Patricia Cane, Ph.D.

Iona Pilgrimage Honorary Partner Awardee June 2019

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Patricia Cane, Ph.D. is founder and director of Capacitar International, a project in multicultural wellness education that focuses on personal and societal healing and transformation. For 31 years, Pat has taught thousands of trainings in over 40 countries. She has developed programs for grassroots groups and professionals in areas affected by trauma, violence, war and disasters, in the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. She has a B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of San Francisco, an M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Santa Clara University, and a Ph.D. in Multicultural Wellness Education from The Union Institute and University, Cincinnati OH. Her doctoral research specialized in trauma studies related to survivors of natural disasters and political violence in Central America. Pat is author of Trauma Healing and TransformationRefugee Accompaniment, as well as other Capacitar manuals in different languages for schools, caregivers, persons with HIV and cancer, and trauma counselors. Her current focus of outreach is with healing gender violence and in offering trauma healing trainings for persons accompanying refugees and immigrants in the US and in Europe.

Capacitar is an international network of empowerment and solidarity working in over 45 countries (in the Americas, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe). Capacitar, a nonprofit organization based in California, teaches simple wellness practices to empower people to heal themselves, their families and communities. Capacitar is especially dedicated to places of poverty, trauma, war and disaster giving people skills so they can work effectively for peace and healing in the midst of the violence.  Using a popular education wellness approach to trauma healing, Capacitar teaches people skills that can be used by the individual or groups to heal and transform their stress and trauma. The skills that Capacitar teaches are based on ancient practices, as well as modern psychotherapeutic methods. The approach gives people tools they can use for themselves that are simple and effective and that can be easily multiplied with their families and communities.  The trauma healing programs focus on how to deal with burnout and secondary trauma using self-care practices for caregivers, trauma counselors and those working with survivors and refugees.

Dear Friends,

Special greetings to you from the Isle of Iona where I have been part of a week-long pilgrimage led by Philip and Ali Newell, who in past years were the ministers of Iona Abbey. This week of pilgrimage was gifted to me and Capacitar when we were named honorary partners of Heartbeat, the organization supporting the visionary mission of the Newells. Along with forty men and women from many parts of the U.S. and Canada, we journeyed on a week of reflection, meditation, teaching, ritual and prayer. We opened ourselves to letting go of the past and to rebirthing the new in our personal and organizational lives at this time in our world. 

This was a fitting time for me to be part of the pilgrimage to Iona. This past year we celebrated the 10th anniversary of Capacitar in Scotland. Ali Newell brought Capacitar to Scotland in 2008, and since that time, hundreds of people have participated in our trainings of healing and transformation and have reached out to touch the lives of many in Scotland, the UK, and other parts of the world. 


I was not alone on this pilgrimage, but brought along in spirit the global family of Capacitar with our communities and leaders in the Americas, Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. On the first day, we walked to the south end of Iona to the Strand of the Monks who were martyred on the white sands by invading tribes  in the 8th century. There, led by John Philip, we created a mandala of the elements in which we placed stones to symbolize what we desired for healing within ourselves, our communities, and the larger world. The red stone that I placed represented the blood and suffering of the many people with whom Capacitar has worked during the last 30 years—in Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Rwanda, DR Congo, Japan, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Palestine, and in so many other places, as well as the refugees in the U.S. and elsewhere. We reflected how each of us has been born as a unique creation that the world needs at this time. Together we prayed that we may be instruments of healing in our world. 

Through the teachings of the Newells, we learned how Columba came from Ireland in 536 AD to found a community on Iona that was a light to many around the world. We met Brigid of Kildaire who came to Iona embodying the divine feminine as healer and midwife. Reflecting on Capacitar’s mission of “healing ourselves, healing our world”, I recommitted to a deepening of our spirit, to be “midwives” of empowerment and transformation to those most in need, and in the spirit of Celtic Spirituality, to awaken the integration of body, mind, and spirit. And we learned of the visionary work of George MacLeod, who after years of abandonment, rebuilt Iona Abbey and inspired a non-violent community with the labor of unemployed workers and ministers from Glasgow at the time of World War II. The Abbey to this day attracts pilgrims from around the world who come to live in community in the spirit of nonviolence and to connect with the earth, sea and sky of this ancient and holy Isle.

Pilgrimage Walk

During our week of retreat, we were invited to walk in pilgrimage around the Isle. Starting at the site of the Nunnery Philip and Ali led us on a strenuous 9-mile walk to many of the sacred sites. At the Crossroads, we contemplated the crossroads of our lives and those who have inspired us at significant moments. I reflected on the many people and synchronicities that have led Capacitar through our 30-year journey to bring ways of trauma healing to over 45 countries. At the Hill of the Angels, I thought of those who have been the guiding angels, supporting and upholding our work. And I thanked the many inspiring people who helped create Capacitar and who have passed. Iona is called “a thin place” where the veil is thin, and angels and spirits are near. At Columba’s Bay we chose two stones—one to throw into the sea to let go of what were challenges of the past; a second stone to take with us to represent what calls us into 
the future. I thought of the new focuses of Capacitar to walk with refugees and asylum seekers in the U.S. and around the world, and to bring healing and transformation to places dealing with issues of gender violence, especially against women and children.


On the last day of pilgrimage we celebrated our time together and were blessed and anointed by Philip and Ali for the next stages of our lives. During a ritual in the ancient Oran Chapel, the Newells’ son, Cameron, whom I have known since he was a child, played the Scottish fiddle for us. His closing song was “Pat’s Jig”, a delightful piece Cammy had composed for Capacitar Scotland’s 10th Anniversary in 2018. Our pilgrimage group danced and moved in solidarity and farewell. As we gathered for final reflections on our gratitude for the week and our commitment for the future, a beautiful rainbow appeared, spanning the sky of Iona, a blessing for our lives and our future steps.

Capacitar Scotland

Part of my time in Scotland was to facilitate another 4 module training that is being held in Perth at The Bield and in Glasgow at Finn’s Place. Since 2008, Capacitar Scotland has hosted eight 4 module trainings alternating venues between Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Perth, along with advanced trainings and outreach workshops in different parts of Scotland and the UK. There is a wonderful Capacitar Scotland core team that coordinates and plans the newsletter, outreach workshops, study days, and networking. Capacitar Scotland also generously scholarshipped a number of participants from different countries for the Capacitar 30th Anniversary Conference.

Capacitar Scotland members have shared the practices with many people in need: in hospices, in hospitals, with children in schools, rape crisis centers, church and spirituality centers, women’s groups, homes for the elderly, refugees and asylum seekers, midwives, and pregnant women. Jenny recently completed her doctorate researching how self-care is significant for midwives and for trauma related to childbirth (PTSD-CB). Scottish minister Kirrie-Lee is currently working in Calais with Syrian and Afghan refugees using Capacitar as part of her ministry. Ali, a minister at Edinburgh University Chaplaincy, has incorporated Capacitar practices into her mindfulness work with students and Camino pilgrimages. Nancy uses the practices with organizations and groups of nonviolence. Lorna integrates Capacitar practices in her work with children on the autistic spectrum. Shirley has brought Capacitar to refugees and asylum seekers, as well as to groups in Zimbabwe focused on the the rehabilitation of those who have been tortured. Noreen and Jennifer use the practices with women at Rape Crisis Centers. Fran has led ongoing women’s groups in spirituality and Capacitar in Arbroath. Susan has led Capacitar groups as part of the ministry of Finn’s Place in Glasgow. Marianne andRobin have integrated Capacitar into the many programs of spirituality at The Bield. And so many more! So the multiplication of Capacitar healing and wellness practices by the people of Scotland is remarkable. 

Our new training group, held in Perth and Glasgow, includes a great cross-section of participants from many backgrounds—from university professors, medical doctors, psychologists, and social workers, to spiritual guides, those working with the elderly, hospice, refugees and survivors of trafficking and abuse. In the years to come the trainings will be led by members of the Scotland core team in collaboration with Capacitar International. Capacitar work will continue to be blessed by the wonderful people of Scotland. 

With peace and solidarity,

Pat Cane
Capacitar Found//Director

Ali Newell, Pat Cane, Cameron Newell, John Philip Newell