By Ralph White
The Open Center’s beloved Sandy Levine died on March 28th. She had been with us from the very beginning in 1983 when all we had was a room on 12th Street in Walter Beebe’s (co-founder of the Open Center) house, a phone with no call waiting, a child’s typewriter, and a powerful vision. Her dedication to the Center was total. It was the center of her life. And so it feels to us that the world has lost a great heart. She was a radiant, deeply loving woman whose life was all about bringing light, wisdom, beauty, and compassion into this world. She never flinched from this mission and her personal warmth brought joy to the faculty she worked with and delight to the thousands of participants who benefited from the programs she created.
Sandy served as a program director for two decades. She was a fierce defender of the integrity and quality of the workshops, courses, and lectures that are at the heart of our work. Her eye was always focused on the authenticity and substance of the programs. Did they make a genuine contribution to consciousness? Were the presenters of the highest standard? Were the themes relevant to contemporary life?
She was brought up in Binghampton, New York and studied psychology at the University of Florida. After graduation she worked in the magazine industry in Manhattan before fate lent a hand in 1983 and she was drawn into the vortex of creative energy that was about to give birth to the Open Center. I remember many days in the spring of that year in which she and I wondered if this was all a foolish dream. Did it have any chance of succeeding in the crime-ridden and chaotic New York of the time? But Sandy was an eternal optimist. Her personal radiance and constant, heart-centered goodwill helped to dissipate any doubts. And before long the Open Center was being greeted with enormous gratitude by New Yorkers with holistic values, and it went on to flourish against the odds.
Sandy was at the heart of it all. Aware, loving, wise and sensitive, she was often to be seen entering classrooms discretely to check the mood of the audience and the effectiveness of the speaker. She would stand at the back of the room gauging the mood, and a small smile of fulfillment would often light up her face when she felt everything was going well. She had a natural and healthy instinct about whether an event served the greater cause of shifting society, little by little, in a more holistic and spiritual direction.
For me personally, she was a spiritual sister, a fellow seeker, a confidante, and a cherished colleague. Her bright smile and good humor often lit up my day. She could always be relied upon to have a compassionate and humorous response to any dramas pervading my life on a given day. And now, after her passage through the gate of death, I continue to think frequently of her laughter, her shining eyes, and her wry smile at some recent shenanigan.
She touched the lives of scores of thousands of people. She delighted in bringing a taste of enlightenment into the city, and she loved the mystical traditions from the whole world to which the Open Center has been committed since the beginning. Few things gave her more satisfaction than seeing a room light up with the quality of wisdom or insight from an accomplished teacher. And her personal grace and warmth helped forge and sustain countless enduring connections with gifted faculty.
So she leaves a huge hole in the Open Center community and in our hearts. Her good cheer no longer lights up the offices, and her wide knowledge of teachers and programs is no longer at our fingertips.
She came to the end of her journey with courage and with a quiet sense of satisfaction that she had lived a good and worthwhile life. Surely, she has very positive karma as she was as delightful personally as she was dedicated professionally. Sandy was truly a noble heart who found a deeply meaningful path through life and gave it her all.
For this, the Open Center, and all who loved her, will always be profoundly grateful.
Bon Voyage, beautiful being, into the realms of Light.
Ralph White is co-founder of the New York Open Center and currently serves as Senior Fellow and Conference Director.
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