The essence of ritual

I had no Passover seders to go to this year, so I did what I usually do in that situation: I took care of bringing a mini-seder essence of Passover to whoever I was with. We were with a small group of friends who have become extended family over the many years we have gathered with them (since 1987 for some, 1992 for the others in the group). I made charoset (symbolizing the mortar used for building the pyramids when the Jews were slaves in Egypt) and brought something to cover the symbols on the seder plate and matzo (the unleavened bread, symbolic of leaving Egypt before the bread could rise). There was at least one person there who found my simple introduction to Passover educational, as she had not known any of this. A reminder to me that what I take for granted is not always common knowledge. It was a good day, with a walk through the Berkeley Rose Garden and Cordonices Park before our meal, then a shared potluck after my Passover introduction, then improvisational sounding and singing after. Not the traditional Passover, but I felt satisfied to be with community and share meaningful time together.

Malabar Café/Asian Rose in Santa Cruz

We had dinner at the Malabar Cafe’ in Santa Cruz before going to the Glow Festival of Fire & Light. Pictured above is the Winter Vegetable Korma Curry. Three of us shared this and the Dosa filled with Eggplant and two small plates: one cauliflower in a wonderful sauce, the other a banana papaya salad. All was delicious, and a reminder that we should visit this local treasure more often! The festival was great fun, with fire art projects and fire dancers, and I loved watching Jozseph Schultz from India Joze popping corn in his huge wok for the crowd that lined up for some of his wok-fried popcorn.

Community connections













Some friends and colleagues of mine held an open house Friday for their new counseling center, a lovely remodeled cottage with room for groups, and a kitchen for cooking, and a garden out back. Diana Elwyn and Barbara Christie and I all met when we worked at Star Lodge Hospital’s eating disorder residential treatment program back in the early 1990s. I’m so pleased to see them manifesting a dream, along with Lauren Mari-Navarro (who I met when she participated in a SoulCollage Facilitator’s training we hosted at Skyote Mountain years ago). I had a wonderful time there, reconnecting with people in the therapist community here that I know and making new connections as well. Best wishes to you Diana, Barbara, Lauren, and Cottage Counseling Center!

Reconnecting in Seattle

We’re here for just a few days to do some further packing up at our old condo (anyone interested in buying a wonderful condo in Kirkland with a view of the Olympics?), and reconnected with the folks we met almost monthly for dinner when we lived here. Had a lovely dinner at May Thai in Wallingford – I had passed their building many times but had never eaten there. It did not seem like 9 months had gone by since we’d all met and eaten together. Lots of hugs all around, and we look forward to next time, whenever that might be!

Meanwhile, I will be creating meals from what I have on my pantry and refrigerator shelves here, along with some fresh vegetables, dairy, and fruit that we picked up last night. Always an adventure to see what can be put together out of what’s on hand!

$20 at the farmer’s market

I had only a twenty dollar bill and some change, and we are heading up to Seattle in a few days anyway, so I knew I didn’t need much and could restrain myself at the Santa Cruz Wednesday downtown Farmer’s Market. This is what I came home with, all organic, $20.75. Onions, romanesco broccoli (it looks and tastes like cauliflower), fuji appleas, and celery from Pinnacle Farm, salad mix sprouts from New Natives, and cara cara oranges and tangerines from – well, I’m not certain who these come from – Lone Oak Ranch, perhaps? They have pomelos and blood oranges, too, but I was at the end of my cash by that time.

Checking in

I am truly grateful that I have so many places where I can check in – with friends and family and colleagues who I love and respect and who love and respect me, and who care about what is going on with me. Not just the stories of what’s happening, but the thoughts and feelings and struggles and joys that I experience as I go through days and phases of my life. When I am with a group, all of us checking in, one by one, going around the circle to each speak what is true for us in that moment, in our lives right now, and being witnessed and held by that circle, I am grateful. And even more so when I hear from some in the circle, as is often the case, that this may be the only place this person has to speak and be heard in this way.

I am reminded of how much I value checking in even beyond my usual home groups that I rely on for this, having just returned from 2 days with the Saybrook College of Mind-Body Medicine residential conference. At this conference where we hold our new student orientation, and coursework for many of the MS and PhD students in the program, there is still room for check-ins. I am so grateful that check-ins are an important part of our work, along with the serious academic rigor of the research work. The best of both worlds!

I rely on the people in my life, the people in my communities, to hold a space for me that I feel even when I am not with them. Knowing I am held in this way, I can go forth and take action in the world, and I can come into my own center when meditating and/or moving alone, and know that I am not truly alone. This means a lot to me, and I thank all of you who are part of the larger community that I belong to. Just by reading this, just by being someone I have contact with in whatever small way, you are part of the community I belong to. In my meditations, I reach out my sense of community even beyond that, to those I don’t know, those I don’t understand, those I struggle with because of actions that they take that seem to me to be harmful to the earth and to other beings who live here. But what helps me to do that reaching beyond is knowing that I have a closer community to come back to, people to check in with on the simplest levels of what it is to live. Even as simple as sharing the food that I eat every day.

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.


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

A house full of wonderful energy and food

The second day of our supervision/workshop with Stephen Gilligan went very well, and ended with a lovely dinner, conversation, and singing before bed. The dinner menu:

Salmon Algiers

Couscous with Chickpeas


Plum Crumble with Ice Cream


Fish Algiers

2 lb fish fillet
1 1/3 Tbs cumin seed, whole
3 1/2 Tbs olive oil
3 1/2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, (3 1/2 tblsp.)
1/3 tsp salt
1 dash cayenne
3/4 lb tomatoes, small
lemon wedges
parsley, fresh, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Rinse fish and place, skin side down, in lightly oiled pans.

3. Toast cumin seeds in a dry skillet until aromatic. Take care not to burn. Grind the cumin to a fine powder in a spice grinder.

4. Whisk the toasted cumin with the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and cayenne.

5. Layer the quartered tomato slices on top of the fish, pour on the marinade, cover, and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until fish flakes easily.

Servings: 6

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/6 of a recipe (8.1 ounces).
Calories 234.58
Total Fat 8.38g
Saturated Fat 1.14g
Cholesterol 74.67mg
Sodium 215.06mg
Potassium 186.76mg
Total Carbohydrates 4.42g
Fiber 1.1g
Sugar 1.79g
Protein 32.93g


Gluten-free feast

Just finished cleaning up from a wonderful group of women who came for a day of singing and yoga Saturday at our Skyote Mountain retreat. Heather Houston asked me to cook a gluten-free dinner for us all, so I put this menu together:

Enchiladas Negras (with vinegared onions and cucumbers and heirloom tomatoes)
Quinoa with Latin Flavors
Mixed baby greens salad
Gluten-free Multigrain Miracle Bread

For dessert:

Flourless Poppy Seed Cake with sliced strawberries, peaches, & nectarines

It’s such a joy to feed people delicious and healthy food!

This is how the dinner fit into my own day of eating:



More on Ceremony

Rituals are transformative, while ceremonies are confirmative (Heinz, 2004), although there is certainly room for overlap. In my work I have tended to focus on rituals, planned sequences in sacred space that are designed to shift consciousness, both in the moment of the ritual, and in  lives beyond that moment.

In my workshops teaching ritual I often provide an opportunity for the participants to think of a difficulty in their daily lives that might be supported by a brief ritual. Often this involves transitions that are a challenge, like coming home from work – what does it take to move gracefully out of work consciousness and into being home, either alone or with family? Sometimes this is the time of the day when people struggle with compulsive eating, which might be an unconscious way of nurturing their drained self at the end of a work day. This is a perfect opportunity to invent a ritual that can consciously provide that inner self with some acknowledgment of what is felt in that moment, and a way to move into a different state of consciousness.

Ceremonies, on the other hand, are a formal acknowledgment of a transformation that has already occurred. This brings an internal change into the community’s awareness and the shift is in the consciousness of the community, who can now see the individual in a different light, in a new role or status.

I have already done all the work to achieve this PhD; the ceremony on Sunday will not change anything internally for me. The graduation ceremony focuses on the larger perspective of how I am seen by my friends and family and the community at large. The ceremony is an acknowledgment of the ripples that expand outward from the work I have done, and the ability I have to expand my work beyond myself and beyond the scale of my past endeavors.

This ceremony is also an opportunity to express my gratitude to all of those who have contributed to my process along the way, starting with my parents and grandparents, whose support created a foundation for this possibility long ago (my mother said in an email to me yesterday, “Little miss ‘I want to do it myself’ indeed did it herself”). Every teacher who has ever recognized and supported my gifts and potential in a positive way is part of the path that brought me to this moment. I especially want to recognize a few teachers and mentors, some of whom have become friends, whose influence made a memorable difference in the development of my work: Phil Soinski, Anne Welsh, Sara Shelton Mann, Laura Dean, Stuart Schlegel, Noel King, Frank Barron, Philip Slater, Konrad Fischer, Stephen Gilligan, David Lukoff, Eugene Taylor, Stanley Krippner, and Allan Combs. For a long time I have been teaching and collaborating with a few friends and colleagues, primarily Anodea Judith and Kylea Taylor, and our work together has been an important part of my continued development as a teacher. In addition, the hundreds of students and clients I have worked with over the years have played a significant role in the evolution of my work and my thoughts about how we grow and transform and how we live to the fullest.

These folks are the tip of the iceberg – I am so aware of how I am touched and influenced by everyone I come in contact with. I continue to grow and learn and understand more deeply, and I thank all of you who are part of my life in any way, and those of you who I have yet to connect with. May we all grow and evolve together!


Heinze, Ruth-Inge. (2004). The nature and function of rituals.