Dr. Michael “Maruti” Projansky, Ph.D., sailboat captain, psychologist, and spiritual seeker, died on Saturday, July 31, 2021 in New Paltz, NY. He was 81.
Michael died after a long struggle with Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), a rare neurodegenerative disease. Into his mid-seventies Michael was very active and energetic, but slowly lost the use of his limbs and voice from the disease. In his last years he lived at Woodland Pond, moving from Independent Living, to Assisted Living, to Skilled Nursing, where he ultimately succumbed to the disease, dying peacefully just after dawn while the goldfinches and mourning doves sang and danced about the feeders outside his windows.
Michael led a rich and many-faceted life.
He was born in White Plains, New York, in 1939, the youngest of three boys. His father had a fur store, Projansky’s, on Mamaroneck Avenue, where Michael’s first job was delivering coats to customers around Westchester and New York City, a young boy with thousands of dollars in mink coats riding the commuter trains.
After graduating from Antioch College in 1962, and earning a doctorate in clinical psychology from Adelphi University in 1966, he became chair of the Psychology Department at Southampton College. He left after a few years and came to the Hudson Valley, which became his on-again-off-again home for the next half century. He served at the Ulster County Department of Mental Health as therapist and then as Associate Director, eventually starting a private psychology practice in Kingston and New Paltz.
After meeting Ram Dass in 1969 he and Ananda Saha (his first wife and mother of his three beloved daughters) lived at the Lama Foundation, an intentional spiritual community outside of Taos, New Mexico. There they met teachers from many spiritual traditions. He worked as a teaching assistant for Ram Dass in 1974 during the founding session for the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, where he was introduced to the Buddhist Shambala practice of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. In 1976 he made a spiritual pilgrimage to India to visit the Neem Karoli Baba ashram. In 1988, Michael married Pat Rodegast, author of Emmanuel’s Book, and for many years the two led workshops together across the US, in Europe, and the Caribbean. Later in life he returned to Jewish practice.
While in the Virgin Islands with Pat, Michael discovered his love of sailing and the open water. He earned his captain’s license and made several transatlantic sailboat crossings. He painstakingly restored a wooden trimaran, “Maruti” (Sanskrit for, ‘son of the wind,’ one of the names for the Hindu god, Hanuman), and weathered several hurricanes in the BVIs, where he taught sailing. For twenty years he served as sailboat captain on a thirty-eight-foot yacht, “Chaos,” adventuring up and down the northern Atlantic coast with Bill Wraith.
Michael was known for his insightful counseling through his final days. He volunteered with hospice for a time, visiting children with cancer at Sloan-Kettering in New York City. He was often sought out for guidance and spiritual teaching, even after MSA had taken all but the last of his voice.
Everywhere he went, regardless of what hat he was wearing, Michael touched people’s hearts. At the end of his life, he adopted the motto, “I don’t know, I love”, which became the title of his memoir, published in 2019.
He is survived by his daughters Amara Projansky (& Jason Stern) and their two sons Asher & Ezra of New Paltz; Camala Projansky (& Thierry Lenoir) and their son Rafael of Ronzier, France; Maya Projansky (& Eric Dalio) of New Paltz & Brooklyn. He is also survived by his brothers, Robert and Arnold; many nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews; and abundant, dear friends throughout the universe. He was predeceased by his parents, David and Ella Projansky, and by his former wives, Ananda Saha and Pat Rodegast.
A funeral service was held at New Paltz Rural Cemetery at 4 pm on Monday, August 2. Donations can be made to Kol Hai: Hudson Valley Jewish Renewal.