She doesn't make predictions and she certainly doesn't use a crystal ball. Instead, Juneau resident Sayahda takes an intuitive, but practical, approach to helping people get a handle on their lives.
"I don't call myself a psychic; that I think has such a negative connotation," she said. "What I do is I assist people in listening to themselves ... paying attention to their hunches and following through."
Sayahda uses the term "intuitive adviser" to describe what she does. A clairvoyant, author and workshop leader for the past 30 years, she emphasizes self-esteem, self-improvement, meditation and prayer.
But it wasn't a career she sought. It found her.
"I never tried to do what I'm doing," she said.
Sayahda, 55, doesn't use her last name and is called Sayda for short. It is the name her Cherokee father called her, although she doesn't know the exact meaning. Born in California, she attended Catholic church with her mother and visited Indian reservations with her father. When she was a young child, Cherokee elders taught her to focus on her senses and inner feelings, she said.
"My father would do his best to get me more involved in that sort of spiritual side of things from the Native American point of view and my mother would get me more involved in the Catholicism," she said. "And in a way, it was great, because I got the best of both."
Even today, Sayahda uses lessons from both parents.
"I firmly believe in God and I believe there's a higher power and I think that prayer and church and all of that is really good," she said. "At the same time, I also believe that a lot of Native American cultures and beliefs and things of that nature have equal value. They're just different ways to approach a situation."
Three near-death experiences and temporary blindness brought her abilities into focus. When Sayahda was in her early 20s and living by herself in Northern Idaho, she suddenly went blind. Even after trips to the doctor, she's still not sure why, although an abusive relationship and stress may have been factors, she said.
"It was instant. I stood there, not knowing quite what to do, thinking it would come back, but it didn't," she said. "I think at that time in my life I had been going through a lot of things. ... I think I just wanted to close it down."
After 2 1/2 months her sight returned and her senses were sharper.
"It was challenging, but it did make me really pay attention and rely on other senses," she said. "My hearing increased just dramatically, and my inner vision."
Sayahda first came to Juneau in about 1980 on board the state ferry Columbia and fell in love with Alaska. After moving here, she spent about five years with the state ferry system, working a schedule of one week on board the Columbia, and one week off.
"When I would have my weeks off, people would call me and I'd just listen. And before I knew it, people were calling me like crazy, and I thought, 'Now, this is bizarre,' because I never planned on any of this," she said. "As time progressed, I became very, very busy with that ... And I thought apparently this is what I'm to do. So I left the ferries and I started doing this."
Today, Sayahda counsels people from homemakers to entertainers. She travels to Australia once a year and makes trips to California, Michigan and New York for workshops and other events. Most of her clients find her through word of mouth and she is affiliated with the interfaith, new-age Ministry of Salvation Church and the Church of Light.
She has written books about animal totems and her journey in life and co-wrote a science fiction book called "ETA: A Future Tale" with a friend. She just finished writing correspondence materials for a healing method called Orhai, which she said focuses on clearing past memories and present traumas stored within a person's DNA.
"Orhai takes you back to the beginning of your evolutionary cycle and then moves you forward into the life cycle you are presently experiencing," according to Sayahda's Web site. "By recapturing the totality of who you are, whom you have been, and whom you are becoming total healing can be achieved."
Salty Hanes, who owns Spirit Beads in Juneau, has known Sayahda for years.
"I've taken a class in Orhai from her - it's a technique that I do almost daily," she said. "I find it brings me good health, a worldwide perspective and keeps me in touch with important issues to myself."
Sayahda knows her field can have a reputation for controversial 1-900 numbers and crystal balls, but she tries to avoid the latest new-age trends. She doesn't make predictions because she feels it takes away personal free will.
"There's a lot of bad hype out there about people who do this kind of work and I think some of it is probably very accurate," she said. "One of my things is to try to inform people that ... it's about helping people empower themselves. Because the more empowered you are in your own life, the more enriched your life is, the more it's going to affect everyone around you."
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