The Year End Ritual

As we rapidly approach 2016, I’m reflecting. A few years back, Melanie Waxman, one of my favorite macrobiotic teachers and chefs, suggested that I write down ten goals that I accomplished in the past year as well as ten goals for the new year to come. Since then, each year, I spend time reviewing how things have been going in my life and in my business. Another person shared this exercise (below) with me which is quite similar, and I would like to pass it on. Wishing you a new year filled with health, happiness, and abundance.

The Not So Big Life:  The Year End Ritual

by Sarah Susanka @

In the Ancient Egyptian calendar days 361 through 365 were considered feast days of the gods—extra days, if you like, completing the cycle of the year and the Earth’s rotation around the sun. This exercise is intended to give these same days an exploratory purpose in your own life here in the 21st Century. If you fully engage this yearly ritual, you’ll find that the time spent greatly enhances the process of your own unfolding. Though you may forget precisely what wishes you articulated during the five day period, when you look back a year later you’ll discover that many of the things you’d expressed an interest in came into being over the past twelve months, although not through any planning on your part. They came about simply because you allowed yourself to listen to the inner longings of your heart, and then let them go.    

The process is very similar to sowing seeds. When you plant a garden, you don’t sit and stare at the seeds until they sprout. You know that some will germinate and some will not, but it is not up to you to make them grow. All you can do is set the conditions for their growth with good soil, adequate water, and the right amount of sun. In exactly the same way, all you can do for your own unfolding is to set the conditions by slowing down a bit (that’s the good soil), giving yourself the gift of your own presence in your life (that’s the water), and meditating regularly to help open to more of who and what you really are (that’s the sun).  None of this can take place, however, without sowing seeds. And that’s what this exercise does—and while you are sowing seeds during this five day period, you can be enjoying the fruits of the previous year’s harvest at the same time.

You can design this exercise to fit your own time schedule, so there’s really no one way to do it, but I’ll tell you how I’ve practiced it, and then you determine what works best for you. I designate two hours each day between December 27th and December 31st —five days in all??to engage the questions below.

During each two hour period, I don’t answer the phone or email, and I ask other family members not to interrupt me. Some years, if I’m going to work each day, I’ll take these two hours in the evening; other years, if I’m on vacation, I’ll take the time right after breakfast—the time of day when my mind is clearest. Before starting the exercise each day I’ll meditate, so that I’m really open to what arises once I begin writing down my thoughts, memories and insights.

As you plan your own year?end ritual, it helps to make it happen at more or less the same time each year so you’ll remember to do it. So if summer vacation works better for you than the last few days of each year, feel free to do that instead. If you’d prefer to designate one single day where this exercise is all you do, rather than spread it out over five days, that’s fine too, of course. Just don’t cut the period down too much or you won’t have time to really get into it. Ten hours of time seems about right to really give the exercise its due. The fewer interruptions you have as you engage this process the better, so it’s very helpful to let other family members know ahead of time what you are up to. If you have children who you can’t leave alone for an hour or two, you might try to engage them in their own version of this discovery process by suggesting they use crayons to illustrate their dreams of what they will be like when they are older, as well as places they’d like to visit, houses they’d like to live in, etc.

You may want to write your responses to the questions below in a blank book or journal similar to your Not So Big Life notebook, or you may prefer to make an audio recording. The medium is up to you. The key is to make this an enjoyable process during which the faucet can simply flow unimpeded.     

Here are the questions:


  • How have I spent my time in the past year?
  • What are the results of the actions I have taken?
  • What events, realizations, and understandings have come into being over the past twelve months?
  • What has inspired me over the past year?
  • What blessings have I received during the year?
  • What were my sorrows and disappointments from the year, and how have I been changed by them?
  • What were my enthusiasms, accomplishments, creations and joys, and how have I been changed by them?
  • What books have I read this year and what impact have they had?
  • What movies and other entertainments have moved me this past year, and in what ways?
  • What journeys have I taken?
  • What patterns and themes have I noticed in my nighttime dreams?
  • What have been my most significant dreams, and how have they affected me?
  • What patterns and themes have I noticed in my waking dream?
  • What conditioned patterns have I recognized, and what experiences have allowed me to see them more clearly?
  • What hidden beliefs have I uncovered in working with these conditioned patterns?
  • What previously unrecognized aspects of my personality have been revealed?
  • What habitual patterns have I experimented with or changed?
  • What new patterns of behavior have I adopted over the past year, and what effects have they had? 


  • How am I different this year than I was last year at this time?
  • How can I integrate the key lessons of this past year into my life?
  • Are there any strategies, phrases, questions or flags that have particular significance for me right now?  If so, why?
  • Are there any things I’m being asked to do right now that I am rejecting? If so, what would happen if I simply did them?
  • Are there any things I’m trying to force into existence right now? If so, what would happen if I stopped trying to make them happen?
  • Are there any new characters in my life that can reveal to me unrecognized aspects of who I am?
  • What recent synchronicities do I recall? What do they appear to point toward?
  • To what part of myself am I giving birth?
  • What am I becoming?
  • Who am I really?
  • Has my experience of time changed at all since last year?


  • Specifically what is it that I wish to focus on or experience in the coming year?
  • If I could see far into the future, what wishes, longings, or creations will I be bringing into being, or engaging in some way?
  • If I could sum up all my desires and longings into one simple statement, spoken from the highest aspect of myself, what would it be?

That’s all there is to it. The more engrossed you allow yourself to become, the more potent this tool for transformation will be. When I engage this exercise, my first step is to answer all the questions—which I usually do in the first three days. And when this part of the process is completed, I reread the previous year’s answers. This is always the high point of the process for me, because, just like my rediscovery of the forgotten list in the drawer of my nightstand, it is only then that the results of the previous year’s planting become apparent. This is the moment when you can really appreciate the power of the entire ritual. At the end of the five?day period—or however long you’ve designated for your own ritual??close your journal and place it in a locked file safe, or somewhere else out of harm’s way, so that you won’t be tempted to look at it until next year. Then forget about it, and drop all attachment to anything you’ve written, understanding that that part of the process is not in your hands. You are simply the gardener.

K.I.S.S. Menu Planning

menu planningK.I.S.S. = Keep It Simple Sista!

Today I was talking to someone who does her menu planning every Sunday and she actually whipped out her notes there on the spot. As a result, I just about had a happiness heart attack. Picture me …. Click. I took a picture of it with a little hop in my step, and now I’m sharing it with you!

Note that she’s not vegan or macrobiotic, but here’s what I love about her menu plan: It’s super simple in a good way.  To make things work for she and her husband, she has a protein, grain, and vegetable. She has a brief list of items that she needs and then she has where she needs to buy them. This saves her hours that she can devote to play.

Do you need help menu planning? I’d love to help you put together your own plant-based plan and teach you how you can save yourself lots of valuable time that you could better utilize!  What is in it for you?

  • Improve eating habits
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Understand one’s body better
  • Make self-care a priority
  • Manage cravings and binges
  • Bring more mindfulness, peace, ease, and joy about cooking and eating into your life
  • Feel confident in choosing and preparing better food for you and your loved ones
  • Experience an increase in overall happiness in your life.

Contact me!


Could brown rice change your life?

When was the moment in my life where changing my diet made a real results-producing difference? I was thinking back to this, and when my life truly started to become really awesome was actually when I started to eat brown rice. It sounds completely strange and a little woo woo, I know. But here’s the story:

I was living and working in Eugene, OR at the age of 23 and had about the most disastrous break up a person could have; the lowest of moments probably for me by far and I’ll spare you the gory details. I’d get up and walk over to this cafe near my home and order the tempeh chili with brown rice and then go home and go back to bed for a while.

Slowly but surely, I see how my life started getting better. I would never have attributed any changes in my life at that moment in time to having eaten the rice, but now in hindsight, all of the most most profound healing things I did for myself came after that. That time was the vortex, the quantum leap, even though it took time to root, grow, and flower.

The flowers looked like this: I quit smoking, finished my undergrad degree, got an amazing job in the Psychology Department, came to Hawaii to get my MA, and then went to Japan to work and ultimately learn macrobiotics.  Along the way with these changes, I started earning more money and found greater inner peace.

The next big quantum leap came when I fully committed to eating a whole foods plant-based diet.  That put my journey on warp speed with pretty radical change. Now I suddenly wanted to open a business and do public speaking and actually ENJOYED this. (This surprised me more than anything.)  Of course not every moment has been perfection or ideal, but the general trend has been of great personal growth and improvement.

I just can’t say enough about the benefits of eating healthy, even if you do just one thing for yourself.  Eating well changes people on a deep holistic level that you would never expect. Whatever you do will sprout and grow into more goodness, perhaps without ever realizing!


Fail to Succeed

I’ve been reading a lot lately and this one little quote I found really hit things home for me and I think it’s so applicable to people who are learning how to cook: Seth Godin said, “Test lots of things. Fail often.” I’ve been seeing this theme come up all over the place so it’s helping me self reflect.

When I was in my cooking school, this was exactly how I learned to cook.  I took my classes, bought the ingredients, and went home to practice on my own. Some of what I made turned out fantastic.  And some of what I made honestly bombed and was inedible.  This is a natural part of learning.  When I burned brown rice, for example, instead of saying to myself “God you’re a terrible cook” or some other negative self talk, I threw away the rice (now I’d feed it to my worms) and started over, adjusting whatever I needed to. More water? Less heat?  I just adjusted everything until I found the sweet spot.  The more I did that, the easier it got.

I see students completely frozen in classes sometimes not wanting to try the recipes at home for fear that they will fail. Maybe someone in your life told you some nonsense lie at one point that you’re not a good cook. The truth is that you’re most likely a better cook than them and that’s why they are telling you this!  I also have taught language classes and see students who refuse to speak because they are scared to make mistakes. These students learn more slowly, are really hard on themselves, and have a lot less fun.

Whatever you’re learning, just aim, shoot, and if you miss the mark in the kitchen, realign yourself until you find your sweet spot!

Michael Jordan on failing

Healthy Cooking: Easier, More Affordable, and More Fun than You Think!

The What

Whole foods are unprocessed and unrefined and come to us from as close to the source as possible.  In contrast, processed foods are genetically modified, colored, made by synthetic means, or laden with hormone additives. White flour, sugar, white rice, most cold cereals, crackers, and packaged foods are processed, for example, and even the things we tend to buy in Costco out of convenience more often than not have a long list of chemicals, preservatives, and additives.  In contrast, think quinoa, brown rice, and other whole grains; a wide variety of fresh organic or minimally processed fruits and vegetables; beans and bean products; nuts; seeds; and natural sweeteners.  Food is medicine!

The Why

Our health (and that of our families) is compromised every time we open a microwaveable meal, a cake mix, or a processed packaged food. In contrast, when we eat a nutritious and balanced whole foods diet, we are likely to experience a wide range of health benefits – better sleep, improved mood, easier weight management, more energy and the alleviation of a wide variety of lifestyle related illnesses.

The environment: environmental health is also being negatively impacted by industrial food practices

But…. “It’s so expensive.” “I don’t have time.” “It’s too difficult.” “I don’t know how.”

$$ Buy in bulk, buy dry goods like grains and beans, grow your own, cook and eat at home as much as possible. Think about it.  How much do you spend on coffee and sugary treats to give yourself energy, aspirin to combat headaches, alcohol or sleeping pills to relax and sleep, or to purchase medication for illness?” What about the cost of a very serious illness?  How do you put a value on quality of life?  How much do you spend to do other things? How much of your money is spent on things that you don’t really need?  Did you know that lentils and brown rice cost about $1.25 per meal on average?!

  • How much of your time is spent online? Watching TV? What if cooking this way is easier than you currently think? Are you willing to explore a new belief?

The How

Rather than focusing on what you “can’t” or “shouldn’t” eat, try adding something new into your diet as often as you can.  Buy a new cookbook.  Take a cooking class. Cook with a friend.  Find strategies to make things easier for yourself, like cooking large pots of soup and freezing it for later, or packing your lunch the night before if you have to leave early in the morning.  The benefits are so worth it!

Signs of Hunger & Fullness

The holidays create opportunities to indulge in all types of treats!  If you want to be a mindful eater as well as manage your weight in a healthy way during this season, it’s really important to understand the cues your body is giving you, including true physical hunger and satiety. We tend to overeat when we wait too long to eat or eat for emotional reasons when we aren’t really truly hungry.

Signs of Hunger

The physical signs of hunger include stomach contractions, gnawing, pains and aches. Your hands and feet may feel colder than the room you’re in. You also might feel tired, lightheaded, weak and empty. Psychologically, you might crave foods, have difficulty concentrating, and feel anxious and stressed out.  You can also get cranky.

Signs of Fullness

When your hunger is satisfied, you might feel a sense of peace or control, as well as a loss of interest in eating. If you keep eating, after satiety comes fullness, which can be uncomfortable. For example, your stomach might hurt and feel bloated, and you might feel lethargic. Your goal should be to eat just enough to achieve fullness. In Japan, it’s “hara hachi bu” or 80% full. Be sure to chew your food well so that it’s easier to tune into the fullness cues.