Gaining a Renewed Sense of Empowerment: My Reflection on the IPTP Leadership Retreat

May 3, 2019

Contributed by Yumena Kawasaki, Hawaii Youth Association, Honolulu

People come to Hawaii to unwind and relax, away from the hustle and bustle of their daily lives and indulge themselves in the beauty of the island. Though we found much relaxation in the clear blue waters and the swaying palm trees, this retreat was different because we gathered here for a specific purpose; we came here to reflect on how we can help people and how we can make the world a better place. In the beautiful Camp Mokule’a ground surrounded by endless ocean and salty winds, a group of us gathered to do workshops, play games, and bond over good food.

We were lucky enough to have special guests Lauren Medeiros and Dita Ramler from the Punahou School, Terri Sullivan from the Search Institute, and a few temple office staff from Japan. These special guests were exemplar leaders in their communities, willing to share their experiences and offer us insight. I was given the chance to be a home group facilitator with Lauren as my mentor, and this was a great space for me to practice the role of leadership. It was interesting to hear about how Lauren relates to God and how it was very similar to my own ways of relating to Soya-sama and Ryodoji-sama and I loved having an interfaith connection with her.

I often overthink in my head and calculate what I want to say or worry about what others might think of me. By establishing group norms and active listening skills at the beginning of the retreat I felt safe to share my thoughts. The people there were so kind responding to what I had to say with wide eyed excitement. I’ve never felt more comfortable in a room full of strangers where everyone was on the same page about acceptance and it was a beautiful environment.

The activity about what it means to be a Shinnyo-en leader was eye opening to me. Before this exercise, I used to think of leaders as people with power, bossing others around. A good leader is always growing, adapting to change, building relationships, serving others, and leads by example which are all things that Her Holiness, Keishu-sama, does as she leads the Shinnyo-en Sangha. By redefining what a leader meant, I was able to recognize that little acts in daily life make a big difference and contribute to gaining trust in our community. I felt encouraged that even someone like me could become a leader.

Another activity that I found interesting was the fireside chat and the music night where we learned to dance the hula, sing Hawaiian songs, and played games. It was such an honor to be around genuine, kind people who were respected leaders in their communities. I gained positive energy from them. Listening to everyone’s stories gave me hope that there are people working hard every day to make the world better and I felt inspired to do more, knowing that I was not alone in this struggle.

This retreat was an active step on how we can be leaders in our community and how we can learn about how the philosophies learned at the Shinnyo-en temple can be applied in our daily lives. Through this experience I gained a bigger sense of confidence and courage to try to extend my compassion to many others. I felt that I wanted to try things without expectation and without fear of failure. I gained a renewed sense of empowerment to face hardships. I am grateful for this amazing opportunity and I hope to continue working on myself to grow and transform in order to help others. I am more excited than ever to being one of the infinite pathways of a river, flowing into the one big ocean of peace.

More photos from the retreat in Hawaii can be found by following the link here.

You may also read the article about the three other Infinite Paths to Peace Leadership (IPTP) Retreats that took place in other Shinnyo-en temple communities in 2018 here and the inaugural IPTP Leadership Retreat in New York in 2017 here. All of the photos from the IPTP Leadership Retreats and other SEF sponsored programs can be found at PHOTO GALLERY under MEDIA & RESOURCES menu on our website.