How You’re Like Lake Geneva – And Not
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IZL Stands with the AAPI Community

IZL and Chosei Zen, like the Chozen-ji organization from which we grew, exists because an Asian Zen master and an Asian American were committed to bringing Zen to the West to help heal the world. We stand for a world that honors the divine nature of all people and train for the strength and wisdom to build that into every fiber of our culture.

[Image: Lake Geneva, Wisconsin – Ben Johnston]

how you’re like Lake geneva – and not

Reflctions from Ginny Whitelaw Reflects – April 2021

Often we write an article and then hunt for a picture that fits it. Here, I’m starting from the opposite direction, inspired by this picture taken by Ben Johnston of Lake Geneva. An image we sometimes use in Zen training is likening our mind to a body of water. When calm and quiet, it reflects the conditions around it clearly; when stirred up and turbulent, it distorts everything. Yet water can only be calm and quiet when prevailing conditions are calm and quiet. As the wind picks up or boat traffic arrives, two things happen simultaneously: the water gets choppy as do the conditions it reflects. Imagining our mind as the water, as choppy conditions arise, we could say that both our subjective experience gets rattled and our objective assessment of the conditions around us become increasingly distorted. Easy to imagine how this can lead to a vicious cycle where we don’t see things clearly and have little insight into how we’re messing up the picture.

This happens all the time. As an insightful leadership colleague of mine, David Dotlich, once said, “Everyone sees the world through the lens of their own issue.” For example, if we have doubts about our social skills, walking into a room of people we don’t know can be dreadful. If we doubt that we’re good enough, every goal or target can be seen as another test to prove ourselves. If we never feel secure, we can over-estimate the risk of trying something new.

Yet here is where we have capacity beyond water, because water can only passively reflect conditions as they are. We can actively build self-awareness by which we see our issues and the effect they’re having on our subjective state. We can further correct for the way they may be distorting our view, as in: “I know I tend to over-estimate risks, let me get some opinions from people I trust.” To personify Lake Geneva, this would be like it knowing a particular boat is always driving around and being able to subtract out the boat’s wake to still see the sky clearly. This is worthy work, to be sure, and it’s one reason we focus in Zen Leadership training on knowing our issues, such as fears and self-limiting beliefs (covered in ZL2 and ZL3, both offered this spring).

To be paying attention in a tumultuous time is to vibrate with turbulent conditions. It will cause some internal waves. Waves will cause distortion, even if we don’t add a lot of our issues to it.

But there is another sense in which we are not so different from water. Indeed the human body is mostly water so we shouldn’t be surprised that we, too, are also going to reflect prevailing conditions. To quote Joshua Cooper Ramo, who spoke from a time that was less disruptive than what we’ve been living through, “If you aren’t confused by what’s going on, you’re not paying attention.” To be paying attention in a tumultuous time is to vibrate with turbulent conditions. It will cause some internal waves. Waves will cause distortion, even if we don’t add a lot of our issues to it. For people who have a lot of issues, this time can easily tip them over the edge. Little wonder that well-being has become a trending concern for 2021.

Imagine, though, that you could stop all the flurry and be as still and quiet as this moment on Lake Geneva. A conventional way we think about stopping the flurry is to put up walls against it, to shutter our sense windows and wait it out. But what if you could do it another way? Not by resisting conditions, but by stopping time itself, penetrating the present moment so deeply that all movement ceases. For those of you who have meditated any length of time, you know what I’m talking about, because this is the condition available to you on the cushion.  Stop yourself completely. Become zero. Become now. Everything becomes clear.

If we can keep coming back to this embodied reference point for calm, we more readily register when our subjective experience is getting choppy. When we have this embedded reference point for clear-seeing, we more readily register distortions. As the wind of these times and the waves of our day kick up as they will, we can expect some rattling, and adjust for some distortions. But perhaps our greatest resource is that we can exhale so slowly and sink into the present moment so deeply, that even in a flurry, we find stillness. Lake Geneva can’t do that.

Ginny Whitelaw is a Zen Master and the CEO of the Institute for Zen Leadership

How Ceramics turns into zen training – april 19

Our sister organization, Chosei Zen, invites you to this webinar with Scott Kou-un Kiel Roshi, who will draw on his experience to explore how and why we train in Zen with ceramics, with time for Q&A.

The webinar (7:30-8:30pm CST) will occur immediately after evening Daily Zazen (7-7:30 pm CST). Register below and you’ll receive a link that we’ll switch to for the webinar following the evening Zazen.

Like to keep in touch with the Chosei Zen Virtual Dojo? Sign up here.

Blast through fear in ZL2 – last chance to register

You’ve already completed the foundational course, ZL1, and maybe you remember some of the shifts that happened during that course:

  • How you could feel the difference in your body between the posture of coping and the posture of transforming – open, broad, and alert
  • How your body softened and settled during zazen and you felt a greater peacefulness than you have before

Could now be the time for you to take that next step toward unleashing your capacity to lead from your whole self? This program is open to graduates of The Zen Leader 1 and HEAL 1 (or equivalent). Join Rebecca Ryan and Heather Scobie to free yourself from fear, expand your influence, empower the best in others, resolve conflict, and lead from a deeper sense of connection.

The program runs in blocks from Thursday evening, April 22 through noon on Sunday, April 25. It is especially tuned for people in American time zones. Registration deadline April 11! Learn more and register here for:

Zen leader 3: Leading transformation

You’ve made your way through a wild year and you’re making your way through the ZL journey.

  • What future will I create? What limit am I ready to let go of? What project will spring to life through me?

Could now be the time to penetrate to purpose and answer what this time is asking of you? Zen Leader 3/HEAL3 is open to people who have completed ZL2/HEAL2, (or equivalent; it’s also possible to take ZL2 and ZL3 in reverse order). Join Ginny Whitelaw and Dr. Kristi Crymes (for the US program) or Cris Nakano (for the EU program) in exploring the the final flips of Zen Leadership, liberating self-imposed limitations, and pulling all the flips together in service of manifesting your vision and making a significant difference. 

The program runs in blocks from Thursday evening through noon on Sunday. The version tuned for EU time zones runs May 6-9 (registration closes April 25); the US time-zone version runs June 10-13 (Registration closes May 30).

resonate: how to truly make a difference

The next offering of the Resonate online course starts May 17. We’re making this next 6-week session particularly accommodating of those in healthcare and others with chock-a-block weekdays by scheduling the 3 live webinars on Saturdays. Renew, recharge and resonate at your best through the rich practices and interactions of this course.

Thanks so much, Ginny, for your words and for all the thought and work that’s gone into this course, the tools and the practices you’ve given us. Could be a lifetime of work!  – Ann Fisher

I’m so enjoying the course and how the content is being presented. The short videos and reflection prompts are well aligned with [the book, Resonate] and have been really helpful in the learning process. I’m appreciating your level of engagement as instructor and moderator, and am grateful for your thoughts and suggestions. Thank you!  – Christina Geithner

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