Sirius is an Educational Non Profit Ecological Community located in Massachusetts. Their goal is education and role modelling for planetary healing. Although there are eco-villages I have not yet visited, Sirius sets the bar seriously high when it comes to both ecological and social sustainability practices. This was a valuable learning experience for me and one which I would like to share.
Sirius was founded in 1978 by a man named Bruce. Before purchasing the land in Massachusetts, he had lived for several years in a zen Buddhist community, followed by another 4 years in the Scottish community named Findhorn. In fact, Sirius started as a would-be extension of the Findhorn community, only located in America. Sirius has a strong foundation in spiritual practices, without any one particular spiritual or religious dogma. Their members and guests practice a wide range of differing faiths. Retreats are welcomed and hosted for Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Celtic, Wiccan, Druidic, Jewish, Muslim, or Goddess worship. Amidst such seemingly diverse belief systems, the underlying element is awareness of Divine Presence in all things. This consciousness awareness is held in high esteem at Sirius and nurturing the higher self is considered essential to enable insight, clarity and wisdom, on the path to holistic development and self betterment.
Something that set Sirius apart from most other communities is the use of their underlying spiritual practice as a way of dealing with and preventing social conflict. To elaborate, when someone has a problem with something or someone within the community, instead of victimizing yourself, pointing the finger and complaining about that other person or thing, a more spiritual approach to problem solving is to look within yourself and ask, “what does it say about me when this thing or person bothers me so? When this person does this, I feel this way. Why do I feel and react in such a way? What is it about my core beliefs and definitions of life that produces this negative feeling within me?”. When you live closely with so many people, it is normal for things to begin to annoy you, or that social conflict arises. No matter how closely knitted a group is, it is impossible to agree 100% with everything and everyone you live with. However, the understanding at Sirius is that conflict is a mere reflection of where there is more room for personal development and spiritual growth. This practice is extremely valuable to the global ecovillage and intentional communities movement. Acknowledging that your pain, frustration, or any other negative emotion is coming from deep within you and not something outside of yourself is CRITICAL for truly resilient and strong relationships in a community. Going deep within yourself to find patterns you may have that cause those feelings to come up is part of it. Why do you have that pet peeve? What is the underlying pattern behind getting jealous every time a new male member comes into the community (randomly generated example)?
Shifting away from a victim mentality to one which takes responsibility for any feelings experienced is perhaps the most valuable lesson I took from Sirius community on my quest to find out what makes a long lasting and thriving community. It takes a step beyond regular processes for dealing with social conflict, and actually takes measures to preventing social conflict from arising to any significant point at all. In a way, spiritual practices are a way of ‘treating the disease’ as well as but not limited to just ‘the symptoms’ of social conflict. However, Sirius community still has a process in place for mediating talks between people if they cannot overcome the issues within and among themselves.
There are several spaces that are dedicated to supporting spiritual practices for the members of Sirius community. For example, they have the Meditation Sanctuary and Octagon Meeting Room, where they hold daily meditations and host their spiritual development educational workshops. They have constructed a rustic refuge for personal retreats into the side of a hill in the woods, and have also build a grand stone sanctuary in the middle of forest. Each stone has been tuned to a certain frequency and is energetically aligned with different places around the world.
Check out this video! Here we interview the founder of Sirius community and some of the community members, take a look into the clay space, the magnificant stone sanctuary shown and explained, the cob house, and newly built straw bail greenhouse:
The buildings in this community are absolutely gorgeous. All of them were done with such delicacy and detail, and they are all totally off the grid, ecological and earthy. They have a massive timber framed community centre made with wood they collected on site, and then processed with their saw mill. It’s a massive and beautiful building, where everyone in the community is always welcome. This is where they host their workshops to people outside the community, where they have their community meetings, social gatherings, and communal vegetarian/vegan suppers every night. They have a large kitchen where everything is labeled and organized to the T, it’s a chef’s dream come true! They’ve got a bakery in there as well, a root cellar in the basement, a huge tranquil room upstairs that is perfect for yoga, meditation, and music. The entire community centre is octagonal shaped, and so it’s got windows on almost every wall, giving in lots of light and nearly a 360 view from around the building. Along the south facing side is a big greenhouse, where they grow plants and have a nice place to relax all year round. There are also quite a few rooms built into their community centre for people to stay in should they need a bed and a warm place to rest. Right outside their community centre is a lovely sauna that they normally get going Friday and Sunday evenings. What a great way to detoxify your body!
Check out this video of my fellow Valhalla member, Lawrence, also known as Chef X, as he takes us on a ride through the community centre and greenhouse. Naturally, he focuses on the kitchen and ends up making some eggs :P. Notice the beautiful wood work and arches of the doorways:
Other types of building they have or are currently working with are cob buildings and straw bale greenhouses. They are all powered with solar and wind energy and they are heated with wood burning stoves and south facing windows.
In terms of food production, Sirius community grows about 2/3 of the food they consume every year. They have several raised bed organic annual gardens and orchards throughout their land that the community members, interns and apprentices work to maintain year round. This food is not just grown and harvested but also preserved for the winter, so that the community is eating food from the land all year long. These preserves include things from dried herbs, medicines, dried fruits, nuts, shitake mushrooms, canned goods, root cellar goods, and fermented goods like sauerkraut and kimchi. In order to enhance their winter food crops, food is also being grown in solar passive greenhouses, one attached to the community centre, and a second one which was recently built near the orchard.
The intention of Sirius is to be an ecological intentional community. Their governance process is meditative consensus, which implies that there is a group meditation before every meeting in order to tune into the broader energetic field around a given decision, to consider things from the perspective of the highest and best interest. This is used in each committee meeting, their weekly community meeting, and the monthly meetings of the Board of Directors. Right now there are about 30 permanent residents living at Sirius. 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 a 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.
There is a strong educational focus at Sirius community. Throughout the entire year, they offer a wide range of in-house educational programs.
Courses range from one-day seminars to comprehensive two-month apprenticeships introducing all aspects of living harmoniously with nature and spirit. They 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 more.
Spiritual education is also one of the main educational programs offered at Sirius. They offer workshops on meditation, Attunement to Nature, and in Transformational Kinesiology.
What’s new at Sirius
For a little while, there was a shortage of members between the ages of 18 and 28 years old in the community. Now however, there has been an influx of young people being attracted to live at Sirius. Because of this influx of internet generation members, Sirius is now working on its online presence and outreach programs.
Furthermore, Sirius will be hosting a Spring Fundraising Gala on March 29 on their land, and are openly inviting the public to attend this event and to help support the further development of their community.
Want to know more about the Spring Fundraising Gala? Visit http://www.siriuscommunity.org/ai1ec_event/springgala/?instance_id=313
My Personal Experience at Sirius
I stayed at Sirius for one week this winter, and I had a really wonderful time. The people of this community are so hospitable and kind, they really couldn’t have done more to make my stay comfortable. During the visit, I stayed in a beautiful solar passive house with 3 members of the community, Roger, Emmett, and Cailey for most of the nights. There was one night that I slept in an adorable yurt in the forest, where I burned some wood, sipped on tea and read all night long. I attended the delicious Rota meals every night in the community centre, joined the community in the sauna, tuned into the mind blowing group meditation led by Bruce, and helped out with community chores on the community work day which is held every Saturday. I had the opportunity to spend time with the founders, whose presence is so incredibly humbling. The bonds and new friendships I made during my stay are deep and will last my lifetime, I’m sure of it. Everyone is very down to earth, fun and are in love with the community that they helped to build. Everything about this place is gorgeous, I highly recommend taking a visit there or attending one of their educational events. I am really looking forward to my next stay with Sirius, as they have invited me to the Youth Ecovilllage Summit, which they will host at the end of this month, to represent Valhalla. All my deepest blessings to Sirius community! Thank you for Being!
Most Valuable Take Home Lessons from Sirius
- What is the key to a thriving and long-lasting resilient community? Definitely part of that answer lies in strong social relationship maintenance.
- Spirituality is an integral part of a healthy social community. Through all the amazing times and the most difficult and challenging of times, it was the strong communal focus on bettering oneself through regular spiritual practices that really held this community together.
- Patience. If a building needs 4 years to be built sustainably and properly, so be it. The beauty of the finished product will be worth the wait. Adopt Nature’s Pace: Her Secret is Patience.
NOTE FROM WRITER AND FILMER
These videos and text about Sirius are part of a Valhalla Series called Trippin’, in which other communities, projects, people and groups are highlighted. The purpose of this series is to demonstrate the diversity of ways in which a community may structure itself and function. These videos and blogs are meant to share experiences and ideas from other initiatives order to inspire an idea or structure for those who are working through this process themselves. For those of you who aspire to start a community or are already starting one, there is no need to re-invent the wheel. We must learn from others, especially those that have been around for a while. This series is also meant to show the faces behind this global movement, the personalities of the people involved, so that viewers can see that these are real people, regular people, just like you, who are doing this.