The week is gone, time to move on

Both universities that I teach for right now are primarily online (though I just finished spending time with some of them this weekend face to face as we began the Spring Quarter for the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology’s MA in Spiritual Guidance). This means we spend one week on each discussion topic; one week to probe a few questions, speaking and listening to the group wisdom and thoughts about a particular idea. It goes by very fast, and I am grateful to the students who post early in the week to get the ball rolling. By Sunday night, as the stragglers get their posts in, I have a sense of frustration that there really is not enough time. In that last rush to get something said before we move on to the next topic, there are openings and possibilities for further conversation, but we are moving on.

It’s like that with my food collages, too. I manage to keep up and then realize I have a whole week’s worth that have not been posted. I throw them all out here, and there’s barely time to look at each individual day or meal. And yet, there are patterns that emerge and something is gained by just looking at the flow of the week. Both in the student discussions, and in my eating patterns. And then we move on to what’s next.

Finishing up 2011

We are already two days into the new year, and I’m finally finishing up the food collages for the last days of 2011. I plan to keep up with these daily food collages, as they definitely do keep me accountable and attentive to what I am eating. I strive for that kind of consciousness in every aspect of my life, though what I do and say and think are not so easily photographed. May we all increase our skills at consciousness witnessing and choosing how we live our lives in 2012!

Food & Community

I have hosted our west coast family Thanksgiving gathering since we finished building the house here at Skyote Mountain. We met before that at the Sacramento home of my first cousin once-removed, but with the loss of a few family members, and the addition of our new home with lots of room for everyone, it made sense for the mantle to be passed to me. There are our core group of family members, other family who may or may not be here, and others who join us for one year or who become regulars along with family. It always feels very special to come together again and celebrate our gratitude for each other and for all that we have, and feasting is definitely a big part of the agenda. I generally roast the turkey and make a stuffing on the side, along with a bread or rolls (Leek Walnut Sourdough this year – that’s becoming a tradition), and a dessert (gluten-free, dairy-free pumpkin pie this year). My aunt Pat and uncle Charlie and their daughter Laura bring makings for mashed potatoes, which get done just before we eat, along with another stuffing (this year they made a artichoke mushroom crustade instead), an Indian spiced green dish, chocolate mousse, and another dessert, usually an apple or pear torte. Others bring sweet potatoes (two different recipes this year), cranberry sauce (with pears this year), and whatever else seems good to add. We had crudites with hummus and mohamra (I made that – I’ll share the recipe here), puff pastries with anchovies, roasted brussels sprouts, gluten-free dairy-free pumpkin walnut bars and some very nice wines.

I love the last minute cooking we do, several things all going on at once in the kitchen. There’s a real sense of community coming together, working together to create this celebratory feast, and enjoying each other’s company for the evening.

Mohamra

I have several recipes for this, each with a different spelling of the name. I had to search for where this particular recipe came from, as it is my favorite. It was published in Bon Appetit in December 1987, in response to a reader’s rave about this Lebanese dish from Fred Habib at the Bourock restaurant in Brooklyn Heights, NY. Thanks to my recipe archive, where this clipping has lived all these years, and Google (which provded Fred Habib’s name), I can credit the source.

2 cups walnuts, ground
3 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 jalapeno chile pepper, seeded and chopped
2 Tbs grenadine molasses, or honey
2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt

1. Blend the first five ingredients in food processor to coarse grainy puree. Put in a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients.

2. Serve with warm pita.

Servings: 20

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/20 of a recipe (1.5 ounces)
Calories 106
Total Fat 9.11g
Saturated Fat 0.92g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 60.23mg
Potassium 116.15mg
Total Carbohydrates 5.61g
Fiber 1.37g

Graduation Ceremony

I knew I would participate in my PhD ceremony, though I actually graduated in November 2009. But I forgot until the past few days how important these ceremonies can feel. Our culture doesn’t have many ceremonies, and sometimes doesn’t take the few we have seriously, but I am feeling touched by how many people are congratulating me and wishing me the best for my walk on Sunday. Not that these folks hadn’t received my original excited announcement last November that I was now Dr. Selene Vega – and most had congratulated me then. So I wasn’t expecting so much response from friends and families for what could be seen as just a formality. And I certainly wasn’t expecting myself to be so moved by their heartfelt good wishes.

It does feel like I’ve accomplished something. I remember hearing from teachers throughout my early years of education, usually in a roundabout way from my parents after parent-teacher conferences, that I wasn’t “working to capacity.” Some idea they had of what I seemed capable of that wasn’t showing up in my schoolwork. Not surprising, really. I had a lot going on in a troubled life outside school, and there was little in school that interested me – I was considerably more excited by what I found in books on my own in the library and my parents’ bookshelves. And then in my teens I was absorbed by dance and theatre, leaving early to take classes, go to rehearsals, apprentice in teaching kids’ dance classes. School just was not where my attention was focused.

Over the years, though, my interest in studying and the availability of coursework that interested me and teacher-mentors who could guide me on my path of learning came together in a satisfying way, leading to this doctorate. I’m stilll excited about the research I did for the dissertation – a multiple case study exploring the integration of transformative workshop experiences into daily life post-workshop. And I’m excited about future possibilities – there’s plenty more I want to learn and research. I’m excited also about finding ways to share what I’ve learned and my approach to assisting others in learning and transforming. I’ve been doing that for a long time now (it’s been over 40 years since I apprenticed as a dance teacher!), but the process continues to evolve.

Finding the Time

Another column from the past.

Finding the Time

by Selene Vega

Santa Cruz CAMFT Newsletter, Sept/Oct 1995, Therapists for Social Responsibility column

I know of someone who recently realized that he had saved up enough money from his well-paid job over the years to take early retirement. He’d been working and planning for this day – now he could stop working so hard and just enjoy his life. He hesitated for quite some time, staying at a job that was not intolerable, but also not deeply satisfying. What kept him there? Despite the rational understanding that he really did have enough money invested to manage comfortably for the rest of his life, he was somewhat fearful of his ability to survive financially without a salary. However, this was something he could work his way through, and there was a more compelling inner conflict blocking his way out of that job. He wasn’t sure what he would do with his time, or what would give meaning to his life.

What convinced him finally to take the leap were the words of several friends. The suggestion that broke through his doubts was that he take all that free time and find work that is meaningful to him without having to worry about whether or not it pays well. He had never had that luxury before, and now a whole world of possibilities opened up for him.

Even when we find meaning in what we do for a living, we can all see work that we believe needs to be done in the world that doesn’t pay enough for us to live on. Some of it doesn’t pay anything at all. The causes I support generally rely on volunteers to do the necessary tasks to create change in the world. How much time and energy any of us has to contribute to the work we believe in depends on how much we have left after doing what is necessary to survive. For some, there just isn’t anything left over after hours each day spent with clients, paperwork, managing a practice (for those of us self-employed), dealing with a bureaucracy (for those of us with agencies or organizations), and then attending to our homes and relationships.

For me, volunteering time feels essential to my sense of hope. I need to be contributing on some level, no matter how small, to the ongoing process of change sustained by organizations that are trying to do something. This can feel like a drop in the bucket, as there are many, many worthy causes, and much work to do in each of them. I can only do so much, and I am constantly aware of how limited my contribution is to the large picture. I seem to have made my choices about where to put my time and energy by following opportunities that presented themselves to me, rather than attempting to judge which cause is the most worthy. My focus changes now and then and I have relied on that to reassure myself that even if I’m only working with a small part of what needs to be done, I may find myself later in another camp, approaching the problems from a different angle.

As I work with a group of people striving towards some goal or mission, I get the benefit of a sense of community that grows out of these working relationships. This is especially important for me, as I have consistently formed my closest friendships with housemates or co-workers. Now, earning my money from my private practice and teaching, I am struck by the fact that my main contacts through work are people with whom I must keep appropriate boundaries. Clearly, my clients will not form my supportive community. Even with students, the relationship is circumscribed by situation. Only when I reach out to my colleagues for peer consultation or get involved with work-related organizations can I find a sense of community through my professional associations.

Reaching beyond our immediate work requirements to find places where we can come together to contribute creates community on another level, one where we have the satisfaction of doing our part to bring about the changes that seem important to us. For example, at the last CAMFT (California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists) meeting, as we listened to the folks from Santa Cruz AIDS Project talk about their programs, it became clear that several of our members have been volunteering their skills to help SCAP fulfill its goals. After the meeting, one of them told me that this has been an incredibly fulfilling way to do essential work and at the same time satisfy her need for community involvement.

We are so very busy, running to stay in place. If we can find just a little bit of time to reach out beyond our individual survival pathways and join in where a collective push is needed, perhaps we won’t have to wait for retirement to find a world of opportunities awaiting our involvement. Right here, right now, we can be part of a movement towards our visions for this planet and its inhabitants.

Fresh start

A new website, a new opportunity to share what I have to offer to those who find their way here. I hereby enter the world of blogging, and commit to putting into words some of the thoughts and ideas and feelings that travel around inside me. It will be a new adventure for me, another step in my journey towards further connection and communication with others through the written word.