Motivating change – a lesson from 2 train rides

I recently took a course on storytelling. It was an eye-opening experience to learn techniques and skills involved in the art of storytelling to encourage change. How stories can motivate and mobilize people are often ignored, perhaps because storytelling is considered a “soft” skill. But I realize that it is usually not the facts, numbers or data that compell me to act. Of course those are important; but what moves me beyond my inaction is the power of people’s stories, like those told by the survivors of atomic bombings.
In the course we were encouraged to take note of stories as we think of. So here is one!

Continue reading

Can I Have It All? (a mommy version)


“Women who can have it all can do so, because they have help,” said a friend recently. We both are relatively new moms, trying to figure out what it means to take on the new, at times daunting, responsibility (Yes, my son was born November last year!). Her words made me think.

I’ve read articles by other women about the challenge of “having it all,” but now that I have a child, it has a whole new meaning. I’m no longer able to just pick up my stuff and go out, or stay up late to finish 500 pages of readings for next week. My priority is the baby – but can I succeed with my school (I’m a full-time PhD student), work, and household chores, without driving myself crazy? Continue reading

On Living Unapologetically

IMG_20150322_163323One day it hit me. I’ve been living my life apologetically.

Like many people, I have multiple responsibilities in life, perhaps more than what you would think a person should take on.  I’m a full-time student, and I work 3 days a week. I have a leadership responsibility in my Buddhist community, while I sit on two boards of directors. I’m a wife, daughter, sister, friend… and the list goes on. Continue reading

When “Action” = Quit

IMG_20141229_230228Happy Holidays!  It’s been a while since my last post, and I wanted to write one more before the end of 2014.

This year was definitely one of the turning points for me.  In May, I left my previous job, after working there for five years.  I grew so much through the work experience, learned ins and outs of nonprofit programming and management, and met many wonderful people, some of whom I still keep in touch.  But the last few years I had found myself in a highly-contentious, stressful environment, while also procrastinating on my dream of (again) going back to school and pursuing something I love. Continue reading

Secret of Leadership and Power

Leadership“Violence can destroy power; it is utterly incapable of creating it.”
– Hannah Arendt

The concept of leadership can mean different things to each person.  People have various styles of leadership.  So what makes someone a leader, and how does he exert influence, or power, on others?

When I heard about Arendt’s theory of power in a class, I was first surprised by the seemingly paradoxical standpoint.  Arendt says that violence is an indication of the lack of power.  But use of violence and force is often associated with power, as we see in ever-increasing military forces in the world today. Continue reading

Where Spirituality Meets Social Change

Recently David Loy contributed an article to openDemocracy, providing a Buddhist perspective on human qualities upon which modern institutions of economy and politics are based.  I truly appreciated that through his article Loy connected the Buddhist wisdom and the very problems our society is facing today.  At the same time, since this is timely, I thought I would share my own perspective.  His article also reminded me why I feel passionate about working for nonviolence – a place where my spirituality meets my intellectual curiosity, passion for social change, and desire to take practical actions.  Continue reading

How I Became an Eco Convert

cherry blossomHappy Earth Day!

I am a little embarrassed to admit, but I was never passionate about environmental issues until very recently.  Don’t get me wrong, I do love nature. Growing up in a small town of Katano, in Osaka, Japan, I used to catch crabs in the river and chase dragonflies in the mountains.

But when it came to environmental issues, or being eco-friendly myself, I wasn’t very interested.  In retrospect, I believe the disconnect came from apathy.  I thought I was just one of billions of people on this planet, and my personal actions did not matter.  Reading articles about how much water we waste daily did not strike a chord in me.  Sure, I can be conscious, but there are so many others wasting more than I do, I thought.  It just felt like trying to put away fire with a few drops of water.

Continue reading

The Ultimate “Local” Activism

Image courtesy of Nujalee /

Image courtesy of Nujalee /

Before I post my part 2 on Venezuela, I wanted to get this post out.

While we tend to think of being an activist as something political or for a large social cause (and that is true), it is not the whole picture. To me, an activist is someone that seeks change for the better. It is someone who does not spare her voice for what she believes is right, one that does not settle for the status quo.

And if you think of it, we can apply that to any realm of life.

Yesterday, my friend reached out after she faced a problem at work. She was frustrated because she felt her hard work on a particular project was dismissed, and that the way the decision was made was not logical. While she knew something could have been done, she felt she would not be heard again. “I really don’t care at this point,” she said. Continue reading