ROUSING THE SLEEPING GIANT
"A powerful tale of bringing mindfulness to the workplace"
BOOK REVIEW BY Linda Drosdowech
“Let your thoughts float by like clouds.” She slowly waves her hand past her forehead over lunch at Cristina’s on Corydon.
Suenita Maharaj is as passionate about teaching mindfulness as she is about her twenty-five year career in human rights and racism. By day, she works at Red River College as the Equity Diversity Inclusion Coordinator. But in her spare time, she practices, studies, teaches and writes about mindfulness.
Enthusiastically talking about her work, she would likely not be considered a typically meditative type. “I’ve been told in my life that I have to speak softer.”
This is just one of the boundaries she has broken. Moving from Trinidad to Winnipeg at age seven she experienced harsh racism towards her family that inspired her lifelong commitment to fighting prejudice. “Helping someone deal with racism means opening up a future legacy so their children will benefit.”
With a challenging but fulfilling job, married with three almost grown daughters, 56 year-old Suenita was living the dream.
“But I was lost to myself,” she explains. “After years of eat, sleep, work, repeat, and being of service to others, I didn’t recognize myself.”
She began to explore mindfulness. An educator at heart, her studies took her to Harvard for a course in Mindfulness for Educators.“ I learned how to go with the flow.”
Her journey of self-discovery included a retreat at the Chopra Center in San Diego where a serendipitous moment found her thrusting a poem penned about her experience into the hands of a puzzled yet delighted Deepak Chopra.
She decided she wanted to write a book on mindfulness for the workplace in order to share the important healing lessons.
“I stayed in residence at RRCC for a week to plan out the story and covered the room in sticky notes.” It took Suenita a year to fictionalize and make accessible the abstract concepts of becoming aware of monkey mind, living in the present and noticing the breath. “I was given the gift of storytelling.”
Rousing the Sleeping Giant follows workaholic Ryan, a stressed out, inattentive husband and father through a training program into mindfulness. The gentle guidance he receives helps him replace destructive behaviours and attitudes with practices that help him achieve happiness, personal control and success at work. With a twist at the conclusion, with a character named after one of her daughters, the story ends on page 108 long considered a sacred number. “I especially wanted to inspire my daughters.”
Suenita launched her book at McNally Robinson in September and was on the best-seller list. She is in the process of finishing a story on mindfulness for children and has ambitions to develop a mindfulness retreat in Manitoba. Grateful to have found herself on the path to the present, she is delighted to share her journey. “If just one person can be helped by reading my book, I will be happy.”