Sagarpriya and her Work: A Story
Sagarpriya DeLong was born in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, near Seattle. Already at a young age, she knew she would be a teacher when she grew up, but not in any of the subjects she was learning about in school. She took her university degree in philosophy and music, assuming that a liberal arts education would be the best preparation for her unknown future as a teacher.
She received a Fulbright scholarship but then declined to use it in favor of a job in an experimental university just opening in upstate New York. However, her hopes for something new and fresh were dashed by the experience there—power politics as usual—and the path led her onwards, first to New York City and from there to the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California.
In 1969 Esalen was the largest, if not the only, Personal Growth Center in the U.S., and Sagarpriya immediately felt in tune with the psychological work going on there. She started giving massages, open-air in the California sunshine on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. She learned to meditate, and began teaching massage and meditation to the therapy group participants when they spent an afternoon at the hot-springs bath house. It wasn’t long before there was a vacancy in the position of director of Esalen’s massage program and she took on the responsibility.
However, her interests continued to take her more inward than outward, because she started having spontaneous “psychic” revelations about the energies coming into her hands from a person’s body during massage. She perceived visions or pictures, also sounds, which told of truths buried in the person’s subconscious layers. She was so fascinated by what the body could reveal that she eventually passed on the leadership of the massage crew to someone else in order to give her entire attention to this experimentation.
With practice, reading the body became easier and easier. Sagarpriya learned to recognize the energy of the “being,” or “essence,” which never had any picture but which made possible a rich and rewarding contact between client and practitioner. By contrast, the energies belonging to the personality always had characteristics, because they were coming from the client’s desire to be a certain way, or to become a certain thing. To meet an energy of this sort was very much like meeting a “thing”, an object or belief or conditioning which could then be described quite exactly. And Sagarpriya learned that the more these “things” could soften and dissolve, the more the client would report feeling lighter and happier: flowing instead of fixed.
Sagarpriya completed her first book about her new work, Psychic Massage, at the age of 27, and it was published by Harper & Row (Harper Collins) in 1975.
By that time she was living in Boulder, Colorado, and giving Centering workshops in various parts of America and Europe. During her second visit to England, she heard about Osho, an enlightened mystic in India, because quite a few friends had been so drawn to him that they did not return home but remained in India to live by his side. It didn’t take long for Sagarpriya to realize that she should be there too. However, when she felt Osho present with her in her meditations and asked if she could come to him and take sannyas, he said “Not yet.” It would be seven more months before a change took place inside her, regarding the constraints of her marriage, which finally allowed her to go to Poona, India, where the Master was living.
Osho asked Sagarpriya to lead groups in Poona—three per month in the beginning, and also to write books on the alternate days. He gave the names Urja which means “energy” and Wei-wu-wei which means “action through inaction” to her groups, and these themes would remain the essence of her work for the next 35 years. Of course, over time the work evolved into many new forms, depending on her own internal exploration.
After living in Poona for about a year, Sagarpriya developed and co-led a Counseling Training in which the two responsible leaders represented opposite therapeutic approaches (which were actually “male” and “female” although these terms were not used then). One approach was to make effort—bioenergetics, breathing, catharsis—and the other approach was to relax and become effortless, letting yourself float and be carried by a river of energy. This second approach Osho named Energywork when he later created two streams of therapy work for the massive influx of newcomers arriving on his doorstep.
Sagarpriya continued to lead the Counseling Training for a number of years, which gave her extensive experience in the subject of relationship. Also she had the opportunity to pass on her knowledge, by means of “in-house” trainings, to all the therapists working at that time in Osho’s commune.
Sagarpriya’s Psychic Massage Trainings were full to overflowing in the late 80s, but for her there was a change in the air. Whereas in a Psychic Massage session Sagarpriya had been touching many parts of the client’s body to comprehend the core issue, now she was able to see what the issue was in less than 10 minutes. It had to do with her realization that the pictures coming from the feet were actually of the inner male and female, and that every conflict and unresolved tension higher in the body was arising out of an imbalance between these two.
Now when she did an energy reading of the client, she had only to touch the two feet and place her hand above the seven chakras to decipher the message that the body wanted to reveal. She knew that it must be possible for these two parts, the male and the female, to communicate in words, using an adaptation of Gestalt Therapy. So she found a way to help the client enter into each character and experience through their interaction the reasons for any psychological dysfunction.
Another new therapy method was emerging. She didn’t want to name it “male and female” because a session was really about each of the two finding their essential nature; when both could connect with their innermost “being” they could easily find the oneness they were searching for. But selecting a name to describe the inner being was not easy. Finally the name of the method became Star Sapphire Energywork. A star sapphire gemstone looks rather plain and ordinary on the surface, but inside there is a light—a six-pointed star. Sagarpriya wanted to reveal to people the subtle luminosity available inside themselves when the inner male and female function harmoniously in a relaxed alternating rhythm.
But now she would have to sacrifice the massage aspect of Psychic Massage, in order to allow the client to make their own discoveries through verbal, rather than non-verbal, communication. Not wanting the method of Psychic Massage to disappear forever, Sagarpriya recorded everything about its final development in her second book, The Master’s Touch: Psychic Massage, published in 1995.
For more about Star Sapphire Energywork, continue reading.
Star Sapphire Trainings started to happen concurrently with Psychic Massage Trainings approximately a year before the Master’s death in 1990. The method developed in an opposite way from what one might have expected. At first it was only suitable for “advanced” meditators, because the clients needed an ability to play the roles of both the male and the female “personages” without having an identification with either one. And they needed to see the truth without desiring it to be different.
In the course of giving sessions, Sagarpriya discovered that you could reach the two sides of a person not only through the feet but also through the eyes. She invented a blindfold technique for speaking to the two eyes, one at a time, and this was a good first step for non-meditators. Slowly, with the arrival of many new understandings, Star Sapphire became more adaptable and suitable for everyone.
Around the year 2005 the name of the training about this method was changed to Energywork Training. The material was so useful for every type of therapist, as an addition to whatever method they already employed, that a more general name was needed to indicate this vast application. Energywork Training was about a framework for understanding human beings. It was about how spiritual growth happens, not only about particular techniques and when to use them.
For example, one of the subjects presented during Energywork Training is priorities in life. It is ideal if the female part has priorities of its own, and the male part has different priorities for the life it wants to lead. This reflects their different natures. It does not help the system if one part decides the priorities and the other part is coerced by the first to endorse the same. Then a reciprocal exchange between the polarities will never be possible. But even if the two sides have different priorities of their own, they can still be in difficulty. This is because some priorities are arising out of love and trust, and other priorities are arising out of fear and mistrust. With love priorities you arrive where you want to go by relaxing. With fear priorities you must try hard in order not to fall backwards into what feels like an abyss. When one of your two “characters” has several fear priorities, it can lead the whole system into the direction of contraction and anxiety if the other polarity is blindly following its leadership.
Energywork Training also addresses the subjects of work and relationship. Work, meditation, and relationship have an invisible common thread. If one part of you can work in a joyous and creative way, but the opposite part of you doesn’t have a work that it likes to do and, as a result, feels work as an unfortunate duty or does not work at all, a good rapport between the two parts cannot happen. The second one is not receiving the natural impulses for what it likes to do, which means meditation is not present due to certain conditionings. Therefore, to solve a relationship problem you often have to start with meditation for the weaker side.
In 2005, life magically opened a space for Sagarpriya to write a book about the Star Sapphire method. It was first published in Italian, because she lives in Italy. Now it is also available in English and the title is The two shores of Love: inner man & inner woman.
While therapeutic assistance to people had been Sagarpriya’s primary engagement (that impulse comes from her female side), her male side found another interest of his own: awareness in daily life. It led her (actually him) to create a variety of programs on this theme, over time, and to give shape to the content and also organize a large staff for a three-month course in Poona called Transforming the Quality of Life.
Programs about consciousness in normal activities always included hands-on experience in using the tools provided. That is, the participants had some project to develop or some work to perform. Then, from this experience they were able to report back to the group about those situations in which awareness went up (high satisfaction) and the contrasting situations in which awareness went down (low satisfaction). As a result of closer examination of the choices that were made, everyone learned how to stay more present doing the small, simple things that everyday life requires.
Between the years 2001 and 2016, concurrently with her groups Sagarpriya was co-founder and director of the cultural association Conscious Living, based first in Milan and later near Bologna. It promoted the concept, and in some cases the reality, of having presence all the time. This was a natural outcome of her teaching, that the growth work one does should move back into the flow of daily living. The association was closed at the end of 2016 when Sagarpriya felt she wanted to devote more time to her trainings, which were about to undergo another creative change.
Backtracking a little to 2001, that was the year in which Sagarpriya moved to Italy, invited by two of her close friends, Siddho and Pavitar. Within a short time, Sagarpriya and Siddho co-founded Conscious Living Association. Then Pavitar became the main organizer of Star Sapphire Trainings, while Siddho moved into teaching roles in Star Sapphire Trainings and, a few years later, Psychic Massage Trainings as well. Slowly more people came on board as group leaders, with Moumina joining Sagarpriya and Siddho in leading Star Sapphire Training 2, and Praphulla eventually replacing Siddho in Psychic Massage Trainings.
Sagarpriya thought that Psychic Massage had come to a natural close for her in the 90’s, but it surfaced again around 2004 because it could prepare people for learning Star Sapphire. Considering that it was earlier in the developmental process, Sagarpriya had the idea that instructing people in Psychic Massage might be more superficial or “light-weight” than Star Sapphire, but over the years she was delighted to discover that she was wrong; to her surprise, her training courses were reaching the same depth with students of both methods.
Just when she was feeling again very good about Psychic Massage, a “reflection” appeared—a man named Vartan was also feeling very good about Psychic Massage. Although he was multi-talented, he chose to make this work a priority: to give sessions, to teach, and to promote the method. In 2015 Vartan had the idea to present the Psychic Massage Training in a new form that welcomes everyone, not just people who already know massage. At his suggestion Sagarpriya asked Miasto, a large Osho Center in Italy, if they could incorporate this new form in their program. Miasto answered affirmatively and immediately found a starting date in 2017. After Vartan’s arrival, Sagarpriya felt her role change from “captain” to “crew member” and this fulfilled her male side’s ancient dream of working in a crew with no captain (i.e., conscious living).
At the same time that this shift was taking place, a similar change was happening to the presentation of Star Sapphire in Italy, which was by now called Energywork Training. In 2016, after giving 15 years of high-quality contribution as a teacher, Siddho cancelled her involvement in the training for personal reasons. Moumina, who was already teaching in Energywork 2, took Siddho’s place in Energywork 1, and a new leader stepped in as well, Amar Leela. From the successful collaboration of this new team of five people, which included the assistants Safar and Madhupran, it was decided that the responsibility for Energywork Trainings would be a team effort in future, no longer resting solely on Sagarpriya’s shoulders. Each of the team members committed themselves to leading groups that would interest people in the Star Sapphire work. Madhupran took on the responsibility for administration, while Leela offered her skills in social networking and marketing. Everyone was happy that Pavitar could continue her work as organizer of the Energywork Trainings, which from 2018 would be held in a new place—Portugal!