an idea emerges
Setting foot on the Spring Green Dojo of Chosei Zen, where Roshis Gordon and Pat Greene, built their home and a Zen training center, one more deeply feels the earth. Senses come alive in sparkly light, filled with buzz, rustle, gravely crunch, and whiff of wood fire.
In 2011, not long after the walls were up on the dojo building, Ginny was meditating inside and an idea grabbed her: she could train leaders here. She’d been teaching leadership programs in corporate and academic settings for decades, but she knew a different depth of work would be possible with a group of bold, self-selected leaders in a setting as inspiring as this one.
The idea wouldn’t let go, and grew beyond running a program into building an institute, offering an immersion into physical Zen training combined with embodied development of critical leadership skills. The following year, 2012, saw the publication of Ginny’s book, The Zen Leader, whose reframing “flips” shaped the first program of the newly-founded Institute for Zen Leadership (IZL). Describing the fledgling Institute in 2012, Ginny wrote:
Zen and Leadership belong together. Only through Zen can leadership development fully culminate in the free and full expression of the whole leader. Only through leadership can the full benefits of Zen be brought to the world. IZL will bring world-class leaders, leadership teachers and Zen teachers together to create leadership development programs unlike anything being offered today. These programs will go deeper into embodied learning than one finds in corporate or business school programs, but like the best of such programs, they will also be practical and applied, personalized and research-based. IZL’s curriculum will evolve with the needs of the leaders it serves and the expertise of its faculty.
the idea evolves
Evolve it has, both in curriculum and reach. Given the size of the Spring Green Dojo, programs were small and intimate, 10-15 people. Yet people had experiences that they described as life-changing and wanted to share them. A guest speaker in 2013, futurist Rebecca Ryan, brought the program to local government leaders and helped the Institute grow its future.
becoming a healing way
Physicians attending the program wanted to bring it to healthcare professionals and helped to create and teach the HEAL program.
Third from the left is Dr. Kristi Crymes, our VP and head of the HEAL Program.
A participant from the UK, Andy Robins, wanted to bring the program to Europe, and would be later joined by Cris Nakano in anchoring programs in the UK and Europe.
Several others, including Sridevi Tohai, wanted to bring Zen Leadership to Asia, and inspired the rollout of a certification pathway for instructors and coaches.
Our instructors now number close to twenty, many of whom donate their time to teach with us and continue their growth in our annual Master Class.
Further growth was made possible with the addition of the mind-body personality instrument, FEBI, and full-time staff to coordinate our raft of volunteers. Emily Alpert became FEBI Operations Manager and master coach to other FEBI coaches; she’d go on to become our overall Operations Manager. Thanks to those who spread our programs and the skillful plate-spinning of our staff, by 2019, robust certification pathways were in place for FEBI, HEAL and Zen Leadership, and in-person programs were popping on three continents.
Pivot to Online
2020 and the COVID pandemic changed everything in our world, as it did in yours. We moved all of our programs online, where we continue to explore and be surprised by how much can be taught through a screen. Ginny’s award-winning book, Resonate, also turned into a robust, online course.
A GLOBAL SUMMIT and new convictions
By 2022, IZL was successfully holding programs online and in-person, yet something more was calling. Responding to the climate crisis, we brought together Zen, Zen Leadership, Nature- and Indigenous-inspired wisdom in service of a world in need of healing. One Earth, One Health, One With, a global online summit, was launched in April 2023, leading to fruitful new collaborations and creation of a dedicated core team to support IZL’s expanding work in the world. Joining Ginny and Emily on this core team (pictured right) were IZL Board Chair, Kate Watters, and IZL instructors, Jasleen Kaur and Kelly Bannister.
the Story Continues
IZL continues to offer a mix of in-person and online programs to best respond to local and global interest in our leadership training approach. Listening to leaders, we hear a growing sense that, from climate emergencies to socio-political unrest to emerging AI, in addition to caring for the planet and one another, we do well to be individually and collectively prepared for a wildly uncertain future. That is a leadership challenge that we want to help you and all leaders rise to. We seek and welcome opportunities to collaborate with like-hearted partners and share what IZL is best positioned to add: practices for cultivating one-withness, facing suffering with compassion, leading fearlessly, and being able to hold paradox and the space of not-knowing. With our sister organization, Chosei Zen, we continue to resource leaders with this deep resilience, connected wisdom, and skillful ways of co-creating a more loving world.
Join us in writing, embodying and enacting the next chapter.