Women’s Wisdom Women In Action
Under the direction of Dr. Nahid Angha, the Sufi Women Organization hosts a semi-annual speaker presentation program, Women’s Wisdom: Women in Action. Through this program, SWO honors leaders, activists, and humanitarians who have provided exemplary services. SWO seeks to bring people together to learn, to build community, and to cultivate ways of living and working oriented toward dignity, health and service. See some of SWO’s featured speakers below, and learn more about the full program. We hope you’ll join us at an upcoming event! Click here to sign up for IAS newsletters, including SWO’s monthly email newsletter.
Living Wisely and Well In This Time
November 12, 2022
* A portion of event proceeds supported SWO’s 2022 Gifts of Peace Donation Drive. Thank you to all who attended, and we hope you will join us in 2023!
In November, The Women’s Wisdom: Women in Action program sponsored an event in our ongoing women’s health series featuring speakers Kahontakwas Diane Longboat and Belvie Rooks, longtime humanitarian activists and friends. Diane is a ceremonial leader, educator, spiritual activist, and traditional teacher from the Mohawk Nation, Turtle Clan. Belvie is a writer, educator, film producer, social and environmental justice advocate. Belvie and her husband, the poet and activist Dedan Gills, formed a deep relationship with Diane through a shared commitment to peace, healing, restoration of the earth, and respect for indigenous wisdom.
Diane opened the conversation with an invocation, inviting the presence of natural forces and ancestors into the circle. She shared that we don’t walk this life alone, and we don’t transition alone; we always have helpers. She also noted that all faith traditions recognize the unity of love and that differences can join us together more than divide us. Belvie spoke about the profound impact of meeting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when she was a teenager, and he was 29 years old. Belvie was inspired by Dr. King’s message that truth, righteousness, and love will win out, and the redemptive power of love and the personal responsibility each of us has to make a difference. Those words have reverberated and inspired Belvie throughout her life. She also shared poems from Dedan, and reflections on working with Apollo astronaut Dr. Edgar Mitchell and the connection between his “epiphany” and experience of interconnectedness and the teachings of indigenous peoples. In the conversation with each other, and in response to audience questions, both speakers highlighted the importance of “doing our own work.” They emphasized that our own authenticity will be seen and valued, while preaching words that we don’t embody will not be heard or helpful. When we practice to listen to, embody and speak our hope and wisdom, we each have the capacity to impact hundreds of others, sending forward ripples of learning and peace.
Wellness & Well Being
for Families & Teachers
in a Time of Transition
September 14, 2021
Our ongoing discussion in our women’s health series focused on “Wellness & Well Being for Families & Teachers in a Time of Transition,” featured panelists Dr. Shelly Wold and Dr. Anya Dozier Enos, who shared their thoughts and insights, and offered their experiences, reflections and tools used in this time of transition.
Dr. Anya Dozier Enos, is an enrolled member in Santa Clara Pueblo and has over 30 years of experience in Indian Education and is Education Development Director of the tribally controlled Santa Fe Indian School. She stressed the importance of ritual and gathering with family units as a way of healing during the Covid pandemic.
Dr. Shelly Wold received her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the Wright Institute and is a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst. She is the Executive Director at Positive Pathways LLC, a play-based behavioral health agency providing structure and routine for children. She spoke to the importance of utilizing acceptance and commitment therapy to help clients connect to their values to find vitality and move toward a rich and meaningful life.
Wellness & Well Being for Families & Teachers
in a Time of Transition
May 4, 2021
SWO’s first event about “Wellness & Well Being for Families & Teachers in a Time of Transition,” was an evening of inspiring conversations between five health care providers and educators who virtually shared their experiences of the last school year. The panel discussion was moderated and facilitated by Dr. Elizabeth Miller, a member of the Sufi Women Organization, also an educator. The panelists discussed how they have seen and experienced the impact of covid on kids, parents, teachers, and family systems at this time of the pandemic. They emphasized that a mindset of acceptance, prioritization and compassion is needed whether you are a teacher, a parent, a student, or a caregiver of any kind, and pointed to the importance of really listening, as well as tuning into one’s own state and sharing with students, and other family members and children. As much as possible, it’s important during these challenging times to be a calm reassuring presence for own selves and for our children. (Also read event highlights in Sufism, An Inquiry)
Chrissy Nichols, founder and CEO of The Chrissy Concept, LLC, is a life coach and educator who focuses her work on serving teachers. Carin Rhodes graduated from the University of Tennessee with a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education and has been an educator for 25 years. Jenae Casalnuovo is an educator originally from Marin County. She teaches at an elementary school in San Rafael, CA. Christina Fass manages the Marin County Office of Education’s Early Intervention Program. Katherine Preston is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and has been practicing for over 30 years.
Honoring the Work of Janet King
Sept. 14, 2019
On September 14, 2019, through the Sufi Women Organization, the Women’s Wisdom: Women in Action Program hosted Janet King, who serves as Program Manager of Policy and Advocacy at the Native American Health Center for the San Francisco Bay Area. Janet is a longtime advocate of mental health transformation and a founding member of the Racial Ethnic Mental Health Disparities Coalition of California. At the Native American Health Center, where she has been for the last 24 years, Janet is working to show that current approaches to mental health are not working well, and that more preventative care, early intervention, and inclusion of traditional healers and healing practices stand to decrease the cost of care, while increasing the use of services and likelihood of recovery.
Janet also acknowledged that the most difficult part of her work is often self-care, and that she has seen many women struggle to nourish and care for themselves while also tending to the needs of their families and communities. She spoke about the reverence for women and children in Native American traditions, and how valued caregivers are within the traditions of her tribe. Janet encouraged all in attendance to pay attention to the way narratives are told, to feel empowered to tell their own story, and to practice respect for oneself and all people.
Honoring the Work of Linda Graham
March 2, 2019
On March 2, 2019, the Sufi Women Organization through the Women’s Wisdom: Women in Action Program, honored Linda Graham, MFT, Psychotherapist, Author, and Teacher. We had a great number of individuals attending the event, many were therapists or interested in mental health issues. Much of Linda’s teaching about resilience revolves around an early experience she had about “bouncing back,” and she realized she was dealing with inner and outer emotions. Linda that resilience is a foundational practice and that we have a choice and responsibility. Resilience is innate in our brains. Linda’s outstanding book: Resilience: Powerful Practices for Bouncing Back from Disappointment, Difficulty, and Even Disaster, is a guidebook, full of tools and resources to help one to focus on mindfulness which is a cornerstone of resilience.
Celebrating Women’s Leadership
(click photos below for bios)
Dr. Shelly Wold
Dr. Shelly Wold works with a team of women at Thought Partners, providing psychotherapy to adolescents and adults using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) to help her clients connect to their values to find vitality and move towards a rich, meaningful life. Shelly encourages her clients to find moments of joy in life, despite the challenges life brings, in a deeply compassionate manner. Shelly received her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the Wright Institute in 2017 and is currently completing her postdoctoral hours for her license as a psychologist. Shelly is also a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and the Executive Director at Positive Pathways LLC, a play-based behavioral health agency she founded in 2011 that operates throughout the SF Bay Area. In her other life, she is the mother of an awesome three-year old who attends a special education preschool in Marin. He teaches her to slow down and appreciate each moment to the fullest.
Dr. Anya Dozier Enos
Anya Dozier Enos, PhD, is an enrolled member of Santa Clara Pueblo, and has over 30 years of experience in Indian education. Her role as Education Development Director at the tribally controlled Santa Fe Indian School focuses on innovative development and implementation of curriculum and professional development for educators of Native American students in grades 7-12. A strong believer in Native American education sovereignty, Dr. Dozier Enos is a founding board member for her community’s tribally controlled school that serves students ages birth through 6th grade and their families with a goal of ensuring students complete elementary school proficient in the Tewa language while being on a path for college and career readiness.
Linda Graham, MFT is a long-time psychotherapist, consultant and trainer who has spent more than two decades developing an interactive model for therapeutic transformation. She became a licensed marriage and family therapist in 1995, specializing in helping people reverse the impact of stress and trauma, manage anxiety and depression, loneliness and shame, and shift out of reactivity and contraction toward more openness, trust, compassionate connection, clarity, and wise choices. She seeks to help people turn regrettable moments into teachable moments, to recover a sense of resilience, centeredness and wholeness, and to develop the tools and confidence for thriving and flourishing. Her first book, Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being, was published in 2013, and integrated paradigms and practices of neuroscience with Western relational psychotherapy and Eastern contemplative practices, and includes more than 80 experiential exercises to strengthen the brain’s capacities to respond well even under intense stress. Her book Resilience: Powerful Practices for Bouncing Back from Disappointment, Difficulty, and Even Disaster, leads readers through an evidence-based trajectory of tools of somatic, emotional, relational, and reflective intelligences to face and cope with any adversity, recover personal strengths, and live a compassionate and courageous life. Learn more here.
Lucia Martel-Dow is the Director of Immigration and Social Services for Canal Alliance, a non-profit serving the local Latino community. She was appointed to the San Rafael City School Board, and also serves on the board of the Ritter Center. In her role as vice-chair of the Commission, Lucia brings a passionate commitment to the immigrant community in Marin as well as to issues of equity and justice for all children and families. Lucia attended the Universidad Central de Venezuela, where she earned a law degree, and UC Hastings College of the Law and earned a Master of Law degree in International Business and Trade.
Riffat Sultana channels the musical wisdom of 500 years and eleven generations of master musicians in her family in India and Pakistan. But in all those years, she is the first woman to sing in public. For a Muslim woman in a traditional country, such a career simply was not appropriate. Perhaps one reason her performances today have such overwhelming emotional power is that she sings for all the woman who never had that chance before. For Riffat, it took moving to the United States to free her musical soul. Now, her amazing voice is being heard around the world, including a featured spot in the 2004 “We Are The Future” concert, produced by Quincy Jones in Rome, Italy.
Belvie Rooks is an essayist, educator and social justice activist whose pioneering work weaves social justice and healing with environmental restoration and community-building. Her understanding of and commitment to human and civil rights was profoundly impacted by a weekend with Martin Luther King, Jr. when she was teenager. During the anti-apartheid era, Belvie was one of the first women on national steering committees and Associate Director of the Third World Fund, for which she traveled throughout Africa. She was founding faculty at SUNY College of Social Justice, and faculty at Holy Names University and Naropa University. She is creator of Hey Listen Up, a groundbreaking urban eco-literacy project, and ConverZations That Matter. Belvie served on the Boards of Bioneers, Ella Baker Center and the Institute for Noetic Sciences, and as a founding staff member of Wild Trees Press with Alice Walker and Robert Allen. Her writing appears in numerous publications and anthologies, and she is co-producer (with Damani Baker, Danny Glover) of the award-winning film, “The House on Coco Road.” Belvie and husband Dedan Gills founded Growing a Global Heart and Belvie is Editor of I Give You the Springtime of My Blushing Heart, a poetic love story between her and Dedan. She is also Strategic Advisor, Community Building at the Pseads Institute.
Kahontakwas Diane Longboat, MEd
Kahontakwas Diane Longboat is a member of the Turtle Clan and Mohawk Nation at Six Nations Grand River Territory, Canada. She is a ceremonial leader, traditional teacher, and healer and has served as Elder for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health since January of 2013. Diane is founder of Soul of the Mother, a Healing Lodge on the shores of the Grand River at Six Nations Grand River Territory, with extensive relationships with First Nations in Canada and the United States. She is also founder of First Nations House at the University of Toronto. Diane is a professional educator with a Master’s degree in education and has taught at universities as well as national and international conferences on the topic of traditional Indigenous knowledge systems and spirituality as the fuel for innovation. She has published extensively on Indigenous education law and policy for the Chiefs of Ontario and the Assembly of First Nations. Recently, Diane was Co-Chair for the development of the Indigenous Peoples Program at the Parliament of the World’s Religions. The legacy of the Indigenous Peoples Program is a series of ceremonial gatherings between Indigenous Nations designed to renew pre-colonial alliances and, beginning in 2020, relationships with the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and the Anishinaabek Nation.
Janet King is a longtime advocate of mental health transformation and a founding member of the Racial Ethnic Mental Health Disparities Coalition of California. She has spoken at many Mental Health Services Act Community Forums to explain why the current mental health system leaves many cultural groups unserved, underserved, or inappropriately served. In addition, King is on the eight member team of the Native American Strategic Planning Workgroup that conducted research with Native American Communities in California to determine Native American mental health needs, and solutions to meeting those needs, as part of the California Reducing Disparities Project (CRDP).
Chrissy Nichols, founder and CEO of The Chrissy Concept, LLC, is a life coach and educator who focuses her work on serving teachers. After spending 20 years in classrooms all over the world, Chrissy felt burnt out, used up, and wanted to leave education. Using the tools that coaching taught her, she is now both a teacher and a life coach for teachers. The three main reasons that teachers seek her work are to create more time and energy, feel better about their health and bodies, and create better relationships in and outside the classroom.
Christina Fass manages the Marin County Office of Education’s Early Intervention Program, which provides services to families and students with special needs. Christina is an educational psychologist, with a specialty in school neuropsychology, and has been a part of the MCOE special education team for over 15 years.
Jenae Casalnuovo is an educator originally from Marin County. She teaches at an elementary school in San Rafael, CA. She obtained her Multiple Subject teaching credential, Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies, and Master of Science in Education from Dominican University of California. Jenae is passionate about environmental justice, human rights, and the cultivation of hope and agency in students. She is an educator and Development Associate at the Pseads Institute.
Katherine Preston is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and has been practicing for over 30 years. She is currently the mental health specialist for a private school in San Francisco where she convenes several weekly parenting groups to support families through the pandemic. She maintains a private practice in San Francisco and has held many clinical leadership positions overseeing and providing training and supervision for therapeutic services throughout the Bay Area, as well as taught graduate level human development courses.
Carin Rhodes graduated from the University of Tennessee with a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education and received her Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. Carin has been an educator for 25 years. Her experience includes teaching 3rd, 4th and 5th grades, and leading numerous education programs. She is currently the Library and Digital Media Specialist at Bel Aire School in Tiburon where she has been teaching for 20 years, and the mother of two teenage boys.
Rabbi Stacy Friedman
Rabbi Stacy Friedman is senior rabbi at Congregation Rodef Sholom’s in Marin, California. She joined the congregation in 1993 after posts in New York City, Montana and Victorville, CA and was named senior rabbi in 2003. Dedicated to tikkun olam – repairing the world – she is known for her ardent sermons on social justice issues. Her 2014 Rosh Hashanah drash on mental illness and suicide, for which she received national attention, spearheaded a congregational initiative on the subject. Rabbi Stacy is a rabbinic fellow with AIPAC where she has met with leaders in Israel to devise new ways to engage U.S. synagogues with the Jewish state. She has joined rabbis across the country to fight Presbyterian divestment in Israel. and traveled with American Jewish World Service to Guatemala on a fact-finding mission on human trafficking and has lobbied our congress-people on issues including human trafficking, LGBT rights and the environment. In addition, she represents Congregation Rodef Sholom at the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and Hebrew Union College (HUC). At home, among her many community involvements are the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis, Marin Interfaith Council, the Northern California Board of Rabbis, and the Marin Interfaith Youth Outreach.
Eijun Linda Cuts
Eijun Linda Cutts is a Senior Dharma Teacher at the San Francisco Zen Center. She came to San Francisco Zen Center in 1971 and was ordained as a priest in 1975. She has lived at Tassajara and SFZC’s City Center, and has resided at Green Gulch Farm since 1993. In 1996 Linda received Dharma transmission from Tenshin Reb Anderson. After having served as Abbess of SF Zen Center from 2000 to 2007, she was appointed Abiding Abbess of Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in 2010, and Central Abbess of SF Zen Center in 2014. She continues to teach and lead practice periods and retreats at Tassajara, Green Gulch, and elsewhere, and has been leading Yoga-Zen retreats and workshops for many years.
Susan M. Wyler
Susan M. Wyler is a poet, cultural historian and celebrated novelist, including A Life of Writing. With advanced degrees in cultural history from UCLA and Oxford University, she’s traveled the world, speaks four languages, is a teacher of yoga and meditation, a writing teacher and an editor of fiction.
LaRae Quy was born and raised on a cattle ranch in Wyoming where she learned many of the survival skills she would need as an FBI agent. After twenty years as an undercover and counterintelligence agent, LaRae became the spokesperson for the FBI in Northern California for four years. Although the job description had changed, she used the same set of communication skills to present both a compelling message and positive image of the FBI. LaRae completed graduate studies at Arizona State University before joining the FBI. She has also completed graduate studies at San Francisco Theological Seminary. According to LaRae, FBI investigations “are a journey into the unknown, sometimes volatile, and full of hits and misses. The tools to investigate the unknown are not just the provenance of inquisitive FBI agents – they can belong to anyone interested in expanding their horizons.”
Jessica Jackson Sloan
Jessica Jackson Sloan is a human rights attorney, the National Director & Co-Founder with Van Jones of an organization called #Cut50, which is a national bipartisan effort aimed at reducing America‘s incarceration rate. She also served as the Mayor of Mill Valley, California. When Jackson was 22, her then-husband was sentenced to six years in prison for a nonviolent drug offense. Jackson had a newborn baby and no job, so she moved in with her mother. Her husband’s prison sentence motivated her to go to college and law school so that she could become a lawyer and fight for families like her own. Jackson has received several awards and accolades. She is the recipient of the 2017 John Kable, QC, Memorial Young Justice Professional Award, the 2018 ACLU Benjamin Dreyfus Civil Liberties Award, the 2019 Alexander Law Prize from Santa Clara University and the 2019 American Constitution Society Fearless Advocate Award. She is a 2021 World Economic Forum Young Global Leader.
Patricia Holt was Publishers Weekly‘s first full-time western correspondent and one of publishing’s most vocal advocates and pundits. Holt began her publishing career in the New York and Boston offices of Houghton Mifflin in 1969. In the mid-1970s, she relocated to New York to launch a co-publishing venture called San Francisco Book Company, where she worked as senior editor and publicity director. In 1978 she became Publishers Weekly‘s first full-time western correspondent, reporting on publishing news from the Rockies to Australia and Mexico to Alaska. Holt moved from PW to the San Francisco Chronicle in 1982 where she was the paper’s book editor and critic for 17 years. During that time, she co-founded the Bay Area Book Reviewers Association. She was the first non-librarian in 40 years to receive the American Library Association’s prestigious Grolier Foundation Award. She was also elected to the board of directors of the National Book Critics Circle, where she served as the organization’s vice president during a six-year term, and was a board member of The Center for the Book at the Library of Congress. In 1998, Holt founded the website Holt Uncensored, in which she shared her many insights into the publishing industry and its ongoing evolution.
Diana Bishop grew up in Los Altos and worked for the Santa Clara Police Department for 26 years before taking the post as Chief of Police in San Rafael, California. She was San Rafael’s first woman police chief. During her time with the city, Bishop launched a Spanish-language citizen police academy and actively engaged in issues of social justice and community trust.
Michele Raffin is an American aviculturist, writer, and founder of Pandemonium Aviaries, a non-profit organization in Los Altos, California that is one of the largest exotic bird sanctuaries in the United States. Pandemonium Aviaries is now a leader in conservation breeding of exotic species for return to the wild. Michele takes on the mental, emotional and physical challenge of rescuing abandoned birds and addressing the rapid decline of avian species.
“As an internationally exhibited woman artist I bring a unique global perspective due to the fact that I was born into the Sindhi and Hindu traditions in Rajasthan, India, and later embraced Islam and moved to USA in 1986. As a woman, artist, and mother, I work to create harmony by expressing the universality of humanity through paintings, sculpture, calligraphy and poetry. Inspired by the imagery, sculpture and writings of my Indian heritage and Islamic spirituality, I use my artistic voice to break down the barriers that divide to foster peace and understanding. At birth I was given the life-defining challenge of a left hand without fingers. Seeing the unity of an all-encompassing God, I was able to transcend the barriers often set-forth in the traditions of religion, culture, and the cultural perceptions of handicaps. My works are lyrical, spiritual, figurative, and calligraphic. I have tried to bring together Eastern spirituality and Western techniques of painting learned over the years. Through the contrasting elements in my work, I yearn and search for unity balance.” Learn More.