Books by Sue Schleifer

The Key to the Castle


Cultivating a Mindful Life

The Key to the Castle: Zen and Travel Stories of Trust

How did a Santa Barbara, California native end up living south of the south? Just what happens to a beginning student of Zen as she sits down on a cushion and watches her mind? How is a Zen retreat like a vacation? These are a few of the questions posed and artfully explored in this journey of self-discovery.

 “What is going on here?” is the question Schleifer asks herself when visiting her aging mom, hiking in northern Thailand to hill tribe villages, navigating a rain-swelled creek bed in South Africa, crossing a desolate plains checkpoint between Chile and Argentina, and eating four-bowl meals at a Zen retreat. Her discoveries become ours in this clear and poignant account of inner and outer journeys.

Buzz on the Book

"I enjoyed your book so much, I couldn’t put it down."
Sherri, Money Coach

"I really enjoyed your book – the way you wove the tales of your travels in the outer world, with the travels in your inner world. The way you shared your inner thoughts, true feelings (whether pretty or not), and your practices were inspiring and affirming.
Thank you for sharing so authentically!"
Susie, Strategic Life Coach

"With The Key to the Castle, Sue Schleifer takes us on parallel journeys - to the outer world of exotic adventures around the globe, and the inner world of meditation and reflection. In the process she shows us how deep engagement and openness to the moment in both realms are keys to the “castle” of wisdom and joy. She is honest about the bumps in the road, and full of questions and doubts (and good humor), all of which make her story very accessible. Her prose is spare, elegant and lucid, and the balance of adventure and reflection make for a sustaining and engaging read." P. Warren, review

"I just finished reading your terrific book. I bought it a few weeks ago and just knew it would be a great reflective read for my family trip in Spain. The way you have shared and blended both internal and external travels and your personal growth in your life was very moving. The crazy thing for me to understand is how well you listened in our coaching sessions when you have so much to share. Thanks for helping me with my own internal travels and growth." L. Smith, former coaching client

“The Key to the Castle: Zen and Travel Stories of Trust is not a book about miracles, or about the cathartic purgings that come with tragic engagement; not about hopeless romance or romance finally found. But it is a book about the quiet miraculous found in paying attention to our lives, about what travel does to the nerve endings. This book brings us to the vast landscape of the journey and how the well-traveled soul is the soul that trusts the intelligence of spirit, or psyche, or mind, or heart---whatever you choose as the dominant guide in your own life.”  Darrell Bourque, author of Megan's Guitar and Other Poems from Acadie, and other books, Louisiana Poet Laureate, 2007-09 and 2009-11

"Zen at its essence is about finding freedom and spontaneity in our lives. Travel is one way many of us get a taste of this experience. In her new book, Sue Schleifer brings together her experiences of Zen and travel to reveal the wonders of a life lived freshly in the moment."  Zen Master Bon Soeng, Empty Gate Zen Center

 “With some trepidation, I read Sue’s chapters that describe the early days of Backroads and was immediately transported back in time by her thoughtful prose. It also gave me a chance to reflect on how much Backroads has changed, for the better. Her insider's look at active travel will give both armchair travelers and adventure seekers an appreciation for how experiencing new places encourages us to ask life's big questions.”  Tom Hale, Founder and President, Backroads, the active travel company

How to Purchase

Print and digital copies are available at Amazon and from your independent bookseller by request.

Digital versions are also available at Smashwords.

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Book review in The Independent Monthly, July 1, 2013. "It’s a travelogue to be sure, but much less about the culture and topography of far-flung places as it is about inner travel: becoming familiar with the craggy shoals and meandering planes of the spirit. And this is where Schleifer, a former contributing writer to The Ind, excels. Indeed, the author brings us on a journey from the Himalayas to the former Soviet Republic and points between, but it is Schleifer’s journey to her inner mind that is at the heart of The Key to the Castle, and Schleifer’s facile prose and willingness to bare herself make for a delightful travel companion."

KRVS radio interview on The Exchange with Cheryl Castille on KRVS on August 13, 2013

Here is a link to an interview that Judith Meriwether conducted with the author on KRVS public radio on May 30th, 2013.

Cultivating a Mindful Life

You have heard the word mindfulness. What does it mean? How does it relate to your life? How do you live mindfully? These questions and more are explored in 35 stories in Cultivating A Mindful Life.

To live mindfully means to be aware of one’s body, mind, and emotions. It means to be awake in the moment, to be attuned to what is rather than what one wishes would be true.

You will gain a deeper understanding of how to bring mindfulness into your life through the personal stories and the experiences of the author’s life coaching clients. Inspired by authors, researchers and speakers, the author brings their wisdom to her examples of living mindfully.

Each chapter ends with questions for reflection so that you may dig deeper into the topic and develop your own practices for living a mindful life.

Cultivating A Mindful Life is available as an e-book in a variety of formats through Smashwords and Amazon.


Sue Schleifer, born in Santa Barbara, California, currently resides in Lafayette, Louisiana. Through her company, Oak Communications, she provides life and executive coaching and management consulting services to individuals and organizations around the country. She writes a monthly e-newsletter and has written for newspapers. She co-designed and facilitates ongoing Writing Down Dementia workshops. The Key to the Castle is her first book.