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Sarah Van Hoy

Residency Sites: Plainfield, VT

I am here at Goddard because of Love. We might as well start there. There are few places where we can study what we love, where we can share what we love, where we can long for the world to unfold in our vision of love, where we can use the word “love” five times in a row and still be taken seriously. This program is one of those places and I feel blessed to be here.

Assuming, dear reader, that you still do take me seriously, let me tell you where love has brought me. This story, while my own, is offered as a version of all of our stories, which are often just tools for finding each other. Given that the pedagogical model at Goddard is based in part in conversation and reflective dialogue, then the learning and life experiences that we all share inform and deepen those conversations.

I had recurring dreams as a child that I fell out of the sky, holding hands with my people. As a mythopoetic image, the gesture of showing up in community with a sense of shared purpose animates much of my life. As a young person, a child of hippy parents, these communities included groups of people coming together to create democratic schools, community gardens, artist colonies, food co-ops, sustainable living and appropriate technology institutes. I’ve enjoyed large human gatherings, peace and music festivals, acts of collective civil disobedience as well as small gatherings of devas and faeries taking place out back under the sunflowers and pussy willows. In all these contexts, I am attracted to community in some fundamental way that is simultaneously spiritual, revolutionary and sensuous.

Growing older, my experiences in community became intentionally and karmically focused in the ashrams of the late Swami Muktananda. There, I spent a couple of decades immersed in the teachings and practices of Kashmir Shaivism, the language of yoga, experiences of shakti and the path of meditation. I became a teacher of yoga and yoga philosophy and developed a love for the Sanskrit language.

At a cross roads in my life, I made an ethical decision to leave the ashram. Yet, those formative decades still shape much of my devotional sensibilities. No doubt as a way of making sense of my experience in Siddha Yoga, I embarked on a long trajectory of learning, both inside and outside of academies. In the early 1990’s, I moved to New Mexico and worked with various visionaries: a group of deep ecologists involved in transformational leadership projects, an international high school for global consciousness and several smaller healing projects. There, I began my studies of Chinese medicine and spent some time hanging out with Coyotes.

I later moved to California and studied psychology. I worked for many years as part of an organization that offered spiritual support to dying people. I also completed my training as a psychotherapist – an experience that highlighted a tacit “participant-observer” orientation within so many “cultures of medicine.” In seeking to navigate an intense clinical focus and an equally compelling critical perspective, I eventually moved to Seattle, where I embarked on a Ph.D. in medical anthropology. My doctoral dissertation explores the way in which authenticity is negotiated in Chinese medical communities in the United States.

I examine the notions of authentic traditions alongside authentic selves and authentic futures. In my listening, I’ve heard a recurring theme. “The world is changing and healing is changing with it. Any truly holistic medicine must look to communities and ecosystems as well as individuals as locations for diagnosis and intervention.” I am paying close attention to this emerging wisdom, which seems quite alive and articulate in the Health Arts program at Goddard.

Somewhere along this path, in addition to acquiring far too many degrees, I’ve also become a mother of two beautiful boys, Gabriel and Samuel. I enjoy my quiet (and not so quiet) life with my little family here in Vermont – working in the garden, spending time on the water, dancing in the backyard when the rain pours down. As my children get older and become stabilized in school, I look forward to returning to a clinical practice as a psychotherapist, acupuncturist and herbalist.

This brings me full circle to where I began. I find myself in love, in no uncertain terms, with this community that is Health Arts. In certain moments, it seems quite probable that we all fell out of the sky together, holding hands. Whatever the real or imagined histories, I am quite jazzed to share the time and space for study planning, conversation, radical scholarship and the unfolding of the world in our vision and experience of Love. (May there be nothing left of any of us!)

Educational Background:

PhD in Anthropology, University of Washington; MA in Medical Anthropology, University of Washington; MA in Counseling Psychology, Pacifica Graduate Institute; MTCM in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Northwest Institute of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine; BA, University of Michigan.