Saturday, December 27, 2008

20,000th Blog Visitor

The Common Tables Blog had it's 20,000th visitor today! 20,000 visitors from 111 countries!! A major milestone and we are pretty excited around here!!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Friday's Food for Thought

“When will we learn, when will we the people of the world get up and say, enough is enough. God created us for fellowship. God created us so that we should form the human family, existing together because we were made for one another. We are not made for an exclusive self-sufficiency but for interdependence, and we break the law of our being at our peril.”

Desmond Tutu

Monday, December 22, 2008

Acts of Faith

Monday's Media Review

Acts of Faith:
The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation
by: Eboo Patel

An important book both for Common Tables members and for anyone interested in exploring the dynamics of interfaith harmony.

Ideal for young people struggling to understand their place in the world and their power to create meaningful change, "Acts of Faith" provides a persistent, clear, hands-on, real world vision of pluralism. The founder of the Interfaith Youth Core, Eboo Patel is a former Rhodes Scholar and holds a doctorate in the Sociology of Religion from Oxford. In "Acts of Faith", he shows how bringing young people of diverse religions together to engage in service work does not undermine their own religious identity, but actually reinforces and deepens it.

Patel provides numerous examples of how mainstream faith failed to reach young people, but his own story is even more powerful. By his example, he shows us all how it is possible to be both American and Christian or Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist or Hindu.

"Acts of Faith" reminds us of the critical, urgent role of young people as change agents. And that an angry youth can be transformed into an important leader in the cause of global harmony.
Easily one of the best contemporary first-person stories of youth activism and interfaith cooperation.

4.5 Stars!
Original Release Date:
July, 2007
Length: 189 Pages
For Special Pricing on "Acts of Faith", Click Here

Friday, December 19, 2008

Dr. Arun Gandhi on Common Tables:

Dr. Arun Gandhi, President, M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY:

"The conflicts and misunderstandings that proliferate in the world today are issues that should concern all of us since these attitudes lead to violence. Common Tables is a unique project to bring disparate people together across a common table to break bread and dialogue to reach an understanding. I have no hesitation in endorsing this venture wholeheartedly and wish them great success."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Continuing this month's "appetizer" theme, bring a batch of these along with last week's suggested Rosemary Walnuts.


These nuts are first sautéed and then lightly toasted to crisp perfection. Remember to save some for your guests!

Yield: 3 Cups

3 Tablespoons butter
3 cups pecan halves
½ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika *
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup cider vinegar
salt to taste

Set oven rack on middle level. Preheat oven to 325°F.

Melt butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add pecans and sauté, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes. Cook just until the nuts are lightly browned and begin to smell toasted. Add the brown sugar and continue cooking, still stirring, until the pecans are evenly coated and lightly caramelized.

Combine spices (cumin, chili powder, paprika, cinnamon and nutmeg) in a small bowl. Stir spice mixture into the pecans until evenly coated. Sprinkle cider vinegar over the nut mixture and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until all liquid has evaporated. Add salt to taste.

Spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast, stirring once or twice, until crisp, about 5 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

* We prefer to use Smoked Spanish Paprika in this recipe, but the difference is a subtle one. It will be fine with what ever kind of paprika you have on hand.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

An important point:

As a global family, our challenge isn’t that we can't get along with each other; it's that we just don't.

To begin to get a handle on the challenge, consider the shear numbers of differing belief systems on our ever shrinking planet. By way of example, gathers statistics for “over 4,200 religions, churches, denominations, religious bodies, faith groups, tribes, cultures, movements, ultimate concerns, etc.” How do we, as a truly global people, come to a place where we honor our differences – and celebrate our common ground? How can we develop a sense of global harmony at a time when a spotlight seems to be shining on our differences?

Here at Common Tables we think the solution is as simple as getting to know one another. Our model is an uncomplicated one: Bring together small groups of seemingly diverse individuals. Offer them tools which allow them to dialogue in relaxed social settings. And encourage them to break bread together and to get to know one another.

The Dalai Lama described the act of bringing food to the table as “one of the basic roots of all relationships”.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday's Food for Thought

This Friday we put forth a bit of the wisdom of Black Elk* (1863-1950) for you to chew on:

"The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us."

*a famous Wichasha Wakan (Medicine Man or Holy Man) of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Heard From The Tables

Dan L. Colorado, Common Tables Member

"In a world in which religion is the source of bitter division and bloodshed, as well as of love, caring and peace, it is important for people of differing faiths to find a common table where they can demonstrate a shared devotion while learning of the beliefs of others. As conceived, 'Common Tables' is an effort to facilitate that kind of sharing and learning. We have met and learned from a modest sampling of believers and unbelievers. We hope to meet more and learn more and to share our commitment to a shared humanity. "

Monday, December 8, 2008

Paper Clips - An Extraordinary Documentary

Monday's Media Review:

A beautiful documentary.

Set in a middle school in a small town in rural Tennessee, this film details an extraordinary experiment in Holocaust education. As they struggle to comprehend the idea of six million victims, the eighth grade students at Whitwell Middle School decide to collect six million paper clips to help them grasp the terrible vastness of the tragedy. The film details not only how the students collected millions upon millions of paper clips, but shows how they met Holocaust survivors from around the world.

You will be transformed as you watch the project change not only the students, but the entire town of Whitwell, Tennessee.

We give this one 5 Stars!!
Original Release Date: 2004
Length: 82 minutes

Friday, December 5, 2008

Milestones Project

Some of the best work in support of global harmony that we know of is being done by the folks at the Milestones Project. Click Here to check out their website. Their products are wonderful and the work they are doing is second to none!! The pictures and text below are from their site:

When we lose our first teeth, when we take our first steps, when we make our first friends, we are members of a single global family. Our joy and pride are identical, regardless of our nationality, ethnicity or religion.

Please support the Milestones Project in any way that you can.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Most of our tables choose to divide up the food preparing aspect of their gatherings. A common way of doing so is to have one member bring a salad, one a dessert and one an appetizer. When it's your turn for the appetizer, here's one that's quick and easy to prepare, simple to transport, and is always a big hit:


We have seen similar recipes using only olive oil and others using only butter. To our tastes the combination we suggest here is superior.

Yield: 2 Cups

2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crumbled
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
2 cups walnut halves

Set oven rack on middle level. Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Mix the olive oil, melted butter, rosemary, salt and cayenne in a medium bowl. Add the walnuts and toss until the nuts are coated with the olive oil mixture.

Spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast, stirring occasionally, until the walnuts start smelling toasted – about 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Heard From The Tables

Pete H., Colorado, Common Tables Member

“We enjoyed a unique open dialogue concerning religious beliefs. We could not discuss this subject with some family and friends because of the sensitivity and personal beliefs of others. This opportunity would not have been possible without the Common Tables organization. Thank you for creating this terrific, ongoing experience.“

Friday, November 28, 2008

Friday's Food for Thought

This Friday we offer a couple of thoughts from Jawaharlal Nehru* (Pandit Nehru) for you to ponder over the coming weekend:

"Peace is not a relationship of nations. It is a condition of mind brought about by a serenity of soul. Peace is not merely the absence of war. It is also a state of mind. Lasting peace can come only to peaceful people."

"The only alternative to coexistence is codestruction."

*Indian politician; 1st prime minister of India 1947-1964; father of Indira Gandhi.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


In the format most commonly used by our Common Tables groups, one of the guests brings a salad, one brings an appetizer and one brings a desert. The idea being to spread out the workload a bit and free up the host/hostess for more active participation in the evening's conversation. With that idea in mind, this week we offer a recipe for a salad which is easy to put together and which travels well:


Sunshine Coleslaw travels well. In the quantities listed, it can make an interesting and unusual contribution to a Common Tables gathering. Just be sure to wait until the last minute to add the dressing – otherwise the red cabbage and cranberries will turn the whole salad an unattractive sort of pink color.

Yield: 12 Servings

2 - 16 ounce pkgs coleslaw mix
2 Granny Smith, or other tart apples, cored, peeled and diced
1 cup dried cranberries
½ cup chopped pecans

Sunshine Dressing
1 - 12 ounce can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
¼ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons orange blossom honey
1 teaspoon celery seeds

For the Salad, combine the coleslaw mix, apples, cranberries, and pecans in a large bowl. Toss to mix evenly.

For the Sunshine Dressing, combine the orange juice concentrate, cider vinegar, vegetable oil, honey, and celery seeds in a “shaker jar”*. Shake vigorously until well mixed.

Just before serving: Pour dressing over salad mixture and toss until coated evenly. Serve immediately.

* For these purposes, a “shaker jar” is any jar which has a tight fitting lid and which is large enough to hold the dressing ingredients.

Monday, November 24, 2008

"Turkish Islam and the Secular State: The Gulen Movement"

Monday's Media Review
Peaceful Islamic movements are an integral part of the fabric of Turkish life. This book explores recent reformations of Islam and culture in Turkey – in particular the Islamic modernist Fethullah Gulen movement.

The Gulen movement, easily one of the most significant over the past 50 years in Turkey, combines a devotion of Islam with an emphasis on modern learning, particularly modern sciences. Combine these teachings with Gulen’s focus on tolerance and on co-existence in a pluralistic society and we find a movement which not only inspires many young Turkish Muslims, but which suggests a model of compassionate dialogue for the entire planet.

To my knowledge, this book is the first academic attempt to examine Gulen’s teachings. In this time of so much anti-Muslim rhetoric, this book serves as an important reminder that Islam, like all religions, must be studied in context . . . and that context is always a product of political, social and economic conditions.

4 Stars!
Original Release Date: November, 2003
Length: 256 Pages
For Special Pricing on "Turkish Islam and the Secular State", Click Here

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday's Food For Thought

"According to the basic principles of my religion I am not to seek to convert anyone not born into our laws . . . We believe that the other nations of the Earth are directed by God to observe only the law of nature and the religion of the Patriarchs . . . I fancy that whosoever leads men to virtue in this life cannot be damned in the next."

Moses Mendelssohn, German-Jewish philosopher (1729-1786)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Exclusivity vs Inclusivity

Today's "Food for Thought"

Why do you suppose it is that the word "exclusivity" appears, as nearly as I can tell, in all online dictionaries (and in all of the print dictionaries on my shelves) . . . yet I find "inclusivity" in none of them?

Thursday, November 13, 2008


More in our series of recipes which work well in the Common Tables format. To help keep the host/hostess out of the kitchen, and to give them as much time as possible with their guests, we encourage the use of slow cooker and casserole "one-dish meal" sorts of recipes.


A real crowd pleaser. Simple enough for everyday; fancy enough for company.

Notes for participants: If your Table includes members with strict alcohol prohibitions, substitute non-alcoholic white wine, chicken broth or stock, white grape juice, or water for the white wine in the ingredients list.

Servings: 6 (This recipe "scales" well, so adjust the ingredients as appropriate for the size of your Table.)

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • ⅓ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 Tablespoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 - 28 ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 - 6 ounce can whole black pitted olives, drained
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 8 ounces crumbled feta cheese, about 2 cups

For the Rice:

  • 2 cups long-grain rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 3 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules

Combine all ingredients – except chicken, feta cheese and those used to prepare the rice – in a slow cooker. Stir to combine thoroughly.

Stir the chicken into the tomato/olive mixture. Cover. Cook on LOW for 8 hours.

For the Rice: Start cooking the rice about 30 minutes before serving. Combine rice, water, oregano and bouillon granules in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until all liquid is absorbed – about 20 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork.

To Serve: Spoon a generous helping of rice onto each individual plate. Place chicken pieces on top of the rice, ladle the tomato/olive mixture over chicken, and sprinkle with feta cheese.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Pluralism - a critical concept in a world where communication is increasing awareness and awareness is changing the religious landscape . . . but what is pluralism?

It is a concept we will be visiting frequently over the coming months. To get your thinking started, here is a portion of the definition found in the American Heritage Dictionary:
  1. A condition in which numerous distinct ethnic, religious, or cultural groups are present and tolerated within a society.
  2. The belief that such a condition is desirable or socially beneficial.
  3. The doctrine that reality is composed of many ultimate substances.
  4. The belief that no single explanatory system or view of reality can account for all the phenomena of life.

To our knowledge, there is no better source of information on the subject of pluralism in the United States than the Pluralism Project at Harvard University - they have been studying changes in America's religious landscape since 1991 - their site is an outstanding gathering place for information.

We will be returning to the subject of pluralism again and again. In the meantime, I encourage you to visit the Harvard site.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Monday's Media Review

I’m not sure how we missed this treasure when it was released in 1997. Granted, it is the sort of film which somehow stays a bit under the radar; even so, it did receive four Oscar nominations (cinematography (by Roger Deakins), music (by Philip Glass), costumes and art direction).

This is a beautiful biopic covering the period in the life of the Dalai Lama from 1933, through the Chinese invasion of Tibet, and ending with his flight into India. Even if you're not all that acquainted with Buddhism, you will be impressed with the way the film manages to capture the mystical essence of Tibetan Buddhism.

Kundun was filmed with a cast of unknowns in Morocco after film crews were forbidden to enter Tibet. However, the cast of “non-actor” Tibetan actors, some of whom are related to the Dalai Lama, lend the film a gritty, honest feeling which somehow complements the austere Himalayan landscapes.

Wonderful cinematography and a broodingly brilliant score by Philip Glass combine to give this film a transcendent beauty.

It may take a bit of extra effort to find Kundun, but it will be time well spent . . there are moments in this film that will stay with you for years.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Friday's Food for Thought

"Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. All systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth."

Tich Nhat Hanh

"As believers we all have an opportunity and moral obligation to recognize our spiritual common ground; to rise above our differences; to combat prejudice and intolerance."

Queen Noor of Jordan

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

We're Back!!

Sorry about our silence over the past month! We've been busy creating Virtual Tables - the internet home of the Common Tables family and the web's premier interfaith networking site!

We will be talking more about Virtual Tables over the next several weeks, but for now we point out that membership in the Virtual Tables Network is open, at no charge, exclusively to members of Common Tables.

Virtual Tables is currently being beta tested by a group of Common Tables members. We will be rolling it out to our general membership within the next few days.

Those interested in joining, or in finding out more about, the Common Tables interfaith initiative are encouraged to visit our website.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Heard From The Tables

Mark P., Colorado, Common Tables Member

“Sign us up! There is no word that accurately describes the sort of open, unencumbered, purely-trying-to-understand discussion and debate that we'd all want to foster!!! The lack of a word speaks volumes as to the need for Common Tables!!”

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


It might seem a bit early to be thinking about turkey leftovers, but they'll be here before you know it!


A favorite in many Spanish-speaking countries, picadillo is typically made with ground beef and/or ground pork. For an interesting change from the standard “turkey reruns”, try this version.

Yield: 4 to 6 Servings

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
14½ ounces diced tomatoes (one can)
4 ounces diced green chilies (one small can)
¼ cup green olives, chopped
½ cup raisins
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 cups pre-cooked turkey, coarsely chopped or shredded

In a heavy skillet over medium heat, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil for about 3 minutes. Add remaining ingredients excluding red wine vinegar and turkey. Mix thoroughly and heat for 2 minutes.

Add red wine vinegar and turkey. Cook, stirring occasionally, until turkey is warm – about 10 minutes.

In Cuba, picadillo is served with rice and black beans. Serve this recipe “Cuban style” or, our personal favorite, roll up the turkey picadillo in a warmed whole wheat flour tortilla.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Gala: inner faith in interfaith

Lancaster Online

As about 100 people of many different ethnicities and religions sat at circular tables to eat Turkish food at Millersville University on Thursday night, keynote speaker Leonard Swidler couldn't have been happier.

Swidler, professor of Catholic thought and inter-religious dialogue at Temple University, said he was appreciative of the work of Red Rose Intercultural & Educational Foundation and its interfaith banquet.

"I wish I would have brought the Fulbright Scholars (at Temple) to Millersville instead of New York City," he said.

When Swidler began "dialoguing" with Jewish, Christian and Muslim scholars in 1978, he could find only 10 or 12 Muslim scholars in the world who were able and willing to engage in talks.

Then came Sept. 11, 2001. Out of that tragedy, good came, Swidler said. Now there are not just 10 Muslims around the world willing to dialogue, there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds, he said.

"This type of gathering would have been impossible 15 years ago and maybe even 10 years ago," Swidler said.Dialogue, Swidler said, is not just conversation or an exchange of a little information.

Click here to read the full article.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Read About Common Tables in the Arab News!!

More major media exposure for Common Tables! The Arab News (the leading English language daily in the Middle East) had a major feature article about us in their September 24th edition. The article begins:

Dining together to do away with divide
Barbara Ferguson, Arab News

A Muslim, a Jew and a Christian sit down for a dinner together....

No, it’s not a joke, but rather the beginning of an event called “Common Tables,” an interfaith group trying to end religious bigotry.

The logic is simple: People who break bread together can break down religious misunderstandings, too.

You can read the full article here.

We continue to be extremely pleased with the media attention being given to Common Tables! More major exposure will be out soon - we will keep you posted as additional coverage becomes public.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ethic of Reciprocity - The Golden Rule - Part 3

Continuing with our thrid month on the subject of the Ethic of Reciprocity (commonly known in North America as the Golden Rule), we bring you examples from Judaism, Zoroastrianism and from the Unitarian Universalists:

Zoroastrianism: "Whatever is disagreeable to yourself do not do unto others."
Shayast-na-Shayast 13:29

Judaism: "What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. This is the law: all the rest is commentary."
Talmud, Shabbat 31a.

Unitarian Universalist: "We affirm and promote respect for the interdependent of all existence of which we are a part."
Unitarian principles

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Introduction: Teaching Your Children Buddhist Values

Note: This article introduces a special section in Tricycle's Fall 2008 edition: "Bringing Up Buddhists." It looks to us like a fascinating section of articles . . . in fact, we're out the door to buy a copy as soon as I get this posted!

Tricycle - The Buddhist Review
by Mary Talbot

Of all the thousands of the Buddha's teachings, he directed a very few - three or four, depending on what you count - specifically to children. Considering the multitude and breadth of his suttas, it's hard to imagine why more weren't geared to kids: was it because following his path requires a mature mind and mature commitment? Or was it because Indian society twenty-six hundred years ago had the instruction of children firmly in household hand - if adult family members were following the Buddha, children would naturally absorb the lessons and culture of the dharma, too. Or perhaps - and this is a personal guess - it was because the Buddha's principal teaching to a child so perfectly encapsulated the dharma that little else needed to be said. Was he doing what the most effective parents and teachers do - paring down a complicated set of ideas to its most profound, most pressing - and illustrating the lesson in such a way that a child can connect it to his or her own life?

The child in question here was his own son, Rahula - Pali for "fetter" or "shackle." The Buddha is famous with Western practitioners for having abandoned his family on the day of his only child's birth - what kind of father would do such a thing? (We all know a few.) But in the Buddha's case, renunciation of fatherhood and royal existence represented his profound conviction that a lasting, unconditioned happiness could be found - and in leaving behind his family, the fetters on his emotional and spiritual life, he could ultimately give back to them the possibility of the same deathless happiness he would find for himself.

When Rahula was seven years old, he became his father's disciple and began his training as a monk. In a discourse that has come to be known as the "Rahula Sutta" (Majjhima Nikaya 61), the Buddha instructed his young son with the seeds of some of his most important teachings. He started out by stressing the magnitude of being truthful - implying that if Rahula wanted to find the truth, he would first have to be truthful to himself. He then talked about using one's actions as a mirror. Before you do anything, he told Rahula, ask yourself: Is what I intend to do here skillful or unskillful? Will it lead to well-being or harm? If it looks harmful, don't do it. If it looks okay, go ahead and give it a try. While doing it, though, ask the same questions. If it turns out that it's causing harm, stop. If not, continue with it. Then after you've done it, ask the same questions - Did it bring about well-being or harm? If you see that what originally looked okay actually ended up being harmful, talk it over with someone else on the path and resolve never to make that mistake again. But if, as the Buddha put it, "on reflection [of a bodily, verbal, or mental action], you know that it did not lead to was a skillful action with pleasant consequences, pleasant results, then you should stay mentally refreshed and joyful, training day and night in skillful mental qualities."

Read the Entire Article

Friday, September 19, 2008

Common Tables Tops 10,000 Friends!!!

Call it Social Media Networking or call it Web 2.0. Regardless of what you call it, the "social" websites - like MySpace and Facebook and Twitter - are attracting hundreds of millions of users. And, in spite of what some might think, these sites aren't just for kids!!

MySpace: With more than half of its visitors over the age of 35 and with over 200 million user IDs, MySpace is an important place for Common Tables to be visible - and we are!! In fact, by the time most of you read this we will have more than 6,500 friends on MySpace! Use this link to visit us there: Common Tables on MySpace. If you are active on MySpace, please send us a friend invite - we'd LOVE to connect with you!!

Facebook: With 70% of all users under the age of 35, the Facebook crowd is a bit younger than MySpace and with its more than 100 million active users it would appear to be a bit smaller. However, Facebook users are an active bunch: According to comScore they are the 4th most trafficked website in the world and are the world's most-trafficked social media site. You would expect Common Tables to be active on Facebook, and with more than 3,600 Facebook friends we are! Find Us on Facebook!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Here's a simple yet out of the ordinary desert which is guaranteed to be a favorite at your Table.

Fresh Peach Enchiladas

Yield: 8 servings

1/8 cup cornstarch
4 medium peaches, peeled and sliced (about 2 cups)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (divided into 1 cup and 1/4 cup portions)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
8 whole wheat flour tortillas (8 inch size)
vanilla ice cream

Filling: Thoroughly mix cornstarch and water. (Use just enough water to dissolve the cornstarch.) In a heavy, medium-size sauce pan, combine peaches and 1 cup of the granulated sugar and cook over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and continue heating until the filling thickens.

Glaze: Melt butter and stir in the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar and the brown sugar. Add one cup of water and heat, stirring constantly, until all of the sugar is dissolved.

Assemble: Preheat oven to 325° F. Spray a 13 x 9 inch casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Spoon a generous portion of the peach filling down the center of each tortilla. Roll up each tortilla and place seam-side down in casserole dish. Pour glaze over enchiladas. Bake uncovered at 325° for 15 minutes.

Serving: Place each enchilada on a plate and top with vanilla ice cream.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Table Grace - Part 6

Given the wonderful variety of belief systems found in the Common Tables family, it is no surprise that our collection of meal time blessings continues to grow. Here are a couple more from our collection - one Catholic and one from the Book of Common Prayer (Anglican):

Bless us O Lord, and these thy gifts,
Which we are about to receive, from thy bounty,
Through Christ, Our Lord.


Give us grateful hearts, O Father,
for all thy mercies, and
make us mindful of the needs of others;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen..

Book of Common Prayer (1928)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday's Food for Thought

"You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you."

Dale Carnegie (1888 - 1955)

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Science of Mind Magazine features Common Tables!

Another piece of exciting news: Common Tables is one of 12 individuals or organizations recognized by Science of Mind Magazine (September issue) for making a difference. We are featured in the company of Montel Williams, Lisa Nichols, Bishop Carlton Pearson and others!

The full article is not available on line. If you do not receive the publication and want to pick up a copy, look in your local bookstore for the September issue. (It might be a good idea to call first. Though we obviously think they should, not all bookstores and/or newsstands carry Science of Mind Magazine!)

We continue to be extremely pleased with the media attention being given to Common Tables! More major exposure will be out soon - we will keep you posted as additional coverage becomes public.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Transcending Race and Religion to Rebuild the Ruins of Baltimore

Published: September 5, 2008


One weekday morning in 1981, when he was new to Baltimore, Arnold Graf descended into the basement of the Enon Baptist Church. The steps took him into the midst of 60 skeptics. They were the black ministers whom Mr. Graf, a white Jew, was trying to persuade to join him in community organizing.

Even among a loquacious crowd of preachers, conversation stilled at Mr. Graf’s arrival. “I don’t know if we should be talking about this stuff with an outsider here,” one minister said, as Mr. Graf recently recalled the meeting.

Then the Rev. Vernon N. Dobson, one of Baltimore’s legendary civil rights leaders, replied. Alone among the dozens of ministers, he was already a member of Mr. Graf’s group, Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development. Alone among them, Mr. Dobson had already gotten to know Mr. Graf during the organizer’s brief months in the city.

“He’s with me,” Mr. Dobson said. “And who’s blacker than me here? The man is my brother.”

Nearly 30 years later, Mr. Dobson’s judgment on Mr. Graf has been ratified and redeemed. Mr. Graf, 64, has built a striking track record of crossing the borders of race and religion to organize among black Christians. His current effort has brought together millions of dollars from black churches and Jewish philanthropies to build or repair up to 1,200 homes in the ruins of East Baltimore.

In his work — both for Build, as the Baltimore group is known, and for its parent organization, the Industrial Areas Foundation — Mr. Graf has breathed new life into the black-Jewish alliance that flourished in the first decade of the civil rights movement before bitterly rupturing over black nationalism and affirmative action.

Read the entire story.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Membership Update

Common Tables' membership continues to swell in numbers, to spread geographically and to add depth to the Common Tables experience through the ever increasing variety of faiths and belief systems represented by our members.

Fact: As we approach the 500 member level, we find members of the Common Tables family in 30 different states and in more than 100 different cities!

For those of you who are not yet Common Tables members, we invite you to come grow with us! You are encouraged to join the Common Tables family today!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008



A quick & easy main dish for casual fall entertaining!

A stew with chicken, yams and apple cider may sound strange, but this one will have everyone going back for seconds.

Yield: About 7 cups

¼ cup all-purpose flour
3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves cut into 1 inch chunks
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 cups apple juice or cider
3 cups yams*, peeled & cut into ½ inch cubes (about one large yam)
29 ounces diced canned tomatoes, drained (one large can)
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon thyme
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
16 ounces frozen forkhook limas (one package)

Combine chicken and flour in a large plastic bag. Shake until chicken is well coated.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add chicken. Cook and stir until lightly browned – about 3 minutes. Remove chicken.

Add remaining oil, garlic and onion to saucepan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender – about 2 minutes. Return chicken to pan. Stir in apple juice or cider, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, salt, pepper, thyme, cumin, and limas. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 35 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink and yams are tender.

* Here we are talking about the darker-skinned variety of sweet potato which we Americans erroneously call “yams”. (If anyone cares, the experts tell us that true yams are not related to sweet potatoes.) The darker variety we are calling for here is the one which has the dark orange skin and bright orange flesh and which is commonly called a yam in most American grocery stores. Its flesh is both moister and sweeter than the paler variety of sweet potato.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Into Great Silence

Monday's Media Review

It is hard to find words to describe a film which is based on silence. No film crews. No artificial lighting. No score, no archival footage. This film embodies the Grande Chartreuse Monastery rather than simply depicting it.

It started in 1984 when German filmmaker Philip Gröning wrote to the Carthusian order for permission to make a documentary about them. They said they would get back to him. Sixteen years later, they did.

Gröning lived in the monks quarters for six months filming their daily prayers, tasks, rituals and rare outdoor excursions. “Into Great Silence” is the result.

We suggest you start by approaching this project (to call it a film or a documentary somehow just doesn’t seem adequate) as a meditative antidote to every other film you’ve seen. For 162 minutes you will be immersed into a way of life . . . and you will be provided no voiceovers or explanations.

For nearly 3 hours audiences contemplate the human pursuit of meaning, the form and function of symbols, rituals and traditions, man as a religious and social creature. They are immersed into the rhythms of work and prayer, day and night, winter and spring.

Relax and expect more of a meditative experience than a documentary. This is one of those rare films which manages to provide a transformative experience for all.

We give this one 4.5 Stars! Length: 162 Minutes

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday's Food For Thought

"I appreciate any organization or individual people who sincerely make an effort to promote harmony between humanity, and particularly harmony between the various religions. I consider it very sacred work and very important work."

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Three faiths, three friends

August 26, 2008

Three faiths, three friends
Seattle's interfaith amigos
by Amy Frykholm, The Christian Century

The third annual interfaith Passover Seder meal at University Congregational Church in Seattle was a "bring your own wine" event. Tables for 300 guests were impeccably set with goblets and fresh flowers; two kinds of charoset (a pasty blend of fruit and nuts prepared according to both the Ashkenazi and Sephardic styles); two kinds of horseradish (raw and sauced); and baskets of matzo. The tables buzzed with lively conversation.

Rabbi Ted Falcon stood at the front with a guitar player and two singers. He is a trim, white-bearded man who is constantly making jokes, but he also has an air of underlying seriousness, intensity, even melancholy.

"OK," he said. "We'll begin on page 22 of your handout." After two days of watching Falcon lead services, I had learned that he never begins on page one. He is likely to start on page 22, continue on page 11 and move on to page two.

"The Haggadah takes us on a spiritual journey," he says. "We learn to be freed from our inner pharaohs, travel in our wilderness and form our own dreams of the Promised Land."

The participants at this event—which sold out three weeks before—were Jews, Christians and Muslims. Many came from Bet Alef, Falcon's "meditative synagogue" that meets in one of Seattle's suburbs. Some belonged to University Congregational Church, which was led by Pastor Don Mackenzie until his retirement in June. Others belonged to an experimental congregation led by Sufi Muslim teacher Jamal Rahman and known as the Interfaith Community Church. (Rahman calls it a church, he says, for "lack of a better term"; it's for people who meet on Sundays to explore their "spiritual paths" together, he explains.)

Falcon not only invited members of these three congregations to the Seder but asked Mackenzie and Rahman to speak. And Falcon didn't want generic spirituality talk from them; he wanted Mackenzie to mention Jesus or Paul and Rahman to refer to Muhammad and the Qur'an.

This kind of interfaith gathering is an increasingly common phenomenon across the U.S. Interaction between people of different faiths is hardly new, but a qualitative shift occurred after September 11, 2001, says Kathryn Lohre, assistant director of Harvard University's Pluralism Project. "There was a strong interfaith resurgence, driven by the desire of many people, perhaps Christians especially, to get to know their religious neighbors."

Read the Entire Article

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Heard From The Tables

Alyson P., New Jersey

“I cannot imagine a group of individuals more open-minded, friendly and dedicated to their mission than the Founding Members of Common Tables.”

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ethic of Reciprocity - The Golden Rule

Last month we started our discussion of the Ethic of Reciprocity (commonly known in North America as the Golden Rule) by remarking that even though the various religious, spiritual and philosophical groups differ widely in their beliefs, practices and concepts of deity, they are nearly unanimous in their belief that each of us should treat others in a fair and decent manner. Almost all of these groups have in their holy texts and/or in the writings of their leaders passages which promote what is frequently called the Ethic of Reciprocity. Here are examples from Islam and Jainism:

Islam: "None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself." Number 13 of Imam “Al-Nawawi's Forty Hadiths."

Jainism:"A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated." Sutrakritanga 1.11.33

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


We have had a lot of requests to return to our old practice of offering recipes a couple of times a month. We think you'll like this one - it's simple, yet surprisingly elegant:

Your turn to bring a salad? Here is one that is quick, easy and colorful!


NOTE: Make this a main dish salad by adding some left-over grilled chicken (you can make it with whatever cooked chicken you have on hand - we just happen to prefer the grilled). Figure on about ½ pound of bone-in chicken or ¼ to ⅓ pound boneless chicken per serving. 3 cups cooked chicken should be about right for this 4 serving recipe.

Yield: 4 main-dish servings

juice of one lemon
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon anise seeds (optional)
5 ounces mixed spring greens (1 package)
1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup Stilton or blue cheese, crumbled (4 ounces)
1/2 cup honey-roasted cashews*
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

One hour before serving: combine lemon juice, olive oil and anise seeds (optional) in a small bowl, whisk until thoroughly mixed. Refrigerate for about an hour to allow flavors to combine.

If preparing this as a main dish salad, and if you haven’t already done so, skin the chicken and remove any bones. Coarsely chop or shred the meat.

To assemble the salad: Start by spreading the spring greens on a medium- sized platter. Top the greens with chicken, strawberries, blueberries, Stilton or blue cheese and cashews. Sprinkle with the lemon juice dressing. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

*We prefer using honey-roasted cashews in this salad, but you should feel free to substitute honey- roasted peanuts if that’s what you have on hand.

Monday, August 18, 2008

AARP Magazine Features Common Tables

We are excited to report that Common Tables is featured in a full page article on page 17 of the September/October issue of AARP Magazine. This exposure in the world's largest circulation magazine places us in front of AARP's 39 million members and is, as you would expect, generating a lot of interest in our initiative.

The article is not available online; however, if you want to check it out there are nearly 24 million copies of the magazine in circulation! In addition to being sent to AARP members, AARP magazine is widely available at newsstands across the US (though not all carry the publication, so it would probably be worth your time to call before running out to get a copy)!

We are extremely pleased with the media attention being given to Common Tables and will keep you posted as additional coverage becomes public.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday's Food for Thought

"True pluralism on the other hand, is always universal pluralism, (or integral-aperspectival): you start with the commonalities and deep structures that unite human beings--we all suffer, and triumph, laugh and cry, feel pleasure and pain, wonder and remorse; we all have the capacity to form images, symbols, concepts, rules; we all have 208 bones, two kidneys, and one heart; we are all open to a Divine Ground, by whatever name. And then you add all the wonderful differences, surface structures, culturally constructed variants, and so on, that make various groups--and various individuals--all different, special, and unique. But if you start with the differences and the pluralism, and never make it to the universal, then you have only the aprespectival madness, ethnocentric revivals, regressive catastrophes."

Ken Wilber
"One Taste", Page: 184-185

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Table Grace - Part 5

It has once again been about a month since we shared some of our favorite table blessings from our interfaith collection. Today we offer an example from the website of the Pantheist Association for Nature:

"As a suggestion, here’s what we do for supper:

We place a small vase of fresh flowers (a token of Nature’s beauty) on the dinner table.
We light a candle (a symbol of warmth and lasting life).
We sit around the table and hold hands (an act of love, sharing, and closeness).
Then, for a few moments, we engage in a silent grace (quietly giving thanks and treasuring life, each in our own way).

After 15 or 20 seconds, we release hands and dive into dinner."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Heard From The Tables

Nancy H., Colorado, Common Tables Member

“I think it is wonderful that Common Tables is providing the perfect setting for people to begin to break down barriers. I’m very excited”.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Appreciative Inquiry & Common Tables - Part 3

This week we continue our look at Appreciative Inquiry - what it is and why it is an important tool for the Common Tables Family to know how to use. Here we wrap up our look at the "Eight Principals of Appreciative Inquiry" by looking at Principals Numbers 6, 7 and 8:

Principal Number 6: The Wholeness Principle - Wholeness Brings Out the Best
  • Wholeness brings out the best in people and organizations.
  • Bringing all stakeholders together in large group forums stimulates creativity and builds collective capactiy.

Principal Number 7: The Enactment Principal - Acting "As If" Is Self-Fulfilling

  • To really make a change, we must "be the change we want to see".
  • Positive change occurs when the process used to create the change is a living model of the ideal future.
Principal Number 8: The Free Choice Principal - Free Choice Liberates Power
  • People perform better and are more committed when they have freedom to choose how and what they contribute.
  • Free choice stimulates organizational excellence and positive change.
NOTE: This material is from the wonderful book The Power of Appreciative Inquiry by Diana Whitney and, a special friend of Common Tables, Amanda Trosten-Bloom.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Growing International Interest

International interest in Common Tables continues to grow! Our latest count shows that we have now provided information about our interfaith initiative to individuals and/or organizations in 107 different countries!!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Appreciative Inquiry & Common Tables - Part 2

This week we continue our look at Appreciative Inquiry - what it is and why it is an important tool for the Common Tables Family to know how to use. Here we continue last week's look at the "Eight Principals of Appreciative Inquiry" by looking at Principals Numbers 3, 4 and 5:

Principal Number 3: The Poetic Principal - We Can Choose What We Study
  • Organizations, like open books, are endless sources of study and learning.
  • What we choose to study makes a difference. It describes - even creates - the world as we know it.

Principal Number 4: The Anticipatory Principle - Image Inspires Action

  • Human systems move in the direction of their images of the future.
  • The more positive and hopeful the image of the future, the more positive the present-day action.

Principal Number 5: The Positive Principal - Positive Questions Lead to Positive Change

  • Momentum for large-scale change requires large amounts of positive affect and social bonding.
  • This momentum is best generated through positive questions that amplify the positive core.
NOTE: This material is from the wonderful book The Power of Appreciative Inquiry by Diana Whitney and, a special friend of Common Tables, Amanda Trosten-Bloom.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pluralism At It's Best: A Jew Has A Buddhist Epiphany

Posted July 30, 2008, 09:53 AM EDT
Larry Gellman, The Huffington Post

One of the many outstanding things about leaving Arizona to spend the summer in Aspen is the opportunity to meet, talk to, and learn from the amazing people who come to speak and teach at the Aspen Institute.

Last week was Aspen at its best. On Monday we got to hear King Abdullah of Jordan and a few days later I participated in a three-day symposium that featured His Holiness the Dalai Lama and several of the most highly regarded masters of Tibetan Buddhism in the world.

What better place for me--a self described student and proponent of Jewish wisdom--to put the notion of pluralism to the test. As my readers know, I have identified pluralism as the key to addressing virtually every religious, political, and personal problem in the world.

I came into this group knowing absolutely nothing about Buddhism other than the fact that I have come to resemble Buddha physically to a distressing extent in recent years.

But that changed very quickly. During the first day and a half before the arrival of His Holiness I had the opportunity to study with two amazing Buddhist masters.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Dialogue vs Debate

Before continuing our review of Appreciative Inquiry and the ways in which it improves the experiences shared by our Common Tables Members, let's first take a week or so to be sure we are all on the same page as far as understanding the differences between Dialogue and Debate.

First let's agree that the differences between and among dialogue and debate should not imply that dialogue is "good" and that debate is "bad." There are times when debate is useful instructional strategy - though we suggest that in most cases your Common Tables gathering is not an appropriate place for debate.

The the list below is simply intended to highlight some of the differences between Dialogue and Debate:
  • Dialogue is collaborative: two or more sides work together toward common understanding.
  • Debate is oppositional: two sides oppose each other and attempt to prove each other wrong.
  • In dialogue, finding common ground is the goal.
  • In debate, winning is the goal.
  • In dialogue, one listens to the other side(s) in order to understand, find meaning and find agreement.
  • In debate, one listens to the other side in order to find flaws and to counter its arguments.
  • Dialogue enlarges and possibly changes a participants point of view.
  • Debate affirms a participant's own point of view.
  • Dialogue reveals assumptions for re-evaluation.
  • Debate defends assumptions as truth.
  • Dialogue causes introspection on ones own position.
  • Debate causes critique of the other position.
  • Dialogue opens the possibility of reaching a better solution than any of the original solutions.
  • Debate defends one's own positions as the best solution and excludes other solutions.
  • Dialogue creates an open-minded attitude: an openness to being wrong and an openness to change.
  • Debate creates a close-minded attitude, a determination to be right.
  • In dialogue, one submits ones best thinking, knowing that other people's reflections will help improve it rather than destroy it.
  • In debate, one submits one's best thinking and defends it against challenge to show that it is right.
  • Dialogue calls for temporarily suspending one's beliefs.
  • Debate calls for investing wholeheartedly in one's beliefs.
  • In dialogue, one searches for basic agreements.
  • In debate, one searches for glaring differences.
  • In dialogue one searches for strengths in the other positions.
  • In debate one searches for flaws and weaknesses in the other position.
  • Dialogue involves a real concern for the other person and seeks to not alienate or offend.
  • Debate involves a countering of the other position without focusing on feelings or relationship and often belittles or deprecates the other person.
  • Dialogue assumes that many people have pieces of the answer and that together they can put them into a workable solution.
  • Debate assumes that there is a right answer and that someone has it.
  • Dialogue remains open-ended.
  • Debate implies a conclusion.

Adapted from a paper prepared by Shelley Berman, which was based on discussions of the Dialogue Group of the Boston Chapter of Educators for Social Responsibility (ESR).

Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday's Food for Thought

"Honest differences are often a healthy sign of progress."

Mahatma Gandhi (1869 - 1948)

"A great many people think they are thinking when they are really rearranging their prejudices."

William James (1842 - 1910)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

". . . you just have to trust and eat."

In a recent interview a reporter asked, "Why is it that the way you do things at Common Tables seems to be so effective?"

To which I responded, “How it all works is a bit of a mystery. But sometimes you just have to trust and eat.”

Monday, July 21, 2008

Ethic of Reciprocity - The Golden Rule

"Every religion emphasizes human improvement, love, respect for others, sharing other people's suffering. On these lines every religion had more or less the same viewpoint and the same goal." The Dalai Lama

The various religious, spiritual and philosophical groups differ widely in their beliefs, practices and concepts of diety. Given this diversity, it is interesting that these groups are nearly unanimious in their belief that each of us should treat others in a fair and decent manner. We find in the holy texts and/or in the writings of the leaders of almost all of these groups passages which promote what is frequently called the Ethic of Reciprocity. In North America it is most commonly know as the Golden Rule and is most often expressed as "Do unto others as you would wish them do unto you."

For many in the Common Tables family the high points of their experience are found in the discovery of the common grounds, the shared beliefs that are held by those at their Table. While we will return to a discussion of the Ethic of Reciprocity a number of times over the next few months, we simply close this week's entry with a couple of examples:

Brahmanism: "This is the sum of Dharma [duty]: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you". Mahabharata, 5:1517

Confucianism: "Tse-kung asked, 'Is there one word that can serve as a principle of conduct for life?' Confucius replied, 'It is the word 'shu' -- reciprocity. Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire.' Doctrine of the Mean 13.3

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Appreciative Inquiry & Common Tables

We at Common Tables have been working to develop an optional dialogue track for our Tables . . . a track based on "Appreciative Inquiry" - an exciting dialogue based system for creating positive change. In Common Tables we will be suggesting Appreciative Inquiry as an approach to encourage our members to study, discuss, learn from and build on what's working in interfaith relations, rather than simply trying to fix what isn't.

In today's entry we begin a weekly discussion about Appreciative Inquiry - what is it? why is it producing such extraordinary results across such a broad spectrum of organizations? and how do we see it being implemented in Common Tables?

We are going to start this week by taking a look at the first two of the "Eight Principals of Appreciative Inquiry". This material is from the wonderful book The Power of Appreciative Inquiry by Diana Whitney and, a special friend of Common Tables, Amanda Trosten-Bloom:

Principal Number 1: The Constructionist Principal - Words Creat Worlds
  • Reality, as we know it, is a subjective vs. objective state.
  • It is socially created, through language and conversations.

Principal Number 2: The Simultaniety Principle - Inquiry Creates Change

  • Inquiry is intervention.
  • The moment we ask a question, we begin to create a change.

We'll continue our look at Appreciative Inquiry over the coming weeks. It is a topic you'll find well worth your time to follow.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Table Grace - Part 4

It has been a month since we last shared some of our favorite table blessings from our interfaith collection. Today we offer an example from the Eastern Orthodox Tradition and one from Swami Paramananda:

O Most Holy Trinity, have mercy on us! Lord, cleanse us from our sins! Master, pardon our transgressions! Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities for Thy name's sake.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Lord, have mercy! (3 times)

O Christ God, bless the food and drink of Thy servants, for Thou art holy, always, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Eastern Orthodox

May the Lord accept this, our offering, and bless our food that it may bring us strength in our body, vigor in our mind, and selfless devotion in our hearts for His service.
Swami Paramananda

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Heard From The Tables

Mike C., Colorado, Common Tables Member

“I will use whatever means are available to me to help you promote Common Tables as a way to foster love, tolerance and peace among all people. Let our collective involvement in Common Tables be an example to others. Let us show what people of different faiths and beliefs can do when they celebrate their shared commitment to Universal Spiritual Truth while each follows the tenets of their own faith authentically.”

Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday's Food for Thought

"I would like the church to be a place where the questions of people are honored rather than a place where we have all the answers. The church has to get out of propaganda. The future will involve us in more interfaith dialogue. ... We cannot say we have the only truth."

Bishop John Shelby Spong

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Listening: The Language of Peace - Part 3

Attention-Focusing Practice

Here is a simple way to build your attention focusing skills . . . and all it requires is a television and a few minutes of undisturbed time. This is all you need to do:

  1. Find a television program where the speaker talks for several minutes at a time without interruption. Political speeches are generally easy to find and can be particularly challenging to listen to.

  2. Pay attention to both words and body language. Give the speaker your full attention. Each time your attention drifts, refocus on the speaker. Don’t get discouraged if at first you can only stay focused for 15 or 20 seconds at a time. It will get easier with practice.

  3. The goal is to continue regular practice sessions until you get to the point where you are able to stay focused for ten minutes or longer. (It is important that you actually time yourself. It is easy to over estimate time when you are trying to listen.)
    Those members with experience in meditation or the martial arts will recognize this type of practice. Attention focusing is a mental discipline and requires practice – regardless of the context.


Most of us are far better at talking than we are at listening; however, listening is a skill we can all learn. All it takes is a desire to be a better listener and practice, practice, and more practice. To learn to focus attention on a speaker without judgment or internally generated thoughts will for many be the hardest part of the Common Tables experience, and yet it is perhaps the most important skill you can bring to your table.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Listening: The Language of Peace - Part 2

Attention-Focusing Skills

If you are unable to focus, in a sustained manner, on the words, meaning and body language of the speaker, you will have trouble really “getting” what the speaker is communicating. In term of the Common Tables experience, you cannot be a good listener if:
  • you are judging the speaker and/or the speaker’s belief system while he/she is speaking. Time you spend in judgment is going to interfere with the goal of understanding the speaker from the speaker’s perspective.
  • you allow your attention to drift while the other person is speaking.
  • you spend most of the other person’s conversational time waiting for a chance to ask someone to pass the mashed potatoes.
  • you are mentally rehearsing your response and eagerly waiting for “your turn” to speak.
In short, if while someone else is talking you are engaged mentally or physically in any activity other than focusing on the speaker, you can’t be a good listener.

Monday, June 30, 2008

". . . a beautiful grass roots effort"

Dr. Roger W. Teel, Senior Minister and Spiritual Director, Mile Hi Church, Lakewood, Colorado

"Common Tables is a beautiful grass roots effort . . . the kind that holds the greatest promise for building bridges of communication and understanding in an increasingly complicated and challenged world.

"I appreciate and respect the founding members of this unique project for masterminding a brilliantly simple and time-honored approach for building interfaith understanding and global harmony: sharing a table with others...especially those of diverse beliefs, cultures and faiths.

"Problem solving and peace emerge when hearts open and connect. So I invite you to get involved in this powerful initiative.

"Pull up a chair and let the healing and bonding begin."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Listening: The Language of Peace

We continue our series on Conversation with a few comments on listening.

Conversation has been defined as: "A vocal competition in which the one who is catching his breath is called the listener."

Over the next couple of weeks we'll take a closer look at the art of listening and we'll again start by taking a look at the Common Tables member's guide "Conversation: The Main Course":

The Language of Peace

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” - Ralph Nichols

"Regardless of your belief system, one of the best things you can do for yourself and your Table is to improve your listening skills. Interestingly, within the context of your Common Tables experience, you will find that the best listeners are listened to more than the poor listeners. The best listeners at your Table will be seen as more caring and will have a greater influence within your group than those who are not skilled listeners.

"This short article will serve as an introduction to the art of listening. Throughout your time in the Common Tables family, we will offer materials to help you develop your listening skills. Not only will you be able to apply what you learn to enhance your Common Tables experience, you will find improved listening skills helpful in all of your relationships.

Don’t Confuse Hearing With Listening

"Listening is something you choose to do . . . something you can decide to practice and become more effective at. Hearing is a biological function; listening is a learned skill.
To be an effective listener requires mastering two groups of skills: the first is the ability to focus your attention on the speaker. The second is the ability to communicate your understanding of the speaker’s words and meaning.

"Of the two, it is easier to develop the communication skills needed to paraphrase (to express an understanding of the details of what the speaker said) and to demonstrate empathetic listening (by expressing your understanding of the speaker’s feelings) than it is to acquire the self discipline needed to focus attention. While these communication skills are important – if you are unable to communicate your understanding you will reap few of the benefits of effective listening – they are the easiest of the skill sets to develop."

More next week . . .

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Heard From The Tables

Dr. Duane Troxel,
Administrator of the Baha'i Center of Metro Denver, Chair of the Denver Baha'i Assembly, and Common Tables Member:

"Put me down as one of those who enthusiastically supports what Common Tables is doing to build bridges between faith communities. Although I cannot speak for the entire Baha'i Faith, I can speak for myself as a Baha'i. The Baha'i Faith seeks to promote unity in all its forms; this too seems an important function of Common Tables".

Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday's Food For Thought

“Fundamentalism isn't about religion, it's about power.”

Salman Rushdie

“Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion--several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbour as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight.”

Mark Twain

Monday, June 16, 2008

"Eat, Pray, Love"

Monday Media Review

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia
by Elizabeth Gilbert

Gilbert fully engages the reader, sustaining a charming, funny tone in this glorious, heartfelt memoir. Finding herself full of despair following a messy divorce, the author embarks on a journey of self discovery by equally dividing a year among three countries; Italy, India and Indonesia.

First, the pleasure of savoring Italy’s delectable delights (lots of pasta and pizza!); next, time to pray, search and reflect at an ashram in India; and finally, balance and love in Bali. What fun it is to join her on her journey and watch her as she evolves along the way.

In addition to being a superb writer, her ability to bring the characters to life pulled me in from the start. I found her insights inspirational, her humor uplifting and her honesty enjoyable. In the end, I felt as if I had made a new friend. This book left me wanting more!

“I keep remembering one of my Guru’s teachings about happiness. She says that people universally tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descend upon you like fine weather if you’re fortunate enough. But that’s not how happiness works. Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.”

5 Stars!!
Original Release Date: January 30, 2007
Pages: 352

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Table Grace - Part 3

This month's table grace comes to us from the Buddhist tradition.

(serving the food)
In this food I see clearly the presence of the entire universe supporting my existence.

(looking at the plate of food)
All living beings are struggling for life.May they all have enough food to eat today.

(just before eating)
The plate is filled with food. I am aware that each morsel is the fruit of much hard work by those who produced it.

(beginning to eat)
With the first taste, I promise to practice loving kindness. With the second, I promise to relieve the suffering of others. With the third, I promise to see others' joy as my own. With the fourth, I promise to learn the way of nonattachment and equanimity.

(after the meal)
The plate is empty. My hunger is satisfied. I vow to live for the benefit of all living beings.


Friday, June 6, 2008

Friday's Food for Thought

This week we offer three thoughts to ponder from Hans Küng, a Catholic priest, Swiss theologian and, since 1995, President of the Foundation for a Global Ethic.

"That means that every human being - without distinction of sex, age, race, skin color, language, religion, political view, or national or social origin - possesses an inalienable and untouchable dignity."

"We are conscious that religions cannot solve the economic, political and social problems of this earth."

"There will be no peace among the nations without peace among the religions. There will be no peace among the religions without dialogue among the religions."

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Some Background

Common Tables is the vision of two individuals from Colorado and is not associated with any theological, political or social group.

We drew upon our experiences with local dining clubs to build a working model with the tools and techniques that would make a real difference in the world. Very quickly we realized that this was not a pastime and we all left our “day jobs”.

Within a couple of months of putting up the Common Tables website, we had repeated hits from almost every state and province in North America and ninety-six countries overseas. That was interesting, but recognizing that people were spending 30+ minutes on the website demonstrated to us that we were on the right path. Today, those numbers continue to grow exponentially.

The real win for us came when religious leaders from all faiths and philosophies started to endorse the Common Tables vision. That continues today and soon people from every country will recognize and read endorsements from global leaders.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Quick. Easy. Elegant. What else could you need to know?


Like the best of simple recipes, the key to perfection in this one is starting with fresh, quality ingredients: asparagus cooked until just tender-crisp, some high quality extra-virgin olive oil, and fresh parmesan cheese - avoid the stuff in the green can, at least for this recipe!

Yield: 6 to 8 Servings

3 pounds asparagus, trimmed
½ cup olive oil, plus extra for serving
8 ounces Parmesan cheese*, shaved, plus extra to serve
freshly ground black pepper

First cook the asparagus. The cooking method you use isn’t nearly as important as it is to avoid over cooking. You can choose to steam the asparagus for around 10 or 12 minutes. It will also work to microwave it on HIGH for about 7 minutes. The key is to stop cooking while the stalks are still tender-crisp. (Remember that residual heat will continue to cook the spears for about a minute after they have been removed from the heat.)

Thoroughly drain the cooked asparagus. (The idea is to remove any excess moisture in the spear tips which could dilute the olive oil.) Arrange the asparagus on a serving platter, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with Parmesan shavings and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Provide extra Parmesan, olive oil and a pepper grinder when serving.

*The Parmesan will be more flavorful and easier to handle if you let it sit at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes (depending on how warm the room is) before shaving and serving.

Monday, June 2, 2008

"Peaceful Warrior"

Monday's Media Review

The critics didn’t much care for this movie . . . and we loved it! And I suppose that pretty much sums it up.

It is admittedly a bit polarizing. Many will miss the messages altogether, some will find them trite and/or overly simplified; however, for most there will be at least a few memorable flashes. “There are no ordinary moments” comes to mind as a point well made.

If you are among the millions who enjoyed the book by the same name, you will find a lot to like in the movie. Even those who missed the book altogether will find Nick Nolte’s performance as Socrates sufficient reason to spend an evening with the Peaceful Warrior.

Keep in mind that Peaceful Warrior is not intended as a complete cinematic guide to enlightenment. Simply approach this movie with an open mind and enjoy.

We give this one 4 Stars!
Length: 121 Minutes

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Heard From The Tables

Marcia S., New Jersey

Common Tables is an invitation to a unique experience in interfaith, multi-cultural adventure. Perhaps more significantly, it is also an invitation to a mind-expanding and very personal spiritual adventure.”

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Interfaith Center at the Presidio

From time-to-time in these entries we will feature organizations we feel are doing exceptional work in the interfaith arena. This week we are pleased to tell you a little about our friends at The Interfaith Center at the Presidio:

THE INTERFAITH CENTER at the Presidio was created "to welcome, serve, and celebrate the diverse spiritual wisdom and faith traditions of the Bay Area." The Center is networked globally with hundreds of interfaith groups in 50 countries who share a common commitment: . . . to promote daily, enduring interfaith cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence, and to create cultures of peace, justice, and healing for the Earth and all living beings.

Twenty-two Bay Area interfaith groups currently are Sponsoring Organizations.

The Center's core activities are:
  • Providing hospitality at the interfaith Main Post Chapel,

  • Developing local and global connections, and

  • Creating interfaith learning environments and resources.

The Interfaith Center at the Presidio is . . .

  • a San Francisco Bay Area grassroots interfaith friendship-building nonprofit organization,

  • your host at the Main Post Chapel in the Presidio of San Francisco and

  • the San Francisco International Airport Reflection Room, two interfaith sanctuaries welcoming people of all faiths, and

  • an inter-religious advocate of peacemaking among religions, locally and globally.

Never has the need for healthy cross-culture relationships been greater. The Interfaith Center at the Presidio has an historic commitment to healing and peacemaking within, between, and among religious and spiritual traditions.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Lasagna - Slow Cooker Style

A great do-ahead recipe! Keep the cook out of the kitchen!!

Lasagna - Slow Cooker Style

Made with ground beef and turkey sausage, this one is perfect when your dinner guests need to avoid pork.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

1 lb. ground beef, browned
½ lb. ground turkey sausage, browned
32 –oz. jar spaghetti sauce
Plus 4.5 oz. can tomato sauce
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 Tbsp. parsley flakes
8-10 lasagna noodles, uncooked
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese to taste

Combine the ground beef, ground turkey sausage, spaghetti sauce and tomato sauce.

Combine ricotta cheese, egg and parsley flakes.

Layer half of the meat sauce mixture, the dry noodles, the ricotta cheese mixture and the mozzarella cheese in the slow cooker. Repeat layers, ending with meat sauce mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Cover. Cook on low 6-8 hours or on high 4-5 hours.

Serve with green salad and French or Italian bread.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Conversation . . . It's the Main Course! Part 2

This from the Introduction to the Common Tables member's guide "Conversation: The Main Course":

"Many of us are uneasy with the notion of entering into casual, social discussions with people we view as somehow different than ourselves. So, as we approach our first Common Tables gatherings, the question we are faced with is this: Given that most of us aren’t very comfortable talking with strangers about the small stuff, how in the world do we get our Table to the place where we are talking about things like spirituality and religion, faith, bigotry and prejudice, or even eternity?

"The answer is that we allow things to evolve slowly. Very slowly. It’s not like talking about the weather or speculating about the winner of tomorrow’s football game. You can share differing opinions about the probable outcome of a sporting event or about the accuracy of tomorrow’s weather forecast and no one will take it personally, but if you so much as hint that you find someone’s belief system to be nonsensical or devoid of logic, you are attacking the very core of their identity. Such beginnings won’t lead to the sort of open, unencumbered, purely-trying-to-understand discussion and debate that we all want to foster.

"So take it easy. Use some of our suggestions and start to get to know one another. Your Table’s members will begin to disclose bits of information about themselves and, as personalities unfold, you will find that trust and respect flourish. You’ll discover unexpected commonalities . . . and differences to keep in mind as you move into more personal and potentially sensitive areas of dialogue."

We provide topics to stimulate conversation at each of our Common Tables seatings. Members are encouraged to try some of our suggestions . . . or make up some “ice breakers” on their own.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday's Food for Thought

"I believe that love, kindness, compassion, tolerance, and peace can be implanted in the psyche of man only when fear, paranormal illusion and ignorance are removed. We can then shift our attention more to matters of peace, rather than to matters of war."
Peter Retzinger

"Once started, religious strife has a tendency to go on and on, to become permanent feuds. Today we see such intractable inter-religious wars in Northern Ireland, between Jews and Muslims and Christians in Palestine, Hindus and Muslims in South Asia and in many other places. Attempts to bring about peace have failed again and again. Always the extremist elements invoking past injustices, imagined or real, will succeed in torpedoing the peace efforts and bringing about another bout of hostility."
Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia, addressing the World Evangelical Fellowship on 2001-MAY-04.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Conversation . . . It's the Main Course!

Today we begin a series of weekly entries on Conversation . . . and specifically on the subject of face-to-face dialogue between the grass-roots members of differing religionious, spiritual and/or philosophical belief systems. Who better to open our discussion than the Dalai Lama?

“Because all the world's religious traditions share the same essential purpose, we must maintain harmony and respect among them. This not only benefits the followers of each religion but makes our neighborhoods and countries more peaceful. To do this we need to understand something about the world's different religions. There are many ways to go about this, but I believe the most effective is face-to-face dialogue. Let religious and spiritual leaders meet together to discuss and share their experience and practice; let ordinary members of religious communities spend time with each other.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Debate vs Dialogue - A Business Perspective

This article is a few years old, but it brings up some valuable points! We felt it worth reposting here:

Debate vs. dialogue: Times call for knowing the difference

Friday, September 17, 2004
The Business Journal of the Greater Triad Area - by Jan Peeples The Business Journal Serving the Greater Triad Area

The political season is upon us and the debate has begun. Rarely in our history have battle lines been so clearly drawn and the public so polarized by differing political views.

In businesses across the country, water-cooler conversations that begin as informal banter about current events turn quickly into hotly contested political debates, sometimes ending in misunderstanding and damaged relations. Passions of the political season demonstrate the ongoing struggle within organizations to deal constructively with diverse values and points of view.

Companies that invest heavily in developing and nurturing teamwork know that different perspectives are assets, but only when team members understand the difference between dialogue and debate.

Dialogue requires that participants suspend their own assumptions so they can truly hear thoughts expressed by others. The reward of dialogue is allowing everyone to articulate personal perspectives and be heard, not judged.

By contrast, debate requires that one person try to convince another of a particular position. Mutual learning is not a goal.

Why does debate come so naturally to us while dialogue seems to be a learned skill?

If you think back to the water-cooler scene described above, informal banter becomes debate when someone's value system is threatened. Then defenses are raised and counterpunches fly.

Because political positions are so closely tied to our personal histories, we bring a set of beliefs into the conversation that are an important part of our identities. If our opinions are invalidated, so are we.

This scene is played out in many business settings, even when the conversation is not about highly charged matters of national politics.

Organizational direction, personal power and accountability are subtexts for many business discussions, whether stated or not. Without a trusting environment for dialogue, every discussion has the potential to end in debate.

Preoccupation with making a point, as opposed to hearing other points of view, can be dangerous. Examine recent well-publicized corporate failures. Among the causes were an inability or unwillingness to hear other points of view.

Enron Corp., Tyco Inc. and WorldCom Inc. all had one thing in common -- a corporate culture that discouraged dialogue. Greed and spin at the top went unchallenged, with no capacity for learning.

Voices that offered warning were squelched. The outcomes speak for themselves.

The best recent example of a national dialogue is the work of the 9/11 Commission. Although partisan affiliations were clear in public forums, behind the scenes the committee was committed to inquiry and dialogue for the purpose of learning together and reaching a consensus on recommendations.

Regardless of how one feels about the published report, the process itself is noteworthy.
Perhaps this political season will focus our attention on the importance of a national dialogue rather than a national debate.

Furthermore, let's hope it reminds us that organizational cultures that encourage dialogue will reap the benefits of employees' best thinking and collaborative workplaces that contribute to our nation's innovation and productivity.