How are you?

And 3 Truths Behind Your Answer

Ginny Whitelaw talks about three truths behind today’s most frequently asked questionSeptember 2020

It’s one of the most asked questions of these Covid-upset, wildly divisive and turbulent times: How are you? Often we give and receive fairly superficial answers to this question. Recently, I’ve noticed a lot more people struggling with how they are or feeling conflicted in how they answer.  One of the ways writing Resonate changed me was that I now see everything in vibration – vibrations nested within vibrations. Far from being a view only a science nerd could love, feeling into these vibrations gives us the most practical cues and clues as to how we make our best difference moment by moment. For this simple question exposes 3 facts of resonance that shape how we are – both in how we feel and how we act.

The 1st truth in how we are is that we’re vibrating with fields of energy around us. Some of it we see and hear – that’s the obvious stuff that more or less shapes our reality-by-agreement. Some things we agree on pretty easily: daylight is longer in the summer than winter, birdsong sounds different than a drumroll. We’re sensing less agreement all the time as we can choose what news and social media bubbles we live in. And even before we had such alternate views of reality as we saw, for example, in the Republican and Democratic National Conventions in the U.S., we all have attentional biases that have us paying attention to this, not that. Two of us can take a walk in the forest and notice radically different things.  

To “notice” through any sense is to resonate, i.e., vibrate with. It means some form of energy has gotten under our skin and kicked off a chain reaction of synaptic relays. Subjectively, we experience what in Buddhism is called the turning of the wheel from sensation to perception, mental formations, and consciousness. If you’ve done any serious amount of meditation, you know that the range of what you take in and vibrate with is highly malleable. On the first day of an intensive Zen training, for example, you might not hear the ash fall off of the incense, but on the last – tink – there it is. So the first aspect of how we are is what energy do we take in.

The 2nd truth about how we are is what energy do we let change us?  As conscious beings, we’ll have some reaction or response to this chain reaction we’ve let in, but is that response out of habit or creativity? Is it conditioned by fear or positivity? Are we stuck or agile?  As a ready example, think about your own actions and reactions in this time of Covid: how have you let it change you? If your experience matches mine, any silver linings you’ve found in this time have come by letting go of habits that don’t work and creating ways that work better. Letting conditions change us is an example of nesting our own vibrations, if you will, within the larger forces at work.  It’s adjusting our sails to the prevailing wind

This 2nd aspect of resonance underscores why these challenging times are dividing us even more than do quieter times. A wide contingent in the United States (though this phenomenon is global) reacts to Covid- and technology-accelerated job displacement with hopelessness, feeding rage and blame, xenophobia and conspiracy theories. They seek a back to go to, the keyword being again, and will rely on “strongmen” to take them there. While another contingent is making this a time of accelerated learning, re-imagined businesses, throwing out what doesn’t work and building better. They seek a creative future.  These two contingents couldn’t be further apart in their experience of how they are.

And finally, the 3rd truth of resonance is that we are always feeding energy back into the field. Thanks to the HeartMath people and many other researchers, we now have indisputable evidence that the signal we emit when we’re jangled and upset is, well, jangled and upset, much like the left side of the heart field in the opening image.  By contrast, when we operate out of positive emotions like love, gratitude, and abundance, our signal is smooth and coherent (as in the right side of the image), making it a stronger add to the vibrations around us. Moreover there are practices (and an app!) developed by the HeartMath to foster heart-brain coherence where our vibrations literally add up to a much stronger field.  In Zen and Zen leadership training, we further add the bass note of deep, slow hara breathing (which, at 2-3 breaths per minute, hits a harmonic of heart-brain coherence), integrating intention, positive emotion, and action.

Here again, we see that how we are will either create a more positively evolved world or a fear-regressed one. If I’m feeding rage into the field, I’m disturbing the signal – i.e., jangling the nerves – of those around me, and possibly triggering them into the same state of rage. If I’m feeding love into the field, I’m matching or stabilizing the signal – i.e., settling the nerves – of those around me. How I am in my effect on others is radically different.

So the next time someone asks how you are, you might check in with yourself at a more resonant level: what energy do I sense? How am I letting it me? What energy informs my actions?  In a deeper sense, that’s how you are.  I wish you the most vibrant wellness!

One month to the release of Resonate – Zen and the Way of Making a Difference. Pre-order your copy here.


Confidence: Veronica Figueroa-Velez in the Alumni Spotlight

How can you help people through crisis situations every day and still feel the joy and beauty of the world? Veronica Figueroa-Velez, Executive Director of UNIDOS and IZL alum uses art. UNIDOS faces into great suffering in the Latinx and Immigrant communities, providing support to victims and survivors of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence. Veronica’s leadership models the healing and resilience that has come through her own life and practice, showing the way for staff and the many people who come to UNIDOS. 

After attending ZL2 where we tackle fears head on, Veronica reflected with a brush in her hand on the question: How does Veronica feel now about unleashing her full capacity to lead?  She recalls, “After allowing myself to seat in that question and reflect on it using my zen tools and paying close attention to my body’s energy and reactions, the image you see [above] emerged…The name of this piece is Confidence. She has a mountain on her shoulders but these mountains don’t feel heavy anymore. These mountains are welcoming, inviting, and open…Offering so many different paths with lots of light and hope and she feels grounded, confident, and ready to explore with an open heart.” 


After ZL3, Veronica went on to engage her community in the Creative Revolution program at UNIDOS using dialogue about resilience, joy, and abundance – themes from the program. This again turned into art, leading to UNIDOS’ first Healing Canvas gallery and event with creative, joyful, abundant, and resilient expressions from people in all walks of life. 
How might Zen leadership come through you? 

Start Your Journey in ZL1  

Lead with Joy, Abundance and Resilience in ZL3


Join Ginny and Hundreds of Other Teachers at the Free 2020 Embodiment Conference; Ginny Writes:

I’m honored to be part of what could be the world’s largest gathering of embodiment practitioners in the upcoming Embodiment Conference. Mark Walsh and his colleagues have championed this rich opportunity to come home to your body, come home to your most grounded and expansive self. I will be joined by colleagues I greatly admire, including Dan Siegel, Otto Scharmer, Tara Brach, Ken Wilber, Richard Strozzi Heckler, and our wonderfully talented IZL alum, Mandy Blake.  If you want to catch it, my own segment is at 11 am ET/17:00 CET on Oct 15 on how resonance is an embodied way to make your greatest difference.  And did I mention all this is free?

At the Conference, you’ll find lines of learning for any aspect of embodiment you’re curious about, including: yoga, leadership, dance, creativity, social change, intimacy, martial arts, meditation, breathwork, coaching body therapy, anatomy, ecology and trauma. At the conference you can:

Get your free place and receive as bonus,


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