for years. We understand that the Unifying Presence of many names speaks to us all in different ways, and we welcome all who share in this mutual respect.
Sirius offers a wealth of opportunity for spiritually-oriented education. In some cases, this may take the form of classes or seminars in metaphysics or meditation. Other forms derive from our conviction that “Everyday Life is Our Greatest Teacher.” Our Sirius Community Immersion Program offers the most extensive focus here, in that we demonstrate how to mindfully and sustainably build our homes, grow our food, and prepare our meals, consciously integrating these mundane activities with the more esoteric methods of cultivating awareness.
Our Ecological focus at Sirius stresses “Sustainability.” We are an established ecovillage, modeling permaculture principles in our design of gardens, homes, guest facilities, and outbuildings. Living in harmony with Nature is pointedly emphasized, as our physical lives are seen as direct reflections of our relationship with spirituality, which is our primary concern. We thus use non-toxic building materials, organic gardening methods, composting toilet facilities, and vegetable oil for fuel, along with solar and wind generated power.
Bio-Diesel Fuel Coop
In order to reduce harmful vehicle emissions, a number of members and other villagers have formed a co-op to buy bui-diesel gel for their diesel powered cars and trucks. Bio-diesel fuel is made from renewable plant sources instead of petroleum, and its use as an alternative significantly reduces the production of gases causing acid rain. Questions remain about its viability as a long-term solution, but for now, co-op members are satisfied that it is at least a better environmental choice than regular diesel.
Off Grid Energy Production
Off-grid energy production at Sirius comprises several banks of solar collection cells placed at different points around the community and a windmill generator sitting atop a hundred and five foot tower. None of our buildings are truly off the grid, in that each is connected to and served by the local power company when necessary. If our power production falls short, the grid makes up for it. If we produce an excess, in some cases it is stored in deep-cell battery arrays, and in others it is pumped directly back into the grid, potentially spinning the electric meter the other way.
Sirius has three large raised-bed organic gardens along with an orchard, berry patch, and four-season greenhouse that provides significant solar gain for the community center during cold months in addition to food. Apprentices and interns work along with staff members nearly through the year, not only tending the produce, but also learning to can and preserve. Freezers and root cellars provide ample storage for the preserved food, so that we have garden output available all year. This includes such things as dried cultivated herbs, shitake mushrooms, chestnuts, and fermented products like sauerkraut and kimchi.
All Sirius buildings (except for the original farmhouse and garages) were built with an eye toward Sustainability by community members and apprentices. This means locally harvested wood, milled and stored here on the land. It means using non-toxic materials whenever possible, like citrus-based paint thinners and shredded newspaper insulation that has been specially treated to be non-flammable. We use post and beam passive solar construction, taking advantage of southern exposure to maximize heat efficiency.
The Community Center houses three staff apartments, the laundry and root cellar, herb drying room, and the community’s main kitchen and dining room, which includes seating area inside the wraparound greenhouse. The CC also headquarters the Sirius Conference Center, featuring a 2000 square foot meeting room and guest accommodations for overnighters. It utilizes solar power both passively and actively, with two banks of solar (PVC) collectors on the roof, and a solar water pre-heater on the roof of the East Wing.
The Cob Oven was built by former member Will Stark and provides an outdoor facility for baking at very high temperatures. Pizzas cook in less than two minutes. When the oven itself was finished, Will began work on the shelter, along with community apprentices and occasional friends dropping in. Cob is a mixture of clay, sand, and straw mixed from water to form mud. It is sometimes referred to as ‘adobe of the north’ and was used to construct a house-like shed on the property as well.
Life at Sirius is modeled around the concept of Intentional Community. We seek a workable balance between work and play in all activities, between individual and collective needs, spiritual and worldly pursuit, and between hierarchy and egalitarianism. The hear of our governance process is meditative consensus. This is used in each of our department committees, our weekly community meeting on Thursday nights, and the monthly meetings of the Core Group, which is how we refer to corporation’s Board of Directors.
Most members live on the land in family housing or shared apartments. These spaces have their own kitchens, but many members choose to participate in our shared meal system called “Rota” at the Community Center, taking turns cooking there along with some members of the neighboring village. The community center kitchen also hosts the village bulk foods buying co-op and the organic garden share program, providing ready access to most ingredients needed for large meals.
Social events at Sirius include regular open houses. Occasional social events are hosted in our Octagon Hall such as open-mics and movie nights, especially during the colder months. During warmer periods, we host a number of outdoor events, like our Cob Oven Pizza parties, bonfires, sauna evenings, and traditional rituals marking the passage of seasons. Our facilities also provide space for member birthday bashes, family reunions, and even an occasional member wedding!
Exploring membership at Sirius can mean as little as attending our neighborhood parties and coffeehouses, or participating in our community meal program and bulk foods buying co-op. It can also mean becoming a fully active participant, living on the land and working side by side with other members in governance and day-to-day operations. One may actually apply for the designations of Exploring Member to pursue this latter option, spending up to a year trying the status out. This includes sixteen house classroom-type instruction along with participating in all other aspects of normal members.
Many members have outside main jobs and work only part-time on the land. Saturday is Work Day, when most pitch in together on various projects and chores. The shared task might be processing a bulk mailing, preserving a store of food, or working in the garden. It could be felling trees, milling lumber, installing photovoltaic banks, or chopping/storing firewood for the winter. Sometimes the community will travel offsite on Work Day, donating the collective labor to some other organization. We have, for instance, built a deck for the town around the recycling dumpsters.
Sirius offers opportunity for a rich family life, whether referring to parents with young children or theextendedfamily: an intergenerational village of all ages. Children are brought into many group activities, as well as having those needed that are set aside for them alone. Some members honeschool; others send their kids to either private or public schools. There are designated playing areas for children, and cooperatives spring up both within the community and immediate neighborhood as needed to provide childcare for working parents.
Sirius offers several in-house educational programs. These range from one-day seminars to the more comprehensive Immersion Program, introducing all aspects of living harmoniously with nature and spirit. We also facilitate internships in specific areas of development, like organic gardening and green building.
Sirius also hosts the Permaculture Design Certification & Training Course with Sowing Solutions twice a year. This course is offered each spring as a weekend series, once a month from January-April, OR each summer as a two week intensive course. Sirius offers a unique opportunity for permaculture students to learn from the well-established systems on site: naturally built homes, organic vegetable CSA, edible forest gardens, orchards, four season greenhouses, compost systems and soil improvement strategies, renewable energy systems, community decision making process, rainwater catchment systems, and much more!
Spiritual education is not a separate subject at Sirius, even if classes and instruction emphasizing this focus are provided. Group meditation is held daily each morning, and members gather regularly to investigate the underlying purpose within each life, and collectively within the context of community as a whole. Instruction is also given by practitioners of many traditional spiritual practices that are designed to still the mind and help bring clarity to bear upon exploration of these questions.
During our annual community retreat one year, members used Transformational Kinesiology to determine the wording of our collective vision. A banner was then constructed with these words inscribed: Being one with Spirit, we lovingly embrace ourselves and each other as we are. We express our unconditional gratitude for all that is. Members including children then created a border using artwork and palm prints. The banner hung for years in the west wall of the Octagon Hall, before moving on.
Attunement to Nature
Attunement to Nature means more than recognizing seasonal patterns and the mechanics of physics. It means also becoming aware of the Consciousness extending itself into the physical world in its various myriad forms. It means, as much as one can, communicating with these expression of consciousness, these entities that in earlier times were known as devas and elementals. At the very least, it means attempting to understand their nature and to form bonds with them related to cooperative alliance. Through these efforts, one can directly observe the miraculous.
72 Baker Road
Shutesbury, MA 01072
Call us at 413.259.1251
During the weekend of May 1-3, 2015 I participated in a Community Experience Weekend at Sirius as a first step of exploration of how life IN COMMUNITY is a way for me to experience an aspect of how co-operative interaction among members of the Human Family is practiced within the New Paradigm on Earth. This is only the beginning...
Joseph David Henry Ware Bryan-Royster