Becoming a Buddhist Minister and Mindfulness Coach at 47: Sunada’s Story

I’m very honored to be interviewed on the blog Next Act for Women, featuring women who reinvent themselves in midlife. Thank you to Hélène Tragos Stelian for arranging this. Here’s a link to the full post.

Becoming a Buddhist Minister and Mindfulness Coach at 47: Sunada’s Story

with my dad in Japan

with my dad in Japan

Chronic ails in midlife forced Sunada to reevaluate the path she was on. She found Buddhism, gave up her high tech career, and dedicated her life to helping others…

Tell us a little about your background…

I was born in Tokyo in 1957, the youngest of three children. We emigrated to the US when I was three, as my father had accepted a job here.

I come from a family of ultra high achievers. Every male member of my extended family attended Tokyo University (Japan’s equivalent of Harvard). My mother went to the best high school for girls in the country (girls in her generation didn’t go to college). I come from a family of doctors, executives, and Ph.Ds. While growing up, I didn’t experience pressure to achieve; my parents simply expected it and took it for granted. And I, of course, never even thought to question it…

Morning stillness

morning stilnessI just returned home to Boston from visiting my 90-year-old mom in Tokyo. It’s a 13 hour flip of day and night to travel from one to the other. My body clock is all haywire.

There’s one positive side of jet lag and waking up at 3am. I got out of bed and sat in the stillness, and watched the day break through my east-facing window. In the darkness, with cup of coffee in hand, I spotted a bright star (or planet?) appear at the horizon of the deep midnight blue sky. And I watched it slowly inch upward over the next hour or so — until it gradually faded away into the brightening light of daybreak.

I had my two cats with me — Rusty on my lap and Bella at my feet. And a whole chorus of crickets outside serenaded me outside my window. It was a wonderful way to start the day.

I never would have received such a gift if I had allowed myself to stew and resent my sleeplessness. You never know what treasures await you when you stop resisting life and letting it flow as it will.

16-Year-Old Malala Yousafzai Leaves Jon Stewart Speechless With Comment About Pacifism

malaladailyshow-2What an amazing young woman. After being shot in the head by a Taliban member, she has come back fighting. Fighting for the right of Pakistani women to be educated. She is now the youngest person ever nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. And though she didn’t win, she has clearly done a LOT to help advance the cause of Muslim women.

Here’s a link to the full article.

Why we love to worry, and what to do about it

worryJanet, a woman in one of my mindfulness classes, was feeling nervous. She was afraid of speaking up in class. It was a fairly large group – 20 people – and she felt self-conscious about the prospect of so many eyes on her. But she also worried that by staying silent, she wasn’t taking part enough in the supportive community that was forming. And thinking these thoughts made her worry all the more.

I reassured her that there was no requirement to speak up. Everyone was free to talk or not, to the extent they felt comfortable. Just listening in was perfectly OK. Her presence alone was what mattered. But she couldn’t stop fretting about it.

I think we all have a bit of Janet inside us. We start with a little uneasiness about something, and before we realize it, it grows bigger and bigger. Even when we know it’s irrational, we feel pulled in by it. Continue »

There’s something about the Dalai Lama

Dalai-Lama+DavidsonRichard Davidson and The University of Wisconsin Madison recently hosted conference called “Change Your Mind, Change the World” attended by many heavy-hitters including the Dalai Lama himself.

During one session the presenter talked about a research study showing that 47% of Americans are not paying attention to what they’re doing at any given moment, His Holiness had to ask, “What is mind wandering?” Only he would be confused by such a concept, I guess.

“There’s just something about a person whose real and tangible world power doesn’t rest in the hands of the government or the military but in his human capacity for kindness and compassion.”

Here’s the full article.

Meditation as an act of love

“Don’t meditate to fix yourself, to heal yourself, to improve yourself, to redeem yourself; rather, do it as an act of love, of deep warm friendship to yourself. In this way there is no longer any need for the subtle aggression of self-improvement, for the endless guilt of not doing enough. It offers the possibility of an end to the ceaseless round of trying so hard that wraps so many people’s lives in a knot. Instead there is now meditation as an act of love. How endlessly delightful and encouraging.”

– Bob Sharples, from Meditation: Calming the Mind

Many of us take up meditation because we want to become softer, kinder people. I’m right there with you. Continue »

How to get out of your own way

I used to write and blog regularly – for many years. But then last summer I went through a major house move that totally disrupted my life and brought my writing to a halt.

But that’s mostly just an excuse. I’ll admit it’s inertia and my inner critic that’s getting in my way now. Despite my wanting to do it, I’ve always found it hard to write. And when I fell off my routine, and weeks and months passed, it just got harder and harder to get restarted.

I’m wondering if this sounds familiar to any of you out there. When it feels like YOU are the main thing getting in your way? Continue »

What to Do When You Have to Work with Someone You Don’t Like

I thought this was such a helpful article — not just in a work context, but with anyone we find difficult. Rather than focusing on the problems with the person out there, stop and consider what’s being triggered in us. It’s a way to start changing the relationship, beginning with ourselves.


What to Do When You Have to Work with Someone You Don’t Like

Jeff*, like me, is a writer, a speaker, and the head of a consulting company. As far as I can tell, he’s professional, well respected, capable, honest, and has a popular following. Someone we both know has asked us to collaborate on a project and there’s clearly a mutual benefit to our working together.

It all sounds great except for one thing: I don’t like Jeff. Continue »

Practice when life gets tough

Sometimes life comes at us full force and overwhelms us. That’s what happened to me the last few months. Things happened that were so overpowering that all my usual routines went out the window just so I could get through each day. My work, my social life – and yes, my sitting practice – pretty much dropped off my plate.

At times like this, people often say, “Life got in my way.” But that’s so not true. This IS my life. Just because I don’t like it, doesn’t mean it’s standing in my way. Actually, I think it’s exactly the opposite. It’s showing me exactly where I need to go to push beyond my comfort zone. It’s like a custom designed life lesson created just for me. Continue »

The dance of allowing

There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt, containing a tornado.
Dam a stream and it will create a new channel.
Resist, and the tide will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry you to higher ground…

I recently discovered this wonderful poem by Danna Faulds (which is an excerpt — the full poem is here.) It has really struck me because the themes of letting go and allowing have been coming up everywhere for me. Continue »