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September 7, 2023 – Interview with Network Facilitator Member, Yuka Saito
Location: Berkeley, CA USA (formerly Kyoto, Japan)
Languages: Japanese, English
WTR Network: How many workshops and/or events WTR focused do you run a year?
Yuka: Since 2014 I have been facilitating in-person WTR workshops and online events several times each, and from 2019 I have been leading an online 3-month long facilitation skills course once or twice a year. In 2022 I facilitated my first 5-day intensive workshop and it was fantastic! I found myself preferring the longer workshops. They are all in Japanese, by the way.
WTR Network: Tell us a bit about yourself, how did you become involved in the WTR and what role does it have in your life?
Yuka: I met Joanna’s work not long after the triple catastrophe of March 11th in 2011. Sean Kelly, a colleague of Joanna as well as professor at California Institute of Integral Studies, came to teach at Ritsumeikan university in Kyoto. He introduced the concepts of Joanna’s work and facilitated some powerful exercises from the WTR. I was struck by the contents (and him. That’s why he is now my husband). I moved to Berkeley in 2013 and since then I have taken her workshops, participated in some classes Joanna and Sean co-taught at CIIS, and I was part of the facilitator training program Joanna had for people of color in 2014.
In terms of the role that WTR plays in my life, I recall when I was still living in Japan, on the day of the nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was so surreal that I didn’t even know what to feel.
Fortunately, my house was far from Fukushima and was not affected by the earthquake or tsunami, and more importantly the urgent danger of radiation didn’t sneak into my daily life immediately. So, my life, at least on the face of it, went on without much change.
However, a strange numbness was growing in me. And yet, I didn’t say anything because I was afraid that if I dove into the numbness, the stronger my fear would become—do I really want to know how I’m feeling, I asked myself. If so, am I allowed to talk about my pain? Because I am an “outsider”, I mean my pain can be nothing compared to those who are suffering right in Fukushima, it felt irresponsible, rude, and even violent to say something about it from a “safe and comfortable” distance.
As I experienced the WTR, however, I started seeing myself not as an outsider but a part of something larger. I was convinced that it is okay for me to feel the pain. What a relief to see it in that way…!
So the WTR helped me to trust my feelings. Not only that, it helped me to connect with my courage and confidence which enabled me to take a stand and speak up for all beings on Earth and the future ones.
WTR Network: What are you grateful for in the WTR world?
Yuka: Along with what I just said above, I am so grateful for so many people working on healing our world through the Work.
WTR Network: What challenges and struggles have you experienced as a facilitator of the WTR?
Yuka: To be fully present with the pain of the participants without feeling myself inadequate or helpless. For example, when I worked with evacuees from Fukushima, I was afraid that they wouldn’t trust me who didn’t go through the same sufferings they did.
WTR Network: What has been the most difficult moment in your journey through the WTR?
Yuka: Since I set out on this journey , I have started feeling pain much more often than I used to. Everyday news, the image of a polar bear standing on a small piece of ice, or seeing a woman with her baby asking for money in front of a supermarket just around the corner…all these things really hurt. But I’m actually grateful for the pain I’m feeling because it tells me how I can make myself useful for the world.
WTR Network: What has emerged for you since you started facilitating the WTR?
Yuka: I developed greater strength against criticism and failure. When I know that I am giving myself to something larger, I don’t need to defend my little self.
WTR Network: What are your next steps in this Work?
Yuka: Further translation work, “Holding Actions” for social justice, and weaving a Rough Weather Network!
WTR Network: What would you say to someone who is new to the WTR?
Yuka: Welcome, my bodhisattva sibling!
WTR Network: What recommendations do you have for new facilitators?
Yuka: I recommend that they participate in WTR workshops and experience the work as many times as possible. And then, read Coming Back To Life over and over until they understand not only the theoretical part, but also the intentions and background of the exercises till they memorize them.
WTR Network: Do you have a favorite practice? Why?
Yuka: “Who are you?” is my favorite. The moment participants suddenly remember who they really are, the atmosphere of a workshop drastically changes. It’s as if flowers bloom all at once in the universe.
WTR Network: Are you part of a hub?
Yuka: Yes I am. I am one of the fortunate ones who can learn from Joanna Macy directly and bring the essence to Japan.
WTR Network: Are other facilitators in your area?
Yuka: In Japan there are quite a few people staring to do the work. In 2020, I finished the Japanese translation of Coming Back To Life. To publish the book and to enhance opportunities for getting to know about the WTR, a group of Japanese people created a website around the book through which people can also find WTR facilitators in Japan, just like this WTR network website.
WTR Network: Do you have any upcoming events you’d like to share?
Yuka: I will facilitate a 5-day intensive workshop again in Spring 2024. Following that, I will also have a 3-day facilitators camp.
WTR Network: Are you available for mentoring others?
Yuka: I would love to say “Yes!” but for now I see my role in the Great Turning as helping build a linguistic and cultural bridge between Japan and the WTR, as well as working on some direct actions. So I don’t say “Yes” officially, but anyone is welcome to talk with me to share their experience and challenges. It’s already like that anyway.
WTR Network: If so, how can people starting in their facilitating path connect with you for mentoring?
Yuka: Come to my workshops! Or check out the facilitation skill course I am offering.
The Japanese translation of Coming Back to Life has just been published this September in Japan! After three years of work by Yuka Saito, a translator as well as WTR facilitator, the book is now available for Japanese speakers. To celebrate it, there was a series of workshops and events held online and a total number of around 1000 people participated. At the main event, Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown gave a deep and inspirational talk. You can find the information about the Japanese translation of Coming Back to Life on this page.
Yuka can be contacted via her profile page.