Autoresponder, Fukushima

I’m writing from seat 3A on the Hayabusa 001, express bullet train service to Hakodate, Hokkaido. I’m Hokkaido bound where I hope the Center will have its home, and I’m finding the train rather relaxing. It’s been an early start, I left home and was at my local station at 5:45. Tokyo Station was difficult to navigate already at 6:15, crowds of people in puffy clothes and big gear.

As the train left the station my mind wandered to the next couple of weeks. I realized would benefit from setting my autoresponder on for the time I’m away.

There. Good.

I like personalizing my autoresponder. I mean, it’ more personal than what a template offers:

Thanks for your mail. I’m away on research trip and time for reflection and will be checking mail intermittently. For an emergency, please contact me on WhatsApp and I’ll return your message within 24 hours whenever I have  reception. 

Sessions resume March 11, Tokyo time.

I look forward to seeing you. 

Thank you,

— Gmail autoresponder text block

I remembered a website that suggests personalizing autoresponders and using them to give news. That sharing news gives your audience something to ask you when you get back, gives you something to talk about, and if you are one of those people who feels apologetic or guilty when turning your autoresponder on, the you can talk about how energized and focused you will be when you’re back.


I notice we are in Fukushima. It looks so normal in its beauty, just another view onto farmland from the bullet train. Knowing we are in Fukushima, suddenly, I felt like my autoresponder could be expanded. I wanted to share something. There was a story to tell. I could sense it, physically feel it coming.

Here’s my autoresponder message.

: : : :

Hello, Thanks for your message.


I’m traveling and away from the office. Sessions will resume March 11, Japan time. In case of emergency, please reach me on Whatsapp (+818050961880) and I will reply in 24 hours whenever I have reception.

My destination: Niseko and Lake Toya, by Shinkansen - the bullet train. It’s where I’m planting seeds for the Mega Center to have a home. I’ll be snow camping and visiting a center for Nature Study south of Sapporo.

The second half of my time away will take me to Koyasan- a spiritual home for many- for my annual pilgrimage in the mountains for reflection, walking meditation, and to pay respects to the spirit of my late grandfather.

Sessions will resume Monday, March 11th Japan time. That day will mark 8 years since the great earthquake that resulted in the loss of so many lives. I’ll be traveling through some of the affected areas on the train today.

It also marks the 8th year since my life changed drastically and challenged me into deep questioning-and eventually, change regarding how I see my life and what I want from it, and for it. Who I want in it. What qualities I want to invite into it. In which places I want it to unfold. How do I want to grow. How I want to design for it, construct it, and ultimately- how I want to engage and conduct myself in the day-to-day to make this happen.

The last 8 years of recovery and growth has been prominent in my mind. It’s been most impressively demonstrated in the infrastructure and economy in the North East. It’s the result of tremendous focus toward normalcy and one driven by hope - hope that a loved one or more will return from the sea and be released from the clenched grips of its wrath. And a deep well of resilience. Resilience seems to be a trait Northeasterners are known for: harsh winters and unrelenting nature have produced people that are typically seen as hard-working, warm-hearted, and humble. Winter after unforgiving winter, Northeasterners just pick themselves up and get back to work. If it’s winter, it certainly means springtime is just around the corner and that means to many a Northeastern farmer, there’s no time to waste. And yet, perhaps it’s a very Japanese trait. After all, it was an important component to Japan’s rise to a global economy. Is it something we’ve learned from the people in this region? Something tells me some important parts of Japan’s manufacturing history were developed in these areas- a combination of cheap land, cheap source of labor from unemployed farmers, and availability of water made the region ideal for fabric mills and factories. Stories of poor farm girls my age from impoverished families sent to work in factories or sold into functional slavery haunts my 10 year old mind.

Resilience. This seems to be the good-looking word for swallowing what’s hard. Resilience is grit married to hope and a deep conviction, a commitment to contributing from an honest and positive space, that positive things will come.

Maybe though, what I see in Japan is more about gaman. It’s the almost-silent cousin to Resilience in Japanese. She is silent because if you listen, you can hear her suffer aloud in a whisper of a breath even if she puts on her outward smile or guide of strength and responsibility. Gaman has a deceptive quality, it looks like inner strength but it’s more of a tolerance built to make them somehow numb and immune to abuse. It’s alien to a buoy of hope- but tied to an anchor of duty. It’s tied to selflessness- not always selflessness in the spirit of service to others, but one from resignation of our place in life, in society, or from unworthiness.

I mean, when we gaman, we don’t always think of it this way. Instead of “I am not worthy”, I think “for the greater good”. But how good are we as a whole, a community. or a society, if we kill what makes us feel alive? A kind of suicide of the soul, if I’m to be dramatic.

How can we move from the energy of gaman, to one of true resilience? To see ourselves, listen to the whisper of our desires, to honor the language of our authenticity, and to encourage the unwavering part of us to show up unapologetically- to communicate, to ask, to create together from the part of us that’s true and whole. When we are true and while we are consistent and aligned. When we are consistent and aligned we are not being pulled in directions that feel in conflict with ourselves.

This is what drives me. This, is the basis of my work. And of the Mega Center.

Let’s sense into and notice more, share more and do more about what each of us wants and yearns for in our lives. In your life with the people you love, in your life for the causes you believe in. In your life at work, in how you make a contribution to the world we share. How to make it happen.

That’s all it is. Becoming who you really are, and through it, seeing how that attracts what and who you need to create the life, the outcome you know is waiting for you.

Thanks for reading to the end.









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