Our recipes for social change

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Dear friends,

When we started writing our year end letters to y'all, maybe around 2001, it was our main way to communicate and share our happenings. Those original letters, a cross between a thank you, an informal annual report and a means to be in touch, were essential to us. 

Remember, back then, it was me and a bunch of amazing young women who were the first Apprentices and shining examples of Shakti’s innovative leadership work. One year our team of six wrote notes to 500 people each. We were bleary eyed but felt so triumphant. Because these letters were going to OUR community, and we wanted them to not only know but FEEL how their support was truly making a difference - not just in individual women’s lives, but for entire communities.  

Now you are likely reading this letter as one among so many requests for support. It’s possible or even likely that I haven’t met you yet which somewhat astounds me.  And yes, we do want and need your support - in resources, time, wisdom and belief. 

Yet, we actually deeply want you to be RESOURCED. Because times are challenging, and it feels like no sooner does one intensity pass than another is at our doorsteps. Perhaps it’s always been this way, or maybe it’s the new normal. I simply know that as I travel across this country, working in different regions and with all kinds of people, the thing I hear the most is overwhelm, weariness and longing. 

The longing is to feel what we at Shakti know is possible and necessary: deeply rooted belonging, the ability to befriend uncertainty and as Joanna Macy says, something that motivates you to get up every day and work toward your vision of yourself and the world. 

Hence, we still get together as a team each year and cook up a batch of Shakti’s secret sauce and send it to you, with the intent that it be like magic in an envelope, or email. 

In my family, cooking is more art than science. My Grandma taught me the pinch and dash way of measuring, and even though there are only 5 ingredients, no one in the family makes pie crust like she did. So it is with Shakti: for some reason, our recipes work, powerfully, the ingredients we use grow strong, vibrant women leaders and resilient communities.

May our recipes inspire you to cook up something delicious in your own life and if you are so moved, to contribute to us with your resources, your wisdom and your belief.

Founder & Visionary Director

In today’s world, we know that taking personal responsibility for our own impact is not always taught or valued even though it is critical. We can feel overwhelmed by all that is broken, and forget to focus on what we feel grateful for -  and the ways, small and large, 
we can make a difference. 

Our programs seek to 
support and empower women to become changemakers in whatever ways they were born to be. At this time in history, it matters more than ever. 

In short, we envision for the world 
women and child friendly societies that are safe, healthy, vibrant, diverse, sustainable, and culturally alive. Our mission is to empower women to uncover, rediscover, and reclaim their whole selves. We invest in the following areas to foster this vision:

Transformational Recovery
Shakti Feminine University
Alchemical Leadership

When you mix ingredients for social change with women’s inner healing and commitment to serving and changing the world, magic happens.

If you want these magical recipe cards in the mail and did not receive them, please email Janice at janice@shaktirising.org to share your address and we will send you a set!

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A teary-eyed THANK YOU~ Goodbye Sunshine House

Dear friends,
As you (hopefully) know, after 15 successful, beautiful and riotous years, we came to the momentous decision to move out of our Sunshine campus, relocate the Transformational Recovery program (called the Apprenticeship) to Sacramento and to “rest” our San Diego region for at least a year.


On October 8th we locked the door for the last time at 2404 F Street and left.


The very next day, we led a women’s circle in East County, near where we first started almost 20 years ago. Since then we have done 3 more circles around San Diego, bringing our successful work out to YOU, our community. We will do at least 15 more circles before our winter break in December.

In our time in this house, we built a HOME for tens of thousands of women who uncovered, rediscovered and reclaimed their worth, their soul and their purpose. There were weddings, community organizations met in our gardens, women raised their families here - WE raised up a strong, healthy family here. Sunshine was an epicenter for community building, and I’m incredibly proud to have been part of it.


The move was a huge endeavor, and it would not have happened without the excellent leadership & tireless work of the wonderful Janice Hsu, our San Diego Guardian. What it takes to plan and steward this kind of project:

  • finding & moving into the new TR House in Sacramento;

  • shipping and moving my office to TN;

  • finding and relocating our San Diego offices;

  • finding & moving our important items into storage and

  • leaving Sunshine better than we found it (have you ever heard the story of when I found the Sunshine house and the shape it was in? look for that story soon!)

Remember that we are a lean nonprofit, that needed to do this move without disruption to the program provided for the 8 Apprentices living at Sunshine.

Janice was INCREDIBLE -- she went above and beyond for our community, including driving two U-hauls with her fiance James to Sacramento on Wednesday and then flying back to San Diego to lead a closing ritual at Sunshine on that Friday night. Listen to Janice’s reflections on moving here.

There are some pretty unbelievable stories from the move, as you’d expect from a place as magical as Shakti Rising. Some of my favorites include:

  • Hearing that Lynn Owens, a long time & deeply loved community member bought lunch for all the moving volunteers, just because

  • Sarah Violet came to help on our final move out day and realized it was 13 years (to the day) since she moved in to start her Apprenticeship

  • Our rolling garden boxes that went to the local elementary school who we found out had literally been praying for these exact & unusual things

  • Christina leading Shakti’s national team in making over 500 calls, disbursing our gardens as gifts, and your responses

Plus, the stories of all the people coming home to say goodbye and honor Sunshine. I can’t even begin to do this justice in a short email.

This could not have happened as seamlessly if we hadn’t been helped, held and encouraged by YOU, our wonderful community. From the planning, guidance, and coaching provided by Tina McDonald (my Mom), to the physical moving done by Chris Brown, Chris Pesko, James Lee, Chris Kiesel, Teri Hedman, Ilana Queiroz, to the last minute storage space provided by Andy Hsu, to all the help that I don’t know about, THANK YOU.

Even though I can’t believe I won’t walk in those doors again, I know this was the right decision.

So many of you have reached out to share you want to make sure Shakti is still here and that full services will return. We hope you connect with us to explore HOW we can best serve San Diego, people you want us to connect & partner with, and ways you’d like to be involved. Join us at any of our very cool circles open to the community. If you'd like to host one, please email Christina

Thank you San Diego! You were not only my birthplace, but Shakti’s birthplace. You have a special place in our hearts, and we look forward to discovering who we will be next, together.


“My heart will be with Sunshine tonight, as it always has been. Even when I’ve doubted the program, or the women involved, or my place in any of it, Sunshine has always held me. She’s always made room for me. She’s always been mine and I’m grateful for all of it.”
Allison, Shakti grad, 2005



PS. I’ll be sending a video email out in about a week to our entire national community to share more about all of Shakti’s growth, accomplishments and frankly, kick ass work this fall. Stay tuned!

PPS. You’ll be pleased to know that our 10 Apprentices are happily living in our new home in Sacramento! They have settled in, started their full class and counseling services and are actively engaged in job searches. If you have connections in Sacramento that might assist them to get jobs, please contact Shannon@shaktirising.org.

~ Our new Sacramento Apprenticeship home among the city trees ~

Shakti's Year End Message


What is the story we will tell our children’s children? How do we walk with grace through a world thrust into chaos? How do we face our own assumptions, fears, grief and shadows while holding space for others to face their own? Sometimes there are more questions than answers. Sometimes the answer is to simply sit with the question. The Shakti approach to being and teaching in the world begins with our curiosity and offers tools to access our internal capacity to move through disruption and conflict.  

Shakti Rising has spent the last 18 years preparing women to lead in difficult times. If there were ever a moment in history to embrace transformation as a way of life, this is it. The Heart of Shakti has expressed our vision for so many years. As a movement, we have leveled up just when the world needs us most: Shakti Feminine University (SFU) launched this fall in five regions, blending healing and social change with systems-oriented design — an eco-based approach to addressing the complex issues of our time.

SFU shares the tools and technologies that help us forge into the unknown, living into new paradigms, creating the systems and the world we want to live in. Through SFU, leaders and communities cultivate the capacity to be systemic, hold the long view, draw on nature and other cultures, deal with rapidly changing factors and develop sustainable, enduring, creative approaches to being. We are activating bold, soulful, feminine leaders capable of midwifing new solutions to community challenges.

Shakti’s momentum is growing nationally and globally. We invite you to be a part of this tremendous work and support the soil that empowers this movement to grow. Your generative contribution at this time supports:

  • Liberation education programming through SFU to over 1,000 individuals across Shakti’s five formal regions
  • An international network of formal and informal women leaders who are creating grassroots change within local and global communities.  

Take a moment to read The Heart of Shakti. We invite you to choose one line and practice living it each day. “We believe in the power of our real life choices, knowing mundane actions can have the most far reaching implications”. May our laboratory of leadership forwarding social change be activated in your passion, sewn on your heart, and seeded in your life. Together we will rise — to our dignity, collective freedom, and the world we have yet to manifest.

With the strength of our belief and the rigor required to live it,

Our Tribal Guardians,


The Sword & The Salve

Power without love is reckless and abusive.  Love without power is sentimental and anemic.”  ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

The echoes of our drums fade away as we breathe deeply into our bellies, sitting in front of the Fall altar crafted spontaneously just for this night’s ceremony.  Leading us in a meditation to connect with the resonant field of our glorious community, the NorCal region of Shakti Rising, tapping into our intertwined roots.  We listen and are seeking to answer these questions:  What is the nature of the living energy of our region?  What are the special medicines we add to the pot of magic Shakti is cooking up across our five regions?  What is needed to expand this medicine, particularly in the Sacramento micro-region where we live and teach?  And why does it matter?  We are exploring, in the Fall tradition of Shakti Rising, to Uncover Our Roots.

Many images, stories, sensations and ideas came to us as we enter the web of our intertwined roots:

  • Water—scarce and abundant and always precious.  

  • The unseen mycelial web that lays the underground map of our region, and the places where a ring of mushrooms breaks the surface, making our work plain to the community around us.  

  • Darkness, and a calling from our region for opportunities for deep shadow work, the work of unlearning the internalized oppression that the outer social systems embed within us.

  • And rising to prominence in our imaginations and journeying that evening: The Sword and the Salve, an alchemical mingling of power and love capable of bringing about transformation.

We are a region baring the swords of fairy lore, interpreted by oracles and seers, poised to cut through the noise and falsehoods around us.  To cut the ties that keep us tethered to toxic ways of being so that the healing salve of love medicine can penetrate the deep and forgotten wounds of our many peoples.

What does this mean for the NorCal region of Shakti Rising?  We reside within the heart of California’s political and activist landscape, a major artery in our nation’s social justice network.  To our south lies the Bay Area, a land of rich historic and contemporary social justice activism, home to one of the highest concentrations of non-profits in the nation, and layer upon layer of deep and complex healing and wounding of those of us who participate in it.  To our north lies the California State Capitol in Sacramento, a political cauldron that is teeming with a powerful brew of nation-leading progressive policies and also deeply entrenched toxic systems of political oppression.

The mycelial web that underlays our region—the energetic and spiritual system of communication and fortification that connects each of us within Shakti to others working in the realm of spiritual activism—draws all of this together, positioning us as a region poised to explicitly and directly express Shakti Rising’s identity as a social change organization.  Because of our location, we have access to women and organizations on the forefront of both political activism and political policy making.  For this reason, we also face specific challenges in the ways these systems are so deeply entrenched within toxic ways of being.  And yet it is here that we can make such deep and profound impacts by bringing the Shakti Rising Way of being into these spaces, whether explicitly or implicitly.  

I have seen first-hand the ways in which the transformational presence we cultivate within Shakti can instantly shift these rooms.  Last week I had the joy and honor of bringing a Self-Care simpler to the staff of MISSSEY, a social justice organization in Oakland whose mission, as their name explains, is Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting & Serving Sexually Exploited Youth. These women operate on the frontlines of one of the most violent expressions of our society’s illness.  The culture that they, like so many non-profits, operate within is one of scarcity:  Not enough resources or time to do the work, not enough support, too many youth to save and not nearly enough of us to do all the saving.  “When I look at my mentors,” one young woman shared in circle, “they are pushing themselves at a million miles-per-hour to get it all done.  And I look up to them, and so I learned to do the same.  There’s no time for self-care.”  Their wells are running dry.

As we worked to expose the ways in which the self-care industry damages and disempowers us, and worked with embodiment practices to reclaim the ability to care for self in any given moment, we discovered deep wells of pain carried by those most directly subject to oppression and internalized oppression.  From the perspectives of the dominant culture, the deeply internalized message is that caring for self is simply not allowed, is not safe.  

I was deeply grateful to be allowed to bring this work into this space, and I learned so much from them about the deep complexity of this one, simple curriculum.  These women were willing and courageous enough to take the sword and cut through the “noise,” as one participant described it, of the scarcity mentality and the unhealthy coping mechanisms we often develop to navigate that noise.  They allowed themselves to apply to their hearts the healing salve of self-authorship, of the alchemy of power and love operating in harmony.

This alchemy of power and love, of sword and salve, is a necessary tool in making the journey into the dark to connect and work with our shadow selves, as the winter calls us to do.  As we sat in circle that night, we felt deeply the call of our NorCal region and Sacramento micro-region for opportunities to engage and heal our shadows, and the shadows that lie with our state government and non-profit systems.  Writing recently about why it is critical for social justice activists to engage in shadow work, and why manifestations of the Dark Goddess can be our guide, Layla Saad recounts the ancient Sumerian myth of Inanna and Ereshkigal.  She concludes that, “In order for us to be reborn, we must be willing to personally and collectively dismantle all parts of ourselves that make us who we are in this patriarchal, white supremacist world and die to it all completely - so we can give life to a new vision.”

This Monday, a small group of women will launch of Persephone’s Journey, a Shakti course that takes a deep dive into the underworld, with Angie Hensley as guide.  I am grateful to this group for making this significant gesture towards this challenging and sacred work of the soul.  May their journey be blessed, and may their rebirth signal a new flourishing of love and power operating in concert to shift the broken places in our souls and in our world.

Take a moment now to center yourself, connect with your breathing, and then send your consciousness down into the intertwined roots and mycelial web of our NorCal region.  What images and sensations come to you?  For you, what is the energy of our region, and what does it need?  Journal your insights, and then send them on to us, so we can include your own special medicine in the cauldron we are cooking here in NorCal.


Fall | Uncover your roots: a grounding practice

Fall | Uncover your roots: a grounding practice

This fall, as we uncover our roots - and in the Shakti model, work with the element of Earth - we love playing with perhaps-familiar practices, and adding a focus on THE FEET! In many contexts and circles, we hear the word 'grounding' often; but what does that really mean? This offering is an embodied practice that can assist in finding and feeling one specific aspect of true grounding.

A mountain climb honoring Shakti's 18th birthday

A mountain climb honoring Shakti's 18th birthday

We invite all our supporters, whether or not you were able to attend our 18th Birthday Celebration, to take a moment to honor Shakti in whatever way you feel called. You don't need to climb a mountain, but you can if you want to. Light a candle, whisper a blessing, lie down on Mother Earth and listen for what She has to tell you. In particular, think about your stories, and where in your story things changed forever. Or where in your story you want things to change forever. Because you are the author, in partnership with the Divine.

Practical Alchemy​: Temple of the Feminine

Practical Alchemy​: Temple of the Feminine

Building upon the often un-sung work of the radical educators, freedom fighters and loving leaders who came before us, the diverse and wondrous community of Shakti Rising are stepping up to our task. We are committed to lifting up women who are ready to teach, to facilitate, to lead, to parent, to cooperate, and to act from the place that most compels us, that gets us up out of our seats to dance, to cheer, to rise in silent protest.